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Repeated Rehearsal Failure

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A character has something very important to memorize and they don't want to forget it or mess it up. So they start repeating it to themselves so it will stick in their mind, but this inevitably ends in failure as the words get placed in the wrong sequence, substituted with phonetically or thematically similar words, or the syllables get scrambled into a spoonerism. Whatever the case, the end result is a nonsensical word salad. The problem happens faster if what they're trying to memorize is a Tongue Twister. Can sometimes turn into a one-person version of the broken telephone game.

Sub-Trope of Word-Salad Humor and Reminder Failure


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  • A '90s Sega Genesis commercial used this. The girl tells her dad she wants Sega Genesis OR Game Gear with a The Lion King game included for Christmas, and he keeps repeating it, but keeps screwing it up, especially as he sees things in the store...."Mega Pegasus for Reindeer"....By the end of the ad, he's forgotten it altogether. "Seggy?"

    Comic Strips 
  • In a MAD Magazine Lighter Side feature by Dave Berg, a woman oversleeps on a workday and decides on an excuse for her boss. "I'm sorry I'm late, Mr. Dilly, but my car had a flat tire and the train ran late." She repeats it over and over on the way to the office. But when she finally gets there she ends up saying:
    "I'm sorry I'm late, Mr. Car, but my Dilly ran late and the train had a flat tire."
  • Bloom County: Poor Opus doesn't get his rehearsed greeting quite right when meeting his fiance's mother for the first time.
  • Peanuts:
    • In one strip, Charlie Brown decides to give Violet a box of chocolates for Valentine's Day and rehearses saying "This is for you, Violet. Happy Valentine's Day." on his way to meet her. Upon arriving, he hands her the chocolate, says "This is for you, Violet", and wishes her a merry Christmas instead; the last panel shows Charlie Brown bashing his head against a tree.
    • One arc (which was adapted for the special It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown) has Sally constantly rehearse her line for the Christmas, being the single word "Hark!" On the night of the actual performance, with Charlie Brown and Linus in the audience, she suddenly exclaims "Hockey stick!", much to her dismay and humiliation.

    Film — Animated 
  • Sulley in Monsters, Inc. tries repeating to himself where he should deliver Mike's paperwork. He messes up, then subverts the trope by correcting his mistake.
    Mike: The pink copies go to accounting, the fuchsia ones go to purchasing, the goldenrod ones go to Roz. Leave the puce.
    [one Smash Cut later]
    Sulley: Pink copies go to accounting, fuchsia ones go to Roz. [Beat] No, the fuchsia ones go to purchasing, the goldenrod ones go to Roz. Man, I have no idea what puce is. [He looks at the colors] Oh, that's puce.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Exaggerated and Played for Laughs (along with everything else) in The Court Jester. When the group plans to pull the old Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo, first Griselda the witch warns Hubert Hawkins, "The pellet with the poison's in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true!" Hawkins tries to repeat the Tongue Twister and messes it up, "The pellet with the poison is in the vessel with the plasle...the plasle with the plessle, er..." When he finally gets it right, they break the chalice from the palace, and bring out the flagon with the dragon to replace it, naturally leading to a Here We Go Again! This time, Grizwold's flunkie overhears Grizelda's warning and relays it to Grizwold, which leads to both Hawkins and Grizwold mumbling and mangling the mnemonic as they try to remember which will be poisoned and which won't be.
  • Evil Dead: In Army of Darkness, the wizard who knows the all-important incantation, Klaatu Barada Nikto, tries to get Ash to drill on it and forces Ash to repeat it a few times. Because Ash is rather cocky and arrogant, (and hates looking bad at things) he refuses to keep repeating it after those first few times and insists that he knows the words. By the time Ash reaches the Necronomicon after a harrowing trip through a land that has been tainted by the book's presence, complete with an unnerving Body Horror experience, Ash almost forgets he even needs to say the incantation before moving the book, and when he tries to say the incantation he mispronounces the second word and completely blanks on the third.
  • The Man Who Knew Too Little: At the beginning, Jimmy keeps rehearsing a presentation he's going to give at a business dinner that evening. He keeps flubbing one line, saying "Our greatest strength is our diversity," when it's supposed to be "Our greatest strength is our diversification." When it comes time to give the presentation for real, he messes up again and says "diversity"—but a phone call from his brother interrupts, so no one notices the flub.
  • Early on in The Godfather, Luca Brasi repeatedly practices his speech to Don Corleone thanking him for inviting him to the wedding of his daughter. But when he delivers the speech, he instead thanks Corleone for inviting him to his daughter. The interesting thing about this is that it's a genuine mistake on the part of the actor; Lenny Montana was so nervous about working with Marlon Brando that he flubbed the line and the director added another scene where Brasi practiced his speech.

  • The children's book Don't Forget the Bacon! had a boy go shopping for his mother with the instructions, "Six farm eggs, a cake for tea, a pound of pears, and don't forget the bacon." On the way, the boy repeatedly reminds himself of these, but ends up misremembering and rhyming words (at one point thinking to himself, "Six fat legs, a cape for me, a flight of stairs, and don't forget the bacon."), and finds himself going to a junk shop and requesting, "Six clothes pegs, a rake for leaves, and a pile of chairs, please." On the way home, he conveniently encounters the items he's actually supposed to get and gets them... except the bacon.
  • In the Redwall book Mossflower, Cludd orders Thicktail to tell Queen Tsarmina that there's been a suspicious robin hanging around (possibly spying on them), but not to tell Ashleg or Fortunata so that they'll not steal the credit. Thicktail has a hard time remembering as he returns to the castle, and ends up muttering, "I must tell the Queen that a robin has seen Cludd hanging about. No, that's not right. I must tell the robin that Cludd has been hanging the Queen..." He never ends up passing on his message to the queen, since he was so distracted by trying to remember it that he didn't pay attention to his surroundings, and he ended up being the eagle Argulor's next meal.
  • In the picture book Pumpernickel Tickle and Mean Green Cheese by Nancy Patz, Benjamin's mother sends him to buy "A loaf of dark brown pumpernickel bread, and a half-pound piece of yellow cheese, and a great big, very green, nice dill pickle." By the time he gets to the shop, it's all tangled up in his head and he finds himself asking for "pumpernickel tickle and mean green cheese".
  • In the Warrior Cats book River of Fire, Alderheart tells the kittypet Fuzzball to pass on a message to a former ShadowClan warrior who's become a house cat: "Tell Buster that ShadowClan is whole again. Darktail is dead and the rogues are gone, and Rippletail's littermates, Cloverfoot and Berryheart, have come back." Fuzzball attempts to repeat it: "Tell Buster that ShadowClan is down a hole..." Alderheart has to practice it with him several times, and is only "reasonably" sure that Fuzzball will get it right. Buster/Rippletail never does return to ShadowClan...

    Live-Action TV 
  • In one Seinfeld episode, Kramer is supposed to pick up Jerry and Elaine from a party. Hours after the party has ended, he finally shows up and reveals that he remembered all of the numbers from the address but not the order they go in.
  • As part of a heist in the Firefly episode "Ariel", the group slips into a hospital with Mal, Zoe, and Jayne pretending to be paramedics. In order to make sure their cover is perfect, the three are shown practicing all the medical terminology they might be asked about over and over and over, but even after all the practice Mal still seems a little shaky on things and Jayne is... Jayne. Hilariously, during the heist they start to launch into all their lines and bits of terminology, but the nurse they're talking to cuts them off almost immediately and waves them through without a second thought. Jayne, who was practicing right up to the last minute, launches into his prepared lines anyway... and still gets them slightly wrong, earning him a dismissive look from the nurse and a bit of a glare from Mal.
  • In an episode of Dad's Army when Captain Mainwaring is put on trial after being accused of defying blackout restrictions, and Wilson decides it will help Mainwaring's case if all the members of the platoon give the same testimony. He tries to drill into them "On the evening of the 7th we paraded in the church hall as usual, at 9.45 we all left the hall together and Captain Mainwaring put out the light in the office", but Jones mangles it into "On the night of fourteen fifth, we paraded in the light and I put the Captain out together."
  • In Keeping Up Appearances, the timid Elizabeth simply cannot say "no" to Hyacinth's daily invitation for coffee. Sometimes she rehearses doing this, on one occasion saying she has an appointment with her solicitor. When Hyacinth does call her, she bursts out with "I am soliciting".
  • One episode of Steptoe and Son has Harold practicing for a play and there is a line about his character owning "a string of polo ponies", however in rehearsals, his father keeps running the phrase polo ponies together as poloponies [phonetic "pol-lop-pawnies"] and he and Harold get into a fight about the correct way to say it. Come the night of the play, Harold still manages to repeat that mistake on stage.
  • Played for Laughs in Raumschiff GameStar, specifically in the Real Trailer, Fake Movie for its fake "reboot", where the Alternate Universe version of Captain Langer repeatedly attempts to get Prime!Langer's catchphrase right, but always messes up in hilariously rhyming ways. The original Captain's catchphrase is "Wir werden alle sterben!" (German for "We are all going to die!"), while the AU!Captain's attempts included "Wir werden alle werben" ("We are all going to advertise"), "Wir werden alle erben" ("We are all going to inherit"), "Wir werden Haare färben" ("We are going to dye hair"), and "Wir werden alle Serben" ("We are all becoming Serbs").
  • In the Doctor Who story "Horror of Fang Rock", the Doctor sends his companion Leela down to the boiler room at the base of the lighthouse to pass a message to one of the lighthouse keepers about the importance of keeping the boiler pressure up. Leela hurries down the long stairway, muttering the message to herself to fix it in her memory. It comes out a bit mangled at the end, but fortunately the lighthouse keeper is able to figure out what the Doctor meant about the "boipressure".
  • Played for Laughs in El Chapulín Colorado: The eponymous superhero usually tries to say some proverb tied with the case he has to solve, but he changes the half of it with another proverb different to that. And then he mixed up everything to get a messy phrase. This is an example of many can be found on the series:
    Chapulin: As the old proverb says "a bird in the hand is a friend indeed"... no, I mean "a friend in need is worth two in the bush". No... eeehh, "A bird friend who has a hand... and indeed has two friends in a bush..." Well, you got the idea.

    Oral Tradition 
  • There is a famous Russian joke (or urban legend) about a beginner actor who was, in his first performance, to say the single sentence "Volobuyev, here's your sword!" ("Volobuyev, vot vash mech!"). Everyone was joking that he will say not "Volobuyev" but "Volokhuyev" (khuy being a very obscene word for "dick"). So he practiced all day, and when his time came, said... "Volobuyev, here's your dick!" ("Volobuyev, vot vash khuy!")
  • Used didactically in the Bantu folk tale "The Name of the Tree." In a sort of variant on the tortoise-and-hare plot, a series of fast animals are sent as couriers to retrieve a magic word. Each of them becomes distracted on the return journey, stops repeating the word, and forgets it. Finally the tortoise succeeds by repeating the word diligently the whole way back.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Bert Kreischer tells of a story where he went to Russia. Bert had taken a Russian course for four years, but because of a deal with the teacher, he didn't have to do anything to pass. When the class actually went to Russia for a field trip, Bert worked on a sentence in Russian to say hello to some Russian mafia gangsters. When a gangster actually showed up, Bert immediately forgot what he was going to say; the only thing he said in Russian was "I am the machine". However, it worked out well for him, because the gangster thought it was so funny that he invited Bert to drinks with the mafia.
  • Robin Williams relates an encounter with the police while stoned. He psyches himself up by repeatedly rehearsing the line "what seems to be the problem, Officer?" before the cop walks up to his window. When the cop actually gets there, Robin just unleashes a random string of gibberish. Lucky for Robin, it was just a marijuana-induced hallucination, and he was actually still lying on his couch.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner:
    • In "Fluffy Puff Commercial", Homestar tries to record a commercial for Fluffy Puff Marshmallows. He messes up either due to the bag being upside down, messing up the lines, or even losing enthusiasm every single take (except for one take where he gets it right, but the take is ruined by a bird crapping on his head). The last take has him declaring that he likes marshmallows.
    • "First Time Here?" is also similar in premise, but this time, for first-time viewers, and Strong Bad gets fed up, punches Homestar out of the picture, and just does the take himself.

