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The Scottish Trope

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"What? You mean Volde—"

"Comedians are notoriously superstitious, more so even than actors, who fear the word 'Macbeth' so much that they will attempt to stab anyone who dares speak or print it. This is why William Shakespeare is dead now, and why I remain in hiding."

Certain words are just not spoken. Beyond Speak of the Devil, past the Brown Note, you never, ever say the true name of the Scottish Trope! Just saying its true name once is enough to break your fine china, cause Dramatic Thunder, make all the nearby dogs howl, cause milk to sour, and trigger a mild itching sensation.

The title of a certain play by Shakespeare, for example. The Scottish Play, so-called because thespians believe that just saying the word "Macbeth" inside a theater in any other context than a performance or an in-character rehearsal is bad luck and will ruin the play or even curse the troupe/theatre. The explanations behind this vary, but if you dare say it inside a theatre, cast and crew will inevitably slap your mouth shut and give you days if not years of dirty looks if something bad does happen.

It's a rather basic and common superstition.

Compare The Dreaded, These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know and The Disease That Shall Not Be Named. Often the subject of Censorship by Spelling. Works using this trope will often discuss The Power of Language.


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  • When General Foods introduced Crispy Critters in its line of Post Cereals back in 1963, its spokescharacter, Linus the Lionhearted, would get stampeded by the cereal's animal shapes whenever he said "Crispy Critters". Similarly, in 1966, Kellogg's introduced Froot Loops, and Toucan Sam (voiced then by Mel Blanc) insisted that it be verbally called out in Pig Latin ("Oot-fray Oops-lay"). Not doing so gave him conniptions, and one of his nephews would yank Sam's chain by deliberately saying "Froot Loops."

    Anime & Manga 
  • One episode of Doraemon 2005 anime series have anime-only gadget named "Blacklisted Words Highlighter Pen" which covers a word, then, if someone says it, he/she would get struck by lighting.
  • Fanon often attributes this to Happōsai in Ranma ˝. Possibly because Sōun and Genma refer to him obliquely in his very first appearance, mentioning some similar Japanese superstitions in the process, while an anime-only episode has Sōun make the joke "talk behind his back, master comes back" — and Happōsai does promptly appear. Saying Happōsai's name does not summon him from nowhere, though, and nor do Sōun and Genma try to discourage others from saying it in fear of him. In fact, they only get fearful of him when he gets unusually happy (or angry, but that's to be expected).
  • Literary genius Kaitou from YuYu Hakusho has the power of Taboo: within his Territory, he can set any word or sound as the Taboo, and if you say it, you lose your soul (for example, when the taboo word is "hot", Kuwabara loses his soul from merely saying "each other"). This applies to him, as well. Kurama defeats him by getting him to gradually make every letter of the alphabet as the Taboo, and then scaring him... but since Kaitou expected that and controlled himself, he made him laugh instead.
  • In Slayers, no Mazoku ever speaks the name of the Lord of Nightmares, always referring to it as "that being". In the light novels, the only time that dissonantly serene Xelloss ever shows visible anger is when Lina speaks the name in his presence.
  • In Naruto, Ginkaku and Kinkaku have a ninja tool that causes people's souls to get absorbed if they say the word they said most in life. Unlike the Yu Yu Hakusho example above, remaining silent for too long also results in one getting absorbed. Ginkaku ends up having his own tool turned against him.
  • In the beginning of One Piece, Luffy and Koby are at a restaurant, just before they start their respective careers. Luffy mentions that he wants to see this bounty hunter held at the local Navy base, Roronoa Zoro, and everyone else in the diner cling to the wall like Luffy and Koby are plague-carriers. Then Koby mentions that the base CO is called Captain Morgan and the locals react again, hinting that something is dreadfully wrong here. After all, a fiercesome Pirate Hunter is one thing, but why would anyone be scared of a Navy captain...?
  • In Bleach, anybody who speaks Ichibei Hyosube's name without his permission loses their voice.
  • Much like his American counterpart, Him from Powerpuff Girls Z never has his name uttered for the audience. When Professor Utonium tells his son Ken about Him's real name, the only thing the audience hears is ominous music. That and Ken's terrified face makes it clear that it should never be uttered.
  • Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba: Any demon that is created from Muzan Kibutsuji's blood is bound by a curse that prevents them from uttering his name, lest they suffer a horrifying death. The first demon we see succumb to this curse is Susamaru, and it is NOT a pretty sight.

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: In Season 13, it is shown that Planet Gray has a law where people are thrown in jail if they say the name of the planet's queen.

    Card Games 

  • The first time the Mark Twain Prize was awarded since Bill Cosby lost his in mid-2018, even Mark Twain himself (portrayed by Keegan-Michael Key) invoked this in regards to Cosby, whose very image frightened Twain before Twain, without mentioning his name, burned him thus:
    Mark Twain: It's OK, he's not watching. It's not like PBS is the first choice on the motion picture box in the recreational room of the penitentiary!

    Comic Books 
  • In The Sandman (1989), none of the other Endless ever addresses Death by her name, or even refer to her by name. In conversation, it's always "Sister"; by reference, it's always "our oldest sister." Always. Similarly, Destruction, who gave up his title and decided to create things rather than destroy them, is referred to as either "our lost brother" or "the Prodigal." Their argument is that since he's no longer representing his sphere, he can't be called by the name "Destruction".
  • In the classic Superman comics, Mr. Mxyzptlk returns to his home dimension by pronouncing his name backwards. When you're in his dimension, you return by pronouncing yours backwards.
  • An Archie Comics story has Reggie find out Jellybean's (Jughead's baby sister) real name, but Jughead points out that it's apparently bad luck to say it. Reggie does indeed have several runs of bad luck, including being abducted by a runaway elephant, but he never actually gets to utter Jellybean's real name. After Jug reveals the name in question, "Forsythia", to Archie and Betty, and they repeat it aloud, they get abducted up by runaway elephants.
  • In Transmetropolitan, a police dog (who is intelligent) was castrated by Spider Jerusalem and has a breakdown when Spider's name is mentioned in his presence.
  • The Mighty Thor introduced the Disir, who are something like zombified Valkyries. Name them and you will die instantly. And then they will eat your soul.
  • The Defenders once battled an alien evil entity that could control anyone who learned its name.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: As is traditional Persephone, dread Queen of Hades and the dead, is not called by name but by Kore even by her own mother.

  • It is nearly taboo in the Warhammer 40,000 community to mention the story Squad Broken, which is about a space marine scout being raped to death by an ork, before being resurrected as a Necron. Part of this is because of, well, Brain Bleach needed after the story, but also because a) Orks do not reproduce that way (they are fungoid life forms and reproduce via spores), b) only certain humans can become Necrons, and not like how the story depicts it, and c) It has a Space Marine being raped to death.
  • A Wolf In The Garden has a rare version where the character in question has forbidden their own name from being spoken; Slaanesh (not the Chaos God) refuses to let people speak her name openly within the walls of her city, Arcadia. This turns out to be because any reminder of the torture they suffered at Chaos!Slaanesh's hands will cause the Eldar souls there to have a Freak Out as they relive it, as seen when one of them recognizes Admu as Isha's daughter. Within the city she prefers to be called "the Patroness."
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
    • In the community, the fan fiction Cupcakes (Sergeant Sprinkles) is considered this. It is thus far the only story on the site "Equestria Daily" to receive the label "GRIMDARK AS FUCK." It's about Pinkie Pie murdering her friend Rainbow Dash in a fit of insanity, with massive amounts of gore and vivid descriptions of the process by which she is skinned alive. Though on the other hoof, it's also become somewhat fandom tradition to reference the fic in some fashion. A common one is to have Rainbow Dash jokingly ask Pinkie Pie when they're alone if she's going to take her to her basement and murder her or simply some kind of Take That! at the fic. Still, the name is rarely actually mentioned.
    • Inverted with another infamous fanfic, unnamed my little pony fanfic, which is referred to exclusively as "Ten Pounds of Fetus and Mouthwash", as the original "title" would make discussion of it awkward (not that the fan name for it is less awkward).
    • And then there's Sweet Apple Massacre. I do dare speak its name. It's Big Mac raping, murdering and raping (in that order no less!) the Cutie Mark Crusaders because they were noisy. The reason it's this is that few will dare speak its name and fewer have actually read it.
  • Don't bring up cream cheese around a Good Omens fan. The fic's actually called Swallowing Loneliness, but nobody remembers that these days. It's got warnings for rape, vore, masochism, non-consensual body modification, macro/micro, and isn't even finished.
  • Rectified Anonymity, a profoundly horrible and unspeakably horrifying Fan Fiction of Pokémon: The Series, is invariably referred to as just "The Pokémon Story".
  • In Children of an Elder God, one of the Angels (actually a Lovecraft-canon creature) can possess anyone who knows her name (even by simply seeing it written down), and will be almost guaranteed to do so if the possessee-to-be speaks it out loud. After Ayanami Rei defeats her, she gains this power and applies it to her own name. Did you read that spoiler?
  • In A.A. Pessimal's Discworld thriller Why and were, a sub-plot deals with Olwen Vitoller's Players who are putting on a production of Felmet, Pretender King of Lancre. Nobby Nobbs realises the actors can only refer to it as The Lancre Play. As this is the Discworld, terrible things happen every time Nobby innocently speaks the play's full title. But the terrible things only happen to actors. Not Watchmen. So Nobby speaks the name quite a lot just to see what happens next. Well, a copper has to get job satisfaction somewhere.
  • A Diplomatic Visit: Most changelings are hesitant to ever name Chrysalis at this point due to her actions making her a criminal among even her own people; Maxilla only ever names her during Twilight's first talk with her on the subject, and Wise-Mind when he confirms Twilight knows she's in the Packlands. Beyond that, most people just refer to her as "her"; Queen Scolopidia actually using the name earns her several gasps from her fellows.
  • The characters in Pokémon Strangled Red all refer to Missingno as "IT."

    Film — Animation 
  • In An American Tail, mice are afraid to say "cats" out loud, lest the cats actually come to get them.
  • In Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Daffy tries to save Bugs by assuming the persona of Duck Dodgers, but whenever he says his name his jet pack blows up. Eventually he gets the hang of it.
    Daffy: Aha, it's You-Know-Who to the rescue! It helps if you don't say the name.
  • In Pinocchio, all the fish swim away whenever Pinocchio mentions Monstro the Whale.
  • Dr. Facilier of The Princess and the Frog cast Instant Runes when using his magic, which were based on real Vodou symbols, known as Vévé. However, the animators took care not to use actual Vévé, only their design style. They most likely did this to avoid offending Vodou practitioners, but it's more fun to think that they didn't want to incur any bad juju. As for Facilier himself, his name is only said once in the movie (by himself no less) while everybody else just calls him "The Shadow Man".
  • Encanto: Bruno Madrigal is considered a taboo subject by his entire family, as well as the rest of the townspeople, who make it a point that they "don't talk about Bruno, no, no, no!"

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Malthazard the Evil M (voiced by David Bowie) in Arthur and the Invisibles. Various characters express shock and concern when Arthur says his name, imploring him not to do so, as they believe it brings bad luck.
  • The eponymous "Ghost with the Most" of Beetlejuice.
  • In Candyman, saying the name Candyman five times in front of mirror will cause him to appear.
  • At the beginning of Cecil B. Demented, Honey Whitlock gets pissed off when someone tells her "Good luck."
  • The Dresser: When an addled Sir quotes from Macbeth Norman freaks out, yelping "You've quoted from the Scottish tragedy!" He makes Sir do some dumb ritual where Sir has to leave the dressing room, turn around three times, and knock to gain re-entry.
  • In Frankenstein Island, any time a character mentions a place that is not on the island, there is an electric humming and their arm becomes heavy and then paralyzed. This seems to be an effect set up by Sheila Frankenstein to prevent anyone planning an escape, but—like so much else in the film—it is never explained.
  • In The Gallows, the drama club regards saying the name of Charlie—the boy who died in the original production of The Gallows twenty years earlier—to be bad luck, especially inside the theatre. It turns out they are right.
  • Saying the name of The Land of Faraway's Big Bad, Kato (thunder and lightning)... well...
  • In the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring at the council of Elrond, Gandalf recites the words written on the one ring using the black speech itself. This is after he adamantly refused to utter them to Frodo in his own home. Speaking the words causes the sky to visibly darken and the earth to shake along with violent thunderclaps. Elrond admonishes him that the black speech has never ever been spoken in Rivendell before.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail: "I am a Knight who says, 'Ni!' And if you want to pass, you must go and fetch me a shrubbery! But don't say that word! I cannot say the word! Suffice to say, that is one of the words the Knights of 'Ni!' cannot hear!" (The word is simply "it".)
    King Arthur: But what kind of word is it?
    Knight who 'til recently said "Ni": AHHH! I implore you, do not say the word again!
    King Arthur: Well how the hell are we supposed to figure out what it is we can't say in front of you if you won't tell us what it is! It's very silly to not reveal it so we can stop saying it!
    Knight who 'til recently said "Ni": AHHHH!!
  • Stoning scene in Monty Python's Life of Brian: anyone saying "Jehovah" must be pelted with rocks.
  • In the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, Freddy gains more control over dreams and power by feeding off of the fear of his targets and the general populace. The only way the town manages to completely de-power Freddy is to give medicine to their kids to keep them from dreaming and to make absolutely no mention of his name at all until he is forgotten. This works pretty well until Freddy vs. Jason.
  • In The Phantom Tollbooth, the mountains light up with thunder and lightning every time the main character says that he's going to "the Castle in the Air."
  • In The Producers the taboo of saying good luck is explained to Bloom. Hilarity Ensues as Bialystock spends the entire song telling the entire cast good luck as they enter the theater as they're secretly trying to make the play fail. In the original version, Bloom wishes him good luck, saying — as theatre people say — "Break a leg", and Max nearly kills himself, nearly breaking a leg.
  • The "Z" word in Shaun of the Dead — and the same word in many other works relating to the dead that walk.
  • "Niagara Falls!? Sloooowwwlly I turned..." This one stems from an old vaudeville routine, and was reprised by The Three Stooges and done on I Love Lucy, among others.
  • In Young Frankenstein, saying "Blücher" (whinny) — as in Frau Blücher (whinny) — anywhere in the castle causes horses to whinny ominously.

  • Played for laughs in GrailQuest with the Grunweazel Ghost (Do do do dooon!). Everytime someone calls him by name (including himself) a "do do do dooon!" is heard. The first time it happens, Pip is confused, but the guy he's talking to is unimpressed and tells him to just ignore it.

  • One of the worst Librarians in the Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians series is known as "She Who Cannot Be Named". Not because her name is cursed or anything, don't be silly — it's just that nobody can pronounce it.
  • In the short story "Almost Perfect" by Lawrence Block, a baseball pitcher named Tommy Willis is pitching a perfect game, and the catcher/narrator explains (after the fact) the taboo of mentioning this. An opposing batter who happens to be having an affair with the pitcher's wife loudly declares the pitcher to be "almost perfect". The perfect game is spoiled by the next pitch which hits the batter in the head, killing him.
  • The "Triple Thee" in the Apprentice Adept series: Saying "thee" to someone three times in a row is a pledge of deepest love and devotion and it carries the power of an magic oath, so saying it casually is A Bad Thing. (Like most oaths and promises in the Adept series, the consequences of breaking an oath are never even hinted at. Probably terminal loss of honor).
  • The evil M in Arthur and the Minimoys and its sequel.
  • Bruce Coville's Book of... Aliens: Nnnnnn and his people in I, Earthling never speak the name of their homeworld; "it's against their religion, or something" as Jacob says.
  • In Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye, a character acting in the play has to refer to it as "The Tartans".
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: In The Magician's Nephew, the witch Jadis speaks the Deplorable Word, a magical incantation "which, if spoken with the proper ceremonies, would destroy all living things except the one who spoke it." Unlike conventional examples of this trope, this word actually was used to kill everyone on her planet. Scholars had been aware of the Deplorable Word for centuries, but Jadis was the only person on her world ever evil enough to actually use it. And that's saying something, considering how ruthlessly ambitious, corrupt, and prone to wholesale slaughter the royal family of Charn was.
  • Cold Cereal by Adam Rex turns this into a Brick Joke. The main character is established with the name Scottish Play. He got his name when his father, a struggling actor, got a break that changed his life and promised he'd name his firstborn son after the role. At the end of the book, when Queen Titania uses all the heroes' names to incapacitate them, Scottish Play manages to break free of her spell because that wasn't his true name, and that it's not supposed to be spoken out loud.
  • H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos:
    • Robert W. Chambers' The King in Yellow, a major inspiration for H. P. Lovecraft that was eventually absorbed into his mythos, was all about this. There's a reason the King's name is rarely used, and a reason that the play about him has never been produced.
    • In Mythos works by August Derleth, the King in Yellow's name is said to be "Hastur", and speaking it out loud risks summoning an Eldritch Abomination. However, the word "Hastur" is used freely in Chambers' short stories — in one it's the name of a quite human servant! The idea that it shouldn't be spoken out loud is later Memetic Mutation caused by August Derleth's creative interpretations. Even the protagonist of Lovecraft's "The Whisperer in Darkness" didn't see a need to avoid mentioning the word. Incidentally, the word's exact meaning is left deliberately unclear in most contexts, and may just as well refer to a place as to an entity.
    • According to Ramsey Campbell's Mythos story "Cold Print", there's one deity that is so hated and horrible, that even C'Thulhu and his followers fear even the writing of his name! Mentioning his name, or even thinking of it correctly, is enough to summon this freak who will fulfill your squickiest desires in exchange for complete servitude. His name is "Y'golonac".
  • Discworld:
    • "Eight" in some places of the Discworld. The number eight is a powerful magic and saying it can attract trouble, so they work around it with "twice four" and other descriptions. This applies exclusively to the first handful of novels, however, and hasn't been brought up again since. (Except that in some editions of Going Postal, the chapter between Chapters 7 and 9 is "Chapter 7+1" or "Chapter 7A". It was also brought up in the Science of Discworld 2, to demonstrate that magic didn't work where they were.) Also note that whilst saying "8" is taboo, saying "ate" is perfectly fine. Apparently horrors from beyond the abyss can tell the difference between homophones.
    • Note that Rincewind, while lamenting his chew toy status, notes that his room at Unseen University was room 7a.
    • Twoflower accidentally driving the Eldritch Abomination the word might attract from the world in the second section of the first book probably had something to do with the taboo ending.
    • Saying the name of Lady Luck is bad luck indeed; she doesn't like being intentionally invoked. She herself said speaking her name would force her to leave.
    • "The Fair Folk." "The Shining Ones." "The Gentry." "The Lords and Ladies." Those names were originally used in place of "Elf" because saying Elf would draw their attention, but as the Elves drew near even saying "The Gentry" or "The Lords and Ladies" would do the job.
    • In Making Money the chef can't stand to hear the name of a certain onion-like vegetable. He can eat the actual allium in question, and is fine with euphemisms like "far lick" and "tar leak", but any mention of the word itself will make him freeze, throw his knife straight ahead of him, then speak in fluent Quirmian for roughly 8 seconds before going back to normal.
  • Heroes participating in the South Seas Treasure Game from Dream Park were barred from speaking the name of the enemy New Guinea tribe, as using an enemy's name or magic without permission would invite retribution by supernatural horses. Subverted in that the players could name the Fore tribe as much as they liked, so long as they did so when the Game was on hold for time-outs or overnight.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Near the end of Summer Knight, Harry yells "I don't believe in faeries!" as a battle cry during the war between the faerie courts of Summer and Winter figuring, "What the hell."
    • In Turn Coat, the skinwalker gets more powerful from feeding off fear, so mentioning it makes it more powerful. Harry being Harry, he compensates by renaming it "Shagnasty."
    • Saying Mab's name three times apparently summons her, at least once Harry becomes the Winter Knight; in Changes, Harry accidentally says it twice and needs to be warned that doing so again would be a bad idea.
    • In Cold Days, Harry learns that the Black Council may actually be an infectious Outsider called Nemesis. However, speaking its name risks drawings its attention, so even Mother Summer and Mother Winter (fairies several orders of magnitude beyond Harry's power, even with the Winter Mantle) call it "the Adversary" instead.
    • The following book, Skin Game, mentions that saying any supernatural being's name sends a ping for their attention, kind of like sending them a text. Saying names once is generally okay because the being in question will usually dismiss it as a false alarm, as they generally don't have time to personally investigate every instance- especially if it's something whose name is widely known and said in normal contexts (like most mythical and folklore figures). To really get someone's attention, you should intentionally say their name three times. Therefore, he's warned against saying the name of Hades when planning to rob his vault. As it happens, it's a waste anyway — Hades, along with Mab and Marcone, set the whole thing up.
  • The damned in The Great Divorce never refer to Hell as Hell out of both denial and fear that their torture will become worse. The Bright Ones are more blunt about the matter, although they acknowledge that if a ghost leaves, then to them it's Purgatory.
  • Harry Potter gives us Voldemort, who is almost never referred to by name. Most adults who had to live through his reign will call him "He Who Must Not Be Named" or "You-Know-Who", while his followers call him "the Dark Lord". Even the younger Hogwarts students seem to have picked it up from their families. J. K. Rowling gave the Trope Namer a nod by referring to her Harry Potter Encyclopedia as "the Scottish Book"note . The only characters who routinely use the name "Voldemort" are Harry and Dumbledore; Harry started out isolated from the Wizarding world and didn't learn that he's not supposed to use it, and Dumbledore's the most powerful wizard in the world and can get away with it. Interestingly, over the course of the series Harry and Voldemort slowly convince others to use the name, and they also stop using the name and address Voldemort to his face by his birth name, Tom Riddlenote . By Deathly Hallows, the Death Eaters are so used to Harry being the only one brave enough to regularly use the name that they set up a spell that will summon them any time anyone says the name.
  • Entire passages in House of Leaves concerning the Minotaur are struck out, perhaps to avoid a grisly fate. They were restored by Johnny Truant when he annotated the manuscript. But still other passages were burned off the page with some sort of acid. Given that Truant is an Unreliable Narrator, it's entirely possible he destroyed other parts of the book to keep them from seeing the light of day. He would have good reason.
  • Jorge Luis Borges observes that every word is The Scottish Trope. In "The Library of Babel", the narrator/librarian points out that in the infinite labyrinth he oversees, stuffed with books containing every possible permutation of letters and spaces, any word can be this in one of the Library's infinite languages. "No one can utter a syllable that is not charged with tenderness and fear; that is not, in one of these languages, the powerful name of a god."
  • Light Thickens, by Ngaio Marsh, is about a production of The Scottish Play itself. Some actors are skeptical, some superstitious, all notice some strange events occurring during rehearsal. And then once it's in production, that isn't a prop head coming out impaled on the claymore …
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • Aragorn spends a great deal of time in The Fellowship of the Ring telling the hobbits not to use Sauron's name because something vague and bad might happen. Furthermore, he tells Frodo not to speak of wraiths, and Merry and Pippin know that "the Ring is no laughing-matter."
    • People of Gondor generally do not name either Sauron or Mordor, and Sauron himself forbids his servants from using his own name. This is because Sauron is what the Elves named him after he turned evil (Quenya for "The Abhorred"). His original name was Mairon (Quenya for "The Admirable"), but we don't know what he calls himself. His servants refer to him as "The Eye". The Mouth of Sauron, however, happily refers to his master as "Sauron the Great".
  • In Astrid Lindgren's "Mio My Son", the evil of the villain, the literally stone-hearted Sir Kato, is so strong that saying his name aloud causes the sky to darken, birds to stop singing and plants to wither and die. As a result, the entire land around his castle has ended up barren and covered in constant darkness. At one point, a seamstress who creates capes out of moonlight has to stop the protagonist from mentioning Kato, since that would ruin both her garden and the clothes she is working on.
  • Garth Nix's Old Kingdom series: The Big Bad of Lirael and Abhorsen, Orannis, the Ninth Bright Shiner. The protagonists are warned not to speak Its name when It is close to breaking free, and instead call It "the Destroyer" or similar.
  • In Raymond E. Feist's The Riftwar Cycle, the god of evil's name, "Nalar", cannot be said because saying a god's name gives that god their power. One character even has it as a name, only backwards as "Ralan".
  • "Rumpelstiltskin". This is paid tribute to in Shrek the Third.
  • Star Wars Legends: Spoofed in X-Wing: Iron Fist when Warlord Zsinj tells General Melvar never to say the name of the town New Oldtown again because it annoys him. After which, Melvar calls it "the town-whose-name-is-nevermore-to-be-said".
  • The short story "Taboo", by Enrique Anderson Imbert, the entire text of which is:
    His guardian angel whispered to Fabian, behind his shoulder:
    "Careful, Fabian! It is decreed that you will die the minute you pronounce the word
    "Doyen?" asks Fabian, intrigued.
    And he dies.
  • The Thursday Next villain Acheron Hades can hear his name spoken (but not written down) anywhere within at least half a mile, though he isn't summoned by it. However, speaking it will get his attention, and you do not want him paying attention to you.
  • Most of the poems in the Vita Nuova go out of their way not to mention Beatrice's name to keep Dante's love for her a secret. The only time he writes down her name is in his Grief Song for her and in the last poem of the collection, when Dante relives his first sight of Beatrice in a vision.
  • Warhammer 40,000: In the Gaunt's Ghosts novel Blood Pact, Ayatani Zweil doesn't want to hear of his terminal condition and insists that it be called "The Concern". Problem is, it's not his... but Dorden's.
  • In The Watershed Trilogy by Douglas Niles, it is forbidden in Faerine for anyone to say the name of a Lord Minion unless they're in a special, magically protected area.
  • In The Well of Moments, Jasmine won't utter the name of the Affix or let anyone else say it either. After her experiences with it in the first book, she's justified in not wanting to wake it up again.
  • In The Wheel of Time, one should not say speak the real name of The Dark One. (It's Shai'tan). Doing so will bring his attention to you. The only time it is ever stated outside of battle caused a horde of trollocs to over run the city the heroes were in, and steal an incredibly valuable magical artifact.
  • In Diane Duane's Young Wizards series, specifically mentioned in High Wizardry, saying the Lone Power's full name in the Speech is said to get Its attention. Nita, who is using the name to track Dairine, tells Kit that It was already paying attention anyway, so it wasn't going to make much of a difference; in fact, it might even help Dairine.
  • Parodied in Goblin Slayer: the titular protagonist and his party encounters a "Giant Eye" monster in the sewers beneath Water Town. For all intent and purposes, the Giant Eye looks just like a "beholder"; however, Wizards of the Coast owns the latter term. Lampshaded when a party member states the Giant Eye is a monster "whose name you're not supposed to speak", a reference to Wizards' strict product identity as they have not released the term for open Tabletop Game license.
  • Disney's Aladdin: The Making Of An Animated Film has frequent mentions to "the actor signed to play the Genie" and variations thereof, given part of the guy's deal included not using his name or image for marketing. (the studio would then overpromote the Genie and the actor's involvement to his disapproval, but that's another story)

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Action, lightning and thunder accompanied every mention of the name of Peter Dragon's publicist, Connie Hunt (and occasionally showed up when she was just standing around).
  • Referenced in an Are You Afraid of the Dark? story, where a woman (who turns out to be a ghost) warns a boy not to say "Macbeth". After he does so she makes him turn around three times and leave the room. She goes on to say that there is a ghost haunting the theatre (other than her) and if he says that word the ghost will come out. The boy yells "Macbeth" anyway and the ghost comes out to haunt his performance.
  • Babylon 5: This trope gets invoked in the third-season episode "Exogenesis", with Marcus referring to the play as "The Scottish Play", and quoting a portion of it, substituting his own name for the title character's.
  • The Blackadder the Third episode "Sense and Senility" parodies the superstition about the trope name-avoider, adding in pat-a-cake, hand-twirling and nose-tweaking:
    Blackadder: By "the Scottish play", I assume you mean "Macbeth"?
    Mossop & Keanrick: Aahhhhh! Hot potato, orchestra stalls, Puck will make amends! Ooh...
    Blackadder: What was that?
    Keanrick: We were exorcising evil spirits. Being but a mere butler, you will not know the great theatre tradition that one does never speak the name of the Scottish play.
    Blackadder: What, Macbeth?
    Mossop & Keanrick: Aahhhhh! Hot potato, orchestra stalls, Puck will make amends! Ohh...
    Blackadder: Oh, you mean you have to do that every time I say "Macbeth"?
    Mossop & Keanrick: Aahhhhh! Hot potato, orchestra stalls, Puck will make amends! Owwww...
    Mossop: Will you please stop saying that! Always call it the "Scottish Play".
    Blackadder: So you want me to say "the Scottish Play."
    Mossop & Keanrick: [shout] Yes!
    Blackadder: Rather than "Macbeth."
    Mossop & Keanrick: Aahhhhh! Hot potato, orchestra stalls, Puck will make amends! Owwwwww.
    Prince George: I say, what is all this hullaballoo, all this shouting and screaming and yelling blue murder. Why, it's like that play we saw the other day, what was it called, uh...
    Blackadder: "Macbeth", sir?
    Mossop & Keanrick: Aahhhhh! Hot potato, orchestra stalls, Puck will make amends!
    Prince George: No, no, no, it was, it was called "Julius Caesar".
    Blackadder: Ah yes, of course. "Julius Caesar". [beat] Not "Macbeth".
    Mossop & Keanrick: Aahhhhh! Hot potato, orchestra stalls, Puck will make amends!
  • An episode of Castle has Castle getting the chance for a three-book deal writing about a certain British spy. He and his actress mother Martha even get into a discussion about doing this and the trope non-namer Macbeth, where she mentions speaking it and having to make penance for doing so.
  • Cheers: Carla feels this way about Diane by the start of season 3, after she's been gone for six months. Any mention of Diane is met with the threat of violence. She's slightly better about it after Diane's gone for good, but even Sam gets yelled at not to mention her name on occasion.
    Carla: I knew it! Now it's gonna come in here and say something!
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • Throughout all of the Netflix shows, the alien invasion of Manhattan is only ever referred to as "The Incident". As said by the realtor showing Matt and Foggy their new office space in "Into the Ring", the generic name sounds so much better than "death and destruction raining from the sky nearly wiping Hell's Kitchen off the map".
    • Wilson Fisk. Saying his name is treated as worthy of a death sentence.
      • His right hand / mouthpiece James Wesley only ever refers to him as "my employer" in meetings.
      • In "Rabbit in a Snowstorm", John Healy, a hitman in Fisk's employ, gives up Fisk's name to Matt Murdock. Healy then immediately impales his head on a fence spike so that Fisk won't go after everyone he ever cared about.
      • When Vladimir tries to refer to Fisk by name, Wesley interrupts "We don't say his name," but an agitated Vladimir eventually just says Fisk's name anyways. Anatoly is more accepting of Fisk's anonymity, much to Vladimir's chagrin, and Vladimir speculates that Fisk doesn't like his name being said because it would betray that he's just an ordinary person.
      • In "World on Fire", Piotr, one of Vladimir's lackeys, is picked up by the police. Facing a potential 30 year sentence, he tells Detectives Christian Blake and Carl Hoffman about Fisk, and says that he'll tell them everything he knows about the man for a plea deal. Unfortunately for Piotr, Blake and Hoffman work for Fisk, and they decide to kill him. After briefly debating which one will do the deed, Blake suddenly punches Hoffman, who screams "He's going for my gun!", and then draws his pistol on Piotr.
      • In season three, this extends to the gaggle of FBI agents that Fisk has bribed/blackmailed into working for him, as Ray Nadeem finds out the hard way.
        Nadeem: I don't believe it. Fisk got something on all of you? [sits down next to Arinori] Arinori?
        Arinori: Better we don't talk about it. And in here, we don't even say his name.
        Poindexter: That's one of the rules, Ray. We only refer to him by his codename.
        Nadeem: What codename?
        Poindexter: Kingpin.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Bad Wolf": The Controller of the Gamestation, while the transmissions are cut off by solar flares, tells the Doctor that she would like to tell him the name of her masters (the Daleks), who fear him, but she can't, because:
      "They've wired my head. The name is forbidden."
    • During the Eleventh Doctor's tenure, it was claimed the Doctor's name must never be said. Much of the plot of the era is set up by a Church Of Evil trying to stop the Doctor from saying his name. In "The Time of the Doctor", Eleven's Grand Finale, it is revealed this is because the Doctor saying his name will cause Gallifrey to return and a new Time War to begin (because the Time Lords are listening through a crack in the universe).
  • In the finale of Gotham, Harvey Bullock refuses to say Jeremiah's name for nearly the entire episode, because he's such a dangerous man that the mere thought that he might try to kill Jim's daughter, Barbara, is enough incentive for Harvey to refuse to admit to anyone that Jeremiah set him up to take the fall for a murder. Sure enough, when Jim realizes Jeremiah is behind the events of the episode and says his name without realizing the consequences, Jeremiah and Ecco are alerted that their cover is blown through an accomplice who is wearing a wire, and they immediately break out of Arkham and kidnap Barbara.
  • In one episode of Green Acres, Oliver and Lisa learn a local legend about a woman named Molly Turgis, who was so despised by the town due to her haggard appearance in life, that her spirit would torment anyone who said her name.
  • Nickelodeon's Kids Choice Awards 2006 had slime drop down whenever someone said "April Fools". (This is because it aired on April 1st in America.)
  • Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger had a Shout-Out to Shakespeare episode that subtly acknowledged this trope - someone's dug up an entire boxset of Shakespeare books translated for Japanese publication, and one cover is partially covered so only the hiragana for "mac" is still visible. How many Shakespeare plays start with that syllable?
  • An episode of Midsomer Murders starts with a performance of said play. Apparently, the idea of not mentioning the name off-stage hadn't gotten through to everyone on the set yet. Someone promptly is murdered on stage (and stays dead).
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: When buying a bed from Mr. Lambert, you cannot say the word "mattress". You must say that you want to see the "dog kennels"note . If you do say "mattress", he'll promptly stand up and put a paper bag over his head and respond to nothing, and the only way to snap him out of it is to stand in a tea chest and sing Elgar's "Jerusalem" a capella. It's nothing he can help you understand, but apart from that, he's perfectly all right.
  • Mystery Hunters has an episode where the alleged curse of saying Macbeth before doing a performance is said to bring bad luck. It points how though that the incidents might just be a coincidence.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000:
    • "City Limits" starts with Tom and Crow asking Joel, "What was that word that Mr. Moose tried to get Captain Kangaroo to say all the time?" Joel answers, "Oh yeah, I remember, it was 'ping-pong balls'." Joel then gets pelted with a shower of ping-pong balls. This is an homage to a Running Gag from Captain Kangaroo.
    • In "Time Chasers", Tom tricks Mike into saying "Lost in Space", which he and Crow use as carte blanche to dress up as the robot and Dr. Smith and goof around. At the end of the episode, Tom tries to trick him into saying "Gilligan's Island", but Mike has gotten wise to the whole thing.
  • In the final season of Oz, the prisoners put on a performance of Macbeth. During rehearsals every prisoner who's given the title role gets murdered. Eventually Vern Schillinger takes on the part, because he wants to prove he's got "bigger balls than everyone else", only for him to get murdered on performance night when the prisoner playing MacDuff "accidentally" has his prop knife switched for a real one.
  • QI: In the 'I' series episode "Immortal Bard", Stephen Fry challenged the panelists to name "the Scottish play". After a few false guesses to avoid the klaxon, Bill Bailey gamely announced "Macbeth", which of course was the right answer. Fry noted that the klaxon would have gone off if they claimed they couldn't say "Macbeth" to avoid the curse, which led to a spirited discussion of the origins of the Macbeth "curse". David Mitchell suggested that theater people should claim that it's bad luck to have a cell phone on during a play.
  • Some fans of Quantum Leap believe that the episode "The Boogieman" is cursed (with discussions of VCRs shorting out while recording it, etc.) and will refer to it as "The Halloween Episode" instead.
  • Any time someone mentioned the word "audit" in the tax day episode of Roseanne, a cliché Scare Chord would play and Roseanne (the only one who could hear it) would look around nervously.
  • In the ShakespeaReTold adaptation of the Scottish Play, the title character was a famous chef who flew into a rage if anyone ever mentioned Gordon Ramsay in his presence. In an amusing piece of Lampshade Hanging, his staff got around this by calling Ramsay "The Scottish Chef".
  • The Sister, Sister episode "Put to the Test" has thunderclaps occur every time someone mentions the SATs. The test was so intense for the students that by the time it was over, they were put in a zombified state.
  • The second season of Slings & Arrows had an opening title sequence built around this trope. In the show itself, Geoffrey is contemptuous of the curse; Oliver reasonably points out that, for someone who sees ghosts, this is a little absurd...
  • What We Do in the Shadows (2019): Nadja tells a story of a vampire who threw such a terrible orgy that no one will even speak his name any more. Then Lazlo says it anyway. This happens multiple times in the episode.
    Nadja: I dare not even speak his name.
    Lazlo: It was Mike.
    Nadja: Fucking Mike.
  • The West Wing:
    • In "Election Night", even though it's a fairly safe bet that President Bartlet is going to win re-election (in fact it ends up being a landslide), Toby and Josh are scandalized when Sam suggests out loud that they already know the outcome.
      Sam: You wrote a concession?
      Toby: Of course I wrote a concession. What possible reason would I have for not writing a concession? You wanna tempt the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing?
      Sam: ...No.
      Toby: Then go outside, turn around three times and spit! What the hell's the matter with you?
    • Being angry about premature celebrations was a Running Gag with Toby. On the night their first supreme court justice was confirmed he refused to let the staff drink (or even decorate) until the 51st "yea" vote was recorded.
      • Justified in that that it is a widely held superstition among Jews that a premature celebration is an invitation to malevolent forces to make sure that the reason for the celebration will not happen.
    • There was also the time Ed & Larry tried to give Josh some news about a recession. Josh said that the R-word was forbidden in the White House, and they ended up calling it a "bagel". (The news was good; they expected that the bagel would be mild.)
  • An episode of the The X-Files has girls saying "Bloody Mary" thirteen times in front of a mirror for her to appear. This is actually a real Urban Legend, although somewhat dated nowadays even among schoolkids.
  • You Can't Do That on Television has water dumped on people who said "water" (or, during early seasons, "wet") or slime when they said "I don't know". This was played with several times:
    • In the episode "Future World", Christine tried to avoid it by saying, "Insufficient data." Following the sliming, Lisa said that the slime dispenser was now computer-controlled.
    • In "Revenge", Lisa was caught off guard when saying "water" did not trigger a drenching. Thinking the word no longer worked, she tried "H2O", "Wasser", and "Agua"... which finally brought down a bucket of water. Alasdair noted that she had not met Julio, the new stagehand.
    • In an opposite sketch in the episode "Heroes", saying "I know" triggered the slime... to the amazement of several kids who said "I don't know" and avoided the slime.
    • "The Not-So-Fair Show" had Christine get water dumped on her for saying "Eau de cologne". An amused Alasdair explained that "'eau' is the French word for 'water'"... and got drenched himself.
    • In a similar vein, in the "Hobbies" episode, Christine said "Oh no you don't!" when Lisa tried to trick her into saying "water", only to get soaked. Lisa explained that the water dumper was French, and "'eau' is the French word for 'water'"... and promptly got soaked herself.
    • Also from "The Not-So-Fair Show", the Unfairy Godmother slimed all of the kids except Christine for saying "We know".
    • In the episode "Fashions & Fads", Christine, having subscribed to a fashion trend of wearing scuba gear, tried unsuccessfully to trigger a water drop by saying "water". Apparently, it only falls if the kids aren't expecting it.
    • The episode "Enemies and Paranoia" referred to a Soviet version of the show where one gets covered in red slime whenever one said "free".
    • The episode "Weather and Seasons" featured a heat wave where Christine and Lisa tried to invoke the water drop, only to learn that all the water had evaporated.

  • The song "Don't Call Me Dude" by the band Scatterbrain, tells the story of a man getting out of court ordered therapy after he "killed a man with my bare hands, because he called me Dude." He is hinted to relapse when he leaves incarceration, and the guard at the gate says, "Yo later, Dude."

    Myths & Religion 
  • Greek Mythology:
    • It's fine to refer to a certain trio of ladies as the "Kindly Ones" (Greek Eumenides), or the "Venerable Ones" (Semnai). But call them the "Furies" (Erinyes) and you're on your own, you rude, rude person.
    • The ancient Greeks did not generally speak Hades' name, for fear of attracting his attention. He was often called by euphemisms (e.g., the "Host of Many"), or by complimentary nicknames such as "the rich one" (Plouton, which the Latins spelled Pluto).
  • Older Than Dirt: In Kemetic (a.k.a. Ancient Egyptian) religion, written words were considered a form of magic in themselves. Thus the true name of personification of the opposite principle to Ma'at was never to be written down. Even writing the thing's alias "isfet" is/was considered risky.
  • Due to strict reverence for the name of the Judeo-Christian God, the actual name itself has been lost to the mists of time. The name is written down in The Bible, but since the Hebrew writing doesn't indicate vowels, all we have are four consonants (often transliterated in English as YHWH). This is rendered by some English speakers as "Yahweh" (or sometimes "Jehovah", based on the Latin transliteration IHVH), but when read aloud in Hebrew it is rendered as "Adonai", meaning "Lord," or "Hashem," "the Name." Though the consequences of speaking God's true name are not stated in the Bible, "taking the Lord's name in vain" (i.e. frivolous use of the name and/or swearing of false oaths by it) is forbidden in the Ten Commandments, and some legends hold that Moses killed the Egyptian overseer by speaking the true name of God, suggesting that hearing the name of God has a similar effect as being exposed to (or perhaps may even bring about) His full, unveiled presence.
    • Certain English-language translations maintain this convention by rendering instances of the Tetragrammation as "LORD" (in capitals), mimicking the use of "Adonai" in Hebrew.
  • Also, similar to the Roman example below, the numbers 15 and 16 would normally be written as a combination of the 10th and the 5th or 6th letters of the Hebrew alphabet. However, since these combinations are too similar to God's name, the 9th and 6th/7th letters are used instead.
  • Similarly, traditional Jewish kabbalists avoid uttering the names of demons or even angels, for fear that they'll turn up, angry at being summoned by a mortal.
  • The ancient Romans did not want to start to spell Jupiter's name (IUPITER or IVPITER) whenever they used numbers, and so the number 4, which should be IV, was always written IIII.
  • According to some interpretations of Judaism, the name of God is sacred and anything with the name "God" on it must be treated respectfully and disposed of in a particular ceremony. To this end, some believers will be careful to always spell it "G-d" when writing casually, so whatever they're writing on can simply be thrown away normally.
  • If you stand in front of a mirror in the dark and say "Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary!" she'll appear and scratch your face off. Who is "she", you ask? Mary Worth note , and no, not that one.
    • Kingdom of Loathing has it that if you drink a hundred of these in front of a mirror, you'll die. Of alcohol poisoning.
    • There is however the Guy Mad of Bees who does appear if his name is spoken before a mirror five times.
    • Also referenced in xkcd.

    New Media 
  • TV Tropes:
    • There is, in fact, a trope that qualifies as The Scottish Trope. Many of you will remember, with either fondness or horror, a certain page on this wiki by the name of I Am Not Making This Up.
    • This now also goes for tropes which have been moved to the Darth Wiki. We'd name some, but they're not supposed to be linked on the main site.
    • Also, Flame Bait tropes, which aren't even allowed in the YMMV tabs anymore.
  • According to Godwin's Law, if you want a discussion to keep going, never, ever compare someone to Adolf Hitler. Surprisingly averted with Indians, particularly those based in Maharashtra state and Mumbai. Bal Thackeray, well-known thug and deceased leader of the powerful Hindu theofascist group Shiv Sena, was an admirer of Hitler, and extolled his virtues when orating to his fellow Marathas, replacing Jews with Muslims as the ones deserving death. It has reached a point that Marathas are known to choose Hitler over Gandhi as someone to admire.
  • To get around the Great Firewall of China, some websites that reference Tiananmen Square/the June Fourth Incident will refer to the event as "you know when, you know where." In the context of a given site, it's pretty obvious what they are talking about.

  • This trope is common in a wide variety of sports. Taboo topics can include:
    • Hockey: Saying "shutout" in ice hockey when a goaltender has yet to surrender a goal
    • Baseball: talking about a no-hitter in progress, especially to the pitcher. In the latter innings of a perfect game, the other players will refuse to speak or even sit anywhere near the pitcher for fear of letting anything slip.
      • Ultimately defied by future Hall of Famer (and later U.S. Senator) Jim Bunning in 1964. Early in the season, he followed the tradition while pushing for a no-hitter, but he lost the no-no late in the game, and decided that keeping quiet about it didn't help. That June, he had a perfect game going, and instead chose to talk about it throughout the game. This time, he didn't just get a no-no, but finished with a perfect game.
    • Basketball: Saying anything nice about the free-throw shooting prowess of the player at the line will put a hex on his next shot attempt.
    • Bowling: Talking about a perfect game in progress, or, back when one could find bowling alleys without automatic scorekeeping machines, even writing down the 30-60-90-120-etc. scores in each frame until the game is over or the bowler throws a non-strike (quite a few of the automatic machines will do this too).
    • Auto Racing: Mentioning "this race has run caution-free" is all but guaranteed to result in a crash, or mechanical failure, which will require the yellow flag be thrown.
    • American Football: Momentum. Many fans fear the momentum will shift away from their team if anyone dare speak the word.
    • For various forms of football, saying that the player hasn't missed a kick. Example.
    • All of the above is likely due to confirmation bias, but to many fans this is Serious Business in the utmost.
  • If you happen to be in Winnipeg, the team in Phoenix, formerly the Winnipeg Jets, will not be mentioned by name. And if you live in Atlanta, the team in Winnipeg will not be mentioned by name... at least by the people in Atlanta who actually cared about the Thrashers.
  • Many soccer fans in Germany will not utter the actual name of a team they hate. To fans of Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund the other team is Lüdenscheid-Nord and Herne-West respectively, to fans of Nuremberg rival and neighboring town Fürth is Westvorstadt (Western suburb, a strange name for a city of 100 000.) Also, everybody who dislikes RB Leipzig simply call them "Dosen" (cans) or "Lawnball" (the literal translation of "Rasenball", what the RB technically stands for in its name) due to their sponsorship deal by Red Bull.
  • Baltimore Colts owner Bob Irsay's decision to move the team to Indianapolis angered Baltimore sports fans to the point that whenever the Colts are in Baltimore playing their replacement team, the Ravens, Baltimore announcers refer to the Colts as "the Indianapolis Football Team".

    Tabletop Games 
  • In tabletop games in general, many superstitions about the Random Number God take the form of things you're not supposed to say, such as "anything but a 1".
  • In BattleTech, one of the original twenty Clans was subject to a Trial of Annihilation (exactly what it sounds like) and all mention of it was removed from official records. Bringing up the Clan in any way (even to ask if it ever existed) is a Berserk Button for other Clanners. The most notable example is Clan Wolverine, which the Clans refer to as the Not-named-Clan. The exact reason for their annihilation are scarce (ilKhan Kerensky needed a scapegoat to cement his rule), the Clans removed all traces of their existences from Clan Space, and even renamed a 'Mech because it had the same name. When the invading Clans discovered a man who's DNA matches that to a member of Clan Wolverine, they killed him, and hunted rest of his family to eliminate their trace from existence.
  • In Demon: The Fallen, demons can feel it if you say their name. Strong ones can get a sense of what you're saying, making it a useful messaging service. Very strong ones can get a compass bearing or more...
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Fiendish Codex 1: saying Pazuzu's name 3 times will cause him to appear and offer the character a wish. Making said wishes is not recommended. On the other hand, it worked out really well for Pun-Pun.
    • Hastur works on similar principles, except instead of wishes, you get death. As something of a joke, dying player characters will state as their dying words, "Hastur Hastur Hastur". Invoked in The Binder of Shame, where El Disgusto's character is about to be killed by another PC for thieving, so he screams "You'll pay for this! You'll all pay for this! Hastur! Hastur! Hastur! Hastur! Hastur!" Also mentioned in The Canonical List of Famous Last Words: "What a useless scroll. It just says 'Hastur Hastur Hastur' over and over..."
    • Demogorgon works on the same principle as Hastur. Put together, they're a pretty good way to get out of a boring session...
    • Mentioning Orcus's name is not a good idea, either. In fact, most august malign outsiders and deities in D&D or D&D-esque games seem to have pretty good hearing. Speaking of Orcus (dammit! I've doomed us all!), there's also the Last Word that he used to know while an undead demon lord that could kill most anything that heard it, even gods.
    • In Planescape, the city of Sigil was ruled by a mysterious (and very dangerous) entity known only as the Lady of Pain. Those who gain her attention, either by upsetting the status quo of the city or by worshipping her as a deity, quickly come to an unspeakably gruesome end. To be on the safe side, people don't give any specific name to "Her Dread Serenity".
    • The Arthaus Ravenloft supplements refrain from naming Lord Soth, former darklord of Sithicus, by claiming that the domain's elven inhabitants fear that invoking their old ruler's name will call him back from wherever he vanished to.
    • This is Enforced on a meta-level by the Open Gaming License, which allows third party authors to build on the mechanics and content of official third edition D&D, but (due to a quirk of the license) forbids them from saying the names of the sourcebooks and rulesets they're drawing from. Various workarounds have been used, including referring to "the third edition of the world's most popular roleplaying game", and using abbreviations for the books that can't be named without actually spelling out what the abbreviation stands for.
  • Exalted:
    • Hearing the name of one of the Yozis can grant her or her Exalts control over you. Unusually for this trope, her name is never actually given. She's generally known as She Who Lives In Her Name.
    • Abyssal Exalted are a subversion. Saying their former name doesn't do anything, but if they answer to it they'll gain Resonance, which can turn them into a Walking Wasteland.
  • While probably just a fiction even within the setting, the Unknown Armies cabal known as Mak Attax never speak the name of the fast food restaurant they all work for. You may call it Mickey-Ds, Maccas, the Golden Arches, Mc Do, Placcy-Ds, Mc Dicks, Makku, or most commonly The Scotsman (how appropriate!) but never, ever call it by the name on the sign. Like the name of God, it has power, and you don't want to invoke it. Also a possible example of Writing Around Trademarks.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • It's probably not a good idea for anyone to say the names of the Chaos Gods, but for the Eldar in particular, whose souls are said to be as bright as those of a thousand humans and who have a strong divine link to Slaanesh, saying his/her name will at the least reveal their exact location to their ancient enemy, and will probably have results more along the line of Slaanesh itself tearing loose their souls and drinking them. In consequence, s/he is referred to by the Eldar as "She Who Thirsts" or "The Bright God".
    • There are also two original Space Marine Legions who have been completely removed from all Imperial records, along with their Primarchs. Naturally, the reason they were removed is also kept secret, so they must have done something horrible, which is impressive, considering that Horus himself wasn't even removed. (Though there is a theory that they defected and then rejoined the Imperium, and for this service were "rewarded" with Unpersoning and allowed to join the Ultramarines.) The out-of-universe reason for this is Games Workshop wanted to leave a piece of lore blank so that players could fill it in themselves if they wanted to.
    • Among daemons of Chaos and their worshipers, mentioning the God-Emperor of Mankind by name is a no-no. Daemons always call him "The Anathema" due to his utter opposition to them. While daemons avoid saying his name because of fear, worshipers refuse to do so out of mockery. They are far more likely to call him the "False Emperor" or the "Corpse-Emperor" than anything else.
    • On the other side of the fourth wall, there's a very persistent superstition in the playerbase revolving around a particular type of ranged heavy weapon. Call it a rocket launcher (even if it isn't), or just point to the model holding it, but don't call it a missile launcher or it will.
    • Also, it's a commonly shared joke that your must never mention the horribly mutated things of Chaos known as Chaos Spawn or you'll turn into—oh no ARGHBLGRBLGR...

  • The trope non-namer for this one is a certain play by William Shakespeare about regicide and Scottish royal succession, which is kinda probably cursed such that even mentioning its name in a theatre, or quoting dialogue from it if not actually rehearsing or performing it, can bring ruin, let alone trying to actually stage it. A number of historically documented productions of The Scottish Play have been notoriously unlucky. There are legitimate reasons The Scottish Play has more than its fair share of accidents — much of the play's action taking place at night and outdoors, which increases the chance of somebody tripping over something; there's more sword fighting than the average, which always brings the chance of an accident; and most importantly it's a very cheap play to run (a guaranteed crowd pleaser with no performance rights to buy, does not require too many actors, and needs few props and little scenery) and is therefore often put on when the theatre group is in hard times, which is also the time when people are more likely to skip the usual safety measures (the tendency to put on The Scottish Play when facing bankruptcy means that it usually ends up being the last play that a company puts on, further cementing the play's cursed status as a company ender). Still, it doesn't hurt to be superstitious.
    • As a play on this trope, "Mmmbeth" is a one-act comedy version of The Scottish Play. Early on the weird sisters establish that they should just say "Mmmbeth" for safety's sake. The play ends abruptly when one of the witches says the actual name, in the context of "Hey, we can actually say the name now!"
    • For those Shakespearian and Medieval/Renaissance history buffs among us, the opening spell chanted out by the Weird Sisters at the beginning would have been considered a curse in period. Supposedly, that's where the curse on the Scottish Play comes from.
    • This history of bad luck began with its first performance on 7 August 1606 at the Globe Theatre, when the boy-actor playing Lady Macbeth died of a sudden fever in the middle of the play. More recent years have seen the postponement of Olivier's first production at the Old Vic due to the death of Lilian Baylis on the opening night (1937), three deaths in the company during the first production with Gielgud (1942) and, on an eventful tour in 1954 — an attempted suicide, an accident in which the company manager broke both legs, the electrocution of an electrician, and the death of a visitor from a blow by a stage spear after a member of the crew uttered the fateful word to him in conversation.
    • In Richard Nathan's parody "Scots on the Rock", this is actually the reason so many characters die — they pick the wrong moment to say "Macbeth", and immediately suffer fatally bad luck.
    • One of the main reasons actors are so superstitious is because something almost always goes wrong. Since nobody particularly enjoys having to take the blame, it's much easier to say that someone's cursed the performance and that's why the line was dropped/the prop broke/all of the hairspray is completely used up/the microphones are not working.
    • Double Subversion in Hamilton. In the song "Take a Break", Hamilton quotes Macbeth, then sings "I trust you'll understand the reference to another Scottish tragedy without me having to name the play." He then immediately refers to himself as Macbeth. As many fans have pointed out, after this song, everything in Hamilton's life goes to shit. Hamilton cheats on his wife, is blackmailed for years by both his lover's husband and then by Burr, Jefferson & Madison, loses his job when Washington leaves office, is the subject of a sex scandal when his affair is leaked in a document that he wrote and published to clear his name of a different crime that permanently wrecks his prospects of becoming President, being estranged from his wife, having his son killed in a duel in his honor, and ultimately being killed in a duel himself.
    • At the 2022 Academy Awards, Chris Rock said the name Macbeth onstage at the Dolby Theatre in reference to Denzel Washington, who was nominated for Best Actor for the title role in The Tragedy of Macbeth. Not even minutes later, Rock was infamously struck by Will Smith after making a mocking joke about Jada Pinkett Smith. Some viewers were quick to note this as an example of the curse in action.
    • No less than the Royal Shakespeare Company advises that the curse can be broken if the offending party performs a ritual: "Exit the theatre, spin around three times, spit, curse and then knock on the theatre door to be allowed back in..."
  • There's a similar taboo in theatre regarding the phrase "good luck" (because it's considered Tempting Fate). Saying "good luck" to an actor supposedly curses their performance, causing dropped lines or unfortunate accidents. Instead, actors tell each other to "break a leg". There are multiple, mutually contradictory origin stories for where the phrase came from, and it's also Newer Than They Think - it isn't attested before 1921. Suggested origins include:
    • Superstition - the idea that wishing someone good luck brings them harm, so therefore wishing someone harm will bring good luck.
    • From German - in German the actor's version of "good luck" is "Hals- und Beinbruch" (meaning neck and leg breaking) which may in turn come from the Yiddish "hatslokhe u brokhe" which actually means luck and blessings. (Both of those words came into Yiddish from Hebrew, and what the first really means is "success". There is a similar taboo on the Hebrew/Yiddish term for "good luck" ("mazal tov"/"mazel tov"). One can freely use it ironically, but if meant seriously it can only be used after the hoped-for event has happened, in order not to tempt the evil eye.)
    • A more fanciful origin is that it comes from wishing the actor performs so well that the audience will rush the stage in admiration and in the ruckus the actor's leg would get broken.
    • Another is the folk legend that Elizabethan (or even Greek) audience would stamp their feet in appreciation, and you are encouraging the actor to perform so well an audience member will break a leg in their appreciative stomping.
    • The legs are also the name of black vertical masking curtains on either side of the stage. Yet another commonly heard (but generally considered by experts to be a myth) explanation is that it came from the hope that an understudy or standby would "break the leg" - that is, actually come out onto the stage - and therefore get paid an appearance fee.
  • Dancers follow the same taboo, but you don't want to tell a dancer to break a leg (it happens to them too often); instead you say "merde", which is French for "shit".
    • "merde" works in just about any context, and better yet, especially in the context of taking an exam, is "merde puissant treize" ("shit to the 13th power").
    • Musicians have borrowed "break a leg", and sometimes vary it into "break a string" or "break a reed", as applicable. On the other hand, they'll also say things along the lines of "good luck" or "you'll do great" with impunity.
    • Opera singers traditionally say "toi toi toi". Again, the exact origin is unknown, but a plausible theory is that it's an onomatopoeic rendering of spitting.
  • The writer of A Shoggoth on the Roof is referred to as "He Who [For Legal Reasons] Must Not Be Named". This is partly because the play borrows the music (if not the words) for its songs from Fiddler on the Roof and thus can't be performed, at least in the United States. Mostly, though, it's because he was driven insane by perverse dreams of non-euclidean geometry and whispers of names the human tongue could not bear, and now resides in an asylum, which also [For Legal Reasons] must not be named. Similarly, nonprofit performances are technically legal (or, at least in a slightly more legally grey area), yet tend to meet with mysterious accidents. Unfortunately, we can't be sure if that's due to sabotage, or more likely simply by the natural Brown Note effects of the play.
  • The magician act of Penn & Teller had a tradition where they would shout "Good luck, Macbeth!" before every show they performed in defiance of this trope. They eventually realized this was becoming their own little superstition and began opening it without any announcement.

    Video Games 
  • Alluded to in Drakengard. A message written in the blood of a deceased soldier of the evil army mentions several ways of speaking of or depicting the Watchers that are not to be done.
  • In RuneScape
    • It's claimed that speaking the name of the evil God Zaros gives him power, though it's ambiguous as to whether Zaros is evil. He's mostly unmentioned by the NPCs in the game, and the majority of people that do talk about him in a bad way are followers of the other deities, so it makes sense they don't like him.
    • Followers of the evil god Bandos usually call him The Big High War God, because they think he can hear it when you say his name. Goblins aren't even allowed to know his name unless they fully understand his commandments.
    • In the Canon Discontinuity God Letters, Guthix states that gods can be summoned into a world by just by speaking their name.
  • In Sam and Max 203: Night of the Raving Dead, this happens as a Shout-Out to Young Frankenstein, every time one mentions the name "Superball" (*thunderclap* *NEIIIGH*). Sam can exploit this fact by simply saying the name "Superball" on its own.
  • Baldur's Gate II features class-specific quest chains; if you play as a bard, you can acquire the deed to a playhouse and supervise the production of a play called "The Sorcerer's Bane". But there's a rumor saying that the sorcerer it's supposed to be about really existed and he cursed the play for mocking him, resulting in ill fortune befalling anybody who says the name of the play out loud. The actor who plays the sorcerer insists that it be referred to only as "The Turmish Play".
  • In both Drakensang games though most notably in the second game's expansion, there's a reason why the incarnation of evil opposing the Twelve Gods is called "The Nameless One" through all the series, even by Tharkath, who's at his service.
  • In the video game based on the Discworld series, the Librarian's aversion to the word "monkey" is taken Up To Eleven. Anyone who says it, even if the Librarian isn't there, will have the Librarian come out of nowhere and hit them on the head. This happens to Rincewind quite a bit.
  • In Ōkami, Waka cautions Issun not to speak the name of Orochi lightly, as that alone is enough to curse a lesser mind (of course, he then goes on to say it several more times in the same conversation). Despite this, no one speaking Orochi's name comes to a bad end because of it in the game.
  • Pony Island: To say Lucifer has a negative relationship with his father, is putting it rather lightly. He never speaks his actual name, and gamers who sift through the code long enough discover he only refers to him as "father, pure evil". Baphomet warns the player not to go around uttering that slanderous nickname, since he is always watching and listening.
  • Fire Emblem Fates: The mystical kingdom of Valla is stated to be under a deadly curse, in which anyone who speaks its name outside of its borders will die, dissolving into water and disappearing.
  • SOON: People in the future are very afraid to say the name of the organization that created the evil robots.
    Atlas: [narrating] The name of this place stills the heart of all who have encountered the brutal regime that had its genesis here. The research and development arm of... SANDY'S TOYS. Brr. Just the thought of the name sends a chill down your spine.
  • The Pokémon games list a Pokémon's "location met" in the status screen - that is to say, the location where a Pokémon was caught or otherwise acquired. Starting in Generation VI, a Pokémon brought up from the previous Generations has their location listed as the region where the game it came from was based (i.e. a Pokémon from Diamond/Pearl/Platinum is listed as coming from "Sinnoh"); the exception is Pokémon coming from the Orre region, which are instead listed as coming from a "distant land".
  • Fate/Grand Order: Though the Archer Tawara Touta is famed for defeating notorious samurai Taira no Masakado, Minamoto no Raikou directly cuts off any mention of the figure from Ushiwakamaru in his interlude. This is because of a longstanding taboo on invoking Masakado's name in Japan unless they pay respects to his grave first before going through with it, lest he curse them like he did to numerous people throughout the 20th century when he was stripped of deity status.

    Web Animation 

  • Resonance Ben from Keychain of Creation fuels his Magic Music with Abyssal Resonance. As a result, every time someone calls him 'Ben', his attacks get stronger.
  • Goblins: Temps Fate once encounters a dragon whose name is censored by Powers That Be, lest he be swallowed by a black Plot Hole from which space, time and bad writing cannot escape.
    • One dungeon has a creature who, when his name is spoken, will first answer three questions truthfully, and the fourth time, murder everyone around. His name? "Noh." K'seliss then intentionally invokes that name when poised just right to get a surprise round and tear out Noh's throat.
  • In The Order of the Stick, Roy had a code word that would activate a Mark of Justice curse on Belkar if spoken aloud. Belkar managed to trigger the curse by himself anyway, so Roy mentioned the word to satisfy readers' curiosity "squiddleydoodlefluffer" and then the matter was dropped.
  • PvP: The Office Panda attacks (usually Brent) when someone mentions it.
  • Most hospital staff in Awful Hospital have this for many words relating to the Parliament, not being able to comprehend when those words are spoken.
  • Parodied in Sluggy Freelance in the "Torg Potter" parodies of Harry Potter. The main villain is known as "You-Probably-Don't-Know-Who", and Torg Potter is known as the Lastnameless One (parodying Torg's No Full Name Given status). Only some people can speak the name "Torg Potter", while others don't want to even hear it and possibly couldn't process it. This also prevents anyone from noticing from a long time that this Torg, the main character, isn't Torg Potter. It's also revealed a few parody stories in that You-Probably-Don't-Know-Who had purposefully cursed the Potters and unintentionally cursed himself so that their names were magically wiped from history, explaining all this weirdness.

    Web Original 
  • In Elsewhere University, wariness of the Scottish Play actually takes a backseat compared to the feelings around A Midsummer Night's Dream, which is referred to as "Their Play". It's not that it offends the Gentry - as far as They're concerned the Royals are far too different for it to risk catching Their attention - but it's more the fact that, despite no one ever planning to put it on, it always ends up happening every few years. Everyone always tells the Theatre majors that it was their best play yet, but none of those involved ever seem to remember exactly what happened.
  • The Protectors of the Plot Continuum avoid uttering the names of certain badfic. Of Warlords And Pleasures is always darkly referred to as "That Series", and the equally horrifying Celebrian is always typed as "C*l*br**n" or "C*l*b*i*n". Cho Chang's Desires is referred to as Ch* Ch*ng's D*sires.
  • Inverted by the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre.
  • Some LiveJournal communities have gotten to the point in which a certain movie is only to be referred to as "The Movie Which Must Not Be Named", for obvious reasons.
  • Subverted in one Text Adventure pastiche of Hamlet. Shouting "Macbeth" inside the theater will result in a rope coming loose, which you need in order to progress. Doing it again will make the ground shake for a few seconds, but has no other consequences.
  • The people who did the infamous Let's Play of Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) refer to it as "that other game" in their later Lets Plays.
  • Thomas Sanders, being an actor in his community theater, made a YouTube video talking about his personal experiences with the lore around Macbeth.
  • The Scandal That Shall Not Be Named, as it's only ever euphemistically referred to around here, if at all, has had this effect on This Very Wiki. It even got to the point where the very mention of its name caused an Example Sectionectomy.note 
  • SCP Foundation:
    • The anomaly that can't be called 4000 is full of this, since referring to anything or anyone involved by a name, any name or title even if it's not theirs (and being referred to by one in turn by those entities and actually responding to it) is bound to have deleterious effects, including Body Horror, teleportation, and identity theft. As a result, if you wish to talk about the extradimensional, anomalous forest, the various beings that dwell in it, the only path that can get you anywhere within or even the well from which one starts any journey in there, you must use descriptive phrases like those, and you can only use each once before you come up with the next.
      • For more SCPs that function similarly see the nameless tag.
    • Another nasty SCP that you can't talk about is ●●|●●●●●|●●|●.note . The document that describes it is written entirely in pictograms because it kidnaps anyone who talks about it and steals any text written about it.
  • On 4chan, any discussion of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is unwelcome outside its designated "containment board" /mlp/, and in fact forbidden by the rules. As a result, on the rare occasion where someone brings up the cartoon, it's usually referred to with euphemisms such as "the unmentionable", "horse show", etc.
  • In Piecing Together the Ashes: Reconstructing the Old World Order the Beast's name was stricken from the record and is regarded as so horrible no one is allowed to say it.
  • Musical Hell is hosted by a devil, so God and Heaven are "The Opposition" and Jesus is "The Opposition's Kid".
  • Rocked, in both the episode for Hoobastank's The Reason and a list of "10 Bands Tarnished By Their Singer" , does this rather to avoid mentioning convicted pedophile Ian Watkins of Lostprophets.
  • In A Voice from the Dark, the various reviewers refer to Channel Awesome as "The Site" and when Linkara starts to say its name, the floor gives out. According to Lewis Lovhaug, it was done for legal considerations since this was done after the "Change the Channel" incident.

    Western Animation 
  • Dexter's Laboratory:
    • In his debut episode, saying "Mandark" would cause a slideshow of animals being scared and bad things happening. His Ensemble Dark Horse sister Lalavava had the exact same thing happen in her only episode.
    • One episode has everyone in earshot panic whenever Deedee mentions "El Chupacabra".
  • Beetlejuice:
    • In one episode, saying "Camelot" would cause the title character to get stampeded by camels.
    • In the episode "Beauty And The Beetle," the title character pretends to be an Indiana Jones parody named Grimdiana Bones. Saying that name (or even writing it out) causes him to be flattened by a giant boulder.
    • In the same episode, the villain kidnaps Lydia and takes her to his "Mountain Retreat". Every time he says "Mountain Retreat", the mountain grows legs and walks away from him, prompting the villain at one point to comment, "It takes me longer to get home every day."
  • The Fairly OddParents!:
    • In "The Big Problem", saying Vicky's *parrot dies* name would do this in one of the show's trademark Overused Running Gags.
    • Later, in part 1 of the Wishology movie, when someone says "Timmy Turner", it alerts the Eliminators to his presence. However, this is just because they have excellent hearing.
  • Saying "Lord Moldybutt"note  in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy makes stuff break. In consequence, people call him "he-who-should-never-ever-be-named". This is used to comedic effect such as when Billy kept saying Moldybuttnote  non-stop and everything around started breaking and falling apart. Even better, Moldybuttnote  himself isn't immune to the hazards of saying his own name. EVEN better, this episode aired before the character he is a parody of actually jinxed his own name.
    Mandy: Billy, don't sit on that toadstool. You'll get a moldy butt.
    • In "Secret Snake Club," the leader of the titular club repeatedly refers to his group's "a-gen-da", followed by a Scare Chord and lightning. One of the other club members gleefully tries it out himself by saying "agenda" and the same chord and lightning occur, causing the leader to admonish him as the leader is the only one who is allowed to say it (and in doing so passingly, a brief chord and strike again occur).
  • Also parodied in South Park, "Hell on Earth 2006". To summon Biggie Smalls, people stand in front of a mirror and say his name three times. As Biggie wanted to make it to Satan's Halloween party, he gets PISSED whenever one of the boys says his name three times, and starts shooting them. This situation is resolved when Butters does it in front of a hand mirror in front of Satan's party. This was tied to the movie Candyman that was inspired a little by the Urban Legend of Bloody Mary — and a bit by a Clive Barker short story.
  • In The Boondocks, after saying the word "kumite", a martial arts-related noise is heard.
  • The Simpsons:
    • The actual Scottish Trope was played with in "The Regina Monologues" when the family meets Sir Ian McKellen in England; any time anyone mentioned Macbeth, some horrible injury was visited upon McKellen. When the Simpsons wished him good luck before his performance, he said that was bad luck as well and a piece of the marquee promptly fell on him.
    • Saying good luck is bad luck too, resulting in the expression "break a leg" being used instead.
    • When Homer is on a game show and says he's happy he's past the lightning round, he gets shocked. When he decides to talk about an ice cream round, he gets hit by more lightning.
  • In The Mighty B!, Bessie's middle name (Kajolica) causes bad things to happen if you say it. The problem is that the name is so weird and funny that no one could stop.
  • The Powerpuff Girls:
    • The girls have one in their Rogues Gallery of villains, a being so evil and fearsome, he's referred to simply as "Him". This being is skinny, red, and talks in a lisp commonly associated with metrosexuals. According to Word of God (two of them), saying Him's true name will cause you to explode, and simply learning it will cause you to be Driven to Madness.
    • Some clips shown after The Professor's Big "NO!" upon receiving a Parent Teacher Conference notice include a horse whinnying and a golf ball missing the hole.
  • American Dad!:
    • The episode "Deacon Stan, Jesus Man" had an appearance by Karl Rove. A wolf would howl in the distance every time his name was mentioned.
    • In "Dungeons and Wagons", Steve's seemingly invincible character in an MMORPG has the crippling weakness of instantly dying if his name is spoken backward, and the only way to revive him was to go on a quest to retrieve a magical crystal suppository.
  • The British Christmas Special Robbie the Reindeer: Hooves of Fire had a Running Gag of Blitzen stopping anyone from saying the name of Robbie's father, Rudolph, since he hated him so much (the real reason was to avoid paying for the rights).
  • In Drawn Together, saying Ling-Ling's name three times is a declaration of battle. But only if he tells you to say his name three times.
  • In The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, saying "west" causes weird things to happen.
  • In a scene near the end of Mighty Max, Virgil would cringe every time Max said "Stonehenge". He had good reason, as Stonehenge was the place where Virgil was destined to die.
  • In the Futurama episode "War is the H-Word," Bender can't say "ass" because it'll set off a bomb inside him (the word was chosen because it's his number one most-said word), and later he apparently can't say "antiquing" because the bomb was "stuck in there with glue or something, I don't know!" and they just had to change the word to something he never says.
  • Recess features this for one episode, whenever anyone mentions the deadly-good dodgeball player El Diablo. (whip cracks)
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius uses the actual Scottish Trope in "Out Darned Spotlight". Whenever someone said "Macbeth", something bad would happen, like lead actor Nick falling off his skateboard and breaking his leg the day of the recital of Macbeth in Space!
  • In The Smurfs episode "The Kaplowey Scroll", the word "kaplowey" (which made things disappear when said) proved to be dangerous when Grouchy used it on Jokey after being the butt of one of his pranks, and after that every Smurf feared to say anything ever again.
  • The Emperor's New School plays with this trope as well with the "Condor Patch" (dramatic music backdrop) in the episode "Chipmunky Business". Kuzco gets a bit of fun saying it repeatedly.
    Kuzco: (hearing the music) What the hay?
    Kronk: That music? Yeah, it happens every time you say... Condor Patch. (dramatic music)
  • In Darkwing Duck, an eerie music piece starts playing every time somebody says "The Library of Forbidden Spells". It's discussed by Darkwing and Morgana's father.
  • In VeggieTales, the best way to get a certain song sung, either by the same a capella recording or by existing characters, is to say some variation on the line "And now it's time to talk about what we've learned today."
    And so what we have learned applies to our lives today
    God has a lot to say
    In His book
    • Lampshaded in "Dave and the Giant Pickle" when it's specifically mentioned when it's time for the trigger phrase to be spoken.
      You see, we know that God's word is for everyone
      Now that our song is done
      We'll take a look
  • Among the showrunners of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Derpy has become this. Ever since the uproar over the one episode in which she was voiced and its Orwellian Retcon, they only refer to her using periphrastic terms like "a certain gray pegasus mare". This extends to official merchandise as well, in which her name is replaced with a cartoon drawing of a muffin.
    • When the character returned to the show in Season 4 in a surprising secondary role as part of the Ponyville Equestria Games team, she was not named by any of the other characters and never interacted with anyone.
    • And when she spoke again for the first time since "The Last Roundup" in "Slice of Life", she continued to not be named in the show until the credits where she is named "Muffins."
  • Gravity Falls:
    • One of Bill Cipher's fellow demons is "the being whose name must never be said", but Bill cheerfully introduces him as "Xanthar" anyway.
    • In the "Between The Pines" special, Time Baby tries to invoke this for Bill, but Alex Hirsch ignores him;
      Time Baby: He is a threat to the universe! His name must not be spoken aloud, Alex!
      Alex Hirsch: Bill…
      Time Baby: Seriously?
  • In the first episode of Captain Planet, Wheeler casually uses the word "fire", causing his ring to activate. Ma-ti then tells him he shouldn't say "fire" unless he intends to use his powers.
  • ThunderCats Roar: In "Exodus Part 2", Mumm-Ra cursed his own name so anyone except himself who says it gets struck by lightning. The curse seems to have been lifted in future episodes.
  • The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: Saying "The Land of Milk and Honey" too loudly summons a stampede of heffalumps.
  • The Monsters vs Aliens episode "Speak Not the Q Word" is about alien words which are considered bad words because saying them causes bad things to happen. After explaining it to the monsters, Coverton hits on the idea of giving B.O.B. a full list of them with the expectation he'll obliviously repeat them so much he'll extinguish all life on Earth.

    Real Life 
  • Frequently, objects that conjure up negative associations are subject to this trope; one of the most frequent is the place (and the specific appliance used) where people eliminate waste. The most frequently used words for them are often evocative of other tasks to be done in about the same area — haircare (toilet), cleaning (bathroom, washroom, lavatory) or a central point for water flow in general (water closet and its translations/abbreviations). Moreover, the euphemism treadmill eventually results in those words becoming similarly taboo (notably, "toilet" went from referring to the washbasin to the toilet seat itself — facial cleaning products, oddly, are still referred to as toiletries), which results in new phrasing for the purpose of preserving this trope.
  • In the 15th century, syphilis was such a terrifying disease that physicians would represent it with the Greek letter Σ (Sigma).
  • The Presidents of the United States:
    • After George W. Bush's approval rating dropped to an abysmal 19% near the end of his final term (and as the economy began to collapse), the Republican party started to distance themselves from Bush and his administration. The unwritten policy of refusing to mention Him or His Time As President has continued since then, though by the 2012 U.S. Presidential race it became ludicrous: traditionally, the most recent U.S. President from each party is made a major guest and gives some sort of speech at their respective presidential conventions. While Bush was technically invited, he was heavily pressured by the party bosses to not show up at the 2012 convention, which he ultimately didn't. Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney gave a speech in St. Petersburg, Florida where he made many references to Bush, but was evidently so afraid of saying his name outright that he just referred to Bush as "predecessor", in what ended up being one of the most awkward speeches in the history of U.S. politics. In the 2016 campaign, Jeb Bush averted this a bit by praising The Former Republican President's accomplishments, likely at least in part because it would be impossible to avoid mentioning his own brother. Notably, though, his campaign slogans were all along the lines of "Vote for Jeb!" rather than the more obvious "Vote for Bush!"
    • To his opponents, Donald Trump became an example as soon as he was elected (if not earlier), whether to avoid the attention of pro-Trump trolls or out of mere dislike. As with Bolsonaro mentioned below, a number of epithets have sprung up to refer to him, ranging from simply "45" (his ordinal number), to "Drumpf" (thanks to John Oliver) to the more fanciful appellations "Cheeto," "The Orange One," or the various Big, Stupid Doodoo-Head insults that happen to rhyme with his surname. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert eventually started collecting viewer suggestions to use on the show with the #EngineeredHashtag #HeWhoShallBeNamed. After Trump's election loss, "The Former Guy" gained some currency, abbreviated to "TFG". Even Trump's successor Joe Biden refused to directly refer to him, as an account of Biden's first days in the White House revealed.
  • In Emergency Rooms at the hospital, two words are never allowed to be uttered within the walls of the ER. Those two words are "quiet" and "slow." Using these words in another context, such as "Hey, you're making a little too much noise, could you please be quiet" or "When is the food going to get here? They sure are being slow" will merely earn you a glare and shush. Daring to utter these words while in context such as "Wow, it sure is quiet tonight," or "I can't believe how slow things are in here," may precipitate a projectile being thrown in your direction or other physical contact by a staffer. The reason for this is the anecdotal, yet seemingly verifiable phenomenon that when these words are said, the doors will burst open with a load of bus accident victims who were hit by an airplane that was struck by lightning while everyone involved was also having a heart attack during active labor.
    • Also applies to just about any arm of emergency services. These words are taboo anywhere police, fire, or EMS personnel are based, and especially at the communications centres that dispatch them.
    • The same idea is also common amongst those who work in a retail environment. Mention that the store is slow at the moment and then wait a few minutes. Sure enough, customers will start pouring in.
    • Happens in Tech Support as well. It's the Unmentionable Law; if you talk about it, if it's good it goes away, if it's bad, it happens. There's also a dash of He Who Shall Not Be Named; there's usually one or more Known Problems that will appear if you speak the name.
    • See also: veterinary medicine, where "quiet" is referred to as "the q-word" and "slow" is a literal and figurative four-letter word. As soon as those words are uttered, the phones will start ringing off the hook, something will require emergency surgery, something else will need resuscitation, and a multi-dog-fight pileup will come rolling through the front doors. Simultaneously.
  • Bears. The Proto-Indo-European word for "bear" was h₂ŕ̥tḱos, which became ursus in Latin, arktos in Greek and rkṣah in Sanskrit. But Indo-European peoples who lived closer to bears feared that if you said h₂ŕ̥tḱos, a h₂ŕ̥tḱos would hear you; so in the Germanic languages, they were called "brown ones" (*beron, thus German Bär, English bear); in the Slavic languages, "honey-eaters" (Russian medved); in the Celtic world, "honey pigs" or even "good calves"; in Lithuania, "lickers." And the Proto-Indo-European word might have been a euphemism, too... Discussed by xkcd here.
  • Wolves have been treated similarly too. The Swedish word for wolf, varg, is Old Norse for something like "manslayer" or "destroyer", as speaking the word "ulv" was believed to call their attention. And even then, the euphemism treadmill moved, and you will often see wolves referred to with names like "grey-legs" to avoid using "varg".
  • Foxes as well. In Sweden, foxes used to be called by the name Michael or its variations (Mickel being the most common) since speaking the real name, räv, was similarly believed to attract foxes looking for hens to eat.
    • The same phenomenom also seems to have happened in most of Romance-speaking Western Europe, where the original names for fox, all derived from the Latin vulpecula, were replaced by different words depending on region: in France, renard (from Reynard the Fox), in Castille, zorro (possibly derived from the Basque word for fox, azeri), and in Portugal, raposa (of uncertain origin).
  • Weasels too. In most Romance languages, the words for "weasel" tend to allude to its "feminine" figure, and have no relation to the Latin word for weasel, mustela. (for example, Portuguese doninha, "little lady", Spanish comadreja, "little godmother", and Romanian nevăstuică, "little bride"). That particular allusion on weasel naming is found on Greek, Arabic and Danish as well.
  • The way some Germans dance around words connected to Nazi Germany. Helmut Schmidt (a former chancellor) once spoke of "Adolf Nazi." Many times allusions are made in the vein of "Das hatten wir schon mal" (we've had that before), though this may also be attempts to invoke Godwin's Law without invoking Godwin's Law. Just ask any German how many synonyms for various Nazi terms they can come up with. There's 1933-45, the NS-time, the darkest era of German history, the Third Reich, the thousand-year Reich, the dozen-year Reich and many other terms of various euphemistic or even humorous sound. Even seemingly innocuous words like "Volk" (people, cognate of "folk", used by the Nazis to mean "the Aryan race") were suspect during a time and oft-replaced by "Bevölkerung" (population).
    Loki: Kneel before me. I said, KNEEL! [Loki stamps his scepter on the ground, causing a shockwave that intimidates the crowd into silence as they all kneel before him] Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It's the unspoken truth of humanity, that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life's joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.
    German Old Man: [slowly rises to his feet] Not to men like you.
    Loki: There are no men like me.
    German Old Man: There are always men like you.
  • During the division of East and West Germany, the East German government used very specific phrasing whenever speaking of its Western counterpart. The most common was "the government in Bonn", due to a belief that by referring to it as a "German government" of any sort would undermine their position that it was an illegitimate government. The West German government (and many newspapers) also engaged in some word acrobatics, like referring to "Pankow" (an East-Berlin neighborhood that "just so happens" to sound pretty Russian) when talking about the East German government.
  • If two factions each refer to something by a different name, using either name is often tantamount to "picking a side" — which can and will start a Flame War. For example, should you refer to That Southeast Asian Country as Burma or Myanmar? And regarding The Troubles, should you refer to "Stroke City" in Northern Ireland as Derry or Londonderry?
  • Swedish military training during the Cold War taught defense against the enemy, which just happened to use Soviet equipment and organisation.
  • Russian government-controlled media and official politicians try their hardest to avoid saying the name of Alexey Navalny - opposition leader and anti-corruption activist. If they have no other option they usually say "this blogger" or "that activist" or even "that known criminal".
  • Some politicians have an annoying habit of not mentioning the name of their opponent, saying "my opponent", "the other side", "certain parties" and so on instead of "Mister X" or "Senator Y". It can get particularly bizarre in three-way races or parliamentary systems where it becomes increasingly unclear just who is being smeared right now.
    • Enforced by the debate rules of most legislatures, the rationale being that by only referring to your opponents by their titles or constituencies helps to avoid debates from getting too personal. Whether or not this actually works is an open question.
  • Given the supporters of Brazilian right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro are overtly defensive of him, the opposition started to use alternate spellings ("Bozo" being one of the most popular for obvious reasons; "Bonossauro" and "Bolsolixo" - Bolsotrash - also caught on) to avoid unwanted "Bolsominions" in their replies. It became so prevalent that a newspaper triggered Twitter bots spewing defensive responsives when they posted tweets with the words "bolso" (Portuguese for "pocket") or "bolovo" (Scotch egg). Even the English word "balderdash" has triggered snarky responses!
  • In the wake of a massive sexual harassment scandal surrounding Blizzard Entertainment in mid-2021, Overwatch League broadcast commentators Brennon "Bren" Hook and Josh "Sideshow" Wilkinson notably only used euphemisms such as "the cowboy" when referring to (the character then known as) Jesse McCree. Why this happened was due to the fact that the name was a Tuckerization of a Blizzard employee who was implicated in said sexual harassment scandal, and a few months later the character was Renamed to Avoid Association to "Cole Cassidy".
  • Voice recognition software that activates with a name like Alexa, since even if you're not using a device that picks up voices from across the room to purposely activate the device, it may just hear you (or whatever is speaking that name from recorded media) saying the name and activate itself anyway.
  • Sort of a bizarre inversion: When talking about poison ivy while it was nearby, the Cherokee would refer to it as "my friend" so as to not piss it off. And this was back when poison ivy and related plants would not have been anywhere near as big or scary as they are today.
  • Given the highly-indexed nature of the internet, many people who are saying negative things about an individual (or plotting mischief) will avoid writing their target's name directly, in order to avoid the discussion being found by search engine. For example, during the height of Gamergate, members referred to certain people by made-up titles like "Literally Who" to obscure what they were talking about.
  • SNK had already made it clear that they disdained K9999 from their flagship The King of Fighters franchise for being almost identical to AKIRA's Tetsuo Shima, if Nameless from 2002: Unlimited Match wasn't evidence enough. But from 2016, they took it to the next level to fully bury the character and get potential legal retribution from Katsuhiro Otomo off their backs: reports from visitors revealed that there existed an unspoken rule at the company that talking about K9999 was strictly banned, with one community manager referring to him as "the one replaced by Nameless". They must have lifted the ban around 2021, as the character was reintroduced (albeit drastically redesigned and renamed to "Krohnen" to rid him of K9999's baggage) in XV.
  • On The Internet, the transgender community can be prone to this, sometimes out of necessity to avoid the attention of trolls who like to target trans people.
    • One site in particular tends to be subject to this, given its nature as a trolling and doxxing hub where trans people are often the preferred marks, or "lolcows" (so termed because they're seen as weird and fun to "milk for laughs").
    • Infamously transphobic Maryland lawyer Cathy Brennan also gained a reputation for harassing people online and thus became another example of this trope for a while.
    • Ever since she began vocally opposing the trans community, J. K. Rowling and her works have become subject to this as well, for example with Hogwarts Legacy commonly referred to as just the "wizard game" on Tumblr. Amusingly, people have even called her "She Who Must Not Be Named" in reference to Lord Voldemort, the Big Bad of her Harry Potter books, who's a particularly iconic example of this trope (indeed, see the image at the top of this page).


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): That Which Must Not Be Named


We don't talk about Bruno.

Everyone in the encanto is in agreement not to talk about the prodigal Bruno Madrigal.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (23 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheScottishTrope

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