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One-Word Vocabulary

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"What, I can't say a full sentence every once in a while?"

The Logical Extreme of Catch-Phrase. Not only is this word or phrase something that a person habitually says and identifies that person, but that person never says anything else (and may well be unable to).

In short, someone with an extremely limited vocabulary.

A Sub-Trope is Pokémon Speak, where the only thing they can say is their name. See also Welcome to Corneria where NPCs in a video game only ever talk like this.

This does not mean they can't say the phrase with many different tones and intensities, but the words seldom (if ever) vary.



  • In the Little Caesars' commercials, the eponymous character only says "Pizza, pizza!"

Anime and Manga

  • Aggressive Retsuko: The instructor at the yoga class Retsuko starts taking in episode 4 can only communicate by saying the word "Protein!"
  • Nyu, Lucy's innocent alternate persona in Elfen Lied, only ever says the word she was named by others after. Real Lucy, on the other hand, is a lot more eloquent.
  • In Yuki Yuna is a Hero, the only fairy who can talk is Karin's, Yoshiteru, and he only speaks one sentence, "All things must pass," randomly and repeatedly. (Though of course, it winds up being meaningful near the finale.) This technically makes him the only male character with a line of dialogue.


  • Stan Freberg's famous record "John and Marsha" is a spoof of soap operas consisting of just the main characters saying each other's name ("John!" "Marsha!") in different dramatic intonations.

Comic Books

  • X-Men has Rover the Sentinel, who can only say "Destroy!"
  • In Adventures In The Rifle Brigade, only the officers of the title group have actual dialogue. The enlisted men are this trope: Sergeant Crumb ("'ey oop"), Corporal Geezer ("Yer aht of ordah!"), and Private Hank the Yank ("Gawd Dammit!"). The Piper, the final member of the squad, is The Voiceless.

Comic Strips

  • In B.C., the character Grog only says his name, usually quite loudly.

Films — Animation

  • The seagulls in Finding Nemo can only say "Mine!" whenever they see a potential meal (whatever unlucky sea creatures they want to hunt).

Films — Live-Action

  • Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey: The alien Station can only say "station".
  • The invading Martians in Tim Burton's Mars Attacks! can speak only one syllable, changing its timing to change the meaning. Somehow, Doctor Kessler is able to translate this monosyllable language into English.
  • The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training: the Bears use the mentally challenged groundskeeper as a beard so they can go on a road trip without any supervision. All he can say is Hello! How are you?" Except at the end when he says "Goodbye."
  • Throughout Hot Fuzz Lurch only says "Yarp", as an affirmative answer to any question, leading to a gag in which Nicholas, impersonating Lurch via walkie talkie, has to guess that "Narp" is a negative answer.
  • Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy only ever says "I am Groot"
  • In The Deer Hunter, Axel's only line, repeated several times, is "Fuckin' A."
  • Uh-Huh from The Little Rascals (1994); to the point it's a Verbal Tic Name. At the end of the film, he reveals he has a very big vocabulary for a 5-year old boy; he just never had to say anything beyond "Uh-huh"
  • In Trading Places, the two very big jailbirds call bullshit on Billy Ray's bragging; one of them only ever says "Yeah!" to what the other one has just said.


  • In The Belgariad, the boy known as "Errand" only says the word "Errand" for the first part, mainly because the only thing Zedar ever told him was "I have an errand for you". He eventually learns to talk normally.
  • Discworld
    • The Librarian only says "ook", "eep" and "ooo".
    • In a dream sequence in one of the Tiffany Aching books, Tiffany meets the "Jolly Sailor" who appears on her grandmother's tobacco packets. He can only say "A Good Smoke in Any Weather!" because that's what's written in his speechbubble on the packet.
    • In The Wee Free Men there's a man in fairyland who only says "sneebs". Slight twist in that his actual meaning (normal words) appears in the hearer's brain.
    • Quoth the raven subverts this by refusing to say "the N word", "nevermore" (and was thus named by a previous owner, a wizard with a deplorable sense of humor).
    • Another animal character with a vocabulary like this is the Death of Rats, whose dialogue consists entirely of "SQUEAK" (always in all capitals).
  • In Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven", the only thing the titular bird ever says is "Nevermore".
  • Hodor from A Song of Ice and Fire can only say "Hodor". Interestingly, Hodor's actual name is Walder, but since the only thing he ever says is Hodor people started to call him that.

Live-Action TV

  • Mystery Science Theater 3000. In the episode Time Chasers, 1985-Mike Nelson's coworker at the cheese factory only ever says, "Dude." He actually manages to convey quite a bit just by varying his tone.
  • Kimmy's boyfriend Dwayne from Full House only ever says "Whatever".
  • Magnitude from Community only ever says his Catch-Phrase, "Pop pop!" In an episode where he is told he can no longer use the phrase, he becomes extremely distraught.
  • The Korean boy adopted by the Bluths in Arrested Development only says "Annyong", which the others assume is his name. It's actually "Hello" in Korean. In the finale of the regular series it is revealed that not only can he speak English, but he's actually a spy getting revenge on the Bluths for stealing his father's frozen banana business. And his real name is Hel-loh.
  • In Father Ted, the elderly Father Jack Hackett's minimalist vocabulary is something of a recurring gag.
    Drink! Girls! Feck!



  • In Monica Bauer's play The Maternal Instinct, there is a homeless woman who can only say the word "Ouch".
  • In the The Addams Family musical, zombie butler Lurch communicates in a low growl. Naturally, the Beinekes can't understand him at all. Also subverted: at the end of the show, Lurch starts the song "Move Toward the Darkness".

Video Games

  • Vault 108 in Fallout 3 featured a cloning experiment Gone Horribly Wrong, and the clones were only able to utter the name of their original template called "Gary".
  • Borderlands: Steve the bandit only has one word in his entire vocabulary: "Hey-o!" In the Massive Multiplayer Crossover game Poker Night 2, Borderlands regular CL4P-TP lampshades this:
    CL4P-TP: Well, of COURSE you won with those cards. Even Steve would've won with those cards, and all he can say is "Hey-ooo!"
    Steve: [off-screen] Hey-
    CL4P-TP: SHUT THE @#$% UP STEVE. And people say I'm annoying.
  • Five Nights at Vault 5: The only thing the third robot ever says is shouting "Intruder!" whenever he sees the player.
  • In Resident Evil 3, Nemesis can only say "S.T.A.R.S" because he's a Living Weapon engineered to fight members of our hero's organization S.T.A.R.S.
  • The dwarf Sandal in the Dragon Age franchise is an Idiot Savant who has a gift for enchanting weapons and armor—rare for his species. "Enchantment" is also the only word he can say.
  • In Fallout 4, the Super Mutant Behemoth Swan can only say his name, which is a step above other Behemoths, who don't speak at all.
  • Bon Bonne from the Mega Man Legends series can only say "babu". Justified, since he is a baby.
  • The Arfenhouse games (and movies) have giant Pringles cans that say nothing but "BUUUUH!"
  • In The Darkside Detective, zombies can only say "Brains!" with a variety of inflections, but are able to convey meaning to anyone who knows the language.

Web Animation

Web Original

  • There was much amusement in 2014 at the release of a phone app called Yo, which did nothing but send out the word "Yo" to whoever the user wanted to contact. Naturally, it proved wildly popular.
  • In one of The Nostalgia Critic's commercial reviews, this is used for a joke in the commercial about Denny's "Red, White & Blue" pancakes. When the old man says "America" in response to the question about what the pancakes taste like, the Critic goes off on an inspired tangent about how the entire history and everything the country stands for is contained within these pancakes, only to realize shortly after that "America" is all that the old man can say.

Web Comics

  • The Turk from Clockwork Game, could only say one word: "Echec", meaning "Check". Justified in that it was a machine, and its vocal apparatus (designed in the 19th-century) could only say that one word. Previously, it was unable to speak at all.
  • In Hoofstuck, Cloud Kicker's only dialogue is "Cloud!" It's apparently a proper language, as a few characters actually understand her. It even shows up as a Painting the Medium gag: when you play as Cloud Kicker in the interactive flash walkaround, the text on all her prompt buttons is replaced with "Cloud!"
  • Early on in Scandinavia and the World, Finland only ever says "Perkele." It's an obscenity. Averted later, though.
  • Housepets : Daisy has only said "Hi! I'm Daisy!" during the course of the strip.
  • When Bubbles the intelligent watercooler first appears in Skin Horse, all she can say is the phrase "Service is my only joy!" As she develops (and starts dating Unity) she begins using fragments of this sentence to mean different things. (Muttering "Service, service" when she'd rather be on a date with Unity, for instance.) And then she spontaneously develops the ability to say "Service is NOT my only joy!" under Tigerlily's influence.

Web Video

  • Seen in the Newgrounds flash series "Larry the Littlest Freakin Knight", with a minion who can literally only say "yes". The big bad thinks it's hysterical, and makes him say yes to increasingly absurd and embarrassing questions.
  • Critical Role: After Doty is left in the Nine Hells, Taryon creates a new Doty, and gives him the ability to speak one word: "Tary".

Western Animation

  • Lilo & Stitch: The Series gives us 627, who has been designed by Jumba to be even more powerful than Stitch himself. Not only that, but he also cannot be turned good and the only word that he can say is "Evil" (although the later Stitch! anime expanded his vocabulary).
    • The same show also introduced Felix, a Neat Freak experiment who could only say "Dirty!"
  • The vocabulary of Big Macintosh from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic mostly consists of two words: "Eeyup" and "Nope". He's a victim of Flanderization, though, as he did have actual dialogue in earlier episodes. He still will have other lines on occasion, but usually only in the context of O.O.C. Is Serious Business.
  • Al from ReBoot is never seen, he is only ever heard shouting "WHAT?" from offscreen.
  • When Josie and the Pussycats were Recycled In Space, they appended the alien creature Bleep, who speaks only in bleeps. Fortunately, Genius Ditz Melody is Suddenly Fluent in Gibberish and can easily translate Bleep-speak into English. Curiously, no reverse translation is needed for Bleep, who can understand English just fine.
  • The anchovies in SpongeBob SquarePants only ever say "meep", over and over again. Although this is (sometimes) averted in later episodes.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Who Shot Mr. Burns", Mr. Burns awakens from a coma, with only the words "Homer Simpson" in his vocabulary.
  • One episode of Teen Titans Go! had Cyborg and Beast Boy apparently only be able to say the word "waffles".
    • Pain-Bot can only say one of two things: "Pain" and "All I know is pain".
  • The only thing Road Runner ever said was "Beep Beep".
  • Gravity Falls: All of the forest gnomes are articulate and speak English, except for Shmebulock who can say his own name and nothing else. He tends to communicate with body language to compensate for the lack of verbal diversity.
  • An episode of Dexter's Laboratory had Dexter screw up trying to learn French in his sleep and wake up the next morning only able to say "omelette du fromage" (roughly "omelette with cheese".) Curiously, though, he finds that saying that actually works in normal conversation, to the point that he's able to answer class questions, order lunch, and even bring about world peace just by saying that single phrase. But the only thing he can't do? Speak the password to his laboratory.

Real Life