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Overly Literal Transcription

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Mister Peanutbutter hires a very Literal-Minded sign maker and put the image and caption on the right.

Describe topic here. And I mean in that spot. Ctrl + A, Backspace, THEN describe it. That's just the default message, you're supposed to replace it -- are you getting all this?

In fiction, one character will dictate something to be written to another. However, something silly might happen, making the first say something not meant to be written, which the second will obliviously write.

The inverse of Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud.

Compare Repeat After Me, Literal-Minded, Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic, Virtual Assistant Blunder.



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    Films — Live-Action 
  • Inverted in Animal Crackers, where the secretary decides not to write down what Capt. Spaulding says on the grounds that it was nonsense.
    Jamison: Now, uh... you said a lot of things here that I didn't think were important, so I just omitted them.
    Capt. Spaulding: So, you just omitted them, eh? You just omitted the body of the letter, that's all. You've just left out the body of the letter, that's all. Yours is not to reason why, Jamison. You've left out the body of the letter.
  • Blazing Saddles. Taggart and Lyle callously leave Bart to die in quicksand. After Bart gets out, he prepares to hit Taggart over the head with a shovel.
    Taggart: [dictating] Send a wire to the main office and tell them I said... [Bart hits him over the head] Ow! [falls unconscious]
    Lyle: Send wire, main office, tell them I said, "Ow". Gotcha.
  • In Romanian film Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, a grocery store florist shares a story of someone requesting a ribbon on a floral arrangement that says, "Rest in Peace" on both sides and getting a ribbon that says, "Rest in Peace On Both Sides."
  • In Brazil, a secretary is seen typing everything she hears. As she works for a Torture Technician, that includes screams of pain.
  • Discussed in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, where there is a carved message from Joseph of Aramathea: "He who is valiant and pure of spirit may find the holy grail in the Castle of Aaauuuggghhh..."
    Brother Maynard: Well, that's what it says.
    King Arthur: Look, if he was dying, he wouldn't have bothered to carve "Aaaauuuggghhhh". He'd just say it.
    Sir Galahad: Maybe he was dictating it.
    King Arthur: Oh, shut up!

  • Some guy was buying a birthday cake for his friend with a unisex name. The cake vendor asked two subsequent questions: "What should it read on the cake? And by the way, what gender is Alex?" "'Congrats'. Oh, and Alex is a man." Thus did the cake come out with CONGRATS - ALEX IS A MAN.

  • In Auntie Mame, Mame hires Agnes to transcribe her thoughts for her book. Agnes does it so well she even transcribes people asking Agnes why she's writing so fast.
  • In Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman, Ms. Ribble makes every student in her class write goodbye cards for her retirement by copying the poem she wrote on the chalkboard, which ends with a "Write your own name here" fill-in. Most of the students are shown copying verbatim the "write your own name here" part.
  • In the short story "Riddle me this" by Christopher Anvil, the protagonists are trying to sneak into an alien base. Their ship's computer translates their communications to and from the aliens, but prints out all the formatting directives with the text rather than acting on them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alas Smith and Jones had a sketch where a criminal is cautioned that "anything he may say will be taken down and may be used in a court of law". the criminal then starts saying (deadpan) "What are you doing, officer? Please stop hitting me. Ow. Ow." as the police officer dutifully writes it all down, looking increasingly worried as the monologue goes on.
  • Dinosaurs: In "And The Winner Is...", every child is named by the Chief Elder in a ceremony, which is transcribed by a bureaucrat who just blithely writes it down. This is why Baby Sinclair's name is briefly "Aaugh Aaugh I'm Dying You Idiot." Fran mentions that she had a cousin named "Achoo" and a classmate named "Burp Excuse Me Siegelman".
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: In "Biggles Dictates a Letter," Biggles tries to get his secretary to not take his dictation when he is wearing a pair of antlers, but as one might expect, things quickly spiral out of control.
  • In Parks and Recreation, this happens in "The Trial of Leslie Knope" when Leslie reads one of Ethel Beavers's transcriptions.
    Leslie: Mr. Traeger: That was beautiful. I'm literally crying and jumping. Crying noise, crying noise, nose blow.
    • When Leslie runs for city council, she attempts to get campaign signs made, but when she sends the sign maker an image link for the signs, he assumes the URL is a series of characters meant to go on the sign.
  • Used for Black Comedy in an episode of Robin of Sherwood, when the Sheriff of Nottingham reads out a transcript of a witch being interrogated under torture in a deadpan monotone, complete with cries of agony.
  • One Rory Bremner sketch has Alistair Campbell dictating a report on Iraq's weapons capabilities. Tony Blair sticks his head round the door. "When will that report be ready?" he asks. "In forty-five minutes," Campbell replies, unaware that the typist is transcribing those words into the report.
  • Superstore: In "Color Wars", Glenn and Dina are supposed to get a cake for the winning team. They end up arguing in front of the person who is writing the icing, so their entire argument finds its way onto the cake.
    Icing: "Congratulations." Got that? No, not "Congratulations. Got that?" Just "Congratulations." No, I don't want you to write "Congratulations. Got that? "No, not 'Congratulations. Got that?' Just 'Congratulations." What do I do here? He doesn't know English. He's just transcribing phonetically. Well, what language does he speak? You hired him. That's why, if it was up to me, I'd fire half the staff. No, don't put that on the cake.
  • This is a Running Gag in the parish council meetings in The Vicar of Dibley. The super-pedantic parish clerk Frank Pickle will frequently note down things literally, e.g. "Then Mrs. Cropley said nothing."

  • In the Irwin Shaw play Bury The Dead, a doctor is dictating autopsy notes to a stenographer. While examining the last body, after seeing that part of the man's face has been blown off, the doctor comments, "You'd be a pretty sight for your mother, you would." When the stenographer reads back the transcript, that comment is included.

  • The Nonadventures Of Wonderella: In this comic, Wonderella, as a superheroine who frequently dies, attempts to inform her sidekick about how she'd like her gravestone to look. Unfortunately, Wonderita interprets the instructions as the inscription.
  • The Order of the Stick: When Durkon writes a letter home he writes it the same way that his dialogue is written to reflect his accent. When Roy points out that he doesn't have to do this, Durkon responds as though he doesn't even realize he is doing it.

    Web Original 
  • Cake Wrecks has documented an alarming number of supposedly professionally-decorated cakes with icing spelling out what appear to be either customers' exact words or written instructions:
    • Write "Welcome" on it
    • The #25 in Big Font
    • Happy Birthday Sara Minus H
  • Here on TV Tropes, this sort of mistake is where the Describe Topic Here inside joke came from. As "Describe topic here" was the default message for a blank article on the first version of the wiki software, many editors early in the site's life thought it should be included as part of the article as well.

    Western Animation 
  • Bojack Horseman: A Running Gag throughout the series, whenever someone wants to get something printed, their instructions will inevitably get printed along with it, as the page image demonstrates. A small sample:
  • Gravity Falls: "Bottomless Pit!" has the characters taking turns telling stories, with appropriate title cards popping up when the characters announce the title for their mini story. When it's Soos' turn, the unnamed narrator does this.
    Soos: I've got a story. It's called "Soos's Really Great Pinball Story!" (beat) Is that a good title? Do they have to be, like, puns or whatever?
    [cut to title card reading: "SOOS' REALLY GREAT PINBALL STORY! Is That A Good Title? Do They Have To Be, Like, Puns Or Whatever?"]
  • The Simpsons: In "Lisa's Sax", as Homer dictates a dedication for Lisa's saxophone, he tells the clerk to write "To Lisa, never forget your Daddy loves-", when he drops the sax on his feet and says "D'oh!", which is transcribed as "To Lisa, never forget your Daddy loves D'OH!" In the end of the episode, Lisa gets a new sax with the dedication "To Lisa, may your new saxophone bring you years of D'OH!"