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Repeating So the Audience Can Hear

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Isaac: That Johnny guy saw me use my weather powers?!
Max: ...Yes, that's what I just said. I don't know why you're repeating it back to me as a full sentence.

The tendency of writers to have a character repeat dialogue spoken to them that the audience wasn't able to hear. This often happens with telephone conversations, or when the person speaking the unheard dialogue is The Unintelligible, speaks a different language, or is The Silent Bob.

Sometimes this trope is justified when a character is surprised by the information, or are unsure that they heard correctly (or at least want to verify that they have), or when they need to relay that information to a third party (often cops) without the listener being aware of it. Done poorly, however, it can very easily sound ridiculous when characters are repeating what is essentially blatant exposition.

See also Let Me Get This Straight.... Also, see Repeat to Confirm as one way this can be justified. If you can hear both sides, it's Parrot Exposition. A close relative of Voice for the Voiceless. Compare Sounding It Out for this trope applied to written documents. See also Translator Buddy.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Death Note, the instructions to use the eponymous Death Note is written in English (since Ryuk understands that English is an international language, thus the contents would be understood by a larger pool of potential users). Thus, when Light first picks up the Death Note, he translates the title so the Japanese audience can understand - "Death Note? [in English] As in a notebook of death [in Japanese]?". This is amusingly pointless in the English localization, as Light just rephrases it instead.
  • In the first episode of Himesama Goyoujin, Himeko does this, even though the person she's talking to is cut to for all the other lines.
    "Ehhhh? She ends up slipping on a can, having her panties seen, and now she's really pissed?"
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • A particularly funny example...
      Giovanni: Hello. ...What?! ...Pokémon Land has been totally destroyed?!
    • Also, when the Team Rocket trio's Meowth, who can speak "human" as well as fully understand everything fellow Mons say, feels compelled to respond to almost anything any other Pokémon says by saying "You're telling me..." and then evidently repeating exactly what the creature said.
    • There's one time when he admits he's somewhat embellishing what the other 'mon says as he translates to Jessie and James, because he doesn't quite understand the dialect.
    • There's another time when an exchange between Lombre and Wobbuffet winds up being a (suspiciously well-rehearsed!) standup comedy routine so bad that Meowth refuses to translate it all together.
    • Mewtwo does this fairly frequently when communicating with his clones or with large groups of Pokémon. Slightly forgivable due to him being fairly introspective and thoughtful.
  • Stitch! has this happen in Episode 14: Yuna is trying to get Tarou to eat healthily and asks him what he normally eats. He whispers the answer in her ear, causing her to exclaim that he can't possibly grow big and strong on such a diet.
    • Subverted in the dub. Although Tarou still whispers his favorite food, it is just about possible to hear him say that he likes to eat ketchup and candy. Yuna's response is still the same, however.

    Audio Plays 
  • Choose Me: Sometimes characters will do this in reaction to your lines, so it's possible to listen to the stories and get the gist without checking the script.

    Comic Books 
  • Supergirl:
    • "Death & the Family": While Lana Lang speaks on the phone with her boss Perry White, she confirms that, yes, she is aware that she has gone to the doctor three times this week, yes, she knows her attendance has been spotty, yes, she likes her job...
    • The Hunt for Reactron: Lois Lane tries to convince a soldier into letting her speak to her father.
      Lois Lane: "— No, Lane, Lois Lane— Yes, that's right, exactly like General Lane!..."
    • Supergirl (Wednesday Comics): As taking a call, Aquaman is kind enough to inform readers that he is being badgered about.
      Aquaman: "What else?...What?!?...Okay, how big an oil tanker is it?...That big?...Spain is a good distance from where I am, do you realize that...Is it leaking? No? That's more of a job for the coast guard, actually...Listen, I gotta...What? A tsunami?!?"

