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Layman's Terms

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Dr. Hibbert: Homer, I'm afraid you'll have to undergo a coronary bypass operation.
Homer: Say it in English, Doc.
Dr. Hibbert: You're going to need open-heart surgery.
Homer: Spare me your medical mumbo-jumbo.
Dr. Hibbert: We're going to cut you open and tinker with your ticker.
Homer: Could you dumb it down a shade?

An attempt by a specialist to make incomprehensible technobabble or other jargon comprehensible to the other characters. Usually this results in an explanation that's either insultingly vague or just as incomprehensible as the original. This often occurs as the result of another character saying something like, "In English, please?"

The term originally meant someone not a member of the clergy or the bar (i.e. a "layman"), because those professions actually do use terms people outside wouldn't understand, either because they're obscure words that only exist in that context, or because even common words in legalese can have very specific meanings and connotations not found in general English. Oh, and they use a fair bit of Latin, confusing the laymen even more.

In cases of Technology Marches On or an improper assumption of Viewers Are Morons, this can lead to a reasonable explanation followed by an inane, overly simplified explanation of a concept that was already understood on the first try. Depending upon the setting, it may also lead the audience to assume different things about characters that ought to know better: for example, explaining basic or advanced physics to space-faring humans like such topics wouldn't have been required reading already.

Super-Trope to Fold the Page, Fold the Space. Compare Expospeak Gag, where the incomprehensible technobabble was itself an obfuscated version of something straightforward, and Sophisticated as Hell. See also Phlebotinum Analogy. The next step after this is Buffy Speak, where the character either can't think of the proper term or can't think of a good Layman's Terms explanation and resorts to referring to "things" and "stuff."

Also compare Lies to Children, where a simplified or incorrect explanation is the "beginner's version."

The calling card of the Translator Buddy.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Baccano!:
    Firo: Wait, wait! I'm not that smart. Tell me in layman's terms, please.
  • Used during an episode of Cowboy Bebop. After telling Spike of every system that's gone down thanks to a virus, Spike requests it in terms he understands, and gets this from Ed:
    Ed: The computer's kaput, and we're drifting through space towards certain oblivion.
  • In Haruhi Suzumiya, Kyon often complains he doesn't understand what Yuki, Mikuru, or Koizumi mean with their technobabble, although they don't attempt to "dumb it down". In the Drama CD "Sound Around" however, we have two scenes in which this happens.
    • Scene 1:
      Yuki: Antimatter-dispersing oscillations perceived as sound waves.
      Kyon: What?
      Yuki: Antimatter-dispersing oscillations perceived as sound waves.
      Kyon: Please, could you make it so I can understand what you're saying?
      Yuki: Antimatter. dispersing. oscillations. perceived. as. sound. waves... [begins to elaborate]
    • Scene 2:
      Yuki: Eliminate the antimatter-dispersing property from the song.
      Kyon: In layman's terms?
      Yuki: In layman's terms... we do this. [starts hyperspeed chanting]
    • Kozumi occasionally translates for Yuki, as her technobabble is even more obtuse than his.
  • In the Heaven's Lost Property movie, Ikaros, Nymph, and Astraea are fighting Hiyori when Hiyori suddenly stops and starts glowing. Nymph scans her and gives a Technobabble heavy summary of what is happening. Astraea, who is normally very dumb, understands and translates, "She's going to explode!"
  • Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!: When the three leads are set to present what they've done so far at a club council meeting. The council nearly suspends them over some (relatively minor) offenses. Asakusa chews them out for doing so and tells them to at least see the fruits of their labors. Though her way of talking confuses President Toru (largely due to Asakusa's rant being in a heavy Shitamichi dialect), so council secretary Sakaki has to lay it out for her in a more straightforward manner.
    Asakusa: Aww cram it! You bunch thinking you can get high and mighty just cause you got use over a barrel! Well, we ain't exactly the kinda folks who're gonna bow to bums like you! We come up on this stage like clowns 'cause you decided to put on a show, and now you wanna rake us over the coals? Say what now? All kinda problems?! Blast it, all you've done is run your mouths about a buncha hokum, ya nimrods! You think we were running from those goons or wrecking ourselves in that crummy old club building for fun?! But we did it all, cus that's what it took to make anime! We took our lumps to get this anime made, ya ignoramuses! The proof's in the pudding! Don't run yer mouth until you've tasted it! Got it?!
    Toru: [to Sakaki] Say what now?
    Sakaki: "Don't complain about how it's done. Look at the finished product first."
  • In Lucky Star Kagami usually asks Konata to talk in normal human language, not in geek language.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann:
    • Leeron tries to explain to the heroes how sexual reproduction facilitates adaptation and evolution, and gets nowhere. They all get "In other words, love <3 makes the world go 'round", though.
    • A subversion from the penultimate episode: Lordgenome either doesn't know what this term means or can't explain any simpler.
      Lordgenome: Be careful. The enemy is using a random Schrödinger warp to approach.
      Dayakka: I'm begging you, say that in layman's terms!
      Lordgenome: The multiverse probability fluctuation is controlled by them. While shifting through spacetime, they will approach and attack. [translation: the Mugann can attack them from any point in the universe and from any point in the past or future]
      Dayakka: Like I said, I don't understand!
  • In episode 12 of Maoyu, Witch Girl tries to relay the Crimson Scholar's plan to create a Smallpox vaccine, but the listeners ask her to speak plainly.
  • In episode 2 of Marginal #4, Atom is having trouble understanding the lyrics to the group's new song, so Rui tries to explain it to him - in complex scientific terms, about hormones and chemistry. Atom asks him this, and his second attempt is still incomprehensible. (Atom's solution? Singing this song requires his lucky underwear!)
  • In A Certain Magical Index:
    • Touma Kamijou often gets annoyed when others speak Magi Babble or Techno Babble, but the others don't usually dumb it down for him. He is sometimes able to come up with metaphors to better understand some of their terms.
    • During a meeting of the world leaders, the magical characters like Queen Elizard report how Othinus is having her organization GREMLIN construct the sacred spear Gungnir, and how this would be very bad if they succeed. President Roberto Katze doesn't really get their explanation, but decides to think of Gungnir like a nuclear bomb: once the enemy completes and uses it, game over.
  • In Chapter 27/ Episode 8 of Asteroid in Love, Mira asks Misa to do this when the latter suggests Ao to tell her parents she doesn't want to leave with them, "armed with a specific solution about how you want to live your life".
    Moe: I'm sorry, but what?
    Mira: Can you just talk to us like the children we are?
    Misa: Hmm. Yes, of course. Ahem. As we all know, I'm enrolling in a distant university next year. That means, starting this spring I'm going to be living all on my own. So, Ao, you should live in my old room.
  • Saitama from One-Punch Man will occasionally invoke this to anyone who gives a long-winded speech or backstory. When Genos dumps his backstory on Saitama when they first met, he soon demands the cyborg shorten it to 20 words or less.

    Comic Books 
  • Fantastic Four: It's a Running Gag that the Thing will demand Reed Richards explain things again in English for the benefit of everyone else in the room.
  • Y: The Last Man: When Dr Mann finally cracks how Yorick survived the Gendercide, he has to ask her to "dumb the Technobabble down about a thousand percent," since he once nearly blew off one of his testicles with a baking soda volcano.
  • In Asterix, this becomes a Running Gag in Obelix and Co.: whenever someone is dumbfounded by some marketing or economics jargon (or, when Obelix is the one doing the talking, his complete mangling of it), they answer with a baffled "Eh?", prompting the person talking to them to translate the sentence in a You No Take Candle pidgin (Obelix eventually comes to think this is how businessmen talk). At the end of the book, this pattern becomes used whenever someone had trouble understanding something straight away.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one of Tom Gauld's comic strips in New Scientist, a scientist is asked how her machine is coming along, and replies that they've encountered some fascinating challenges and surprising outcomes which have required creative solutions and opened new areas of investigation, with potential for thrilling improvements and exciting new developments. Asked to put this in layman's terms, she just says "It doesn't work."
  • In Nodwick, it usually falls to Nodwick to translate things said by Arthax (or other intelligent beings) into terms Yeagar can understand. He usually does this in the most patronizing ways he can as he's not very fond of Yeagar. Arthax occasionally does this himself, with equal amounts of snark but slightly less patronizing.

    Fan Works 
  • When the scientists are involved in Aeon Entelechy Evangelion, sooner or later someone will ask them to explain what they said again in human language. This happens almost all the time when Misato and Ritsuko talk.
  • In The Bridge, Twilight Sparkle gives a Magi Babble-heavy presentation on why the Kaiju turned into native species when they entered Equestria and how they can change back. Destroyah manages to summarize it in one sentence.
  • At the start of Loveis All You Needto Destroy Your Enemies: When Carlos, Warden of the White Council of Wizards, explains the Laws of Magic to Dr. Kwan, a practical theoretical physicist, she interprets them with as many pop-culture references as possible.

    Films — Animation 
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire:
    Mole: The fissure! It is about to eject its pyroclastic fury!
    Sweet: Milo! Mole says the wall's gonna blow!
  • Chicken Run: During the climactic escape, Fowler orders the chickens pedaling to power "The Crate" (the chickens' flying machine) to "increase velocity".
    Babs: What does that mean?
    Bunty: It means pedal your flippin' giblets out!
  • Finding Nemo: When the fish in the tank try to formally initiate Nemo into their gang with a faux-native ceremony.
    Bloat: Nemo, newcomer of orange and white, you have been called forth to the summit of Mt. Wannahockaloogie to join with us in the fraternal bonds of tankhood!
    Nemo: Huh?
    Peach: We want you in our club, kid.
  • Happy Feet: When Noah, the penguin elder, accuses Mumble of causing the colony's famine after catching him leading them in a mass dance.
    Noah: It is this kind of backsliding that has brought the scarcity upon us!
    Nestor: Uh, scuze me, smiley. Can you speak plain penguin, please?
    Mumble: He thinks... the food shortage has something to do with me.
  • James and the Giant Peach: When Mr. Grasshopper berates Mr. Centipede, who claims he can navigate, for steering them way off their course.
    Grasshopper: This is an outrage! You are a disgrace to your Phylum, Order, Class, Genus and Spe—
    Centipede: Say it in English!
    Grasshopper: You, sir, are an ASS!

    Films — Live Action 
  • Apollo 13 has several moments where, after the astronauts and mission-controllers explain the situation to each other in their own jargon, they repeat it in simpler terms for the sake of the audience — usually in the form of an analogy.
    • When Lovell first powered up the Lunar Module, and tried to steer it:
      Lovell: Why can't I null this out?
      Haise: It's not designed to fly attached like this, the center of gravity's in the command module!
      Lovell: It's like flying with a dead elephant on our back.
    • When Mattingly started talking Swigert through the abbreviated power-up procedure for the Command Module:
      Swigert: Uh... there's an awful lot of condensation on this panel. What're the chances of this shorting out?
      Mattingly: We'll just have to deal with that if it happens.
      Swigert: [to himself] It's like driving a toaster through a carwash.
    • When Mission Control decided that the Command Module had to be shut down:
      Krantz: Okay people, we are moving the astronauts over to the LEM. I want a power-up procedure, the essential hardware only. We've got to get the guidance system transferred before they're out of power in the Command Module. [covers his mic] The lunar module just became a lifeboat.
  • In Armageddon (1998), NASA uses the Hubble telescope to take long range pictures of the object speeding its way towards Earth. As one of the techs keeps referring to it as an "anomaly," the President finally says, "Enough of this 'anomaly' horse-shit. What is it?" Director Dan Truman simply says, "It's an asteroid." When asked how big it is, one of the other techs stumbles out an amount of cubic meters, so Truman, shooting the guy a look, simply says, "It's the size of Texas, sir!"
  • From Event Horizon:
    Dr. Weir: [stammering] Well, that's — that's difficult to — it's all math...
    Miller: Try us, Doctor.
    Dr. Weir: Right. Well, um, using layman's terms... we use a rotating magnetic field to focus a narrow beam of gravitons. These, in turn, fold space-time consistent with Weyl tensor dynamics until the space-time curvature becomes infinitely large, and you produce a singularity. Now, the singularity...
    Miller: [interrupting] "Layman's terms"?
    Cooper: Well, fuck layman's terms! Do you speak English?
  • In Ex Machina, Nathan often interrupts Caleb and tells him to forget about technical language, urging him to instead describe his opinions in the simplest way possible. Ironically he wants this mostly for Caleb's benefit and because of his own preference for directness. He can understand Caleb's jargon perfectly well; it just makes him impatient to have to beat around the bush.
  • Done heart-breakingly in Galaxy Quest, when the Big Bad forces Tim Allen's character to tell to his alien friends that he's just a washed-up actor and not a hero (the aliens have no concept of lies or deceit, and as such thought his old TV show was a "historical document").
    Sarris: Explain it to him, as you would a child.
    Jason Nesbitt: (to Mathezar) We...pretended...we lied.
  • Ghostbusters:
    • The following exchange:
      Dr. Peter Venkman: Ray, pretend for a moment that I don't know anything about metallurgy, engineering, or physics, and just tell me what the hell is going on.
      Dr. Ray Stantz: You never studied.
    • Later, Egon uses a Twinkie to describe how severe the paranormal activity in New York City had become.
      Zeddemore: Tell him about the Twinkie.
      Venkman: [deadpan confusion] What about the Twinkie?
  • I, Robot:
    Spooner: So, Dr. Calvin, what exactly do you do around here?
    Calvin: My general fields are advanced robotics and psychiatry, although I specialize in hardware-to-wetware interfaces, in an effort to advance USR's robotic anthropomorphization program.
    Spooner: So... what exactly do you do around here?
    Calvin: I make the robots seem more human.
    Spooner: Now wasn't that easier to say?
    Calvin: Not really, no.
  • This is from The Matrix. Neo likely understood the words in a computing context, being a hacker, but outside that had trouble figuring out where they would apply.
    Morpheus: The pill you took is part of a trace program. It's designed to interrupt your input-output carrier signal so that we can keep track of your location.
    Neo: What does that mean?
    Cypher: It means "buckle your seatbelt, Dorothy, cause Kansas is going bye-bye."
  • National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation: Clark Griswold's boss Frank Shirley asks Clark to write up an executive summary of the non-nutritive cereal varnish Clark was working on, and insists it be in layman's terms and not the industry jargon no one understands.
  • The World Is Not Enough:
    Christmas Jones: Can you put that in English, for those of us who don't speak spy?
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Thor Selvig refers to the Rainbow Bridge as an Einsten-Rosen Bridge. When Darcy is confused, he starts to explain only for Jane simplify it as "wormhole".
    • The Avengers:
      • Inverted and then played straight in the same conversation, when Tony Stark is delighted to be able to speak Techno Babble with Bruce Banner, much to the bemusement of Captain America.
        Captain America: Does Loki need any particular kind of power source?
        Bruce Banner: He's got to heat the cube to a hundred and twenty million Kelvin just to break through the Coulomb barrier.
        Tony Stark: Unless Selvig has figured out how to stabilize the quantum tunneling effect.
        Bruce Banner: Well, if he could do that he could achieve Heavy Ion Fusion at any reactor on the planet.
        Tony Stark: Finally, someone who speaks English.
        Captain America: Is that what just happened?
      • And, later:
        Tony Stark: Take a look at the panel and tell me what you see.
        Cap: It appears to run on some form of electricity.
        Tony: Well, you're not wrong.
    • Non-verbal version in Avengers: Age of Ultron, regarding the twins:
      Maria Hill: He has an increased metabolism and improved thermal homeostasis, while she has neuro-electric interfacing, telekinesis and mental manipulation.
      Captain America: [gives her a look]
      Maria Hill: He's fast and she's weird.
  • Matinee. Spoofed in the Show Within a Show, where the atomic scientist keeps explaining mundane terms like 'magnified' or 'accelerated'.
  • The Roadwarrior. After Max drives the big rig into the compound, their mechanic looks it over and relays a long list of mechanical faults which are promptly shouted up to Pappagallo.
    Pappagallo: Well what does all that mean?
    Man: What does that mean?
    Mechanic: 24 hours.
    Pappagallo: You've got twelve!
  • In Men in Black, when J and K are facing down the (Edgar-piloted) UFO, K rattles off a string of technical requirements. When J asks him to explain, K says, "Just shoot the damn thing on the count of three!"
  • Jupiter Ascending:
    Caine: [The boots] harness the force of gravity, redirecting it into differential equation slips so you can surf.
    Jupiter: Yeah, I heard "gravity" and "surf".
    Caine: Up is hard. Down is easy.
  • Defied — by The Ditz, of all people — in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World:
    Colonel Wilberforce: Now, the stick that you're holding, that is, I assume that... [Beat] Men, are you holding that stick? IS SOMEBODY HOLDING THAT STICK?! OVER!
    Benjy: What stick? Oh, the wheel! I'm holding it.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (2020), Dr. Robotnik repeatedly states to Major Bennington that he is not important, and at one point asks Agent Stone to "translate" it to him.
  • In Space Jam, as Bugs Bunny tries to explain the whole situation to Michael Jordan.
    Bugs: You see, these aliens come from outer space and they want to make us slaves in their theme park. Ehh, what do we care? They're little. So we challenged them to a basketball game. But then, they show up and they ain't so little! They're HUGE! We need to beat these guys! 'Cause they're talkin' about slavery! They're gonna make us do stand-up comedy! The same jokes every night for all eternity! We're gonna be locked up like wild animals and then trotted out to perform for a bunch of lowbrow, bug-eyed, fat-headed, humor-challenged aliens! Uh, what I'm trying to say is... WE NEED YOUR HEEEEEELP!!!
  • In The Big Short, there are often scenes where the characters freak out about complicated-sounding financial terms. Then a celebrity appears to dumb it down; Margot Robbie explains that subprime loans = loans that are unlikely to be repaid = shit, Anthony Bourdain explains that CDOs = subprime loans that are packaged together and fraudulently marked as AAA = pile of leftovers he throws together and serves as quality food, and Richard Thaler and Selena Gomez explain that synthetic CDOs = chain of bets on the faulty loans.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, just before leaving on their time-travel adventure, Donatello has this warning to give;
    Donatello: But the space-time continuum will be out of synch after 60 hours.
    Casey: Wait a second, time out. What does all that mean in American?
    Donatello: If we don't come back in 2 1/2 days, we're turtle soup.
  • In The Martian Pilot Martinez asks computer programmer Johanssen whether she can override the computers on the ship, and gets a long technical explanation:
    Martinez: Okay, in English what would that mean?
    Johanssen: (Beat) I can do it.
  • Tenet. Inverted when the Protagonist explains to Neil what's going on.
    Neil: Time travel?
    The Protagonist: No. Technology that can invert an object's entropy.
    Neil: You mean reverse chronology. Like Feynman and Wheeler's notion that a positron is an electron moving backwards in time?
    The Protagonist: Sure, that's exactly what I meant.
    Neil: I have a Master's in physics.
    The Protagonist: Well, try and keep up.
  • Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Walter Pidgeon's character explains to a conference of the world's foremost scientists that his plan to explode a nuclear missile in the burning Van Allen radiation belt to disperse it harmlessly into space is like blowing too much air into a balloon. You'd think the last thing the scriptwriter would want is for the audience to understand how ridiculous the Hollywood Science in this movie is.

  • Area 51: Scientists are asked multiple times to explain things in ways non-scientists can understand.
  • In the Discworld books, this shows up on occasion.
    • Usually it's Ponder who has to simplify things so that the older wizards will understand them. An example from Interesting Times:
      The Dean: It's six thousand miles! Everyone knows you can't get that far by magic.
      Ponder: Er. As a matter of fact you can, I think. Er. Shouldn't be too much of a problem. People used to think it was, but I'm pretty sure it's all a matter of energy absorption and attention to relative velocities.
      Ridcully: Relative velocities.
      Ponder: Yes, Archchancellor.
      Ridcully: My mother could move like lightning when—
      Ponder: I mean how fast things are going when compared to other things.
    • In later books, many of the more educated characters have tried to explain big thaumaturgical ideas to laymen; when one of those laymen offers up an analogy, the educated character notes that it's a "very useful metaphor that aids understanding while being completely inaccurate in every respect."
    • Unseen Academicals has a double version. Ordinary guy Trevor asks his very loquacious friend Nutt to write him a really nice love letter and invitation for a girl named Juliet who has some common sense. This is because all Trevor can think of saying is "I think you are really fit, want to go out? No hanky-panky, promise." He wants it to sound a lot more fancy. When the letter is delivered to Juliet and her friend Glenda, Juliet cannot understand the words "Trevor" chose and asks Glenda for the translation. Glenda explains, in exact words, Trev is saying, "I think you are really fit, want to go out? No hanky-panky, promise."
  • Telemain, the theoretical magician from Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles, speaks entirely in technobabble (or Magi Babble, rather). He briefly succeeds in speaking plain English when threatened with immediate bodily harm, but the effort costs him much. He even has trouble with "Those stairs only go down." Another example:
    "... I've been researching them [wizards] for years, trying to duplicate their methodology, but I still haven't managed a workable solution."
    "What?" said Cimorene, looking puzzled.
    "He's been trying to figure out how the wizards work their spells," Mendenbar explained, "but he hasn't done it yet."
  • A running gag in Jeeves and Wooster is that Bertie has to translate what Jeeves is saying for the benefit of one of his "pals".
  • In Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold, we get:
    "That, gentlemen, is a bioengineered apoptotic prokaryote. Or so I have reconstructed it."
    "A what?" said Miles. "Simplify, please."
    Weddell flashed a pained smile, doubtless searching his mind for words of one syllable. Miles regretted his last four beers. "A little bug that eats things," Weddell essayed, by way of further translation.
    "Not that simplified," said Miles dryly.
  • In Momo, a group of children play a make-believe game of being a scientific expedition on the South Seas. At one point the first mate of the expedition ship asks the chief scientist to translate what he just said in terms that "simple sea-faring folk" can understand.
  • In Spin, Tyler uses the exact Stock Phrase ("In English, please, Jase"), when Jason describes a technology as "molecular autocatalytic feedback loops, basically, with contingent programming written into their reproductive protocols".
  • In A Wrinkle in Time, Mrs Whatsit uses the example of an ant crossing two corners of a folded piece of fabric to explain to the children how "tessering" through space works.
  • Dave Barry examples:
    • "Father Faces Life" accuses an obstetrical term of being a euphemism:
      What happens is that when the baby gets ready to leave the uterus, the woman goes through a series of what the medical community laughingly refers to as "contractions." If it referred to them as "horrible pains that make you wonder why the hell you ever decided to get pregnant," people might stop having babies and the medical community would have to go into the major-appliance business.
    • "The Web Badge of Courage" gives the layman's explanation first, then subverts the trope by following it with a not really scientific name:
      Here in South Florida we have a special name for this kind of spider: We call it "a spider the size of Harold C. Crittenden Junior High School," although its technical Latin name is Bernice.
  • Deconstructed in Aniara, quite darkly. When ''Aniara'''s Master Computer breaks down irreversibly, the narrator, who is the head computer tech, is called into a "heads-will-roll" court to explain himself. He tries... and fails, because he literally cannot explain the inner workings of the A.I. without resorting to the highly technical jargon only comprehensible to A.I. techs. When he tries, he only succeeds in muddling his analogies so badly, he loses track of what he was trying to say.
  • Elmer from the Macdonald Hall books runs into this a lot:
    Elmer: (explaining a side effect of his cold cure) There is a reaction rather similar to the ingestion of large quantities of alcoholic beverages.
    Bruno: Elmer, speak English!
    Elmer: Mr. Flynn is drunk.
  • Reach by Edward Gibson. A scientist has to brief everyone on black holes, so does a Rule of Threes version to establish what level he should explain things at (it lies somewhere between "A black hole is a cosmic turnstile; once something goes in, it never goes out" and "If we start with the metric tensor in four-dimensional space...").
  • Spaceship Medic by Harry Harrison has a meteorite kill all the officers on a spaceship except for the eponymous medic, who finds himself captain by default. A member of the crew tries to explain that the meteorite impact has caused the spaceship to tumble and why this is a bad thing. The medic asks him for a simple explanation, finds himself asking for an even simpler explanation, and even then has to call in the Chief Petty Officer and use a model to clarify matters.
  • In one Doctor Who New Adventures novel, Roz Forrester, still adjusting to the difference between being an Adjudicator and being a companion, asks Benny for a "sitrep", and then impatiently clarifies this as "situation report". Benny snarkily replies "Do you mean 'What's happening'?"

    Live-Action TV 
  • Our Miss Brooks: In "Life Can Be Bones", Mr. Boynton explains the concept of the "missing link" to Miss Brooks and Walter Denton. He uses layman's terms to describe what exactly the "missing link" between ancient man and the primates would be and how its fossilized skull would look. Mr. Boynton doesn't realize that Miss Brooks had just read his definition in a introductory book on paleontology; in fact, Mr. Boynton plagiarized the book's description word-for-word.
  • 30 Rock:
    • Subverted when Dr. Spaceman reads off the results of a test, and then says: "Now in layman's terms... what do you think that means?"
    • Played straighter when Tracy has Frank explain the Uncanny Valley "in Star Wars".
  • A running gag in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is Ward not understanding what Fitz and Simmons are saying and asking for it in English.
  • Everyone from the Alias cast in response to Marshall: "IN ENGLISH, MARSHALL!"
  • Parodied in a sketch on The Armstrong and Miller Show where a news reporter is interviewing a prominent scientist about a discovery that "could change science forever!" The conversation goes something like this:
    Reporter: Can you just briefly take us through this new theory of yours, in layman's terms?
    Scientist: No.
    Exasperated Reporter: Some of our viewers are quite smart. Perhaps there is someone watching at the moment who's capable of understanding your theory?
    Scientist: There isn't.
    Exasperated Reporter: How can you be so sure?
    Scientist: 'Cause... Graham's on holiday and Chung-Yao is dead... note 
This sketch becomes so much better if you know that Ben Miller, who plays the scientist, was working on a Ph.D. thesis called "Novel quantum effects in low-temperature quasi-zero dimensional mesoscopic electron systems" before switching to comedy.
  • The Aquabats! Super Show!, "ManAnt!":
    Jimmy the Robot: It's low energy, Commander. Your blood sugar levels have dipped dangerously low.
    MC Bat Commander: Speak English, robot, English!
    Jimmy the Robot: [in an English accent] Uh, it's low energy, Commander. Your blood sugar levels have dipped frightfully low.
  • Babylon 5: In "Racing Mars" while examining the remains of a Drakh keeper, Dr. Franklin beings to lauch into a technical explanation before one of the Mars Resistance members stops him and asks him to simplify it by saying, "English, Doc."
  • Better Off Ted:
    • Those Two Guys parody this Like an Old Married Couple;
      Veronica: Beef without cows? I'm listening...
      Lem: We take bovine cells, and surrounding them with a bed of rich nutrients, grow them into fully developed cow tissue or "beef".
      Phil: Cowless meat, grown in a lab.
      Lem: I just said that.
      Phil: I'm explaining it.
      Lem: No, you're repeating it!
    • As well as this exchange:
      Ted: We've been developing a new search engine, and unlike language-based search engines, this face-matching technology uses visual recognition...
      Veronica: Less nerd, more English.
      Phil: You take an image of a person...
      Lem: Or "picture".
      Phil: And scan it into a computer...
      Lem: Or "magic box".
      Linda: I'm not embarrassed to say, this is helping.
  • Often subverted in The Big Bang Theory. Penny, who is of roughly average intelligence, often has trouble understanding the extremely confusing scientific conversations going on between Leonard and his friends. Often times, when they try to repeat it in what they call "layman's terms", it is still horribly confusing.
  • Done done done and done in Bones, mostly said by Booth, Cam, or Angela to the "squints" (or more scientific squints). However, since the squints all have different specialties, they normally need to explain things more simply to begin with.
  • Buffyverse:
    • This became Spike's gimmick during the gang's expository speeches (on both shows).
    • Not that the Scoobies can't do it themselves, given that Giles is around.
      Giles: Look, it's classic battle strategy to throw ones opponent off his game. He's trying to provoke you. To taunt you. To goad you into some mishap of some sort.
      Xander: The nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah! approach to battle?
      Giles: Yes, Xander, once again you've managed to boil a complex thought down to its simplest possible form.
    • Later when Buffy does the same...
      Xander: Hey, how come Buffy doesn't get a snotty 'once again you boil it down to the simplest form' thing? Watcher's Pet!
    • Also, "Becoming, part 1":
      Willow: Okay, somebody explain the whole "he will suck the world into hell" thing, because that's the part I'm not loving.
      Giles: Well, the demon universe exists in a dimension separate from our own, and with one breath of Acathla will create a vortex, a kind of whirlpool that will pull everything on earth into that dimension, where any non-demon life will suffer horrible and... eternal torment.
      Buffy: So that would be the literal kind of sucked into hell. Neat.
  • Often done in Criminal Minds. Anything Reid has to say will almost always be technobabble mixed with obscure literary references, to the point that the other agents sometimes stop asking him to explain. He just launches into the simpler definition right after, which in itself isn't that simple.
  • Carl Sagan's documentary Cosmos: A Personal Voyage is a famous example of presenting science to the casual viewer in a comprehensible way, as well as its successor Neil Degrasse Tyson's Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor's complete inability to explain time travel theory, despite his best efforts, including "This is my Timey-Wimey Detector. It goes ding when there's stuff."
    • In "Day of the Daleks", when the Third Doctor "breaks" the future soldiers' portable time machine:
      The Doctor: Oh, I see what it is; the temporal feedback circuit's overloaded.
      The Brigadier: The what's done what?
      The Doctor: In your terms, Brigadier, the thing's blown a fuse!
    • When he discovers a Time Portal to eighteenth-century France.
      The Doctor: Must be a spatio-temporal hyperlink.
      Rose: What's that?
      The Doctor: No idea. Made it up. Didn't want to say "Magic Door".
    • After trapping the Wire on a cassette tape:
      Rose: That thing, is it trapped for good on video?
      The Doctor: Hope so. But just to be on the safe side though, I'll use my unrivalled knowledge of trans-temporal extrapolation methods to neutralise the residual electronic pattern.
      Rose: You'll what?
      The Doctor: I'm gonna tape over it.
    • In "The Return of Doctor Mysterio", the Doctor actually fails at this. He tells a young Grant, "To put this in terms you can understand [Beat] Sorry, there aren't any."
    • After rebooting the emoji bots in "Smile".
      The Doctor: I reinitialized the entire command structure, retaining all programmed abilities, but deleting the supplementary preference architecture.
      Bill: He turned it off and on again.
      The Doctor: I turned it off and on again.
  • A common gag in Eureka, being about a town full of brilliant scientists who speak like, well, brilliant scientists... and Jack Carter.
    • For example:
      Carter: I didn't know they, uh, used diamonds in computers.
      Dr. Fox: Yeah, the aligned carbon-14 allows hyperdense cubit storage in an optical quantum processor... diamonds can store tons of data and transmit it super-fast.
    • Often exaggerated to the point of Flanderization when Carter needs a Layman's Terms explanation of terms that should be common knowledge to anyone with a high school education, let alone a U.S. Marshal.
  • The Expanse: In "Here There Be Dragons", Prax starts explaining the ecological collapse of the Ganymede agricultural station, but Amos cuts straight to the bottom line:
    Holden: What's happening?
    Prax: The cascade. In real nature there's enough diversity...
    Amos: It means this station is fucked.
  • In Firefly:
    • "Out of Gas" has:
      Kaylee: Catalyzer on the port compression coil blew. That's where the trouble started.
      Mal: I need that in Captain Dummy talk, Kaylee.
      Kaylee: We're dead in the water.
    • And again, in "Objects in Space"...
      Mal: I want a load of medical jargon, I'll talk to a doctor.
      Simon: You are talking to a doctor.
  • In For All Mankind, "Nixon's Women", a NASA scientist is describing the benefits of the water they may have found on the moon before Administrator Thomas Paine cuts him off with an "English, please." Deke explains that liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen can be used to make rocket fuel.
  • Fringe: This is Peter Bishop's actual job description: To translate Walter Bishop's scientific jargon into something everyone else can understand. Of course, since Walter is an insane genius who tends to mix his Technobabble with musings on the homemade psychedelic drugs he's currently taking, what food he's craving at the moment, and random events from Peter's childhood, the translation is a bit more necessary than usual.
  • Glee: Brought up to eleven with Holly Holiday's method of teaching. She sometimes resorts to song (such as using a Joan Jett song to teach sex ed), teaching Spanish grammar with sentences about Lindsey Lohan's rehab or playing out Mary Todd Lincoln's bipolar rants in history class.
  • From Lost, "Because You Left":
    Faraday: We really do not have time for me to try to explain. You have no idea how difficult that would be for me to try to explain this — this phenomenon to a quantum physicist. That would be difficult, so for me to try to explain whatever is happening—
    [Sawyer slaps Faraday]
    Faraday: The Island... think of the Island like a record spinning on a turntable... only now, that record is skipping. Whatever Ben Linus did down at the Orchid station... I think... it may have... dislodged us.
    Miles: Dislodged us from what?
    Faraday: Time.
  • The Middleman:
    Wendy: What is the H.E.Y.D.A.R.?
    Middleman: The High Energy Yield Data Accumulation Resource. In technical terms, it's a global analysis and information-gathering device capable of performing both onboard evidence analysis as well as universal intelligence searches across all data platforms.
    Wendy: And in non-technical terms?
    Middleman: It's a big silver ball. It gives us answers to things.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: Mr Mousebender opens the Cheese Shop sketch doing this, right after Mr Wensleydale finally finds out he's hungry.
    Mousebender: In a nutshell. And I thought to myself a little fermented curd might do the trick, so I curtailed my Walpoleing activities, sallied forth and infiltrated your place of purveyance to negotiate the vending of some cheesy comestibles.
    Wensleydale: Come again?
    Mousebender: I want to buy some cheese.
  • Occurs with absolutely infuriating frequency in NCIS, where this happens with everyone who talks to Gibbs and reports some sort of evidence.
    • Despite being told this roughly once per episode, his co-workers never manage to remember it in the future. Of course, Abby and Ducky are Gibbs' closest friends and knowingly enjoy teasing him like this, McGee's continually being flustered by Gibbs into retreating behind his protective wall of technobabble is his own particular running gag, and Tony and Ziva overlap in fields of expertise with Gibbs so he doesn't really need layman's terms with them. McGee's inability to stop doing this to Gibbs is Lampshaded in a season five episode when Tony bets twenty dollars that he's about to say something nobody else understands again, and McGee still does it, prompting Gibbs to say that he's starting to think McGee just can't help himself.
    • Played with brilliantly in "Doppelganger", when Gibbs needs to talk to a bunch of techno geeks. He brings McGee along to translate their technobabble into layman's terms, and McGee also has to translate his layman's terms back into technobabble.
  • NUMB3RS. Once an episode, Charlie or one of his colleagues references an obscure mathematical concept that can be used to help solve a case, then creates an analogy to make it understandable. A real mathematician would probably be insulted to hear these concepts and theorems dumbed down to such a level. And they're still confusing. This predictable behavior is lampshaded at one point when the agent prompts him for the analogy: "Think of it as a..." Then again, you try explaining graduate level math concepts like Floyd-Warshall algorithm or K-optimal pattern discovery in under 30 seconds. Gets a special Lampshade Hanging in the Season 6 premiere. Charlie references a technique they used on a previous case, and Don, David, and Colby each try to recall the analogy that goes with it (since that's their only real frame of reference for the technique). They're all wrong.
    Charlie: You guys remember when we used covering sets, right?
    Colby: Yeah, that was the fishing net, right?
    David: No, I think fishing net... no, brute force — Could've been, uh, fireworks.
    Don: You guys, this is the dog chasing the cat chasing the mouse.
    Charlie: It was lighthouses.
  • In The Office (US) Oscar is trying to explain to Michael why they should use up their budget surplus. Michael asks for Oscar to explain it as he would to an eight-year-old. Oscar without missing a beat breaks it down into an analogy, comparing the budget to money given to a child for a lemonade stand. At the end of Oscar's analogy, Michael can only respond, "Explain it to me like I'm six."
  • In Parks and Recreation, a Venezuelan delegation visits Pawnee, and spends the whole trip announcing how sad and underfunded the parks are. When Leslie asks about where their funding comes from, their leader explains it in the most patronizing Layman's Terms possible.
    "Venezuela, which is our country, has a lot of oil, which is food for cars..."
  • Power Rangers:
    • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers:
      • Billy would sometimes use complicated dialogue to make his point. Trini was usually the one who translated it into plain English.
        Billy: I'm not interested in engaging feminine attention through bodily gyration.
        Trini: Billy doesn't want to dance just to attract girls.
      • There was an instance in which he translated her answer: she presented her fellow Rangers with a delicacy from her gourmet cooking class, which looked like brownies. She referred to the secret ingredient as "escargot". Which is French for "snails". Cue the disgusting spit-out.
    • Subverted in Power Rangers RPM. Flynn's morpher malfunctions and Dr. K tells him what happened. When he asks her to say it again in Layman's Terms, she responds "That was in layman's terms".
  • QI: "Explain it like you'd explain it to a small child." "But I was, dear." This can get annoying on QI; since the Clever Stuff is genuine Clever Stuff and not just Phlebotinum Technobabble, the comedic "baffled layman" reaction from Alan Davies sometimes interrupts and kills off an explanation some of us might like to have heard all of.
  • Happens in the (fake) sixth season trailer of Raumschiff GameStar: Dr. Chris explains "This is a quantum-mechanical expansion mechanism that can revert the ship to the submolecular state." As the crew gives him blank stares, the Future!Dr. Chris adds: "A bomb."
  • In Red Dwarf:
    • Rimmer and Lister take it in turn to try to explain a stasis leak to Cat:
      Cat: [to Rimmer] What is it?
      Rimmer: It's a rent in the space-time continuum.
      Cat: [to Lister] What is it?
      Lister: The stasis room freezes time, you know, makes time stand still. So whenever you have a leak, it must preserve whatever it's leaked into, and it's leaked into this room.
      Cat: [to Rimmer] What is it?
      Rimmer: It's singularity, a point in the universe where the normal laws of space and time don't apply.
      Cat: [to Lister] What is it?
      Lister: It's a hole back into the past.
      Cat: Oh, a magic door! Well, why didn't you say?
    • And from "Future Echoes" (and also the first American pilot):
      Holly: How simple an explanation do you want?
      Rimmer: Um, so Lister can understand it.
      Holly: Oh, dear...
  • ReGenesis: Sandstrom's favorite method of teaching advanced virology involves a vulgar pun and expressive wiggling of his fingers.
  • Shaun Micallef's Mad as Hell: Shaun uses a clip of Finance Minister Mathias Cormann trying to explain "in plain English" what the fuel excise indexation means.
    Cormann: The government has decided to give practical effect to a fuel excise indexation budget measure by way of tariff proposals.
    Shaun: ...Mind you, plain English isn't his first language.
  • Subverted on Sports Night:
    Dana: Jeremy, tell me what's happening in Chattanooga. Tell me quickly, tell me succinctly. Bullet points. We're on the air in less than two minutes, so don't give me a valedictory address. Talk to me as if I'm a small child. Tell me what's happening in Chattanooga.
    Jeremy: I don't know what's happening in Chattanooga.
    Dana: [Beat] Okay, tell me a little more than that.
  • Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis do this all the time. If they don't do it Once per Episode, it at least feels that way.
    • One quote shows why this might be the case.
      Zelenka: No offense, but the math I'm using is so complicated I don't know if I can dumb it down enough for it to make sense.
      Sheppard: Try.
    • This, however, gets subverted when Samantha Carter gets command of Atlantis:
      Carter: This could be useful. Neutronium is incredibly dense.
      Sheppard: And that helps us how?
      Carter: [opens her mouth to explain]
      McKay: [understanding instantly] Sam, we are geniuses!
      [Carter smiles as if to say "Thank God I don't have to waste time explaining!"]
  • Star Trek:
  • That '70s Show: The car won't start when they're trying to make a getaway after a prank.
    Eric: Wh-what's going on? We're not moving!
    Donna: Oh man, you dropped your transmission.
    Eric: In English, Donna, in English!
    Donna: Your car! No! Go!
  • Then you have Torchwood, where Captain Jack Harkness refuses to avoid technobabble claiming it's "good for the soul". Tosh still explains things sometimes to Gwen, as her background is in law enforcement not science.
  • Veronica Mars: Mac the Hackette is often asked to dumb down her Technobabble to more comprehensible English for Veronica and sometimes Keith. In a season 2 episode, Weevil is so tired of Beaver's lack of ability to explain math in Layman's terms, he ironically asks Mac to tutor him, which surprisingly works out fine.
  • A subtle example in The West Wing:
    Leo: The U.S.S. Portland is a Seawolf-class, or "big", nuclear submarine...
  • Inverted in The X-Files episode "Pusher":
    Mulder: Modell psyched the guy out, he put the whammy on him!
    Scully: Please explain to me the scientific nature of "the Whammy".

