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Orphaned Etymology

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fantasy characters: "Geez"
me: "who the fuck spread christianity there"

The inverse of Hold Your Hippogriffs and Oh, My Gods!, it's when someone uses an expression or terminology that breaks from the established setting, time period or world building, due to Speculative Fiction history being at odds with the origin of the etymology itself, making it an instance of Inexplicable Cultural Ties. "Jeez" or variants are the most commonly seen words which invoke this trope. Another form of this trope happens in Historical Fiction and the like, with words and phrases that aren't supposed to have come into use yet. This is most often when a Period Piece uses words which are Newer Than They Think, when people in the year 700 BC refer to the present time as "700 BC" or a fantasy setting using a sports term like "curveball."

When played straight, this is often an aspect of the Translation Convention, in that the phrase is uttered for the viewer's benefit, rather than the characters'. Ways to defy this trope include Hold Your Hippogriffs, Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp", Oh, My Gods!, or You Mean "Xmas". In actual translations this may be the result of a Woolseyism, as cultural references may not transfer properly.

Depending on how deeply and pedantically you're willing to go, this is pretty much unavoidable whenever you're using modern-human language in a time or setting that isn't modern Earth — every word is ultimately rooted in real-life etymology. Some examples are much more obvious than others, but making a precise distinction between terms too rooted in real history and culture to include in a fictional world and ones generic enough to allow is both difficult and highly subjective. The only way to completely avoid this conundrum is to write your story entirely in a Conlang — but that's obviously a little less than practical. This is sometimes justified by Translation Convention, especially when Direct Line to the Author applies, and by explaining that the odder euphemisms actually represent something more locally appropriate in-universe, which is translated into an equivalent saying to represent the spirit of what was said.

In the same vein, any use of given names on the Bob side of the Aerith and Bob scale inevitably runs into orphaned etymologies when used in a fantasy setting. This is because they only became common in the first place due to specific real-world cultural phenomena on Earth, which might not be replicable in the fantasy setting. For example, many common names in the western world originated in or were spread by Christianity; leave out Christianity from your setting, and all these names end up orphaned.

In written works, this trope only applies to characters' dialogue, or when the work is written as a character reflecting on the events. As the author is from Earth, they can use the words the characters cannot.

Another variant of this trope is used for humor, such as yelling out "Jesus Christ!" in front of the real Jesus, who will usually assume that he is being addressed.

Denial of Animality can overlap when an animal calls itself a "man", "woman", or "human".


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The first episode of Akame ga Kill! has someone being called a Good Samaritan. What most people don't know is that Samaritans are a real life ethnic group who are the reason why we have the phrase Good Samaritan. It's pretty unlikely that there were any Samaritans in the world of Akame ga Kill!.
  • Dragon Ball has a few:
    • When the Kamehameha wave is first introduced, Puar asks Yamcha what that is, and Yamcha directly references the attack's namesake by answering that it's the name of a Hawaiian king, even though Hawaii shouldn't exist.
    • In the Japanese version of Dragon Ball Z: Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan, a drunk Master Roshi exclaims in response to Krillin's terrible karaoke that Krillin is "Nippon ichi!" meaning "best in all Japan!" even though Japan doesn't exist in the Dragon World.
    • In the Ocean dub, one of the more awkward instances of Never Say "Die" occurs during the fight with Guldo. Krillin worries about Vegeta letting them "go the way of the dinosaurs," which doesn't make sense since dinosaurs are still around in the Dragon World.
  • Bakugan has a lot of these. The fact that Bakugan are named with English etymologies (Dragonoid = dragon) can be easily forgiven. What's more conspicuous is that many of their attacks are named for real mythologies — Spartan fire, Odin's shield, Mars' spear, etc. Where did the aliens learn the Eddas and Illiad?
  • The Five Star Stories has numerous things and people named after Earth stuff despite either taking place A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far Away or a future so distant that nobody knows much about life before space colonization. Lampshaded at one point where Ladios Sopp indulges in a bit of Leaning on the Fourth Wall and jokingly asks Chrome Ballanche, a Mad Scientist who has created several Artificial Human "Fatimas" with names based on Greek and other mythologies just where he comes up with these names.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Fullmetal Alchemist: In a flashback in one episode of Brotherhood, Pinako and Hohenheim share a bottle of Scotch whiskey, despite living in a world where Scotland presumably doesn't exist.
    • During the Lior arc, Ed recounts the story of Icarus (though not by name) to Rose, even though Greece also presumably doesn't exist in this world. Since Xerxes seems to be a Fantasy Counterpart Culture for Greece, maybe that's where the myth came from in the FMA world.
    • The manga and Brotherhood anime also have a lot of Orphaned Symbolism, given that it uses real-world alchemical symbols. For example, the Elric brothers' mark, the Flamel, combines a Greek symbol (the caduceus) with a Christian symbol (the crucifix) despite the presumed nonexistence of Greece and the confirmed by Word of God nonexistence of Christianity.
    • In Fullmetal Alchemist (2003):
      • Roy Mustang at one point quotes The Art of War, which presumably doesn't exist in the story's setting. Only for this to turn out not to be the case, as this version of the story's setting takes place in an offshoot of our reality that split some point after the birth of Christ. As The Art of War was written sometime during 5th Century BC, it still exists in FMA's setting.
      • Also in the 2003 anime, Winry refers to Rush Valley as "the Mecca of automail", implying the existence of Islam. It's unclear how this interacts with Ishval, which is vaguely coded as being Middle Eastern but has a religion with only superficial similarities to Islam.
  • Inuyasha:
    • In the English dub, there's an episode where he remarks, "We've all got our own cross to bear." This is set before Christianity was introduced to Japan.
    • In another, Inuyasha complains about having to take time out to be a "Good Samaritan".
  • The Mysterious Cities of Gold: In Season 2, Zia asks a boy she meets in China if his pet panda is his "teddy bear". However, teddy bears were invented in the 20th Century, and named after Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, so a girl from the 1530s (the time period in which the events of the series take place) shouldn't be talking about them, much less using a word like "teddy".
  • Lampshaded for humor in Oh! Edo Rocket
    "Sir, that terminology is not in use during this time period."
  • One Piece:
    • In Viz's translation, Crocodile comments that Luffy is "a dime a dozen", even though One Piece uses its own fictional currency called Berries.
    • Brook's hairstyle and Luffy's wig are called "afro" just like on Earth, even though there is no Africa (thus no Afrodescendants) in that world.
  • A subtle aversion in Pokémon: Arceus and the Jewel of Life: Nobody in the past ever uses the word "Pokémon", as the Poké Balls used to make them Pocket Monsters haven't been invented yet. Instead, they're simply called "magical creatures".
  • The Metarex from Sonic X have plant-based names like "Dark Oak" and "Black Narcissus". However, they have never visited Earth and are from a whole other universe.

    Comic Books 
  • Asterix has a few of these, being set in 50 B.C. and Anachronism Stew being one of its defining features. Virtually all puns are based on words that were non-existent at the time.
    • A Dub-Induced Plot Hole occurs in the Spanish version of a comic book: A character sneezes, and Asterix says "Bless you!" — which in this context is translated to Spanish as "¡Jesús!" This raised the question for Spanish readers of how could Asterix say that in the year 50 B.C.
    • For that matter, Geriatrix is always referring to the battle of Gergovia as "Like in '52!" (from a common French expression, "like in '40!"). That is, 52 B.C. There is even one instance in which a character refers to the current year being 50 B.C., meaning Gergovia was only two years ago.
    • In Asterix Conquers America, Getafix believes that the land he has arrived in is India. He then inexplicably thinks that the locals would prefer to be called Native Americans, even though the colonisation of the Americas and Amerigo Vespucci's birth didn't happen until over a thousand years later.
    • In a short story featured in Asterix and Obelix's Birthday: The Golden Book, Obelix is learning how to read with an alphabet book, which uses modern French words to teach letters. Obviously, this could not have happened at the time. The English edition takes this further by using "yak" for the letter Y , even though yaks live in the Himalayas and were not known in ancient Gaul.
    • Asterix and the Actress used the expression "drunk as a skunk". Though this is rhyming slang as opposed to an actual comparison, skunks are native to the Americas.
  • The Avengers (Jonathan Hickman) features artificial life forms called the Alephs, who were created millions of years ago by the first sentient species in the universe. It isn't explained how they could be named after the first letter of Earth's Semitic languages, which didn't exist when the Alephs first came around.
  • Played for laughs in the The Moomins comic strip: in one storyline, the Moomin family travel back in time to Ancient Egypt. When one of them asks what year it is, an Egyptian replies, "4000 BC."
  • Silex and the City not only has characters using dates in thousands of years B.C., but such Lampshade Hanging as a director of X-rated movies remarking that the letter X hasn't even been invented yet.
  • In Sonic the Comic, Sonic exclaims "Hallelujah" in one issue. Mobius is an alien planet with no humans and no Hebrew language (it's a transliteration of "הַלְלוּ יָהּ" or "hal'lu Yah", meaning "praise God").

