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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 a catchphrase. 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. It may be a single word or a short phrase. The single word may be gibberish or a nonsense word. Sometimes, the tension that builds up from this limited communication is resolved by having the character finally add another word or two to their vocabulary. The limited vocabulary may be due to being very terse and laconic, not speaking the dominant local language, a mental disability, an old age-related condition, or because the speaker is a talking animal or alien species.

Pokémon Speak is a Sub-Trope (where the "one word" is specifically 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.


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  • In the Little Caesars' commercials, the eponymous character only says "Pizza, pizza!"
  • During the 2019 U.S. tax season, financial software company Intuit ran a series of commercials for their TurboTax software in which every speaking character, in place of actual dialogue, only uses the word "free" throughout to emphasize the fact that using TurboTax "won't cost you a cent". Three years later they shelled out $141 million to settle a class action lawsuit, as they made it very difficult for consumers to emerge without paying.
  • An early-2000s commercial for the Visa Check Card featured NBA player Yao Ming. Yao attempts to buy a souvenir from a store by writing a check, but all the employees only respond "Yo!" and point to a sign that says checks are not allowed. Yao, who was still learning English, thought they were trying to say his name but just saying it incorrectly.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Aggretsuko: The instructor at Retsuko's yoga class (which, in the Netflix series, she starts taking in Season 1's fourth episode) can only communicate by saying the word "Protein!"
  • In Chainsaw Man, one of Quanxi's assistants is a Genki Girl who can only say "Halloween." She is actually the Cosmos Fiend, whose special ability is that she has all the knowledge that ever was and ever will be in her head. This leaves her in a perpetual state of information overload, unable to think of anything but Halloween—and can inflict it on other people if she can think about something other than Halloween for an instant.
  • In the movie Dragon Ball Z: Broly – Second Coming, compared to his previous movie, all Broly ever says is "KAKAROT!" He does have one line that isn't him yelling that near the end, "Not until you lie dead at my feet."
  • 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 The Promised Neverland, Adam only ever says a single number, 22194. After the Goldy Pond arc, he adds Emma's ID number to his vocabulary.
  • In Tamagotchi: The Movie, Mametchi invents a little portable named Mamesunnytchi to light up the way whenever it gets dark, since he's scared of the dark. The only word Mamesunnytchi ever says is "twinkle".
  • 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.

    Asian Animation 
  • Flower Angel: In Season 7 Episode 3, the Fengshou Guardian only says "fēngshōu" ("立秋"), which means "beginning of autumn".
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Boxer, Sparky's pet boxing gloves, can only say "Get 'em!" (in the English dub, at least).

  • 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 
  • 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.
  • The Boys has Groundhawk of the G-Men; all he does is growl the word "Gonna!"
  • Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy spends a long time only able to say "I am Groot". This started out being a reflection of how much his intelligence had been reduced since Tales to Astonish, but was later presented as if he was saying quite complex things if you could understand him (the first character to claim this was Maximus the Mad, and most people assumed he was living up to his name, but later Rocket Raccoon became a Translator Buddy). In Infinity Countdown, Groot's speech returned to what it was in his original appearance.
  • Marsupilami: The titular character can only Houba!. The same goes for all males of his species. Females instead say Houbi!.
  • Saga has Lying Cat, whose spoken vocabulary only consists of "Lying", spoken when she hears a lie.
  • X-Men has Rover the Sentinel, who can only say "Destroy!"

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

    Fan Works 
  • Ashes of the Past: Mr. Suziko, who just says "Remarkable", such as in Chapter 180, until the end of Chapter 299, where Nurse Joy says it instead and he summarizes the contest in her place:
    "It's a draw!" Mr. Sukizo announced. "A wonderful display of skill, where the two Coordinators are exactly evenly matched to the point that they can't even be separated by a tie break!"
    He spread his hands. "It's a heartwarming reminder that sometimes, even though a Contest is about picking winners, ultimately what really matters is that everyone does their best and has fun doing it!"
    "Remarkable!" Nurse Joy agreed.
    Mr. Contesta rubbed his temples. "I think I need a stiff drink. Nothing makes sense any more."
  • A toddler Youmu in Apartment Gensokyo mostly says "Muh". She does have variations of the word (and can say other things besides the word) but "muh" is all she ever says.
  • In Rise of the Minisukas, the titular doll-sized doubles of the Second Child can only say five things, all of which involve calling someone an idiot: "Baka", "Anta Baka", "Baka Shinji", "Bakasuka", and "Bakayanami".

    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). Similarly, Bubbles the yellow tang nearly always says "Bubbles!" or "My bubbles", in the stage version, Finding Nemo: The Big Blue... And Beyond!, all of Bubble's lines are "Bubbles" including in songs. The script includes translations for the actor to add appropriate inflection.
  • Pumpkin Ellingboe from Klaus only ever says “Mine!”.
  • Nugent the dog from Over the Hedge only says "Play!".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training: the Bears use the mentally challenged groundskeeper as cover 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."
  • Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey: The alien Station can only say "station".
  • In Death Line, the male cannibal can only repeat the phrase "Mind the doors" over and over again.
  • In The Deer Hunter, Axel's only line, repeated several times, is "Fuckin' A."
  • Groot from Marvel Cinematic Universe only ever says "I am Groot". Though near the end of Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), he manages to say, "We are Groot."
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • The invading Martians in Tim Burton's Mars Attacks! can speak only one syllable ("Ack"), changing its timing and infliction to change the meaning. Somehow, Doctor Kessler is able to translate this monosyllable language into English.
  • They Saved Hitler's Brain. The title character, infamous for his Rousing Speeches, seems only capable of shouting "Mach schnell! Mach schnell!" ("Hurry up! Hurry up!") at his minions. Then again, they didn't save his lungs along with his brain, so Hitler probably doesn't have the puff to do much else.
  • 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", "eek" and "ooo".
    • 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.
    • In a dream sequence in Wintersmith, Tiffany Aching 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 speech bubble on the packet.
    • 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).
  • Cody from Language Arts knew a lot of words as a toddler, but lost all of them except for "God." That word got shortened to "Gaaaah," which he applied to everything, including his sister Emmy.
  • In Mary Poppins, the Bird Woman only says two phrases: "Feed the birds!" and "Tuppence a bag!". Subverted in the sequels that reveal that she can also speak other words, when not selling birdseed.
  • 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 
  • On All That, Kel Mitchell's recurring character Lump Maroon only ever says the word "Jupiter".
  • 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 Bread (1986), small-time gangster Yizzel only says the single word "Yeah!", usually in response to his more talkative colleague (billed as 'Yizzel's Mate') calling on him for support.
  • Magnitude from Community only ever says his catchphrase, "Pop pop!" In an episode where he is told he can no longer use the phrase, he becomes extremely distraught.
  • In Father Ted, the elderly Father Jack Hackett's minimalist vocabulary is something of a recurring gag.
    Drink! Girls! Feck!
  • Kimmy's boyfriend Dwayne from Full House only ever says "Whatever".
  • 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.
  • The Clive Anderson and Drew Carey runs of Whose Line Is It Anyway? featured an improv game titled "Two Line Vocabulary", in which two panelists are each limited to two different lines' worth of dialog.

  • The Juntawa in Mission to Zyxx speak a tonal, highly-contextual language which consists entirely of the word "Juntawa".

    Puppet Shows 
  • All Bunsen's partner Beaker from The Muppet Show can say is "Meep meep".
  • Sesame Street:
    • Frazzle is a monster who can only say "Arrrrgh!" In a song dedicated to him his friends tell the audience how he says certain words or expresses emotions, all of which are "Arrrgh!"
    • In the early '90s, a female construction worker Muppet named Stella was often seen with Biff and Sully, and all she could say was "Yo!"



  • In 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".
  • In Lady Windermere's Fan, the only phrase Lady Agatha says is "Yes, Mamma".
  • In Monica Bauer's play The Maternal Instinct, there is a homeless woman who can only say the word "Ouch".

    Video Games 
  • The Arfenhouse games (and movies) have giant Pringles cans that say nothing but "BUUUUH!"
  • 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.
  • Chibi-Robo!: The only thing Jenny can say is "Ribbit," unless she's talking to Chibi-Robo in the frog suit. She grows out of it in later games.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Fallout:
    • 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".
    • 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.
  • Fear & Hunger: Termina: If he mutates into the Giant, the only comprehensible word Marcoh is capable of screaming is "GUILT".
  • In Five Nights at Fuckboy's, Chica, as well as her Withered and Phantom counterparts, is only capable of saying "Devour my hot bird ass Freddy". Sometimes, she adds "dead" before "Freddy" when talking about him being dead, or replaces "Freddy" with other name of whoever she addresses (like Splash Woman), or just drops "Freddy" entirely, but otherwise, she's incapable of saying anything else. The only time when she said something other than her usual phrase is when she and her fellow animatronics got trapped in the 80's, resulting in Chica uttering a single "Fuck". Though, as her conversation with Freddy in Act 3 of the third game shows, she can convey different meanings with her phrase, which can be understood by anyone who knows her closely.
  • Five Nights at Vault 5: The only thing the third robot ever says is shouting "Intruder!" whenever he sees the player.
  • Tisiphone from Hades: Her vocabulary consists purely of "murder" and "murderer", usually spoken with plenty of Trrrilling Rrrs. Zagreus starts out somewhat creeped out by both this and her appearance, but soon learns to take it in stride and begins openly snarking at her. She later learns one additional word: "Zagreus" to which she uses to form the sentence "Murder Zagreus".
  • Katamari Damacy: In We ♥ Katamari REROLL+ Royal Reverie, the High King plays with this. All of his lines are transcribed as "...!!", followed by whatever he's actually saying in parenthesis.
  • Bon Bonne from the Mega Man Legends series can only say "babu". Justified, since he is a baby.
  • Most zombies in the Plants vs. Zombies series can only say the name of their favorite food and greatest desire, "brains".
  • In Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, 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.
  • Splatoon 3 has Big Man, the manta ray member of Deep Cut, combines this with Translation: "Yes". While he only ever says "Ay!", parenthesis follow which reveal what he means each time.

    Web Animation 
  • Battle for Dream Island: David is only able to say "Aw, seriously?".
  • Happy Tree Friends: The characters' vocabulary is already limited as is, but Russell the pirate almost only ever says the word "Yar!"
  • 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.

  • 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!"
  • Housepets! : Daisy has only said "Hi! I'm Daisy!" during the course of the strip.
  • Early on in Scandinavia and the World, Finland only ever says "Perkele." It's an obscenity. Averted later, though.
  • 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.
    • After she spends some time with one of the Killotron robots (who themselves have a downplayed example where they will replace certain words in sentences with their One Word, like the Smurfs), she learns the word "destroy", bringing her total vocabulary to seven words.

    Web Original 
  • A man in this video only says "hello" while he is stuck in an elevator. That is until he surprises us at the very last 5 seconds with "fucking bastards!".
  • 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.

    Web Videos 
  • Critical Role:
    • In Campaign 1, after Doty is left in the Nine Hells, Taryon creates a new Doty and gives him the ability to speak one word: "Tary".
    • In Campaign 2, after Mollymauk is revived, he is only able to say "empty", though he eventually calls the other members of the Mighty Nein he knows by the tarot cards he made of them; Yasha is Love, Beau is Rumors, Veth is Tinkerer, Caleb is Magician, Fjord is Sea, and Jester is Joy.
  • Clint of Lazy Game Reviews has a "Christmas Clone" of himself that shows up every December to force him to do Christmas Episodes. His vocabulary consists entirely of the word "Christmas".
  • 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.
  • In Yugioh The Abridged Series Bandit Keith's underling Bones only says "Brains", though the inflection changes and translates to more complex sentences. It is unclear whether others actually understand his meaning.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: Jimmy's robot dog Goddard can only say "Bark", and not like a dog normally would, but actually saying the word as-is.
    • The Needleheads from "Win, Lose & Kaboom!" can only say "Mibs".
  • Bunsen Is a Beast: The Halloween Episode "Beast Halloween Ever" features a candy-obsessed beast named Sweet Teeth, who is unable to say anything besides "candy". Somehow, this doesn't prevent the other characters from understanding him.
  • Chowder: Shnitzel can only say "Radda". When he drew a card in a board game and read it, the card contained the text; "Radda radda radda."
  • Dexter's Laboratory: One episode has 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.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: Cosmo and Wanda's son Poof, who was born at the start of the sixth season, can only say "Poof", which is how he got his name; however, the others don't have trouble understanding him. Averted as of "School of Crock" where he undergoes his "Pooferty" phase and begins speaking full sentences like everyone else.
  • The Flamin' Thongs: Rerp's entire vocabulary consists one word: "Rerp". Nevertheless, Holden seems to understand him. Lampshaded is "Jurassic Dork" when Holden asks Rerp what he should name his new pet diprotodon. Rerp replies "rerp", and Holden considers that for few seconds before deciding two pets named "Rerp" would be too confusing.
  • Gravity Falls: Shmebulock is the only forest gnome who's cursed to say his own name and nothing else. He tends to communicate with body language to compensate for the lack of verbal diversity. Same goes with his father Shmebulock Sr. However, he can be seen shouting "Queen!" with the other gnomes in the first episode to Mabel.
  • Josie and the Pussycats: When the show was Recycled In Space, it 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.
  • Lilo & Stitch: The Series:
    • 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!"
  • Max and Ruby: Roger only ever says "Uh huh" and "uh-uh". In later seasons, he starts speaking more.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The vocabulary of Big Macintosh mostly consists of two words: "Eeyup" and "Nope". Thie is a case of flanderization, as he did have more dialogue in his first appearance, which is handwaved in "Hearts and Hooves Day" when Apple Bloom points out that Big Mac is rather shy when it comes to ponies he's not related to. Most of his other dialogue falls under O.O.C. Is Serious Business. He does start talking more in later seasons, especially around his girlfriend.
    • Pinkie Pie's twin sister Marble Pie only says "Mmm-hmm".
  • ReBoot: Al is never seen, he is only ever heard shouting "WHAT?" from offscreen.
  • Road Runner: The only thing that the Roadrunner ever says is "Beep Beep".
  • Rugrats (1991): Played with for Chuckie. Although he can use actual dialogue with the babies, in the last three seasons, following Rugrats in Paris, the only word he can say to the adults is "No," regardless of the context.
  • The Simpsons: In "Who Shot Mr. Burns", Mr. Burns awakens from a coma, with only the words "Homer Simpson" in his vocabulary.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: The anchovies only ever say "meep", over and over again. Although this is (sometimes) averted in later episodes.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: In "Cupid's Errant Arrow", although the parasite can say other words, it mostly just exclaims "Lover!" over and over again.
  • Teen Titans Go!:
    • One episode 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 Banana Bandits from Top Wing can only say "Banana".
  • The Tick has two alien races, the Whats and the Heys, whose languages consist solely of the words "What" and "Hey" respectively. The Whats sent to gain the Tick's aid do speak fluent English, and their interrogator also appears to speak Hey quite well.
  • T.U.F.F. Puppy: Bird Brain's Bumbling Henchmen Duo Owl and Bat only say "Who?" and "Where?" respectively, which drives him mad.
  • The X's: The Robo-Mom Truman builds in "AAIIEE! Robot" only says "Destroy!".

    Real Life 


Video Example(s):



The sports newscaster named Barry is a foam puppet who only yells ''SPORTS!'' (until he gets tired).

How well does it match the trope?

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