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Tell Him I'm Not Speaking to Him

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Some may be lost in translation.

Hermione: Ronald would like me to tell you that Seamus told him... that... Dean was told by Parvati that Hagrid is looking for you.
Harry: Is that right? Well... what?
Hermione: Uh, em... Dean was told by Parvati that... Please don't ask me to say it again? Hagrid's looking for you.
Harry: Well, you can tell Ronald
Hermione: (exasperated) I'm not an owl!

Alice has fallen out with Bob and is giving him the Silent Treatment, refusing to speak to him. However, she also has a loophole to get around her own self-imposed restriction: ask Carol to relay messages to Bob on her behalf. That way, she is not technically breaking her silence. Often this is used passive-aggressively to take shots at Bob while still maintaining her silence.

It's common for this to go both ways too; both Alice and Bob aren't speaking to each other and are using Carol as a go-between.

Carol is typically a neutral third-party who has no interest in the quarrel and just wants Alice and Bob to be friends. If she does go along with relaying their messages, it usually won't take long before she gets frustrated and gives up, or forces Alice and Bob to make amends herself.

A common joke is for Alice and Bob to be in the same room and able to hear each other perfectly well, but still refusing to acknowledge each other unless Carol relays the message.

Usually Played for Laughs, as the behavior is quite farcical and unbecoming of an adult. See also Proxy Breakup.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Fate/Zero, Kiritsugu keeps his distance from Saber due to their strong mutual dislike, and apart from when he uses Command Seals on her, he primarily communicates to her by speaking to Irisviel, his wife and Saber's decoy master. Because of this, in Fate/stay night, Saber recalls only three occasions on which Kiritsugu spoke to her- the uses of said Command Seals.

    Comic Books 
  • Asterix and the Chieftain's Shield: After an entirely unnecessary stay at a spa involving boiled vegetables for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Asterix and Obelix communicate by telling Dogmatix what they think of the other.
  • The Ultimates: In the plane, just before the attack on the Chitauri / Nazi base, a Private Kowalski is completely skeptical of the help that Captain America may provide, and dismisses him as a mere clown who will die down there alongside everyone else. Rather than reply to him, Cap tells Bucky to tell them all that he's never lost a crew.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin's mother drifts into this following a Horrible Camping Trip.
    Calvin's Mother: Calvin, tell your father that any judge would take this trip as grounds for divorce.
    Calvin: Dad, Mom says...
    Calvin's Father: ALL RIGHT, ALL RIGHT!
  • Crabgrass: This comic, when Miles and Kevin are no longer on speaking terms due to Kevin's Precocious Crush on Miles' mom, they try to use Kevin's sister Krystal as a go between. She is not interested however, and so the boys try it with Kevin's baby brother Kody.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • In Ice Age: The Meltdown, Ellie doesn't talk to Manny, with Crash and Eddie in the middle, but the middle guys end up rewording the messages she says into their wording, trying to make him leave her alone. For Manny's credit, he can hear her as they walk. For example:
    Manny: I thought we could walk together.
    Ellie: Crash, ask the mammoth why he thinks that.
    Crash: She said she thinks you're a jerk and to go away.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the film version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Hermione gets so fed up with this in relation to the arguing of Harry and Ron that she finally shouts in exasperation "I'm not an owl!", referential of the post owls in the series.
  • Love in the Villa: Early in the film, Charlie and Julie both tell Silvio to tell the other person about their booking...even though Silvio is standing between the two of them.
  • In the Shirley Temple version of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Aunt Miranda does this to her former fiancé Homer: she hasn't spoken to him since he stood her up at the altar twenty-five years earlier, and when they cross paths she makes Rebecca speak to him instead. By the end of the movie they reconcile and become a couple again, however.
  • True Stories: Earl and Kay Culver are a husband and wife who, for reasons never explained, never communicate directly to one another, instead doing so through the people around them (e.g. Kay asking her kid at dinner to ask Earl to pass the salt).

  • Granny Weatherwax and Magrat put Nanny in the middle in Witches Abroad. Made funnier by the fact both feuding characters tend to get arch when they're annoyed, and Nanny doesn't bother.
    Magrat: I was merely saying, Nanny, that this isn't our property.
    Nanny: She says it don't belong to us, Esme.
    Granny: Tell anyone who wants to know, Gytha, that it's like salvage from a shipwreck.
    Nanny: She says finders keepers, Magrat.
  • In Thomas Costain's novel The Black Rose, Walter's grandfather has made an oath never to speak to him, and always speaks to him via his mother. Near the end, though, he accidentally addresses Walter directly three times, and decides the oath is permanently broken.
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Happened between Harry and Ron, with Hermione in the middle.
  • In Magyk, the first book of the Septimus Heap series, the message rat Stanley is initially relieved when asked to do a job for wizards, as his previous job had consisted of conveying messages between two arguing sisters that had eventually descended into this. Things were so far gone that he was essentially running back and forth and saying nothing, until finally the sisters' mother was shocked by the huge bill and canceled the service.
  • Happens in The House of the Spirits, after Clara and Esteban's disastrous fight over Blanca and her boyfriend Pedro Tercero that would end in tragedy. From then on Clara never told him a word anymore, though later she softens up a little and writes messages to him instead.
  • In One Hundred Years of Solitude, Amaranta and Fernanda spend years not talking after Amaranta verbally humiliates Fernanda in front of the family due to her pompous attitude. Not even Amaranta's death changes their minds; when Ursula asks the dying Amaranta to say goodbye, she bitterly says "it's not worth it anymore".
  • Towards the beginning of Ptomely's Gate from The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Nathaniel and Bartimaeus go through a variation of this, with Nathaniel's secretary, Ms. Piper, as the unfortunate intermediary. It finally ends thus:
    Nathaniel: ...tell him, Ms. Piper, that if he successfully completes the following mission I shall agree to his temporary dismissal for the purposes of recuperation, and let him be satisfied with that.
    Bartimaeus: Tell him that this offer will only be acceptable if the mission is simple, swift, and utterly without danger.
    Nathaniel: Tell him — oh, for heaven's sake, just tell him what the mission is and have done!
  • In Judy Moody: Around the World in 8 1/2 Days, nearly an entire chapter is just Judy's little brother, Stink, doing this for Judy and Frank when Frank is upset with Judy and won't speak to her because she missed a dance practice for a school project because she was spending time with a new friend named Amy Namey.
  • In The Baby-Sitters Club book Mary Anne Saves the Day, all the girls in the club are fighting, but Mary Anne and Kristy still end up sitting for the Pike kids together. Mary Anne is forced to talk to Kristy through the kids, because even while they're on the job, Kristy refuses to acknowledge anything Mary Anne says. Mary Anne manages to salvage the Club's reputation somewhat by pretending that she and Kristy are playing a game of telephone.
  • A surprisingly grim example comes from The Wolfhound series in form of a quirk of the Venn (Fantasy Counterpart to the Slavic tribes) culture - they believe that a shared conversation binds just as strongly as a shared meal. If a male Venn (including the titular hero) is giving you this trope, or the Silent Treatment, it means he's seriously considering killing you.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Is there any family sitcom that doesn't invoke this trope at least once?
  • In Adventures in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter and March Hare do this in their Feud Episode, "Party-Pooped," when they find themselves at the same party. But their friends turn the tables on them: they all start talking like this, with no one speaking directly to anyone else. This confuses the Hatter and Hare so much that they speak to each other without thinking, which leads them to finally make up.
  • Used in Boys Before Flowers, but it takes very little time for Jan Di to get fed up with Jun Pyo and start yelling at him directly.
  • The Big Bang Theory had an interesting variant where Howard was not only not talking to Leonard but also insisting that Leonard had passed on ("dead to me"). Sheldon was willing to participate until Howard acknowledged his presence and thereby violated the terms of his own premise.
  • An episode of Hogan's Heroes (if memory serves, the final episode) had an example of this that followed the trope description at the top of the page.
    Hogan: General Burkhalter, according to the Geneva Convention, you cannot bring offensive weapons into a POW camp.
    Burkhalter: Klink, tell Colonel Hogan I am not listening.
    Klink: Hogan, General Burkhalter says he does not wish to discuss it with you.
    Hogan: Tell General Burkhalter I'll report him to the Red Cross.
    Klink: General Burkhalter, Hogan says that he's reporting you to the Red Cross.
    Burkhalter: If I'm not discussing this with Colonel Hogan, why are you?
    Klink: [Shrugs] I don't know.
    Burkhalter: Stop talking to him!
    Klink: Schultz! Tell Colonel Hogan that I do not wish to discuss it with him.
    Schultz: Colonel Hogan, Colonel Klink does not wish to discuss it with you.
    Hogan: Tell Colonel Klink he's going to be in as much trouble as General Burkhalter.
    Burkhalter: Klink! Tell Schultz to tell Hogan I'm in no trouble.
    Klink: Schultz, tell Colonel Hogan that General Burkalter is no trouble.
    Schultz: Colonel Hogan, Colonel Klink says—
    Hogan: They're both gonna be in trouble if they don't get rid of that rocket launcher.
    Burkhalter: Klink! Tell him he can't threaten me!
    Klink: Schultz! Tell him he can't threaten him!
    Schultz: General Burkhalter told Col—
    Hogan: This is my last warning!
    Burkhalter: I don't take warnings from prisoners!
    Klink: Neither do I.
    Hogan: You will this time.
    [Burkhalter, Klink, and Hogan all talking at once]
    Schultz: Pleeeeeease! [They stop talking] Wait for me.
  • In episode 43 of Mimpi Metropolitan, Bambang and Melani have a spat because of Bambang's jealousy. When Melani wants to help setting up some party decoration, Bambang wants Alan to tell Melani that he doesn't want her help. Alan doesn't get why Bambang can't just tell her himself and tells Bambang to stop after passing three messages. When Bambang tries again, this time mocking Melani via Pipin, Melani has enough of it.
  • New Tricks: In "Ghosts", a spat between Gerry and Steve over a missing sausage roll escalates to the point where Gerry is refusing to acknowledge Steve's existence, and starts forwarding all of his comments to him through Sasha and Danny. Sasha and Danny are only too quick to point out how silly the whole thing is.
  • In "End of the World As We Know It," from Resident Alien, recently resigned Deputy Baker returns to the Sheriff's Office to collect some possessions and has this type of conversation with Sheriff Thompson, with Mayor Hawthorne as the go-between.
  • In one episode of Scrubs, Dr. Cox gets annoyed with Elliott for deliberately setting him up to say the wrong thing to a German patient, so when she asks him for help, he talks to a stapler. For much of Season Six, once she becomes "Private Practice Barbie", Dr. Kelso refuses to acknowledge her existence, and talks to her through the nurses.
  • In an episode of Shtisel, Shulem is resentful of his visiting brother Nuchem, and tells his son Akiva to tell Nuchem to go see their mother (Akiva's grandmother) in the old folks' home. Nuchem is in the next room and can hear Shulem telling Akiva this, but Akiva decides to play along and tells Nuchem's daughter (who also heard everything) to tell her father what Shulem just told him. She cracks up halfway through telling her father at the sheer ridiculousness of it all.
  • In the final episode of Tetangga Masa Gitu, Adi and Bastian are in a feud and they pass message through the RW leader when they have to work together in a cooking contest.
  • Whites: Caroline refuses to speak to Roland at the end of Episode 4, so he has to make conversation with Robin.

    Puppet Shows 

  • In The Men from the Ministry One and Two have a fiery argument over the quality of latter's recent play for the Ministry's amateur theater, and afterwards refuse to talk to each other and try to use Mildred as a relay. She, however, isn't having any of it and quickly forces them to make an agreement.

    Video Games 
  • In Grand Theft Auto V, after finding out the truth about Brad, Trevor is angry at Michael and, on a mission with Franklin to rescue Lamar, sends an insult his way. Michael in turn tells Franklin "Tell Trevor I said 'Bite me'".

    Web Comics 
  • Spacetrawler has a variant where it's less about refusing to speak, and more about recruiting the third party to bolster their argument, and the third party is an Extreme Doormat.
    Nogg: Cardinal62. Tell them we're the good guys.
    Cardinal62: [to Emily] We're the good guys.
    Emily: Well, tell alien-fish that I know a dozen good seafood recipes he'd go lovely in.
    Cardinal62: [to Nogg] She knows a dozen good seafood recipes you'd go lovely in.
    Nogg: Well, you tell her that—
  • In Darths & Droids, Princess attempts this. The person she refuses to speak with is right there, and her intermediary won't cooperate. It's eventually revealed that said intermediary, who seems to be acting difficult, is actually stuck saying the opposite of everything she means to.
    Princess: C-3PO, please inform Chewbacca that I'm not sharing a cell with him.
    C-3PO: Chewbacca: Princess insists on sharing a cell with you.
    Princess: Nevermind. Lando, please inform—
    Chewbacca: Oh, don't pretend you didn't know.
  • In an early Something*Positive strip, PeeJee and Aubrey try to talk through Davan, who refuses to co-operate, setting Choo-Choo on them. (They then "try" to talk through Choo-Choo about how they should attack Davan).
  • War and Peas: In "Order", a private is ordered to take a message to Sgt. Jefferson...who is standing right next to them.
    Private: Sir, this would be faster if you spoke directly, sir!
    Jefferson: This just says "Jefferson stinks".
    Web Video 
  • In Alien Abduction Role Play, Tori refuses to talk directly to Acktreal, preferring instead to do so through the unnamed human protagonist.

    Western Animation 
  • In Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, in "Big TV", Dr. Katz refuses to talk to Ben when Ben bought a big screen TV without his permission. The trope is initially played straight (with Laura being the party relaying the messages), but is subverted in short order when both parties forget who they're not talking to.
    Ben: Dad, look me in the eye, and tell Laura to shut up.
  • In The Simpsons, Homer and Lisa talk via Marge/Bart when Lisa ruined Homer's barbecue in "Lisa the Vegetarian". Homer soon gets confused about who he is and isn't talking to.
    Homer: Marge? Since I'm not talking to Lisa, would you please ask her to pass me the syrup?
    Marge: Dear, please pass your father the syrup, Lisa.
    Lisa: Bart, tell Dad I will only pass the syrup if it won't be used on any meat product.
    Bart: You dunkin' your sausages in that syrup, homeboy?
    Homer: Marge, tell Bart I just want to drink a nice glass of syrup like I do every morning.
    Marge: Tell him yourself, you're ignoring Lisa, not Bart.
    Homer: Bart, thank your mother for pointing that out.
    Marge: Homer, you're not not-talking to me, and secondly, I heard what you said.
    Homer: Lisa, tell your mother to get off my case!
    Bart: Uh, Dad, Lisa's the one you're not talking to.
    Homer: Bart, go to your room!
    Lisa: Why don't you just eat him, Dad?!
    Homer: I don't need any serving suggestions, you barbecue-wrecking, know-nothing know-it-all!
    Lisa: That's IT! I can't live in a house with that prehistoric carnivore! I AM OUTTA HERE! (leaves the house)
    Homer: That's it! Go to your room!
  • In Doug, the breakup of The Beatles homage band The Beets plays out like this, with all four members of the group holding a press conference where they face away from the microphone and say things like this ("I'm not telling them, YOU tell them!") before one finally has enough and very curtly says that they're splitting up.
  • Shaggy and Scooby didn't speak to each other throughout an episode of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, trying to use Daphne as an intermediary. However, she was too annoyed with both of them to actually do it - plus, both of them heard what the other was saying.
  • PB&J Otter: Jelly and Pinch put Peanut in the middle of their fight in "The Silent Treatment," to the point where he collapses on the ground from tiredness of running back and forth between them.
  • In "Date Night" from Dinosaur Train, Don refuses to speak with the babysitter Keira, using Buddy as his messenger, until he finally warms up to her.
  • In Xiaolin Showdown, Clay and Kimiko do this through Omi once. Since they were right next to each other at the time, they directly respond to one another while keeping up the Tell Him I'm Not Speaking To Him charade, leaving naive Omi to politely try to send the message at each interval. It ends with Raimundo telling Omi to tell them both that they're giving him a headache.
  • Arthur
    • In "Mom and Dad Have a Great Big Fight", D.W. pictures this happening in an Imagine Spot if her Mom and Dad never stop fighting.
      Jane: "Tell your father, 'Merry Christmas'!"
      (D.W. runs over to David, who is sitting at the other end of a long table.)
      D.W.: "Mother says, 'Merry Christmas', Father."
      David: "Tell your Mother, 'And a Happy New Year'!"
      (D.W. runs back to the other end of the table as the imagine spot ends.)
    • Played with in "So Funny I Forgot to Laugh", when Arthur's friends stop speaking to him because of his repeated teasing of Sue Ellen.
      Arthur: What's going on?
      Buster: We're not speaking to you. That's what's going on.
      Francine: Buster, you just ruined it!
      Buster: I did? (facepalms) Oh!
      Arthur: Why aren't you speaking to me?!
      Buster: I'd tell you, but I'm not speaking.
      Muffy: You just did it again! Ugh! Come on, Francine. Let's sit at a table that doesn't have any bullies at it.
      Arthur: I'm not a bully! What did I do wrong?
      (Buster prepares to speak, but he zips his lip and writes something on a notepad)
      Arthur: (reading) "Your letter to Sue Ellen." What about it?
      Buster: It was terrible! That's why I'm not speaking to you. Which I'm clearly not good at. (leaves the table)
  • In one episode of King of the Hill, Bill and Dale act like this after an argument they had over a empty beer can Dale left on Bill's lawn.
  • On Beat Bugs, Walter and Jay put Buzz through this in "I Call Your Name." It doesn't last long because Crick and Kumi observe what is happening and devise a plan to try to get them back together.
  • On an episode of Family Guy, this happens when Peter and Chris fight over the Evil Monkey spending time with Chris, which Peter almost rarely does.
    Peter: Lois, could you ask Chris to pass the maple syrup?
    Chris: Meg, could you tell Dad that he's too fat to need extra syrup?
    Peter: Lois, could you tell Chris that I'm sorry I ever planted the seed version of him in your vagina?
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: Parodied in "Surf and/or Turf"; when the Cutie Mark Crusaders get called to help a young hippogriff who can't decide whether he wants to live on Mount Aris with his father or in Seaquestria with his mother. Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo nearly ruin the mission when they can't agree either, and they end up sulking on the beach, forcing Apple Bloom to relay messages to each other. Then a Reveal Shot shows Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo are sitting about a foot from each other, back-to-back.
  • A variation occurs in Cro. Earl and Mojo get into an argument and decide to not speak to one another. Problem is, they want to keep insulting the other, so they get the Neanderthals to deliver the messages for them. Hilarity Ensues when their messages get mixed up with Cro's, who's trying to tell the other mammoths that Phil's trapped inside a volcano about to erupt.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: Tohru and Uncle get into an arguement in the episode "The Demon Behind" and vow to stop speaking to each other. They use Jackie and Jade as messengers, much to Jackie's annoyance.
  • Avengers Assemble: Being around his adoptive brother brings out King T'Challa's childish side, as when he's forced to go to Wakanda's jails and ask for Hunter's expertise, he brings Shuri and makes her tell him what T'Challa want. Shuri utterly refuses.

    Real Life 
  • Nations that do not have normal diplomatic relations for some reason (a shooting war, a really chilly cold war, one or both of them not officially recognized as a legitimate government by the other) generally work around the problem by conducting necessary negotiations and business through a third party.
  • In the Canadian House of Commons, all speech is done through the Speaker of the House.
  • Cats. See Cat Communication.

Alternative Title(s): Tell Her Im Not Speaking To Her


Hermione the Owl

Hermione is forced to be an "owl" when Harry and Ron aren't talking to each other.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / TellHimImNotSpeakingToHim

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