Follow TV Tropes


The Unpronounceable

Go To

Cutter: Your real name can't be Mr. Jinx, can it?
Mr. Jinx: No, sir, it is not. My name is unpronounceable in your language.
Cutter: Say it anyway.
Mr. Jinx: It is also unpronounceable in my language.

Foreign names can be difficult to pronounce for English speakers, but the names of aliens and monsters are often worse still.

In the mildest version, the character's name is simply unusually long, set up with a phonetic maze like a Tongue Twister, or merely linguistically bizarre even given where it originates; Romanadvoratrelundar, Nahasapeemapetilon, Vijayaraghavensatyanaryanamurthy, Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar, Wendissofigelroc, Abalamahalamatandra, Maheswaran. Pronouncing names like these correctly is a sign of linguistic skill. Mispronouncing them is allegedly funny.

In practice, most languages contain at least one sound, or sound combination, not allowed in English. Names containing such sounds will always be unpronounceable, though spelling may obscure this. Naturally, this works both ways. English has more sounds than most other major languages, and its speakers pile up consonants in ways which the rest of the world wouldn't dream of, so it is rich in unpronounceable names. Some languages even have linguistic variables that don't affect meaning at all in English — most famously, changing voice-pitch of a Chinese word changes its meaning,note  whereas in English tone doesn't do much other than change the emphasis of a sentence.

Characters who are seriously alien, and/or members of The Legions of Hell, get names genuinely unpronounceable in English. Mostly, they get names intended to be unpronounceable by a human mouth at all, but guaranteeing that requires some familiarity with other languages than English. Here is where Pronouncing My Name for You will not help the listeners.

Curiously, these same unpronounceable names can almost always still be written in the Latin alphabet: Cthulhu, Mxyzptlk, WxrtHltl-jwlpklz. (Of course, there is no guarantee that what is written down sounds anything like the actual pronunciation - "bark" and "woof" isn't exactly what a dog sounds like, but is the closest we can get.) They are more commonly seen in print than on screen, since most actors are not stunt linguists. When they do appear on TV, if the character is friendly they'll get called something easier to say. Giving someone who is supposed to be awe-inspiring and mysterious a shortened and silly nickname is also a way of humanizing them — or even humiliating them, if they're a bad guy.

At the more extreme end of the unpronounceable scale are names which aren't even recognizable as "words". You can't say them or write them down. These tend to appear either in hard science fiction, or as parody. The serious variants are often described as animal or other noises — roars, grunts, clicks, pops, etc. Parody variants typically get elaborate descriptions, such as "a name which sounds approximately like a trolley of squawking chickens being chased downhill by a bagpipe player on horseback, but played backwards at twice the speed". Names like this are easy enough to do as sound effects, but difficult to handle in print.

Beyond even that are the names which aren't sounds at all — a flash of green light and the smell of roses, binary code, telepathy, and so on.

When it's even possible, correctly pronouncing the most extreme names is often actually dangerous — you could damage body and/or soul or call forth unspeakable evil.

Names which aren't even comprehensible are usually reserved for particularly Eldritch Abominations, or the REALLY seriously alien. And at the extreme end of this, names that can't even be depicted are Too Strange to Show.

See also Punctuation Shaker and Word Purée Title. Can often cause Viewer Pronunciation Confusion. Compare Some Call Me "Tim" and My Name Is ???.

Examples Subpages:

Other Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Beast Wars Neo: Rartorata, one of the servants of Unicron. Not so much in-universe, but out of it... yes. The Transformers Wiki has an absolute field-day making fun of it.
  • The Big Bad demon in Captain Harlock: Endless Odyssey is canonically stated to have a literally unpronounceable name. For convenience's sake, it's refereed to as The Noo.
  • Ayano's boyfriend, Shimotakatani, from High School Girls. In episode 10 of the series, his name is mispronounced several times.
  • Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne: Laffinty Fin E Ld Si, shortened to just Lan/Ran.
  • Monster Girl Doctor: Sphwllympf is the real name of the Slime Girl nurse working at the central hospital. Since non-slimes found it impossible to pronounce, she instead uses the nickname she got in medical school due to her favorite food, Lime.
  • Nyaruko: Crawling with Love!: The title character calls herself Nyarlathotep and goes by Nyarko, but her real name can't be spoken by human tongues. Even being able to comprehend her name is an incredible feat, one that would grant the person in question incredible insight into her being and bring them closer together.
  • The Promised Neverland features man-eating demons/aliens that worship a god whose name is written in a weird, undecypherable alien script.
  • The Japanese title of the fourth and final film in the Rebuild of Evangelion series is Shin Evangelion Gekijōban:𝄂. No official Japanese pronunciation has so far been given for the symbol at the end, which is a symbol in musical notation that essentially means "Go back to the beginning and play the whole piece again". The official English release changes the title to Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time..
  • Space☆Dandy: Meow. His real name is Nynyamo, and it's not pronounced like how it's spelled. Extra points for it being a common name in his home star, Betelgeuse.

  • The bicyclist from a sketch by Bavarian Karl Valentin.
    Policeman (Liesl Karlstadt in drag): What's your name?
    Bicyclist (Valentin): Wrdlbrmpfd.
    Policeman: What?
    Bicyclist: Wrdlbrmpfd.
    Policeman: Wadlstrumpf?
    Bicyclist: Wr-dl-brmpfd!
    Policeman: Talk understandably, don't mumble into your beard!
    Bicyclist: [pulls down fake beard] Wrdlbrmpfd.
    Policeman: What a stupid name! Get away!
    Bicyclist: [while leaving] Oh, by the way, officer — my sister wants me to tell you some greetings!
    Policeman: Your sister? But I don't know your sister at all!
    Bicyclist: You don't? She's such a short, stumpy one...
    Policeman: No, I don't know your sister — what's her name?
    Bicyclist: Her name is also Wrdlbrmpfd...
  • Comedian Lee Mack does a routine on the spelling and pronunciation of Irish Names.
    Lee Mack: [spells the name "Siobhan"] In what possible universe is that a "V"?
  • Key & Peele have a sketch parodying (usually black) football players' Ghetto Names, including Torque [Construction Drilling Noise] Lewith and EEEEE EEEEEEEEE, who just makes a dolphin noise when saying his name.

    Comic Books 
  • In The Badger, the full name of the Badger's ally Ham the Weather Wizard is Hammaglystwythkbrngxxaxolotl. This name is intended as, not alien, but fourth-century Welsh.
  • When Buffy asks a fairy who she is in issue 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 9, she answers Buffy couldn't pronounce her name.
  • Copperhead: a mild case with Budroxifinicus, who is dubbed Boo by Zeke and Clara within seconds of meeting him. No one else seems to have trouble with his name at all.
  • The DCU:
    • Quislet of the Legion of Super-Heroes has a real name which is an unpronounceable glyph.
    • Phantom Girl's home planet is named Bgztl. During the 2005 reboot, Karate Kid remarked that he wasn't sure if that was the planet's name or if she just sneezed.
    • Superman: Mr. Mxyzptlk from the fifth-dimensional land of Zrfff would be on this page, if it weren't for the fact that we're given a good pronunciation for his name (and, as a result, a good way to tell how to pronounce any name that's all consonants.) The pronunciations usually given are "Mix-pih-tulk" or "Mixxie-plik". (Note that "y" is a vowel in some languages such as french.) In order to make him go away, you have to get him to say his name BACKWARDS. Oddly enough, there was a second version of his name — the original spelling was "Mxyztplk," which was eventually retconned into a second entity entirely. In Superman: The Ultimate Guide to the Man of Steel they gave a pronunciation guide of "Mix-yez-pitl-ick," which likely can be considered the official Silver Age pronunciation.
    • In DC Retroactive Superman, Mxyzptlk travels to the ninth-dimensional land of Bppkss and gets in trouble with Grbnsqz the Wagerer.
    • Detective Chimp's real name is in chimpanzee language, and is best transcribed as "mostly three grunts and an incoherent shriek". It translation is much more understandable, meaning "Magnificent Finder of Tasty Grubs".
    • Agent "!" in Doom Patrol. One of the other characters wonders how you're supposed to pronounce it; he just says, "Simple: just '!'".
    • The Flash fought an evil alien computer program called Kilg%re (the official pronunciation is given as 'Kilgiear').
    • Wonder Woman Vol 1: The "gremlins" language and name do not really work for human pronuciation, so they're fine with being called gremlins and being given nicknames. "Glitch's" attempt to say his species name so some kids can understand ends up rendered L:fh'gsftgyyf#d.
  • In Fall of Cthulhu, one of the gods speaks his name to a human, and this is represented with a jet-black speech bubble and "wind" coming from behind the god. (As for the human who heard it, he goes into the fetal position and cries.)
  • In Halo and Sprocket, Katie and Sprocket convince Halo (an angel) to tell them his real name. Cue a page of kaleidoscopic images followed by the two of them unconscious on the floor "..but you can continue to call me 'Halo' if you wish."
  • Marvel Comics:
    • Superhero Sleepwalker's actual name cannot be pronounced by humans. Since he's part of a race of Sleepwalkers, he simply has humans call him by his race's name when manifesting in the human world.
    • Starjammers character Hepzibah's real name is a complex combination of pheromones, not only unpronounceable but unreproducable by humans who lack scent glands of that complexity. Corsair got the name "Hepzibah" after the character in Pogo. She doesn't like the nickname, but it stuck.
    • On the subject of Starjammers, the team doctor is called Sikorsky due to his resemblance to a helicopter. But as he's insectoid, his real name is unpronounceable by humanoid tongues.
    • Marvel "What The..." parody of course had to play with the trope: When the Pulverizer politely asks the crook for the distributers of the "stuff", all he can say is "Wksfrstsk! Wksfrstsk!" - no wonder as the Pulverizer shoved his weapon down the crooks throat. But guess what, that IS the name of the distribution organisation.
  • The Simpsons: One issue deals with a country somewhere in Eastern Europe with a name no-one, not Bart, not Lisa, not U.S. Senators or Secret Servicemen seem able to pronounce. The last two make a valiant effort, at least ("I think that's a glottal stop..."), until eventually deciding to go with "Kahkf" (Inspired by Bart choking after being strangled by Lisa for ruining said country's economy).
  • Sonic Universe features the Mad Scientist Dr. Fukurokov. No one, be they his enemies or his allies, could pronounce his name. Lampshaded:
    Dr. Fukurokov: One day soon, the world will tremble at the name of Dr. Fukurokov!
    Antoine: Perhaps, but zey won't be able to pronounce it...
  • Ultimate Vision
    • The first world where the Vision fell. "A world whose unpronounceable name takes the form of three prime numbers, a delicacy and a subtle glance between two strangers". Good luck trying to to picture that.
  • The first scientist to study the Vision had a name that "could best be described as the shape of a DNA strand multiplied by something that smelled like meat burning" (although maths do not work that way).

    Comic Strips 
  • Also parodied in a Dilbert comic strip.
    Elbonian: Hello, how may I help you? My name is Kruphnehdahpheweundikaniswalyniaphorganopop... I mean, Carl.
  • In Doonesbury, the country of Berzerkistan is led by Trff Bmzklfrpz. As explained in one comic, "Bmzklfrpz" is actually pronounced "Ptklm."
  • In For Better or for Worse, "Mtigwaki" is the First Nations village Liz once lived and taught in. The actual pronunciation (m-tigwak-eh) appears nowhere in the strip itself, leaving most not to even attempt spelling it, let alone saying it. People would refer to it as "Liz's village". The snarkier commenters would simply run with the unpronounceable nature ("Mtitikitavi", "Mtimtibangbang", etc.)

    Fan Works 
  • Notorious ficcer ultamite nineball, among other bizarre style choices, named one of his supporting characters "Thrnos". If, as many suspect, he's actually a Troll, it's possible that this is a homage of sorts to Grignr, or something similar.
  • Sonic X: Dark Chaos:
    • Demonish, the common Demon language. Most of it is translated, but not all of it. The easiest way to replicate it is to "roll your face on your keyboard". It is described in-story as a combination of Latin and Enochian put in reverse.
    • Demonese Skript, an ancient form of Demonish, is literally only translatable by Maledict himself.
  • In The Legacy Hermione takes umbrage with Neville because he and his grandmother have a house elf.
    Hermione: But don't you see how awful that is? That is everything SPEW fights against! How can you — a member! — just stand by? You don't even call him by his name!
    Neville: Well, mostly because I can't. He's from a distant relative who... err... gave him a name consisting mostly of x, h, f and g and no vocals. She had a speech impediment, you see, and thought it funny to have others struggle as well.
  • A.A. Pessimal's Discworld:
    • In the fic Hyperemesis Gravidarum, a wizard is murdered. Because he is 1,024th-part Barbarian Hero from a distant ancestor and because he put up a fight, he is allowed Valhalla as a post-mortem destination. A Valkyrie duly calls to collect.
      "Errr... you're a Valkyrie?" Anthony asked, uncertainly. She smiled.
      "Probationary, at the moment." she said. She reached up and settled the fit of a slightly too large helmet. She extended a hand and smiled uncertainly.
      "Þrimhildr." she said. It had been just her luck to get a name beginning with a letter eight hundred years obsolete in modern Morporkian.
      Anthony made a brave stab at the sound. "Drrim...? Thrimm? T'rim...?"
      She shook her head.
      "Just call me Hilda? It's possibly easier."
    • In another tale by the same author, the hapless Rufus Drumknott is forced to try to pronounce the Vondalaans name given to a brand new Pegasus. The name Boetjie has a consonant cluster denoting a sound not present in Morporkian (English), and Drumknott's pronunciation causes a native speaker of Vondalaans (Afrikaans) to wince.
  • In Pokémon Opal and Garnet, Clopin the Touceet's name is pretty much this to everyone. Since his name contains a French nasal vowel (he is named for a character in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, after all), he'll often get mispronounciations such as "klop-pin," "kloh-PAN," "kloh-pin," or the like. It's actually "kloh-PAH~n," and the way to get this sound according to Clopin himself is to say the word "pang" out loud. Then, once you've said it, cut off the "-ng" at the end abruptly. Usually, they'll say "kloh-PAY," but Clopin makes it clear to them that they need to cut off the entire sound.
  • A mild example: The new civilians in The Keys Stand Alone are the G'heddi'onians. The four, being nicknamers, don't even attempt to pronounce it (“Man, what a tongue-twister of a name,” comments Paul) and promptly start calling them Geddies. This is lampshaded several times by people who find it charming that they do this when everyone else is very careful to say it correctly.
    • It's pronounced guh-heddy-OH-nee-ans.
    • Durothé's tribe is the Tranfardasfamira. And yes, if the four ever had to mention the tribe's name, they would call them the Trannies.
  • The eponymous Predator from Digimon 3: Predator vs. Digimon introduces himself as Krlrkak. Most dramatic readings on YouTube have trouble pronouncing it, while a film adaptation made in Garry's Mod makes the character himself having trouble pronouncing it, needing multiple takes to do so.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series: Marik can't pronounce the name of Akhnaten/Akunadan/Just Forget It (Hakuna Matata?). He eventually decides to just call him "Bob".
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
    • Nobody seems to be able to pronounce the Japanese name for Piccolo's "Special Beam Cannon" ("Makankōsappō"), including Piccolo himself.
      "Makansa... Makakasappa... Makasappa — Ah to hell with it, Special Beam Cannon!!"
    • Cell managed to say it properly, leading Kami to remark "Oh, so that's how you pronounce it."
    • Dragon Ball Z Kai Abridged episode 1 rendered it as "Makansapparappaka!!"
    • The joke continues in Dragon Ball Xenoverse with Male Voice #8 (a.k.a. "Abridged Nappa"), which pronounces it "Makansappalopolis!"
  • Light and Dark The Adventures of Dark Yagami gives us the shinigami Tioseafj. Word of God has it that the author came up with the name by smashing keys on the keyboard.
  • Seeing how Dreadnought Despair has characters from across the globe, there are bound to be a few of these. Nikola Ragnvaldsson, Vasundhara Mwamba, and even protagonist Timaeus Woodworth are good examples of this trope.
  • Although almost pronounceable with some effort, ToyHammer gives us "Shas'ui Fi'rios Yon'anuk Eldi'myr", which means "Fire cast veteran trooper of the Fi'rios colony, flying-hunter winged-knife". A.k.a. "Sergeant Talon".
  • In the We Must Be Killers stories, it's mentioned that future District 3 Victor Eibhlin marched onto the reaping stage and lectured the escort for mispronouncing her name.
  • Rocketship Voyager. When Nee'Lix first arrives on Voyager speaking his own language, much of it is too high pitched for human ears to hear, including most of his name—Captain Janeway only hears Neee and Lix! and decides Sure, Let's Go with That.

    Films — Animation 
  • WALL•E. Title-character WALL•E has a lot of trouble pronouncing EVE's name. She corrects him multiple times, but he doesn't get any further than "Ee-vah".
  • Subverted in the Disney version of Hercules, where several characters have halfway-unpronounceable Greek names like Philoctetes, and say, "Just call me Phil for short".
  • In Toy Story 2, toys for Buzz Lightyear's nemesis Zurg said his home planet was Xrghthung. But in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, it's just "Planet Z".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Both used and parodied at the same time by Men in Black with the Twins, identical aliens that maintain the MIB database. One has a name that is completely incoherent, using the infamous Welsh gurgle-sound, technically called a voiceless alveolar lateral fricative. The other is "Bob".
  • In the 2007 Transformers movie, nobody can get the name "Witwicky" right. This is not a "funny foreign last name" thing, either, as they're portrayed as a fairly "normal" American family.
  • Oddly enough, there was a character called Mr. Unpronounceable in the Matthew Broderick movie The Road to Wellville. His real name is probably something Slavic.
  • Played with in Beetlejuice. The titular character's name is actually spelled "Betelgeuse" as in the star, but the protagonists have trouble figuring out how it's pronounced from just reading it.
  • A running gag in Godzilla (1998) remake is that no one can properly pronounce the name of worm expert Niko Tatopoulos (the surname of the VFX designer). He is therefore usually just called "The Worm Guy".
  • In Splash, Daryl Hannah's mermaid character, Madison, is prompted to give her real name, despite stating that it's hard to say "in your language." When she finally says it, it sounds like highly amplified porpoise squeals and shatters the televisions in a nearby display.
  • In How I Unleashed World War II, a Polish comedy film set during the Second World War, the main character introduces himself to the Germans as Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz of Chrząszczyrzewoszyce, county Łękołody. Bshencheeshcheekyevich. Gsheghosh. The main character's real name is Franciszek (Frantcheeshek) Dolas. The Nazis have a horrible time trying to write down his name.
  • The real name of Draco from Dragonheart "can't be uttered in your tongue" and is presumably a mighty roar. He was named Draco by his friend as it is the name of a constellation that is the shape of a dragon.
  • Disney's The Cat from Outer Space has "Zunar-J-5/9 Doric-4-7"... but you can call him Jake.
  • A running gag in The Man with Two Brains. Steve Martin's character Dr. Hfuhruhurr calmly insists that his name is pronounced exactly as it's spelled. Various characters find many different ways to attempt it. Martin pronounces it like "Huff-haaaahhhhrrrrr." One of his bonding moments with Anne Uumellmahaye is that they're both say each other's name correctly on the first try.
  • People have difficulty with Samir Nagheenanajar's name in Office Space with it implied that the Bobs fire him in part because they can't pronounce his name.
  • The Poleepkwa/Prawns' language in District 9 is literally unpronounceable by human tongues, so when some of them landed in South Africa, they were given human names such as Christopher Johnson, Oliver and Paul. Given the nature of the movie, this is also meant to recall the practice of giving slaves European names as to erase their identity.
  • Star Wars:
    • In-Universe the reason for Bilingual Dialogue with Chewbacca and other Wookiees is because they're physically incapable of speaking Basic, though they can understand it perfectly well. The converse is true of humans, who can't reproduce Shyriiwook (except Han Solo, and even then it comes out as You No Take Candle).
    • In Attack of the Clones the Geonosian language was created by recording a voice actor saying the lines in English, then randomly speeding it up and slowing it down in the computer and interspersing foley effects such as a guy wrapping tissue paper over a comb, then sputtering against it.
  • Paddington (2014): Paddington's real name is a sort of roaring noise that humans can't manage. Mr Brown's attempt gets an Informed Obscenity reaction from Paddington. Hilariously Paddington is seen giving Judy lessons in bear language and she's rather adept at it.
  • Pete's Dragon (1977): A Running Gag has the villain utterly unable to pronounce the name of the town, Passamaquoddy. The name is actually a real Native American tribe in Maine and that of a part of the Bay of Fundy on the Maine/New Brunswick border.
  • In Spider-Man: Homecoming, Happy Hogan quickly renounces trying to pronounce "Megingjörð", instead just calling it "Thor's magic belt".
  • In the film adaptation of The Fourth Protocol, Michael Caine's character and his son amuse themselves trying to pronounce the names of Soviet and Eastern European visitors to the UK.
  • According to Sybok in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, the Andorian name for the fabled planet Sha-Ka-Ree is unpronounceable for humans and Vulcans.
  • A Running Gag in The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain is the inability of the English cartographers to pronounce any word in the Welsh language, including the name of the mountain they are there to measure. At one point, Anson's attempt to say "Ffynon Garrow" comes out as "finon groo."
  • In Thor, Darcy never pronounces Mjölnir's name correctly. She always pronounces it as "Myeh-myeh."

  • J. H. Brennan, of GrailQuest fame, also wrote a series of gamebooks starring a barbarian named Fire*Wolf.
    "I am called Fire*Wolf," Fire*Wolf said, enunciating the central guttural in the manner of the Wilderness tribes.

  • This works for ANY nationality that tends to have long surnames:
    Q: What does a Polish man give his wife on his wedding day that's long and hard?
    A: His last name.

  • For several years, recording artist Prince changed his name to the glyph (later dubbed "Love Symbol #2") in order to work around Warner (Bros.) Records' ownership of the trademark on his name. When the trademark expired, so too did the Love Symbol moniker. Because the glyph was deliberately unpronounceable, media outlets started referring to Prince by the workaround "the Artist Formerly Known as Prince," which ended up naming a trope.
  • The band !!!, or "Chk Chk Chk". They were inspired by click consonants from the Juǀʼhoan (Southern/Southeastern ǃKung) language featured in the 1980 South African comedy The Gods Must Be Crazy.
  • The Czech grindcore band, !T.O.O.H.!
  • Witch House, a microgenre with band names that look like they should have Zalgo as a frontman. More prominent acts include ~▲†▲~ and ▲⃝ ▲⃝ ▲⃝
  • The song "..." by the Crash Test Dummies.
  • The album ( ) by Sigur Rós. The band has referred to it as "The Bracket Album".
  • The album LOL <(^^,)> by Basshunter, partly pronounceable at best.
  • The album <|°_°|> by the electro swing group Caravan Palace, sometimes called "Robot Face".
  • The fourth Led Zeppelin album's name consists of the four band-members' symbols. It is sometimes called Zoso, after the Latin letters the first symbol (that used by Jimmy Page) resembles, but more often simply Led Zeppelin IV. Their repertoire also features two songs with Welsh titles: "Bron-Yr-Aur" and "Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp". The phrase means "Golden Chest" and refers to a cabin where the band retreated to compose Led Zeppelin III.
  • The "Symbols" album by KMFDM. The five symbols supposedly represent a censored swear word; one of the fan nicknames for the album is "Curse". The symbols appear in the liner notes for "Down and Out", but the word is bleeped out in the recording. KMFDM also have the album UAIOE, though the band claims it's supposed to be pronounced as 'a scream or something', rather than be spelled out or called "Vowels".
  • The title of the first track on Blitz, "Up Uranus", is written as a modified Uranus symbol on both the track listing and the lyrics sheet.
  • There's a Korn song called K@£$%!. One would presume it is for censoring.
  • Regurgitator's "! (The Song Formerly Known As)".
  • Justice's album, usually called "Cross".
  • :( is credited as Colonopenbracket on certain recordings, a possible subversion.
  • Pearl Jam's song "". The Other Wiki says it's read as "The Color Red". iTunes says "Red Bar". Sporcle's quiz on Pearl Jam's songs accepts "Dot".
  • Drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig of My Bloody Valentine. The "Colm" part is easy, but it's best if you ask for help from your Irish friends when it comes to the family name.
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd's first album was titled (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd) as an aid to pronunciation.
  • Aphex Twin
    • He has a song titled with a complicated calculus equation. Technically not unpronounceable but you'd need to have a decent background in math to read it out correctly. Most fans simply call it "equation"
    • The Other Wiki gives that track's name as (ΔMī¹=αΣDi[n][ΣFij[n-1]+Fexti[n̄¹]]).
    • His album Selected Ambient Works Volume II has the song "Blue Calx" and 24 other songs that use photographs as their titles.
  • Autechre's later albums have a few songs that fit the bill: "Cep puiqMX", "P.:NTIL" and "O=0", for example.
  • The trance artist Trance[]Control.
  • Relatively-obscure indie rock band Driftless Pony Club has the penultimate song on their 2012 album "Magnicifent", "Yr Mnhtn".
  • Progressive Rock group The Minotaur Project has a song entitled "77345_018". Apparently, it was actually supposed to be called "Biosphere" but somehow it ended up with the absurd former name.
    • Though people versed in writing rude words on calculators as children could quite easily pronounce it as "Bio Shell".
  • Drummer Mark Brzezicki of Big Country was renamed Mark Unpronounceablename by the magazine Smash Hits.
  • "?" by Nena.
  • "_______" by Robert DeLong.
  • "Buchstabe" by Knorkator. (The track is only called "Buchstabe" (=letter) usually. In the album liner notes, though, only a symbol note  is given, technically it's a stand-in for "br" but it is pronounced "brrrrpftz"...very approximately.)
  • Technical Death Metal band Eximperituserqethhzebibšiptugakkathšulweliarzaxułum
  • "Unpronounceable" by They Might Be Giants, off their 2015 album Glean, deals with narrator obsessing over this.
  • The bonus concert on the deluxe version of Sabaton's 2014 album Heroes has a bit where frontman Joakim Broden complains to the Polish members of the audience how hard to pronounce their city names are.
  • Four Tet's side project, in which he uses the ⣎⡇ꉺლ༽இ•̛)ྀ◞ ༎ຶ ༽ৣৢ؞ৢ؞ؖ ꉺლ alias and produces tracks with similarly pronounceable track titles such as "・✧⃛​(​ཽ๑ඕัළ​*​.​。 *¨°。" and " ̸ ̡ ҉ ҉​.​·๑ඕั ҉ ̸ ̡ ҉ ҉​.​·๑ඕั ҉ ̸ ̡ ҉ ҉​.​·๑ඕั ҉ ̸ ̡ ҉ ҉​.​·๑ඕั ҉ ̸ ̡ ҉ ҉​.​·๑ඕั ҉ ̸ ̡ ҉ ҉​.​·๑ ".
  • Hiroyuki Sawano plays around with this in his song titles for soundtrack scores, although sometimes it's highly coded, written in the International Phonetic Alphabet, replaces words with punctuation marks meant to be read as the word being replaced, or Wingdings that in recent years have been elevated to emoji.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Hebrew theonym "יהוה‎" (often transliterated as "YHWH"note  in Latin letters), also known as the Tetragrammaton, is not pronounceable in present days, as the original pronunciation was lost. The closest pronunciations people can come up with are "Yehweh", "Yehovah" or "Jehovah". Jewish tradition also forbids the others from misusing His name. Although the name of the Jewish God is written as YHWH (which looks unpronounceable) that's due to it being a literal transliteration of the name from Hebrew, where it is written without vowels. This doesn't mean there are no vowels, just that they aren't shown (which is done often in Hebrew; vowel marks weren't added to the written language until the 9th century). However, God may have much longer mystical names (depending on the religious theories and interpretations) of up to seventy-two letters which have been lost at this point; these might fall into this trope.
    • Some scholars think that pronunciation of YHWH would actually be all breath sounds, leading to "God is breath/life." Which brings up the question "Can you pronounce breathing?"
    • It is actually forbidden to Orthodox Jews to pronounce God's real name. When reading the Torah (which is done aloud), one just replaces it with "adonai" meaning Lord (which is translated as all caps "LORD" in some versions of The Bible, like the King James Version). This is the source of the word Yehovah, reading YHWH with the vowels from adonai. Filter this through French to get Jehovah, a pronunciation witnessed at front doors worldwide.
    • In Book of Exodus, God refers His name as "I Am Who I Am", which matches the above description.

  • The name of Boss Mom Black Dragon from The Fallen Gods is a series of snarls and growls. Tuatha is able to repeat it back perfectly (as in, her player Jake states that she is able to repeat it back perfectly without actually saying the name himself).
  • On the Harmontown Podcast, Mayor Dan Harmon asked two audience members pick the first and last name of Comptroller Jeff Davis's Dungeons and Dragons character. The first audience member supplied the first name, "Quark," but the second person just made an inarticulate noise rather than respond. Thus "Quark Pffffhhh...." became the character's permanent name.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Former WWE Diva Aksana's real name is Živilė Raudonienė. The Other Wiki doesn't even try to pronounce it.
  • InterSpecies Wrestling featured Lloyd Cthulowitz, based on you-know-who. In this promo, he acknowledged that the ring announcer had trouble pronouncing his name, which makes sense given the gimmick's origin.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Les Guignols de l'Info:
    • Rémy Pflimlin, PDG of France Télévisions. None of his employees can pronounce his name correctly.
    • Also invoked once with right-wing deputy Pierre Méhaignerie.

  • Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me: In the lightning round on the 14 Jan 2017 show, Tom Hanks (filling in for host Peter Sagal) made a crack about not saying the name of the Polish foreign minister "because it would blow NPR's annual consonant budget".note 

  • Vilhjalmur Sigurbjornsson from Survival of the Fittest. Given that the medium is written, it might be more apt to call him "The Unspellable". Also notable in that his author intentionally picked a name they thought would be as obnoxiously difficult to spell and pronounce as possible.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Munchkin Cthulhu has one such monster. If it defeats you, it forces you to pronounce its name, causing you to sprain your tongue and be unable to ask for help next turn.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Tau are said to have names effectively unpronounceable in Imperial Gothic, the humans' lingua franca of the setting. This is somewhat ironic as far as the symbolism is concerned, considering that the Tau are the idealists of the setting and are mostly immune to its daemonic menaces. Tau language, however, isn't nearly as hard to pronounce as some other examples. It is however quite different from the human language, consisting of long flowing series of syllables. An example of a Tau name would be Shas'O Vior'La O'Kais Mont'Yr O'Shovah (meaning Commander Farsight, the skilled and the bloodied, of the sept Vior'La).
    • There are several examples of Daemon names in the style of Lovecraft — so much so that, on the GW website, there is a Daemon name generator that strings together random syllables to form names such as Yyeaag'gaeffthlgzaaq'ffdhppccdhergzbhyyiieduii. And it should be known that if you happen to roll correctly on the generator table, you might get a Knornate daemon named "Deathdeath the Deathbringer"
      Daemons true names are often long and generally unpronounceable. Black Crusade gave us the Tzeentchian daemon prince whose public name is "Phokulozortus", and a percentile table of rolling up true names. Honsou is a Chaos Lord who had inherited a possessed Marine bodyguard from his predecessor, whom Honsou calls Onyx, because that was the only part of his true name Honsou could pronounce.
    • The Warhammer book series, Malus Darkblade, goes a little further with this for Daemon names. At one point, Malus is attempting to convince T'zarkan, the daemon possessing him, to tell him its true name; T'zarkan replies that it wouldn't do Malus any good since he doesn't have the mouth parts required to pronounce it properly to begin with.
    • The Chaos Gods, though they have generally accepted names and pronunciations throughout the 'verse, tend to be called by dozens of alternative names and aliases by folks throughout the galaxy. Their true names, if they even have them, would be unpronounceable, even unknowable to mortal minds.
    • The Chaos god Tzeentch has at least three pronunciations to his name none of which Games Workshop claims is right. In alternative media where sound is actually part of it, his name is most often pronounced zeench.
    • His counterpart Nurgle has also been pronounced as nergl, Ner-GAL, and even ner-GOOL.
    • Despite having a relatively simple name, this frequently is an issue for people trying to pronounce Roboute Gulliman. It's Rob-Oot Jewel-Ee-Man, but is nonetheless frequently misspoken as Rob-Oot-Ee Gill-Ee-Man.
  • Magic: The Gathering — One word: Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar. In the one story she appears in, she is usually just called Asmor. And her boss's name? Vincent.
    • And then there's the totally lost Ravnican homunculus Fblthp.
      • Actually, judging by Mklthd and Zndrsplt, unpronounceable names are a trademark of Homunculi.
  • There is a horselike race in Fading Suns, whose members' names can look like "Aluuuraloooraaaa" or "[long, fading whistle]". The creators cared enough to avert Rubber-Forehead Aliens and point out several races (this one as well as bird- and bugpeople) have their voice apparatus working differently than that of primates.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh Card Game: The Earthbound Immortals all have weird names. Ccapac Apu and Ccarayhua deserves a mention.
    • All of which are Quechua, a real language.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Dragons. Crack open Races of the Dragon or The Draconomicon and you will see that damn near everything that flies and breathes fire or some other breath weapon in those books will have a name that is nigh unpronounceable. Most non-dragons tend to use a nickname or reporting name for them.
    • R.A. Salvatore's Sellswords series has the dragon colloquially known as Hephaestus. His real name is Velcuthimmorhar. Also by R.A. Salvatore, Drizzt Do'Urden of D'aermon Na'shez'baernon. It seems not even Salvatore himself is entirely sure how to pronounce it. (For the record, it's officially "Drist".)
    • The Saurials from the Forgotten Realms (introduced with "Dragonbait" from Azure Bonds) have unpronounceable names, using the scent system described above along with a series of clicks and whistles. Fortunately, a simple tongues spell allows apt communication.
    • The same book has the red dragon Mistinarperadnacles. This has been known to be mangled out-of-universe into something like "mister nerple-dinkles".
    • The Dvati are a race of identical twins. As such, their language requires two voices used in unison, and is more sung than spoken, Dvati being natural singers. Non-Dvati can learn it, but it's very difficult. As a result, the twins will use common names to interact with other races rather than their own, unpronounceable one.
    • The Planescape campaign has the Tssng, a race native to the Elemental Plane of Earth; their entry in the guidebook specifically says that other races can't pronounce their rather difficult language, which requires their gemstone-based anatomy to speak.
  • This is the logical conclusion of pre-recording equipment era Black Spiral Dancers in Werewolf: The Apocalypse. The Book of the Wyrm states that BSDs are named after the first sound they make after they exit the Black Spiral Labyrinth. Since this was usually a pained, guttural and utterly insane howl, sigh, scream, or giggle, somebody best to have been listening really closely, otherwise the "name" would be lost as soon as it was uttered. Even then....
  • The alien race the Kyz, described in the Role-Playing Game supplement GURPS International Super Teams, have a language which is partially verbal and partially projective empathy, making not only their names but their entire language impossible to pronounce for anyone lacking the proper psionic gifts.
  • In BattleTech, there's the Huitzilopochtli artillery vehicle, which is named after an Aztec war god. Both in and out of universe it's simply referred to as the Huey.
  • The Dark Eye:
    • The maritime Zilites communicate through their gills. Land creatures are unable to reproduce these sounds, and in return Zilites cannot speak languages, that require vocal chords. Risso, who own both bodyparts, are typically used as translators.
    • While basic communication is possible, on advanced levels, the languages of the elves (which require the speaker to speak with two voices at once) and dragons (which requires telepathy) are impossible to master for humans.
    • Kobolds use a whistling, clicking language that other species cannot reproduce. This is a good thing for them, as a kobold's name confers magical power over its owner — it's a bit hard to take advantage of this trick when you physically can't produce the name's sounds.
  • Chronicles of Darkness: The True Name of any Infernal demon is a psychic blast of synaesthetic evil and horror. Humans have a bit of trouble with those, but they can make up a spoken or written approximation as long as it has a sincere intention to communicate the Name.

  • In George Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra (a satiric Prequel to Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra), none of the Romans can pronounce the name of Cleopatra's nurse Ftatateeta.
    Ftatateeta: Who pronounces the name of Ftatateeta, the Queen's chief nurse?
    Caesar: Nobody can pronounce it, Tota, except yourself.
  • In Misalliance, also by Shaw, there's a running joke of no one being able to pronounce (or spell) Lena Szczepalowska's last name — while Lena herself can't fathom why everyone's having so much trouble with it.

    Web Animation 
  • Detective Randall from The Lazer Collection is made out the way, with his superior and a helicopter pilot trying and deciding to just call him Detective Randall. It's revealed that his full name is Randall Octogonapus, as in the son of Doctor Octogonapus.
  • Red from Overly Sarcastic Productions often struggles with the pronunciation of various foreign names of mythological entities. She has a video example on this very page where she complains that she can't find any concrete way to pronounce 'fomoire', and she's called the Aztec mythology famous for its unpronunceable names. She also doesn't even try to pronounce Peh2uson, the proto-indo-european god who eventually became Pan, instead just showing it on screen.
  • Fhqwhgads (full name fhqwhgadshgnsdhjsdbkhsdabkfabkveybvf) was the sender of the Strong Bad Email i love you. Strong Bad comments that in the time that it took him to say that, he could've painted a picture of a big guy with a knife. "Fhqwhgads" became a Running Gag, with Strong Bad pronouncing it something like "fuh-who-goo-gods."
  • Subverted in Red vs. Blue: Reconstruction. Two characters both with the name Jones, but pronounced in seemingly difficult ways. The first Jones is continually dismayed by the fact that his team mispronounce his name as "Jo-En-Es". To continue the joke a character whose name is thought to be Jones, but is actually pronounced as Jo-En-Es was introduced for one scene.

  • 8-Bit Theater:
    • In "Crossed Wires":
      Black Mage: Jessie.
      Cleric: The God of Undeath.
      Black Mage: The God of Undeath has a name of twenty-seven syllables spoken simultaneously by six ever-screaming mouths.
      Cleric: Yeah. Or Jessie to his friends.
    • Also, saying Darko's true name would cause a brain to eat itself.
    • Black Mage didn't kill the other Light Warriors to summon Ur solely because part of the ritual involved pronouncing the deity's true name, which he couldn't.
      Black Mage: Is that a Q?
      Thief: I think it's a W.
      Black Mage: No, that's a W.
      Thief: That's a Seven.
  • In Allen the Alien, how would you pronounce "RR-TWTTW" or "565-14" note  They just get called David and Jill, respectively.
  • In Atomic Robo, Doctor Dinosaur's real name is H'ssssk. This is yet another reason for Robo to slam his head into the wall while talking to him.
  • #Blessed: Joanna has trouble with one of the god's names after she first wakes up, so she declares him Alex. Later, she tries to learn his real name, but he's gotten attached to Alex.
  • Crystal Heart: As noted in an early strip, Lily's real name is Havatzelet, which is somewhat hard to pronounce for English speakers — hence the name change for the comic.
  • In Darken, Mink's full name is revealed to be "Minknarperadnacles"
  • In Digger, demon names are not merely unpronounceable: they cannot even be HEARD by most creatures, which has them doubling as Black Speech. Fragments of their names can be heard by madmen and the newly deaf. And armadillos, for some reason.
  • Freefall: Supposedly, Sam Starfall's real name is a modulated electrical wave.
  • The names of the Demon and his brother in Friendly Hostility are depicted as random symbols and cause nosebleeds and spontaneous combustion, respectively.
  • The side-comic "Tempts Fate" from Goblins has a brilliant subversion. There is a dragon whose name coincides with the D&D dragons being unpronounceable, but to the point that if you utter it, any who hear it would be sent to the abyss. The dragon elects to destroy him instead.
  • In Grrl Power, Sydney runs into this problem when dealing with alien tourists whose names can't even be written in English. She starts giving them nicknames for official documentation purposes, much to Maxima's annoyance.
  • The entomorph language in Harbourmaster is one thing; the entomorphs have mandibles rather than vocal cords, and use pheromones as well as sound. Humans and Aquaans just use PDAs to skirt the problem, while the names used are always translations and nicknames, rather than hopeless attempts to render the name in Common (unless you're texting them with entomorph script, of course). Then there's the Yogzarthu; names like Iahutta, Ytemmi, and Eigonshazar are actually approximations that will always fall short because they're supposed to be one syllable apiece. The trick is simply that Yogzarthu have modular voice boxes. The best Humans and Aquaans can get is a sneeze—and it's still nowhere close.
  • In Housepets!, Pete was given the name for this reason.
  • The Abyssal Exalted may not have names that are difficult to pronounce, but they certainly are long enough that only other Exalted have the Stamina to say them in one breath. And sometimes, such as in Keychain of Creation, not even them.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons has a minor character named INGSVLD. His name isn't even the weirdest thing about him — that would be the fact that he has a book for a head.
  • In Legostar Galactica, that universe's parody of Q from Star Trek is called ; . No-one quite knows how to properly pronounce a semi-colon when used as a name.
  • Niklas and Friends has a character named Martin Czrnczinsky, although the issue of the pronounceability of his surname is never brought up in the comic itself. When asked about the correct pronunciation, the author replied to "pronounce it any way you like".
  • "Sadachbia" from Not So Distant isn't exactly the character's name; he was named after a star, but in a language which humans (and some other species) would have trouble pronouncing. It just so happens that this is one of the stars which humans have given a name to, so that name is essentially equivalent.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Several characters are unable to pronounce "Xykon" correctly. He can hear it when people say "Zykon" instead, and gets angry about it. Though it is more like a "spelling" problem than a "pronunciation" one (the joke being that Xykon can "hear" the wrong spelling).
    • From Start of Darkness, there is a lizardman (who Xykon calls "Scaly") who informs Xykon that his name is "Ekdysdioksosiirwo, Viridian lord of—" at which point the sorcerer zaps him with lightning, saying that it is too long to remember. This is what prompts Redcloak to give fake names for himself (Redcloak, of course) and his younger brother, Right-Eye.
    • In the strip "...And It Feels So Good", a Modron (outsider from the Lawful Neutral plane) responder for the Pandemonium customer service center give its name as... "(1.67×1015)Q".
  • In PepsiaPhobia, there is the netherbeast called Krphxyzwlps. A whole comic is solely about Phobia's efforts to pronounce it, as seen pictured above. The about page now addresses this, saying it's pronounced as Ker-fixy-whelps (the z is silent).
  • In Planescape Survival Guide, "Fred" claims he can't pronounce his real name (Frd'gl'fn'd'pq'zter, after his mother's great-grand-uncle).
  • Planet B: "Hexaditidom". Everybody gets it wrong. Well, almost everybody.
  • In Rusty and Co., The hipster vampires claim that there's no point in revealing their real names as they are from an old language so obscure you've probably never heard of it and, thus, would be unpronounceable with your mainstream phonetics. Mimic settles on calling them Ezra and Koenig.
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • Tagon's Toughs employ a chef by the name of "Ch'vorthq".
      Pronunciation note: Chef Ch'vorthq's name is pronounced as follows: start with the hard "CH" as in "china," rather than the soft "CH" from "chevrolet." Now make the sound of an expensive piece of china being struck by a moving chevrolet — that noise is represented with the apostrophe. The rest is easy. Say "vorthq" with the soft "th" from the word "the" and a "q" like in "qetzlcouatl."note 
    • Corporal "Legs" real name is Leelagaleenileeleenoleela.
  • Slightly Damned's Angels tend to have difficult names. Case in point, one of the main characters is called Kieri Suizahn. The angelic disposition towards the common language is generally that it's something that happens to other people.
  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • The demon K'Z'K, also known as "'The Vowelless One". Commonly called "Kizke" by the main cast of the strip, though he repeatedly indicates this is a completely wrong pronunciation. The fact that it's unpronounceable is actually a plot point; he gains power from his name being said, so the gods changed it from Kozoaku to weaken him.
    • During the "Oceans Unmoving" Arc, this gets subverted and then played straight.
  • Subversion: in Starslip, Jinx, a Cirbozoid, tells Cutter that his real name is unpronounceable in English. When Cutter says he'd like to hear it anyway, Jinx mentions that it is also unpronounceable in Cirbozoid.
  • Tamuran: The Tree Creatures tend to have names that are this. Ex: Hhr’skhygh
  • Subverted/Parodied in "Worst Of The Time Lords."
  • xkcd has no way to enunciate it. It must be spelled out when spoken.

    Web Original 
  • Kslnah Wryzyon in Chaos Fighters II-Cyberion Strike, which is to the extent that everyone calls her "the representative". The author's pseudonym, Murazrai, is also this, forcing he himself to give alternate names as replacement.
  • In the old AD&D parody The Intercontinental Union of Disgusting Characters, the heroes plan to trick the Big Bad into following them onto the plane of Fordinchuarlikomfterrablaxxuuuuuchh'chh'chh-pt. The last part after the u's sounds like an Autobot transforming, followed by someone spitting.
  • In Pay Me, Bug!, one character is named "Ktkt'tkkt'kktt'tkkk'tktk'ttkt'tkkk'kktt'kktk'tk" ("Ktk" for short).
  • The entire Centaurian language in The Pentagon War is unpronounceable, due to Centaurians having four mouths.
  • Raising Angels The dragon who imposes himself in Lizbeth's dream, warps the dream scape with the uttering of his True Name, a name the protagonist never would be able to pronounce herself.
  • Tales of MU:
    • Lizardwoman "Hissy" has a real name that's a combination of hisses and rattles.
    • The nymphs are identified by sensory impressions of sun and wind; the pair who elect to go to college name themselves after their fields, becoming Amaranth and Barley.
  • Whateley Universe example: in "Ayla and the Grinch", Phase fought a demon from a hell dimension and lost. The demon was named BKCRMWDJVG which apparently can't be pronounced properly using a human mouth and throat.
  • Andrew Nadeau parodies it with an alien who proclaims their name to be unpronounceable by humans. He didn't know humans could do a J sound. It's "Jeff".

  • SCP Foundation's Dr. Clef, who "maintains that its true name is that of an A major chord played on a ukelele."

    Web Videos 
  • C'thulu, in the first episode of the YouTube series Calls for Cthulhu, refuses to help a caller pronounce his name.
    Travis in Duluth, MN: Ah, hi! I was just wondering: how do you pronounce your name?
    Cthulhu: What?
    Travis in Duluth, MN: Well I was looking it up online, and I found several different pronunciations. I was just wondering...
    Cthulhu: Kid, do you have nine tongues?
    Travis: What?!
    Cthulhu: Tongues, kid. Do you have nine of 'em?
    Travis: Well—
    Cthulhu: Is your mouth more than six feet wide?
    Travis: Well, no.
    Cthulhu: Then give it up! It's an alien language; your little skin-flap of a mouth can't handle it. Besides it's more of a mental thing than an actual word, so just... give it up. Next caller! You're on with us again for Calls for... um, me.
  • Channel Awesome:
    • None of the crew can pronounce the name of actor Tone Loc, though it's The Nostalgia Critic who has the problem first.
    • Neither seem to detect the macron above the "o" in Lōc as his name is displayed and is there for a reason.
    • The Nostalgia Chick had similar trouble with Schuyler Fisk, but she just went to Wikipedia. (It's "Skyler")
  • In the The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past episode of The Completionist, neither Jirard or Greg can pronounce Agahnim. So they decide to call him Agrabah.
  • Todd in the Shadows calls Gotye this, even pronouncing it "Goatse" at one point.
  • Numerous examples in Twitch Plays Pokémon; in anarchy, the mob doesn't have anything even close to the coordination needed to form anything coherent on the in-game keyboard, so Pokémon frequently end up being "nicknamed" nonsensical strings of random characters like ABBBBBBK(, A♀NIIIIc33, NONNQWMMSO and !taj11yygaaa. This also happens to protagonists, since they're named with the same keyboard. This is one of the reasons it's so common for the mob to think of different, more coherent names for the Pokémon and protagonists.
  • Youtuber Muselk's name, as admitted in his own channel trailer. According to him, he thought of his name just by stringing together random syllables and choosing some that sounded nice, only to watch his viewers completely butcher it every attempt at pronouncing it. For the record, it's pronounced "Mew-selk".
    Honest Trailers Narrator: Prepare yourselves for the most over-the-top YouTube trailer for the channel that nobody knows how to pronounce. Introducing Muscle-K. ...moose, Moose-cleh. Moose-click? Missile launch? [groans] Who cares, it's a dumb name anyway.
  • When Regular Car Reviews covered the Smart ForTwo, Mr. Regular mentioned several of the unpronounceable and terrible knockoffs made in China, like the Shijiazhunag Shuanghuan Automobile Company's Noble.
    Mr. Regular: The Shi— Uuuuuggh... Automobile Company, and their car, the— Argh, really? OK... Noble
  • During a stream for recording a bunch of episodes of a Super Mario RPG LP at once, it was found out that Stephen Georg has a lot of trouble pronouncing the word "thermodynamics". As such, the chat's reaction was to make him say and singthat word over and over in the style of a Whose Line Is It Anyway? hoedown, as well as longer words he has less trouble with.

    Western Animation 
  • Centaurworld: Mertaur names consist of dolphin noises that other creatures can't actually pronounce, so they use aliases when talking to them.
    Merguy: Well, my real name is [high-pitched dolphin chattering], but that's a little hard to pronounce, so I just go by Somefish Merguy.
  • Futurama:
    • Subverted in the episode "Why Must I Be a Crustacean In Love", when an old acquaintance of Zoidberg's refers to him as "Dr. (unintelligible slurping/gurgling noise)."
      Fry: Is that how you say "Zoidberg"? [the man runs off, crying]
      Zoidberg: You didn't have to call attention to his speech impediment.
    • Used straight in "The Day The Earth Stood Stupid", where Nibbler tells Leela that "in the time it would take to pronounce one letter of my true name, a trillion cosmoses would flare into existence and fade into eternal night." One wonders how they communicate with each other.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.
    • News reporter Kent Brockman tries to report on Kuala Lumpur, but instead says there was a tidal wave in "Kuallall... Kulalum... Klumallu..." then changes the report to read "France" instead.
    • From "Hungry Are the Damned" segment of the first Treehouse of Horror episode:
      Marge: Well, thank you very much, Mr...
      Serak the Preparer: To pronounce it correctly, I would have to pull out your tongue.
    • Also subverted in "Missionary: Impossible", where Homer is sent as a missionary to an island of aboriginals:
      [earth shakes]
      Homer: What was that?
      Qtoktok: Oh. We call that Wrrrkp Gwrkkagkh Kkkakakhakgkkoighr. Sorry, fishbone in my throat. We call that earthquake.
  • Parodied in Freakazoid! In trying to track down a Cthulhu-like monster, Cosgrove says he can't pronounce their next destination. Prof. Jones, however, finds "Romania" easy to say.
  • Also parodied in Spliced. The name of the species of bird Lord Wingus Eternum belongs to can't be pronounced; it has to be expressed as a laser dance show.
  • Subverted in Avatar: The Last Airbender, where Aang gives himself the pseudonym of "Bonzu Pippinpaddleopsicopolis the Third". Except that Katara proceeds to smoothly identify herself as June Pippinpaddleopsicopolis, and no-one has any apparent difficulty saying or remembering it.
  • Qurchhhh from American Dad!, a Cousin Itt-like alien furball voiced by Kim Kardashian. Her name is spelled as a squelch sound.
  • In The Powerpuff Girls episode "Twisted Sister" the girls name their new sister Bunny after being unable to pronounce her mumbles.
  • Although you wouldn't think so, the titular aliens' humanized last name in Coneheads gets this a lot.
    Beldar: The name is Conehead!
  • Moonbeam City has Aiaiaia, the beautiful chime-playing singer managed by main character Dazzle instead of doing his actual job. Dazzle's rival Rad also starts managing a foreign chime-playing singer named UAKPASIA9;A (pronounced "*eagle-like shriek*")
  • On Ready Jet Go!, there's a good reason why Jet and his parents (Carrot and Celery) use English words as names: their real names are face-contorting strings of sound effects.
  • Many of the Dethklok experts on Metalocalypse have names to this effect. It was eventually revealed that Brendon Small made them unpronounceable on purpose just to see if Mark Hamill (who played the senator that introduced them) could do it.
  • Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys. The " " race refuses to divulge their actual name, which they claim is so complex that it "cannot be spoken or written, only thought".

    Real Life 
  • It's for this reason that J. Michael Straczynski is most often called "JMS". On the old Usenet Babylon 5 newsgroup, he was frequently referred to as "The Unpronounceable One".
  • The sports world has examples of Polish names, the great tonguebreaker of Slavic languages, all the time. Most notably, Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, pronounced "chə-shev-skee". Usually just referred to as "Coach K", for obvious reasons.
    • Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marc Rzepczynski, pronounced "zhep-chin-ski". His teammates nicknamed him "Scrabble" as a riff on how many less common consonant combinations appear in his name.
    • Another notable example - soccer player Jakub Błaszczykowski (roughly pronounced "Ya-koob Blash-chi-kov-ski"). When he moved to German club Borussia Dortmund, they didn't even bother putting his last name on his shirt and simply nicknamed him "Kuba", a diminutive form of his first name.
    • The Polish-Welsh association football winger (8 caps for Wales, 1 goal) Dick (Born Ryszard, the Polish version of Richard) Kryzwicki is a slight aversion as it is said pretty much as it is spelt, it is just knowing when to break it into it's voice parts - "Kriz-Wic-ki" note .
    • The Easy Languages has helpfully prepared a video on how to pronounce some football terms and the names of better-known Polish footballers. The other teams' best efforts come before the Polish ladies pronouncing them properly. See here.
  • In a similar way, the Polish-Mexican voice actor Idzi Dutkiewicz, whose name is pronounced as "Id-Yee Doot-kie-vich", and for that reason, he's sometimes credited as Idzi Sanchez.
  • Have I Got News for You: "The Americans intend to invade Iran and replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with a dictator whose name is easier to pronounce."
    • Played to the max by Stephen Colbert on a regular basis.
      • On the "news" website Fark, some people have taken to spelling (and pronouncing) his name as "Ahmadinnerjacket".
      • On AH Dot Com, "Armoured Dinner Jacket" became a Running Gag.
      • The Chinese has given up calling his full name, and just called him 'nejad.
  • Running Gag on ESPN: Mispronouncing the last name of Seattle Seahawks wide receiver TJ Houshmandzadeh.
    • Another name that is a favorite of some ESPN writers is former Alabama State basketball player Chief Kickingstallionsims. That's not the unpronounceable part. The unpronounceable part is his first name (Chief is his middle name). His full name is Grlenntys Chief Kickingstallionsims Jr.
  • The Renaissance painter Doménikos Theotokópoulos is known as "El Greco" (the Greek) as his real name was too long and too difficult for Spaniards to pronounce.
    • Overly long and obtuse surnames aren't rare in Greek.
    • There are also examples of cities like Thessaloniki and Xanthi. Come on, try to pronounce them...
  • Immigrants passing through Ellis Island were often given names that were more English-sounding than their native tongues. Or they changed them themselves.
  • Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich (bla-GO-ye-vich) seems to be this for many a news person, to the point that he was often referred to simply as "Blago." Talk Radio show host Herman Cain made note of this following the arrest (see quote page). Jay Leno tends to call him by his new title: Rod Bla-Son-of-a-Bitch
  • La-a. Pronouced 'la-dash-a' (though it's most likely an urban legend).
  • When Mrs. Anneli Jäätteenmäki became Finland's Prime Minister some years back, she was supposedly reported in the British radio as Mrs. Unpronounceable.
  • If you can pronounce 'Oconomowoc' correctly, you're from Wisconsin. If you can't, you're not. Many a news anchor, several just arriving from an out-of-state market, have blown it. And then they try to climb out of the linguistic quicksand and just sink in deeper and deeper, mangling 'Oconomowoc' worse and worse, while the locals laugh and laugh.
  • Hubert Blaine Wolfe+ 585, Senior has a full name which, when typed out, takes up 746 characters. It is: Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Zeus Wolfe­schlegelstein­hausenberger­dorffvoraltern­waren­gewissenhaft­schaferswessen­schafewaren­wohlgepflege­und­sorgfaltigkeit­beschutzen­von­angreifen­durch­ihrraubgierigfeinde­welche­voraltern­zwolftausend­jahres­vorandieerscheinen­wander­ersteer­dem­enschderraumschiff­gebrauchlicht­als­sein­ursprung­von­kraftgestart­sein­lange­fahrt­hinzwischen­sternartigraum­auf­der­suchenach­diestern­welche­gehabt­bewohnbar­planeten­kreise­drehen­sich­und­wohin­der­neurasse­von­verstandigmen­schlichkeit­konnte­fortplanzen­und­sicher­freuen­anlebens­langlich­freude­und­ruhe­mit­nicht­ein­furcht­vor­angreifen­von­anderer­intelligent­geschopfs­von­hinzwischen­sternartigraum, Senior. And yes, Senior is part of his last name.
  • The Celtic languages (primarily Welsh, Irish and Scots Gaelic)note  often come in for this in British works. (Somewhat unjustly, as the languages are orthographically shallower than English - that is, the pronunciation of letters is fixed, so your pronunciation should be correct once you know the rules. Contrast English and the seven pronunciations of "-ough".)
    • Wales is often the butt of jokes for how "unpronounceable" the language appears to be, some of the classics coming from such comedies as Blackadder or Red Dwarf. A commonjoke is the supposed lack of vowels. Ironically, Welsh actually has more vowels than English - a, e, i, o, u, w and y.note  It also has the dreaded ll, a sound that does not exist in English.
      • A famous place in Wales is known by the name LlanfairPG or Llanfairpwyll. The full name looks like this.note . Defied by this British weatherman, who stunned everyone by actually pronouncing the full name properly on live TV (even native Welsh speakers can have a tough time with this name).
      • It's not the only such place name in Wales. Golf Halt has done its best to compete, and its railway sign looks like this.
      • In one of the Torchwood books (Another Life), Owen Harper (English) looks at a list of Welsh locations and lampshades this tropes, asking if the Welsh just used whatever was left in the Scrabble box when the English were finished with it. Cue Gwen (Welsh) perfectly pronouncing every place he indicates, complete with a summary of its location.
      • Part of the problem is most people don't realize that W in Welsh is usually pronounced like an "oo", as in "hoot", and just assume the word has no vowels and is unpronounceable. For example: cwrw (meaning "beer") is "KOO-ROO."
      • Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd has said he's determined never to lose his Welsh name (pronounced "Yo-wahn Griffith", with the Ioan being the Welsh version of "John"), and has succeeded so far.
    • Irish names can confuse Anglo- speakers, to the point where we created our own cheat sheet. Eoin Colfer is just one example, to the point that Neil Gaiman gave that wonderfully helpful quote shown on Eoin's trope page. (It's pronounced Owen, just another form of "John", and cognate with "Owain" or "Johann").
      • Saoirse Ronan's first name is a commonly joked-about example of this trope. It's actually not difficult once you know the pronunciationnote  but good luck figuring that out from the spelling unless you already know the Irish diphthong "aoi" is pronounced "ee".
  • The volcanic glacier that has ruined air travel in Europe is named Eyjafjallajökull. Admittedly, not unpronounceable for someone from Iceland, but for everyone else it's quite difficult... For the record, it's approximately AY-a-fyaht-la-yeuh-kuht.
    • When Seth Meyers reported on the disaster for Weekend Update, he lampshaded and subverted it by referring to it as "Iceland's — I hope I'm saying this right: volcano."
    • Eyjafjallajökull's unpronounceable name is parodied in this comic by The Oatmeal.
  • Dolphins are thought to have names — unique clicks and whistles that they use to identify each other. This theory was possibly alluded to in Splash (see entry under Film).
  • When the Swedish diplomat Dag Hammarskjöld became Secretary-General of the UN he told reporters that it was OK for English-speakers who had problems pronouncing his name to use the direct translation of it and simply call him "Mr. Hammershield." For reference, it's pronounced "HA-mur-hweld", according to The Other Wiki here.
  • The host in a radio program about etymology: "This word goes back to a Proto-Indo-European root which cannot be written with our alphabet, and I also cannot pronounce it." Eh... But at least, he knew what it was.
  • The "Chef Boyardee" line of prepared Italian foods was named that by Ettore Boiardi, because he feared his name's real spelling would be subjected to this trope. Most rural Americans in the 1920s were unfamiliar with Italian names.
  • Senate candidate John Raese loved to make even the most simple foreign-sounding names unpronounceable. (So "Chu" becomes "Dr. Chow Mein".)
  • Even seemingly simple English names can be difficult for East Asians to pronounce. In China, the name "Clark" is written 克拉克 and pronounced "KeLaKe" as the "R" sound is relatively uncommon. On the other hand, Koreans will tend to pronounce it as "Crik" because the "L" sound is not used. The R/L pronunciations lead directly to English speakers' stereotypical impression of what an Oriental accent sounds like.note  Amusingly, Japanese people WILL pronounce it as cu-ra-ku.
    • Of course, this goes both ways. For example, the tonal nature of most Sinitic languages alone is enough to play havoc with foreign sensibilities, with the tones sounding near-identical to non-speakers. Mandarin has four tones (five if you count the "hidden" one), which is a piddling amount compared to other varieties of Chinese, but it's still enough to give many a Mandarin learner hell. Cantonese has clipped finals (think pronouncing a letter but stopping halfway through), weird consonants like 'ts' and 'dz', other consonants that appear in weird places (e.g. 'ng' can appear at the start of a word), and *nine* tones to boot. And don't even get started on Min Chinese...
    • One common mistake made by non-native Japanese speakers is pronouncing consonant clusters the same way they would pronounce individual consonants.
    • Worse yet are languages which use clicks (once 'romanized' as '!' for lack of a better means of doing so, though current systems generally use letters not part of the language(s)' phonemic inventory e.g., x, c, and q in Xhosa), which becomes even more confusing when you learn there are several different types of clicks (they can broadly be split into types based on how the click sound is made). South Africa is most associated with this, among whose many languages are Zulu and Xhosa, both of which feature the regular use of clicks.
  • Subverted with Jake Gyllenhaal's last name. Despite the hundreds of possible pronunciations given by his co-stars, the real pronunciation is actually Yillenhoolahay which he said so himself and backed up by co-stars.
  • Louis Szekely's family name is Hungarian and pronounced see-kay. To make things easier for his standup act, we know him as Louis C.K.
  • You can thank Aristophanes for this one.
  • When Mount Ruapehu ("roo-uh-pay-hoo"), an active volcano in New Zealand, started re-erupting in 1995, various news anchors in America were visibly linguistically challenged in the process.
  • Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu, the longest place name in the world according to the Guiness Book of Records, is located in the Hawkes Bay region of New Zealand. And that's just the short form. Beakman's World gave the name as a Fast Fact, spelling it for the kids at home... and getting it wrong. It was used in the 1979 UK hit single "Lone Ranger" by Quantum Jump, leading to the ability to recite the whole thing being a playground craze for a while.
  • In 1989 Dundee United FC signed a player from what was then Yugoslavia, called Miodrag Krivokapić. He was booked in his very first match, and the TV coverage showed a close-up of an incredulous referee saying "What???" after asking him for his name, then turning to his linesman and exhaling slowly. It is not recorded whether the referee considered letting him off with a verbal warning instead...
  • A shibboleth (compare Trust Password) is a word or phrase used to sort out spies. These most often work by using sounds that members of the enemy group find difficult to pronounce, or that only a native speaker could possibly properly pronounce.
    • A typical password in the south of England in the summer of 1940 might have been Weymouth War Weapons week, playing on German difficulty with "w".
    • A typical shibboleth for American fleets in the Pacific was "Lollapalooza", with full savviness for Japanese Ranguage.
    • Danes like to tease foreigners into attempting to pronounce the name of dessert dish Rødgrød med fløde. After the war, Danish border police trying to determine if someone trying to gain entry to Denmark really was Danish, would often have them say the phrase. You pretty much have to be a native Danish speaker in order to get it right.
      • This just has to be referenced here. Comments are safe to read.
    • In Finnish: Höyryjyrä. Almost impossible to pronounce to anyone foreign. Meaning? "Steamroller".
  • Back in the 1970s and early 80s, if you were a member of the Swedish pop group ABBA and your name wasn't Benny Andersson, the chances were pretty good that the next non-Scandinavian broadcast journalist to interview you would butcher at least part of your name.
  • Csaba Csere, a longtime editor of Car and Driver magazine. A blurb in the magazine's 50th anniversary issue claims that, when he was asked what the correct pronunciation of his name was, he simply responded with: "Csaba Csere."note 
  • Hoo boy, Polish. Often considered the hardest European language to learn, its pronunciation is so obtuse that not only is it thought to be impossible for a non-native speaker to speak it naturally even when fluent, but native speakers typically take until middle adolescence to become proficient. This video is Americans fighting Polish pronunciation with as much grace as a non-native-speaker human can muster. It's awfully cute and, if you're a native Polish speaker, sadistically hilarious.
  • Agglutinative languages like Turkish, Finnish and Hungarian do everything with endings instead of prepositions, so they tend to use really long words in sentences, which could in theorynote , be infinitely long.
    • There's a Turkish word, which is sometimes called the longest word in any language. It goes like this: Muvaffakiyetsizleştiricileştiriveremeyebileceklerimizdenmişsinizcesine.note 
  • And if you'd like to know more about phonotactics, here is a nice, beginner-friendly video.
  • Anime English voice actor Vic Mignogna ("min-YAH-na") often gets jokes about his name being unpronounceable. Parodied mercilessly in an advert for Kami-Con made by himself and LittleKuriboh.
  • Author James Rollins, AKA James Clemens for his early fantasy novels through a different publisher, real last name is Czajkowski. He adopted the pseudonyms specifically to avoid this trope.
  • X Æ A-12, son of Elon Musk and Grimes. Even they aren't on the same page regarding the pronunciation of their child's name.
  • The digraph "ch" in certain languages (such as German or Hebrew) is usually just pronounced as the "k" sound in English, but is more correctly pronounced as a grinding/gargly sound (sometimes represented by "kh") which a lot of English speakers straight-up can't pronounce (and is pretty hard to convey in writing if you've never heard someone say it before.)
  • A bit of a subversion: the town of Auchtermuchty in Scotland is pronounced more-or-less phonetically (OCK-ter-MUCK-tee), but is rather hard to get out even if you know the pronunciation.
  • An extreme example would be the now-extinct Ubykh language of the Caucasus. It had a whooping number of 84 consonants and just two vowels as phonemesnote . Because of that reason, despite being extinct and never having had such a great number of speakers even while it was being actively used, this language is very famous and popular among the linguists.
  • Chilean-American actor Pedro Balmaceda's last name proved so difficult for non-Latinos to pronounce, that he switched to his late mother's last name, and now goes by Pedro Pascal. Videos in which he shares his full name quickly demonstrate how to properly pronounce "Balmaceda".
  • There is a Russian urban legend that some English speaker made a bet with a Russian that he will learn Russian faster than the latter will learn English. When the time came to check, the English speaker was indeed in the lead... but then the Russian told him to read out the sentence "Bereg byl pokryt vykarabkivayushimis'a iz vody l'agushkami" (the coast was covered with frogs climbing out of the water). He came to the fourth word and... well, the punchline is "he's still trying to climb out of that phrase".
  • Greek-born NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo is often called "the Greek Freak" by English speaking fans. His Chinese fans (the NBA is huge in China) use the nickname 字母哥, which could be translated as "Alphabet Guy".


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Unpronouncable



Turns out, it's surprisingly difficult for English humans to pronounce the names of bears from Darkest Peru.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheUnpronounceable

Media sources: