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Nails on a Blackboard

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"Snikt" wasn't a loud enough sound for this occasion.

For centuries, Demons have attempted to devise a sound as maddening as the simple screech of fingernails on a chalkboard. To date, they haven't succeeded.
The Chalkboard description, Afterlife (1996)

A Sub-Trope of Noisy Shut-Up.


Gah! That sound!

But it got your attention, didn't it?

Seriously, there's no better way to arrest attention than to screeEEEEeeeeEEEEEeeEEEEEEEK!

[shudder chill] better way to arrest attention than to rake a nail or two across a blackboard. Usually works best with actual nails or a piece of chalk (especially a long, fresh piece), but some Badass Normals can use their finger nails. In the absence of a chalkboard, a sharp object against glass produces a similar sound.


Will you STOP that!!!

Fun fact: certain schools of thought posit that the reaction to this sound is an atavistic response to when humanity's pre-evolved ancestors used a similar noise to warn each other of danger that should be fled from at once. This phenomenon was studied in 2006 on a scientific paper, which netted its authors the Ig Nobel Prize, and as shown in the Real Life section, it has found actual practical applications in impossible-to-ignore metallic noises that alert machine operators about dangerous conditions, such as worn brake pads on a car.

See also Sinister Scraping Sound, a dangerous Sister Trope. Believe it or not, The Other Wiki actually has its own article about it.


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  • Invoked during a promo for Shark Week in 2005. Several "town residents" were yelling questions about sharks when this scraping noise cut through the talk. Everyone turned to see Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, that year's Shark Week hosts, plus a small blackboard that Jamie had just scratched.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Great Teacher Onizuka: Onizuka does this to get his class to stop gossiping about him the morning after he meets Urumi.
  • It was also in Excel♡Saga, but done with a knife glove. Luckily for the audience, the sound was replaced with music.
  • And Crossworlds. Although that was on a stalagmite. It gains extra kudos for being weaponized — the sound being used to disable a sharp-eared cat-person.
  • In One Piece, Usopp can use an attack called "Usopp Noise", which involves him scratching his nails on a small blackboard to distract his enemies so he can either make a hasty retreat or launch a surprise attack. He was first seen using this attack against a group of Baroque Works agents to protect Vivi in Chapter 204.
  • Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu. In the last episode Kaname does this to calm a Crowd Panic. She's badass enough that it works immediately.
  • In Dragon Ball, whistling has this effect on Namekians.
  • In GA: Geijutsuka Art Design Class, the main characters have been asked to retrieve an easel from the art room, which the art club has outfitted with a number of horror props. Namiko wants to get the object (though they've forgotten what it was), and leave, but Tomokane is determined not to be defeated in that way. Namiko has Miyabi stop her, and this is what she comes up with... to the displeasure of everyone else in the room.
  • Butch and Cassidy do this to try and get Professor Oak to talk in a Pokémon Chronicles episode.
    • Meowth does this in an XY episode.

    Asian Animation 
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Joys of Seasons episode 36, Mr. Slowy gets angry about Weslie, Paddi, and Sparky seemingly skipping school on top of not sending in their homework (they were actually captured by Wolffy while trying to retrieve their homework from him). In his anger, he scratches on his desk and then on the chalkboard behind him, which irritates his other students Tibbie and Jonie.

    Comic Books 
  • Ascendant Star Spangled Squadron: Stiletto uses this to great effect in her comic intro, scraping gouges down the side of a car using only her nails.
  • The French teacher from the French comic Les Profs does this while writing "Any attempt of ruckus, and I'll do it again".

    Fan Works 
  • The Arithmancer: One of Hermione's efficiency-oriented jinxes for low-powered casters produces a cone of dissonant sounds similar to this.
  • The laughter of the poltergeist girl in Calvin & Hobbes: The Series is compared to this.