    Comic Strips 
  • B.C.: A common gag —modern names for things can just pop up out of nowhere. One comic had a caveman accidentally straighten his hair with a fish skeleton and exclaim that he's "invented the comb."

    Fan Works 
  • Apprentice and Pregnant features cats saying "oh my god". Warriors characters are atheistic ancestor worshipers without even a concept of gods. They also use "dumbass", despite no sign that anyone knows what a donkey is, and use "hell" despite most cats not knowing evildoers get a separate afterlife and those who do calling it the Dark Forest or the Place of No Stars.
  • Among the strongest liberations Dragon Ball Z Abridged uses to deviate from its canon counterpart is referential humor on real-world topics that couldn't possibly exist in the Constructed World that is Dragon Ball, all with varying degrees of justification. The actual Vegeta shouldn't know who or what Moe Howard even is, but the Abridged Vegeta has access to The Three Stooges on Space-Hulu, so he gets to make a joke about Gohan's appearance.
  • Fallout: Equestria: A recursive example. Fluttershy's pet bunny was named Angel, but it's never explained where that name came from. There is no mention of any angels in culture or mythology. A small tribe that lives under a giant picture of Angel (the building used to be an animal sanctuary) starts calling themselves "angels," and everyone who hears this immediately makes the connection to Fluttershy's pet.
  • In Let Me Hear, Ruby mentions that Weiss' weapon has a German name. There's no Germany on Remnant.
  • In Poké Wars: The Files of Dr. Kaminko, amperes and volts are used as units of measurement. However, there is no Alessandro Volta or André-Marie Ampère in the setting.
  • Warriors Rewrite: The phrase "scotch free" is used, despite the characters being feral forest cats.

    Films — Animation 
  • Happy Feet and its sequel Happy Feet Two are full of these. Both films are musicals that use many pre-existing songs rather than original songs specifically made to fit the film, so they don't always fit well. A good example is the scene in Happy Feet Two when the elephant seals come to the rescue. They sing "Hell Bent for Leather". There are no cows in Antarctica, and elephant seals obviously don't wear clothes anyway, so they shouldn't know what leather is. The use of the word "Hell" also fits this trope because it is unlikely any of these characters have been exposed to Christianity, or any other human religions.
  • The Land Before Time:
    • In The Land Before Time IV: Journey Through the Mists, during the Quarreling Song "Who Needs You?", July is mentioned, millions of years before the Roman calendar was invented.
    • In the second film, one of the antagonists calls himself a Struthiomimus at one point. While he is in fact a Struthiomimus, he logically shouldn't even know what that word is as he was born (and likely died) long before his own species was named. The word Struthiomimus itself means "ostrich mimic," so it is rather strange that he's mimicking an animal that won't exist for several million years. Made even weirder by the fact that the series usually uses "Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp"".
    • The characters call themselves "dinosaurs", even though the series usually avoids using scientific names.
    • Ducky's name, depending on whether it is referring to the waterfowl or not. There are other meanings of the word, but Ducky is known for being drawn to water and being a "duckbill", so the name was most likely intended to refer to the bird that wouldn't exist until millions of years later.
  • The Lion King: Scar uses a few turns of phrase that should make no sense coming from an animal in the African savanna, such as "shallow end of the gene pool" and "the lights are not on upstairs". The hyenas similarly crack jokes involving things they would have no way of knowing about, such as making a pun about a "cub sandwich" when about to try to eat Simba and Nala.
  • The Lion King II: Simba's Pride: In her Villain Song, Zira uses the expressions "drums of war" and "our flags will fly", even though she has no knowledge of such human-made objects.
  • The Little Mermaid: In the song "Daughters of Triton", it is claimed that Ariel's "voice is like a bell", even though mermaids, living underwater and unfamiliar with human civilization, would not know what bells sound like.
  • At the end of My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, upon returning to Equestria from the human world, Twilight Sparkle tells Princess Celestia that she left Sunset Shimmer "in good hands", prompting Rainbow Dash to ask what "hands" are, even though Rainbow herself had used the phrase "On the other hand..." in "The Return of Harmony, Part 2".
  • In My Little Pony: The Movie the ponified version of The Go-Go's' "We Got The Beat" sung by Rachel Platten during the intro still mentions the Watusi dance, which is named after the Tutsi tribe of the African Great Lakes region.
  • In The Prince of Egypt, Rameses' Freudian Excuse stems from his father Seti drilling into him the fact that "it takes only one weak link to tear down the chain that is this mighty dynasty", talking about a kind of metallic chain that won’t be invented for 1000 years after Ramses and using a saying that won't be invented for another 3000.
  • In the animated The Return of the King, Samwise's response to Gollum's final attack is a very animated "Gooood help us!" (the setting has an equivalent to God, Eru Ilúvatar, but he received direct worship very rarely).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Flash Gordon:
    • The movie has the War Rocket Ajax as part of Ming's fleet. Ajax was a famous Greek hero, and Ming has never heard of Earth before the start of the movie.
    • Ming himself is an alien emperor sharing his name with a famous Chinese imperial dynasty. It's a simple enough name to plausibly be a coincidence if not for the transparent (and a bit racist) resemblance.
  • Played for laughs (like everything else) in Mel Brooks' History of the World Part I; Comicus says "Jesus" in exasperation during The Last Supper, causing Jesus to answer, "Yes?" assuming that Comicus was addressing him.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers has a few minor examples:
    • Soldiers are ordered to loose arrows with the command "Fire!", despite the pre-firearms setting. Note this line is spoken in Elvish, and the error is only in the subtitles—a more accurate translation is "Loose!" (oddly enough the first movie gets this right).
    • While debating on whether or not to eat Merry and Pippin, the Orc party start killing some divergent numbers, which incites the remark "Looks like meat's back on the menu, boys!" This raised discussion amongst fans about Orc restaurants. Men and Hobbits have inns, which have menus, but the Orcs probably don't. They would however have mess tents for their army and it's possible that the day's food would be declared in advance.
  • In The Muppet Christmas Carol, "teddy bears" are mentioned. The "teddy" in "teddy bear" refers to Theodore Roosevelt, who wasn't yet born when the film takes place.
  • In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the Sheriff of Nottingham refers to the Celts as "hired thugs." This is taking place two centuries before the Thuggee cult in India even existed.
  • Star Wars:
    • Han Solo's ship is called the Millennium Falcon, even though they really shouldn't know what a "falcon" is. Interestingly though, various Earth animals sometimes show up in the canon, so perhaps the ship is genuinely named after what we Earthlings know as a falcon.
    • Han's "I'll see you in Hell" from The Empire Strikes Back often raises the question "Why does he know that concept?", but the Star Wars setting has afterlife beliefs, and lots of cultures have a conception of the Land of the Dead that is most conveniently put into English as "Hell". note 
    • Likewise, The Phantom Menace uses the word "boycott", which comes straight from the shunning campaign against landowner Charles Boycott in 19th-century Ireland. This trope, or Translation Convention? You decide. After all, people have translated the Roman custom of secessio plebis, where the lower class would quit working and leave, shutting down the city to protest mistreatment, as "plebeian boycott".
    • The same film also subverts this when Anakin asks Padmé if she is an angel. Although the religious origins of that word do not exist in the Star Wars universe, Anakin clarifies that angels are creatures from the moons of the planet Iego renowned throughout the galaxy for their beauty.
    • In The Force Awakens, Han uses the phrase "mumbo jumbo" when describing his earlier doubts about the Force. The phrase is likely an Anglicized derivative of a word for a ceremonial dancer in the religious ceremonies of the Mandinka people of Africa.

  • In Lone Wolf Book 4, a demonic enemy is briefly described as "satanic", even though Magnamund is a world unrelated to Earth and Christian tropes. The term is never used again.

