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Speak of the Devil

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"...and he shall appear."
Traditional proverb, origin unknown

You know how when you're in a crowd, you can tell whenever someone says your name? Some people (usually villains) can do that anywhere.

Older Than Feudalism, the core trope is that saying the name of the person summons him. Rarely is he summoned surprised and vulnerable; be assured that saying the name of this guy is a bad thing. Though probably just for you; he'll usually disappear afterward. note 

This makes talking about the villain problematic, as he has to be referred to as "The Enemy" or "He Who Must Not Be Named" or "You Know Who", or just by a nickname, as with Satan, who may be called "Old Nick" or "Mister Scratch" (or Louis Cypher). Sometimes these nicknames are conspicuously positive, just in case they're listening anyway, as with The Fair Folk, because you do not want to face down a pissed-off faerie. If referring to him by any name summons him, then you're screwed.


If attempting to talk to someone not in the know, this can easily lead to Poor Communication Kills. There also remains the possibility of someone slipping up (especially when surprised or caught off-guard), or someone not in the know saying it. If you have another enemy you want to deal with, perhaps you can trick him into saying the name.

Another variation is that the villain's name must be said multiple times to summon him. In these cases, saying the name once is safe, so you probably don't need to worry about summoning him accidentally, or being tricked into doing so (unless you have no idea what's going on and just come across a piece of paper saying "Say Hastur 3 times.") (Okay. "Hastur three times.") Instead, the villain is essentially Sealed Evil in a Can, and he'll be summoned either by someone who has no idea what's going on, or by someone who got his tropes mixed up and thinks he'll be able to control the villain this way (perhaps through I Know Your True Name)), or bargain with him. Expect this guy to die horribly. Also expect this villain not to disappear.


Note that the phrase "Speak of the devil and he shall appear" is often used for a more mundane situation: people are talking about some guy, and that guy suddenly shows up, usually having heard the things said about him. That trope is And Here He Comes Now. Compare and contrast Tempting Fate, which refers to more general invited misfortune and can just as easily be a Contrived Coincidence in-universe.

If saying the villain's name doesn't necessarily summon him, but may simply cause something bad, that's The Scottish Trope.

If knowing someone's true name instead gives you power over him, that's I Know Your True Name. If summoning him is a good thing, see Call on Me. See also Inadvertent Entrance Cue. When this is done for humor rather than being a supernatural ability, it's Right Behind Me. Related to the Sneeze Cut. When this is invoked for a murder, a Trouble Magnet Gambit is very likely the method used. Works using this trope will often discuss The Power of Language.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Rail Tracer in Baccano!! is something of a triple subversion. At first, it's pretty obvious that it's a relatively harmless Urban Legend delivered by two Cloudcuckoolanders and a chirpy train conductor that had the misfortune of coinciding with a train hijack. Then episode 6 rolls along and shows the aforementioned hijackers getting picked off by this... thing, proving that it just might be Real After All. And then comes the Wham Episode (let's just say that it's a really bad idea to give the aforementioned chirpy train conductor/part-time Psycho for Hire a reason for a Roaring Rampage of Revenge)...
  • A downplayed version serves as a Running Gag on Dinosaur King: Ursula always knows when someone calls her an "old lady" no matter where they are in the world and immediately, and loudly, takes exception. She won't know where you are, much less be teleported there, but she will be pretty P.O.'ed when she meets up with you. This was once used to determine if the Alpha Gang was in the area.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, the series main villain, Muzan Kibutsuji, is the progenitor of all demons in the series, he rules his creations with absolute terror to such an effect that he actually curses them with a spell that renders any demon utterly incapable of ever uttering his name, or trying to merely hint at his location; being absolutely terrified of Muzan prevents a regular demon from even trying to challenge this curse, but one demon is tricked via demonic spell to do so, and accordingly the demon is immediately killed on the spot by Muzan’s will. Muzan’s strongest and loyal demons never call him by name, always referring him as "that person", "sir" or "my lord"; being able to voice disgust at Muzan is the first thing that Tamayo did once his spell on her was broken, after the legendary fight against Yoriichi.

    Asian Animation 

    Comic Books 
  • The Sandman:
    • Characters refer to the Furies as "The Kindly Ones", as the ancient Greeks did; in this case, it's also to avoid attracting their attention.
    • There is one instance of summoning the title character by saying his preferred name (Morpheus). The character Rose Walker is given a piece of paper by her protector, Gilbert, and told that she must read the word aloud if she finds herself in grave danger. She reads it when another character attempts to rape and murder her, causing Dream to appear in the room and come to her rescue. It's not made clear why this works, however; it may be because Gilbert is actually a resident of Dream's kingdom, who has wandered off to do his own thing in the waking world, and is utilizing his own connection to Dream on her behalf. It is equally possible that it worked because Rose herself is the granddaughter of Dream's younger sibling Desire, and thus a blood relative of the Endless, although it's not clear how Gilbert would know that (it isn't revealed until later in the series).
    • Glob warns Brute not to say the name "Morpheus", because that could give him immediate entry to their sanctuary. Otherwise, Morpheus needs to take the long way around. Again, we have dream creatures involved, so it is hard to say what would happen if a mortal said it under normal circumstances.
    • In the story "Ramadan", the Kalif of Bagdhad gets Dream's attention by addressing him by name and then threatening to release a horde of demons if he doesn't show. It seems that he knows where anyone is talking about him but doesn't have to take an interest, which suggests that Gilbert, as one of the Major Arcana, the greatest dreams, knew a name for Dream most mortals don't and that made him take an interest.
    • In the spinoff series Lucifer, the eponymous protagonist threatens the queen of the Japanese afterlife who has been using the souls of living dreamers to punish the ignoble dead, which is apparently seen as "poaching" with Dream as the gamekeeper with calling on the Dream King by merely saying his name. Since we know Lucifer doesn't lie but Morpheus died, and Daniel is now King of the Dreaming, we know that it's probably true, but not how it works, since Dream claims to no longer be Daniel Hall.
  • In Young Avengers, Kang the Conqueror references this trope, and sort of uses it.
  • In Brazilian comic Monica's Gang, two characters have it: Lady McDeath appears whenever someone says "death" or something related to the verb "die"; and whenever something absurd occurs and someone asks "who would be nutty enough..." Nutty Ned appears.
  • In Zot! the assassin-for-hire 9-Jack-9 can be summoned by typing his name (actually spelled J9AC9K) into any computer terminal. Every single reader has tried it at least once... or considered it and then chickened out.
  • In an issue of Wolverine, it is revealed that perennial X-Men villain Spiral is aware (or alerted) whenever anyone anywhere mentions her. She uses this to track Wolverine and Mystique, the latter of whom could not spit out the warning in time. Wolverine actually is dismissive of this at first, pointing out that it's a common word, spoken hundreds, if not thousands, of times per day, so how would Spiral know? Cue her showing up, telling him it's all about context and tone of voice to indicate to her whether someone is referring to her or not.
  • Ax-Crazy Superman Expy The Plutonian achieves this with a combination of superhuman hearing and speed.
    Plutonian: They can't call me a "monster" in earshot and not expect retribution.
  • This is one of the reasons the demons and devils of the Marvel verse will not sit on Satan's throne. They all covet it but they fear the wrath of their peers and worse, the possibility that stealing Satan's chair might convince him to return.
  • The Mighty Thor: A rather extreme example is the Disir, a undead army that has menaced Thor. When an Asgardian named Hakon, thinking them to be a myth, mentions their name he is instantly torn to pieces by invisible blades.

    Comic Strips 
  • Lampooned in The Far Side in one cartoon, where Satan walks into a room in Hell where a bunch of guys are sitting, and one of them mutters to another, "Speak of the devil..."

    Fan Works 
  • In the Pokemon fanfic Natural Liberated, the characters can't say N's name in any form save pronouns because they do not want to invoke this trope.
  • In Children of an Elder God, a fanfic that replaces the Angels of Neon Genesis Evangelion with Lovecraftian horrors, the EVAs, and Children, acquire the properties of the Elder Gods they kill. Misato uses this to escape kidnappers by repeating Rei's name over and over; as Rei helped kill the Elder God mentioned below in Literature, this allows Rei to possess one of the kidnappers.
  • The WWE story The Legend Of Bloody Molly has Trish Stratus and Lita forcing Molly Holly to do the Bloody Mary ritual and killed her. Molly then became "Bloody Molly", appearing when they tried to make Gail Kim do the same thing.
  • In Chapter 25 of Raptor, a crossover between Harry Potter and Jurassic Park, this is done to the name Voldemort, but downplayed because only Death Eaters show up. This is still exploited by Harry and Owen, who managed to get rid of at least 50 Death Eaters by playing "Bloody Mary: Magical Moron Edition".
  • Invoked by Old Man Henderson at the end of his Call of Cthulhu game, when he called Hastur into a hockey stadium rigged with enough explosives to make Michael Bay blush, thereby permanently killing him.
  • A Diplomatic Visit:
    • Variant in chapter 13, when Spike wonders if Discord is responsible for Twilight’s old potions turning into the creature living in the refrigerator, behind the mayonnaise, next to the ketchup and to the left of the coleslaw. A letter from him, not necessarily denying it, promptly pops into Spike's claws.
    • In chapter 25, when Discord is being discussed, he again sends a letter to the group, this time one that reads itself aloud to them. The wolves are a little freaked out by this, especially given he bypassed their alarms in doing so.
    • Used again in chapter 3 of the second sequel, Diplomacy Through Schooling, when characters in both Ponyville and Canterlot are wary of mentioning Discord or the word "draconequus", lest he suddenly show up. In the Ponyville case, he does make a voice-only appearance, but does not show up when Celestia and Velvet mention him in Canterlot.
    • In chapter 4, they don't even have to say his or his species' name to get a reaction from him, a letter in which he politely declines Twilight's invite to be Head of Security for her school.
  • In Egypt on Anur Khufos, Pharaoh Rehk’Set suddenly appears after his name is spoken by one of his underlings.
    Rehk’Set: Whosoever mentions my name is either in need of my presence, or is my enemy.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Beetlejuice: Betelgeuse is summoned by saying his name three times. He's also sent back whence he came by saying his name three times.
  • The Candyman horror films: A tortured murderous spirit is summoned by saying "Candyman" five times in front of a mirror. This hearkens back to the urban legend of Bloody Mary.
  • In Freddy vs. Jason, the adults of Springwood have systematically suppressed all knowledge of Freddy to deny him the power he gains from his potential victims' fear, so he can't return. The sheriff states outright that they don't say his name; however, this defense mechanism breaks down when Jason's rampage is misinterpreted and stories of Freddy resume circulating.
  • The Dark Knight Rises: Daggett ends up the victim of this in his own penthouse as he rants to Stryver about Bane.
    Daggett: Ah, clearly you don’t know much of anything, do you?! Where is Bane?
    Stryver: Well, we told him it was urgent.
    Daggett: Oh, where is the masked…?
    [suddenly Bane appears behind them]
    Bane: Speak of the devil...and he shall appear!