    Web Original 
  • This Tumblr post tells an anecdote about someone going to pay a library fee, and when they get to the library, mix up "I have to pay a fine" and "I have to pay a fee" into "I have to pee".

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of Johnny Bravo, Johnny was reciting a list of groceries while walking to the store. "A quart of milk, a loaf of bread, a stick of butter." But Suzy's interruptions get him mixed up. "A quart of bread, a stick of milk, a loaf of butter."
  • The 1936 cartoon Betty Boop and Little Jimmy by Fleischer Studios has Betty using a reducing machine (an electric motor agitates a leather belt, purported to jiggle body fat away). The machine's control switch gets broken, leaving Betty with no way to turn the device off. She sends tot Little Jimmy to fetch an electrician. Being a young lad, Jimmy is easily distracted, and his mantra, "Gotta find an electrician, an electrician," devolves into seeking a musician, a politician, then a magician. Purely by accident, Little Jimmy returns alone, but stumbles over the electric cord, stopping the machine. Poor Betty is pencil-thin at this point. This cartoon is now in the Public Domain and appears in many expired copyright compilations.
  • Garfield and Friends has a short where Jon and his pets go to the mall to make a purchase. Because the parking is too complicated, an automated voice tells newly-arrived customers where they parked (it's a combination of color and space number). Unfortunately for Jon, when he gets on the elevator to go to the main floor, several other patrons are there, all of them complaining loudly about things such as prices or the bad color of the outfit they bought. By the time Jon gets off he has already forgotten, and the last gag of the short is Jon, very late into the night, still wandering the parking lot looking for his car.
  • In the Hilarious Outtakes for Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie, Larry tries (and fails) to remember the sequence he's supposed to complete alongside Mr. Lunt in the Seafood shop. It's supposed to be "Nothing." "Zilch." "Nada." For the outtakes, he gets "Uhh... nothing!" "Zilch!" And "Noodle!" by accident when the camera rolls.
  • Family Guy: In the episode "Dog Bites Bear", Lois sends Peter out for some groceries and directly parodying a sketch from Sesame Street, her grocery list in Peter's memory devolves into a rather funny way.
    Peter: [With his limbs flailing while walking down the road] A loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter.
    A loaf of milk, a container of bread, and a Joe Dirt DVD.
    A Joe Dirt DVD, Scarlett Johansson, and treasure from a fish tank.
  • Hey Arnold!:
    • In "Operation Ruthless", Arnold is trying to come up with a greeting for meeting his crush Ruth at a carnival. Gerald tells him to keep it simple and just say "Hi, Ruth!" Arnold then spends most of the episode repeating "Hi, Ruth." to himself over and over so he doesn't forget it. At one moment he forgets and Gerald has to repeat it to him.
    • In "Stuck in a Tree", Arnold, Harold, and Eugene are stranded on top of a tree in the park. When Chocolate Boy walks past, they wave him over and instruct him to "Go to the fire station, tell them [they're] stuck in a tree, and don't stop for chocolate!" When Chocolate Boy walks off, he repeats the instructions to himself but mixes them up: "Go to the fire station, tell them they're stuck at a tree, don't stop for chocolate. Go to the tree, tell them they're stuck at the fire station, don't stop except for chocolate..." Harold sighs in defeat: "He's not coming back is he?" By the end of the episode, he actually does come back with the fire department.
  • In the Sesame Street animated short "I Remember" a little girl is sent to the store by her mother to get "a loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter." The mother offers to write it down but the daughter says "I remember." She chants it to herself on the way to the store, but when she gets there she forgets the third item. She asks the audience if they can remember what her mommy told her to get. Then she has a Floating Advice Reminder of her mother saying "A loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter. "I remembered! I remembered!"
  • The Porky Pig cartoon "The Film Fan" has Porky (in his little kid phase) on his way to the store reciting "A loaf of bread, a quart of milk and come right back home." He then starts reciting it as "a loaf of milk" and "a quart of bread."


Video Example(s):


Don't stop for chocolate

When Arnold, Harold and Eugene get stuck up a tree, their only hope is the ever distracted Chocolate Boy to go get help.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / RepeatedRehearsalFailure

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