  • It's mentioned in Bravelands that baboons call certain wind storms "dust devils". There's no sign that any of the animals have any concept of devils.
  • It's not clear whether A Brother's Price takes place in a fictional world, or an alternate/future timeline of our world. If the former, then it's unclear why they have cowboy hats called "Stetsons"; in our world they're named after the man who designed several of the hat styles we associate with cowboys. It could be that this fictional world also had a person named Stetson who invented similar hats, but if so we never find out.
  • It's one thing for Turkish delight to exist in The Chronicles of Narnia universe, but why would the inhabitants of Narnia call it that when they would never have heard of Turkey?
  • Brandon Sanderson's The Cosmere mostly averts this:
    • Mistborn's planet Scadrial has no moon, so no one ever makes any references to "mooning" over someone or anything of the like. (Except once, when a character is referring to a friend's romance, in what by Word of God is a mistake).
    • The Stormlight Archive:
      • The planet Roshar has all the soil scoured from the majority of the continent by massive high storms, so no one talks about soil, mud, or even dirt. Highstorms do carry a thick, sludgy substance that gathers on buildings and slowly hardens into stone (implied to be eroded rock and stone carried by the storms). On any other world, it would just be referred to as mud, but here they call it crem because they don't have a word for mud.
      • Lampshaded with the axehounds, dog-sized lobster-things used as pets and hunting companions. A Dimensional Traveler worldhopper points out that while the people of Roshar are well aware of what an axe is, they don't have any actual hounds, so what do they think the name means?
      • A subtle aversion is in the Palanaeum, the planet's greatest and most famous library. While the real-world "Athenaeum" was named after Athena the Greek goddess of wisdom, the Palanaeum is named after the Rosharan Herald Pailiah, who is associated with the Divine Attributes of "Learned" and "Giving" in the Vorin faith. She also visits the Palanaeum incognito in the present day.
      • Horneater "lager", unlike the real-world beer, is so much more potent than the distilled Alethi "wines" that many Alethi bars refuse to stock it because it dissolves their cups.
  • Parodied in Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys, where one of the entries in Alexander the Great's diary reads:
    324 B.C., Jan. 6 — Note: Find out what "B.C." stands for.
  • Applying Fridge Logic to the setting of Dinotopia can result in several cases of this. The original books by James Gurney took place in the 1860s, when very few dinosaurs were known to science. However, the characters routinely mention the names of species that were discovered much later, such as Tyrannosaurus, Deinonychus, and Quetzalcoatlus. The last one in particular is especially notable for being named after an Aztec god, despite the inhabitants of Dinotopia knowing nothing about the Aztecs!
  • Discworld:
    • One of the earlier books references gypsies, which is kind of a problem, since there's no Egypt in the universe to derive that name—the equivalent is called Djelibeybi. So, if there are Roma on the Disc, they should probably be nicknamed Jelibeybs or something like that.
      • PTerry even noticed this, and explained that 'Djelibeybs', which they should be called, wouldn't be understood by the readers, so he had to use a conventional English word instead. (Also, the book that introduced Djelibeybi was written after this.)
      • Fanon (well, one discussion on afp) has it that Discworld gypsies are descended from itinerant plaster-of-Pseudopolis sellers, hence the name is derived from "gypsum."
    • In Witches Abroad, there's a reference to a christening, and a woman named Christine in Monstrous Regiment. In Carpe Jugulum and Nanny Ogg's Cookbook, this has been replaced with Naming Ceremony. Then again, 'Christ' is Greek for "anointed", so Jesus doesn't necessarily need to come into it.
    • Parodied in the Assassins' Guild Diary which uses the orphaned word "byzantine" ... in explaining that the politics of the Komplezian Empire were the origins of the modern Morporkian word "complex".
    • In the introduction to The Discworld Companion, Pratchett says that a fantasy author may start out trying to avoid references to things like "Toledo steel", but sooner or later will just look up from their keyboard, mutter "what the hell" and give up.
    • Jingo has Vimes mention a Pavlovian response. A footnote explains that, on the Discworld, this phenomenon was so named after a scientist proved that dogs could be trained to salivate at the thought of meringue. (This is itself an Orphaned Etymology, as the food was named for a person who also didn't exist on Discworld!). The same book also has Vetinari mention that Morporkian is a lingua franca on the continent.
    • One of the Wizards books has a Ming vase. So called because, if you tap it, it goes Ming!
    • The French translation of Guards! Guards! has this problem with Carrot's "Dwarfish war yodel", because the French word for yodel is Tyrolienne, referencing a place that doesn't exist on the Discworld.
    • The yudasgoat in Feet of Clay. Maybe there was coincidentally some guy named Yudas on the Disc who was just a real untrustworthy slimeball.
    • Despite having an eight-day week, the Disc has the word "fortnight", because "sixtnight" just looks awkward.
    • A jarringly-obvious example which Pterry really should have picked up on was in Going Postal when Moist von Lipwig commented "Wow, El Dorado or what?" while first examining himself and his new golden suit in the mirror.
    • In our world, the word "atlas" comes from the Titan who holds up the sky in Classical Mythology. Who or what The Compleat Discworld Atlas is named after is unknown.
    • Discworlders refer to "fizzy wine" in several books, presumably because there is no "Champagne region" in Quirm. Then Unseen Academicals reveals that "fizzy wine" is the cheap stuff, for people who don't want to spend money on actual champagne.
    • Ankh-Morpork has a thriving industry of kosher butchery that is brought up multiple times in the Watch books alone. Given the non-existence of Judaism on the Disc, it's not clear who these butchers are supplying or where the term "kosher" even comes from in the absence of Jewish dietary law; the only people who actually seem to patronise these butchers are vampires.
    • Several books, especially in the Night Watch series, make mention of an ancient Morporkian general Tacticus (a reference to the real Roman historian Tacitus). His incredibly successful military career is said to be the origin of the word "tactics".
    • In Jingo, "Morporkified" curry is defined by containing swedes. This is the British Englishnote  word for rutabagas, and is, as it sounds, derived from Sweden.
  • In the Dragonriders of Pern series, Pernese still say "jays" and "by all that's holy" despite having Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions. Mildly justified in that they might just be holdover expressions from the original Terran colonists.
  • In The Elenium, Sir Bevier's weapon of choice is consistently called a Lochaber axe, despite the Scottish town of Lochaber being unknown to the Elenians.
  • In The First Law novel Red Country, one character makes a joke/pun on the heroine's name when she introduces herself as Shy, which shouldn't really work since the characters are supposed to be speaking some kind of fictional Common Tongue. Also, while not confirmed, given that another female character in the series is named Shylo, Shy may actually be a nickname for that. Also, at least one character has paraphrased William Shakespeare quotes, although it's plausible that these come from some in-universe equivalent author.
  • Discussed in The Flight Engineer when the protagonists use the phrase "cut us some slack" through Translator Microbes in reference to their unfamiliarity with Fibian social niceties. The Fibians are mightily confused by this expression, wondering how one "cuts looseness". The human characters don't know either and explain it as an idiom that has long since outlived its source.
  • Also by K.J. Parker, The Folding Knife has a scene where a character jokes that some obnoxious people should be lined up against the wall and shot. Problem is, there are no guns in the setting, and thus no firing squads that would give rise to that phrase. Possibly they use bows.
  • In His Dark Materials, Lyra refers to uranium mines, but a later chapter refers to "the other five planets", indicating that Uranus hasn't been discovered in her world. In our world, uranium was named after Uranus because they were discovered around the same time. It's possible, however, that in Lyra's world, Uranium was named after the Greek god instead of the planet.
  • In an interview, Christopher Paolini, author of the Inheritance Cycle, mentioned this problem, specifically citing "backpedaled" as a word he couldn't use. He used it anyway.
  • The Kingkiller Chronicle plays with this in some weird ways. There are several fictional dead and in-use languages in its world, so a Translation Convention is assumed. Then you get things like the word 'vintage'. In our world, it comes from Latin by way of French, referring to wine (vin, vino, vinum, etc...), but it's not any more out of place than any other English word in fantasy. However, in the Four Corners, there is no Orphaned Etymology, because the word vintage is derived from the country of Vintas, which happens to produce fine wine.
  • Legends & Lattes: In this story about the first coffee shop in a fantasy city, the word "latte" came from its inventor, a gnome named Latte Diameter. The etymology of "coffee" itself (which is of Arabic origin in real life) and other coffee-shop terminology, like the spices and chocolate that go into the pastries, go unexplained. Avoided in the case of biscotti, which is invented outright by the baker Thimble and, like the latte, named "thimblets" after its creator.
  • Avoided in The Lies of Locke Lamora. A character is described as having "a drooping mustache," instead of a "Fu Manchu mustache."
  • The Lord of the Rings: Although Tolkien worked hard to remove words that did not have a European root, he did let some things slide, such as 'potato', which comes from the Taino word batata. Tolkien explained this and other language complications as him translating the original language into English. The actual new world plant being present apparently didn't bother him.
    • Mostly, he refers to them as the presumably more English/Hobbit-sounding 'taters'.
    • Inverted in The Hobbit where the original refers to Bilbo having tomatoes, the subsequent edition is set in the world of The Lord of the Rings and substitutes pickles instead.
    • Tolkien indicates in The Hobbit that hobbits play golf, which he atributes to Bilbo's ancestor Bandobras "Bullroarer" Took knocking off the head of the Goblin-king Golfimbul with a club and sending it flying until it landed in a rabbit hole during the Battle of Greenfields.
  • The Lost Fleet has a discussed example. The characters in the spacefuture use the expression "The witch sings" to mean, "something ends", but the origin of the expression is unknown. To the modern reader, it's very clearly a synthesis of "The witch is dead" (a reference to a song in The Wizard of Oz) and "The fat lady sings" (referencing the ending of Richard Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung, which ends with Brünnhilde, the character normally stereotyped as a huge woman in a copper bra and winged helmet, singing a long aria).
  • A Memoir By Lady Trent: The expedition falls afoul of some Komodo dragons — specifically named as such in the narration — at one point during Voyage of the Basilisk, despite the series taking place in a world where the Indonesian island of Komodo does not exist.
  • The Ringworld Throne:
    • A native of Ringworld refers to how the irritable chieftain of the Grass Giants might "go off like a volcano" if he finds out about something, which is puzzling because Ringworld has no volcanic activity.
    • Or the Roman god Vulcan, for that matter.
  • Early in K. J. Parker's Sharps, one character quotes the Dorothy Parker quip (here attributed to an ancient philosopher) that "You can lead a whore to culture but you can't make her think." Later in the novel, it is implied that the language of the main characters' country is more or less Latin and that of The Empire from which they became independent is more or less Greek. This creates problems with the joke, in that whore isn't a word of Latin or Greek origin, and the Greek and Latin words for the profession wouldn't allow for a pun on horticulture (there's also an issue that the proverb that Dorothy Parker was spoofing — "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink"- has an Old English origin, not a Classical one). There's also a bit of this in the fact that the novel revolves around a disputed territory between feuding nations, that is generally referred to as a DMZ- definitely a modern term.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: George R.R. Martin also slips once in a while, and uses words like "damask" in a world with no city named Damascus, "turkey" (the fowl) where there is no country of the same name, or "chequy" when the setting doesn't have an apparent direct analog to chess (and the closest game is called cyvasse). The Straight Edge Evil character Roose Bolton likes to drink the medicinal beverage Hippocras, the name of which ultimately derives from the Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates. When Theon contemplates paying Ramsay Snow, who has just returned with an army as he promised to do in return for being given a girl to rape "his pound of flesh" towards the end of A Clash of Kings, he's quoting William Shakespeare in a world where the latter never lived. The "gunwale" of a ship is referred to 12 times, while no cannon is used by any of the cultures shown so far; in a modern context a gunwale is an upper edge of a ship's side, but originally was a reinforcement specifically to accommodate cannons.
    • In the "chequy" case, it's not that bad, since they do have the word "check"; take into account that it's not the game that named the move but the move which named the game, since in the end, it comes from the word šāh (king) in the sentence that players said at the end of the game that roughly translates as "the king is dead"; if cyvasse has a king piece and Westeron is equaled to English and the verb "to check" exists, there's reason for the end of that game to be called "checkmate" or for danger to the king piece to be "put into check" (we would be translating a word of foreign origin into its English equivalent).
  • In the first Spellsinger book, the town of Lynchbany is named for the hanging of Tilo Bany by an angry mob. The word "lynch" meaning an extralegal execution derives from Charles Lynch, an eighteenth-century Virginian known for the practice. How lynching came to be called that in the Warmlands is not explained.
  • The novelization of Star Wars: A New Hope includes a small dialogue in which Obi-Wan Kenobi is musing about training Luke.
    Ben: Even a duck has to be taught to swim.
    Luke: What's a duck?
  • Lampshaded repeatedly in Void Dogs, including a self-deprecating reference to an "early 21st-century writer" who was notorious for her insistence on lampshading Orphaned Etymology.
  • Andrzej Sapkowski, best known for creating The Witcher short stories and novels, eventually answered occasional criticisms of the Witcher world being "anachronistic" (such as the mention of a woman's panties) by pointing out the ubiquity of this trope. By that logic, he noted, no fantasy novel published in Polish should ever include a king, as the word for "king" (in the Polish language) is derived from Charlemagne's name. A wholly imaginary world, he notes, has just as much reason to include modern women's underwearnote  as it has to use modern words or ones that reference the real world. In another novel of his, with fantasy elements but set in medieval Europe, a character uses the word "cholera", a common and rather modern-sounding curse word in Polish. A footnote notes that the name of the sickness dates back to antiquity and the well-educated character who uses it would know the word and, furthermore, cursing by invoking the names of illnesses and maladies has a very long history. The footnote ends with "while there is no evidence that this particular word was used for cursing in medieval times, there is also no evidence that it wasn't", in what is possibly a Take That! against such criticism.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Battlestar Galactica has a few examples of terms that should be exclusive to Earth history, despite existing in a fictional universe where Earth is just a myth and modern history as we know it has not happened yet. Ships are named after Earth animals (viper, raptor) and Roslin once quotes The Merchant of Venice, among other things. Word of God explains that at least some of these were intentional, implying a cosmic connection between their history and ours ("All of this has happened before"). The one they probably can't get away with is Tigh's exclamation of "Jesus!" Even if there was such a figure in Colonial history, they are almost exclusively polytheistic and there are no other hints of anything resembling Abrahamic religions.
    • Averted in the original series: when the Galacticans encounter humans in deep space, one of the Not-Nazi soldiers says that their spacecraft will take down the Galactica, like "a pack of wolves takes down a bear." Adama responds that he has never heard of a wolf or a bear.
  • In the British wartime sitcom Chickens, the characters refer to the war as World War I. In real life, it was called the Great War at that time. Some more cynical writers of the era doubted that it could truly be "the war to end all wars" and reasoned that if there's already one World War, there might as well be another.
  • Dinosaurs uses the B.C. timeline. Lampshaded in the first episode when Robbie asks why the dates go backward. "I mean, what are we counting down for? What are we waiting for?"
  • Game of Thrones: The consistent use of the term "pillow-biter" to refer to gay men (usually contemptuously). This is a real term in modern British slang meaning just what it's used to mean in the show, but it dates from the 1979 trial of former Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe who was charged with incitement to/conspiracy to commit murder of a former homosexual partner (specifically deriving from his accuser Norman Scott's testimony that he "bit the pillow" when Thorpe penetrated him). Needless to say, neither Jeremy Thorpe nor his trial existed or occurred in Westeros.
    • Although earlier seasons have characters correctly say "loose" when commanding archers to shoot, later seasons slip in having the command be to "fire". This stems from firearms, which obviously do not exist in a medieval setting like Westeros.
  • History Bites also uses this trope in the episode focusing on Ancient Rome. Also lampshaded as the news anchors repeatedly say "whatever B.C. means."
  • Despite being an alien witch older than humanity itself, Rita Repulsa from Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers still manages to be named after an Earth flower (Rita is short for Margarita, which is spanish for daisy) and show people how repulsive she is. In the reboot movie, it's implied that Rita (pronounced Ree-Tah) is an alien name that coincidentally sounds human.
    • The Super Sentai franchise has occasionally paid homage to Power Rangers by using the term "Zord" to refer to their Humongous Mecha (specifically the G-Zord from Mirai Sentai Timeranger and as a catch-all term in Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters). However, the name presumably came from the Mighty Morphin team's mentor Zordon of Eltar, who doesn't even exist in Sentai continuity.
  • The BBC series Robin Hood at one point features the Sheriff threatening some innocent party with a time-limited offer, which he punctuates with "tick-tock". The mechanical clock didn't arrive in Europe until at least the following century.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Bajoran characters say "My God" once or twice, despite believing in the Prophets, not gods. Could be justified as influence from human contact however.
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look:
    • Beautifully lampshaded in a sketch:
      Prehistoric policeman: This stone crime, it's rampant. Sometimes I wonder whether the whole advance into stone technology hasn't been a bit of a double-edged sword.
      Prehistoric policewoman: Double-edged what?
      Prehistoric policeman: I don't know.
    • Another sketch uses the same "Jesus Christ!" exclamation mentioned above, again delivered to Jesus himself.

  • Dungeons & Daddies: In Episode 2, a dragon is confronted with what they want to do when they grow up, and out of a lack of answers they respond with 'Jesus'. The players immediately point this out, and in character as the dragon the DM hastily saves by explaining it was the name of an ancient dragon constantly beseiged with questions (spelled Chyzzu's), whose name their race invokes in perplexing times.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • It has, as of June 2020, 22 different cards with some reference to crusades or crusading (some of which have been deemed offensive due to the historically fraught nature of the real Crusades, but most of which haven't). The term "crusade" derives from "crux", "cross", which is somewhat curious given that Magic worlds never have Christianity in them; the weirdest ones are Akroan Crusader (Akros is on Theros, which has a pantheon heavily inspired by Classical Greek mythology and thus probably has no cross symbols) and the couple of cards using the word from Innistrad (which has a Crystal Dragon Jesus religion, but its symbol is a collar, so a more likely word would be "torquade").
    • Innistrad's "cathars" draw their name from a Christian sect whose name is derived from a Greek word. Innistrad has no Christianity, with a Crystal Dragon Jesus religion instead, and no particularly notable Greek influences - the local culture draws from more Germanic influences.
    • Some cards predate Magic really having lore and reference real-world cultural elements, some of which have since had retcons applied to bring them into line: the Lord of Atlantis actually hails from a city called Etlan Shiis and "Atlantis" was an in-universe mishearing, Wrath of God now has actual gods on several different planes it could refer to (with at least one printing referencing Heliod, Theros's Zeus-analogue), and Armageddon presumably references Megheddon Defile, the site of a battle that saw the deployment of a Fantastic Nuke.
  • Pathfinder also has the Crusades against the demons of the Worldwound, although the closest thing you'll see to a cross among the crusaders is the sword emblem of Iomedae.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, the Imperium of Mankind borrows a lot of terminology (and general aesthetics) from Christianity (especially Roman Catholicism), despite the Imperium following a different religion of Emperor-worship. While this is probably Rule of Cool, it's also somewhat justified as 1) Warhammer 40k works under Translation Convention and they are probably using different words in the actual setting, and 2) the Warhammer 40k universe is supposed to be the real world one just absurdly far in the future, and thus Christianity existed in the (very) distant past of the universe. There's also an all-purpose "out" in the form of the Emperor, who was around for most of human history and thus presumably brought a lot of old language with him (although why a man whose empire mercilessly stamped out religion would feel the need to cover said empire in Roman Catholic stylings and vocabulary is a mystery for the ages).
    • "Crusade" is used as a general term for a very large military campaign, even though it comes from "crux/cross".
    • "Militant-Apostolic" is a title that certain church officials hold, although any mention of Jesus's apostles (much less any concept of apostilic succession) is absent.
    • Words like "Cherub/Cherubim" (servitors with the bodies of babies) and "Seraph/Seraphim" (Sisters of Battle who specialize in close-quarter combat) are thrown around, while those are Hebrew words for classes of angels.
    • The word "Templar" is often used, such as in the cases of the Black Templars and the Frateris Templar. The original, real Knights Templar were named after the Temple of King Solomon - something it's doubtful even the residents of its old location on Planet Terra even know existed.
  • Eberron:
    • Eberron is cut off from the rest of the D&D multiverse, meaning that spells like Mordenkainen's magnificent mansion, Tasha's hideous laughter or any of the Bigby's hand spells don't make much sense since those characters are more associated with other settings. Suggestions from various sources, including Keith Baker, have included having multiversal travellers like Mordenkainen manage to find a way through Eberron's separation, having in-setting characters who coincidentally have the same or very similar names (including the possibility that Mordenkainen refers to Mordain the Fleshweaver), and just dropping the names entirely and calling the spells magnificent mansion and hideous laughter.
    • Discussed in this blog post by setting creator Keith Baker, in reference to the Variant Chess game Conqueror. Baker argues that while it may be somewhat unsatisfying if this fictional world has coincidentally happened to develop terms like "checkmate" for their game, coming up with a unique vocabulary runs into the problem that your players won't know that vocabulary, so having a character drop references to it won't resonate the way "checkmate" will.

