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Sdrawkcab Speech

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"Things will be different, now that I have the new Yak Bakwards!"
"I consider you all fools!"
"Do you have anything to say?"
— Lines recorded in reverse-speak in a circa-1995 commercial for the Yak Bakwards

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).

May be used as part of a Rewind Gag. Compare Sdrawkcab Name, which might be written or spoken.


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    Gnisitrevda (Advertising) 
  • A few lines of this in a commercial for the Yak Bakwards, played back with the reverse function (and subtitled). But these are followed up with:
    Father: Yeah...You're grounded.

    Agnam & Emina (Anime & Manga) 
  • Bleach: After the Time Skip, Shinji learned how to use Sakanade to invert the sounds heard by his target on top of their sense of direction.
  • Dragon Ball Super: Super Shenron only understands the "Divine Language", which is just each word spoken backwards.
  • Jujutsu Kaisen: All of Hanami's dialogue is conveyed through reverse speech, with most of his thoughts instead conveyed through monologue. Mahito and Jogo seem to be the only ones capable of understanding him. He later demonstrates that he can make himself comprehensible to people if he wishes, resulting in them hearing his voice in their head.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • In "Clefairy Tales", when Jessie and James disguise themselves as aliens, they continuously chant, "Nomékop", which is "Pokémon" spelled backwards.
    • There's an instance where James of Team Rocket talks backwards when being swallowed by his Victreebel. The message is "Leo Burnettnote  and 4Kids are the devil", an intentional protest by James's voice actor Eric Stuart against not being paid for commercial work.
    • Kartana's cry is made up of the phrase "Once again I have cut a worthless object", or portions thereof, played backwards. The English dub did the same thing.
  • In Simoun, the Argentum soldiers speak what at first appears complete gibberish, but on closer inspection is just Simulacran/Japanese played backwards.

    Skoob Cimoc (Comic Books) 
  • 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.
  • One Darkwing Duck story printed in Disney Adventures saw Launchpad get shocked by Megavolt, resulting in everything he said coming out backwards. This confused Darkwing until he eventually caught on.
  • The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck: "The Dream of A Lifetime" has a hilarious, unintentional example when Donald meets his mother as a baby in Scrooge's dream. At this point, Hortense is only able to say "glxblt", and an overjoyed Donald begins hugging and fussing over her. Fergus immediately grabs Donald by the neck, which causes him to garble "blxglt", and Hortense correcting, "Nuh-uh, glxblt!"
  • In Spirou and Fantasio, Zorglub created an artificial language for his Zorgmen, Zorglang, that consists in inverting the letter in every word while keeping their position in the sentence (so that "Hail Zorglub" becomes "Liah Bulgroz").

    Moitcifnaf (Fanfiction) 

    Mlif (Film) 
  • 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.
  • When Obi-Wan first meets Jango Fett in Star Wars Attack Of The Clones, Jango says to his clone son, Boba, "Rood eht so-heeck," instructing Boba to close a door and hide his Mandalorian armor. Some sources identify this as a "coded language", but the first two words spoken are "the door" backwards. The rest is gibberish.
  • 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.
    • The special features reveal that the audio for this scene was not reversed—Kenneth Branagh actually practiced speaking backwards with a Russian accent. Not too surprising given Christopher Nolan's reputation for trying to do as much in-camera as possible,.
  • Hercules Returns involves a Gag Dub of an Italian Sword and Sandal movie. The actor playing Hercules has a tendency to walk away from the people he's talking to, then abruptly turn to face them, at which point the Gag Dub always makes a sound like the soundtrack is being reversed.

    Erutaretil (Literature) 
  • Esio Trot: Mr Hoppy claims you can talk to tortoises by saying words backwards, and gives Mrs. Silver a paper with words written backwards telling her tortoise to grow bigger.
  • In The Secrets of Droon, Galen's copy Nelag does everything backwards, which is annoying most of the time, but comes in handy when they need to read a scroll written in mirror writing, which he reads out loud like normal speech.
  • A variation occurs in the Sugar Plum Ballerinas series: one of the main characters, Brenda, sometimes speaks backwards on purpose so that grown-ups wouldn't understand her. However, she doesn't reverse the order of letters in a word, but only the order of words in a sentence: for instance, "I want chocolate milk" becomes "Milk chocolate want I".

    VT Noitca-Evil (Live-Action TV) 
  • 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 denizens of the Black Lodge have a strange singsongy way of speaking. What they did was have the actors read their lines forward into a recorder, play it backwards to learn how to recreate those sounds, film the scenes while saying the backwards lines, then re-backwards-izing it forwards. In The Return, they take it up to eleven and have the actors perform backwards, including the odd speech, just to add to the creepy factor.
  • In Superman & Lois, the people of the Inverse World (AKA Bizarro Earth) speak in reverse and write the opposite way. It's initially difficult to understand them, but it seems that it's not that hard to adapt for some people.
  • In the Broad City episode "Sliding Doors," a rewind reveals that an unintelligibly slurring homeless man is saying, "Donald Trump will be president!"

    Cisum (Music) 
  • Rob Scallon has three different songs where he played and sang the entire song backwards, and then reversed the recordings: a cover of "Enter Sandman", the original composition "Backwards", and a rendition of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas".
  • Tears for Fears: When played backwards, Roland Orzabal's hidden message at the beginning of the original 1982 single "Pale Shelter (You Don't Give Me Love)" is "The sickness in the system is an amplification of the sickness in the individual."
  • Butthole Surfers: There hit song "Pepper" contains in its solo two lines from the chorus backwards "I don't mind the sun sometimes; the images it shows; you never know just how you look through other people's eyes."
  • Backmasking is played with in the breaks of two songs by "Weird Al" Yankovic.
    • "Nature Trail to Hell": "Satan eats Cheez Whiz!"
    • "I Remember Larry": "Boooy, you must have a lot of freeeee, time on yo-our hands..."
  • The single version of "Tropical Ice-Land" by Fiery Furnaces includes an added verse where half of the lyrics are played backwards - spoofing the fact that Subliminal Seduction rumors often revolve around drugs, this verse is about not being able procure marijuana in the title country:
    (reversed lines are in bold)
    And if you ever need some hash or weed
    You won't be gettin' it here
    Just take off into the bumpy sea
    Go to Denmark, man it's oh so near
  • In "Gimme the Loot" by The Notorious B.I.G., two words are played backwards: "I don't give a fuck if you're [pregnant]" and "Bitches get [strangled] for their earrings and bangles."
  • "Work It" by Missy Elliott has a couple lines played backwards. "I put my thang down, flip it and reverse it." and "Watch the way Missy like to play it backwards."
  • Beck's "Loser" has some backwards singing during the "breakdown" section, which is simply the full chorus reversed: "Soy un perdedor / I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?"
  • "Don't Stop" by The Stone Roses is their song "Waterfall" played backwards with additional forwards instrumentation and singing - the forwards singing consists of Word Salad Lyrics that the backwards vocals sort of sound like - for instance the reversed chorus ("she'll carry on through it all / she's a waterfall") is interpreted as "don't stop / isn't it funny how you shine?"
  • They Might Be Giants' "I'll Sink Manhattan" has a backwards message in the intro: "Ay evol ew. DPYN eht morf. Syug, tol a sknaht. ("Thanks a lot, guys. From the NYPD. We love ya"). This was an incoming message on TMBG's Dial-A-Song service, one of just a few they've used for sampling purposes.

    Oidar (Radio) 
  • A round on The BBC Radio 2 music Panel Game Jammin'; one of the presenters had the talent that he could actually sing songs backwards. The guests would then have to guess what the song was, and then the tape would be played backwards so we could hear the song forwards.

    Semag Oediv (Video Games) 
  • Katrina in Animal Crossing: New Horizons does this when telling your fortune. "LLA SWONK LATSRYC EHT" (The Crystal knows all) and "RETSASID DETREVA" (Disaster averted).
  • Celeste: There's a secret monologue hidden within the second half of the Mirror Temple's music track, where Madeline talks about her situation.
  • 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.
  • Cuphead: Viewing the bad ending and returning to the title screen will cause the cheery quartet's audio to be played backwards.
  • 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!"
  • All of the standard zombies in Half-Life 2 shout "Help! God, help! HELP ME!" in reverse.
  • Halo:
    • 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.
    • The Elites' dialogue in Halo: Combat Evolved was created by reversing and pitch-shifting some of Sgt. Johnson's dialogue.
  • In Mortal Kombat: Deception, many of the inhabitants of the Netherrealm speak in reversed english.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • Most of the spoken dialogue in The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories is done in the Twin Peaks style (i.e. having the actors speak the lines backwards, then reversing it) in order to add to the creepy, dreamlike, surreal atmosphere of the game.
  • [[Video Game/Supernova 1987]] has backwards names, and the alien ship uses backwards text as well. Once you rescue the scientist, his speech is also backwards until he adjusts his wristband.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 1: The term "Xenoblade" is uttered in the final boss theme when played in reversed due to the lyrics being played backwards.