  • In The Belgariad, saying the name of Zedar allows him to listen in on your conversation. The protagonists eventually get around this by getting lots of storytellers to retell the tales of Zedar, so he won't notice them amidst all the noise.
  • "Hastur" was the name of a benign god in a Ambrose Bierce short story. In The King in Yellow, Robert W. Chambers adopted "Hastur" as a mysterious name, most likely a location, with only vague connections to the titular King. H. P. Lovecraft namedropped Hastur and the Yellow Sign (from Chambers's work) as nebulously connected in "The Whisperer in Darkness". When August Derleth absorbed Hastur into the greater Cthulhu Mythos, he started using it as the actual name of The King in Yellow, and re-appropriated non-synonymous titles such as "Him Who Must Not Be Named," (likely another euphemistic name for Azathoth) and "The High Priest Not To Be Described" (a minion of Nyarlathotep who might actually be Nyarlathotep) as sobriquets. This spawned the idea in the Expanded Universe that referring to him in by name was a very bad idea.
    • The specific origin of the idea was in the Dungeons & Dragons supplement Deities And Demigods, where saying "Hastur" (even once) had a 25% chance of summoning a flock of byakhees. If you defeated the byakhees, there was another 25% chance Hastur himself would appear.
    • Not a bad thing but in fact quite good: In Persona 2, saying "Hasturcomeforth" instead of your birth month to a fortune-telling girl would freak her out immensely and let you eventually summon him. (Hastur just loves hearing his name, basically.)
    • In the Web Comic User Friendly, Kuan is singing the Badger Song and Sid, annoyed, gives him a Lovecraft version to sing, substituting "Hastur" for "Badger". It looks like Kuan was Killed Off for Real as a result.
    • Someone has coined the term "hasturbating" to refer to the process of invoking this meme.
  • In the Incarnations of Immortality series, mentioning Satan by name will draw his attention. Lachesis and Chronos both mention this to the new incarnation of Death, when Death is investigating a suspiciously premature demise.
  • Author Ramsey Campbell created a god for the Cthulhu Mythos named Y'Golonac note  , who could possess a host if they merely read his name. Not even out loud; he could possess a person if they sight-read his name on a printed page. Seeing as he's a god that represents every deed that could be viewed as defiling by individuals both sane and insane across the universe, this is not a pleasant fate. The accepted version is that reading his name is fine unless you are reading his name from one of the 7 tomes of "The Revelations of Glaaki" which will cause him to appear and either eat or mind rape or enslave you.
  • In The Wheel of Time series, saying The Dark One's true name Shaitan supposedly draws his attention, and certainly gives you a nasty fit of bad luck. He's the dark god, you know. So there exist many alternate names for him too - like "father of lies".
  • Used in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell with the Raven King, a human raised in faerie who is the bringer of magic to England, and who is considered the true ruler of those living Oop North who often make oaths by him. One Northerner, Childermass, declares himself loyal to the Raven King despite his absence, and later is shocked when he meets him and it's clear that The Raven King heard the oath and is at least mildly amused that Childermass has no idea who he is
  • Harry Potter series
    • Voldemort is literally called He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named by those who are afraid of saying (or printing) his name, though those using less formal diction call him You-Know-Who. His followers simply call him The Dark Lord. In the earlier books this is portrayed merely as people being monumentally afraid of Voldemort (and a sign of reverence, in the case of his followers). In the last book, Voldemort uses this to his advantage by placing a "Taboo" spell upon his name; this causes the speaking of his name to break any protective charms on the area and reveal the location of the speaker to him. Seeing as the only people with the nerve to speak his name are Harry's group and (probably) the Order Of The Phoenix, this is quite clever.
    • In a more benign case, house elves automatically Apparate to the location of their owner when their name is called, regardless of any curses or protective magic that should prevent them. They can even be summoned into the Hogwarts grounds, which is normally impossible.
  • In the Young Wizards series, speaking any of the Lone Power's nicknames has the danger of drawing Its attention. Even thinking its true name is guaranteed to get Its attention unless something is keeping It distracted.
  • Discworld series
    • In Lords and Ladies, it is mentioned that mentioning the Elves by name can draw their attention and even help them cross over from Fairyland, especially around certain times of year when Crop Circles appear. For this reason, the witches of Lancre refer to them by various pseudonyms (such as the Gentry, or the Lords and Ladies), and only feel (barely) comfortable saying their name aloud when in the presence of lots of iron. Although if you're close enough to a portal, even these pseudonyms will draw them. (This is based on old folk beliefs; there's a reason the trope's called The Fair Folk.)
    • Igor (any Igor). When the master calls him, Igor will appear directly behind to answer. Makes no difference if Igor was in the basement or on the roof at the time, somehow he will also be out of sight behind his master when the master calls. Just part of the Igor service package.
    • In the early books such as The Colour of Magic, one never mentions the true name of The Lady, the Goddess Who Must Not Be Named, which is Lady Luck. An inversion, since she's the only goddess who only comes when not called and flees when mentioned. The Discworld Companion adds that the Gamblers' Guild once tried worshiping her, and the result was that the building exploded. Not so surprising, since it is later established that Gamblers' Guild is always right across the street from the Alchemists' Guild...
    • Wizards are forbidden from saying the number eight because it draws the attention of the Eldritch Abomination Bel-Shamharoth, the Sender of Eight.
  • The Lord of the Rings
    • This trope is used often in the books: Gandalf is unwilling to pronounce the ring's verse in the dark, especially in the black speech. There is generally a reluctance from all the characters to use words or names associated with evil things when it is dark. Since the Ring's verse is essentially an evil spell, it's quite understandable why Gandalf doesn't want to speak it in uncontrolled circumstances.
    • And in The Silmarillion, Sauron's former master is only ever referred to as "Morgoth" ("Dark Enemy") after this name is given to him by a scornful Feanor; the "Valaquenta", which describes the names and powers of every significant deity in Arda, explicitly states that his true name, Melkor, "is not spoken upon Earth".
    • Even Sauron himself is rarely named, more commonly referred to simply as "The Enemy". His followers don't often use the name "Sauron" either (it means "The Abomination" in Quenya, so Sauron himself doesn't like it much), usually using titles like "The Great Eye" or "The Dark Lord". His true name, Mairon, is remembered only by a few, and none of them consider him worthy of it anymore.
  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant:
    • The Ranyhyn, the wild, free and intelligent horses. They have special magic that days or weeks before you call them, they know it and head for where you will be so that as soon as you whistle for them, they are there.
    • And in the Second Chronicles we meet the Sandgorgons, who instantly know when their names are mentioned, even a great distance away, and will run at incredible speeds to find the person who did it and kill them.
    • And in the Last Chronicles, speaking She Who Must Not Be Named's true name could destroy the universe since she's Diassomer Mininderain, the Lover, a deity on par with the Creator and Lord Foul, and if she ever remembers her true name and stature she'd be able to escape from being imprisoned in reality, with reality itself an unfortunate casualty.
  • A rather literal variant in the Thursday Next series, Acheron Hades can hear his name if it's spoken within a hundred-mile radius.
  • In the David Drake fantasy novel The Sea Hag, The Hero is able to defeat the villain by tricking him into naming Serdic, his old dead master... who then promptly appears and drags the villain away to a Nightmare Fuel fate, since he had promised the hero earlier this would happen the next time he was named.
  • In Snakecharm, the second of Amelia Atwater-Rhodes' Kiesha'ra series, an unfortunate falcon, masquerading as a serpent, asks Zane if the falcons' ambassador, Syfka, is in town. Syfka pops up almost immediately, telling the rogue falcon, "You were foolish enough to use my name, not once, but twice." The "...And then you're in deep trouble" aspect is subverted, as Syfka gets into a heated argument with Zane, and when she turns around a moment later, everyone realizes that the man who said his name had run away during the argument.
  • In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Cao Cao had a tendency to show up whenever his name was being mentioned — so the saying goes, "Speak of Cao Cao, and Cao Cao is at the gates." Ironically, at one point, this was happening to the man himself — everytime he tempted fate by mentioning some character on the opposing side, that man would shortly show up.
  • In John C. Wright's Chronicles of Chaos, Echinda can detect anyone saying her name; the children resort to referring to "the fishmonger."
  • Similar to the Sandman example above in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan, the use of names of various mythological figures or places causes bad things like thunder and darkening of the skies to happen, so the characters tend to avoid using them. It's stated that this is because it gets their attention, and the lightning is only if they're upset with you. Unless you're Dionysus, who responds to Zeus's thunder with a bored "Blah, blah, blah."
    • This also applies to monsters. Percy's mom, Sally, pointedly avoids referring to the Minotaur by name, only referring to it as "Pasiphae's son". Similarly, an example of "demigods and technology don't mix" is given as a demigod web searching the other two gorgon sisters inadvertently reviving them.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Wizards, despite being human, can invoke this. If a person knows a wizard's True Name, they can try to gain control over the person. However, if the Wizard has a stronger will and power, they can reverse the binding and bind the would-be summoner. (In one of the books, Harry's Badass Boast at the end is to give his full name, and warn: "Conjure by it at your own risk." Of course, that's just in narration. He takes seriously the damage the right enemy could do if he really did go around putting his full name out there.)
    • In Storm Front an evil sorcerer summons his demon slave by screaming its Name. Harry, having perfectly heard the Name, then uses his own magic to free the demon from its enslavement without binding it to his own will.
    • Mentioning the skinwalker/naagloshii in Turn Coat is a very bad idea, since it grows stronger with fear and infamy. So Harry renames it "Shagnasty," which lacks the same intimidation factor.
    • The Queens of the respective fey courts courts and many other beings may be summoned this way, though generally the summoner must have a degree of power which they can use to call such entities; otherwise they just fade into the background noise. A good example comes from Changes - Harry is deep inside enemy territory protected only by the Erlking's respect for Sacred Hospitality, and he refers to Queen Mab by her name. The Erlking notes if Harry speaks her name a third time in their conversation, it will cause her to be summoned to his domain. Harry then only refers to her as "my queen."
      • Later, when speaking of the Erlking, Harry's Fairy Godmother, the Leanansidhe, calls the Erlking "The Hunter" so as not to summon him.