  • BIONICLE: The story's first eight years took place in the Matoran Universe, an artificial world where certain concepts like romance or biological reproduction were unknown.
    • "Brother" and "sister" are common designations when characters address their companions, and Makuta claims to be the spirit-brother of Mata Nui, despite that they have no concept of familial relations. Officially, brother and sister are just synonyms for fellows who have close bonds or have a similar status, such as the Brotherhood of Makuta (the Makuta also used to serve Mata Nui, making them figurative brothers), gendered for the sake of the audience.
    • At times, characters chastise others for acting like a child and the Bahrag call their Bohrok swarms their children, even though they don't mature physically and are created as "adults". The expression "a face only a mother Manas could love" also exists. These are generally dismissed as Translation Convention. The Morbuzakh king root at least has a case for calling its saplings its children, since they spawned from its seeds.
    • In the novelization of Mask of Light, Jaller exclaims "Geez!" The movie omits this.
    • In Legends of Metru Nui, Matau flirts with his "sister" Nokama, envisioning taking her on a "romantic" drive, when they don't know what romantic love is — at least according to the primary writer. Other authors who worked on the franchise had different ideas, hence the occasional nods to romances that were later stated to be non-canon.
    • The Bahrag threaten Lewa that their powers can make his blood run cold. Kongu at one point debated killing an illusory enemy in "ice-cold blood". Yet, characters don't seem to have blood — at least, with this being a kid-friendly LEGO franchise, it could never be shown and their bodies were mostly mechanical anyway. The Barraki have an excuse for knowing about blood, as they eat full organic blood snails from The Outside World and Kalmah "bleeds" ink when his organic tentacle is cut in one of the animations.
    • The expression "making one sweat" is also used by characters, although they have no skin or glands. This is another case of Translation Convention.
  • Hatchimals has a few. Though as it says that the Giggling Tree has a door to Real Life and that may make sense given the weird terms used in the lore as it might be where the Hatchimals get them from, but other than that this is still a case of this trope.
    • Hatchimals use the term "hatch" when referring to a fellow Hatchimal being brought into the world as they come out of eggs, their equivalent to a birth. But despite not ever saying that a Hatchimal is "born", the past tense of the word "birth", they still use the term "birthday" when a Hatchimal completes a year since the day of their hatching (it doesn't help that it's also called a hatchy birthday, as it's simply a Pun for the word "happy" and not referring to the day of the hatch). It's the only exception to the egg-themed Flintstone Theming this toyline has to offer. Would've made sense if they use "hatchday", as a Hatchimal wouldn't know what a birth is.
      • The only use of the word "born" is in the official collector's guide, though it does not refer to a hatching and there are no instances where the Hatchimals themselves actually use that word.
    • According to the official app, baby Hatchimals play a game called "king of the bouncy castle", despite Hatchtopia not even having a king or monarch in general (Royal Hatchimals exist, though they do not make up a family or dynasty and are assumed to have that status purely for looks).
    • Christmas is also mentioned in the app, despite there being no Christianity (or any of the real-world pagan faiths the holiday actually stems from) to derive it from. It's likely a Santa Clausmas according to holiday-themed merchandise, however.
  • Rainbocorns:
    • In Melody the Monkeycorn's bio, it says that she considers artists Camila Cabello and Ariana Grande as her inspirations when it comes to singing. How would the Rainbocorns of Rainboville, which is located far up in the sky, somehow know about Real Life human artists?

    Video Games 
  • Ace Combat:
    • In both Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War and Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, when you're shooting an enemy plane, they'll often say "my plane's being swiss cheesed" even though Switzerland does not exist in Strangereal, the setting of the games. Likewise, a plane in one mission of The Unsung War is also said to be "dutch rolling", and another has a character make mention of Burmese.
    • Likewise in Zero, since England and its history never existed in Strangereal, where did all the Arthurian references come from? It may possibly be courtesy of Emmeria, given the country's geography, architecture, and legend of a Golden King that is not unlike Arthurian myth, but Emmeria appears to be the Fantasy Counterpart Culture to the United Kingdom, Canada, and Italy.
    • Ace Combat Infinity fell prey to a meta-instance when it started introducing fictional planes from the earlier games; most tried to Hand Wave their presence by being intentionally vague about their origins or stating that said origins are still classified, but several of the Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere craft like the Night Raven and Delphinus simply attribute their design to the megacorps that built them in Electrosphere, without any care that there's no reason for those corporations to exist in Infinity's timeline.
    • Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown: The descriptions for some aircraft make references to their actual countries of origin, even though, yet again, those countries don't exist in Strangereal. AWACS Long Caster also makes mention of an Italian bistro he knows if the player performs well enough in Mission 11.
  • Asheron's Call had a type of high level fire elemental called a "hellfire", even though none of the in-universe religions that we learn about have a hell. The "inferno" (another powerful fire elemental) technically counts as this as well, since inferno was originally just the Italian word for "hell" before it received its more common meaning of "big fire."
  • Bloodborne has Molotov Cocktails, a character mentioning the Hippocratic Oath, and another character using "spartans" seemingly as a generic term for honorable and heroic warriors. Vyacheslav Molotov, Hippocrates, and Sparta all presumably do not exist in Bloodborne's universe.
  • Chrono Trigger: Dates use B.C. and A.D., even though Jesus Christ does not appear to exist in the game's universe. This system is apparently based on the founding of the kingdom of Guardia, but that doesn't explain the usage of those terms. Making this even stranger is that Japan doesn't normally use B.C. and A.D., having instead terms that translate to "before common era" and "Western calendar" as equivalents, yet the Japanese version of the game still used B.C. and A.D. in the dates. The game also refers to 600 A.D as the "Middle Ages" without saying what its the middle of, although this could be Hand Waved as saying they mean midway between 1 A.D and 1000 A.D (the "present-day" in the game's timeline) or something along those lines.
  • Dark Souls:
    • The Lucerne is a polearm named after the city of Lucerne, Switzerland, where it was popularly used during the 15th to 17th centuries. Presumably, neither Lucerne nor Switzerland exist in the setting's constructed Dark Fantasy universe, yet the weapon is in all three games and then later in Elden Ring with its name unchanged. Interestingly, the series' predecessor Demon's Souls actually did change the name to "Mirdan Hammer", with Flavor Text saying it originated from the in-universe land of Mird.
    • In Dark Souls III you can find several religious tomes written in braille for the benefit of Blind Seers, even though braille was named after the man who invented it, who also presumably never existed in the Dark Souls universe. This was absent in the original Japanese, where it was simply called "dot-writing".
  • In Demon's Souls the Filthy Woman in the Valley of Defilement complains about Maiden Astraea, claiming that "All the men worship her like she's the Virgin Mary." Demon's Souls is not set on Earth and the primary religion is clearly not Christianity.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition: Cassandra's actions are referred to as "crusading," despite the Andrastian holy wars being called "Exalted Marches." Moreover, the main symbols of Andrastianism are a flame and a sword, not a cross, from which the word "crusade" is derived.
    • Varric, at one point, exclaims, "Jeez!" in party banter. "Jeez" is a shortened form of the "Jesus Christ!" blaspheme, even though in this world, Jesus has been replaced by Andraste.
    • There are numerous references to days of the week such as Sunday, Friday, and Tuesday, not just in Inquisition but throughout the series. Those days of the week come from the Germanic calendar, and are named after mythological figures from Norse mythology (for the example, Thursday is named after Thor, i.e. "Thor's day"). Obviously, these figures do not exist in Dragon Age's High Fantasy setting.
    • One item you can find is a Blood-Soaked Teddy Bear. While bears do exist in Thedas, Teddy Bears were named after "Teddy" Roosevelt.
    • Human characters generally have real-world names, even those of Christian religious figures, as opposed to having the names of important figures in Andrastianism (e.g. Cathaire, Havard, or Hessarian).
    • One item you gather in Dragon Age II is "sela petrae", slightly altered Latin for "Peter's salt" - i.e., saltpeter or potassium nitrate, which it is. While the language is presumably the in-universe Tevinter, the reference to a Peter doesn't fit because it's just a corruption of the original "nitre" from the Latin "nitrum".
  • Dragon Quest: This is used a lot. It is even lampshaded in Dragon Quest V, where the phrase "proud as Punch" is used and the Hero's daughter wonders what Punch was proud about.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind: One can find three scrolls which massively buff your Acrobatics skill, allowing you to jump incredible distances. However, as the NPC who invented the scrolls quickly discovered, they wear off after only a few seconds during the jump, meaning you no longer have the power to land safely. They are quite fittingly called "Scrolls of Icarian Flight", however, there is no Greek myth of Icarus in Tamriellic history for that name to come from. Online includes an Easter Egg of a dead elf named "Icarian", who met his end via similar means and is presumably the in-universe origin of the name.
    • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Your companion tells you at the end of the intro that the town of Helgen is the "end of the line," despite Tamriel not having trains.
    • The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard has a part where Clavicus Vile, the Daedric Prince of Deals with the Devil, asks the hero if he had a "classical education" while giving him a Knights and Knaves riddle. Tamriel has no Classical Antiquity to study.
  • EverQuest: In addition to having the same "Gypsies but no Egypt" problem as Discworld, the game has Kodiak bears even though it takes place on Norrath where there is no Kodiak. There's also an interesting aversion where a Venus flytrap like a monster is called an "Erollisi Mantrap" (Erollisi being the goddess of love in the setting, and thus equivalent to Venus).
  • Final Fantasy:
    • An example that applies to the series as a whole are the Gysahl Greens. They first appeared in Final Fantasy III where they can be found in Gysahl Village. They appear in future installments without any mention of the village.
    • Final Fantasy VI: In the original western translation (known as Final Fantasy III), Shadow is described as someone who would "slit his momma's throat for a nickel." Indeed, it's quite the feat in a world where nickels don't exist and gold is the Global Currency. Later translations changed to the more sensible, if admittedly less fearsome, claim that he would kill his best friend for the right price.
    • Final Fantasy VII: Tifa's bar has a neon sign with the word TEXAS written prominently on it. There's also a diner in Sector 6 that serves a "Korean BBQ Plate" (although note that the equivalent Japanese term is simply "grilled meat"). And when Bugenhagen looks at some Ancient writing in the Forgotten City, he says "it's all greek to me." Even though there's no "Greece" in the game's setting. Or a Turkey, for that matter, so why the "Turks" unit of Shinra operatives has that title is anyone's guess.
    • Final Fantasy VIII: Early in the game, Zell will ask Squall if he could see his Gunblade. If the player declines, he'll call Squall "Scrooge" in response. This would insinuate that not only does A Christmas Carol exist in this fantasy world, but so does Christmas and Christianity.
    • Final Fantasy X-2: The Gullwings participate in a sphere broadcast hosted by Shelinda in Luca in an optional event. When Shelinda addresses Yuna as the leader of the Gullwings, Brother steps in to shout "I'm the leader, me!" and Buddy comments "Whoa! This thing on?" Shinra, resident kid snarker, then steps in to comment "It's taping two morons right now." Not only is there no evidence that cassette tape has ever existed as a means of recording in Spira, but the game makes it very clear that spheres have been used for recording for over a thousand years.
    • In Final Fantasy XIV, the Last Stand serves huge, decadent hamburgers known as "Archon Burgers". But Germany, much less Hamburg, doesn't exist in the fantasy setting, leaving the origin of the dish's name a mystery.
    • Dissidia Final Fantasy: Kefka Palazzo mocks Garland by calling him a "battle-obsessed nimrod." The word "nimrod" comes from the name of a biblical hunter and Kefka is evidently using the word's modern meaning ("stubborn buffoon" instead of "great hunter"), which is often attributed to Looney Tunes.note  Neither should exist in Kefka's world.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Some games in the series have a sword called the Wo Dao (essentially a katana). Wo Dao is Chinese for "Japanese Sword," which is a problem since neither Japan nor China are locations in the games. The closest equivalents to date are the clearly Eastern-inspired Chon'sin and Hoshido (and Izumo)... and the Wo Dao doesn't even appear in those entries. Interestingly, this was not a case of Woolseyism as the original Japanese text reads "Wato", an archaic spelling of "Japanese Sword". Why Intelligent Systems didn't just outright call the Wo Dao a katana is anyone's guess.
    • An interesting subversion comes from the joint Archanea-Valentia-Jugdral continuity. The Starsphere, later known as Azure, is one of five gemstones required to fully awaken the power of the Fire Emblem/Shield of Seals/Binding Shield in Mystery of the Emblem and Awakening. As Wendell states in New Mystery while explaining the Starsphere's own Dismantled MacGuffin status, the orb has "twelve constellations etched on its surface." Instead of resorting to a Fictional Zodiac, the twelve shards of the Starsphere as they appear in both Mystery proper and two DLC episodes in Shadows of Valentia are named for the Western Zodiac as well as depict these constellations. The implication is that, at the very least, these real-life constellations are also recognized in the Archanean-Valentian sky. The same may apply for Polaris note  and the Eastern Zodiac note .
  • Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel has Edward Elric shout, "You calling me the Guinness Book of World Records kind of shorty?!" The series takes place in an Alternate History version of 1914, while the Guinness Book of Records, as it was originally called, was first published in 1955. The Guinness brand itself dates back to 1759, though, so it's possible they started their world record-keeping a bit earlier in the Fullmetal Alchemist 'verse.
  • Halo: There are some Covenant units called Jackals. While they do look like humanoid jackals (and use stealthy tactics), there's still the obvious question of why an alien empire would name one of their units after an Earth animal, as the Jackals existed before they even discovered Earth. You can't even Hand Wave it as just being a codename the humans call them (since they, like the other species, do have a suitably alien "official" name), as in the later games you spend part of the time playing as the Arbiter (a Covenant alien) or otherwise hearing alien conversations in English, and all of the aliens call them Jackals as well. We're likely meant to assume that this is just Translation Convention at work to call the aliens by names that players are more likely to recognize (since those official names are only mentioned in outside material like the novels), much less ones the actors could actually speak (especially given Bungie already had an established track record with unpronounceable alien names).
  • League of Legends:
    • One character is named Cassiopeia, a name taken from Greek mythology. Greece doesn't appear anywhere on the map of Runeterra, unless it physically manifested within ten feet of Pantheon.note 
    • The in-universe logic behind Jericho Swain's first name is also a little bit obscure, given that Jericho is a real place in Palestine that is mostly notable in Western culture for its role in some parts of the Old Testament, none of which exist in Runeterra. Out-of-universe, the logic is clearly that it sounds badass.
    • Urgot's title is "the Dreadnought". The term 'dreadnought' for a large and powerful machine derives from a specific ship, which was launched in 1906.
  • The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning: Sparx says, "Spyro, we're Not in Kansas Anymore," in response to the pair's first glimpse of the ruins around the Dragon Temple, despite this being an original fantasy setting with no such thing as Kansas in it.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: Lenzo will call you a "penniless ragamuffin" if you don't fork over the money for his Legendary Pictographs. Said money is Rupees; there are no pennies in Hyrule.
  • Mega Man Battle Network: A conversation in the third game between Lan and Mega Man has the former asking if the word "pronto" is English, and the latter saying that it's possibly derivied from the Spanish language. Both England and Spain do not exist in this world.
  • Pokémon:
  • The English localization of Sengoku Basara 3 (Samurai Heroes), which is set in the Sengoku Era of Japan (1467–1573), has a foot soldier of Date Masamune's army periodically claim, "This is something the boss would refer to as 'cool'!" Strictly speaking, this is not by any means this series' most grievous example of something being out of chronological order.
  • In Adam Cadre's Shrapnel, a character fighting in the Civil War calls another "Einstein" — which is an in-universe slip-up on his part, as he's a time traveler.
  • In Skies of Arcadia, the only kind of pirate in the 'verse is explicitly called a "sky" pirate, despite the lack of need for differentiation.
  • StarCraft:
    • The Xel'naga called their first creation the Protoss, which has the same pronunciation as the ancient Greek word meaning "first," even though the Xel'naga could not have known ancient Greek.
    • On a similar note, one of the Protoss characters from the first game is called Fenix, and Starcraft II introduces a new Protoss unit, the Phoenix. All of this without them ever having any contact with greek mythology.
  • Star Fox:
  • In Tales of Symphonia, during the formal dance where everyone is dressed up, Genis tells Lloyd that Sheena laughed at his outfit and said he looked like he was dressed up for Easter Sunday. Easter doesn't exist in the story's world since it's a Christian holiday. However, it's partially lampshaded as Lloyd asks what Easter Sunday is; Genis responds that it's apparently a holiday in Mizuho.
  • In Tales of Vesperia, the party can cook a Scottish Egg or Japanese Stew, despite Terca Lumereis containing neither Scotland nor Japan. In the Definitive Edition, one of Patty's win quotes is "All's well that ends Welsh Corgi!" despite there not being a Wales. Likewise, in Tales of Berseria, one of the ingredients to make salad is Worcestershire Sauce, Worcestershire is a county in England and not a place in Midgand.
  • Terraria has Molotov Cocktails as a craftable weapon, the Uzi as a random drop and Pad Thai can be purchased from the traveling merchant. Vyacheslav Molotov, Thailand and Israel presumably do not exist in the world of Terraria.
  • In Them's Fightin' Herds, we have Arizona the calf, and her family are all similarily named after US states... despite the game taking place in a world where the United States doesn't exist.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • Two of the cheeses available for purchase are "Alterac Swiss" and "Fine Aged Cheddar" — both of which are named after geographic locations on Earth.
    • Goblins have zeppelins, despite Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin not existing in the Warcraft universe.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles 1, Reyn occasionally refers to Riki as a "stupid furry volleyball" in post-battle chatter, calling back to when Shulk, Melia and Reyn served Riki as the ball when they first met him. This despite volleyball being an American sport with no clear analogue on Bionis.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles 3, Eunie insults Lanz by calling him a "muppet" twice over the course of the game. While "muppet" is a common British insult in our world (meaning "idiot"), it's still derived from the puppets, and worth noting because most other cases of explicit language in the English dub (like "spark," "snuff," and "mudder") carefully avert this trope by referring only to things that exist in Kevesi/Agnian society. And while Aionios does have a connection to our Earth (through Alrest), any cultural connection to The Muppets has probably been destroyed several times over by now.

    Web Animation 
  • Battle for Dream Island takes place in a world full of Animate Inanimate Objects that only vaguely resembles our own. With that in mind, the world "geez" is said at several occasions. Since the word "geez" comes from a shortening of Jesus Christ, the use of the word can carry some implications.
  • RWBY: Ruby has crosses on her clothes to go with her Perky Goth aesthetic, and her uncle Qrow wears a tilted cross for a necklace, but there's no sign of Christianity in the series' universe. In fact, every religion we've seen so far on Remnant has been polytheistic, including the true one.
    • One of the characters is named Neopolitan, and her appearance is based on Neapolitan ice cream. The world of Remnant does not have a Naples. The word itself derives from the Greek words "neos" (new) and "polis" (city). Neopolitan herself is often just referred to as Neo for short because it is the new name she gave to herself after abandoning her birth name Trivia Vanille.

  • Despite taking place in a quasi-old west fantasy world nothing like our own, the gun models featured in 6 Gun Mage — and there are a lot of them — are called by their Real Life names, which tend to reference years, inventors, and/or countries of origin.
  • A H Club takes place in a world where Pantsless Males, Fully-Dressed Females is averted and everyone not an infant wears tops and shirts but no pants. Hilde comments to an old college friend that his wife wears the pants in the family. She admits she never understood were that expression came from.
  • Awful Hospital: Celia says that "a hungry Moldsucker slithers like lightning", although she would never have experienced lightning given that she lives inside a human corpse. This is promptly lampshaded in the following exchange:
    Fern: exactly do you know what lightning is?
    Celia: Why wouldn't I?
    Fern: Becau... never mind. Don't want to know.
  • According to Dinosaur Comics' summary of the play, Hamlet said, "Record scratch! Say WHAAAAAT?" when he found out how his father died.
    Alt Text: Hamlet has to say "record scratch" because records aren't invented yet so you can't make the sound otherwise, HOW IS THIS NOT OBVIOUS
  • Exiern: A High Fantasy world with no relation to Earth, much less Japan, apparently has Yaoi Porn, mentioned by name. There are also Band-Aids and Hallmark cards, although at least the characters have the good grace to admit they don't know exactly what greeting cards are.
  • In one of the The Order of the Stick strips appearing in Dragon Magazine, Durkon accuses Vaarsuvius of being a Grammar Nazi, using the phrase "Uptight English teacher." Vaarsuvius responds with confusion at the word "English" since the language they are speaking is actually "Common."
  • In Planetary Moe, the planets refer to themselves and others by the names Earth gave them. Since this is a series about the planets, not the people on them, where these names come from are normally unaddressed. This was eventually lampshaded in a series of lore sketches, where it's shown that Earth made up the names from some fanfic they wrote.
  • Sleepless Domain:
    • In Chapter 1, Tessa makes a finger gun with her hand and quips "Bang." as she finishes off a monster, and Undine later imitates the gesture and catchphrase during her own moment of Heroic Resolve. This is all despite firearms explicitly not existing within the City — although, given that the story is implied to take place on Earth after some sort of collapse, it's not impossible for them to at least know what a gun is.
      Mary Cagle: in any case it's easier to explain than how their names work
    • During Undine's encounter with Mark, the latter mutters "...Jesus." in shock, despite there being no indication that Christianity is present in the setting. The inconsistency is intentional in this case, and it serves as one of several clues that Mark is from somewhere else — while some further-removed minced oaths like "jeez" do appear in the story, most other characters invoke the name of the mythical Founder as their deity of choice.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • In one episode of Critical Role: Season 2, Beau asks Nott if she knows what Stockholm Syndrome is. Matt riffs on this by suggesting that the phrase exists in the same context in Exandria as it does in real life, due to an incident involving a man named Gerald Stockholm.
  • In the LoadingReadyRun "Krog" series of sketches much of the humor comes from from averting this and making up bizarre and punny explanations for cavemen to use extremely modern phrases like "problematic post" and "best way to catch backdoor hacker is with honeypot," which here means a person hacking open a cave's back door with an axe and getting hit by a pot of honey placed over it.

    Western Animation 
  • Around the World with Willy Fog: In the second episode, Tico complains that hiding in Rigodon's bag "makes him feel like a pair of socks." However, every character in the series is a Barefoot Cartoon Animal, so Tico shouldn't have the word "socks" in his vocabulary.
  • Dinosaur Train: Hadrosaurs are called "duck-billed dinosaurs" like they are in real life, despite the fact that ducks don't exist yet.
  • Disenchantment takes place in a fantasy world very loosely based on medieval Europe, that also features a few out-of-place references:
    • King Zog casually mentions "this isn't my first rodeo" before being confused about what "rodeo" means.
    • A female demon named Stacianne LeBlatt says that her surname is French; and Hansel and Gretel call themselves Germans, in spite of France or Germany not even being known to exist in this setting.
    • There are repeated references to The Crusades, even though the local equivalent to Christianity features no crosses (which the name is derived from), but rather a spiral symbol.
  • Several The Disney Afternoon series such as DuckTales (1987), TaleSpin, and Darkwing Duck are set in worlds occupied only by anthropomorphic animals with no humans note , yet characters still use words like "man", "woman", "men", and "humanity" and "anthropology" as often we do in our world. (Given how their worlds contain multiple sapient species, they would need one word to refer to all sapient life that doesn't refer to any one species.)
  • The Flintstones apparently live in the United States and celebrate Christmas despite being cavepeople. Flintstone Theming, in general, can yield quite a lot of this trope.
  • Kaeloo has several characters referring to real people such as Marie Antoinette and Britney Spears and mentioning places such as America and Europe... while living on Smileyland, which is a planet. One episode even has them mention having gone on vacation to Australia before!
  • The Legend of Korra takes place in a fantasy world, which makes for some uses of this trope:
    • Varrick mentions that "Lyme disease is a serious killer", despite there being no Lyme for the disease to be named after.
    • Likewise, Morse code is mentioned, even though there was no Samuel Morse to invent it.
    • There's also the use of the term "Jeep" to refer to off-road vehicles, which came from slurring the initials GP (General Purpose) even though the Avatar world doesn't use the Latin alphabet.
    • Both averted and played straight in a later episode: upon being shown a gun for the first time, a character can't think of any word to describe it except "a thing" (owing to the setting's Fantasy Gun Control). However, later in the same episode, they call it "a cannon". This one could be justified if we remember that cannons do exist in the setting, they are just completely different from our ownnote .
    • In the second season, Tenzin refers to the Avatar State as not being a "booster rocket". There's really no way the phrase could make sense in the setting.
  • Real life locations, such as Florida and Rancho Cucamonga, have been mentioned in Mixels, despite the fact it takes place on a different planet than Earth. Gox also sarcastically refers to Snoof as "Einstein", even though there are no human traces in their planet.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Ponies say "oh my gosh" and "OMG!", without an "oh my god" for these phrases to derive from. In the same sense, "for Pete's sake!" is used once in a while, even though St. Peter is also a Christian figure.
    • The use of "Gesundheit" instead "Bless you" avoids a reference to religions, but introduces a German-equivalent to the setting.
    • Rainbow Dash is fond of calling Twilight Sparkle an egghead. In real life, "egghead" was originally a pejorative used to refer to snobbish intellectuals, who by virtue of being typically older men were usually bald (and thus had heads that looked like eggs). Since the show's characters are horses and aren't generally bald (the few with "bald spots" in their manes still have a full covering of fur underneath), it doesn't make much sense for this term to be used here.
    • In the first episode, after Spike acts all enamored toward Rarity, Twilight tells him "Focus, Casanova." "Casanova" derives from Giacomo Girolamo Casanova, an infamous womanizer from the 18th century.
    • "Boast Busters":
      • Spike mentions a Fu Manchu mustache. How exactly does a world of magical talking ponies know about a human-created Yellow Peril villain?
      • Later, Twilight calls Spike "Romeo". Perhaps there was some pony version of William Shakespeare?
    • In "Look Before You Sleep", Applejack jumps on the bed while yelling "GERONIMO!" This exclamation derives from the name of an Apache leader whom Applejack would have had no way of ever hearing of.
    • In "Suited for Success", when Rarity is designing dresses for the other ponies, Fluttershy specifically requests French Haute Couture, despite being in a universe where France (presumably) doesn't exist. In addition, in "The Cutie Pox", one of Apple Bloom's symptoms is a talent for speaking in French (and she even identifies it as "Français" in her dialogue). Applejack simply refers to it as "speaking Fancy".
      • When Twilight is giving Rarity details on how to sew the constellations on her dress during the reprise of "Art of the Dress", she mentions the real-world constellations Orion and Canis Major.
    • In "Call of the Cutie", one thing Rainbow Dash checks for talents is karate. Two-for-one here: why would ponies use a word derived from the Okinawan word for "hand"?
    • "Hearth's Warming Eve" uses the term "helping hand", even though no character up until that point had hands (except Spike, but the term "claws" would be more appropriate).
    • In "Magical Mystery Cure", Applejack sings the line "Can y'all give me a hand here?" during the song "What My Cutie Mark is Telling Me".
    • In "Pinkie Pride", Cheese Sandwich mentions Hawai'ian shirts in one of his songs.
    • In "Three's a Crowd", Discord asks for Swiss cheese and Abyssinian pastries (though admittedly, this isn't really out of character for him). The issue with Abyssinia is resolved later on in the movie prequel comics, where it turns out that Abyssinia is, in fact, a country inhabited by Cat Folk known as Abyssinians. Switzerland receives no such mention.
    • Lampshaded in "Slice of Life", when Doctor Whooves asks what is this "man" is that the bowling alley ponies keep referring to.
    • In "Hearthbreakers", Maud Pie mentions Mohs Scale of Hardness. Mohs was the surname of the German person who invented it.
    • In "Once Upon a Zeppelin", "zeppelin" is used to refer to airships, despite coming from German inventor Ferdinand von Zeppelin. Notably, it seems to be a catch-all term for balloon-based aircraft not propelled by hot air, unlike its very specific meaning in real life.
    • The comic books establish that a significant number of Equestria's inventions are taken from ancient excursions into parallel worlds, which may handwave both this trope and Equestria's Schizo Tech.
  • Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero: In "Brainzburgerz" Sashi uses the phrase Five-Finger Discount even though the show's characters have Four-Fingered Hands.
  • Puppy in My Pocket: Adventures in Pocketville has several:
    • A few of the breeds named after real-world countries and notable figures, such as the Siberian Husky and Saint Bernard, are mentioned by Pocketville denizens who aren’t Magic. Respectively, the bear chef who owns the bamboo cafe on Puppy Key and Eva.
    • The phrases "goody-two-shoes" and "be in one's shoes" are used by the Pocketville characters despite having no use for shoes let alone the existence of shoes in the Pocket Kingdom.
    • The words "gosh" and "goodness" are occasionally uttered by some Pocket Kingdom residents, though there isn't an "Oh my God" to derive that phrase from.
    • Doctor Copper explains what the Latin name for the medicine she gave to Zull and Gort is…though how would the denizens of Pocketville know what Ancient Rome is?
    • The Pocketville Olympics is mentioned in both "New Friends" when the Royal Guards talk about Robbie's games and in "Believe in Yourself!" when they talk about pawball, their equivalent to soccer/European football. How would they know about the term "Olympics" if they never heard of Olympia, let alone Greece?
    • In the prototype English dub, Claudia/Clelia talks about a speculation on the Friendship Heart's origin which was come up with by a professor by the name of "Franklin D. Puppy". That's referencing this president right here.
    • In "Nearly!", Magic comments that Daniel's performance wasn't exactly Oscar material. Now it would've made sense if he acquired the term "Oscar award" from TV but as he might have limited knowledge on the culture of Kate's world, including that of terms coming from television, it may not be so.
    • William uses the saying "I bet a pound to a penny" when he suspects Eva must be behind the scheme of giving Jenny the itches in "A Bad Fall", referring to British currency: the pound sterling. Yet they actually have golden coins as a currency in the Pocket Kingdom which are not pounds.
    • In "Finally Free!", the Tibetan Bridge is one of the trials of Steel Wool's Royal Guard training, with the kingdom having no Tibet to name the bridge after.
    • Mela calls Pocketville's gift shop the "Christmas Shop" in the episode "A Gift for Ava", with the shop containing items such festive trees and gifts, implying that they might do a Santa Clausmas.
    • Inverted in "A Big Responsibility" when William asks "Italy?" after Kate mentions a girl named Martina used to live there.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM): Multiple:
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars has the phrase "dime a dozen" used. The main currency of the galaxy is credits, and they've been shown in various forms, so it's possible there is some kind of equivalent to a dime.
  • Steven Universe:
  • Transformers:
    • A visual edition occurs in Transformers: Prime. The 'bots in Prime categorically lack noses. (Some of them kind of have a nose suggested by the extension of a forehead decoration, but it's still on their forehead). Yet, somehow, they end up using the same Autobot logo as the rest of the franchise, which does indeed feature a stylized nose where noses actually go. Illustrated here.
    • Other characters in the franchise end up with names that don't make a huge amount of sense in the context of robots, sometimes millions of years old, who come from another planet and have maybe been active on Earth for a few years, tops. Arcee's name is just two English letters nailed together, Mach from Transformers Victory is indirectly named after a 19th-century human, and if we list all the Cybertronians, like Bumblebee, who are named after Earth animals that Cybertron doesn't seem to have we'll be here all daynote .

    Real Life 
  • As noted in the Reality Is Unrealistic page, some people like to claim that things set in the Soviet era where the characters exclaim "My God!" or the like are an example of this trope since a common stereotype for the Soviet Union is complete atheism. Even ignoring the fact that such terms would still linger as holdovers for a long time to come (and the fact that atheists are perfectly capable of using religious swears, even if they don't believe in them), there's also the fact that the USSR never became completely irreligious. Despite attempts at its inception to enforce atheism, the sheer cultural and political influence of the Russian Orthodox Church, in general, made it impossible to ever completely implement. Then Stalin reduced the anti-religious regulation to get the Russian Orthodox Church on his side in World War II. And though Khrushchev tried to re-implement said regulations, from the Brezhnev era onward they were again relaxed. In 1964 a kids cartoon taking place in Soviet times has an old lady blessing the protagonist with a cross sign, and no one seems to have had any problems with it.
  • Also, words can sometimes change their meaning over time, but remain unchanged in their form, appearing absurd and anachronistic in old texts. "Paging" was once the act of sending a page to fetch someone in a crowded room, for example, centuries before the invention of the internet. In post-feudal eras, the term "paging" continued to be used to call for someone who may or may not be present in a room. The same use of the term to summon someone over an intercom has lasted from before pagers were invented to long after they've become obsolete.
  • In the Brazilian gaming community, completing a game is colloquially known as "Zerar o Jogo" (something like "Zeroing the Game"). This comes from the Atari 2600 era and its several endless games (such as River Raid). Since those games lacked an official ending, many players considered that a game "ended" when their score reached the maximum reading and the game reverted it all back to zero, similar to an odometer rollover. Even after scores and endlessness fell out of fashion in game design, this expression persisted on and is still used in Brazil.


Video Example(s):


Double-Edged Sword

The caveman opines that the human development of stone tools has been a "double-edged sword", before it's pointed out that none of them know what a sword is as they haven't been invented yet.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / OrphanedEtymology

Media sources: