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Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic

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"The problem with actual human speech is that it does not take place in the form of sentences."
John Green, in this interview for The Atlantic

Speech in fiction is fictional: too good to be true.

People in fiction don't speak like we do. In real life people stutter, pause, repeat or correct themselves, go off on tangents, have verbal tics, use, like, filler words, trail off, drone on, mumble or slur their words, repeat themselves, talk over each other, repeat themselves, use bad grammar, and more.

In fiction, characters always communicate in well-formed sentences, and everyone takes their turn. Sometimes they go further and speak with William Shakespeare-like eloquence, using similes and metaphors that most people in real life aren't clever enough to come up with on the spot or even at all. They never stumble over their words or say the wrong thing (unless it's important to the plot). Even "realistic" dialogue is relatively free of errors and padding. It's almost as if it was written by a professional.

Note that this trope is an Acceptable Break from Reality; "real" dialogue can be unreadable. Journalists know that anyone can be made to look stupid in an interview simply by exactly writing down their speech, word for word. Verbal imperfections that we automatically filter out face-to-face become grating and irritating when written down. note  We enjoy the fruits of script-writing and acting more when they are free to be polished. Part of the reason is to make speech come across the way it's heard rather than the way it is; humans are well-adapted to interpret speech, and as a result, what we experience is an interpretation of speech rather than a recording of it. Also falls under The Law of Conservation of Detail — because the time it takes for a character to correct themselves could be used for more dialogue.

Unfortunately, this can lead people to assume Hesitation Equals Dishonesty, never mind that hesitation is one of the most common things in realistic speech and can originate from many sources other than dishonesty (someone being drunk or high, absolutely terrified, wanting to make sure they are telling the truth, needing time to gather their thoughts) or from dishonesty unrelated to the issue at hand (e.g. someone lying that they weren't doing drugs in hopes of avoiding a drug charge doesn't mean they're lying when they say they didn't commit a robbery across town). In fiction, thanks to The Law of Conservation of Detail again, hesitations and other individual exceptions to this trope likely are significant, although characters in-universe may not notice them any more than we would in real life.

At times, characters go beyond fiction-speak and break out in a spontaneous eloquent monologue at length, especially at moments of high emotion and plot importance, such as Holding the Floor. These monologues do happen in Real Life, but they are rare. In educated circles (i.e. the middle classes), these were a lot more common before the twentieth century, when rhetoric was a staple of education and people listened to (and studied, if they were literate) speeches for entertainment.

Some literary work has an ambiance that's simply incompatible with natural speech; for example, Fairy Tales.

Exceptions to this trope can come from works produced through improvisation, either live or as part of the writing process, and tend to appear a lot in indie films. On other occasions, stumbling or inarticulate speech will be used deliberately to suggest a character is dishonest or distracted or may be used to make the character Endearingly Dorky. Aversions are often examples of Narrative Filigree. Films that wholly avert the trope are sometimes termed "mumblecore". Averting this trope seems to be divisive: either the dialogue sounding natural helps set the feel of the film and makes it feel more homely and, well, natural, or instead, it becomes difficult to understand what characters are actually saying and thus, ruining the experience of the film; so, basically it's the scripting equivalent of Shaky Cam.

See Also: Buffy Speak, Mamet Speak, Funetik Aksent. Subtrope of Reality Is Unrealistic.


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    Comic Books 
  • The French Achille Talon series features the eponymous characters who talk in a bumbling and very sophisticated French, known for having the biggest bubbles of all Franco-Belgian comics. This is, however, used willingly by the author, both to show Talon's a scholar, and because, the series having no real fourth wall to speak of, it is often lampshade that the characters really talk in big, written bubbles, so there's no reason they should speak in an oral way. For that matter, and though Talon monologues more than the others, practically every character in the series talk in a rather sophisticated French, even more sophisticated than most written language. All that gives troubles to translators, along with many Puns that the author likes to put here and there in the middle of some overly long bubbles just for the fun.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In & Out finished on a good example of the form.
  • Good Will Hunting had several, as well as a rare case where the actor in question (Robin Williams) actually ad-libs part of one monologue, much to the amusement of the rest of the cast and crew, resulting in Enforced Method Acting. The ones from Will, at least, were somewhat believable, as he's supposed to be just that smart — and they were still peppered with slang and cussin' ("Why shouldn't I work for the NSA?").
  • One of the criticisms of Gettysburg and especially Gods and Generals is that despite realistic and well-done battle scenes, even the most interesting and otherwise historically accurate characters would lapse into very long-winded monologues and soliloquies.
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy is peppered with these. It's particularly odd when Michael Caine's Alfred, who speaks with a Cockney accent and is given to British slang and idioms, spontaneously breaks into one of these.
  • The movies of Kevin Smith get away with this because while the spontaneous eloquent monologues can be long and a little too on-the-nose, compressing geeky conversations from hours to minutes, said monologues are Sophisticated as Hell. He noted in one of his An Evening with Kevin Smith specials that he often gets compliments that his characters' dialogue sounds like actual conversations he has with his friends, but he admits that this is not at all true; the Seinfeldian Conversation and insightful monologues are just part of his Author Appeal.
  • The Aristocrats is a documentary about an improvised, disgusting shaggy dog joke apparently told by comedians to each other as a way to show off how well they perform these monologues.
  • Memorably parodied in Billy Madison, in which Billy is asked to give one of these describing how a work of literature reflects the changes the Industrial Revolution had on the modern novel as part of the climactic general knowledge quiz. He elects to compare the Industrial Revolution to a children's story called "The Puppy Who Lost His Way", and the scene cuts to the ending of the seemingly inspirational monologue he gives on the subject, after which everyone cheers (for the school football team which Billy threw in a Shout-Out to in the last line of his speech). Then Billy turns to the moderating headmaster to find out how he did, and this is the response:
    Headmaster: [Completely deadpan] Mr. Madison, what you've just said... is one of the most insanely idiotic things I've ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
    Billy: ...okay, a simple "wrong" would have done just fine.
  • This is why in the movie version of Being There (1979) Chance the Gardener speaks in the tone, manner, etc. that he does. Peter Sellers realized that since Chance grew up with television as his only window to the outside world, his way of speaking would have to be based on how people on TV speak. His subsequent calm eloquence has the side effect of making otherwise intelligent, cultured, powerful people think he is one of them, rather than the mentally challenged fool he actually is - even when he bluntly tells another character he is completely illiterate.
  • A Few Good Men anyone? Aaron Sorkin is the patron saint of this trope.
  • Before Aaron Sorkin, there was Paddy Chayefsky. The characters of Network are virtually superhuman in their eloquence. Especially Ned Beatty's legendary "The World is a Business" speech. Somewhat justified in that the characters all work in broadcast media, where communication skills would be a major focus.
  • Lampshaded in Ocean's Eleven, after Danny's Motive Rant.
    Rusty: Been practicing that speech, haven't you.
    Danny: Little bit, did I rush? I felt like I rushed.
    Rusty: No, it was good, I liked it. Teen-beat thing was a little harsh.
  • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Steve gives a passionate, magnificent speech about defending freedom in face of an evil organization that uses excuses of security as a means of controlling the world. His friend Sam is impressed and asks him if he prepared that or made it all up.
  • Downplayed in 12 Angry Men; while there are plenty of impassioned and articulate speeches, the trope is less severe since the characters often stutter or pause at key points.
  • The outtakes of S Club: Seeing Double has the director telling Jon it would be better if he didn't keep saying "you know, you know" between most of his lines. Another take has Jon joking that his lines don't make sense without it.
  • 10 Things I Hate About You:
    • The movie justifies this with Kat, who's established as a very intelligent girl; she gets into a good college and name drops classical authors such as Sylvia Plath, Charlotte Bronte and Simone de Beauvoir. Ironically when she attempts a poem in iambic pentameter for class, it's not that good.
    • Sometimes Kat's polar opposite sister Bianca slips into this too, despite otherwise speaking like a Valley Girl.
    "Can we for two seconds ignore the fact that you're severely unhinged and discuss my need for a night of teenage normalcy?"
    • There's a subversion with the guidance counselor Ms Perky, who's attempting to write an erotic novel. She keeps overusing words and has to ask a co-worker to look up more synonyms. Of course, Kat gives her one.
  • Uncut Gems: The film features a lot of profanity-laden conversations between hot-tempered ne'er-do-wells trying to make themselves heard in a chaotic and urban environment. It's often hard to tell exactly what is being said, as characters constantly shout over each other, repeat themselves and make all kinds of interruptions. The film's more conventional cinematic exchanges actually come off sounding very odd as a result.

  • The Dune books by Frank Herbert are populated with highly intelligent and intensely educated characters, products of various schools of human talent. Conversation between two or more such characters inevitably entails great attention to minutiae and nuance, sometimes resorting to exotic languages more suited to such subtleties. Monologuing isn't exactly infrequent. Special mention goes to Bijaz, a dwarf of uncanny charisma and sharp intellect, easily dismissed by most but secretly a Tleilaxu master, whose speech largely consists of word games with hidden meanings, crafted in real time. All in all, Tropes Are Not Bad.
  • P. G. Wodehouse and Raymond Chandler, which make for good reading, but can sound forced when acted out — hence the frequent parody of the Private Eye Monologue of Chandler. Despite appearing in a well-received television adaptation of Wodehouse's work, the actor Hugh Laurie has gone on record saying that Wodehouse is essentially unfilmable, for this very reason.
  • The Great Gatsby (novel) is a good example and works well.
  • The poem Scots Wha Hae by Robert Burns purports to be the words of Robert the Bruce to his troops before the battle that would win Scotland's independence. Great poem. No way any general could come up with it on the spur of the moment. It's different enough from any normal speech that the Terrans use it as a post-hypnotic Berserk Button for their first batch of troops in The Forever War.
  • The Brothers Karamazov. Dmitri can spout poetry and orate like the best of 'em when half-drunk, and seemingly only while half-drunk.
  • Eve in Paradise Lost, despite being repeatedly said to be a lot less smart than the other characters - well, of course! She's pretty! She's a woman! And the source of original sin! - still speaks in the same way as they do, ie, suspiciously like a seventeenth-century epic poem.
  • Fritz Leiber's The Big Time contains a sustained example (it begins "Woe to Spider! Woe to Cretan! Heavy is the news I bring you. Bear it bravely, like strong women."). The occasional swoops from one sort of vocabulary to another are found to be funny by some readers, but in full context, they fit the character and her background too exactly.
  • Atlas Shrugged. Big time. In fact, pretty much everything Ayn Rand ever wrote. As one critic put it "her characters don't speak, they orate".
  • The entire Sword of Truth series (but especially the later books) are chock full of multi-page philosophical monologues by the heroes and villains.
  • Various works of Greek and Latin literature, particularly the epics. Figures might declare a lengthy speech in the middle of a battle, or spend entire books telling their story and even reciting the speeches other characters had given.
    • ...and what's worse, saying all these things in a highly restrictive poetic meter!
    • Subverted in Virgil's Aeneid. The more upset Aeneas gets while telling his story, the less his speech follows proper Latin grammar rules. This both shows Virgil's extraordinary wordcraft and frustrates the living crap out of students who have translated it.
  • Assorted myths and legends from other nations, also. Whether it's one of Chrétien de Troyes's Arthurian romances, or The Shahnameh, or a tale from the Arabian Nights, nobody speaks in a naturalistic manner.
  • Shirley Jackson travels both these roads. See The Sundial:
    "The statistics scratch at your eyes," Essex said. "When I was twenty, and could not see time at all, the chances of my dying of heart disease were one in a hundred and twelve. When I was twenty-five and deluded for the first time by a misguided passion, the chances of my dying of cancer were one in seventy-eight. When I was thirty, and the days and hours began to close in, the chances of my dying in an accident were one in fifty-three. Now I am thirty-two years old, and the path getting narrower all the time, and the chances of my dying of anything at all are one in one."
  • Eduardo Mendoza's unnamed main character from multiple books is mentally challenged, and mentally ill. Yet he has a diction comparable to any poet, language professor, or professional writer.
  • Pick any two characters from the Ender's Game series. Any two at all, be they adults or children. They will instantly have a scathing battle of wits, no matter what. Partly justified in that most of the characters are either Battle School veterans, parents/relatives of said Battle School veterans, or government officials, but still rather jarring when two random people will start talking with each other and instantly engage in repartee.
  • The Honor Harrington series tends to get worse and worse with this as time goes on. It's not really noticeable in the military parts, but when those same people are supposed to be sitting around just having a relaxed chat, it can seem very stiff. Especially if they're using large words people generally don't use conversationally in real life. Other characters of David Weber's in other books tend to talk less like an essay, by contrast. Have an excerpt from War of Honor.
    "First," the Secretary of War said after everyone was seated, "let me apologize for the somewhat unusual circumstances of this conference. I assure you all that I'm not trying to be melodramatic, and that I don't think I'm allowing my megalomania or paranoia to get the better of me. On the other hand," his smile was thin, but it carried an edge of genuine humor, "I could be wrong about that."
    "Well, Tom," Tourville said with the answering lazy grin permitted to the Republican Navy's third-ranking flag officer, "I seem to remember an old saying. Something about sometimes even paranoiacs having real enemies. Of course, I can't speak to the megalomania question."
    "How unwontedly tactful of you," Theisman murmured, and all his junior admirals chuckled.
  • Par for the course in Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space novels, with a few exceptions (usually to show that a character is uncultured or shady). His expository dialogue, and any parts where he shows off his astronomy background, would sound very rehearsed in a real-life conversation.
  • Lampshaded in The Horse and His Boy when Aravis tells the story of how her horse Hwin revealed she could talk. Hwin remarks "I didn't say it half as well as that", before she's reminded that it is Calormene tradition to tell stories in a grand theatrical way.
  • Skulduggery Pleasant has elements of both. The sorcerers of Skulduggery's generation, who are in the vicinity of four hundred or so, are all very witty and articulate, fond of baffling verbiage and archaic English expressions. note  Younger sorcerers and mortals, including Valkyrie herself, tend to speak a bit more realistically, with stammers, verbal tics, pauses, and slang, although it is noted several times that Valkyrie's speech has begun to emulate Skulduggery's as the series progresses. Interestingly, Skulduggery's diction becomes much more casual when he's speaking to people he doesn't respect; compare his eloquent dialogue with China and Valkyrie to his blunt "So, you married or something?" to his enemy Baron Vengeous.
  • Invoked in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. Roger Ackroyd was last heard speaking in his study, in an extremely formal turn of phrase that was unlikely to be used in everyday speech. That's because it wasn't Ackroyd speaking to somebody, but a Dictaphone recording of him composing a letter. The murderer had rigged it up with an alarm clock to play at a specific time, when he would have an alibi; Ackroyd was actually already dead.
  • Worm: There is a moment in Scion's backstory, the only known time he ever spoke, when a Russian woman he had just rescued asked him his name, and he responded "Scion". There is much speculation in-universe over just what he meant by that. However, it turns out the woman misheard him, and what he'd actually said was "Zion", which has very different (if similarly cryptic) meanings.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The West Wing and other Aaron Sorkin shows are prime examples- just about every Aaron Sorkin character is capable of breaking out a grandiloquent monologue at a moment's notice, and they're all witty as hell in everyday conversation. Breaking this expectation is a frequently recurring bit of humor for Sorkin- hyper-eloquent characters who will occasionally end up saying things like, "Don't tempt the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing."
  • Nearly every character in Babylon 5 has a habit of executing long spontaneous monologues with no mistakes or inaccurate word choices even when speaking in a non-native language. J. Michael Straczynski defended his characters' eloquence by stating that trained eloquence and articulacy had become fashionably popular again in Earth culture at the time of the series. (It helps somewhat that many of the characters are diplomats by trade.)
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Jean-Luc Picard. It ain't called the Patrick Stewart Speech for nuthin'.
    • Conversely, William Shatner's famous... tendency to speak with... pauses in the original series is an attempt by the actor to give the impression that his character is making it up as he goes rather than reciting memorized lines (another possibility, articulated by Shatner later in life, is that they were the result of receiving the scripts late - sometimes as late as the day of shooting - and being forced to recite his lines without sufficient rehearsal).
  • Gilmore Girls: All characters have the ability to spout off impossibly long speeches at impossibly fast speeds without mumbling or messing up any words.
  • In Deadwood characters frequently lapse into soliloquies.
  • Averted unintentionally in Dad's Army. When performing scenes with long speeches, Arthur Lowe (Captain Mainwaring) would often stutter and fluff his lines, and The BBC's tight recording schedules often didn't allow for retakes. Instead, the writers simply made his verbal gaffes a part of his character. A further Running Gag, albeit a more planned one, involved Corporal Jones going off on some of these — however, being a bit of a senile old bore, he'd usually launch into long, rambling monologues where he couldn't quite remember the correct details and which, by the time he'd stumbled to a halt, would be revealed to have tangential connection to the subject at hand if that.
  • Grey's Anatomy just keeps using this more and more, to the point that there was at least 5 of them in the Season 3 finale.
  • Various characters in Scrubs, most notably Dr. Cox, often go off on long-winded monologues or "rants".
    • Neil Flynn as The Janitor improvises quite a bit of his dialogue and goes off on some pretty in-depth and quite wacky/surreal stories of questionable authenticity. Of course, there's plenty of outtakes where, in his attempts, he just completely derails.
  • The prosecutors, defense attorneys, litigants, and judges in every Law & Order series. But then, they are lawyers and judges...
  • The title character from Sherlock not only gives several elaborate monologues per episode but at a speed that most people could never reach in their lifetime. This is juxtaposed against John's dialogue, which is occasionally repetitive and occasionally includes pauses in the middle of sentences as he thinks.
  • Steve on Coupling would often break into one when the episodes' plot had him backed into a corner and in trouble with Susan.
  • Ron White joked about this in one of his shows.
    Ron: I was kicked off the debate team. The other guy had just finished a long speech and I stood up and said "Yeah! Well Fuck you!" He was speechless. I thought that was what we were going for.
  • In Diff'rent Strokes, Arnold's vocabulary ranges from the innocent eight-year-old he is to someone much more mature when the script calls for it. In some cases, he doesn't know something simple, like what a hot tub is. Another time, he's able to read the small print on a legal notice that informs tenants of their rights, which he is able to articulate to others.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Everyone is perfectly capable of speaking only in anecdotes and use Flowery Elizabethan English without getting lost in words, even peasants whose lack of education wouldn't really allow them to have such a developed vocabulary.
  • In M*A*S*H, the spontaneous quips by Hawkeye and BJ are so spot-on that they don't sound natural at all, especially in retorts to something Frank has said.
  • Game of Thrones: Everyone seems to have just the right witty comeback or appropriate analogy wound up in their pocket, just waiting to be unravelled at the push of a button.
  • Dawson's Creek is (in)famous for its depiction of teenagers who speak far too well for their age, or better yet, how teenagers think they speak rather than how they really do.
  • The Newsroom, being an Aaron Sorkin show, has the protagonist engage in a rant early on about why America is not the best country in the world, as is fashionable to believe, citing a number of statistics off the top of his head (to be fair, though, he's a news anchor, so he probably memorized those statistics at some point).
  • The Serpent Queen: Both subverted and played straight. Catherine and Diane use the heightened diction common in costume dramas, while the speech of most of the other characters is more natural, with King Henri in particular tending to awkwardly stumble over his words.

    Radio Shows 
  • An interesting example comes from the 1950s radio program Nightwatch. An early forerunner of COPS, it featured reporter Don Reid following members of the Culver City Police Department around with recording equipment. Despite the candid nature of the program, and the fact that many of the suspects featured were either drunk or on drugs, aside from a few cases of awkward pauses, repetition, and occasional drunken slurring, everybody on the show is surprisingly articulate. Nobody ever says "um" or "ah" and even the drunks are polite enough not to talk over other people. Though some of that may be put down to post-production editing, it's somewhat depressing to listen to this show today and realize how much the average person's linguistic abilities (not to mention manners) have degenerated since.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • Survival of the Fittest again, with several characters, although one of the most obvious is Bobby Jacks. This is inadvertently amusing if you consider that at least half of the time, he isn't saying these monologues to anybody but himself, effectively just vocalising his thoughts for no apparent reason.

  • William Shakespeare, being the most famous author of the English language, is perhaps the best known of anyone for characters giving long, eloquent speeches brimming with literary devices. Most characters in Shakespeare's plays speak entirely in verse, while commoners, stupid people, and the insane (or those posing as insane) speak in prose that is often littered with malapropisms.
    • In between these two extremes, however, one will occasionally find short sentences that reflect casual, everyday English (such as "What's the matter?" in Act II of Macbeth).

    Video Games 
  • There's a running joke in Metal Gear fandom that there's only one character voice - Hideo Kojima's.
    • Partially justified in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty where the most obviously poetic speakers are the President of the US, a previous President of the US, a boss regarded In-Universe as an overbearing Large Ham, and a machine that 'was born in the crucible of the White House'. Raiden loses his track in monologues at times ('you need c-courage, or - or ideals, or... something like that -') but it's otherwise still extremely blatant. Similarly justified in Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops for the main villain, whose gimmick is that he has the power to give speeches - but definitely not for Double Agent Elisa, who is a teenage girl (with Psychic Powers, admittedly) who talks in a similar manner.
    • Some particularly ridiculous uses of characters breaking out perfectly prepared monologues are when characters fluently quote statistics to each other, Infodump about their backstory for a quarter-hour after having been shot through the lung, or start talking in elaborate and nonsensical metaphors about lightning and rain or letting the captured foxes run free in the wild (set to imagery of birds, at that).
  • Ensemble Stars! events are told Visual Novel-style but with extremely minimal narration, meaning that long monologues are very common. However, Rei and Eichi in particular could be poster children for this trope, both having a tendency towards extremely long-winded lectures peppered with obscure literary and philosophical references and gorgeously poetic language as though they're professors musing on the meaning of life despite both just being high school seniors. Even Japanese fans joke that the game can teach you many things including 'rare kanji' and any scene with one of the former, let alone both, tends to be a nightmare for translators.

  • Some Homestuck characters speak far more complexly and smoothly than any human logically should be able to, especially Rose, Dave, and Dirk, the latter of which naturally combines the qualities of the first two. The Autoresponder is even worse, but at least he has the excuse of being a computer. Dave in particular has a talent for going on long tangents and similes that often only barely resemble what they were actually talking about. Basically, when fanfiction writers deliberately forbid themselves from writing certain characters because they know they have no chance in hell of getting their speech patterns down, it's probably this, and that definitely applies to Homestuck.
    • Justified. Most of the dialogue is done via chat programs. It is a lot easier to type this way than it is to speak it in realtime.
    • Also justified in that Dave and Dirk, two of the most eloquent characters, are freestyle rappers as a hobby, and Karkat is astonishingly verbally intelligent to the point where all of the other characters notice and comment on it. The characters who tend to be the most 'speechy' also have this as a character trait - Aranea can break out in eloquent description because exposition is an addiction to her, and Kankri has the speech quirk of talking like a preposterous Tumblr social justice post.

    Western Animation 
  • The Weekenders is a World of Snark, where everyone is capable of making a witty comeback or engaging in Snark-to-Snark Combat. It's lampshaded when Tino wins "Most Sarcastic" in the Year Book Awards. There's also an episode dealing with the gang making fun of their friend Tish - the brainy one, prone to Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness - and hinting that some of her speech patterns (she's a big Shakespeare fan for one) have rubbed off on her.
    Tino: You are teetering on the precipice with that 'pumpkin pie' thing, my friend!
    Carver: Precipice? Man, you are dishing the Tish.

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television: the "Soiled Dove Plea", given by Temple Lea Houston. A closing argument at an 1899 trial, it ensured a favourable verdict for his client. It was delivered without preparation, a few minutes after he'd been asked to represent the client (who was unquestionably guilty of the charge), and is considered by lawyers as the greatest closing ever made.
  • An NPR story about a researcher who analyzes pauses and hesitation in human speech featured a number of audio clips where all actual words were edited out, and only the pauses, "umm"s and other space-fillers were left. Arianna Huffington was noted by the researcher as being an exceptional case in that she appeared to never insert filler sounds into her speech aside from outright pauses, and the accompanying audio clip was composed purely of brief inhalations and background recording hiss audible during pauses.
  • Joan Crawford was known for often speaking as though she were reading lines from a script. She was quite the Large Ham in real life.
    "I need sex for a clear complexion, but I'd rather do it for love."
  • In certain U.S. subcultures (specifically the Entertainment Industry, the creative writing, and academic writing professions, and those subcultures which expected their children to end up as lawyers, senators, and "captains of industry") from the 1940s some time into the 1990s, most of the better public and private schools had mandatory classes in oratory, public speaking, and elocution & eloquence. People were trained to speak quotably whenever involved in a group activity, and tremendous prestige came from having one's words quoted by others. People took sparring with words very seriously, and someone who lost a public battle of wits could end up shamed enough to avoid public appearances for weeks or even end up driven away forever. Children in those subcultures were raised to believe that words should be the lethal weapon of choice. Small wonder that so many scriptwriters seemed to assume this is how everyone speaks!