    Noitamina Bew (Web Animation) 
  • In Gotham Girls and Zatanna Trial Of The Crystal Wand: Zatanna uses this for her spells.
  • 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:
    • The first instance occurs in Company Introductory Tape - playing it backwards reveals it to be a message intended for Sophie Walten.
    • A second secret message appears in Relocate Project, which reveals how Rosemary Walten was lured into the backstage (and subsequently killed) by Bon.
  • Homestar Runner often does this.
  • In Pokémon Battle Royale: ULTRA BEASTS!, just like in the anime, Kartana's cry is lines spoken backwards, though unlike in the Pokémon anime, it's not just one sentence, but rather various bits and pieces of the dialogue of Jetstream Sam.

     Lanigiro Bew (Web Original) 
  • Obscured Eyes: All fleshshifters can speak in both reverse and forwards speech. Elizabeth is considered an oddity among other fleshshifters, as she can only speak in reverse.

    Soediv Bew (Web Videos) 
  • In the Doom episode of The Angry Video Game Nerd, when the Nerd screams that he wants to play Doom, all of a sudden the Devil (in the form of the Icon of Sin from Doom II) starts talking in reverse, leaving the Nerd clueless. After a few tape-player backmask translations, he asks if the Icon of Sin has to keep talking backwards all the time, leading to the latter dropping the backmasking charade and starting talking in normal speech from here on.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, the so called "Ancient Egyptian speech" is just the dialogue played backwards which translates to:
    Yami: I like chicken, I like liver, meow-mix meow-mix, please deliver!
    Kaiba: You should follow the official Team Four Star tumblr account!
    Mokuba: Nants Ingonyama Bagithi Baba!

    Noitamina Nretsew (Western Animation) 
  • 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!".
  • In Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters, the Aqua Teens speak entirely backwards after escaping from The Sphinx, until they decide to switch back to English after realizing how dumb they're sounding.
  • 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.
  • In the opening credits of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, a choral version of the main BTAS theme is heard with Ominous Latin Chanting. However, the lyrics were actually the names of some of the production crew written backwards.
  • 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:
    • 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!"
  • In the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) episode "A Friend in Need," the spell Ileena is given by Jarvan to summon him is "come to me" said 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!
    Goofy: !spoO
  • 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".
  • Minions: The Rise of Gru: Gru enters the Vicious 6's lair by playing a record backwards, its audio proclaiming "Welcome to the Vicious 6".
  • 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:
    • In "Leave the Busting to Us!", the martian that gets off Phineas and Ferb's Ferris wheel delivers this message:
    Martian: Erimnevop Yelsgnik Nad. (Dan Kingsley Povenmire)
    • 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."
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: The Beast Island signal is a First Ones emergency recording playing backwards, including lines like "Planetwide evacuation required. All units return to Eternia." and "This is a feature, not a bug."
  • The Simpsons: In "Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part Two" 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 
  • The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!: The closing of "Time Out Luigi/Too Hot to Handle" (in the former, a reverse-running watch causes Luigi to do everything in reverse, from speak to eat) is run in reverse, wherein the two can be heard to say "Till next time everybody...Mario the do!"
  • 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".


Video Example(s):


Batman: Mask of The Phantasm

The opening theme for the movie are accompanied by Ominous Chanting to the tune of Shirley Walker's memorable BTAS theme. The chorus is actually chanting the last names of production team members in Sdrawkcab speech. These members helped Shirley Walker with the final mixing of many of her tracks for the film and the animated series, but were never credited because their contributions were considered too small.

Playing the lyrics backwards, they are clearly saying:
"Tom Milano, Patti Zimmitti, Jean MacCurdy, (Unknown), Hans Zimmer, Mike McCuistion, Eric Radomski, Joel Franklin, Richard Bronskill!"

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / OminousLatinChanting

Media sources: