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Couldn't they just write it down?

"Oh, I'm begging on my knees
Sweet, sweet darling listen please
Understand me when I say:
Red Dwarf, "The Tongue-Tied Song"note 

A Tongue-Tied character has some extremely important knowledge, and just Cannot Spit It Out... quite literally.

Sometimes a victim has to be kept quiet about what exactly has happened to him, or may have learned a secret that someone doesn't want shared. He can be threatened or encouraged to lie, but this is unreliable. Some villains attempt elaborate brainwashing or Laser-Guided Amnesia, but these options are all startlingly reversible. In light of this, the occasional magically-inclined villain will place a curse on his victim that also leaves the victim Tongue Tied.

He isn't silenced completely; the curse doesn't ordinarily prevent him from speaking or casting magic. The cursed individual just becomes unable to communicate a certain piece of information, like "I'm not really a frog, I'm a transformed prince!" or "I know where the villain's hideout is!" or "I'm under a curse!" If he tries to talk about this particular subject, he may be unable to speak at all, it may all come out as gibberish, or he may be magically forced to give a cover story in place of the truth he desperately wants to tell. In fact, this is often a secondary effect of a Forced Transformation curse, preventing the transformed character from getting help for his condition.

This "curse" is usually magical in nature, since the character will find himself unable to share the secret regardless of how badly he wants or needs to, but mental conditioning can be used to similar effect.

Sub-trope of Enslaved Tongue. Compare Keeping Secrets Sucks. Tongue Twister is the mundane equivalent. A Tongue-Tied character may occasionally function as The Speechless, and his problem is very similar to the character who Cannot Spit It Out.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Ah! My Goddess, goddesses cannot speak of classified information. Belldandy has knowledge of the nature of Urd's goddess and demon halves, but experiences pain if she tries to tell anyone about it. Urd is able to get around this by asking yes or no questions and telling Belldandy to nod or shake her head.
  • In Alice 19th, Mayura magically "forbids" Alice to tell Kyo about her feelings for him - and about the spell she uses to do this.
  • Bleach: This is one of the powers Ichibe Hyosube's paintbrush has. He's able to cut in half the names of objects and people, which also halves their power. With the Ichimonji ability, anything that gets doused with its paint loses its name entirely. In a setting where Magical Incantations are necessary for almost every attack, this makes him very dangerous.
  • In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, the Laughing Man is skilled enough to hack people with cyberbrains in real time, superimposing his logo over people's (and his own) faces, and removing himself from videos. The only people unaffected by this who saw his face were two homeless men without cybernetics, but when they described his face to composite artists, the artists find themselves only able to draw the Laughing Man's logo.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya: Mikuru Asahina is a time-traveler from the future who, if she ever attempts to divulge any information about the group she works for, is mentally conditioned to replace whatever she was going to say with "classified information". This leads to a scene in "Endless Eight" where, upon learning that they've been stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop for centuries, all that panicked and confused Mikuru can do is repeat the phrase over and over.
  • In Howl's Moving Castle, Sophie is unable to tell anyone that the Witch of the Wastes has turned her into an old woman.
    • This is an exact example in the movie, but not in the book. In the book it is a subversion, because almost everyone knows about it, and has tried to lift the spell from her.
    • A similar case applies to the connection between Calcifer and Howl; he's unable to reveal what it is, but Sophie's allowed to guess or figure it out on her own.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Diamond is Unbreakable:
      • Rohan Kishibe can use his Stand, Heaven's Door, to read someone's memories, as well as write commands that their bodies have to follow, whether that's a mundane compulsion like "You cannot attack Rohan Kishibe!", or something that breaks the laws of physics such as "You will fly forwards at 60 MPH". When he decides to read Koichi's memories to use them as inspiration for his manga, he also writes a command preventing him from telling others of what's going on. Whenever Koichi tries to alert his friends that his memories are being stolen, he suddenly finds himself unable to remember what he was going to say.
      • Bites the Dust, the final ability of Yoshikage Kira's Stand, Killer Queen, requires him to divulge a secret to someone, after which time the Stand can be commanded to lie in wait and protect that secret, at the expense of the ability to use any of the Stand's other abilities while Bites the Dust is in effect. Whenever the keeper spills the secret to someone else — even if it's involuntarily, such as Rohan learning of Kira's new identity by using Heaven's Door on Hayato — the Stand will then jump to that "someone else" and make them explode. Whenever this happens, Bites the Dust creates a "Groundhog Day" Loop, starting the day over and erasing the disclosure. However, anyone who was killed with Bites the Dust will still explode at the moment they died in a previous cycle, even if events are altered to avoid the circumstances.
    • Golden Wind: This is the effect of Tiziano's Stand, Talking Head. The person affected by it is entirely incapable of telling the truth. They always communicate the opposite of their intent — even if it's writing or gesturing.
    • Stone Ocean: If Yo-Yo Ma's acidic saliva corrodes a person's tongue, they're unable to speak, and any attempts at words they try saying will come out as a raspy wheeze.
  • Over the course of Land of the Lustrous, Phos gets frustrated when it becomes increasingly clear that Kongou-sensei knows more about the Lunarians that regularly attack them then he lets on. However, anytime they try to ask him about it he becomes evasive. Eventually Phos is able to get more information from a third party and that character theorizes that Kongou isn't actually being deceptive, he is sincerely incapable of revealing what he knows. Specifically, because Kongou is a man-made machine, he cannot reveal certain information without permission from a human, and humans are long extinct. This is borne out when Kongou attempts to come clean to the Gems. He opens by saying there are things he can't tell them, and when he tries, his sentences keep inexplicably cutting off until he begins to speak about events relating to the Gems themselves, which aren't blocked.
  • When the Master Star Reader in Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit is sharing top secret and potentially highly dangerous information, he commands the servants who are present to cover their faces and ignore everything they are hearing. However this turns out to be actually purely ceremonial with no actual magical compulsion behind it and it's only their loyalty to their master that keeps them from ever revealing what is spoken within the sanctuary. At one point, a group of them arranges for Shuga to receive information his master wanted to keep from him and sneak him into the forbidden archives, as they believe the master to making a terrible mistake.
  • Sai of Naruto and all other members of Root had seals placed on their tongues to keep them from betraying any of Danzo's information. Should any of them attempt to reveal information about Danzo or root, the seal will activate and permanently paralyze them. However, when Danzo dies, those seals are gone.
  • Ahiru in Princess Tutu cannot tell Mytho that she loves him, or else she will disappear in a speck of light. Like some of the other examples on this page, it's a case of Exact Words - when Princess Kraehe tries forcing her to confess at the halfway point of the series, she's able to avoid fading away by expressing her feelings through dance instead. It turns out Ahiru's actual feelings for Mytho are non-romantic, and when she confesses her Platonic Declaration of Love, her alter ego Princess Tutu fades away and her true form, a duckling, lives on.
  • In Re:Zero, Subaru's Time Travel - based immortality comes with the catch that if he tries to tell anyone about it, something will go horribly wrong - normally a magical hand crushing his heart until he stops talking, but also monsters appearing to interrupt him, whoever he's trying to tell dropping dead, or anything else that will make sure the secret never gets out. Being Subaru, he weaponizes this.
  • In Season 2 of Yuki Yuna is a Hero, Yuna is cursed by the heavenly gods as retribution. If she tries to tell anybody about her condition, then whoever she tried to tell will be plagued by misfortune. It starts with Itsuki losing her house keys and Sonoko burning her hand on a pot, but when she tries to tell Fu directly she gets hit by a car and is hospitalized. Togo later discovers a journal detailing the situation, so she would be able to explain it to the others.

    Comic Books 
  • Poison Ivy did this to the Wayne Foundation board members in one Batman story arc. She used mind control to get them to sign over the Foundation's assets to her and gave them a post-hypnotic suggestion that prevented them from telling anyone what had happened.
  • Blackbird: It turns out that Sharpie, Nina's cat-slash-demon-familiar, has been cursed by her mother Gloria to not be able to tell the truth as part of her unsuccessful attempts to keep Nina out of the magical world and unaware of it. Clint quickly removes the curse once he realizes it's there.
  • In DIE, it turns out that Ash has magically blocked the entire group of protagonists from mentioning the world of Die after they return to Earth from their first trip there. Ash has good reason for this, and they agreed to it voluntarily; if Earth finds out about Die, very bad things will ensue.
  • Doctor Strange: Baron Mordo does this to Stephen Strange in order to prevent him from telling the Ancient One of Mordo's treachery. It doesn't prevent him from asking to learn magic himself, however, and once he does so, the Ancient One immediately releases him from the spell, admitting he knew about Mordo all along.
  • In Mighty Avengers, Cassie learns that "Wanda" is actually Loki in disguise, but he curses her into not telling anyone.

    Fairy Tales 
  • A staple of fairy tales. While most of the characters doing this to others can't otherwise do magic, oaths are treated as magically binding in fairytale-land—just not keeping them is not an option. Sometimes people get around this by telling their problem to an inanimate object.
  • In "The Goose Girl'', a princess whose servant forced her to change places with her talks to the severed head of a horse, which addresses her as princess. This leads to the eventual discovery of the exchange.

    Fan Works 
  • One straight example, and one semi-example, in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World:
    • Straight example: The curse on Durothé means that she cannot communicate in any way, be it voice, gesture, written word, etc. The way to remove the curse is simply to tell her that she's cursed not to be able to communicate—but she has no way of letting you know that. She has to engage in complex maneuverings to get one of the four to tell her the right thing.
    • Semi-example: Because it would be disastrous for the four to find out that they're actually in a giant telepathic MMORPG rather than reality, Durothé cast a spell on them when they first arrived so that they would never think or speak about games and gaming. George is particularly affected by this, because he learned a lot of new forms from gaming manuals, so whenever one of the others asks him where he learned these new shapes, he makes jokes or blows them off—and they accept him doing that. After they're pulled out of the game and de-curse Durothé, she tells them about what she did, and he admits that he'd been trying to tell the others about the game books he read, but always got the impression that it was too trivial or silly to mention.
  • Power Games has a relatively benign example, with the translation function of the characters' Devices being used to replace their names with that of their assumed identities while they are in hiding, to prevent them from accidentally divulging their real names.
  • In Recommencer (Miraculous Ladybug), Tikki and the other kwami were cursed by the Order of the Guardians so that they cannot inform their holders about anything regarding the Miraculi unless they are directly asked about it first. The Guardians did this in order to safeguard their secrets. When Tikki manages to reveal this to Marinette, she's immediately hit by a backlash effect that leaves her reeling.
  • In the Danny Phantom/Beetlejuice crossover fanfiction, Say It Thrice, it is established that Betelgeuse cannot say his own name. This is carried over from what was observed in the film. And after his encounter with Aunt Melinda, he can't say Lydia's name.
  • The Discworld fic Why and were sees two Howondalandian characters literally tongue-tied. They are aware of information which is vital to the plot, but both Clement N'Effabl and Ruth N'Kweze are bound to silence by a magical curse imposed by a native wizard. Both are Howondalandians and were indoctrinated from birth to realise exactly what it means when a Witch-Finder (native magic-user) points the bone at you. Not only potent "boffo" but deadly, on a world where magic is real. while Clement finds a way to finesse the curse and indirectly communicate the information, both need to be exorcised for the curse to be lifted. Then, and only then, they can speak freely. (Whys and Weres on FanFicNet).
  • The Rigel Black Chronicles: Harry agrees to Marcus Flint's blackmail demands after he recognises that she isn't Archie, but in return she enforces their agreement with a Sealing Curse so that he literally can't reveal her secret. It also gives Marcus a degree of Plausible Deniability if anyone later asks him why he didn't reveal her.
  • The protagonist of With This Ring can't say his own name, for reasons he hasn't been able to determine; his throat locks up if he tries, and if he thinks it, he gets briefly knocked out. He actually weaponises the effect to disable telepaths, who are likewise knocked out if they try to read it from his mind.
    Paul: I'm sorry, I didn't quite appreciate how strongly you felt about this. What's my name?

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Several Abbott and Costello films have Costello needed to impart some important information, usually that the movie's villain is nearby. However, while he mimes speaking the words, he's so scared that he cannot make any kind of intelligible sound.
  • In Gene Wilder's comedy-horror flop Haunted Honeymoon, his character is a Radio Drama Voice Actor. In one scene from a live Show Within a Show broadcast, he's subjected to a "werewolf test" based on such monsters' supposed inability to pronounce words beginning with W. As his character's character is a werewolf, Wilder gets to stammer an increasingly-prolonged series of "woo-woo" sounds whenever goaded to say "wool", "would", or "Wolverton Manor".
  • In the movie Liar Liar; not only does a birthday wish prevent Jim Carrey from telling lies, he also cannot withhold the truth (lying by omission) or even ask a question that he knows will be answered with a lie.
  • Tales from Muppetland: The Frog Prince: The princess is cursed to speak in scrambled sentences so that she couldn't unmask the witch. The frog prince is the only one able to understand her, perhaps because he was transformed by the same witch.
    • Or because he's halfway competent, given that the princess, whenever asked who cursed her, points at her "Aunt Taminella" while shouting "Tant Aminella! Tant Aminella!" Her father, on the other hand ...
    • "Bake the Hall in the Candle of her Brain" is a bit trickier, but manageable ( "Break the ball in the handle of her cane", if you haven't seen it).
  • In Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the heroes need information written in the secret Sith language. Thankfully, Omniglot Threepio can read it. Unfortunately, since the Sith language is evil, his programming forbids him to actually say what it says, leading to another side-trip to get his block removed. This all leads to the Fridge Logic of why you would program a translator to understand a language that they're not allowed to translate for people.

  • In James Thurber's The 13 Clocks, the wicked duke had a curse put on the Princess Saralinda so that she can only say "I wish him well" in the duke's presence.
  • Akata Witch: After Sunny's brother Chukwu sees Sunny with a blatantly supernatural creature in Akata Warrior, the Leopard Person Magical Society protects the Masquerade with a juju that makes him unable to communicate what he's learned. The end of the book sees them adjusting to him being her Secret-Keeper.
  • In The Belgariad by David Eddings:
    • The protaganist Belgarion is spied upon by the Grolim Asharak (aka Chamdar) from his childhood days, but never mentions the Mysterious Stranger to his aunt or grandfather. Once he recognizes Asharak for an enemy, he realizes that he can't; fortunately, Belgarath and Polgara eventually notice that he's uncharacteristically tongue-tied, and undo the magical compulsion that Asharak had laid on him.
    • The prophecy that drives the story also has one in The Malloreon. Garion discovers a mysterious blot on his copy of the prophecy that drives him (and later Belgarath) into an uncharacteristic rage of frustration when he looks at it. But look away and its power fades. It turns out to have been the other prophecy tampering with the original prophet: even Belgarath's copy is affected. Garion needed the light of the Orb of Aldur to break the curse.
  • One of the Big Bads (there were three) of Callahan's Lady, written by Spider Robinson, can make anyone do whatever she asks of them, including failing to convey information. Fortunately thinking outside the box/in terms of puns, tends to work very well. "Please do not go down the stairs," is solved by leaping into the dumpster from an upstairs window.
  • In Dracula, this is one of the things Count Dracula does to his victim Mina Harker after biting her and forming a Psychic Link so he can spy on the heroes (Dr. Seward observes that her "tongue seems tied" and she seems desperately to want to speak at certain times but can't), undoubtedly to prevent her from turning the tables on him and sharing his plans with her teammates. Unfortunately for the Count, Mina finds a way to break his control during the magically-critical times of sunrise and sunset and provides very helpful Psychic Radar.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • This comes up multiple other times, where someone can magically be forced to not reveal details of something. Depending on the specifics, they can create roundabout ways to give information (such as cryptic clues leading to someone else who can help).
    • The Summer Lady had this once in Small Favor; she'd been forbidden to talk about something by the Summer Queen.
  • In Ella Enchanted, Ella (who has been given the "gift" of obedience), is ordered to tell no one about this "gift", so of course, she is forced to obey.
  • In Fire and Hemlock it is hinted at that Tom Lynn has either been made to promise or been cursed to not tell anyone that he is to be given to hell in an exchange for the immortality of someone else. Either that, or it's simply the fact that there are spies watching his every move.
  • Firebird (Tyers): Firebird inquires about a prophecy Brennen's family is under; in order to be allowed to tell her, he first has to set up a mental block that prevents her from ever revealing the information she learns to anyone else.
  • Germain from Eric Nylund's A Game of Universe claims to have a Tongue Tied spell placed on him, so that he can infiltrate a castle without anyone asking too many questions.
  • In Harry Potter the Fidelius Charm might cause this. The charm makes it so that once a secret is entrusted to the Secret-Keeper, the only way to discover the secret is for the Secret-Keeper to tell you. One effect of this is that if you're told the secret by the Secret-Keeper then you can't tell it to anyone else, but Canon doesn't establish how this is done. In might do it via Tongue Tied (which is always how it happens in fanfic), it could cause a Contrived Coincidence to prevent a confession whenever you open your mouth to speak it, or or it could be something else entirely.
    • There actually is a literal and Canon example of a tongue-tying charm in Harry Potter. When a Secret-Keeper dies, everyone who knows the secret becomes a Secret-Keeper. This includes Snape, though he probably wouldn't have told anyway. To prevent him from blabbing, Moody places a literal tongue twister curse on the house, preventing him from revealing its location. Another example, also in book 7, occurs when Voldemort places a taboo on his name, causing Death Eaters to appear whenever anyone speaks it, in a deliberate attempt to catch Harry & Co.
  • Mages in the Heralds of Valdemar series can place this spell on others. Ethical mages will only do it with permission.
  • Part of Sophie's curse in Howl's Moving Castle includes the inability to explain or describe the curse to anyone else.
  • Imperial Radch:
    • The Radchaai in Ancillary Justice "reeducate" troublesome citizens. This involves the use of powerful drugs to mentally condition a citizen to, for example, be unable to express anger.
    • Ship and station AIs can be ordered not to disclose certain facts or discuss certain topics. With high level accesses these orders can be close to absolute, but AIs can drop enough subtle hints that someone paying attention can guess something about what they can't say.
  • In Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, whenever Lady Pole or Stephen Black tries to tell anyone about the gentleman with the thistledown hair, they end up saying something completely unrelated and frequently nonsensical. Apparently it's actually stories that almost match up with ancient faerie activities, being The Fair Folk it sounds total nonsense.
  • In one of Labyrinths of Echo books, the villain has an entire town subjected to this, preventing people from telling the truth. This works quite well... before Juffin asks a victim if he could tell a perfectly opposite lie...
  • The Laundry Files. The Laundry uses these to ensure its members don't talk about occult matters outside those who have a Need To Know. This causes problems when the protagonist's wife returns from a particularly nasty mission, and he has to get on the phone to the Laundry to get the geas taken off her so she can vent about it.
  • Non-informational variant: In Master of the Five Magics, sorcerers become progressively more Tongue Tied when they recite their spells, which must be repeated three times without error to be effective. By the third recitation, they're usually struggling desperately to get their lips and tongue to shape the right sounds, not slip up and incur the mystical backlash from a botched spell.
  • Old Kingdom: In Sabriel, a spell tied to the corruption of the Charter and the two broken Great Charter Stones causes people to choke on their words if they try to talk about certain things, including the Great Charters. Mogget describes the corruption as widespread and the spell indiscriminate. Non-Charter Mages and children with the Charter mark can talk about it, which Sabriel uses to get a little girl among the survivors of Nestowe to tell her the rhyme about the Great Charters. Touchstone is only able to tell Sabriel about how the two Great Stones were broken when they're at sea, as the ocean can weaken even Charter Magic, but the moment their boat gets close enough to Belisaere, even though the land is still out of sight, they can't speak of it anymore.
  • The People series: In "Wilderness", Severeid Swanson accidentally stumbles on the People's secret, and they place a compulsion on him to prevent him talking about it to anyone but them. Later, he describes what he saw to someone else, inadvertently revealing that that person must be People, too.
  • In Phoenix Rising, a sinister conspiracy is undermining the nation of Evanwyl, and Evanwyl's patron god Myrionar entrusts Kyri Vantage with the task of defeating it. When she goes to ask the advice of Toron, an old family friend who is a high-ranking official in a much larger and more powerful neighboring country, he suggests that he could easily persuade his king to raise an army and come over to sort things out. Kyri likes the idea but finds herself physically incapable of saying so. Toron concludes that Myrionar is preventing her from making the request because It knows of some reason why confronting the problem this way would only make matters worse.
  • The Princess Tales: The Curse Escape Clause for Parsley's toad transformation will come into play if Prince Tansy proposes to her. However, she can't explain that she's actually a girl transformed into a toad. When she tries, her voice simply refuses to come out. According to Anura, it's part of the spell.
  • Sexiled: The first arc is Tanya seeking to inflict humiliating revenge against Ryan, her childhood friend and former party member who kicked her out of that party, which they founded together, for literally no other reason than being a woman on the verge of becoming an Old Maid. To achieve this, she forms her own party and enters a tournament for adventurers with the intent of facing Ryan in the 3rd round of their match, a one-on-one between party leaders. However, by the time Tanya and Ryan are set to face off, Ryan has thoroughly proven himself a Dirty Coward who is very clearly afraid of fighting Tanya. Because of this, Laplace, one of Tanya's party members, hits Ryan with a curse that renders his speech into unintelligible gibberish any time he tries to surrender or otherwise forfeit the fight.
  • In Orson Scott Card's Shadow of the Hegemon, Sister Carlotta finds out the particulars of Bean's condition from a scientist who first proposed the theory. The scientist has to be very clever about telling her, because he has been conditioned to have a panic attack whenever he speaks about or even thinks about his old work.
  • The title character of Spider's Song is born tongue-tied and mute. He's tongue is "accidentally" cut free by a friend who doesn't remember doing it afterward.
  • The Steerswoman: Wizards regularly do something to their minions' brains to keep them from divulging pertinent information to their enemies if they're captured, even under torture. If they try to speak of the restricted topic, all that comes out is gibberish. They aren't even aware it's happening. Learning the details of how this is accomplished drives Bel, a hardened Proud Warrior Race Girl who's doing the torturing, to find somewhere to throw up.
  • In the third book of Lynn Flewelling's Nightrunner: Tamir Triad, the evil wizard puts one of these spells on the girl he forces the prince to marry, so she can't tell the prince of the wizard's machinations, including the fact that she's only a virgin because the wizard magically recreated her hymen.
  • Tortall Universe: In the third book of The Immortals, Daine is prevented from telling anyone that there's a goddess running around causing havoc.
  • Sheri S. Tepper's The True Game series has an unusual variant: a character is prevented from speaking a certain piece of information, but is perfectly capable of writing it down. However, this bit of Tongue Tied is contagious: any person who reads the information will be unable to speak it aloud, even if they've never met the beings who laid the Tongue Tied magic on it.
  • In the Warcraft novel The War of the Ancients, Neltharion casts this spell on a Krasus coming from the future to prevent him from revealing his plans.
  • The Aes Sedai in Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time are unable to lie due to a magical promise on the Oath Rod; consequently, when asked a direct question about a secret, the best they can do is give a misleading but true answer. With the result that many people don't believe them at all, since they know about this oath. There's also reason to believe that the Black Ajah have a magical compulsion against betraying their fellow darkfriends, which is why they can't reveal names even under torture.
    • The exact function of the Black Ajah oath is that is prevents them from divulging any of their secrets until the hour of their death. In the thirteenth book, one of them abuses this loophole by poisoning herself so that she can betray the Black Ajah to Egwene.
  • In Brunner's The Traveller in Black, it is physically impossible for anyone to enunciate asking the Traveller who set him upon his mission. Interestingly, one stranger asks if he can ask the Traveller about this, and does speak successfully, because he's only querying if it's an option to ask. The amused Traveller gives him an honest answer: "No".

    Live-Action TV 
  • In one episode of Angel Lorne returns from a mission to gather information saying, "I can't talk about it. No, literally, they did a spell." He then subverts it by giving it to Angel in writing instead.
  • Raj, in The Big Bang Theory, cannot even begin to talk to a woman unless he is drunk, in which case what he says can be highly inappropriate.
  • In Dead Like Me, the Reapers are recently dead people recruited by the Powers That Be to serve as Psychopomps, which comes with an innate Lie to the Beholder disguise that only other undead or supernatural entities can see through. They're strictly forbidden to break the Masquerade by telling the living; when George tries, she gets as far as telling her mother who she really is and finds herself temporarily unable to remember any information that could prove it.
  • In Farscape, after Harvey (Scorpius's mental clone) has to reveal himself to John, he briefly edits his subconscious and makes him unable to talk about it.
  • In one episode of Jam, a lift in an office breaks down but the security guard, who has a speech impediment, physically can't get the words out in time to warn people. Several people step into the lift and fall to their deaths because he can't call out to them in time.
  • In The Sarah Jane Adventures, the Nightmare Man keeps Luke from ever saying his name to anyone. The protection doesn't apply to cameras, though.

  • Red Dwarf had the quote providing song as a fantasy sequence in one episode.

    Puppet Shows 
  • In The Muppets' version of The Frog Prince, a princess is cursed to speak in scrambled sentences so that she couldn't tell that the witch who cast the spell is masquerading as the king's sister. The frog prince is the only one able to understand her, perhaps because he was transformed by the same witch.
    • Or that Robin had more than two brain cells to rub together. The Princess's father wasn't exactly Einstein, you know.

  • The song itself was first aired several years previously in BBC radio comedy Son of Cliché, set to music by Peter Brewis using words written by Brewis and Grant/Naylor.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Book of Vile Darkness includes a spell called "Forbidden Speech" which pretty much lets the caster specify one topic that the subject/victim will be unable to talk, write, or even telepathically communicate about.
    • In adventure I12 Egg of the Phoenix, High Cleric MacKurian is put under a Geas spell that prevents him from writing or saying the name of the Big Bad.
    • Dungeon Magazine articles include a curse that inflicts this effect on a character. The target is stunned (vomiting worms) until the end of the turn they try to communicate the information.
    • Exalted has a a similar spell, but in this case, the victim of the spell is subjected to wracking pain and uncontrollable vomiting whenever they try to talk about the forbidden subject. In addition to being much more sadistic, this version is probably less useful, since anyone who's heard of the spell will know that something's up.
  • Exalted also has the Ebon Dragon charm known as "Our Little Secret", in which you can render someone unable to tell anyone about what they saw you doing by making them feel guilt and shame. This can quite specifically only be used when the act in question would horrify the average person in the local culture.
  • The ritual Plague of Hiccups in Unknown Armies afflicts the victim with a fit of hiccups whenever he speaks a particular phrase. The snag here is that the hiccups don't trigger until after the victim speaks the phrase so it can't completely prevent discussion of the subject, just make it rather inconvenient.

    Video Games 
  • In the Old World Blues DLC of Fallout: New Vegas, the justification for why your character can't go talking about Big MT outside of the DLC area is that the Think Tanks have put in some sort of mental conditioning that prevents you from doing so.
  • In Fire Emblem Fates there is a third nation known as Valla, whose existence is hidden from Hoshido and Nohr. Part of how Valla stays hidden is a curse inflicted to those whoever entered Valla's borders, namely if they speak of Valla out of its borders, their bodies will dissolve into water. This curse, of course, was placed by the Big Bad.
  • In God of War (PS4), whenever the subject of Baldur's weakness comes up, Mimir automatically replies with "Baldur is blessed with invulnerability to all threats, physical or magical" and is unable to give a proper answer outside of that. Because Freya bewitched him not to speak of what he knows. Mimir's not even aware he's doing it until it's specifically pointed out to him.
  • Played with in I Have 1 Day: the protagonist is unable to tell a wizard about his curse other than that he's not allowed to say what it is, but the wizard says that there's only one curse that forbids its victims from talking about it, which actually makes it trivial for a wizard knowledgeable in curses to figure out which one it is.
  • The plot of Kingdom Hearts II begins when a mysterious thief steals photos from everyone in town. It would be almost mundane, if not for everyone's sudden inability to say the word photo afterward.
  • The Ancient Conspiracy of the Metal Gear games inject their agents with nanomachines that cause them to say the nonsensical "La-li-lu-le-lo" upon them trying to utter the words "The Patriots". See The Last Days of Foxhound example below. This is because these syllables don't exist in Japanese - the kana are usually romanized as "Ra-ri-ru-re-ro".
  • One of the effects of Doopliss stealing Mario's body in Chapter 4 of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is Mario being unable to use his name. When he attempts to tell it to Vivian when she asks for it, she is unable to understand what he is saying (even moreso than we usually do).
    • It seemed like it was less of being able to understand him and more of being able to HEAR him - her response seems to indicate that, for example, Mario tried to say something but nothing came out, or it did come out but so quiet that she couldn't hear anything.
  • String Tyrant has a hidden doll that is implied to know everything about the mansion. She can't tell you directly but depending on your progress will give hints about where to go by "playing" a game involving a very useful poem.
  • In Unavowed, one mission involves the team trying to find out what a demon has done on Staten Island in New York. Fortunately, the demon hasn't very subtle about it, and their work has left quite a few dead bodies in its wake. Unfortunately, someone has compelled most people on the island in this manner, including the entire local police force, to prevent them from discussing or even acknowledging what the demon has done. After all, it was just a tragedy. That's all there is to it.
  • In The Wolf Among Us, Faith answers Bigby's questions about her work and employer with the phrase, "These lips are sealed." When Bigby meets Nerissa, the little mermaid at the nightclub where Faith worked, their conversation suggests that the phrase may be a magical means of keeping the girls quiet. Which is true; the magic is in the ribbon that all the girls at that nightclub wear around their necks. They can't tell anyone about the ribbon or what it does, and if the ribbon is removed, they die.
  • During the Endwalker story in Final Fantasy XIV, the Sharlyan Forum are incredibly tight lipped on why they are moving in a ton of supplies. When they are called out for being so obstructive, one of the Forum members almost blurts out their reasoning in anger, but they suddenly start choking and they can't finish speaking. When the player speaks with one of the Forum members directly, he reveals that the entire Forum have a magical binding spell placed on them that prevents them from revealing what their plans are and said bindings can only be removed the majority of the Forum agrees to it. Towards the end of the story, the Forum agree to undo their bindings to reveal the details of their plan to the public, which involves gathering as many resources, life forms, fauna, and other things as possible due to the Final Days bringing about the end of the world and the Sharylans want to preserve everything they gathered so that when they evacuate all of mankind to the moon, they'll have everything sorted when they eventually colonize a new planet to call home. Luckily, none of it comes to pass thanks to the player stopping the Final Days.

    Web Comics 
  • In the Erfworld story "Inner Peace Through Superior Firepower", Charlie make the "Deal of a Lifetime" with a number of other characters. One of the terms is a magically imposed inability to share any of secrets they have learned about him.
    • More generally, Parson Gotti, who has been transported to Erfworld from a more normal reality, discovers that the world imposes censorship on him, substituting tamer words for any 'obscene' words he tries to use. It's a mark of how deeply emotional he is when he is able to utter a single uncensored curse word — as well as an implication that he may be partially immune to at least some of the rules that govern Erfworld's reality.
  • In The Last Days of Foxhound, Revolver Ocelot secretly brainwashes his teammates into being incapable of saying "The Patriots", the secret organization he works for. Instead, it comes out at "LA-LI-LU-LE-LO". The Metal Gear Solid Database would later confirm this to be a correct theory about the source material.
    Psycho Mantis: That conniving backstabbing son of a bitch SANTA CLAUS!"
  • If the servants in Leif & Thorn try to say anything that would incite conspiracy against the Embassy, they get zapped with pain.
  • In one Nodwick storyline, Nodwick is cursed by two cultists so that his head will explode if he reveals a secret. Then he's inflicted with a second curse by two other cultists that will turn his brain into spinach-artichoke dip if he spills another secret. Eventually, Piffany uses magic to make him talk which activates both curses at the same time, which causes the creature leading the cult to say, "This is why I have to keep firing the help." (Fortunately for Nodwick, Piffany fixes him by the next installment like she always does.)
  • In Sluggy Freelance, Gwynn curses Torg to make donkey noises when he tries to tell people about the fact that she's using magic again. Unfortunately, her wording was a bit too broad. Not only does he start hee-hawing when he tries to say any important information (like "Zoe, help! Oasis has kidnapped me and taken me to a Poconos Resort to force me to marry her!"), he starts actually turning into a donkey!
  • Caused by behavioral conditioning as an elaborate joke in this xkcd comic.

    Web Original 
  • Miriam of Making the Cut is forced to not tell any of her friends that's she's been turned into a vampire, and the vampires are forcing her to be their spy.
  • In Moonflowers, Ned Song has been cursed to become a wolf by The Wild Hunt. Part of the Weirdness Censor makes sure that people (or animals, like May's cat Brian) who can see his real form can't tell anyone—either it forces them to say something else, or they're physically prevented from talking.

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Sock" has incompetent guidance counselor Mr. Small attempt to keep Darwin and Gumball from lying. When all of his advice backfires in one way or another, he resorts to traumatizing them into silence with a puppet. Then he stumbles into the drawer of his own filing cabinet and gets locked inside. Gumball and Darwin try to help, but they're incapable of verbalizing what's going on to anyone.
  • In The Fairly OddParents!, Chester once desperately tried to tell Timmy's Mom and Dad that Vicky is evil, but a shock bracelet that she apparently attached to his leg electrifies him brutally whenever he's about to speak. Each time the parents keep asking him to spit it out until all of his hair is burned off and his body is covered with black soot. Eventually, Chester gives up completely, at which point the device that tortured him gives him a piece of Cheese.
  • Steven Universe: Pearl has a habit of clamping her hand over her mouth when conversation veers toward certain aspects of the Gem War or Pink Diamond, but it was mostly seen as a nervous tic that wasn't given explicit attention until Season Five's "Gemcation", where she struggles to remove her hand from her face when trying to give Steven important information. "A Single Pale Rose", several episodes later, has Pearl finally reveal this information via sending Steven on a Journey to the Center of the Mind, said info being her role in the shattering of Pink Diamond, something she was forbidden to ever speak of to anyone. It's only once Steven shares the information with the others, mainly that Rose Quartz is Pink Diamond, that Pearl can freely discuss everything, regretful that she's had to hide such things from her friends and colleagues for thousands of years.

    Real Life 
  • Non-disclosure agreements. Also known as "gag orders".
  • In English law, injunctions, super-injunctions, and hyper-injunctions. Injunctions prevent the media from reporting on some particular thing, such as the identity of a person bringing a lawsuit. Super-injunctions prevent the media from reporting on even the existence of the injunction. And hyper-injunctions prevent a person from so much as discussing the matter in question with journalists, lawyers, or Members of Parliament. Their use is highly controversial, and some MPs have used parliamentary privilege to violate these injunctions and thus allow the media to report on them.
  • Selective mutism (a form of social anxiety) can manifest this way, rendering someone unable to talk when they are uncomfortable with the subject to be discussed or the person they are speaking to.
  • A trick for stage/street hypnosis. For example, the hypnotist may tell you that you can't say your own name, or can only speak in gibberish while shaking the hypnotist's hand, etc.