    Films — Animated 
  • Weirdly and subtly used in the original short film 9, when the cat-beast has 9 cornered and rakes its claws across some nearby cement.
  • In The Lion King (1994), Scar scratches his claws on his cave wall in order to annoy Zazu, to the same type of sound.
  • Winnie the Pooh (2011): As Owl begins to sing "The Backson Song", he draws the monster on a chalkboard and produces an irritating squeak with the chalk.
    Piglet: It sounds scary already!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl: When the two title characters are in Max's classroom, Sharkboy rakes his claws over the blackboard to draw a map to Planet Drool, making the whole class cover their ears.
  • The Dark Knight: The soundtrack somehow manages to incorporate this (fittingly, as the Joker's motif). Have a listen.
  • Final Destination 4: Inverted. The salon scene contains some slightly unnerving shots of the pedicurist scraping a metal tool along the underside of a soon-to-be victim's toenail. The sound of the scraping is plainly heard, and unpleasant.
  • Ernest Scared Stupid: A young Ernest does this in a flashback before getting whacked in the head by his teacher.
  • Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare: Freddy used this to torture Carlos as he stole his hearing aid, turned the volume up to 11, gave it back, made it unremovable and dragged his murder-glove all over a giant chalkboard. Then Carlos's head exploded.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000): The Grinch reproduces this sound by scraping his nails/fingers along the side of a car.
  • Jaws: Quint, making his legendary entrance.
  • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie: Somewhat subverted, as viewers of the film would have been unable to hear it as such. When Ivan Ooze expresses his displeasure at the Tengu Warriors' failure to eliminate the Power Rangers, they counter that they were driven off by a monster, who twirled sticks that made a very painful sound. At this, Ivan asks what the sound was (to confirm his suspicion that the "monster" was in fact the warrior woman Dulcea), and the Tengu replied that it was "like nails on a chalkboard".
  • Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz: When the protagonist drags the Nazi nurse by her feet into her own testing chamber, her nails scrape along the concrete floor.
  • The Pink Panther Strikes Again: Used as Cool and Unusual Punishment. The villain puts on a steel gauntlet from a suit of armor, grins at the tied-up female, walks to the slate blackboard, and — CUT! to quite a distance away, outside, and you STILL hear it. And her screaming.
  • The Quick and the Dead: When the Lady is challenged to her first duel, her name is chalked up on a board with an audible screech that shows the tension she is feeling at that moment.
  • Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit: Deloris does this to silence the loudly chattering, music-playing students in her music class. Twice.
  • Slingblade: Here, the trope doesn't need nails or blackboards. The film's opening introduces an inmate of a mental institution who is an attention-hungry sociopath. This is established before he even speaks by his dragging a metal chair across the entire length of the tile-floored common room.
  • Van Helsing: When the titular character transforms into a werewolf, he grates his claws on the stone wall to intimidate Dracula, creating a version of this sound.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit: Since he wears gloves, Judge Doom makes the noise with the chalk instead. The audience is too busy cringing, trying to get that sound out of their heads, to wonder how Doom does that with chalk.

  • One Goosebumps short story features a summer school that punishes failing kids by making them go in a chalk closet to listen to this for all eternity.
  • Septimus Heap
    • Physik compares Queen Etheldredda's voice to this sound.
    • According to Magyk, Magogs enjoy this sound and make it in their freetime.

    Live Action TV 
  • Cheers: In first-season finale "Showdown, Part 2", Diane does this to get Sam to confess his feelings for her.
  • Invoked and Played for Laughs on Happy Endings-while Brad, Dave and Max are brainstorming in 'Bros Before Bros', Max interrupts and makes this noise himself-dragging his hand across a wooden pillar that couldn't possibly make the noise.
  • It's Okay to Not Be Okay: Sang-in is lecturing Moon-young about how she needs to not dress so much like Morticia Addams when she's about to give a reading to little kids. Moon-young gets irritated by this and deliberately scrapes her ceramic plate with the point of a very sharp knife, which makes Sang-in stop.
  • An early Invention Exchange on Mystery Science Theater 3000 featured the Mads' "Chalkman", a record player with a fake hand on the tonearm (with real human fingernails!) played against a chalkboard record in order to compel party guests who are still hanging around at 3 AM to leave.
  • Subverted and Played for Laughs on Psych. At one point, Shawn drags his fingernails down a whiteboard to get the attention of the people in the room. When it doesn't work (because whiteboards aren't made out of the right material to create the desired noise), he does it again while screeching into a microphone. Can be seen here.
  • Game of Thrones.
    • In "The Sons of the Harpy", Lancel Lannister has the sign of the Faith Militant carved into his forehead upon joining their order, and the audience gets close-up shots of his nails painfully clutching the wooden table he's lying on (with sound effects, of course) just for added squick.
    • In "Walk of Punishment", Tyrion Lannister deliberately scraps his chair while moving it into position at the Small Council table, just to troll his father Lord Tywin.
  • In one episode Sabrina the Teenage Witch, an argument between Hilda and Zelda escalated to the point that Hilda conjured up a blackboard and was about to take Salem's claws to itnote  but was stopped by Zelda and Sabrina.

  • In an 80's Cracked Magazine sendup about what would happen if the Moral Guardians forced the A-Team to be less violent, the A-Team is forced to use less violent methods of subduing the villains. It concludes with B.A. scraping his nails across a blackboard to make the kidnappers surrender.

  • First thing heard in the opening title-track of Krabathor's Orthodox album is a long screech from a chalkboard before the riffs kick in.
  • In "Achy Breaky Song" by "Weird Al" Yankovic, this is one of the things he lists as being preferable to "Achy Breaky Heart"

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Garfield:
    • One strip had Garfield threaten to do this near Jon so he would give him the last cup of coffee in the house.
    • The logo box of another strip shows Garfield and Odie standing in front of a blackboard with Garfield's name carved in it. Odie looks extremely unnerved, and one of Garfield's claws is sticking out.
    • Yet another strip has Jon refuse to let Garfield into the house... until Garfield drags his claws down the window.
  • In one Dilbert strip, a professional UI designer who feels that a "computer interface should hurt the user" adds "fingernails on blackboard" as one of the sounds the company's product should make.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Part of the theme music for WWE's Dean Douglas, also known as Shane Douglas.

    Video Games 
  • Afterlife (1996) has "The Chalkboard", a Hellish fate structure where the damned are subjected to the sound of nails scraping on a chalkboard for all eternity.
  • In Disgaea 3, when you create a Nekomata character, she will make her entrance by scraping her cat claws on the blackboard.
  • Crops up twice in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies. In Case 5-2, Athena comments that the scraping of rusty door hinges is this to her ultra-sensitive ears, and in Case 5-3 we get a more literal version of chalk scraping a chalkboard courtesy of Aristotle Means and his blackboard.

    Web Animation 
  • AstroLOLogy: In "Color Me Mad", when Leo initially No-Sells Cancer's attacks, she pulls out a portable blackboard and runs her nails across it, stunning him long enough for Cancer to slam him onto the ground.