    • Similar to the knights, Mab is mindful to not speak the Names of any being of Power, particularly Fallen Angels and Archangels. She only says their titles. Archangel Michael is "Prince of the Host." Archangel Raphael is "The Demon Binder." Archangel Gabriel is "The Trumpeter." Archangel Uriel is "The Watchman."
    • Mab, Titania, and their mothers, Mother Winter and Mother Summernote , each are hesitant to speak of Nemesis for fear it might come for them and infect them. They simply call it the Adversary.
  • In the Evie Scelan series, Evie threatens people who seem like they are about to call the Bright Brotherhood by their proper name, Fiana. For someone who doesn't mind handing out her true name, she seems surprisingly worried about this.
  • In Jack of Shadows, by Roger Zelazny, Jack's powers include the ability to hear any person who speaks his name in shadow, and to continue listening in until they move out of it.
  • Jack Chalker's The Changewinds begins with the female protagonists learning that they are being threatened by an evil wizard. A mercenary to whom was entrusted the girls' safety decides that the villain is likely to pay better and attempts to attract his attention by saying his name now and then. The girls, discovering this, try to call on the wizard who brought them to this world by saying his name over and over. Of course, with a name like "Boolean", the girls just wound up giggling after a while. It should be noted that neither wizard was summoned, no matter how much their names were dropped.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian novel The Hour of the Dragon, Zenobia fears it, even though it's a man being spoken of.
    "Do not speak of him!" she whispered. "Demons are often summoned by the sound of their names.
  • The Bloody Mary version is weaponized in Seanan McGuire's short story "Dying With Her Cheer Pants On".
  • Nearly used in the Solomon Kane story "The Blue Flame of Vengeance", except that Solomon shows up right as the Fishhawk is about to say his name.
  • In The Kingkiller Chronicle, the Chandrian have some sense of when and where their name is spoken and might even be able to locate their depictions in art. Kvothe's father massacred with his troupe when he tries to compose a song about them, and the Adem only reveal the Chandrian's true names to Kvothe after warning him to "travel 1000 miles and wait 1000 nights" before speaking them again.
  • In Fred Saberhagen's Empire of the East, the arch-wizard Wood (itself an alias) is too afraid to say the demon-prince Orcus' name, or even think it. He still proposes to release him, though.
  • In The Griffin's Daughter Trilogy, the Nameless One's true name had been stricken from elven records and lore, to keep others from trying to invoke I Know Your True Name and claim the Nameless One's power, either becoming as big a threat as The Nameless One or inadvertently unleashing him on the world.
  • From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain by Minister Faust, heroes are paranoid about mentioning the name of a ridiculously powerful psychic supervillain because saying his name aloud allows him to instantly teleport to your location. This is despite the fact that he's been locked up and contained for over two decades.
  • In Rage of a Demon King, it is revealed that saying the true name of The Unnamed is not necessary to come under his power; merely thinking or even knowing it is sufficient.
  • In Pact, speaking the name of someone generates a connection between you and them, one which they can notice. Speaking it repeatedly causes an effect that's described as an itch that can't be scratched, which usually will cause them to seek you out to make it stop. This principle applies to everything from bog-standard practitioners, to the Lord of Toronto, to a duke of the first demonic choir.
  • Ward: parahumans in general try to avoid talking about Khepri, the cape who orchestrated the end of Gold Morning, due to the traumatic means (mind controlling nearly every living cape at once) Khepri used to do that and a general unspoken fear of attracting Khepri's attention again. Often, even the name "Khepri" is not used, and they're referred to as "an unknown Class-S cape". In truth, Khepri was de-powered and couldn't come back even if she wanted to, but even those who know her true identity and circumstances seem to consider "Khepri" and "Taylor" as two different beings.
  • Journey to Chaos: No one wants to refer to Tasio by his name, because that would attract his attention. The speaker and everyone around him could be subjected to anything from a petty prank to a terrifying catastrophe. This is why Tasio has so many nicknames, with "The Trickster" being most common among them. In the first book, Eric is yelled at several times for violating this taboo, and in the second, Emily is Bound and Gagged for deliberately doing so.
  • Allasakar is the Big Bad of The Sacred Hunt, The Sun Sword and The House War, and nobody likes to say his name, regardless of origin or affiliation. In the North, he's known as the Lord of the Hells, in the south as the Lord of Night, and to his minions simply as "the Lord" without qualification; he's also referred to by the euphemism "the god we do not name". While the consequences of naming him aren't elaborated on in detail, the taboo is deeply ingrained enough that even saying "Allasakar" aloud is considered a sign of courage (or overconfidence).
  • In John French’s Thousand Sons novels, no one ever refers to the Chaos Gods by name, presumably for fear of drawing their attention. Any character that must talk about them will use epithets like the Lord of Skulls (for Khorne), the Changer of Ways (for Tzeentch), or the Plague Father (for Nurgle).
  • Johannes Cabal and the Fear Institute: In an attempt to bluff a horde of enemies, Johannes pretends to invoke the Eldritch Abomination Nyarlathotep to strike them dead, and is horrified beyond words when Nyarlathotep hears and obliges. Subverted with The Reveal that Nyarlathotep has been traveling with him incognito since the beginning.
  • Gods Of Jade And Shadow: The Physical Gods of The Underworld notice when their names are spoken, but need to send a spirit Familiar to the mortal world to see who's calling. Since their worship fell out of style, they're spoken of so rarely that they're much more likely to investigate.
  • Under the Pendulum Sun: Speaking an old or powerful Fae's name risks drawing their attention or invoking their power. People repeatedly caution Catherine against naming Queen Mab, and an icy wind blows out her lantern when she does so anyway. Someone immediately cuts her off when she starts to speak a vastly older name, Lilith.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: The immortal sketch "I didn't expect some kind of Spanish Inquisition!" "NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!" Which turns into a new joke in the final scene of the episode, where the Inquisition somehow knows that someone said the words, but they're across town, so they have to rush to catch a bus to get to the person in question and say their lines before the episode ends.
  • Power Rangers: "Say my name and I appear. Why have you summoned Quagmire here?" Quagmire is an enemy of the villain.
  • On Bewitched, calling Dr. Bombay required a simple rhyme: "Calling Dr. Bombay, emergency, come right away." He was sure to come (maybe not right that minute, but eventually), but was usually grouchy, having been called away from something else he was doing.
  • In an early episode of Supernatural, the boys fight Bloody Mary. Needless to say, this trope comes into effect. The boys finish her off by getting her to look into a mirror and letting her own reflection turn her powers on her and destroy her.
  • Invoked in "The Pilot" of Friends. Since a woman in a wedding dress walked into the coffee shop right when Ross said "I just want to be married", Chandler adds "And I just want a million dollars!"
  • Good Eats; not a villain but a Running Gag:
    Alton: All right, which one of you at home said "Nutritional Anthropologist"?
    Deb Duchon, Nutritional Anthropologist: That guy, there... naugahyde chair, green pants.
    Alton: Yeah, well, (through megaphone) thanks a lot, Mr. Talks-to-his-television!
  • Neil on The Young Ones once summoned the demon Futumsch to Neil's shared flat by saying his name, which was due to him wondering what Mike was talking about. Not that any of the guys ever noticed Futumsch was there, mind. (Futumsch complains about his name being an obstacle to being summoned.)
  • In Brazilian sitcom Toma Lá, Dá Cá, whenever the apartment manager's name is mentioned, she knocks at the door and comes in. At a certain point of the show, the savvy characters would try to stop whenever someone started saying her name.
  • In Scrubs mentioning "Johnny the tackling Alzheimer's patient" will result in JD being tackled by Johnny at least once that episode.
    Johnny: Who am I?! [tackle]
  • The Tales from the Darkside episode "Seasons of Belief" has a couple on Christmas Eve telling their kids the story of a monster who's so full of himself, if he hears anyone say his name, his ears will transform into wings and he'll hunt them down and squeeze the life from them, (often while singing a song about himself). Supposedly, the only way to get rid of him is to finish telling the story about him. The parents stop to assure their kids that it's just a story and that there's nothing to be afraid of. The monster takes this moment to reach inside the house and crush the skulls of the parents, (though curiously leaves the children alone, despite them all having said his name). In the short story the episode was based on, the monster was implied to have killed everyone.
  • In Raising Hope, the Dog-Head Man knows when people are talking about him. At least, according to Jimmy.
  • In Nikita, Birkhoff gets an alert whenever anybody online runs a search on his name.
  • In the Warehouse 13 episode "13.1", Claudia and Fargo hide from attacking robots in an artifact crate, and the artifact starts to activate. Fargo starts to ask if the artifact is what he thinks it is. Claudia stops him, as things will get ugly if he says its name.
  • Two and a Half Men Played for laughs in a Running Gag. Wherever Charlie may be, he knows his stalker, Rose, is always within earshot. So he just has to say her name and she'll say "Yeah?" usually from an unseen location.
  • In Season 4 of Person of Interest, Harold Finch doesn't want to say the name Samaritan, for fear the all-seeing Artificial Intelligence will pick up the word on some microphone and zero in on their position. Finch is being Properly Paranoid as Samaritan was specifically designed to do this.
  • Arrested Development pulls this as something of a Brick Joke. The word Beetlejuice is said three times in the show, and on the third utterance he walks through the background.
  • Community also used Beetlejuice for a stealth gag that ran over the course of three years. Watch behind Annie at the end of the clip.
  • The Defenders (2017):
    • Daredevil (2015)
      • Wilson Fisk insists that his fellow criminals not mention him by name as he is obsessed with his own secrecy. Vladimir sneers that the only reason he does this is because if they do use his name people will realise he's just a man.
      • Said verbatim by Karen when Fisk appears on television while she, Matt, and Foggy are talking about him.
      • In Season 3, Ray Nadeem is blackmailed into working for Fisk, and discovers to his shock that all his fellow FBI agents are in the same boat. When he tries to discuss the situation with them he's told to shut up as they do not use their new boss's name, only referring to him by the Code Name: Kingpin.
    • Jessica Jones (2015): Kilgrave has commanded a college girl named Hope into shooting her parents in an elevator in Jessica's building. Trish tries to use her radio show to raise sympathy for Hope, but when Jeri is doubtful, Trish, who knows very well Kilgrave is real as well as what he did to Hope and Jessica, starts a tirade which devolves into bashing Kilgrave. Jessica immediately enters the booth to cut Trish's mike, realizing Kilgrave is likely listening in. Guess who calls in to the show that very second?

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Seen with Glory, the Big Bad of Season 5. In her introductory episode, Giles warns Buffy that anything that goes unnamed is either an object of deep worship or great fear. Or both. Glory turns out to be a physical God who's literally worshiped by her minions and is the most powerful foe Buffy has faced at the time. The Speak of the Devil trope is also used tongue-in-cheek in a scene where they encounter Ben, unaware that the Big Bad is actually possessing him.
    Tara: Let's just call She Who Cannot Be Named another name. Let's call her—
    Buffy: [seeing a familiar face] Ben!
  • All but invoked in one episode of The Big Bang Theory, when Leonard and Howard are at Raj's place to have dinner with him and his sister Priya. Sheldon is notably absent, as he prefers not to go to Raj's and has instead arranged a party of his own. The others find themselves missing him, much to their surprise, and tell Priya a few Sheldon stories. Suddenly, they're interrupted by Sheldon knocking on the door.
    Howard:'s like Beetlejuice, we said his name too many times.

  • In the song "Black Fox" whose artist varies, some bored foxhunters mention that if the devil himself showed up, they'd "run him such a race." Out of nowhere appears a black fox with red eyes, which the exited hunters chase all over the countryside. Eventually, the fox swims a river, and upon reaching the other side, reveals itself to be Satan, who more or less exclaims "Surprise, ***!" The terrified hunters flee back to town.
  • For some odd reason, in Lupe Fiasco's "The Cool", whenever The Game is mentioned, someone dies (unintentional. Maybe.). You don't even hear him say it in his own song due to this reason:
    If you die, tell 'em that you played my game
    I hope your bullet holes become mouths that say my name,
    cuz I'm the

    Myths & Religion 
  • Satan is the Trope Namer. Depending on how strict their adherence to the 3rd Commandment (reformed enumeration) is, some people refrain from saying God's name as well, though that's less out of fear of summoning Him (seeing as He's already omnipresent) and more because to do otherwise is seen as blasphemous.
  • Various old folklore:
    • Not only the Devil, but Cao Cao in Chinese folklore, wolves in France, and various predators in various places. An especially interesting case is bears. "Bear" is itself a euphemism for the creature, a word (meaning "the brown one") used instead of their name to avoid drawing their attention. The substitution happened so long ago that we have little idea what the real name was. Based on reconstructed Indo-European, the old Germanic word for bear would be "urþaz" (or something similar, from Proto-Indo-European hrtkós); given that the current word in English has cognates in the other Germanic languages (for instance, the German "Bär"), the change probably occurred at the proto-Germanic stage, and the ancestors of the original English speakers stopped using the old word.
    • The Latin expression "lupus in fabula" literally means "the wolf in the conversation" and is the exact equivalent of the English "speak of the devil". You should be careful when talking of the wolf, as it might appear.
    • The Slavic term for a bear is medved, meaning "one who eats honey." Which itself has been known to get substituted with euphemisms like "furry one". It's in fact a double-decker euphemism, since the Slavs also were originally using the word very similar to "bear" (that survives as a stem in the Russian word berloga "bear's lair"), making further euphemisms like "furry one" or "mishka" (Russian for "Mikey", as in, little Michael) three-storied euphemisms. Finnish has roughly fifty different terms for a bear, the euphemisms ranging from "dew palm" to "the apple of the forest".
    • This continues to this day. In Central America, Mayans will never refer to the jaguar by its name ("balam") for fear of invoking its presence. They refer to it as "chac mool", which means "red paw"
    • This was so prevalent when it came to wolves in Sweden that the most common euphemism ("varg", meaning killer or strangler) became the proper name — starting the process again (the only thing that saved "varg" was that wolves became extinct in Swedennote , making the fear fall out of favour before a single euphemism became the new dominant one). The actual phrase 'Speak of the devil' has a counterpart that uses trolls ("When you speak about the trolls, they'll stand in the porch").
  • The fairy Puck will appear if you say his name, in folklore and in William Shakespeare's works. Unlike in the Bard's play, encountering jolly old Robin Goodfellow in the older folklore tended to get you far worse fates than growing some donkey ears.
  • One old wives' tale is that of Bloody Mary, who supposedly appears and very violently murders anyone who says her name three times while looking in a mirror. Or seven times, and maybe you have to do it by candle light, or maybe you have to taunt her that you killed her baby. Myths are like that.
  • Hades of Greek Mythology is a good example. The Greeks believed saying his name drew his attention, so they called him by all sorts of nicknames and titles, like "The Wealthy One" or "The Host of Many." His wife, Persephone, was equally feared for being his queen, and was called things like "The Dread Queen."
  • In Celtic folklore, the Sluagh are a horde of soul-devouring ghosts in the form of crows, who can be summoned by saying their name or falling into a state of depression. They may have been the inspiration for The Raven.
  • In Guatuso mythology, it is believed that saying the Devils' names outside of narrations and sorcery formulas summons them, and saying the God's proper names outside of certain narrations is disrepectful and, therefore, must be avoided at all costs and are generally kept secret.

    Pro Wrestling 

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppet Show:
    • Mentioning any term for explosions or bombs and Crazy Harry will appear, detonation plunger in hand and BOOM! Kermit once has the misfortune of causing this three times in a row on the Ben Vereen episode.
    • In one episode the Newcaster reports that the temple of an ancient Egyptian crocodile god named Rezal-evad-gib (the name of which he actually says twice for emphasis) has been discovered, and that said god would "wreak a terrible vengeance" upon anyone entering the tomb or even saying his name aloud. Well, you can probably guess what happens. He gets an excuse that time, but in the very next scene, where Beauregard tries to warn Lynda Carter that they've discovered a dangerous word, but can't remember the hard-to-pronounce name, the Newscaster runs in and says it again.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Call of Cthulhu game and its various manifestations are where this trope really got going in geek culture - see the entry under Literature above for Hastur.
    • In the Call of Cthulhu-themed podcast "The Good Friends of Jackson Elias", the name Hastur is inevitably bleeped out when it occurs. (Swearing, on the other hand, is not.)
    • In the supplement Terror Australis, adventure "Old Fella That Bunyip". The investigators are forced to say the phrase "Eleanba Wunda" to drive Bunyip upstream. Unfortunately for them, it's the name of a spirit worse than Bunyip, which will appear if its name is chanted too often. The second time the investigators do so they feel a cold wind, and the third (and final) time Eleanba Wunda almost appears.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • In early editions, saying the name of a demon could cause it to turn its attention to the speaker and attack him if possible, and speaking the name of a devil (which was inscribed on its talisman) would call forth that devil.
    • In Forgotten Realms saying the name of a Chosen of Mystra (such as Seven Sisters) outside of dead magic areas alerts them and allows to hear the next nine words uttered by the speaker. This was used a few times both for startling folk by quoting their previous statements and more important things — e.g. in Elminster's Daughter some Red Wizards with a hostage made Elminster swear he will not act against them, and then he began to mumble something repetitive. If you know who The Simbul is, the rest of this scene is as obvious as it is messy.
    • 3.5 has Truenaming, which at level 20 gives a feat that allows a character to do this with a use-name of their choice. Speaking the use-name, afterward, allows the character to know where you are, what the general situation is, and lets them decide whether or not to be teleported into the area. Depending on the character in question, this can either be an example of this trope, or Call on Me. Or, in some cases, both at once.
    • Any good or neutral creature that speaks the demon lord Pazuzu's name three times will catch his attention. He sometimes offers to aid such a creature if they're in trouble... but accepting a boon from a demon lord is guaranteed to pull you into evil.
    • Also in the 3.X Deities and Demigods Handbook it states that Deities are generally aware if anyone says their name, anywhere or any of their common titles. This generally won't summon the deity to you but that does make it hard to mount an assault on the gods... This is why a few of Forgotten Realms novels got "Psst! No names!" scenes from avatars and other canny characters.
    • One DnD sourcebook (likely The Book of Vile Darkness) relates the story of a particularly huge prick of a merchant who would take advantage of this rule by selling a parrot to rich-looking individuals. When they got out of town and onto a deserted stretch of road, their new pet would fly away and start shrieking the name of Orcus—a freaking demon lord—who would appear and murder the poor saps. After Orcus had teleported back to the Abyss, the merchant would then gather up his dead victims' gear. That he would pull this trick repeatedly says something horrible about the merchant and a little pathetic about Orcus, who apparently has a lot of free time on his hands.
    • Cerlic, the Ferryman of the Styx (known as Charon to most mortals) is a unique yugoloth and one of the safest ways to travel through the Lower Planes, and simply saying his name on the shores of the River Styx will summon him in at most, a half-hour. However, he requires payment up front (which is astronomical) and anyone who summons him and refuses to pay is attacked; he's incredibly powerful, on par with a minor demon lord.
    • Another example of this which was legitimate is the Demon Lord Fraz-Urb'luu, who is notorious for using a unique talent to use the names of other Demon Lords to trick them into thinking they have been summoned. His usual strategy is to do this, and then teleport away right before the victim appears, assuring that the angry demon will take out his anger on whoever Fraz-Urb'luu had been fighting. (This strategy naturally has made Fraz-Urb'luu universally hated among other Demon Lords.)
    • Although its been referenced in several other tropes, the legend of the Serpent's Coil still (sort of) counts. A 2nd edition myth that made it into 3.0 before being retconned out at the end of 3.5, the myth went that Asmodeus, the king of Hell, was actually a very advanced illusion or perhaps an avatar of some sort; his true shape was a miles-long monstrosity of utter, incomprehensible evil. When he was hurled from the celestial planes into Hell, this form crashed through the dimension's reality - creating the nine levels of Hell - and came to rest in a deep, spiraling crater at the very bottom of The Pit. In an aversion of this trope however, telling someone this story didn't summon Asmodeus: it simply caused the storyteller to die within 24 hours (by unspecified means). Which is about on par for drawing the attention of overwhelmingly powerful evil uberdeities.
    • A God-Blooded creature of Vecna, god of secrets, is not only immune to any divination spell that would reveal any information about it, but automatically knows the name, appearance, and location of the spellcaster.
    • The Nentir Vale has an interesting reversal. The god that Asmodeus rebelled against in this setting is known only as "He Who Was". This is because Asmodeus literally erased all record and memory of the deity's name from history, fearing that if it was spoken just once, the slain god would regain his powers.
    • Planescape:
      • There's a slightly odd variation where on some evil planes, divination spells alert the target and they soon come to find you. Now, bear in mind you usually need to know some name or other means to identify the target of a divination spell.
      • Also, revering the Lady of Pain will result in you either being Mazed or Flayed, depending on her whim. Because of this, even though nobody knows her actual name, they don't even like to use her title, instead using respectful nicknames like "Her Dread Serenity".
    • The 1980 Dungeons & Dragons Deities and Demigods Cyclopedia stated that naming Hastur aloud could result in his sending some Byakhee to kill you. If they failed, he might appear himself to finish the job. Tricking a player into doing so has long been a favorite means of ending a game that has gone sour.
    • The Ravenloft fan-made Prestige Class called the Folkloric Warlock gains the ability to do this at a high level.
    • In a meta example, because "Dungeons & Dragons" is very much trademarked, third-party settings and games inspired by it (such as Pathfinder) never refer to it as such. Instead, they refer to it obliquely as "the world's greatest roleplaying game" or, in the case of competitors, "the roleplaying game invented by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson".
  • Kibo, mentioned below in the Real Life section, was used by Mage: The Ascension. In the digital web, he set up magic tracers so whenever anyone said his name, he would instantly be able to appear, as a real person, in front of them.
  • The Antediluvians in Vampire: The Masquerade are like this, or at least their vampiric descendants are afraid that they might be. At various points, it comes up that the names we have for them aren't their real names, just pseudonyms that are used to refer to them without the possibility of drawing their attention via this trope. It also shows up in Demon: The Fallen. Using a demon's Celestial Name automatically opens a remote channel of communication with them; use it unaware of that connection, and they'll be listening to everything you say...
  • The Eldar of Warhammer 40,000 are being hunted down by the evil Chaos God Slaanesh, and naturally, they are so shit scared of the menacing god that they won't even use that name to refer to hir. The Craftworld Eldar refer to Slaanesh as "The Great Enemy" and the Dark Eldar refer to Slaanesh as "She Who Thirsts". Only a few especially badass Eldar have the balls to refer to Slaanesh by hir actual name, such as Ronahn. Solitaires, the most badass of the Eldar Harlequins, take it even further. When re-enacting the Fall of the Eldar, the Solitaires are the ones who play the role of Slaanesh. And while speaking hir name might draw the dark god's attention, anyone who isn't a Solitaire pretending to be Slaanesh will go insane. The Solitaires pay a high price for their dedication though: their souls are forfeit to Slaanesh and there is nothing they can do about it.
  • Shadowrun 3rd Edition supplement Magic in the Shadows. If a free spirit's true name is spoken three times in succession, the spirit has to appear before the speaker.
  • Empire of the Petal Throne supplement Book of Ebon Bindings. Calling out a being's Name of Power (I Know Your True Name) draws its attention. Doing so with a demon's Name of Power can allow it to leave its place in the Planes Beyond and enter the world of Tékumel.


