Someone speaks with the speech audio reversed. This can be done to invoke a feeling of unreality or disorientation. It may happen in a dream or it may give an impression of a dreamlike state. In a filmed or animated work, it may manifest itself in a character reading literal speech written backward, or it may happen when a character attempts to pronouce the phonemes in a word or sentence in reverse order, or it may be done by taking regular audio and playing it backwards. In a written work the dialogue will be spelled backwards, and on rare occasions even the shapes of the letters may be flipped.
Another version of this trope is the phenomenon known as "backmasking", when messages are hidden in rock music recordings by being recorded backwards, usually as an Easter Egg. (In Ye Olden Days when people played music on phonograph records it was easy enough to hear these hidden messages by making your turntable spin in reverse.) In the past, some of these messages have stoked controversy about their supposed subconscious effects on listeners; see Subliminal Seduction for more details.
This trope is limited to speech, or the sound of someone's voice. For written works, this means that character monologue or dialogue is included in the trope (e.g. Zatanna's backwards-spoken spells), while in-universe writing is not (e.g. the inscription on the Mirror of Erised, since nobody reads it out loud in the book).
- A few lines of this in a circa-1996 commercial for the Yak Bakwards, played back with the reverse function (and subtitled).
"Things will be different, now that I have the new Yak Bakwards!""I consider you all fools!""Do you have anything to say?"Father: Yeah...You're grounded.
- Dragon Ball Super: Super Shenron only understands the "Divine Language", which is just each word spoken backwards.
- In Simoun, the Argentum soldiers speak what at first appears complete gibberish, but on closer inspection is just Simulacran/Japanese played backwards.
- Suske en Wiske: In the story "De brullende berg", the heroes meet a giant who talks in his own language. At first they use a translation device to communicate with him, but it breaks down after a while, leaving them unable to speak with the giant untill Wiske realizes the giant is actually just speaking backwards.
- Zatanna from The DCU uses this method of speaking in order to cast spells. It's arguably the best-known aspect of her character.
- In The Batman Adventures' second annual, Ra's Al-Ghul recites a demonic incantation to purge the world of all humanity that is written like this. The various backward phrases include things like "Kirby was the greatest"note , "I buried Paul!", "Sometimes my arms turn back" and "My sweet satin" (a reference to the song 'Satin Doll'). If he'd said Satan it would have at least made sense in context...
- In The Smurfs comic book version of "The Hundredth Smurf", Vanity's mirror clone literally speaks backwards with all the letters and punctuation marks in his speech balloons arranged backwards, as a mirror to Vanity's own speech balloons. In the Animated Adaptation, Vanity's mirror clone speaks with all the words arranged in reverse order.
- Torn Away: Scenes From A Memory has a two-part spell which is meant to preserve a memory in an object: "Seye Ym Hguorht Ees" and "Rehtegot Evil Won".
- When doing the summation in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, Ace rattles off his conclusion towards the accused. He then says "Let me run that back for you", reverses his actions, and speaks like he's rewinding.
- In A Night at the Opera, starring The Marx Brothers, Chico, Harpo, and their buddy Ricardo are impersonating three foreign dignitaries, with Groucho pretending to be their interpreter. A police captain calls them out as impostors, whereupon Groucho turns to the three and they start talking in what seems to be As Long as It Sounds Foreign gibberish. What it actually is, is normal English dialogue—Groucho says "Did you hear what he said? He said you were frauds and impostors!", then Chico and Ricardo say stuff like "How can he say a thing like that?", "This is ridiculous," etc—with all the dialogue played backwards.
- During the seance in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, the rite that banishes their spirits is "Ed and Chris note will rule the world" in reverse.
- In Spy Kids, the nonsense songs sung by the characters of the Show Within a Show Floop's Fooglies are actually cries of "Floop is a madman, help us, save us!" spoken backwards by the mutated and imprisoned Fooglies.
- Combined with Rewind Gag in Top Secret!, when a scene in which characters speak "Swedish" is actually playing in reverse so that the dialogue sounds foreign. This becomes more apparent as the scene plays out, as things like dust flying onto a book when a character blows on it or a dog running backwards give away the effect.
- Played seriously in Tenet where a character who has been 'inverted' (traveling backwards in time) has to use a radio with translation software to speak with someone in normal time, as their speech sounds this way.
- In The Flash (2014), the episode "The New Rogues" has Barry being trapped in a mirror by Mirror Master. While in there, sounds appears backwards to people on the other side, much like a reflection. In order to understand what Barry is saying, a device that reverses audio had to be put on the mirror to translate what Barry is saying.