    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series. In "Batgirl Returns", when Catwoman uses her Femme Fatalons as a Hollywood Glass Cutter, Batgirl can't help wincing.
  • Blue Eye Samurai. In the pilot episode, the title character starts her Batman Cold Open by shoving the table away from herself with a loud scrape to give her room to stand up, putting the attention of everyone else in the soba restaurant on her when they'd previously been watching the gun-waving flesh merchant who was threatening to shoot Ringo.
  • The Simpsons has done this quite a few times — one time featured Groundskeeper Willie doing it on a stained glass window, in a direct parody of Quint's use of the trope.
  • In one episode of Arthur, the title character daydreams that a villainous teacher is using the noise for torture rather than for straight attention-getting.
    • In a much later episode Arthur's much-dreaded piano teacher substitutes for them ahead of a trip to Crown City and, true to his strict ways assigns the entire singing class homework. The whole lot of them start moaning over this, and they are quickly silenced when he scratches his bare nails clean across the board; they don't interrupt him again after that.
  • On the Tex Avery cartoon One Ham's Family, when the villain is indisposed, the main character decides to "heckle you folks out there" while he returns. So he takes out a chalkboard and a piece of chalk and screeches away.
  • One South Park episode has Mr Garrison using a rusty nail to write on the chalkboard, because lawsuits have made chalk too expensive for the school.
    • In another one, a couple of FBI agents do this to a balloon to force the boys to tell them where Starvin' Marvin is. Cartman gives in pretty soon.
  • In Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, a human kid disguised as a monster wins big points with the teacher for doing this.
  • The Jaws scene is also spoofed in the Spongebob Squarepants episode "Sandy, SpongeBob and the Worm". The character doing it just wanted to know where the bathroom was.
  • 2 Stupid Dogs had this when Mr. H wrote his name on a chalkboard when he was substituting a class. It was excruciatingly long, and was enough to blow out the school's windows out. Just when the students think it's over, he adds a final scrEE! for the period.
  • In an episode of TaleSpin, Don Karnage puts on a Tiger's Claw glove and proceeds to rake it across a chalkboard to get his victim to talk.
  • Alvin does this in the Alvin and the Chipmunks episode The Brunch Club in order to get a confession out of Brittany.
  • Used on The Amazing World of Gumball to help him forget kissing his grandmother on the lips.
  • Done in The Fairly OddParents! by Timmy as a prank. Since he is invisible at the time, everyone in the classroom thinks the chalkboard is haunted.
  • In an episode of Family Guy, Peter and Lois cover the couch with plastic wrap to protect it from Meg's nudist boyfriend. At one point, Peter rubs his hand against the plastic to annoy Lois with the screech.
  • In one episode of Men in Black, the M.I.B. had to track down an alien whose voice was absolutely debilitating. Elle comes up with a noise-cancelling device that could counter the alien's ability, demonstrating by scratching her nails on a chalkboard without causing any cringing to the other agents.
  • The Penguins of Madagascar: In "Popcorn Panic", when the animals go crazy about popcorn, Skipper scratches a whiteboard with his beak to make them shut up.
  • One episode of The Powerpuff Girls (1998) features the Gangreen Gang breaking into Pokey Oaks kindergarten classroom causing mayhem, one of which involves Snake scratching the chalkboard.
  • In the We Bare Bears episode "Chloe", Ice Bear threatens to torture Chloe with a fork on a chalkboard for breaking into the Bears' house.
  • Bob's Burgers: In a scene from "The Deepening" parodying Jaws, Teddy drags his fingers across the board in Bob's restaurant. He has to make the noise himself as he'd just clipped his nails.
  • A sketch in Right Now Kapow also parodies the Jaws scene, exaggerating the trope so that everyone scratches a conveniently nearby chalkboard to say anything, eventually doing it just because it's fun to do. After getting nowhere the Mayor moves to the next subject of discussion, replacing all the chalkboards with whiteboards, which is unanimously denied.
  • In the Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! episode "Bye Bye Birdies," Wubbzy and his three friends must get the La-Dee-Da Birds to move before a snowstorm hits Wuzzleburg. Walden's idea was to make "the worst lullaby ever" with three 'annoying' instruments (and Wubbzy howling like a Wuzzlewolf). Daizy got to play on a blackboard...she wonders how she makes music, before the bear tells her that she's meant to rub her fingers across it. Well, she does trying to even make the lullaby, but then the birds sing and Daizy, alongside Walden and Widget, are put to sleep.

     Real Life 
  • The mechanical brake wear indicator found in most modern cars is a metallic plate mounted on the brake shoe that scratches the brake's surface when the pad is only a few millimeters thick, in order to tell the owner via an auditive signal that the brakes are wearing off and must be replaced as soon as possible. Sometime around the mid-Turn of the Millennium, in models such as the 2004 Honda Civic, car manufacturers realized that by tuning the plate to mimic the sound of fingernails against a blackboard, the break wear indicator's sound would annoy the everliving hell out of the car's owner and cause them to hightail it towards the workshop with great haste just to get rid of that nerve-grating sound, thus manipulating the owner into keeping the brake pads always fresh and this way preventing accidents caused by poorly maintained brakes.



Video Example(s):



Done by Demencia to deface a drawing 5.0.5 drew. Then Black Hat does it, seemingly tearing open another dimension that lets out a sound that's so unbearable to Demencia and 5.0.5. that they get on the floor and cover their ears, and it even cracks Demencia's teeth.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (23 votes)

Example of:

Main / NailsOnABlackboard

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