    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • In the Devil May Cry series, the ruler of the underworld and Big Bad of the first game is named "Mundus". Oddly, he is almost never referred to by name in other products, either being referred to as "the Devil King" or "the Devil Emperor".
  • Parodied (and used) in Kingdom of Loathing: if you select 'Say "Guy Made Of Bees"' five times as a choice when you encounter a bathroom mirror, you will encounter the Guy Made Of Bees. And unless you have a certain in-game item and use it in the first round of combat, the Guy Made Of Bees will hit you with as much force as the Incredible Hulk's weight in bees.
  • During a perfect Pacifist Run in Iji, Elite Krotera will mention Vateilika and how he'll deal with her after you're dead. He really should have spent the time saying goodbye to Mr. MPFB Devastator, as his flight off this mortal coil just arrived.
  • In Ultima V, the Shadowlords could be summoned to your location by yelling their name (Eg, Yell Astaroth).
  • A possible inversion of this trope (overlapping in aspects with I Know Your True Name) occurs in Breath of Fire IV. Along with straight treatment of I Know Your True Name, General Yohm hunts down Fou-lu—even at one point explicitly commenting that the mere act of uttering Fou-lu's name is sufficient to send ripples in the world that can lead someone sensitive to those ripples to find him. A straighter version also exists. In a part of the game, Fou-lu refrains from revealing his name to Mami explicitly to keep this from happening, and merely goes by his nickname "Ryong"—this eventually gets blown to hell when he tells her his story via a historical legend (and has to use his real name in it).
  • In Runescape, saying Zaros's name gives him power. He's weakened that much - in fact, most NPCs (and other Gods) refer to him as "The Nameless God".
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 inverts this initially, when an Affably Evil devil willingly tells you his true name so you can banish him back to Hell. Later played straight when knowing his true name from your previous meeting with him lets you summon him for a Deal with the Devil.
  • In the Discworld adventure game, saying the word "monkey" will cause the Librarian to appear and punch you, because he is an ape and does not like the M-word. This is occasionally mentioned in the books, but the game turns it into a Running Gag instead.
  • In Xenoblade, after Shulk, Reyn, and Sharla make it out of the Ether Mine, Shulk remarks that they still haven't found the faced mechon who attacked Colony 9 and killed Fiora earlier. Cue Metal Face floating up behind them and surprising them with a taunt.
    Metal Face: Hope I'm not interrupting!
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • In the series' lore, the Khajiit religion is heavily based around Nirn's two moons, Masser and Secunda. The moons even dictate which of 17 different sub-species a Khajiit cub will grow up to be, depending on which phases of the moons it was born under. However, the Khajiit recognize "dark spirits" known as "dro-m'Athra," who are represented by the inverse phases of the moons. The Khajiit refuse to speak of them.
    • In Skyrim, it's revealed that providing one knows the true name of a Dragon, if you invoke it via the Thu'um it will hear you and may cause the Dragon to immediately fly to your location out of curiosity as it can be considered a challenge. It is not however guaranteed, as invoking the dragon's name gives you no power over it. The Greybeards summon the Dragonborn to High Hrothgar for training in a similar manner, calling forth the Dovahkiin so loudly the whole of Skyrim trembles. Notably, it works on you the same way it does on dragons, except when it doesn't.
  • Dynasty Warriors 8 has a fair bit of fun with the Chinese equivalent of this trope (the "Speak of Cao Cao, and Cao Cao will come" idiom mentioned in "Real Life"); NPCs in the Wei faction Story Mode even explicitly invoke the trope noting that Cao Cao comes whenever he's spoken of—and promptly lampshade this by commenting "Cao Cao must have a really good information network!"
  • The Lady of Pain from Planescape: Torment. Simply saying her name once doesn't attract her attention, but repeated mentions or worship (which she forbids) will. Many people simply call her "The Lady" to avoid summoning her by mistake. This is inherited from her tabletop game incarnation above.
  • In Barrow Hill: The Dark Path, other characters who say Baibin's name aloud tend to be attacked by her soon afterward. The ones in-the-know about the local legends believe this trope applies, and are usually frightened and horror-struck when they realize they've said her name.
  • In Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, one of these happens when The Bros. meet Dr. Toadley for the first time. He diagnoses them with a deadly disease called 'Bowseritis'. Right as he does this, guess who shows up?
    Bowser: Did someone page the King of Awesome?
  • Ōkami: When Issun says Orochi's name out loud, the wind eerily begins to pick up. Waka warns him not to throw around the monster's name casually, as apparently just that is enough to curse someone with a weak will.
  • Batman: Arkham Knight: While patrolling the city, it is possible to overhear some particular Enemy Chatter. One thug will deliberately say "Batman" and then mockingly ask his buddy if he really thinks that will cause Batman to appear and beat them both up. Naturally, you can choose to then swoop down on them and beat them both up.

    Web Animation 
  • Fooby, the Kamikaze Watermelon, appears in The Demented Cartoon Movie every time someone says "kamikaze watermelon."
  • If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device:
    • One need only to speak of Genestealers to summon Inquisitor Adrielle Quist from the Warp.
      Adrielle: Did someone say GENESTEALERS? [decimates an entire Genestealer Cult]
    • Magnus once accidentally summons a daemon into the throne room itself just by speaking its name. Fortunately, it was a minor daemon, so the Emperor banishes it with little difficulty.

    Web Comics 
  • This creature (well, the creature this demon is shapeshifted into) in UC: Deviating from Normality.
  • xkcd:
    • This strip features an abuse of Bloody Mary. Explaining it would ruin the joke.
    • And another, but for the more serious purpose of co-authoring a paper with Bloody Mary.
    • This strip references the old superstition that this was true of bears, which is why the original English word for it was abandoned in favor of the present one. When Gretchen McCulloch is asked about this, she hazards a guess as to what the original word was... and is promptly proven right. Cue Oh, Crap! moment...
  • Don't say Ironman in Austin, TX as shown why in roosterteeth's webcomics, Michael "Burnie" Burns will be groundpounded.
  • In The Order of the Stick, saying "mind flayer" or "illithid" will bring down copyright lawyers upon the speaker. Actually, pointing out any copyrighted material can do this, as Vaarsuvius realizes to their advantage when confronting a (supposedly good-aligned) drow wizard armed with two swords.
  • In Goblins, the "Guide within the Well of Darkness" appears whenever someone says his name and answers a yes/no question. The catch? At the fourth summoning, he kills everyone. Incidentally, his name is Noe. Pronounced as "no". K'seliss invokes this trope and rips Noe's throat out right as he appears. It's just as cool as it sounds.
  • In Chasing the Sunset, speaking the name of the evil wizard Malvenicus causes lightning and a crack of [Kra-ka-tow!] thunder. Just like that. Malvenicus [kra-ka-tow!], as it turns out, is not all that evil; he just put an enchantment on his own name back when he was younger because he thought it would be funny.
  • In User Friendly, Sid deals with an annoying intern by tricking him into saying "Hastur" three times. And Stef manages to avoid being shredded by an angry Indian god by calling upon Hastur, and letting the two duke it out. In another strip, the name is only spoken twice, but he still heard it since he happened to be in the next room.
  • Girl Genius drops a variant of the trope namenote , ending with "...and you find her in your hat."
  • The comic in Toon Hole where there is a literal Bloody Mary.
  • In El Goonish Shive, the Demonic Duck can be summoned by pointing somewhere and saying "Hey, is that a demonic duck of some sort?"
  • Wondermark's strip from 19 September 2014 features a lady complaining about sea lions to her husband, only for one to show up and pursue the couple with a string of outwardly polite questions about what problem they have with sea lions. This gave rise to the term "sealioning" to describe that sort of harassment.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation:
    • SCP-2056 ("Tsiatko"). SCP-2056 is a humanoid creature. According to Native American elders speaking their name is dangerous, as it knows when someone is talking about it and hunts them down.
    • SCP-2521 is some sort of Humanoid Abomination the Foundation cannot quite contain properly. It can go through walls, and practically teleport, but the real danger about it is that it apparently covets any sort of word-based information about itself, and will steal it away the moment it's made. It might be a document. It might be a recording. It might be the person who spoke it, if they said it out loud. And it might just take this page at some point. As a result the entire article on it must be done in pictograms, and even the database must label it "●●|●●●●●|●●|●" instead of "2521" to avoid having it be summoned at the location of the database computer.
    • A variation with SCP-4885 ("Find Him"), a horror version of Where's Wally?. You can physically describe him and remain untouched, but the moment you say or even know Waldo's location, he forcibly crawls out of your mouth and kills you. The Foundation believes they have contained Waldo by placing a D-class in one random moving containment cell then exposing that D-class (as well as all the empty containment cells) to Waldo's current GPS coordinates.
  • The Binder of Shame; El Disgusto's character is caught stealing from the other characters and killed. His last words are "You'll pay for this! You'll all pay for this! Hastur! Hastur! Hastur! Hastur! Hastur!" Fortunately (or unfortunately as it turns out), the wizard NPC resurrects the group.
  • The Makeover Fairy from The Nostalgia Chick can do this, appearing in a puff of sparkleswhenever somebody says her name. Either it's a new ability or the others didn't know about it yet, since at one point Chick comments that she wasn't sure if it would work. Earlier in the show's run, The Nostalgia Critic appeared to bitch her out for reviewing Transformers when she said the word "manchild".
  • The Nostalgia Critic appeared when the Maven of the Eventide said Nostalgia three times like he was Beetlejuice during Vampire Reviews. The two ask loudly how she even did that.
  • The TV Tropes podcast On the Tropes Episode #61 has a discussion on this trope, that ultimately becomes an example of the trope itself.
  • According to this Cracked video, if you say Saint Patrick three times on his feast day he will appear and offer spiritual guidance. If you let slip that you're celebrating it as a secular holiday you only vaguely understand, he will just yell at you.
  • In Sanders Sides, mention anxiety or something that could cause anxiety, and Virgil, Thomas' personification of his anxiety, will appear. Whether he wants to or not. (And he usually doesn't.)
  • Used as a Running Gag by Call Me Kevin, during his Grand Theft Auto V Chaos Mod streams, when he'll sometimes cut himself off in the middle of saying "Jesus!" or "Jesus Christ!" for fear that saying it will summon Griefer Jesus (or worse, Extreme Griefer Jesus).

    Western Animation 
  • Beetlejuice: The full rhymes (from the cartoon, at least), though rarely used, go:
    ''Even though I should be wary
    Still I conjure something scary
    Ghostly hauntings I turn loose,
    Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!

    :: for bringing him into our world, and:
    Knowing that I should be wary
    Still I venture someplace scary
    Ghostly hauntings now turn loose
    Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!
when Lydia wants to enter the Neitherworld.
  • Freakazoid! has the villain Candle Jack who would appear randomly and kidnap whoever said his name. Candle Jack himself says, "Not a very bright group, are you?"
    • The series also spoofed this in a Credits Gag: "Interesting Fact: If you spin around while saying 'Huggbees' three times real quick, Pierre Salinger will appear. Only he'll have... a beard!"
  • Gravity Falls: In "Weirdmageddon", Bill Cipher refers to Xanthar as "The Being Whose Name Must Never Be Said", but then realizes that The End of the World as We Know It is a special enough occasion to warrant saying the name.
    • Earlier, in "Northwest Mansion Mystery", Dipper calls Pacifica Northwest the worst, and that he'd say it to her face:
    Knock knock knock
    Pacifica: "I need your help."
  • In Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, saying Mentok the Mind Taker's real name, Mufti, summons powerful magical winds.
  • In a South Park episode, saying Biggie Smalls' name three times while looking into a mirror will summon his ghost, which really pisses him off when he's got places to be.
  • In Peter Pan & the Pirates, speaking the name of King Kyros, a powerful winter spirit, summons him to you. Unfortunately, Peter Pan forgets this little fact whilst he's showing off a gem that he boastfully admits to stealing from Kyros' home.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: In "Hungry Larry", the ritual to summon the eponymous monster involves writing his name in mustard on a take-out menu, licking it off, and then saying his name three times.
  • Teen Titans Go! had a parody of Bloody Mary but more kid-friendly and a little scary called Scary Teri. Cyborg has a childhood fear of the dark due to being forced to play a game called "Scary Teri". When he says it three times, he screams in fear.. When he says "Scary Teri is not scary" three times and she will disappear.
  • In the first episode of Thundercats Roar, the Berbils warn that lightning will strike anyone who says Mumm-ra's name. They use this against him near the end.
  • Harvey Street Kids takes the Bloody Mary parody to a lesser extent called "Muddy Barry" in "Harveyween".

    Real Life 
  • The Chinese warlord Cao Cao (3rd century AD) was so well known for his rapid marches, the Chinese term for this trope since the time was "Speak of Cao Cao, and Cao Cao will appear."
  • A once-popular internet meme says this of Candle Jack, who kidnaps whomever speaks of him. It's a Discredited Meme nowadays - don't use it.
  • In Spanish, the equivalent idiom for this translates as "Speak of the king of Rome, and through the window he appears."
  • As stated on the Bears Are Bad News page, people of old didn't dare say "bear", fearing that it would summon one. This was so prevalent that in many languages (including English) the word for bear is actually descended from the euphemism for bear, and the original word has been lost to time.
  • The old Swedish had a fear about wolves. It became so prevalent and went on for so long that the most popular nickname stopped being a nickname and became the proper name, though thankfully the fear fell into obscurity before it happened again.
  • Mob kingpin Vincent "The Chin" Gigante was so feared in the Italian mob that people would point to or touch their chins, or by shaping a C with a thumb and forefinger rather than say his name out loud if they want to refer to him. Other times, they would usually call him "that guy," "my aunt," or "Aunt Julia" when referring to Gigante. More likely, this was done to avoid FBI bugs and whatnot.
    • This was later copied by Joe Massino of the Bonanno family, as he ordered his men to touch their ears when referring to him. This is how he got the nickname "The Ear."
  • Demonologists usually advise people to not speak about the demon while in a demonically infested house. Some activities, like listening to recordings of exorcisms for instructional purposes, are also considered "opening doorways" that could attract the wrong kind of attention.
  • Tagging somebody's name in a Facebook post alerts that person to the post. It's not uncommon for people to post the name on its own to get their attention.
  • Tumblr allows users to invoke this; putting an @ symbol before their URL allows you to "mention" them, which puts a notification on their dashboard. Just typing someone's URL alone doesn't alert them, but since users have long been hashtagging each other in conversations and the new full-text search appears in the exact same spot as the old tag search it replaced, many of them are now in the habit of searching their own URL and will end up finding you anyway.
  • The card of Death (but not, surprisingly, The Devil) in Tarots is also known as "The Nameless Arcane", since many feared that saying its name would summon it.
    • Even though it actually has nothing to do with death.
  • You know, there's also at least one religious movement known to be really touchy about its public image that has a tendency to sic lawyers and protesters on anyone who says even remotely unflattering things about it.
  • Hashtags on Twitter allow one to do this not with a name, but with a topic. For example, if one criticizes a particular group of radicals that rallies under a given hashtag, expect to get flamed by 4-5 defenders of said group telling you that you are evil and that you work for the enemy, etc.
  • DeviantArt's mention system can summon certain users if you bring them up in a comment or deviation.
  • An old ASVS (alt.startrek.vs.starwars) troll known as Tim was also commonly known as "TOWNMNBS" (The One Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken), due to his tendency to appear whenever anyone mentioned him. He also was known for inventing the "Timsult" a type of pseudo-insult that was harsh enough to upset the recipient but not harsh enough to justify disciplinary action by the board moderators. The purpose of which would be to provoke people into using actual insults against him, and then reporting them so they would be banned.
  • Critics of Vladimir Putin often refer to him as "Mr. P" (often times in English or another language).
  • New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that she would not use the name of the Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrant to avoid giving him any publicity.
  • Numerous tribes in South America, Australia and other places take this Up to Eleven. It's considered bad luck for them to speak a dead person's name; so if a man dies, and his name was, for example, "Fire", then the tribe immediately changes their language by adopting another word for fire. One missionary reported that he spent seven years with the natives of Paraguay, and in that time, they adopted three different successive words for "jaguar".

Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): He Who Must Not Be Named



Candlejack ties up and kidnaps children who say his name out loud.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / SpeakOfTheDevil

Media sources:

Main / SpeakOfTheDevil