  • In "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Sports Song", the first two verses are bragging about how great they are and how inferior the other team is in Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness, before which most of the third quarter of the sing is call-and-response "We're GREAT! (We're GREAT!) / And you SUCK! (You SUCK!)"

    Myths & Religion 

  • A lot of Well There's Your Problem is based on this. The hosts, not wanting to use advanced engineering terms for 'how stuff goes wrong' to a mostly non-engineer audience, tend to simplify the language a lot. Sometimes this is Played for Laughs by having the hosts apply layman's terms to things that are already fairly graspable to everyone.

  • "Rock Star" physicist Brian Cox explains the universe this way. It's parodied on BBC Radio 4's The Now Show: "Newton's law of universal gravitation states that every point mass in the universe attracts every other point mass with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. And that's a bit like this packet of Smints."

  • In On the Town, anthropology student Claire explains her behavior to Ozzie in the recitative verse of "Carried Away":
    Claire: Modern man, what is it? Just a collection of complexes and neurotic impulses that occasionally break through.
    Ozzie: You mean sometimes you blow your top like me?
    Claire: I do.
  • In Kiss the Boys Good-bye by Clare Boothe, when Myra throws herself at Harner and tries to get a kiss out of him, he pulls her arms away and says:
    Harner: You're a nymphomaniac.
    Myra: Wha—? Oh, can those ten-dollar rah-rah words!
    Harner: O.K. You're a Brooklyn tramp. Scram.
  • The Complete History Of America Abridged, in the World War I sketch:
    Reed: Now, let's get to business. What did HQ say?
    Adam: Oh, right. HQ said, "Your sector surrounded. Unable to send reinforcements. Have a nice day."
    Austin: That's code, right? That's gotta be code for something, right?
    Reed: Yeah, it's code for "We're hosed."

    Video Games 
  • Borderlands 2 has a sidequest where Scooter helps walk the Vault Hunters through fixing the steam pump at an abandoned truck stop to get it running again.
    Scooter: I see your problem — and I'm gonna take this slow so's you can understand, alright? That thing's broke as hell.
  • Devil May Cry 5: Nico knows a lot about demon anatomy and mechanical engineering so she says very technical terms in her Enemy and Weapon Reports... and then summarizes what she just said succinctly. For example:
    • When describing the Punch Line Devil Breaker:
      Nico: The propellant injection device is based on the combustion mechanism in that numbskull's demon tummy... It's basically a rocket-powered punch.
    • It's used as her introduction for the Elder Geryon Knight:
      Nico: Geryon are listed as "equus daemonicus" in some of the oldest demonology texts. That's "horse demon" to the uneducated. You keeping up okay, sugar?
  • Dino Crisis has it said in a rather condescending tone:
    Dr. Kirk: To put it in terms that even you can understand, Third Energy has the ability to replace a pocket in space, with one from a different time!
  • Morgana of Persona 5 is Mr. Exposition, but he hits a brick wall with the rest of the Phantom Thieves who don't understand Jungian psychology terms, such as Persona and the "collective unconscious." They do start to pick up on it after a while, but Morgana generally has to explain things in very basic terms in order to get anything done.
  • From a cutscene in Command & Conquer: Renegade:
    Mobius: The Black Hands Re-genesis project is based upon my research. They're utilizing tiberium as a mutagen to incite forced genetic acceleration.
    Havoc: English, Doc.
    Mobius: Dr. Pettrova is attempting to create genetically enhanced super soldiers.
  • Fallout 2, Harold asks you to bring a hydroelectric magnetosphere regulator for Gecko's nuclear power plant.
    The Chosen One: What is a hy-whatever?
    Harold: Well, technically... it's a thingy.
  • In The Incredibles: Rise of the Underminer the first boss in the game gives a long-winded explanation on the function of the Underminer's doomsday weapon, which is designed to use Earth's magnetic alignment to cover the surface in soil or some nonsense essentially putting everyone on the surface underground. At the end it boils it down to "The world will be turned upside down", prompting Mr. Incredible's Lame Comeback of "You're upside down!".
  • From Portal:
    GlaDOS: Momentum, a function of mass and velocity, is conserved between portals. In layman's terms, speedy thing goes in, speedy thing comes out.
  • Also done in Portal 2.
    Cave Johnson: For this next test, we put nanoparticles in the gel. In layman's terms, that's a billion little gizmos that are gonna travel into your bloodstream and pump experimental genes and RNA molecules and so forth into your tumors.
  • Star Wars: Republic Commando: The spider droids explanation.
    Advisor: The only unarmored point is the ocular cluster located below its main cannon.
    Scorch: In other words; shoot the red dot.
  • Zone of the Enders: your helpful AI ADA informs you that by the superphysical properties of Metatron inducing a charge alters the fabric of space-time which can be compartmentalized by the insertion of reality anchors into the points of "simultaneous compression and expansion", the destruction of which will open a final pocket that is otherwise nonexistent in this universe, or as she explains it:
    ''ADA: I other words, break the jars and... something will happen".
  • Inverted in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. In one codec conversation, when Boris explains the new functionality of the soliton radar in a simple manner, Raiden wants to hear the technical explanation, which Boris is having none of.
  • Thanos and Iron Man inverted this in Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. Thanos explains how he will find the other infinity stones with flowery but accessible language. Tony then mocks him by using the technical terms and says "that wasn't so hard, was it?", implying he doesn't want Thanos to dumb down the explanation for him of all people. Cue Thanos flinging some technobabble into his face.
  • Something of a Running Gag with Kinzie Kensington from Saints Row: The Third and Saints Row IV is that she gets over-excited when talking about technical stuff, and constantly has to dumb down things for The Boss.
  • In LEGO City Undercover, Professor Kowalski mentions that Chase needs to set up a forcefield around the rocket inside Blackwell Tower.
    Kowalski: I was developing a phased polarity exclusion field.
    Chase: Right... Now obviously I understand what that is, but how would you describe it to, say, a child?
    Kowalski: Hmm... Imagine you have a pair of subatomic particles—
    Chase: A younger child than that.
    Kowalski: Oh. Err, it's a kind of magic bubble which nothing can get through.

    Web Animation 
  • In the Doctor Who Expanded Universe webcast Scream of the Shalka, Alison does this to herself to make better sense of what the Doctor's saying, to his annoyance.
    The Doctor: The Shalka share the scream like whale song, a way to transmit a lot of messages between each other at high speed.
    Alison: The sonic internet.
    The Doctor: Mmhm. And that machine adds automatic coordination. It keeps all their slaves doing what they�re supposed to be doing without the Shalka having to think about every little command. It must be able to record, playback, relay and boost the screams.
    Alison: Their sonic service provider.
    The Doctor: Stop that.
  • RWBY:
    • Ruby introduces Jaune to Crescent Rose:
    Jaune: Is— is that a scythe?
    Ruby: It's also a customizable, high-impact sniper rifle!
    Jaune: Huh?
    Ruby: [dramatic gun cock] It's also a gun.
    • Later on, Penny analyzes Ruby's Semblance
    Penny: Ruby is capable of traveling at an extreme velocity from one point to another by breaking herself down to her molecular components, thus negating her mass, and then reassembling them at the destination, theoretically making it possible to transport all of us in the same way, as mass no longer matters.
    Ruby: I— uhh... what?
    Penny: You can use your Semblance on all of us!

  • 8-Bit Theater This bit;
    Red Mage: Sarda de-leveled us, but we don't know how many levels we lost.
    Black Mage: I'm willing to entertain your idiotic notions of how reality works if it'll get you to the point faster.
    Red Mage: In layman's terms, we know we lost the fancy class abilities that came with our class changes, but we don't know what else we lost.
  • Broken Plot Device: "Frog keep bad things trapped in closet."
  • Inverted in this Crimson Dark strip.
    Vaegyr: Kari, what's your assessment?
    Kari: Cooooool...
    Vaegyr: Yes. I was hoping for something more tactical in nature.
    Kari: The lance on that vashnir is one of the new spine-mounted models. It could ruin the Daimyo's day in a heartbeat — but they need the perfect vector. Gun for gun, the Daimyo has a decisive advantage.
  • Exterminatus Now has only two technically savvy members of the main cast: one is a cyborg mercenary exclusively interested in hardware directly useable to maim-burn-kill; the other is an inquisitor knowing only about pimped out hovercraft and how to make low-grade attack robots. Thus it happens:
    Scientist: [very lengthy technobabble explanation]
    Team: (Beat Panel)
    Scientist: Shiny void rift plus big space gun make world go 'splodey.
  • Girl Genius gives us a variant, when dealing with Mad Scientists.
    Moloch: Assume I'm not a raving lunatic.
  • In Goblins, Minmax considers peeing on a superpowered weapon of the gods. Kin frantically tries to stop him and explain why it's such a bad idea, but whenever she's nervous or upset, she reverts to Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness. When this fails, she resorts to "Penis go boom".
  • The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!: Lampshaded in this strip, contrasting Bob's view of things with Molly's technobabble.
  • Completely inverted in Sandra and Woo, where management consultants from IBM only understand IT consulting technobabble.
  • Done out of necessity by Eve in The Last Cowboy, because she's speaking to beings who have no word in their language for "space ship."
    Eve: They rode... inside... stomach of metal monster.
  • Powerpuff Girls Doujinshi During the briefing at the Watchtower, the Martian Manhunter is about to explain the effects of the mysterious bombs, taking over from Superman, because the latter didn't understand the explanation well enough to recall it. Bubbles raises her hand and points out that if Superman didn't get it, she definitely won't, and asks J'onn to dumb it down. J'onn turns into Marvin the Martian to do so.
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • The comic does it regularly, such as DoytHaban helping Kevyn here — later he manages to do it himself. Athens in this strip, except that she skips the technobabble.
    • Para's explanation of why the male A.I. Tag got reformatted as the female A.I. Tagii.
      Captain Tagon: Lieutenant Ventura, what happened to Tag? I liked Tag.
      Ventura: Understanding that would require an advanced degree in robotics. I can give you a lay summary in two minutes, sir.
      Captain Tagon: Condense the summary.
      Ventura: If you want an A.I. this month, she's it.
    • Kathryn picking apart a political conspiracy.
      Kathryn: After laying fresh meta-data over the path matrix, I—
      Murtaugh: Lay terms, lieutenant.
      Kathryn: That actually requires more words, captain.
      Murtaugh: So use them.
    • And another explanation from Kevyn.
      Kevyn: Captain, I need to be patched out. We've found something important.
      Megiddo: I'll be the judge of that. Speak.
      Kevyn: [...] Between eighty and ninety hours from now that singularity is going to release about a nonillion kilograms of mass, most of which will likely be expressed as energy.
      Megiddo: Not worth the call. What else have you got?
      Kevyn: Well, we expect a pretty impressive supernova in about four days.
      Megiddo: See, that is worth telling the fleet about.
  • Appears in Slice of Life when Twilight Sparkle offers to teach some basic magic to Pumpkin Cake:
    Twilight: I should mention I still get my stipend from the Princess, so this is purely a voluntary undertaking for the betterment of the community.
    Twilight: It's free!
  • In Sluggy Freelance:
    • In this strip, Dr. Schlock has to go a step beyond layman's terms when talking to Sam and Kiki.
      Dr. Schlock: Friends all got Big-Bad-Sicky-Sicky! No Wakey-Wakey! Me save! Me stop Big-Bad-Sicky-Sicky!
    • Later he has to use a puppet show to explain himself.
  • In User Friendly, Greg receives a tech support call from a customer asking how to connect to the Internet—"AND NO TECHNICAL TERMS!" After successfully explaining what to do in terms of "wiggly-diggly," "thingamajig" and "doodlybum," he Head Desks in shame.
  • Used in Wapsi Square here.
  • xkcd once devoted a comic to explaining a diagram of the Saturn V rocket using only the thousand most common words in the English language. Author Randall Munroe eventually saw fit to do a whole book of these sorts of diagrams called Thing Explainer.

    Web Original 
  • Our Laconic Wiki, of course.
  • Reddit now has a subreddit called "Explain Like I'm Five"
  • One of the language options for The Other Wiki is "Simple English". This can be helpful for some of the more obscure topics - since articles on, say, advanced mathematics only get edited by people who already understand them, they tend to drift inexorably into impenetrable jargon. Or if you prefer, the words get harder.
  • In universe, Shortcuts from The Wanderer's Library is an attempt to use this to make magical comprehensible reader.
  • The Onion: Nation's Action Heroes Demand Hackers Say It Again In English
    "We're calling on all tech-savvy wunderkinds to pretend for a second that we don't have a master's in programming from M.I.T. and repeat back whatever the hell they’re talking about," said local protagonist Jake Bronson, speaking on behalf of macho primary characters across the U.S. beseeching all poindexters and dweebs to heed the call and rephrase their jargon into plain terms. "Now is the time for all bespectacled sidekicks to remind themselves that if we can't get out of here in the next 30 seconds, the shit's really going to hit the fan, and to use that urgency to repeat their comments in another way since we don’t speak Nerd."

    Web Videos 
  • In Dragon Ball Z Abridged, at the same time Trunks is using a new form to battle Perfect Cell, Goku is explaining to Gohan how this form, the bulkier "Super Saiyan Third Grade" is much stronger than normal but is slower because of its larger size, but saying so in terms that are higher than Goku's usual level of intelligence. Gohan's shocked that Goku can speak that way, but Goku thinks Gohan is confused by what he meant and explains "in a lame man's terms":
    Perfect Cell: You can't hit me.
    Trunks: Then, what do you call the last five minutes?!
    Perfect Cell: Pity.
  • In English Please by Chris & Jack. Layman's terms is taken to an extreme, where Agent Sparxx doesn't understand anything related to computers - even something as simply as having the computer expert's computer to mess up the bad guys's computers.
  • The narrator of the Nintoaster Instructional Video has this to say about the NES's cartridge connector:
    We won't be using it because it's poorly designed. And it sucks.
  • ProZD: Parodied in "TV Detective vs. Tech Guy." The detective first asks the techie to say it in English, then French, then Morse code.
  • "Steamed Hams but they only use the 1000 most common words" applies the technique used in xkcd to the "Steamed Hams" scene from The Simpsons.
    Chalmers: You call animal insides circles heated water clouded pink animal insides pieces?note 