Works with a realistic quantity of 'um's and 'ah's

    Anime and Manga 
  • The long-defunct anime fanzine Protoculture Addicts once made a big deal about the amount of "uh", "er", "ah", "eh", "heh", and general grunting sounds in the dialogue of characters on Robotech. There was even an article called "Top Uh", where Rick Hunter got the top prize for the most "uh"-type sounds uttered. This is all probably due to the translation from Japanese to English and the attempt to match lip movements with the English dialogue. Also, the Japanese language does have a number of monosyllabic expressions that do sound like what English speakers would consider "filler" sounds.
    • Insofar as Japanese-language anime and manga in general, the equivalent to "um" is "Eto 【えと】", with the second syllable being drawn out for longer emphasis ("Etoooooo...."). It also serves to help "soften up" statements, similar to the function of "So," or "Well.." at the beginning of a sentence.
  • The Portuguese dub of Dragon Ball has this a lot. Henrique Feist, the voice of Goku, said that they "were given the lines but, sometimes, the characters would go on moving their lips after [their] line ended", so they would keep talking general nonsense. Subverted in the sense that, while the dialogue is sometimes inappropriate for the situation, it was always fluent, and featured very little actual stuttering.
  • Transformers: Energon had this problem as a consequence of Lip Lock. Whenever the translated dialogue had too few syllables for the number of Mouth Flaps they'd pad it out with a lot of "um" and "yeah" and "dude".

    Comic Books 
  • The V for Vendetta graphic novel features very naturalistic dialogue, with occasional uh's and lots of pauses in the middle of sentences, especially that of Brian Etheridge. This contrasts V's eloquent, rhythmical, quotation-filled, literary prose.
    • Alan Moore's dialogue in general tends to be mostly naturalistic, but there will generally be one to three characters whose dialogue is not naturalistic, and this is almost always part of their characterisation. For example, in Watchmen the two characters with mostly unnaturalistic dialogue are Ozymandias and Rorschach, which makes sense given that both characters are deliberately cultivating identities, and Rorschach is even mentioned as having consciously chosen to alter his speaking patterns as part of his identity.
  • Knights of the Dinner Table, as a comic about table-top RPGs, tends to have overlapping dialog. Sometimes, two entirely separate discussions will be happening simultaneously.
  • Aaron Alexovich's works tend to present characters mumbling, ranting, stumbling over words, and interrupting each other's and their own sentences. Eloquence tends to be reserved for writing, rehearsed speech, and characters with well-structured thought processes that translate into well-structured sentences, such as Anya from Eldritch! and V from Serenity Rose.
  • Most comics by Roberta Gregory feature somewhat more realistic diction and speech patterns with an emphasis on "Ums" and "Uhs" and trailing off and people not always able to articulate what's on their mind.
  • Many comics (especially Y: The Last Man) seem to have characters pause and repeat a word when they want to affect realism. "That... That's not right."
  • The thing about Brian Michael Bendis's dialogue ... that thing is, he does a lot of ... a lot of realistic backpedalling and repetition. That's what the thing is. This is Adam Cadre's impression of what Thor, who traditionally speaks in Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe, would sound like under Bendis.

    Fan Works 
  • Half Past Adventure uses a variety of filler words in its dialog; perhaps not quite as much as in the real world, but more than is typical.
  • With Big Shells and Wings often averted the trope, especially in the later chapters, with characters often talking over each other, occasionally saying the wrong thing or going on irrelevant tangents; which while again isn't as frequent as the real world, still happens more than usual by fiction standards.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The dialogue in Judd Apatow's films, as well as the countless films his style has inspired, are almost entirely improvised, resulting in a lot of stuttering, swearing, and redundancy. These films have been praised for their realism, though others have noted just how awkward it is when the actors actually try to stay on script!
  • "Mockumentaries" are largely ad-libbed, which causes more realistic diction because the actors are really listening to each other and talking off the cuff. Examples include:
  • The Blair Witch Project is full of realistically inarticulate dialogue, which enhances the creepy verisimilitude or else just annoys the audience.
  • The Big Lebowski: the guys at the bowling alley speak realistically (uh... uh... uh...), yet many other characters speak like they're in a movie, highlighting the disconnect between the heroes and their surroundings.
    • This was an Enforced Trope for this movie: The Coen Brothers wrote in every single "Um" and "Er" in the script and were downright draconian in insisting that the characters said every single one.
  • Fargo: Oh yah, oh jeez, oh, um, um, yah.
  • The films of Robert Altman are famous for their use of overlapping dialogue. This was lampshaded by Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin before presenting Altman with his lifetime achievement Oscar.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), while most characters speak scripted-sounding lines, Slartibartfast speaks his with an overly realistic combination of corrections, um's, ah's and other "mistakes", having just woken up from millions of years of sleep.
  • Howard Hawks was a pioneering user of this technique.
  • One of the things that makes the original Alien movie so immersive is the way the characters talk (and at some points shout) over each other, especially during the dinner table scenes. This also serves to enhance the scariness when people start dying.
  • Iron Man features many characters talking over each other at times and repeating what they'd already said. This was in part due to the script being left largely unfinished during filming, as the filmmakers had focused more on planning the action and the storyline. Jeff Bridges at one point said he had problems getting his head around this style of film making until he told himself to think of it as "a $200 million student film." In fact, director Jon Favreau acknowledged that improvisation would make the film feel more natural. The action scenes were pretty much the only things that had been thoroughly planned out, and the broad strokes of the plot. Robert Downey Jr. improvised a great deal of his dialogue, including Tony's entire Jericho missile speech.
    • Particularly striking in the second movie, in Tony's conversations with Pepper Potts.
  • Marty had both Marty and Clara stumble over their words a fair bit, making the romance between the Hollywood Homely couple that much more believable.
  • Done for great character development in Collateral. Max isn't the supercool, suave character Jamie Foxx usually plays. He's soft-spoken, meek, and far from confident. The way he flubs sentences reinforces this; only natural when being coerced by a deadly assassin. Two memorable aversions come when he takes charge of a situation by imitating Vincent's ice-cold style, and when he makes a short speech about how Vincent has actually inspired him to change his life for the better (before crashing the taxi to ruin Vincent's plan).
  • In Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, there is at least one instance of a conversation taking a nonsensical turn due to simple miscommunication. Perry shouts, "I'm talking money," which Harry hears as "talking monkey." Rather than correct him, Perry goes on a pointless tangent about a talking monkey who "came from the future" and "only says 'ficus.'"
  • The Austin Powers movies make a point of carrying realistic dialogue to its conclusion on a semi-regular basis. The "evil laugh" scene from the first movie may be of note, with Dr. Evil and his minions all performing his trademark shuddering evil laugh, and then awkwardly repeating it because nobody seems sure when the right moment to stop is.
  • The Wind That Shakes the Barley. Apparently, Ken Loach doesn't let his actors rehearse much. It won a Palme d'Or, so there you go.
  • In Primer, characters speak in an aggressively natural style, mumbling and overlapping each other. Combined with the poor sound quality, many viewers complained that whole stretches of dialogue are completely inaudible. The style is slightly justified by the fact that many of the conversations Aaron has had were part of his attempts to follow a predetermined script for his conversations in the past in order to weed out errata in the timeline.
  • Some actors are known for injected realistic speech patterns into their work:
    • Michael Cera's signature comedic style is a very natural, somewhat mumbled delivery.
    • Jeff Goldblum is, um, sometimes parodied for his, uh...famously st-stuttering delivery, to the point that he turned Gibbering Genius into his Characteristic Trope. As he explains in this video (see 0:20), the proper verb for this Verbal Tic is fumfer rather than stutter.
    • Jackie Earle Haley's character, Guererro in Human Target, constantly says "dude". This became scripted after the writers noticed that this is how Jackie actually speaks, dude.
    • Christopher Walken's mannered start-and-stop dialect is also reflective of how he talks (and acts) in real life.
      "People always ask me if Christopher Walken is really like that in real life...and the answer is YES!" —The Rock on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" promoting The Rundown.
    • Most, if not all, of Calista Flockhart's characters have a nervous stammer.
    • Jennifer Aniston often delivers her lines naturally.
    • Many of Steve Carell's roles tend to have him repeat words, trail off sentences, insert awkward pauses, and in general seem to have difficulty getting words out of his mouth.
    • Shia Labeouf also tends to do this, in part because of his tendency to ad-lib dialogue. Especially notable during the Transformers films with the human characters often talking over one another, with Labeouf being the most notable.
  • The actors improvised almost the entire speaking script for District 9. Director Neill Blomkamp had a script that was more like a list of directions and times for the actors to hit their marks, along with when and where specific events would occur. They would usually run several takes while the actors improvised their parts, both speaking and acting, and when everyone was happy with the way the scene had fleshed-out they would film it that way.
  • In France, the films of Agnes Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri.
  • This page (among others) at tried to justify the horrible dialogue between Anakin and Padme in the Star Wars prequels as being realistic, considering that they were basically just sheltered, awkward teenagers.
  • Juno worked very hard at having natural dialogue that ultimately sounded like a cross between Totally Radical and a stroke victim. Honest to blog!
  • The Twilight movie tries this with Bella stuttering, breaking off words and, when she's really distressed, stopping in the middle of her sent—. This, of course, led to merciless mocking by RiffTrax. Some of her lines, particularly one tangent she has about making rainsticks with chinchilla droppings and paper towel tubes before realizing Edward's looking at her like she's grown a third eye, are actually almost endearing in their dorkiness.
    • The end of the CinemaSins video on the first Twilight film has a bonus round titled: "Breathing, Laughing, and Other Bella Noises"
      "I was worried the movie would water down the book, but all the "okay" "k" exchanges, thank god have been kept fully intact."
  • The surfer movie Blue Crush used a lot of overlapping dialogue.
  • Shirley Jackson travels both these roads. See Raising Demons on the quotes page. Also see above.
  • Woody Allen stutters and stammers his way through every role he's ever performed. When he doesn't play the lead, sometimes he'll get the lead to do an impression of him.
  • Clueless is filled to bursting with Valley Speak, you know? Like, hello?
    • However, the characters are absurdly witty despite their limited vocabularies, with rapid-fire quips and an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture; only the socially awkward need ever resort to Buffy Speak. It's kind of like the Algonquin Round Table, only with mallrats and surfers.
    • It's lampshaded by the new girl, who is impressed by how eloquently everyone speaks and handwaved that "this is a really good school"
  • Super 8 has very natural dialogue, with many instances of characters talking over each other, repeating things, stuttering and stumbling over words. Several scenes have two or three different conversations taking place at once.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man in general worked in a lot of natural dialogue, with only Curt Connors being the exception, while Peter and Gwen being the most notable examples, with Peter's mumbly disposition mostly helps to make him a cute dork. Those who criticize the film tend to cite this as one of the reasons.
  • Birdemic features the mother of one of the characters, who is a sweet, genuine elderly woman who speaks totally naturally. It's so natural that some have said she might not even be acting. Being as the rest of the actors are extremely wooden and monotonous, she's about the only convincing character in the movie.
  • Silver Linings Playbook has extremely realistic dialogues: the characters will talk over each other, shout to get heard or just interrupt the one speaking. One memorable scene after the Eagles game has the entire family trying to talk at the same time.
  • My Effortless Brilliance has multiple conversations which go absolutely nowhere, and include long awkward pauses.
  • Mike Judge very carefully wrote "uh"s, "uh"s and pauses into the script for Office Space. As a sign of a good writer, it's hardly noticeable.
  • Bubble: all of the dialogue is improvised, so characters speak in a natural, realistic style, with awkward pauses and the level of diction you'd expect from blue-collar workers who dropped out of high school.
  • My Dinner with Andre, being about nothing but two friends having a conversation over dinner, contains a realistic amount of pauses and "uh"s in the dialogue.
  • Pride & Prejudice (2005) attempts this. Joe Wright says that the book has a lot of eloquent monologues and he wanted to convey a realistic family of five sisters - and thus they talk over each other a lot. Darcy's Anguished Declaration of Love also has a bit of stuttering, and parts where he looks like he doesn't know what to say. Mr Bingley is likewise stammering a lot when he's around Jane.
  • The phone conversation in Dr. Strangelove is filled with pauses and stuttering on the President's part (we don't hear the other half of the conversation). This is because Peter Sellers ad-libbed the whole thing.
  • Cloud Atlas: Shown both ways in the film with "Ghastly Ordeal" and its in-universe film version. The actual scene has Cavendish splutter and trip over his own words because he's too enraged to speak straight and is resorting to making up legislation to justify his release from Aurora House. The film-within-the-film version has Tom Hanks as Cavendish flawlessly deliver these lines, even the one about the made-up-on-the-spot "Incarceration Act".
  • Magic Mike - Mike has a habit of stuttering and stumbling over some of his dialogue, especially when speaking quickly.
  • The Parent Trap (1998) - Annie the posh British twin is sometimes caught out by speaking too well when she's pretending to be a California girl (her dad asked if she went to finishing school when she describes someone as "a lovely girl"). After throwing a couple of "like"s and "oh my god"s, they're put at ease. The reverse happens for Hallie, who makes Annie's relatives suspicious by using too much California slang.
  • Freaky Friday (2003) - when Tess is in Anna's body, she makes a couple of characters suspicious by speaking like an intelligent adult psychologist and then quickly covers up by stammering a couple of 'likes'.
  • Safe Haven has a suprisingly realistic diction for a romantic film, with a lot of stammering, talking over each other, repetition of words, and natural delivery. It's an interesting contrast with the many, many, many other Nicholas Sparks adaptations, which are infamous for having modern and unrealistic Purple Prose. It also stands out as noticeably different from the book it's adapting, which is pretty much your standard Sparks novel.

  • Harry Potter:
    • Although he's been known to break out into speeches from time to time, in general the writing in the Harry Potter series is made to seem as natural as possible: individual speech patterns, occasional repetition and lots of uses of "Erm's, um's and Er" pepper the characters dialogue. This becomes a minor plot point in the fourth book when part of the sphinx's riddle involves "a sound often heard in the search for a hard to find word." Harry tries to think what this sound might be, using a lot of er's while doing so. Guess what the sound is?
    • Lampshaded in the fifth book when Mrs Figg is a witness on trial and tells the story of what happened when Dementors attacked Harry and Dudley. She finishes her story rather abruptly with "and that...that is what happened", and Harry's thoughts remark that it didn't sound too grand.
  • The Saga of Darren Shan:
    • Darren is frequently made fun of by Mr Crepsley for "running [his] words together", appropriately enough for a working-class British teenager.
    • Larten himself reveals that he used to speak the same way as Darren but expressed a desire to speak as grandly as his mentor Seba - so Seba plucked a nose hair every time he slipped up.
  • Terry Pratchett tends to have his characters... you know, wossname... forget words in the middle of a thing.
    • In Eric, there's even a character who... wossname.... exemplifies this as a character trait, Eric's parrot. Since it has a limited wossname... dictionary, being a parrot and all, it uses 'wossname' frequently.
    • Pratchett extends this trope to writing, giving idiosyncratic spelling (often humorous) to characters who are eccentric, short of formal education or both.
    • And there's Gaspode:
      "Clothing has never been what you might call a thingy of dog wossname." Gaspode scratched his ear. "Two metasyntactic variables there. Sorry."
  • Lord of the Flies. While understandable, seeing as how they're just kids, the novel is almost painful to read because of how crude and ineloquent every character is.
  • Mark Twain pioneered authentic regional and social dialects for all of his characters. However, the spelt-out slave patois (for example Jim in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) is irritating to some readers. note 
  • In the mystery novel The Ruby Raven by Michael Dahl, there are several moments when Finn hears someone say something nonsensical; he says "what?" and they repeat it, this time showing the word that was meant since Finn merely just misheard them.
  • Actually becomes a plot point in one of the Babylon 5 novels. Someone has been attempting to blackmail Susan Ivanova with videos supposedly showing her late father and brother participating in illegal activities. Garibaldi has a friend of his analyze them, and they determine that the videos are fake because of this.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Reno 911! is filmed largely like a Mockumentary, with improvised dialogue and only the basic plot elements of the show being scripted.
    • In an episode where the deputies work with FBI agents, they note that the agents "Speak in paragraph form", while they're more used to saying things like, "That guy was shot, like, ten times."
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm was filmed like a mockumentary for its pilot episode, but dropped the format for the rest of the series. It remains a largely ad-libbed show.
  • The Mighty Boosh, particularly the radio show. The improvised dialogue leads to noticeable slurring, stuttering, and talking over one another.
  • The Office, especially the British version, is often assumed to be largely ad-libbed, like many other mockumentary films and shows. In reality, the show is tightly scripted to sound natural.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, features a great deal of overlapping and shouted-over dialogue, some of it improvised.
  • Some of the dialogue on Waking The Dead 2010 is improvised and/or directed so that the actors talk over one another, giving the character interactions a realistic feel.
  • The DVD Commentary for Firefly mentions that they worked hard to get the dialogue to sound natural, even encouraging the actors to interrupt and talk over each other. The show includes a moment where one character mishears another due to pronunciation, and the conversation becomes derailed because of it.
  • The first incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who, whose speech pattern came from the fact that William Hartnell kept flubbing his lines. Since the brand-new video technology was positively archaic at the time (edits would be performed by literally taking a razor blade to the magnetic tape, which was difficult to do when the frames couldn't actually be seen with ease like on a film stripnote ), all video recordings were done "live" like a stage play and reshoots were very rare and costly, meaning the gaffes were just left in. This also led to other very visible flubs, like a moment in The Web Planet where an actor in a monster costume with limited visibility walks directly into a studio camera while it's recording.
  • Done well in Outnumbered, as the children mostly improvised their lines.
  • Chris Morris' comedy series rely heavily on realistic-sounding dialogue to contrast with the surreal concepts. Steve Coogan does it quite a bit too, especially with Alan Partridge, who was originally created as a bumbling sports commentator who ummmed and aahhhhed an awful lot.
  • Shawn Spencer in Psych has a tendency to lose his train of thought and get side-tracked, often in the process either going off on slightly rambling tangents or stumbling to a halt entirely. Often times, he and his friend Gus will be discussing the latest case, only to go from debating a theory of the crime to trying to remember who that guy in the movie where the semi-trailer crashed into the express train was.
  • The hilarious show Parenthood will avert this from time to time. The parents will talk, the kids will talk, everyone's talking over each other.
  • Averted in part in Frasier, as many scenes feature characters (usually Frasier and Niles) arguing and talking over each other. Played straight the rest of the time, although justified in that Frasier and Niles are the type of characters who would talk eloquently.
  • Lost has several characters who speak with a very natural sounding dialogue, like Sawyer. Ben's dialogue has been accused of being too formal and filled with correct diction until one watches an interview with Michael Emerson and realizes he really talks like that. Daniel Faraday's quiet, mumbling, stammering dialogue is both accurately and annoyingly realistic. Actor Jeremy Davies almost always performs like this, because he actually talks just like that!
  • Naturalistic, jumbled diction actually seems quite prevalent in Australian comedy - particularly in satires such as Frontline, The Hollowmen, and Clarke and Dawe's mock interview segments on the 7:30 Report.
  • The Thick of It emphasises that it isn't The West Wing with all the stumbling, repetition, hesitation, waffling, dragging out speech, people talking over and interrupting each other mentioned in the description. Some of the more driven and/or sociopathic characters such as Malcolm Tucker avert it to some degree, though.
  • Dr Cox from Scrubs occasionally uhms and looks around him when going on a rant, making it look like Cox actually improvises his speeches.
  • The Trip is entirely made up of two comedians having dinner conversations. They break down into critiques of each other's celebrity imitations, one another's physical failures, and just go off on tangents and try to make one another laugh through unexpected vocal covers of Popcorn.
  • One might wonder whether Alton Brown of Good Eats rehearses at all, but the reason for his stammering delivery is a little unusual. Brown has stated that using cue cards or a teleprompter isn't his style, and impractical given the nature of shots like the Fridge-cam. His solution is to script out and record his lines; while shooting the actual scene, he listens to this voice recording of himself via earpiece. Due to ad-libs or differences in timing, Brown often has to pause so he can re-sync with the recording. On his other shows, he typically either ad-libs completely or speaks more fluidly with memorized lines.
  • NCIS' McGee has a very realistic way of speaking, explaining himself in technical terms that he can follow, stuttering and tripping over his words when he's nervous, stating the obvious when he doesn't catch subtleties, and even freezing up at times when he's put on the spot. Ducky's way of speaking is also realistic for someone who rambles on with stories and information on a regular basis — listen to old men swapping stories sometime, they can go for hours without slowing or flubbing a single word. Ziva, on the other hand, is supposed to be an Israeli and to "prove" this she makes the occasional misguided word choice (particularly in idiomatic phrases or slang), which makes the fact that she usually has very fluid delivery seem out of place. It's been hinted at that she does it on purpose to get people to underestimate her.
  • JAG has a realistic quantity of 'um's and 'ah's, except for when closing arguments are delivered.
  • Any film or TV show by Shane Meadows, an extremely underrated British director, contains extremely realistic regional dialogue, ums, ahs, erms, and swearing. This is to the point of the first Shane Meadows production you see being quite unnerving, and pretty incomprehensible to most people. Still very good though.
  • This is a standard part of Bob Newhart's style, which is purposefully awkward and a little befuddled. Younger audiences might remember this in his appearance on The Simpsons giving an impromptu eulogy.
  • The teenagers in Friday Night Lights are realistically inarticulate, and stammer and mumble to one another. Even the adults speak with the not-quite-perfect diction of a small Texas town. This was achieved by allowing the actors only one take, which meant all their mistakes were left in. This allowed the show to have a far more realistic style.
  • As is the far from refined cast of Rescue Me. However, the stuttering has become somewhat Flanderized on Tommy's part. This is what Denis Leary's stand-up is actually like.
  • Like, My So-Called Life liked to use "like" a lot, to make it, like, sound more, like, real. It worked, like, really well.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003) plays both sides of the trope. Most characters' dialogue consists of the usual eloquent fiction-speak, but then there's Gaius Baltar, who is continuously off-balance and frequently stumbles for words when put on the spot by other characters. In the first half of the series, this is due to Baltar's terror that someone is about to expose his secret: he was the one who betrayed, albeit accidentally, the Twelve Colonies to the Cylon attack fleet, and to the fact that he's also often distracted by conversing with a Number Six Cylon whom nobody else can see or hear.
    • This is also an exception that proves the rule since Gaius' non-sequiturs and rambling speech patterns cause everyone else on the show to think he's crazy. (Admittedly, there are other reasons, but seeing him as an Absent-Minded Professor is part of it - even if his degree of absent-mindedness is actually realistic and it's everyone else who is weird.)
    • Yet another twist is the fact that Baltar is the most erudite, intellectual character on the show, and part of his Back Story is that he deliberately puts conscious effort into hiding a rustic accent. So the one guy on the show who actually should speak like a college professor is the only guy with rambling, disjointed, "realistic" speech.
  • Grey's Anatomy, oh my God. The whole repetition of dialogue, launching into random speeches, stuttering...
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with the Buffy Speak and a lot of Oh God, with the Verbing!. Giles was the exception, as the more cultured British guy. Wesley sometimes as well, until he got scared and started stammering all over.
  • How I Met Your Mother: Marshall claims it's really hard to come up with a good speech off the top of your head, so Ted starts giving him an example: he ends up stumbling over himself, correcting himself profusely and resorting to empty doublespeak.
  • Friends was excoriated by English teachers across the world for degrading the language with all its, like, disfluencies and, y'know, rising inflection? It's like, did they ever stop to think, y'know, "Maybe they're just talking like real people talk?"
    • One episode makes fun of Ross's tendency to do this when Rachel dates a guy identical to Ross, named Russ. Both of them occasionally stutter, repeat words, pause between words, and use "um" and "uh" a lot.
  • Arrested Development frequently has awkward dialogue with plenty of stammering. Especially George Michael whenever Maeby is nearby. Also, plot advancing points and important call-backs delivered in dialogue are often worked in so naturally that they're very easy to miss the first time, adding to the show's reputation for having oodles of Rewatch Bonuses.
    • For example, an early episode where Michael suddenly realises that Kitty is in the conjugal trailer based on no observation other than the fact that George Sr's rambling excuse included him mumbling the word "repulsive" - the same word GOB had used sotto voce to described Kitty earlier in the day. Both deliveries of this key word are so downplayed compared to the surrounding (and far less relevant) dialogue that it's easy to miss either or both the first time around.
    • One side-effect of GOB getting upset or excited is that he loses all ability to form a coherent sentence. "You still mad me, Michael?" and "Look at banner, Michael!" have taken on Memetic Mutation status as a result.
    • At least a few times, the actors' stumbling over a line is left in. For example, Lindsay at one point is speaking quite quickly and reverses the object and subject in a sentence for no apparent comedic effect, which seems to be a genuine slip of the tongue by Portia de Rossi that just got left in there.
  • Unsurprisingly for a Joss Whedon project, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is littered with Buffy Speak, especially from the younger characters such as Skye, Fitz-Simmons, Bobbi, and Hunter. Fitz in particular has a tendency to insert corrections, mutterings, and natural pauses into his dialogue, which is consistent with Iain De Caestecker's usual acting style.
    • This trope even gets Exploited in Season 2 when Fitz is suffering the effects of brain damage, one of which is a bad case of nominal aphasia, and he frequently trails off in mid-sent... or struggles to find the, um, you know, the thing! For the thing! Argh!
    • Simmons, especially in Season 1, had a tendency to occasionally let out a nervous giggle that either obscured or replaced the end of a line.

  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's Trapped in the Drive-Thru parodies the rambling style and interruptions of R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet. The narrator's wife mishears "delivered" as "liver" and they argue about it for several lines, a drive-thru employee zones out while the narrator asks for ketchup, and a mention of the name Paul sends the narrator off on a bizarre tangent about an unrelated guy named Paul that he used to know once.
    I hopped up and said, "I don't know. Do you want to get something delivered?"
    She's like, "Why would I want to eat liver? I don't even like liver."
    I'm like, "No, I said delivered."
    She's like, "I heard you say liver."
    I'm like, "I should know what I said."
    She's like, "Whatever. I just don't want any liver."

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Children in For Better or for Worse never say "and". They say "an'". Every bleeping time.
    • They also have a habit of dropping the "g" from "-ing" endings.

  • Played with in The Magnus Archives. Most dialogue exchanged between characters is portrayed very realistically - the only exception are the live statements taken by Jon, where the statement-givers always speak eloquently and tell structured, well-paced stories. This is Played for Laughs in a later episode; when Jon is away from the Institute, his assistants are forced to take live statements themselves, and all the statement-givers end up being godawful storytellers. It is later revealed that, as an avatar of the Beholding, Jon has a Compelling Voice that forces people to speak expressively and tell him all of their secrets.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • Although this trope tends to be played straight in Survival of the Fittest, several characters do have very realistic dialogue, such as Keiji Tanaka (Shout-Out laden though it is) or Bill Ritch, both of whom tend to repeat themselves, as well as hesitate a lot, with the latter having quite the stammer.
  • Many characters play this straight, but in the City of Lost Characters roleplay, it's occasionally averted when many players mimic their original character's verbal tics and stammers. Most notable with a troper who mimics both Rick and Morty's distinct speech styles.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Eddie Izzard uses a lot of placeholders and verbal stumbling in her stand-up delivery, though the routines themselves are pretty meticulously prepared. It works quite well.
  • Frankie Howerd's stand-up/variety routine was full of very spontaneous-sounding oohs, ers, digressions and asides to his pianist, all painstakingly scripted.
  • Billy Connolly once did a bit about a 'Difficult Listening' radio show that broadcast normal mumbled conversations that the audience couldn't hear properly.
  • Ross Noble spins out whole improvised routines based on his verbal slips or mishearing what the audience says.

  • The play The Pillowman gives characters realistic speech patterns to heighten emotion and dramatic effect. Particularly noticeable with the character Tupolski when he starts repeating himself, falling back on verbal tics, ("if I go with my eyes like, 'go ahead and say something'"... "did I go with my eyes like, 'go ahead and say something'") and saying rather odd things in an attempt to sound threatening. (This is even mocked by another character later.)
  • Noises Off manages to work distraction, shaken confidence, and a pathological stutter into the staccato rat-a-tat of a British farce. Garry, especially, who when not reciting lines never makes it to the end of a thought before forgetting what he was trying to say when he started it.
    Garry: Lloyd, let me just say, while we're stopped; I've worked with a lot of directors. Some were geniuses. Some were bastards. But I've never worked with anyone who was so absolutely... I don't know.
    Lloyd: Thank you, Garry; I'm touched. Now will you get off the fucking stage?
  • Harold Pinter's works ooze this. Especially The Caretaker.
  • Hamilton has kind of a variation: while nobody really talks realistically (the show has been compared to Shakespeare's plays for a reason) a character's style of singing and rapping says a lot about them, and the complexity of their lines is included in that. So John Laurens' introductory rap (which begins "I'm John Laurens in the place to be / Two pints of Sam Adams but I'm working on three!") was deliberately written to be rather amateurish and simplistic, to signify his youth and to contrast with Hamilton once he starts his very fast and complex rap soon after, as though to indicate he can't think as fast as Hamilton can. Similarly, when Lafayette starts rapping, he mixes in a bunch of French words and gets confused about the pronunciation of a word (of course, all rhyming anyway), so as to set him up as someone who doesn't speak English well - only for him to throw down the fastest rap in the entire musical later on in 'Guns and Ships'.

    Video Games 
  • Certain scenes in Xenogears were written to have more natural dialogue, particularly several scenes with Fei and Elly.
  • Mass Effect:
    • In the first game, while the dialogue is generally proper, there are instances of mumbling and using filler, mostly during little lines - the ones that happen without the camera giving you a closeup of the characters' face. Generally the subtitles are grammatically correct, the actual line reads less so. Garrus stammers when saying he's never seen the Council in person before. Ian Newstead, fighting Mind Control, slurs and babbles and drops words as he chants "My mind is my own." Liara gets flustered and incoherent.
    • In Mass Effect 3, Garrus says of Tali, "Tali's a welcome face around here... or... no. Well. A... a welcome face... behind the helmet. I guess." By the end they may hook up, and if discovered they both babble and stutter and in general deliver far less coherent versions of the lines in the subtitles.
  • Generally, everyone uses proper diction in Half-Life. The G-Man, however, is consistently stuttering, pausing, and taking in deep breaths, all of which could be considered too much even for real-life speech. It actually helps make him appear as... something trying to appear human, and failing.
  • Gladius lampshades how unrealistic many RPG sidequests and rewards are with heavy use of awkward silences, stuttering, and conversations that just trail off.
  • Portal 2 has this through Wheatley, who (despite being a robot) frequently delves into this and Buffy Speak. Also applies to the damaged cores, who, due to faults, have unique/strange personalities that understandably cause tics and poor diction.
    • The entire ending sequence is guilty of this, as it involves a collection of robots rambling incessantly while you fight: there's the Big Bad suffering a Villainous Breakdown; the "Fact Sphere" mumbling dubious facts; the "Space Sphere" jabbering obsessively about space; and "Rick the Adventure Sphere" rambling about his (presumably delusional) adventures.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's: In the first and second games, during his recordings for the player, Phone Guy stutters, hesitates, stumbles over some words, repeats himself, goes silent as if to think, trails off during sentences, offers random interjections of 'okay?', says 'um' and 'uh' quite a bit, and generally really does sound like some guy who's just recording a message for the player without a script and just going off the top of his head. In the third game, he speaks much more precisely in the recovered training tapes, likely because he's reading from a script - which also applies to the company intro and disclaimer in the first game, the only thing he gets through flawlessly.
  • Agent G. averts this in the grindhouse parody House of the Dead: OVERKILL, due to his "actor" being bad and forgetting the script:
    "Ladies and gentlemen, the infinite tact of Isaac Washington. You do... Truly you do, use your tongue better than a... a $30 hooker. Can I say from the bottom of my heart... You truly are a shining example to us all... uh, Humanity I mean..."
  • The English dub of Final Fantasy X gives Rikku a Verbal Tic of saying "you know" at the end of a lot of sentences (to cover up the Lip Lock of the Japanese mouth movements). She even says it when giving a dramatic revelation.
  • Final Fantasy XII: Vayne has multiple minor pauses in his first speech as Lord Consul of Rabanastre to make it sound more natural and spontaneous. Whether this was intentional by Vayne is cleverly left ambiguous.
  • In the Henry Stickmin Series, Charles often drops several realistic "uhh"s as he briefly loses his train of thought.
  • The Mother series is noted, especially in its original Japanese iteration, for being written the way people realistically speak — with pauses, stutters, and other conversational fumbles. For the first two games, Shigesato Itoi didn't know how to use a computer, so he dictated all of the game's dialogue out loud to a programmer. He would often go over sentences several times to ensure that they sounded "right", and sometimes redo whole segments of the script if he was unsatisfied with them. This was a key difficulty in localizing EarthBound (1994) and, to a similar extent, the Fan Translation of Mother 3.
  • Deathloop has most of its dialogue written to be more 'natural;' characters will stutter, mumble, pause to find a specific word, and go off on tangents constantly in personal recordings and conversations. The odd official announcement is a rare exception.