- In the Red Dwarf episode "Backwards", the crew of the Dwarf visit an alternate universe where time runs backwards, and everyone speaks in Sdrawkcab Speech. (Reversing the episode's audio reveals that some of the dialogue is appropriate to the situation, some of it is just gibberish, and some of it is snarky commentary about how boring a person's life must be if they went to the trouble of reversing the audio.)
- In the Star Trek episode "And the Children Shall Lead," an alien power causes the Enterprise crew to hallucinate their fears. This includes Kirk talking in reversed audio to represent his fear of being unable to communicate.
- In Twin Peaks, The Man From Another Place has a strange singsongy way of speaking. What they did was have the actor read his lines forward into a recorder, play it backwards to learn how to recreate those sounds, film the scenes with him saying the backwards lines, then re-backwards-izing it forwards.
- In the Broad City episode "Sliding Doors," a rewind reveals that an unintelligibly slurring homeless man is saying, "Donald Trump will be president!"
- Control has a mirror you can enter in, leading to a Mirror World version of the lab where Jesse speaks backwards. Her internal monologue remains unaffected, however. An audio log also sits outside the Mirror, with the interviewer failing to get any answers to her questions out of the ranger that just left the Mirror because his speech is reversed. When you find the same audio log inside the Mirror, the interviewer's speech is reversed and the ranger's speech is forward.
- The Final Boss of Doom II Level 30, the Icon of Sin, recites the phrase "To win the game, you must kill me, John Romero," reversed and distorted to sound like a demonic chant.
- In the Atari ST version of the 1989 game Enterprise, there's a sound file labelled "WARNINGD.DAT", if you play it backward, you get "Enterprise is rubbish!"
- In the level "Gravemind" of Halo 2, there's a reverse-speech that plays throughout the bgm/background that can only be understood when reversing both at a careful level, both the voice and message itself is truly haunting...
- An Easter Egg in Myst, where a message of Achenar speaking in Tree-Dweller language has a portion that's actually normal speech played backwards. When reversed, he says, "Rush Limbaugh understands..."
- All of the standard zombies in Half-Life 2 shout "Help! God, help! HELP ME!" in reverse.
- XOR in Ultimate Custom Night has a reversed, pitch-lowered, sped-up and distorted version of Dee Dee's sneaky speech. In this case, XOR spawns multiple enemies rather than just one.
- Puyo Puyo:
- In her HaraHara course in Puyo Puyo Fever 2, Amitie snaps Feli out of her state when she finds her chanting the following backwards speech:
Feli: Meop syadot si reyarp ym. Srats gnitator eht gniees. Foor eht no yltneg yarp I. Yppah em sekam ti gniyas. Sermel si eman sih.
- In the English version of Puyo Puyo Tetris 2, Ecolo's alternate voice reverses his speech.
- In her HaraHara course in Puyo Puyo Fever 2, Amitie snaps Feli out of her state when she finds her chanting the following backwards speech:
- Object Lockdown has Cherry, whose entire language is nothing but reverse English. She tried to explain why she speaks in reverse to Berry, but that failed. According to her, her backwards talk came years after she and her family moved to Ahi Island from Foodkraine in 1879.
- The Walten Files uses this twice to hide secret messages:
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, so called "Ancient Egyptian speech" is just the dialogue played backwards.
- In The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Wand", Gumball and Darwin pretend a toy wand Richard has is actually magic. When he hits them with a "reverse spell", Gumball says the words in his previous sentence ("Its power has overtaken you") in reversed order ("You overtaken has power its"). Darwin corrects him by speaking what is clearly a reversed recording of the same sentence.
- In "The Sale" after badmouthing Mr. Robinson, Gumball and Darwin demand Nicole to take it back. After saying, "Okay, okay, okay! I take it back!", she's told to properly take it back, saying, "Kcab ti ekat I. Yako, yako, yako!".
- During one of the music video segments in the Beavis and Butt-Head episode "Vidiots," Beavis reveals that he can do this. His speech actually has the audio reversed, but when Butt-Head tries it, he just reverses the order of the words.
- The Clone High episode "Raisin The Stakes" has a scene where JFK gets high on raisins and falls through a skylight, landing on a table. Between his highness and the massive pain of shattering his leg, he starts rambling in backwards speech. If one plays his words in reverse, it's a secret message exhorting viewers to keep watching Clone High and help it win an Emmy.
- In Code Lyoko's "Contact", Franz possesses Sissi. The problem is that his message ends up backwards. Forwards, this message says "I can help you. I want to enter into contact with you now. I'm Franz Hopper. I can help you." Later happens again in Jeremie's room, "I'm Franz Hopper. I can help you. I want to enter into contact with you now."
- In The Dragon Prince, every magic spell requires a spoken incantation. The spell incantations for Black Magic sound like regular speech spoken backwards.
- Averted in the Family Guy episode "Yug Ylimaf". The plot is that time and events are going backwards but the characters still speak forwards for some reason.
- Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: In "Infernal Slumber", Bloo talks backwards as part of the friends' plan to act weird to convince an awoken Terrence that he's dreaming.
- G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero: In "Sins of Our Fathers", Destro speaks an arcane chant to control a demon. If played backwards, he's saying, "Anyone listening to this backwards for a secret occult message is a real dweeb!"
- It's everywhere in Gravity Falls - for example, at the end of every theme song is a whisper that, if played backwards, reveals a way to solve a secret code in the end credits. But one of the most notable examples is during Bill Cipher's death, where he shouts gibberish that translates to what seems to be a way to eventually bring him back to life:
Bill: "A-X-O-L-O-T-L, MY TIME HAS COME TO BURN, I INVOKE THE ANCIENT POWER THAT I MAY RETURN!"
- The show also pokes fun at its own usage of the trope at one point, where the chant to summon Bill is backwards message backwards, making it a very literal case of Sdrawkcab Speech.
- During the ending credits of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, a distorted voice is heard chanting this at the tail end of the credits. It sounds spooky, until you reverse the audio, upon which you hear Maxwell Atoms saying "No, no, this is the end of the show! You're watching it backwards!"
- Used at the beginning of the House of Mouse short "Hickory Dicker Mickey".
Goofy: .yfooG s'ti, yekciM, olleH
Mickey: Goofy, you're talking through the wrong end of the phone again!
- Kaeloo: In "Let's Play Paranormal Stuff", Kaeloo manages to get a spirit to communicate with them through Quack Quack. Its speech is incomprehensible at first, and when Stumpy asks why he can't understand it, Kaeloo explains that spirits always speak backwards and asks the director of the cartoon to play the snippet of dialogue backwards so that they can hear what it's saying. The dialogue, when reversed, says "I am the great spirit of yogurts".
- Mr. Pickles, the titular character, is a Satanic dog who uses demonic incantations in order to hypnotize others to do his bidding. The incantation is actually a voice deepened and played backwards.
- An episode of Rick and Morty opens by showing Morty looking into the eyes of the Truth Tortoise which says the backwards message, "I'm a Beatle, Paul is dead."
- Phineas and Ferb:
Martian: Erimnevop Yelsgnik Nad. (Dan Kingsley Povenmire)
- In "Leave the Busting to Us!", the martian that gets off Phineas and Ferb's Ferris wheel delivers this message:
- In "Unfair Science Fair Redux, Another Story", the martians who crown Candace say a few backmasked words, "Yensid" (Disney) and "Erimnevop" (Povenmire). Also when Ferb has a conversation with one of them in their language, he is actually saying his line backwards: "They say fine, but not without them."
- The Simpsons: In "Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part 2" Chief Wiggum has a Dream Sequence where Lisa appears, talking in reversed backward speech in an homage to Twin Peaks. When Wiggum repeatedly fails to understand her hints, she eventually gets angry and tells him what she means normally.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Opposite Day", SpongeBob and Patrick speak backwards while celebrating the titular day. The translation:
SpongeBob: Hey, Patrick.
Patrick: I give up.
SpongeBob: To get to the opposite side.
[they both laugh]
- The Star vs. the Forces of Evil episode "Mathmagic" has Star being trapped in a "Groundhog Day" Loop that features a different punchline for the Chicken Joke said by Janna. One time, she says a backwards message that says, "To get to the other side."
- Amethyst speaks this way in the Steven Universe episode "An Indirect Kiss" when her gem gets cracked and starts getting wonky.
Amethyst: ?hceab eht no gniod uoy era tahW !syug yeHnote .emoh gniog m'I ,hgUnote !yrc ti ekam ...attog uoy ...nwo sti no yrc t'nac ydob ruoy fI !yeHnote .wonk uoy os tsuj ,nevetS llik annog era dna efil ot gnimoc era seniv ehTnote .doog m'I ,gnihtyna ro yrrow t'noDnote ?pleh elttil ,hUnote ?ay lliw ,pu reehCnote
- Played for laughs in the Futurama episode "Calculon 2.0" where the crew of the Planet Express try to bring Calculon back to life through a scientific ritual. Said ritual involved pentagrams, Red and Black and Evil All Over robes, and Amy playing an installation disc backwards which just so happens to say "Rise from the dead in the name of Satan"