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: There is a book titled Bestiarium Vocabulum (Beast Compendium) ((Animal Book)).
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: In "Nightmare in Retroville", Jimmy helps Carl and Sheen look scary on Halloween by inventing a Monster Maker machine that changes their appearances into those of a vampire and werewolf, respectively. Later, when Carl develops a taste for blood and makes himself change into a bat, Jimmy realizes consequences of his invention.
    Jimmy: The Monster Maker must have mutated Carl's molecular structure on a subatomic level, altering his DNA.
    Sheen: Hmm, and now again in English?
    Jimmy: He's a real vampire!
  • In Batman: The Brave and the Bold, during a "Fantastic Voyage" Plot (and judging by AQUAMAN's reaction afterward, it's still too highbrow for him):
    Atom: The CP4 barium-sonar wave will indicate any monocellic vili-silicates in our vicinity.
    AQUAMAN: English, man, English!
    Atom: [sigh] This little "doohicky" beeps when the "cooties" are near.
    AQUAMAN: I, ah, cooties... yes.
  • In Code Lyoko, Jérémie is frequently asked to translate his technobabble by his friends. (Note that in the original version, what they naturally ask for is: "In French, please.")
    Jérémie: In fact, the Supercomputer analyzes your molecular structure through the scanners and it breaks down your atoms before digitalizing them and recreating a digital incarnation in the virtual world.
    Ulrich: In English?
    Jérémie: You get inside the cabin, you're teleported to the virtual world.
  • Dexter's Laboratory: In the "Dial M For Monkey" episode, "Rasslor", Monkey and the Justice Friends are abducted by the titular alien warrior/conqueror, Rasslor, to engage in fair combat for the fate of the Earth. Though he has a hard time getting that point across.
    Rasslor: Welcome heroes of Earth. You have been chosen to receive the most glorious of gifts. The opportunity to face me, the great Rasslor, in a contest of strength and skill. For eons, I have scoured the cosmos searching for the one adversary who can provide me with suitable sport. But lo, I have yet to find such a noble soul, each creature, each race, more pitiable than the last. So I spare them the disgrace of their weakness by destroying their worlds. And now my quest has brought me to this timid little planet you call Earth. So terrestrial heroes, can one of you quench my thirst for the divine conflict! The supreme struggle! Or will your planet be doomed to the same fate that has befallen so many?
    Heroes: What?
    Rasslor: Fight me or I destroy the Earth!
  • The DuckTales multi-parter that introduced Gizmoduck has a Beagle Boy named Megabyte Beagle, who describes his plans in technical terms, which would confuse his cellmate and family members to the point that they would then request him to "Say it in Beagle talk!"
  • Inverted in the Family Guy episode "Family Goy":
    Dr. Hartman: I'm sorry, Mrs. Griffin, but you have what we in the medical profession call gross black boob death.
    Lois: You mean breast cancer?
    Dr. Hartman: That is the layman's term.
  • Futurama:
    • Spoofed to hell and back in "Where No Fan Has Gone Before", when the Planet Express crew runs afoul of an energy being named Mellvar who is holding the crew of Star Trek: The Original Series hostage. Leela asks what would happen at this juncture on Star Trek, and Fry mentions that they need to come up with a complex plan which is then explained with a simple analogy (for crew members and audience members too dim to understand the smarty-speak version).
      Leela: Hmm. If we can re-route engine power through the primary weapons and reconfigure them to Melllvar's frequency, that should overload his electro-quantum structure.
      Bender: Like putting too much air in a balloon!
      Fry: Of course! It's all so simple!
    Then when it backfires:
    Leela: It's not working! He's drawing strength from our weapons!
    Fry: Like a balloon, and... something bad happens!
    • In "The Farnsworth Parabox", Farnsworth calls the exchange of the box containing Universe-1 with the box containing Universe-A a "spacetime eversion". Leela prompts the layman's version with "So, what you think you've just explained to us is..?"
  • From the Histeria! episode "Histeria! Goes to the Moon":
    Aka Pella: Yo, we gotta get those flyboys back to Earth safely, but we need them to conserve what little fuel they have left!
    Loud Kiddington: HUH!?
    Aka: I said they can't waste any gas!
  • The Justice League episode "Eclipsed", where a bit of Applied Phlebotinum will destroy the Sun unless the League can stop it:
    Martian Manhunter: To halt the process, we need to create an Einstein-Rosen bridge to drain off the infecting anti-fusion matter.
    Flash: Create a what to do what?
    Hawkgirl: Make a wormhole, to suck away the bad stuff.
    Flash: Oh.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • In Duck Dodgers in the 24˝th Century, when Dodgers (Daffy Duck) is explaining to his eager young Space Cadet (Porky Pig) how he plans to locate Planet X...
      Dodgers: (scribbling out a map on a board) Starting from where we are, we go 33,600 turbo miles due up, then west in an astro arc deviation to here, then following the Great Circle seven radial lubes south by downeast. By astro astromo to here, here, and here, then by space navigal compass to here, here, and then to here, and here. By 13-point stratocumulus, bearing four million light years, and thus to our destination. Now do you know how to reach Planet X?
      Cadet: Ah, p-p-p-p-p—oh, sure.
      Dodgers: (cue glazed look; looks at the incomprehensible scribblings on the board, then annoyedly back at Cadet) Well I wish you'd explain it to me sometime, brother!
    • In From Hare To Heir, Bugs Bunny goes to Sam, Duke of Yosemite, to tell him that he has received one million pounds and can keep the money under one condition.
      Bugs: And so, to make certain that this money be received by a worthy person of mild temperament, the bearer of the document, that's me, has been authorized to deduct from the total amount any sum he sees fit whenever there is any display of temper. In short, whenever you blow your top, you blow some dough. Get it?
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The episode "Hurricane Fluttershy" uses multiple characters to set up such a gag. Twilight explains what the anaomoeter does in the most loquacious way possible, and when she asks "Any questions?" the pegasi turn to Spike and ask, "Yeah, what exactly does this machine do?" which Spike with a much simpler "It tells you how fast you're going and how strong your wings are," which all present actually understand.
    • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks, Twilight figures out how to open a portal between worlds that normally only opens every thirty moons. She smugly explains how she did it, but everyone except Pinkie Pie gets confused. Pinkie explains, in her own way, that Twilight used the magical energy in a book that can communicate between the worlds to power the portal.
  • From the Phineas and Ferb episode "Bubble Boys", when the kids' bubble drifts down towards some public art:
    Gretchen: With our angled descent, leaning will be ineffectual!
    Others: What?
    Gretchen: We're gonna crash!
  • Played with in The Ren & Stimpy Show, in one of the "Captain Hoek and Cadet Stimpy" segments. They've gone through a black hole into a parallel universe, and miss the bus back to reality as the place they're in starts to break up.
    Ren: ... I guess it's hopeless.
    Stimpy: Wait! I know! I'll set the space-time doohickey to our molecular wavelength, switch 'er into reverse, and turn it up to full blast! And we'll simply implode!
    Ren: Implode? What's that?
    Stimpy: Eh, sorry, Captain, but you're a layman, aren't you? I'll try to explain it in technical terms.
    • He never manages a vocal explanation, instead going "I'll show you!" and sucking in his stomach.
  • The Simpsons: This is frequently parodied to emphasize that Springfield's average resident is dumber than a bag of hammers by having them ask for terms to dumbed down well past any reasonable level and often failing to understand even very commonplace terms.
    • "Homer's Triple Bypass" Parodied when Homer doesn't get Dr. Hibbert's explanation of his impending surgery no matter how much he dumbs it downnote :
    • "The Boy Who Knew Too Much": When Homer is reviewing the instructions of the jury, he asks Principal Skinner to explain not only "sequestered" and "deadlocked" but also "if".
    • "Treehouse of Horror VI": Parodied Homer winds up in a 3-D realm. Professor Frink starts to explain what's going on, but is asked to start dumbing things down once he gets into technical terms like "square".
      Prof. Frink: Here we have an ordinary square...
      Wiggum: Whoa, whoa, slow down, egghead!
    • "The Fat and the Furriest": When Homer asks what the kids got Marge for Mother's Day, Lisa replies that she picked a boquet of Erigeron elatior, a North American wildflower. Homer and Bart stare blankly. She tries again by saying she picked daisies. More staring. "Flowers?" Still staring. She eventually resorts to just gesturing with the flowers and making a worldess noise, which gets the picture across.
    • "The Burns and the Bees": Defied by Groundskeeper Willie, who clarifies that he does, in fact, know what "apiarist" means.
      Lisa: Willie, I didn't you were an apiarist.
      Willie: From context, I can tell that means "beekeeper".
  • Steven Universe: "Coach Steven" begins with Pearl giving a technobabble explanation.
    Pearl: This was once a communication hub for Gem-kind. But lately, it's begun transmitting bursts of electromagnetic interference!
    Steven: Whazzat mean?
    Garnet: It's hurting television.
  • Reoccurring moment in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles whenever Donatello describes a device using scientific terms. One example when the Technodrome escaped Dimension X heading towards Earth:
    Donatello: Well, being it's how it's a giant magnet, I'll have to realign the polarity of its electrostatic impediments.
    Others: In English!
    Donatello: Oh... In other words, I'll simply do this!
  • Spoofed by King of the Hill:
    Sheriff: He said he was with you, sparking up a J.
    Peggy: In English, please?
    Sheriff: Lighting up a J?
    (Peggy gasps and falls back into her chair.)
  • In the Teen Titans episode "Stranded", Cyborg's robotic body is damaged. Cyborg tries to instruct Beast Boy to repair him, but Beast Boy can't understand his Technobabble. Cyborg gets extremely frustrated because he eventually can't think of a way to dumb it down enough.
  • In one episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Scratch reports to Dr. Robotnik that Tails has built Sonic a "functional flying machine". Grounder, apparently ignorant of what "functional" means, adds "Yeah! It even worked, too!"
  • In the Static Shock episode "Where The Rubber Meets The Road", Specs and Trapper hire Tarmac to steal the parts for a sort of sonic weapon. They try to explain what it does, but he can't understand their scientific terms, so they say, "Think of it like a boombox. That makes a very big boom."
  • Stōked: Brosef, in the middle of Yet Another Christmas Carol involving sandwiches instead of Christmas, asks the Ghost of Sandwiches Past (who looks like Chester) if he's dead. Chester/TGOSP responds that he's just a metaphysical manifestation of Brosef's delusional, food-poisoned mind. Brosef doesn't get it, to which "Chester" dumbs it down to "You're seeing things cuz all the puking's giving you the crazies."
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998): In "Boogie Frights", as the Professor steps in when Buttercup scares Bubbles with a story about the Boogie Man.
    Professor: Buttercup likes to be an instigator.
    Bubbles: What?
    Blossom: That means she was trying to get your goat.
    Bubbles: (holds onto a plush goat)
  • Crops up a few times in Total Drama:
    • Subverted in the Total Drama: Revenge of the Island episode Eat, Puke and Be Wary, Cameron and Lightning are given tracking collars that give an electric shock every time they try to take them off by Chef as part of a challenge. Lightning tries to take off his collar, which predictably shocks him repeatedly. Cameron tries to explain to him why just trying to rip the collars off is a bad idea.
      Cameron: There seems to have an anti-removal feature, which sends a strong electric current to the central nervous system.
      Lightning: (confused stare)
      Cameron: If you take it off it goes "ZAP ZAP" and gives you an owie!
      Lightning: (confused stare)
      Cameron: Never mind.
    • Scarlet of Total Drama: Pahkitew Island often talks in Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness terms, which sometimes causes problems and confusion among her team. For example, in Mo Monkey Mo Problems:
      Scarlet: Our best chance to find which monkey has the coin is by conducting a neuroscientific experiment. I mean, it's no secret that there's heighten activity in the mirror neurons in primates, right? (chuckles)
      Other Pimâpotew Kinosewak members: (confused stare)
      Scarlet: We play monkey see, monkey do.
      Max: Of course!
      Jasmine: Good idea!
      Topher: I like it!
      Scarlet: (in the confessional, very irritated) Use. Little. Words!
  • In an episode of The Weekenders, Tish has spent the whole weekend speaking in Flowery Elizabethan English to Lor's annoyance. When it's Sunday night and the group realizes none of them have even started on their homework, Tish starts another Shakespearian speech until Lor finally cuts her off.
    Lor: In American, please!
    Tish: Uh... Let's book!
    Lor: Thank you.
  • Yakky Doodle is being pursued by Alfie Gator (an alligator avatar of Alfred Hitchcock), who scales a tree in pursuit of Yakky. But Yakky is on the ground, chopping the tree down:
    Alfie: (to us, as the tree gives way) To the laymen in the audience, "Timber" means "look out!"

    Real Life 
  • Introductory instructors in technical fields must walk the fine line between an explanation that's simple enough for the students to understand and one that's technical enough for them to apply correctly (one method is to first say it in layman's terms and then show it in technical detail). However, in many research universities, instructors will not do this for one reason or another. This leads to many otherwise-capable students giving up when they can't penetrate the technobabble.
  • Odds are, you've pointed out the use of a trope in a show or movie and then had to try to explain it to the person you were with, especially if TV Tropes Has Ruined Your Vocabulary. First, though, you had to explain what a trope is.
  • Richard Feynman was great at this.
    • He was quoted as saying if you can't explain chemistry to a bricklayer, you don't understand chemistry.
    • He also said that one didn't understand a (physics) topic if one couldn't give a freshman lecture on the topic. He was disturbed that he couldn't with the basis for fermions and bosons. He also had an overoptimistic view of what constituted a freshman lecture.
  • The use of this and similar phrases has actually garnered some criticism from Liberal Arts teachers at technical schools. They believe that it's insulting to those who don't attend and is used to separate the technical students from the rest of society. The fact that if such students didn't use those terms they wouldn't be understood is overlooked.
  • This also happens in the social sciences where concepts central to them have names attached to them, and explaining them can often require full lectures to be understood. Even terms heard on the news such as inflation, GDP and interest have more than the basic implications put out there, and understanding more than the cursory overglance and putting it into layman's terms doesn't reveal what they really mean in part because of how complex the social science is, and how critical the term is to understanding the field as a whole.
  • A very common practice among trial attorneys, as legal and factual issues of often bewildering complexity have to be explained from the ground-up to a group of very bored laymen. A usual lawyer's rule of thumb is that if your theory of the case can't be explained in under 5 minutes, you need to go back and come up with a simpler one.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): In English Please



Lisa continually dumbs down her explanation of what she got Marge for Mother's Day.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / LaymansTerms

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