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Overly Literal Transcription

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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.


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    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • In Brazil, a secretary is seen typing everything she hears. As she works for a Torture Technician, that includes screams of pain.

  • 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.
    • Blog Cake Wrecks showcases examples where this joke isn't so far from the truth, including one that says "Congrats Susan Under Neat That We Will Miss You." Yes, they not only included the "underneath that" instruction in the actual cake, but misspelled it. Others are writing words like "In Blue" or "With Sprinkles" instead of just following the instruction.

  • In Auntie Mame, Mama 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. None the less, most of the students are shown copying verbatim the "write your own name here" part.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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 she ends up taking or not the dictation in the opposite direction.
  • 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 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.
  • Alas Smith and Jones had a sketch were 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Puppet Shows 
  • 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".

  • 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.

    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. A small sample:
    -Congrats Diane and Mr. Peanut Butter Peanut Butter is one word
    -Happy Birthday Diane and Use a Pretty Font
    -I had a ball at Diane's 35th birthday and underline ball I don't know why this is so hard
    -Welcome home little bro! Oh also, I have a Groupon
  • 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!"


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