    Visual Novels 
  • Doki Doki Literature Club! has examples both ways. It mostly has no voice acting, and contains unrealistically good diction in the written dialogue, but when there's a brief voice acted bit by Monika before the end credits, she sounds, like, a lot more hesitant and stuff than in writing. (She also sounds unpolished like that in writing when she visits TV Tropes.) The side stories in DDLC Plus also contain such written hesitations — possibly because they're more straight-up storytelling and not a genre parody pastiche like the main game — although not to the point of being all the way realistic.

  • Although Homestuck also applies for the first kind, other characters fit here. Tavros has a tendency to speak very awkwardly with lots of 'uhh's 'err's, to highlight his nervous, dorky personality, while Roxy is perpetually drunk and has a tendency to make spelling errors she sometimes corrects. So what happens when the very awkward Tavros tries to troll the incredibly eloquent Dave? One of the most popular Funny Moments in the entire series:
    TG: no man
    TG: look
    TG: i just need to know when to be there
    TG: when the stars come into alignment and your flux capacitor lets you finally sate your meteoric greed for crotch-dachshund
    TG: i wouldnt want to miss it and cause a paradox or something
    TG: itd suck if the universe blew up on account of you missing your window of opportunity to help yourself to a pubescent boy's naked spam porpoise
    AT: uHHH,
    TG: jesus you are such a shitty troll
    • Meenah also tends to misspell things, such as typing 'yea' instead of 'yeah', though in this case, it's to indicate lack of care about such pretensions rather than accidents like it is for Roxy.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: "Beep" does it for one panel so that a robot can complain to the human about it. The human explains filler words are used because "when two humans are silent in each other's presence for more than 4 seconds, we start to worry we're either going to murder each other or maybe have sex."

    Web Original 
  • The Dream SMP has this for the most part, outside of the occasional dramatic speech; even the writing (including the text of the L'Manburg "Decree of Independance") has multiple grammatical mistakes. Although the roleplay plotlines are often planned and outlined, the dialogue is mostly unscripted and improvised, so the realistic diction is a natural result of this.
  • lonelygirl15 gets this right... some of the time. Oddly enough, the more hectic "action" videos tend to be better at not sounding scripted, with characters scrambling and yelling over one another.
  • Both The Most Popular Girls in School and Dr. Havoc's Diary, as there are a lot of Throw It In! moments on the spot.
  • Even in scripted episodes of his show, Jontron's speech features slight pauses. He often also says an odd throat-clearing bark sound, usually spelt as "ECH".
  • It Makes A Sound's Deirdre Gardener, fictional amateur radio host and superfan of a local musician, appears to minimally script her show. Her halting speech, dysfluencies, mumbled asides, and off-mic interruptions only serve to underscore a beginner's lack of planning, though she makes up for it in sheer melodramatic zeal for her subject.
  • Mappy has the characters realistically pause, ramble, and repeat themselves during dialogue.

    Western Animation 
  • As a natural consequence of its eccentric approach to dialouge, 12 oz. Mouse's dialouge does not generally concern itself with sounding professional, and thus stutters, pauses, and the like are commonplace.
    Rectangular Businessman: The magnitude of my wealth goes beyond any wall... of China.
  • The dialogue in Creature Comforts consists entirely of unscripted interviews.
  • The shows of Adam Reed (e.g. Frisky Dingo and Archer) tend to have characters speaking with natural-sounding (and often realistically awkward) dialogue, talking over one another, etc. A recurring gag on Archer is characters struggling to come up with a witty one-liner for a situation, then thinking of one later when everyone else has forgotten about it.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Bob Newhart (see above) has a gag in which he plays himself doing this in an episode.
    • "Summer of 42" has Lisa trying to fit in with some cool kids who get suspicious whenever she speaks too well.
  • Family Guy. A running-gag has the characters breaking into very realistic and overlapping dialogue in ridiculous situations, which is sometimes genuinely being improvised by the voice actors (such as the family's in-depth discussion of the cinematic merits of The Godfather as the house slowly floods). Some viewers find this to be an Overly Long Gag, but others love it and would turn violent if it went away.
  • It's one of the salient features of the titular characters in Rick and Morty, and to a lesser extent other characters. Verbal tics, stammers, irrelevant tangents, and corrections are all over the place (not to mention Rick's belching in the middle of every other word). Almost everything on the list at the top has happened at some point.
  • Dialogue in early Popeye cartoons was often ad-libbed by Jack Mercer (Popeye) and Mae Questel (Olive Oyl). Characters frequently speak a mile-a-minute, mutter random observations under their breath, and talk in confused gibberish when situations get hectic.
  • A lot of the dialogue in Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist and Home Movies is ad-libbed, giving many on-screen conversations a characteristic awkwardness.
  • This commonly happens in Bojack Horseman, being a Deconstructor Fleet.
  • A singalong segment of The Beatles with Paul hosting had Ringo lowering a "Singalong Time" sign, saying "I thought it might help to get the people singin'." Paul calls Ringo to task about dropping his "G", and when Ringo comments "Dropping a 'G' never hurt anybody," the second "G" on the sign drops off and hits him on the head.
  • Much like My So-Called Life (in the Live-Action TV tab above), Shaggy on Scooby-Doo interjects the word "like" in his dialogue which has fit him since the start as he was more or less a beatnik. Author Harlan Ellison lampshades it in an episode of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated.
  • Due to being an Animated Adaptation of a podcast, The Midnight Gospel features this trope heavily.
  • Smiling Friends has characters, particularly the two leads, regularly trip over their words and talk over each other. In contrast, those who don't talk like this tend to have very bizarre diction that makes them stick out much more.

  • David Mamet is known for his signature dialogue style, which manages to be very naturalistic and very stylized at the same time.
  • Chicago journalist Bob Greene once wrote a vicious column about Mayor Richard J. Daley which provoked a storm of controversy. It consisted of a verbatim, un-corrected transcript of one of the mayor's press conferences.
    • In fact, one of the first things you learn about conducting interviews is that transcribing the interviewee verbatim will make them look ignorant and stupid every time, mostly due to the prevalence of this trope elsewhere. However - doing so to just one particular interviewee will display very obvious bias while having verbatim transcripts as a standing policy will cause a sharp decline in the number of people willing to be quoted by you.
  • CNN did this with a blown up transcript of a Sarah Palin speech- not one of her actual deliberate "backwoods down-homey" efforts- but a perfectly normal speech. They dropped Gs and phonetically spelled "gonna" and "wanna" to make her look uneducated.

  • When Seanbaby's "Crapstravaganza" article appeared in Electronic Gaming Monthly, "The print staff...took most of the words that I wrote ending in "g" and replaced the "g" with an apostrophe, making a good portion of the article sound like I was yellin' it from the back of a pickup truck. "