    Comic Strips 
  • The main joke in Daddy Daze. Baby Angus says "ba ba ba," and his dad Paul says something like, "no, I don't think they'd let you drive a car even if you wore stilts to reach the pedals."
  • Happens frequently in Garfield with Jon, as whether he is trying to get a date or is talking with his mother, he seems incapable of not doing this.
  • Peanuts had to make extended use of this as all adults had no dialog, including all teachers (Peppermint Patty: "You want me to do the second problem on the blackboard, ma'am?"). Snoopy also does it with Woodstock and the other birds. It's handled slightly better in the comic than in the cartoons, generally speaking.
  • Adults in Rose is Rose tend to do this with Mimi, even though her approximated speech is usually close enough for readers to tell what she's trying to say. This might be more of an attempt at realism, though, as parents often do this with children who are learning how to talk (see below). Lately, they've stopped doing this every time, though.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Averted in The Emperor's New Groove. When talking to the squirrel, Kronk only translates when Yzma tries to get in on the conversation.
    Squirrel: [chattering]
    Kronk: Yeah, tell me about it.
    Squirrel: [more chattering]
    Kronk: No, no, it's not you. She's not the easiest person to get close to. There's a wall there, trust me.
    Yzma: A talking llama, do tell!
    Squirrel: [whispers in Kronk's ear]
    Kronk: Uh, he doesn't want to talk to you right now.
    Yzma: Well then, you ask him.
  • In Mulan, Mushu the dragon can understand what other animals are saying, but since the audience can only hear his side of the dialogue, he will often repeat what the other animals are saying, usually with the addition of a "What do you mean... "
  • In The Spongebob Squarepants Movie, Mr. Krabs is whispering into SpongeBob's ear, who is in turn standing in front of a microphone. "I'm making a complete what of myself?... The most embarrassing thing you've ever seen?... And now it's worse because I'm repeating everything you say into the microphone?"
  • Parodied in Toy Story 2; the characters are watching an episode of Woody's Round-up, the TV show Woody is based on, when this exchange occurs:
    [A bunch of animals rush up to Woody.]
    Rabbit: [A single second of incoherent squeaking.]
    Woody: What's that? Jessie and Prospector are trapped in the old abandoned mine and Prospector just lit a stick of dynamite thinking it was a candle and now they're about to be blown to smithereens?!
    Rabbit: Uh-huh.
  • In Turning Red, Mei's phone call with Ming starts with Ming repeating Mei's suggestion of joining a Mathletes club.
  • Wreck-It Ralph has this when Fix-It Felix Jr. talks to Q-Bert in Q-Bertese about what happened to Ralph. For the benefit of the audience, the conversation ends with Felix's shocked shout of "Ralph's gone Turbo?!" Also justified in that there were other people accompanying Felix and they couldn't understand what Q-Bert was saying.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Arsenic and Old Lace averts this comically in the conversation between Mortimer and the telephone operator, but plays it straight in the police captain's conversation with his precinct. He repeats Dr. Einstein's "Wanted!" Poster description word for word as the camera focuses on the latter's increasingly panicked reaction.
  • Beyond Silence: Lara, a hearing child of deaf parents, is given to saying both what she's signing to her parents and what her parents are signing back to her. This stands out most prominently in a scene where her father is telling a traumatic story from his childhood, and she is reciting it back as he tells it. Presumably the idea was to minimize the amount of subtitles that the German theater audience had to read.
  • Occurs on and off during the conversation between President Muffley and Premier Kisov in Dr. Strangelove as Muffley tries to nudge the conversation back on topic after Kisov's drunken digressions:
    President Muffley: Oh, that's much better. Yes. Fine, I can hear you now, Dmitri. Clear and plain and coming through fine. I'm coming through fine too, eh? Good, then. Well then, as you say we're both coming through fine. Good. Well, it's good that you're fine, and — and I'm fine. I agree with you. It's great to be fine...
  • Played with in Galaxy Quest, where one crew member has to repeat all the Captain's orders into the computer, then repeat the computer's response back to the Captain.
    Webber: Y'know, that is really getting annoying!
    DeMarco: Look, I have ONE job on this lousy ship! It's STUPID, but I'm gonna do it! OK??
    Webber: [quietly] Sure, no problem.
  • The Green Hornet Serials usually averted this, but it was played straight on a few occasions. One notable example is early in The Green Hornet Strikes Again!, when Lenore Case repeats back a phone call because having The Mole pick up the extension to eavesdrop wouldn't be as visually interesting.
  • Most exchanges between Rocket and Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy involve Rocket reiterating what his partner said, because all the audience can hear is "I am Groot." This is toned down in the second movie where they mostly let you infer what Groot said via context, or else he's explicitly translating for somebody (usually Yondu) who doesn't understand Groot.
    Groot: I am Groot.
    Rocket: I know they're the only friends that we ever had, but there's an army of Ravagers around them.
  • Relied upon in the original stage and movie versions of Harvey where Elwood P. Dowd repeats everything his invisible rabbit friend Harvey says for the benefit of those who can neither see nor hear the bunny.
  • In the 1962 war movie, Hell Is for Heroes Bob Newhart plays an Army clerk, who is told to keep up a running chatter on a non-existent field telephone for the benefit of the Germans listening to a concealed microphone (that the Americans have found).
  • Early in Independence Day, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff does a variation while in a meeting with the President. After receiving a message by phone from an AWACS pilot investigating one of the newly-arrived UFOs, he turns on the speakerphone and orders the pilot to repeat everything he just said, so the President can get the message first-hand.
  • Used in Ocean's Eleven when Ocean is on the phone with his parole officer.
  • Used extensively in Star Wars in the conversations between C-3P0 and R2-D2, and to a lesser extent Han Solo and Chewbacca. Somewhat justified in C-3PO's case, as it is literally his primary function, and most of the time he's repeating things back as a way of saying "What did you say?"
    R2-D2: Beep beep boop.
    C-3P0: [incredulously] The city central computer told you?
  • That's My Boy:
    [Jamie whispers in Han Solo's ear]
    Han Solo: WHAT?!?!
    Donny: ...yep. She told him.

  • In the Discworld novels, there is often one character who can understand the Librarian (who speaks no human language) and who will repeat things so the reader (and other characters) understand, but sometimes he needs to resort to charades. Likewise with the Death of Rats (whose interpreter is usually the Raven).
  • Done in The Giggler Treatment with baby Kayla, who can only say "Aba", but her family loves her so much they always know what she means. Much of the time whoever's talking to her will repeat what she says so the reader understands.
  • In The Serial Murders, a notorious feature of the Show Within a Show The Northern Barstows is that whenever something happens that the writers couldn't afford, couldn't fit, or just couldn't be bothered to show on screen, they deliver the necessary exposition by writing a scene in which Ben Barstow receives a phone call telling him all about it — or rather, stands with a phone to his ear "repeating" the information for the benefit of the audience. "Morrie's Boom-Boom Room Hot Spot has burned down t' the ground? In a mysterious fire t' police say might well be arson? Eeh, I'm right astonished!"
  • Several of the Shadow pulps are set in various Chinatowns. When talking to his usual Chinese contact, the Shadow speaks Mandarin out of courtesy. That contact then translates for us as he replies in English (being polite right back at the Shadow).
  • The phone version is used in the Sherlock Holmes short story "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs". Holmes calls the client and Watson hears "the usual syncopated dialogue":
    Holmes: Yes, he has been here. I understand that you don't know him.... How long?... Only two days!... Yes, yes, of course, it is a most captivating prospect. Will you be at home this evening? I suppose your namesake will not be there?... Very good, we will come then, for I would rather have a chat without him.... Dr. Watson will come with me.... I understand from your note that you did not go out often.... Well, we shall be round about six. You need not mention it to the American lawyer.... Very good. Good-bye!

    Live-Action TV 
  • Parodied on 3rd Rock from the Sun when Dick decided to be Harry's father rather than his brother:
    Dick: [on the phone] Hello? Yes? The police? You've got Harry? He crashed the car? At Dead Man's Curve? I'll be right over! [puts the phone down] Tommy, something terrible has happened.
    Tommy: Harry crashed the car at Dead Man's Curve.
    Dick: Why is the father always the last to know?
  • Parodied in the "Stuart the Impostor" sketches on All That, in which the insane Stuart would accidentally reveal his status as an impostor & the location of the person he kidnapped through a "So what you're saying…" type of line, even though nobody had even remotely suggested anything of the sort.
  • The Benny Hill Show does this occasionally. "You don't have a bathroom with a gold-plated urinal? You do have a spare room where you keep your Sousaphone? I didn't know you played... you don't anymore. You're a little rus... it's a little rusty, I see."
  • The Big Bang Theory can sometimes be pretty guilty of this. Due to his Selective Mutism, when a woman is in the room Raj has to resort to whispering in Howard's ear to communicate. It's often justified, because, in addition to the audience, the other characters want to hear, too, though there are some cases where the comment was meant almost exclusively for Howard and there's no reason to repeat what he said. Howard being Howard, it's not always the case that he's accurately repeating what Raj says. Raj sometimes gets visibly annoyed at what Howard chooses to repeat or how he phrases it.
  • One-sided telephone conversations were a staple of Bob Newhart's standup act, long before he had even one television show. The Bob Newhart Show contains one in practically every episode, and it was a Running Gag in Newhart as well. Newhart himself tried to avoid this as much as possible in his stand-up act because he believed much of the fun for the audience was imagining what the guy on the other end of the line was saying. For example, his Walter Raleigh routine:
    Are you saying "snuff," Walt? What's snuff? You take a pinch of tobacco (starts giggling) and you shove it up your nose! And it makes you sneeze, huh. I imagine it would, Walt, yeah. Goldenrod seems to do it pretty well over here. It has some other uses, though. You can chew it? Or put it in a pipe. Or you can shred it up and put it on a piece of paper, and roll it up - don't tell me, Walt, don't tell me - you stick in your ear, right Walt? Oh, between your lips! Then what do you do to it? (Giggling) You set fire to it! Then what do you do, Walt? You inhale the smoke! Walt, we've been a little worried about're gonna have a tough time getting people to stick burning leaves in their mouth...."
  • Castle: Played straight and lampshaded. In "Deep in Death", Castle is wearing a wire for an operation, with the others listening in outside. When the show comes back from commercial, Castle recaps a conversation that happened offscreen.
    Ryan: ...does he realize he's summarizing a conversation we just heard in its entirety?
    Esposito: I dunno.
  • A variant appears on The Colbert Report when Colbert talks to the crew: "Am I right? They're telling me I'm right." Or, in one instance: "They're telling me I'm wrong? ...I'm very wrong? ...And I'm a bad person?"
  • An episode of The Cosby Show tried to alleviate this by having Cliff, on the phone with Rudy's teacher, say "Okay, let me repeat what you said just to make sure I heard you correctly…".
  • Lampshaded in a brief gag on Countdown With Keith Olbermann.
    "Yes, I know I'm repeating everything you say. Yes, I know it's annoying."
  • The Daily Show:
    • Jon Stewart uses a variant of this trope with an earpiece/microphone to talk with non-existent producers.
      "You're saying I'm not actually talking to anybody right now?"
    • Congressman Bill Thomas participated in a faux phone call skit during a televised press conference explaining a Social Security plan. It was promptly mocked mercilessly where the MST3K-style "other side of the conversation" was dubbed in.
  • A particularly ludicrous example occurred in the Doctor Who first season story "The Keys of Marinus." A police guard, Ayden, receives a telephone call on speakerphone. When he answers, the first thing he says is "Don't say any more, there are people here. I'll take it on the personal." He then lifts up the receiver and tells the party on the other end "Alright, go ahead." He then proceeds to repeat, aloud, everything the other person says. The scene even ends with him telling the other party "Well listen closely and I'll tell you what you may have to do", implying he is about to reveal the plot that he was concerned the "people here" would have heard the other party saying in the first place.
  • The Korean TV series Emperor Wang Guhn (at least in the subtitled version) which was about 10th-century Korean political intrigue, frequently began a scene with one person - usually in higher authority - asking another, "What? The prisoner has escaped, you say?", "What? Kyun-hwan's armies are approaching, you say?", etc.
  • Done in a revealingly inconsistent way in the Enemy at the Door episode "V for Victory". In one scene, Kluge takes a telephone report from an underling with a minimum of repetition, then immediately discusses the report with a colleague, letting the audience in on the details that way. In a later scene in the same episode, Kluge receives another telephone report with no colleagues handy, and this time the trope is played straight.
  • Parodied in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, when Reggie plays this trope straight for several lines, before saying "Yes, I am repeating everything you say, Mrs. C.J."
  • Lampshaded in The Goodies:
    Graeme: One day only...starts tomorrow...will I stop repeating everything you say?
  • In the Heroes season 4 episode "The Art of Deception," Claire hurriedly communicates time-sensitive information to an empath by touch. The empath says out loud everything that Claire communicated silently, and thus takes just as long as it would have taken for Claire to say it in the first place.
  • Col. Klink on Hogan's Heroes.
    Klink: [talking to Gen. Burkhalter] Can I do it? Of course, sir. After all, I am a Colonel. What's that? [beat; then less confident] We might win the war, anyway. Sir, I find that highly hilarious. Heil Hitler.
  • Hyacinth on the British comedy Keeping Up Appearances does this at least Once per Episode. Part of the reason is that her son Sheridan is The Unseen, and thus her repetitions are all we ever hear from him. It's also intentional in-universe, provided it's a phone call from her sister Violet (she's the one with the Olympic sized swimming pool and room for a pony) and she's got guests around.
  • Although this trope does not appear as such in Lassie (closest to it is something along the lines of "I think she's trying to tell us something" followed by Lassie leading the characters to where the trouble is), many television parodies and Stand-Up Comedy acts about Lassie do invoke this trope.
    Arf Arf Woof Bark!
    What's that, Lassie? Timmy fell down the old well?
  • Used in Leverage when Hardison needs to relay information to the others covertly by employing this. The first time he does it the people with him let it pass, the second they start to look at him strangely.
  • McLean Stevenson on M*A*S*H was very good at pulling this off, and practically every time his Henry Blake is on the phone, it happens. Lessened over the course of the series.
  • Mimpi Metropolitan: In the penultimate episode, the shocking news of Bambang's father being admitted to the hospital after an accident from Bambang's aunt is revealed to the audience by having Bambang repeat the news.
  • Mister Rogers' Neighborhood used this often to make sure the kids understood what was going on. He'd even double up on the effect - first repeating back into the phone whatever the (unheard by the audience) person had said, per this trope, and then pausing the phone conversation to explain to the viewers. E.g. (to the phone) "Hi, Dad" (to the viewers) "It's my father."
  • Mocked on Mystery Science Theater 3000: whenever someone does this, Joel/Mike and the bots insert the other side of the conversation as something different from what's being repeated, usually with the caller becoming increasingly confused by the listener's responses. Outright lampshaded at one point when a character played by Alan "Skipper" Hale starts doing it:
    Sheriff: "Disturbing the peace? Yes, ma'am; that's an arrestable offense."
    Mike: "...Repeat what you say to provide exposition?"
  • In a straight example of actuality, during NBC's coverage of the assassination of President Kennedy, Frank McGee repeated—in fragments—Robert MacNeil's over-the-phone official announcement that Kennedy had died. MacNeil's call was first not heard as he began, but the audio patch was put in so we heard him, followed by McGee repeating it.
  • Justified in an episode of The Office (US). Jim had sent Dwight's resume to an employer and used his phone number as a reference number, imitating Michael. Pam took the call meant for "Michael". She had to quickly say "I will transfer you to our manager, Michael Scott" in order to get Jim's attention while she transferred the call to him.
    • In a non-telephone example, this is often seen in many of The Office (US)'s confessionals with the characters. It's common for them to repeat what the in-universe's showrunners asked them before answering or reacting. Such as Jim's "Do I think I'll be invited to the wedding?" or Dwight's "Am I upset that I wasn't invited to Michael's dinner party?"
  • The 1990's series Reasonable Doubts involves a cop assigned to work with a deaf female prosecutor. He knows sign language, but always repeats back what she's saying to confirm that he understood. This has the benefit of translating for the audience who don't know sign language.
  • Avoided in Stargate SG-1. For example, in Windows of Opportunity, Dr. Jackson picks up the phone: "Hello?" (pause) "Okay - we're on our way." (hangs up; to others in room) "Sam has something." This also avoids TV Telephone Etiquette - and it's perfectly informative without being redundant or unnatural.
  • Used repeatedly in the last episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, between the English-speaking Female Changeling and the Starfish Language-speaking Breen.
  • St. Elsewhere: "Now, Mrs. Stevens, I'm sure your daughter-in-law isn't really a witch... uh, you say you saw the sofa levitating?"
  • The puppet co-host of of The Sunny Side Up Show, Chica the chicken, is The Unintelligible with her kazoo-created voice, so she's never seen without someone who can serve as her "translator" to the kids at home via this trope. (In-universe everyone understands her.)
  • Played for Comedy, naturally, in A Touch of Cloth, where DC Harihan repeats several lines of a phone call for the benefit of the audience complete with Lampshading - "They were gonna have a scene explaining this, but it got cut," - and pointedly looking straight at the audience when asking "Have you got that?" at the end of the call.
  • Wednesday: Happens every time Thing communicates with another character. While it's purely for the audience's benefit when communicating with Wednesday or another of the Adams Family, it's justified for Wednesday's friends. Since they haven't known Thing very long, they can't easily tell what Thing is saying and thus repeat everything to make sure they've got it correct.
  • Given the setting, it's no surprise that messages in Morse code pop up fairly often on The Wild Wild West. Since there are few, if any, people in the show's audience who can follow such messages, one of the characters will usually give a running translation into spoken English for no apparent reason.
  • Lampshaded in Wizards of Waverly Place:
    Justin: Hey Alex. What! You're locked in a museum. The paintings? A security guard! I should stop repeating what you're saying!? Oh. Right.

  • In the second series of The John Dredge Nothing To Do With Anything Show during the phone calls with the Head of Podcasts. It even gets lampshaded right away during the first phone call:
    John: And you don't like me repeating everything you've just said, either, sir. Okay, sir. And you don't like that fact that I did it again there, sir.

  • Parodied on BBC radio comedy The Burkiss Way:
    "Well, Waterton, I'm rather tied up with work at the moment."
    "Oh! I'm sorry to hear you're rather tied up with work at the moment!"
    "And I've got an important client in here with me."
    "Oh, I see! You've got an important client in there with you!"
    "I think under the circumstances you'd better go ahead and humour her."
    "Oh! You think that under the circumstances I'd better go ahead and humour her, do you?"
    "Waterton, the listeners can hear my voice at the other end of the phone, you know."
    "Oh I see, the listeners can hear your voice at the other end of the phone, can they?"
    "Yes, so stop repeating everything!"
"Right, I'll stop repeating everything."
  • The '40s comedy Duffy's Tavern always opened with a telephone conversation between Archie the Bartender and the never-heard Duffy. The trope was duly employed.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • This is one of Stewart Lee's favourite gags. During the show he goes into a set up about a cold caller asking inane religious questions, with Lee giving snarky answers to the annoyance of the guy down the phone. However as the call goes on he starts breaking the fourth wall repeating "yeah, this bit probably has gone on a bit too long now" and "yeah I know you're a figment of my imagination". It's funnier than it sounds.
  • Brilliantly averted by the Spanish comedian Gila. Half of his routines consisted of one-sided phone conversations (of him and a general of the enemy's army, or the USA president, or ...) and he never repeated what the "counterpart" said - instead, simply talked and answered (purported) questions in such a way that the audience would perfectly understand the conversation and the embedded jokes in it. See Gila in action here (in Spanish).
  • Norwegian comedian Rolv Wesenlund had an act where he pretended to call his babysitter at home to check that everything's okay with his young son. The young son is the one who answers the phone, and through Wesenlund's half of the dialogue the audience learns that the babysitter probably isn't very reliable and that his son is weirdly obsessed with saying "hello, hello" at random times when talking on the phone:
    "Could I have a word with your auntie babysitter? — Two more babysitters have arrived? Speak up, I can't hear you in that noise... Ten more babysitters?! Whu-Were they all aunties? ...Five uncles. Five uncles ...oy. Um, listen, Mum and Dad might be home a little earlier than they thought, because — yes, I'm fine; hello, hello. Hello, hello. Yes, Mum's doing fine too. Hello, hello. Listen, can you fetch that babies— yes, but — Okay, but if she's asleep in your bed, you can wake her up, can't you? What just fell down and broke there! I asked you what fell down and broke, answer me when I ask you! ...Yes?! AND WHO GAVE YOU THAT BOOZE? Get that babysitter on the phone right now, I want a word with her... Yes, I'm fine, hello hello!!"

  • The Real Inspector Hound uses this trope every time Mrs. Drudge answers the phone, along with her overly convenient and detailed exposition as to what time it is, where they are, and who is in the house.

    Video Games 
  • Early in Aggelos, the Heroic Mime rescues the Princess near his home. Rather than escort her to the castle himself, he tells the princess to crash at his house while he goes to fetch a proper escort, and she helpfully relays his silent words to the player.
  • During typical story scenes in Ensemble Stars!, the Player Character is never seen speaking. (Though players can choose dialogue options during Produce Events.) However, the characters react as if she does speak, often by repeating her words back to her. Early on these were typically short statements, but as the plot increased in complexity and the player character gained more of a substantial personality, some of the conversations start to come across like they must be rather repetitive.
  • In the Fallout: New Vegas DLC "Old World Blues", the other members of the Think Tank (disembodied brains in robot bodies) do this for Dr. 8, whose voice modulator has been damaged such that he can only speak in unintelligible computer code. If the Player Character is appropriately skilled enough to understand him when speaking one-on-one, the options on the Dialogue Tree are like this as well.
  • At one point in Gothic, you come upon a demon who talks to the protagonist via telepathy. The player doesn't get to hear what the demon is saying, only the protagonist's responses can be heard - and they use this trope.
  • Ib: The eponymous character, being a Heroic Mime, has her thoughts expressed by either Garry doing this, or via dialogue options.
  • In Mega Man Zero 4, dialogue with NPCs tends to proceed like this. Without it, however, it is all too easy to assume that Zero never actually speaks during those conversations, especially since he does speak to bosses and during cutscenes.
  • Each Metal Gear game starting with Metal Gear Solid, by tradition, ends with a phone call. While we could hear both Snake and Otacon in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (not that it made anything less confusing), the other two games involve Double Agent Revolver Ocelot talking to the person he was really working for, in a way which involves a great deal of this. Part of this could be down to the speech habits of every other character in the games, however. This can be pretty hilarious, too; Ocelot tends to admit to war crimes and national secrets out loud. You'd think the Patriots could come up with, like, a code. Interestingly, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots avoided this, with Snake and Otacon talking together in person, and it's not confusing at all.
  • In a variation of this trope, a strategy for players of PAYDAY 2 in Rats Day 1 is to repeat what Bain says to confirm the orders needed to be carried out. Sometimes Bain will give conflicting information to players, which will royally screw up the mission if followed.
  • In the Paper Mario games, as well as other Mario RPGs, this is usually how we hear what little Mario has to say.
  • Happens a lot in Pokémon and their Mystery Dungeon counterparts. More so in the latter though. It often has to be done for the player character's speech in most games, what with them being a Heroic Mime and all.
  • Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People:
    • In the second episode there are two layers of this - Strong Mad says something, then The Cheat (who is actually tasked as an interpreter) repeats it in his strange language, then Strong Bad (who can apparently understand The Cheat but not Strong Mad) repeats it in plain English for the benefit of the player.
    • The post-game sequence features the following discussion:
      STRONG BAD: What happened to Bubs the barkeep?
      Pom Pom: [bubbles]
      Strong Bad: DJ Teh Cheat put on a Two-o Duo record? And then Bubs got angry and stormed out of the cloughb?
      POM POM: [bubbles]
      STRONG BAD: Sorry. I'll stop repeating everything you say.
    • If you talk to The Cheat in the pandimensional photo booth, he "speaks" for a very, very long time. Strong Bad then says he couldn't handle it and asks The Paper to take note. The Paper comes down with a readable tutorial to the photo booth printed on it, which is apparently what The Cheat said.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner: this usually happens when anyone talks to The Cheat or Pom Pom.
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • Invoked when Church is caught at gunpoint, so he uses his radio to call Caboose. He repeats what everyone says in a way that SHOULD give him away and Caboose STILL doesn't realize he's what he's talking about. This quote is about half of their conversation.
      Caboose: Yes! Hello, evil Church. What can I do for ya?
      Church: So Wyoming, you just showed up here and decided to attack us.
      Caboose: Uh, my name is Caboooose...
      Church: And now you've caught us at gunpoint, and it looks like we're in big trouble.
      Caboose: Uh, that doesn't sound like something I would do. I think you have the wrong number.
      Church: Here at Red Base. Wyoming. You found us and are holding us prisoner. At the Red base. Wyoming.
      Caboose: Ah, Red Base no, uh, I'm in the ship. The shiiiip. Sheila, I think O'Malley has driven him crazy, uhm, he's talking nonsense.
    • Season 14, "Fifty Shades of Red": The interview montage shows each answer given by the candidates in order — first candidate 1, then candidate 2, then candidate 3, then back to candidate 1 for the next question, etc. The interviewer's questions are left out, but candidate 1 repeats each one in some way, providing context for both his answer and the others'.
      Candidate 1: I would say my greatest strength is my love for following rules.
      Candidate 1: Where do I see myself in five years? Hopefully with your job! [laughs]
      Candidate 1: Gosh, why did I join the military? You know, I just wanted to make a difference. Fight for my fellow man.
      Candidate 1: My deepest regret? Oh, golly. I mean, probably not telling my mom "I love you" more before shipping off.


    Web Videos 
  • Atop the Fourth Wall: Linkara lampshades Commissioner Gordon's use of this trope in his review of Detective Comics No. 27.
    Linkara (as Gordon): Repeat what you say so we don't have to show the other side of the conversation?
  • Used by The Nostalgia Critic, when he makes fun of how The Legend of the Titanic has dolphins rescue the talking animals on board.
    Critic: [conversing with a dolphin "off-camera"] What's that? The Titanic is sinking?
    [The Dolphin chatters offscreen]
    Critic: Well, you'd better go help them, right?
    [The Dolphin chatters offscreen]
    Critic: [to camera] It's alright! Everything's fine, now that Flipper's on the case!
  • Streamers who archive their recorded streams afterward and don't want to clutter the screen by overlaying their chat (or have too fast of a chat for that to be useful, or don't want to encourage them to act up for attention, or all three) might get into the habit of reading chat messages out loud before responding to them, along with who said it if that's relevant, for the benefit of people watching the archived copy. Vinny does this all the time, for example, usually prefaced by "Someone in chat just said..." or something similar.

    Western Animation 
  • The Godpigeon speaks in some sort of gibberish that only Bobby and Pesto can translate in the Goodfeathers shorts.
  • In Courage the Cowardly Dog, Di Lung reiterates everything the Evil Empress (who only speaks in Chinese) says in English, even when they are alone.
  • FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman: Ruff engages in this with his speechless sidekicks. Particularly noticeable when it's something urgent and/or panic-inducing.
  • The Simpsons: Parodied in "Bart-Mangled Banner" when Homer repeats absolutely everything he hears in a phone conversation, including "goodbye" and "dial tone".
  • South Park:
    • Happens frequently with Kenny, despite the fact that he has been at least somewhat intelligible since Season 4.
    • This also happened in the episode after Isaac Hayes, Chef's voice actor, had quit. In order to work around it, all of his lines were cut together from stock sound, which limited his vocabulary.
      Townsperson: So you've decided to stay in South Park...?
      Chef: Yes, that's right!
    • Taken to the extreme in "Obama Wins!", when Butters' face swells due to an allergic reaction:
      Kyle: Butters, where is Cartman supposed to hand over the ballots?
      Butters: [unintelligible speech]
      [everyone looks at Kenny]
      Kenny: [muffled speech]
      Kyle: Where?
      Butters: [unintelligible shouting]
      Stan: Huh?
      Jimmy: [stammering] He said at r— r— r— re—
      Butters: [unintelligible speech]
      Kenny: [muffled speech]
      Kyle: What?
      Jimmy: [stammering] R— r— re—
      Butters: [unintelligible shouting]
      Kenny: [muffled shouting]
      Stan: Oh, Red Lobster.
  • Futurama:
    • Done with The Unintelligible Nibbler and his caretaker Leela. In this case, Leela repeats everything Nibbler is saying in his language until they reach the subject of the secrets of the universe, at which point Leela conveniently decides to stop saying anything revealing.
      Leela: This is unbelievable! I thought you were a furry little moron but here you are flying an adorable spaceship. If only you could talk!
      [Nibbler babbles]
      Leela: Wait! I understood that!
      [Nibbler babbles some more]
      Leela: You say you're transmitting your thoughts directly to my brain?
      [Nibbler babbles affirmatively]
      Leela: You say those awful flying brains are making everyone on Earth stupid?
      [Nibbler babbles with slight discontent]
      Leela: Oh, stupider. And you go on to say that we're headed for your home planet where your race has lived since the beginning of the universe?
      [Nibbler makes an affirmative noise]
      Leela: So, how did the universe begin?
      [Nibbler babbles elaborately, changing intonation and pace several times]
      Leela: Then the meaning of existence...
      [Nibbler gives a lighthearted short babble]
      Leela: So, every religion is wrong!
    • But employed and averted at the same time in another episode, hilariously:
      Farnsworth: [on the phone] Oh, how awful. Did he at least die peacefully? [pause] To shreds, you say. Tsk tsk tsk. Well, how's his wife holding up? [pause] To shreds, you say.
    • Used another time when "Coilette" (a gender-bent Bender) is going to a fancy party
      Coilette: [gasps] My own limo?! [Beat] No I don't have my own limo, you'd better send me one.
  • Chowder lampshaded the use of it by Shnitzel:
    Shnitzel: Radda Radda!
    Chowder: What do you mean, I wouldn't understand?
    Shnitzel: Radda Radda!
    Chowder: What do you mean, stop repeating everything you say?
  • This is often used in Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends to communicate what Coco is saying.
  • In the Peanuts specials, used by the characters to translate the unseen, trombone-voiced adults for the viewers.
  • Usually played straight on Sushi Pack, with Wasabi, who is only understood by his teammates, but occasionally lampshaded.
    Wasabi: [mustard speak]
    Tako: Get out! Kani's leaving the pack? Splitting for Hollywood? How do you know?
    Wasabi: [more mustard speak]
    Tako: She told Ikura?!
    Wasabi: [short mustard speak]
    Tako: Stop repeating everything you say? You said a ton!
  • Averted in an episode of Sealab 2021, when Quinn talks with a horribly-injured Gus. All Gus can do is gurgle, but Quinn can evidently understand it...but doesn't bother to repeat him out loud. Results in an Overly Long Gag of Gus gurgling and Quin responding with "uh-huh" and "yeah?"
  • In Robot Chicken:
    Palpatine: Vader! How's my favorite Sith? Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down. [pause] What?...what do you mean "they blew up the Death Star?!" [bleeps upon bleeps] Who's they? [pause] What the hell is an aluminum falcon?!
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: SpongeBob does this when talking to his pet snail Gary, frequently in the series. Although whether he understands him or is making assumptions is up for debate. It might be he can understand him; in "Can You Spare a Dime?", Gary appears to call Squidward a freeloader which SpongeBob denies. Of course, Gary turns out to be right.
  • Crops up in Adventures in Care-a-Lot when Wingnut, a robot who only speaks in whirrs and other noises, is around. Played with in one episode where Wingnut translates for another robot who only speaks in blurps.
  • Averted in RollBots with Vertex and Vett. In their conversations, Vertex rarely stops to explain what Vett is saying in the mysterious dialect, though on one occasion he does respond to Vett by saying "I am not too comfortable!"
  • Anything Hanna-Barbera uses this. The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Top Cat, you name it. On Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines, Dick Dastardly usually translates the General's phone calls in this manner. Actually averted in The Hair Bear Bunch episode "The Bear Who Came To Dinner." Botch calls Peevly from a payphone at a drive-in theater to snitch on the bears, and the conversation switches scenes between the two callers.
  • In The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! episode "Robo Koopa", Doctor Nerdnik speaks in unintelligible gibberish and his robot assistant Bunsen has to translate for the other characters (and the audience). However, on two occasions they speak within earshot of Koopa and reveal useful information about the stolen robo-suit he's using, which he then turns to his advantage. Except the second time Nerdnik lies so Koopa ends up defeating himself.
  • Johnny 2x4 and Plank from Ed, Edd n Eddy does this, depending on if you think Plank is sentient or not.
  • It sometimes had to be done in the earlier episodes of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! when it was a little too hard to make out what Scooby had just said.
  • Kaeloo: Frequently done with Quack Quack, who can only speak in "quacks". One of the other characters will repeat what he said in English (for example, "What do you mean, [insert statement here]?").
  • On The Dick Tracy Show, Stooge Viller affects this as he's translating Mumbles' mumbling.

    Real Life 
  • This may actually be Truth in Television - some people do have a tendency to repeat things said over the phone, especially when other people are in the room.
    • Particularly if they might reasonably need or want to know what's being said. For instance, if your family has just been called by one of several relatives and someone else picks up the phone, it can be quite helpful for them to say, "Hi, Aunt Betty!"
    • Also if you can't make out quite what your aged Aunt Betty is saying, and need her to repeat it so you understand.
    • Or if you're taking down a food order/reservation/other stuff and need to be sure that you heard it correctly.
  • Something similar happens when talking with very small children. They may be very difficult to understand, so every conversations will end up like this in order to be sure you understand them.
    I doo yoo a fwower!
    You drew me a flower? Aww, that's pretty.
    • This is actually recommended as a way of enhancing language development by providing an example of how to say that particular statement "properly". It's especially recommended as an alternative to correcting the child's speech because it encourages the child to talk more instead of discouraging them. Language is too complex to teach a child how to speak by correcting mistakes, and the only way to really learn is to learn patterns established through repetition. Repeating what a child says not only helps them learn to speak properly, but is the only way to truly speed up their language acquisition.
    • This is also used to teach foreign languages; instead of correcting every minor mistake a student makes, the teacher is supposed to simply repeat what they said, but with completely correct grammar, vocab, etc.
  • Rogerian therapy is based on rephrasing whatever the patient told you and echoing it back so that they feel like you're listening even though you're not really giving any practical response. It's based on the idea that most people are capable of solving their own problems, just by talking them out with someone else.
    ELIZA: Does it please you to think Rogerian therapy is based on rephrasing whatever the patient told me and echoing it back?
  • This is standard procedure in much high-risk communication. In nuclear power plants, for example, person A will give instructions. Person B will repeat the instruction to check if he got it right. Person A will then repeat himself to either correct person B or confirm that he was right.
    • The more common example where people will have seen it is any show, documentary or fictional, showing the military (or even the Mildly Military) where communication is portrayed semi-realistically.
      Officer: Helm, starboard ten degrees, ahead two-thirds.
      Helmsman: Starboard ten degrees, ahead two-thirds, aye.
    • This also occurs in air traffic control radio communications. This became an absolute necessity after a misunderstanding over the meaning of the word "at" led to the deadliest air accident in history (583 dead, 61 injured), the Tenerife disaster. Specifically, a plane was told by ground to remain at takeoff (holding on the runway in preparation for taking off) while another plane was using the runway to get into position. The crew heard takeoff and throttled up (the runway was fogged in so they could not see the other plane). This resulted in the deadliest air crash in history to date, in response all crews and ground control are required to repeat back their instructions so there are no such misunderstandings.
  • Common in call centers, especially for stuff like numbers or a tricky spelling. The "high-risk" example given above also applies in that many call center operators will repeat or at least paraphrase the caller's description of the issue that prompted the call. This can be useful to ensure the operator correctly understands the matter and will not waste time (especially in a call center with strict metrics for call handle times and such) attempting to solve the wrong problem.
  • Good salesperson techniques will emphasize repeating back key requests so that the customer knows you heard them and that their questions/concerns will be addressed.
  • A good idea in any job when you want to be sure you're doing what you're supposed to do. Boil it down and repeat it back. It is a common procedure in many armies that the subordinate given an order (especially one consisting of several parts) will repeat (or summarize) that order to the superior.
  • Common in auditoriums when someone is giving a presentation and a member of the audience asks a question. Because the audience member typically doesn't have a mic, the presenter will often repeat what they say so that the audience can understand.
  • Due to difficulties with the connection between Dallas and New York, a variation happened with Robert MacNeil of NBC while he was reporting on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. At first, his phone connection couldn't be patched in direct to the broadcast sound, forcing the anchor in New York to repeat verbatim what he was saying on the line to relay it to viewers. However, it was soon accidentally (and in a rare spot of unintentional humor, given the very grim circumstances) subverted, as techs were able to patch the line into the sound direct for the viewers but not the anchor, meaning that viewers were left confused as MacNeil would speak and the anchor would then still immediately repeat, even though both were now perfectly audible to the viewers at home!

Alternative Title(s): So What You Are Saying



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Main / RepeatingSoTheAudienceCanHear

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