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Nails on a Blackboard
aka: Nails On A Chalkboard

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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.


See also Sinister Scraping Sound, a dangerous Sister Trope. Believe it or not, Wikipedia 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.

  • Great Teacher Onizuka.
  • 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.
  • One Piece has it too. It's called Usopp Noise.
  • 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 PokemonChronicles episode.
    • Meowth does this in an XY episode.

     Comic Books 
  • The French teacher from the French comic Les Profs does this while writing "Any attempt of ruckus, and I'll do it again".

    Fan Fic 

    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, Scar scratches his claws on his cave wall, to the same type of sound.
  • Winnie-the-Pooh: 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 
  • Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Since he wears gloves, he makes the noise with the chalk instead.
  • Quint, making his legendary entrance in Jaws.
  • And it was used in The Pink Panther Strikes Again 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.
  • Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit: Deloris does this to silence the loudly chattering, music-playing students in her music class. Twice.
  • The soundtrack of The Dark Knight somehow manages to incorporate this (fittingly, as the Joker's motif). Have a listen.
  • Freddy used this to torture Carlos in Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, 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.
  • Inverted in Final Destination 4, where 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.
  • The Grinch in the live-action How the Grinch Stole Christmas! reproduces this sound by scraping his nails/fingers along the side of a car.
  • In Ernest Scared Stupid, a young Ernest does this in a flashback before getting whacked in the head by his teacher.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Slingblade, 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.

  • 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 
  • 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.
  • 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 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.

     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.

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

    Video Games 
  • 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 Comics 

     Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • One episode of The Powerpuff Girls 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.

     Real Life 
  • The mechanical brake wear indicator found in most modern cars is a metallic plate mounted on the brake shoe that scratches the disc when the brake 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, car manufacturers realized that if they tuned the plate to mimic the sound of fingernails against a blackboard, the sound the plate produced would annoy the everliving hell out of the car's owner who would end up hightailing it towards the workshop just to get rid of that sound, thus manipulating the owner into keeping their pads always fresh and preventing accidents caused by poorly maintained brakes.



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