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Speak of the Devil
aka: He Who Must Not Be Named

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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 them. Rarely are they summoned surprised and vulnerable; be assured that saying the name of this guy is a bad thing. Though probably just for you; they'll usually disappear afterward.note 

This makes talking about the villain problematic, as they have 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 them by any name summons them, 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 them into saying the name.

Another variation is that the villain's name must be said multiple times to summon them. In these cases, saying the name once is safe, so you probably don't need to worry about summoning them 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 they'll be summoned either by someone who has no idea what's going on, or by someone who got their tropes mixed up and thinks they'll be able to control the villain this way (perhaps through I Know Your True Name), or bargain with them. 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 them. 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 them, but may simply cause something bad, that's The Scottish Trope.

If knowing someone's true name instead gives you power over them, that's I Know Your True Name. If summoning them 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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Other examples:

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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)...
  • 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. However, there’s one specific exception where Muzan allows for demons, at least those part of the Upper Ranks in the Twelve Kizuki, to say his name: when being in the same room as him, without a single human in sight, while showing utmost reverence; Akaza, Daki and Kokushibo had one stance each where they could call Muzan by name.
  • 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.
  • Godzilla: The Planet Eater: The Exif believe that their god Ghidorah is invoked whenever his name is spoken, and as such they rarely ever speak it except in a whisper. Chanting Ghidorah's name is part of the ritual to summon him to Earth.

    Asian Animation 

    Comic Books 
  • Edge of Spider-Verse (2023): Norma the Fairy Gob-Mother reveals simply saying "I wish" is enough to summon her, even through magical wards that would otherwise stop her from getting somewhere.
  • The Mighty Thor: The Disir is an 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.
  • In Brazilian comic Monica's Gang, 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.
  • The Sandman (1989):
    • 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 using 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.
  • Scooby-Doo! Team-Up: In "Truth, Justice, and Scooby Snacks", the story starts with Perry White apparently summoning Caesar's ghost due to his habit of yelling, "Great Caesar's Ghost!" (itself a reference to an old Superman storyline).
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Fan Works 
  • 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, this allows Rei to possess one of the kidnappers.
  • A Diplomatic Visit:
    • In chapter 13, 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.
    • In chapter 3 of the second sequel, Diplomacy Through Schooling, 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.
  • In The Good Hunter, Hansel and Gretel want to seek out the Hunter, but they eventually find themselves surrounded by a noble's son and his thugs. The noble's son mocks them for foolishly believing that someone so important like the Hunter would speak to the two street urchins. The Hunter, hearing this and wondering what the hell this idiot child is talking about, steps in.
    The Hunter: *raises voice* Who is speaking for me? Who dares speak for a Hunter? Who assumes that my blade is his to command?
  • Kwami Magi Homura Magica plays this for both comedy and a bit of drama. As Marinette is freaking out, Alya tries to reassure her that it is not the end of world because Bunnyx has not shown up. Just as Alya gets Marinette to calm down however, Bunnyx does in fact show up, though she confirms that the above logic is sound in most situations where Marinette freaks out, but right now it is actually 'that' bad.
  • The WWE story The Legend Of Bloody Molly has Trish Stratus and Lita forcing Molly Holly to do the Bloody Mary ritual and kill her. Molly then becomes "Bloody Molly", appearing when they try to make Gail Kim do the same thing.
  • In Chapter 24 of Luz Belos: Princess of the Boiling Isles, Boscha reacts to Luz's cry of boredom that someone isn't just gonna walk through the door with a magical adventure for them... only for a metal worker named Burner to walk in and ask for their help in a project that will change everyone's lives.
  • In Katrina Beaufort's episode of Kedabory's Muppet Mania, Bunsen makes a joke about Beaker having a twin sister named Flask. While the two laugh, Flask actually appears next to them, much to their surprise as they didn't think she was real.
  • At the end of Old Man Henderson's Call of Cthulhu game, he calls Hastur into a hockey stadium rigged with enough explosives to make Michael Bay blush, thereby permanently killing him.

    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.
  • 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 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.
  • At the climax of The Haunted Mansion (2003), when the unrepentant villain's crime which caused the mansion's curse is exposed to everyone, he goes on a Motive Rant and finishes by shouting "Damn you all to Hell!" Somebody must have heard him, because a portal to Hell immediately opens up in the floor nearby and a demonic beast emerges to take him away.

  • The Warlord Cao Cao serves as the equivalent of the saying, "Speak of Cao Cao and he appears", owing to his villainous portrayal throughout Chinese history and, while he was alive, well known for his faster-than-average deployment speed.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In a Brick Joke from Arrested Development, the word Beetlejuice is said three times in the show, and on the third utterance, he walks through the background.
  • On Bewitched, calling Dr. Bombay requires a simple rhyme: "Calling Dr. Bombay, emergency, come right away." He is sure to come (maybe not right that minute, but eventually), but is usually grouchy, having been called away from something else he was doing.
  • In one episode of The Big Bang Theory, 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.
  • 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.
  • In "The Pilot" of Friends, when a woman in a wedding dress walks into the coffee shop right when Ross says "I just want to be married", Chandler adds "And I just want a million dollars!"
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • 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.
  • In Nikita, Birkhoff gets an alert whenever anybody online runs a search on his name.
  • 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.
  • Power Rangers: "Say my name and I appear. Why have you summoned Quagmire here?" Quagmire is an enemy of the villain.
  • In Raising Hope, the Dog-Head Man knows when people are talking about him. At least, according to Jimmy.
  • In Scrubs mentioning "Johnny the tackling Alzheimer's patient" will result in JD being tackled by Johnny at least once in that episode.
    Johnny: Who am I?! [tackle]
  • Supernatural:
    • In an early episode, the boys fight Bloody Mary. 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.
    • Angels can hear people praying to them, but they don't always listen. In Season 6, Sam and Dean have both tried praying to Castiel with no luck. Sam begins to rant about how their friend is ignoring him before he recognizes a look in Dean's eyes and realizes "He's right behind me, isn't he?"
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • WandaVision: By the fifth episode, Vision is starting to become more and more aware of the inner workings of the false reality inside the Hex. One is catching onto Agatha's Drop-In Character act right after Billy and Tommy take in a stray dog.
    Wanda: [noticing Vision walking around the house in his human disguise] Why so formal, honey?
    Vision: Oh, it's just a precaution, really. I had a hunch someone might pop over...
    [Cue "Agnes" turning up with a doghouse]
    Agnes: Hi kiddos!
  • 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.
  • 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 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 
  • Depending on how strict their adherence to the 3rd Commandment (reformed enumeration) is, some people refrain from saying God's name, 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".
    • 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 candlelight, or maybe you have to taunt her that you killed her baby. Myths are like that.
  • Greek Mythology:
    • The Greeks believed saying Hades' name will draw 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."
    • The Erinyes (or "Furies"), goddesses of vengeance and punishment, were usually referred to as "Eumenides", or "Kindly Ones", due to the belief that speaking their true name would attract their attention. Given how they were feared for hounding wrongdoers to the ends of the earth for the rest of their lives and were even older than the Olympians, the taboo is understandable.
  • 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 disrespectful and, therefore, must be avoided at all costs and are generally kept secret.
  • Native American Mythology is known for this.
    • The Stikini: sinister, heart-eating witches that are able to transform into owls at night by throwing up their organs. While some communities speak of them as one would speak of the bogeyman, others consider their stories so taboo that only medicine men can safely tell them.
    • The Wendigo of Algonquin folklore follows this principle as well. And for good reason, as anyone familiar with a cannibalistic revenant born from greed and starvation can attest to. Some believe that even thinking about the creature is enough to put a person at risk for becoming one.
    • The Navajo don't openly speak of Skinwalkers, considering even acknowledging them as inviting them in. This is among the many reasons why Skinwalker depictions in media generally don't amuse Navajo audiences.

    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 
  • In the Call of Cthulhu 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.
    • Forgotten Realms: Saying the name of a Chosen of Mystra (such as Seven Sisters) outside of dead magic areas alerts them and allows them 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 lets a character choose a use-name which, when spoken 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 also be an example of Call on Me.
    • 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.
    • The 3.X Deities and Demigods Handbook 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.
    • The Book of Vile Darkness relates the story of a particularly huge prick of a merchant who would sell 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.
    • The Demon Lord Fraz-Urb'luu 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 it's 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. 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:
      • 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.
      • 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 Deities and Demigods Cyclopedia states 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.
    • A regional effect from Fizban's Treasury of Dragons lets a dragon know when and where something speaks the dragon's name within a mile of its lair. It also lets the dragon eavesdrop on the spot where its name was spoken for the next few minutes, so hopefully you weren't discussing your plans to slay the dragon or plunder its hoard at the time.
  • 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.
  • Mage: The Ascension: In the digital web, Kibo set up magic tracers so whenever anyone says his name, he will instantly be able to appear, as a real person, in front of them.
  • At various points in Vampire: The Masquerade, it comes up that the names we have for the Antediluvians aren't their real names, just pseudonyms that are used to refer to them without the possibility of drawing their attention. 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...
  • 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.
  • 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. The only hope the Solitaires have for avoiding eternal torture at Slaanesh's hands is that Cegorach, the Laughing God, is allowed to challenge Slaanesh for their souls when they die.


    Theme Parks 
  • In the former Ghostbusters Spooktacular show at Universal Studios Florida, Louis Tully specifically tells Walter Peck not to say Gozer's name, which he ignores and does multiple times, causing the villain to eventually appear.

    Video Games 
  • 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 are usually frightened and horror-struck when they realize they've said her name.
  • 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.
  • In Breath of Fire IV, 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. 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 Crimson Glaive Sigma, the professor avoids calling the warden of Crimson Glaive by his name in the holographic messages to Aimes because the warden's name would draw his attention way before Aimes gets ready to confront him. At the very bottom of the station you can find one message that glitches out, displaying you instead an old recording where the professor calls the warden by his name, which gets cut short at warden's request because he claims someone is watching. If you haven't defeated him by that point, then sure enough, the warden will teleport in to destroy the drone —denying you any more messages from your creator— and give you a warning not to meddle in his plans.
  • Mundus is the ruler of the underworld and the Big Bad of the first Devil May Cry game. When Griffon is defeated by Dante for the third time, Griffon shouts his master's name to request for a boost of power. Mundus immediately appears in the scene, as indicated by his signature three red eyes, and followed by ominous dark clouds. Unfortunately, Mundus instead deems Griffon unworthy and kills him for his failure in defeating Dante, and then leaves right after doing that.
  • 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 Dynasty Warriors 8, NPCs in the Wei faction Story Mode note 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, when questioned about the Sith Kreia states that so much as "a stray thought" is enough to draw Darth Nihilus' attention. Over the entire course of the game Nihilus' name is never spoken, only ever being displayed above his Life Meter during the Boss Fight.
  • In Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, 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?
  • In Neverwinter Nights 2, an Affably Evil devil willingly tells you his true name so you can banish him back to Hell. Later, knowing his true name from your previous meeting with him lets you summon him for a Deal with the Devil.
  • 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.
  • Super Mario RPG: In Moleville, a group of moles are talking about how a couple of kids are trapped in a mine, and that the mine entrance is too high for them to reach, commenting that if Mario were here, he could make the jump. They then realize that Mario is standing right there, even commenting "Speak o' the devil!"
  • 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 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".
  • In Ultima V, the Shadowlords can be summoned to your location by yelling their name (Eg, Yell Astaroth).
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles 1, 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!

    Web Animation 
  • In The Demented Cartoon Movie, Fooby the Kamikaze Watermelon appears 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.

  • 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 El Goonish Shive, the Demonic Duck can be summoned by pointing somewhere and saying "Hey, is that a demonic duck of some sort?"
  • At one point in Girl Genius, Lucrezia (in Anevka's frame) and Zola (who has a copy of Lucrezia trapped inside her mindscape) discuss whether Barry Heterodyne might have something to do with current events. Zola says, "He's no threat," and a moment later they have a sudden look of horrified realization, wildly looking around in case he was hiding behind a curtain or something.
  • 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.
  • Mieruko-chan: Miko takes a photograph that accidentally includes a dangerous spirit in the background. For a medium, just looking at the photo risks attracting the spirit — Romm narrowly survives when it manifests in his room, and he says that if he ever sees the photo again, he'll most likely die.
  • 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.
  • Don't say Ironman in Austin, TX as shown why in roosterteeth's webcomics, Michael "Burnie" Burns will be groundpounded.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • xkcd:

    Web Original 
  • 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.
  • During his Grand Theft Auto V Chaos Mod streams, Call Me Kevin will 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).
  • 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.
  • The Makeover Fairy from The Nostalgia Chick appears in a puff of sparkles whenever 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".
  • 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.)
  • 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 anomaly that isn't 4000 despite coming after 3999 and before 4001. It's a forest where nothing has a name, and for the sake of humanity as a whole, it needs to stay that way. When referring to anything within (including oneself, if one is visiting the forest), using anything that could be considered a name or title (including descriptive phrases, if used multiple times for the same object) results in various Bad Things, including summoning elements of the place outside the named world onto Earth, Body Horror, and those who call the wood their home stealing your identity and trapping you in their place.
  • During Vampire Reviews, The Nostalgia Critic appears when the Maven of the Eventide says Nostalgia three times like he was Beetlejuice. The two ask loudly how she even did that.

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
    • Saying a ghost's name five times in quick succession will summon them. In "The Mirror", Gumball tries this with a ghost with a long, difficult-to-pronounce name and gets literally tongue-tied, so he has to settle with a nickname to summon him.
    • A variant: Saying the words "alternative medicine" will nearly instantly summon Mr. Small to the speaker's location, as demonstrated in "The Allergy" and "The Silence".
  • Beetlejuice: The full rhymes (from the cartoon, at least), though rarely used, are as follows:
    • For bringing him into our world:
    ''Even though I should be wary
    Still I conjure something scary
    Ghostly hauntings I turn loose,
    Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!
    • For traveling to the Netherworld:
    Knowing that I should be wary
    Still I venture someplace scary
    Ghostly hauntings now turn loose
    Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!
  • Freakazoid!:
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy presents Lord Moldybutt, a clear spoof of Lord Voldemort. Just saying his name causes nearby objects to break. Billy is usually the one to say it, though Nigel (the Harry for Moldybutt) is also prone to saying it. Even Moldybutt himself isn't immune.
  • 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.
  • Harvey Street Kids takes the Bloody Mary parody to a lesser extent called "Muddy Barry" in "Harveyween".
  • 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.
  • A few Robot Chicken sketches use this as their central gag:
    • A Christmas special has a kid say "Ho, ho, ho" into the mirror and recurring character Composite Santa Claus appears behind him.
    • One has a girl summon Bloody Mary, who is amazed that it actually worked and summons Candyman, who gets in on it as well by summoning Beetlejuice.
  • 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.
  • 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, 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.


Video Example(s):

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



Wishbone as Faust accidentally summons the Devil. Or "Mephisto," as he's known by his friends, not that he has many.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

Main / SpeakOfTheDevil

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