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Sorrowful Stutter

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A death-related Dialogue trope where writers and/or actors show how much a friend or a loved one's loss hurts a character by having them suddenly stop speaking for a moment, often before saying the deceased's name, as they deal with a sudden surge of emotion and have to prevent their voice from breaking.

Also of note is that while it usually relates to speaking about a deceased loved one, it can also be used when someone speaks about a particularly painful hardship or incident in their past (i.e., a situation where they or their loved ones went through where their survival was not guaranteed, like abuse or cancer).

Related to Men Don't Cry, since they aren't (allegedly) supposed to display emotions, and Manly Tears, which is occasionally the end result of this. If they had a particularly close relationship, be it a parent-child, a spouse, or a best friend, then expect them to qualify as The Lost Lenore, The Mourning After, or Mangst. See also Trying Not to Cry, The Stoic, Unable to Cry, and Cathartic Crying.


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  • Fairy Tales and Hokum: After the pygmy mummies seemingly kill Tom, Jonathan does this twice. First he stumbles a bit on the name; then, some time later, he has to pause and start the sentence again.
  • Something Always Remains: Happens when Vanna is telling Mike about Vesper, when the janitor tells Mike and Vanna about Bonnie Wickes, again when Mike and Jeremy are discussing the aftermath of Jeremy's disappearance, and once more when the janitor tells Puppet Bonnie Wickes isn’t coming back.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Captain Kirk manages to get through most of his eulogy for Spock before stopping to gather himself before the final word of the line "Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most... human."
  • Revenge for Jolly!: As Harry and Cecil stand over Jolly's grave in the backyard, Harry says, "She... was the only thing... that made me..." He can't finish the sentence.
  • In Glitter after learning of Dice's murder, Billie addresses the crowd of her sold-out concert before starting it, stating, "Hey, everybody out there, don't ever take anyone for granted..." She then briefly pauses in an attempt to stop herself from crying and continues, "...because you never know when you might lose 'em."

  • In Fred, Ginger asks Sophie and Nick if they're friends with "our dear departed". Being young kids, Sophie and Nick don't know what "dear departed" means, so Ginger has to qualify that he's talking about Fred, but he falters and says, "Oh dear, too sad, too sad," before saying his name.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Miami Vice: When Switek is giving Zito's eulogy in "Down for the Count," he begins with "Lar was my partner..." He pauses for almost twenty seconds before continuing, "...but to me, he was more like a brother." He then stops, overcome by emotion.
  • Subverted in Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode "The Unblinking Eye"; at a vigil for his slain girlfriend, a man engaged in this trope when trying to recite a Robert Frost poem, but his "grieving" was just an audition to show off his acting chops and it comes out that he killed his girlfriend because she was a more talented actor than he was and had more potential for success.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: After beating up his former partner to stop him from killing his son in "Ripped", Stabler visits a therapist. Speaking about his abusive, long-deceased father, he talks about how the man beat him for crying over him stepping on a school project they made together and stutters before crying again in the present when discussing how his father stated that only "pansies" cry.
  • Downplayed on Melrose Place: At Brooke's funeral, her widower Billy (with whom she was in the midst of a very acrimonious divorce) tries to find the words to give her eulogy, but being unable to form any true sentimental feelings for her, he storms off, leaving Alison to deliver it herself.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Seen on occasion during an emotional speech, such as after winning a title belt or losing a friend and coworker. Most noticeably, during the Eddie Guerrero tribute show, his nephew Chavo choked up while speaking about his Uncle and how much he loved him, who was more like a brother to him due to their closeness in age.

    Video Games 
  • In Saints Row IV, Johnny Gat's second data log has him talk about the Saints' losses over the years, but the only one that audibly hurts him to recall is his girlfriend Aisha — he spends good four seconds silent before bringing himself to say her name, even a decade after her death.
  • In the opening cutscene of Wasteland 2, General Vargas presides over a funeral for a fellow Desert Ranger. After delivering a heartfelt eulogy and recalling the origins of their organization, he promises the others that "no Ranger who dies in the line of duty will... ever be forgotten", pausing before the last three words as his gaze falls on the fallen comrade's girlfriend.

    Web Videos 
  • Everyman HYBRID: One episode features a phone call between Evan and Vinnie. Evan asks if Vinnie remembers their friend Nick, and though Vinnie is light-hearted about it, laughing about how big Nick is, Evan is upset. He hesitates and struggles with explaining that Nick had not only attacked him, but that he ended up killing Nick in self-defense. He sounds on the verge of tears the entire time.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series: In "I Am The Night", Batman is plagued by guilt and self-doubt after arriving too late to prevent Commissioner Gordon from being badly wounded. When Dick tries to talk to him about it, he pauses and changes the subject after recalling his parents' murder, "Jim Gordon is the same age my father would have been if he hadn't... Now he's hanging by a thread."
  • Parodied in the Robot Chicken sketch about a Inspector Gadget/The Terminator when Dr. Claw's cat dies of leukemia. The Stinger of the episode has him seemingly stuttering in grief and about to tearfully eulogize him, only to suddenly break out in anger with, "I'll get you next time, Gadget! NEXT TIME!"

    Real Life 
  • In his Oscar speech after winning Best Actor for his role in Joker (2019), Joaquin Phoenix did this when speaking about his belated brother and once he composed himself after a couple of seconds, shared a song lyric River had wrote as a teenager, "Run to the rescue with love and peace will follow."
  • Shortly after the December 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, Barack Obama addressed the nation and wavered in his speech for several moments, shocking the crowd due to his usual calm and stoic demeanor. He did so again nearly four years later when talking about gun control and recalling the tragic event.
  • After the death of Fox News Channel founder Roger Ailes, then-correspondent Shepard Smith eulogized him on-air stating how much he meant to him, and at times broke down before composing himself as well as wiping his eyes with tissue in between his tribute.