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  • The English word "software" is frequently used as a countable noun by non-native speakers, even by software developers who should know better (such as those of programs like "Open Toonz", a Japanese version of an Italian program). For example, "a software" instead of "a software program" or "softwares" as the plural of software program. This makes sense because, in many languages, there's only one word for both "software" and "program".
  • Telegrams were usually in You No Take Candle as a way to save money on transmission costs and work for the operators, cutting transmission time.
    • Recently, Twitter has brought back this mode of English-mangling. With only 140 characters (recently increased to 280), you either sacrifice grammar or risk running out
    • Text messaging can be this way. Originally, it could be chalked up to high cost, low character limit, as each message cost a small fee to send. These days, it's almost a dialect in itself, with a handful of characters able to communicate entire sentences much more quickly than typing things out completely.
  • Justified in newspaper headlines, which routinely omit non-semantic words (and, but, a, the) from phrases for brevity's sake, which can lead to ambiguous syntax.
  • The reason so many characters who exhibit this trope are barbarians is that this trope is literally the origin of the word "barbarian". A barbarian was someone who spoke "bar bar bar"... (i.e., incoherent babble, like the bleating of sheep) instead of the language proper. Since the only proper language (according to the Greeks, who coined the term) was Greek, the original meaning of "barbarian" was a non-Greek. Only later did its meaning broaden to uncivilized behavior in general.
    • Latin, too. "Barba" means beard, and "barbarus" means unintelligible/jargon. A barbarian could be called a bearded babbler, then.
    • Similar words have appeared in other languages like Sanskrit, so it is possible the word "barbarian" may have descended from Proto-Indo-European.
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  • "Now he dead from coke".
  • While not exactly "baby speak", particular Dutch expressions and phrases sound like "oversimplified" or colloquial German to Germans. Interestingly, also applies the other way around: German can sound like Antiquated Linguistics or Spock Speak to Dutch ears.
  • Afrikaans sounds this way compared to Dutch. Although the language has naturally matured over the centuries and has become a solid and distinct part of the Germanic language family, many, many aspects of it sound like "baby speak" to the average Dutch person. This, in turn, makes the stereotype of an African person speaking in very broken and primitive syntax a very valid (and definitely not dead) trope in Dutch media, because this is exactly what the linguistic roots of Afrikaans are. The indigenous people were forced to speak Dutch, with no way of actually learning the syntax and grammar - and several centuries later, the language still retains many "you no take candle" type phrases.
    • Dutch has the opposite problem in Afrikaans, sounding like Ye Olde English to Afrikaans-speakers. Dutch rap becomes especially hilarious this way. Like English, Afrikaans has no grammatical gender (except in set phrases inherited unchanged from Dutch, known in Afrikaans as "language fossils"). It always uses the equivalents of "is" and "us", leading to sentences like "us hope us teammates is doing well" ("we hope our teammates are doing well"), hence this trope. As a result, Dutch-speakers easily fall prey to this trope when speaking Afrikaans, if they attempt to do so merely by oversimplifying or otherwise mangling their Dutch.
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    • The Northern dialect English uses the "us" construction too: in a discourse, "our" is replaced by "us", e.g. "Let's gerr us lunch" for Let's have our mid-day meal. People in "sophisticated" Southern England often sneer at this as evidence Northerners are uneducated and backward. Then again, because South-Eastern English is the "official" Received Pronunciation version of the language, they tend to forget theirs is just another dialect too, with no innate superiority, especially considering they made it up for social status.
  • Any Russian speaker who has ever tried their hand at classical Russian (i.e., Russian written before the revolution) has realized that the Russian language, not so much in grammar but in spelling, has been greatly simplified in the last century or so. The result is a sort of inversion of this trope, temporally speaking: if a nineteenth-century Russian speaker came over to take a look at some modern Russian literature, he would sit agape at the enormous impropriety of the modern Russian language. The equivalent, to an English speaker, would be going into the future and finding that everything is written "luyk this, with hardli ani vureayshun in speling roolz and laderz rimoovd at evri oporchoonidy".
    • That's partially because differences between modern Russian and Russian used as late as in the early 18th century resemble the discrepancies between modern English and Elizabethan English (complete with numerous differences in script) thanks to the long influence of Old Church Slavonic.
  • Norwegian Bokmål has partly gone through the same natural simplification over time. Danish as written about 1850 resembled the "Dano-Norwegian" used at the same time, in using a lot of insertions, passive sentences and so on. Over the years, the Norwegian standard has been simplified into a more "Subject-verb-object" way of writing. The speech patterns are another matter, though, as many Norwegians still think it is "posh" or even "classy" to speak in a more archaic mode.
    • Nynorsk has arguably gone the opposite way. It was meant to be rather "after the verbals" in the spoken language, with a totally different structure of sentences, where passives were rare (consider "He was going" set up against "he went". Clear and simple). The Bokmål pressure has made Nynorsk more elaborate over time if the writer is prone to think in syntactical Bokmål and not the other way around.
  • This trope may be the perception of speakers of relatively more synthetic languages towards speakers of relatively more isolating languages, and their accents when crossing the linguistic barrier. Isolating languages tend to have a low morpheme-per-word ratio, with word order usually being more critical to comprehension. Synthetic languages, on the other hand, commonly use words with many morphemes fused together in a high degree of inflection, and actual word order is less critical for comprehension (though may in fact help determine a sentence's emphasis).
    • There is recognized a sort of sliding scale of languages being more isolating or more synthetic. Afrikaans, Vietnamese and Chinese are less synthetic than Indonesian/Malay, which is less synthetic than English, which is less synthetic than Japanese, which is less synthetic than Finnish, which is less synthetic than Nahuatl (Aztec).
  • Patois in general do exist all over the place and do SEEM to be full of errors when compared to "proper" language, but after a generation or so any apparent bugs have probably become features. For instance, in Nigeria, "I went to the store to get milk" and "I went to the store for get milk" are both correct, but have different meanings...the second one means that you weren't able to get the milk. Note that this is a shade of meaning that can't be conveyed quite as efficiently in standard English...note also that the sentence "I went to the store to get milk, but they were out" might strike someone fluent in Nigerian patois as ungrammatical.
  • This goes both ways when comparing South American and European dialects of Portuguese since both have their own share of "simplistic" grammar features that look broken when compared to each other.
    • In most European dialects, there's a fairly complex system of oblique pronoun placement, sometimes before the verb ("ele me ajuda", "he me helps"), after ("ele ajuda-me" = "he helps-me") or even inside the verb ("ele ajudar-me-ia" = "he help-me-would" - mind you "ajudaria" is a single verb). While in South American dialects, most people just put the pronoun before the verb ("ele me ajudaria" = "he me help-would"), like in the first example.
    • On the other hand, gerund usage is better conserved in South American dialects ("estou cantando" = [I] "am singing") than in the European ones, where most people would rather use a+infinitive ("estou a cantar" = [I] "am to sing").
  • This really is something that happens, especially when people are first learning the nuances of a new language. What seems incoherent to us as an idiom, makes perfect sense to a native. Try saying "two birds with one stone" in another language, and you'd get blank stares from a lot of them. Phrasal verbs and idioms are the bane of language learners.
    • Oddly enough, the specific idiom above has an exact Japanese translation, 一石二鳥 (isseki nichō). A few four-kanji sayings do, such as 自業自得 (jigō jitoku), "You reap what you sow." But most don't such as 知恵分別 (chie bunbetsu), which can only be explained as "having a firm grasp of the truth and being readily able to make appropriate judgment and/or decisions." Not exactly a flowing, catchy phrase.
      • Couldn't that translate to "Measure twice, cut once"?
    • It doesn't even need to apply to idioms - for example, Hebrew does not employ aspects (simple, continuous, and perfect) for its tenses, so "He went", "He was going", "He's been going", "He has gone", "He'd gone", and "He'd been going" would all translate to "הָלַךְ". On the other hand, while English has about three times as many words as Hebrew (240,000 vs 70,000), if you count each and every individual declension of each word, English only has one million of those, while Hebrew has **70 million**.note .
  • Many Americans view African American English (or Ebonics) this way since it changes about half our grammatical rules. For instance, there's no word for the present tense of "be" (rendered in standard English as "am", "is", or "are") in AAE. It's just skipped over. As is the possessive -s. The result can sound like a very broken form of English and has helped contribute to the "stupid black youth" stereotype. (As in the Nigerian example above, and indeed every dialect in existence, there are grammatical distinctions in AAE which are impossible in English; "He working" means "He's at work right now", "He be working" means "He has a regular job".) More broadly, dialects associated with lower social classes tend to be perceived this way by speakers of the "standard" dialect.
    • The irony of reliance upon the idea of AAE as an identifying language for a group as opposed to a descriptive language for a dialect is that a great many white people from Appalachia and the South speak a dialect nearly identical to AAE with the same rules. Those with very little black interaction assume there is more there than actually is. (Though this does play into Northern stereotypes of Southerners being dimwitted.)
  • When making contact with "primitive" cultures in the 19th and 20th centuries, many people assumed that these cultures used hand gestures (like the "drinking" sign of making a fist and "drinking" from your thumb) in everyday speech, even though the indigenous people would usually only use them as an easy way to communicate with foreigners.
  • King Amadeo I of Spain was an Italian prince that had absolutely zero knowledge of Spanish when he accepted the throne and would struggle to learn just a few words. On one occasion he tried to discuss a law that was being debated in the Cortes (parliament) and could only come with something like "I contrary". This heavily contributed to the massive flop in popularity that led to his abdication only three years after taking the crown.
    • Although, apparently, King George I, being from Lower Saxony, had fewer problems in working with the English Parliament. He just used French, which everyone spoke anyway.
      • Well, that, and the fact that he mostly left the government of Great Britain and its empire to Parliament, which at this point was better-equipped to do so than the Cortes was in the 1870s (considering that the English Civil War had more or less guaranteed its supremacy over and unity as a check against the monarch twenty years before George took the throne, while Amadeo's Cortes was fractious and inexperienced). He mostly focused on governing Hanover and his other German territories, and left the business of government to Sir Robert Walpole (thus unofficially establishing the office of Prime Minister and inadvertently inventing parliamentary government more or less as we know it today).
      • In his memoirs, the secretary of the Amadeo I wrote that the king was neither particularly bright nor well educated (especially for a member of aristocracy) and had trouble in discussing legal matters even in his own language.
  • Most Slavic languages don't have articles (a, the) at all, leading to many English learners omitting them (that's why "in Soviet Russia, Party finds you", instead of the Party). In addition, they have a radically different phrase structure — what about having a free word order where the linguistic role of a word is determined by inflection, rather than position, which is used for emphasis instead. Thus, having learned English as adults, they simply carry the imprinted grammatic structure of their native language into English.
    • Additionally, at least in Polish, the repetition is strongly discouraged so the omission of "I", "you" etc. is common (the subject of a sentence can be deduced from the grammatical structure of the sentence). The reverse projection of using the "I", "you" would be a stylistic error (especially in written text).
    • Speaking of Slavic languages... Croatian language has a dozen or so grammar tenses, but only a few are used regularly.
    • Old Russian had six tenses, which were almost exactly the same as Classical Latin onesnote , while the modern language has just two-and-a-half.note  Most of the historical tenses would be unintelligible to the modern speaker and are often explained nowadays with references to the corresponding English ones, like the plusquamperfect being described as an equivalent of the Past Perfect. So, modern Russian speaker would sound exactly like this trope to someone from the 13th century.
  • Subject pronouns are optional in plenty of Romance languages like Spanish, Italian and Romanian. For example, both Italian "io sono" and "sono" are correct, and both are translated as "I am" - with a small emphasis added with the pronoun. Thus, it is common for native speakers of those languages say things as "am hungry" in English.
    • Among the Romance languages, French is an exception, making subject pronouns obligatory, and it looks like Portuguese is following the same path.
    • Native English speakers also do their fair share of broken grammar when trying to speak Romance languages. For example, since both Spanish verbs "estar" and "ser" are translated as "to be", it's tempting for English speakers to say stuff like "estoy inglés" ("I'm English")... except estar/estoy is used for states and (mostly) changeable stuff, so the sentence above sounds like "currently, I'm English, but this might change". (The correct would be "soy inglés", using "ser", as usual for intrinsic properties).
  • A version of this used to be very common in English spoken by Irish people because Irish grammatical structures were imported directly into the language, sometimes creating strange, convoluted sentences. The best-known example arises from the fact that Irish has an extra form of the present tense called the "gnáth láithreach" (habitual present) used for actions which occur on a regular or ongoing basis, which uses "bíonn" (to be) as an auxiliary verb in its conjugation, resulting in constructions like "I do be going to the pub every day". Other typical "funny Irish" sentences like "Is it looking for a slap you are?" (a cleft construction, used in English for sentences like "Is it the red car you want?") or "I have a great thirst on me" can be attributed to the same kind of imported grammar. Now that the English language has so strongly taken hold in Ireland, you rarely actually hear grammar like this outside of rural areas or those few places where people still speak Irish primarily - though our friends the English were still using it in "Paddy the Hilarious Irishman"-type skits long after it fell out of general use.
  • Speaking of, Cockney rhyming slang is intended to sound just like this: a bunch of idiotic lower-class people utterly butchering the language beyond comprehension. In actuality, it's code that relies heavily on local teaching and euphemisms, and virtually impenetrable because the key to translation — the rhyme — is assumed to be known to the audience already, and is not spoken: "I'll have a look" becomes "I'll have a butcher's", referring to "butcher's hook", which rhymes with "look".
    • It gets even crazier than that. You can make up a new rhyme on the spot, never say the second half, and have it be obvious simply from the context. The listener will deduce that because the sentence makes no sense, it must be a new rhyme, will work out what it must mean from the context, then find the rhyming word to complete the phrase so they will remember it. From that point on, the group may use the rhyme when context isn't enough to deduce it, and the outsiders are stumped yet again.
    • A significant proportion of the rhyming slang mentioned in guidebooks, or used by those who work with tourists (e.g. cab drivers and tour guides), is not in standard use by anyone and may be made up on the spot to impress/amuse the customers.
  • Chinese (even, and especially, Classical Chinese) has a simple (or even simplistic compared to English) grammar with only a few exotic things, which can lead to the stereotype of Chinese people speaking with simplistic grammar. Masterpieces such as the Tao Te Ching or The Art of War, when translated literally, would seem to fit this trope. Of course, it didn't prevent them from being such a prestigious civilization.
    • The funny thing is that despite the vast differences between English and Chinese in general, Chinese grammar is actually more similar to English grammar than that of many European languages (by way of convergent evolution). Both English and Chinese are analytic, isolating languages (more or less; English is much less analytic and much less isolating than Chinese) with relatively fixed word order and no (or vestigial in the case of English) grammatical gender. Most European languages are highly synthetic/inflected, allowing freer word order and have very strong grammatical gender. As a result, native speakers of English actually find learning Chinese substantially easier than native speakers of, say, French or German; the reverse is also true.
    • Some phrases in Chinese Pidgin have managed to worm themselves into English, for example, the expression "long time no see."
  • Subverted by Israelis who often depict themselves as such in their own media, as a form of self-deprecating humor. Their speech usually isn’t that bad, but its grammar is usually poor and the accent is very thick, not to mention the occasional phrases uttered in Hebrew. In reality, Israelis can very often have rather decent English with an accent better than the one depicted, and occasionally there are Israelis with a near-perfect American accent thanks to American media (notable case: Bar Refaeli), although this is quite often a case of Truth in Television among the poor and uneducated. This may also be because when modern Israel was founded, it was composed of Jews from many different parts of the world (with many distinct linguistic backgrounds), making this trope more common at the time and among the older generation today.
    • Adding to this perception is the fact that Hebrew has no present-tense form of lihiot ("to be"), and employs conjugation not only for verbs but also nouns and adjectives, resulting in constructions like "she female-singular-doctor" "the-boy 3rd-person-male-singular-happy."
  • Almost any creole or pidgin language will sound like this to speakers of the language it draws most of its words from. For example, The Lord's Prayer in Hawaiian pidgin (mainly a combination of English and Hawaiian) looks like this:
    God, you our Fadda, you stay inside da sky. We like all da peopo know fo shua how you stay, An dat you stay good an spesho, An we like dem give you plenny respeck. We like you come King fo everybody now. We like everybody make jalike you like, Ova hea inside da world, Jalike da angel guys up inside da sky make jalike you like. Give us da food we need fo today an every day. Hemmo our shame, an let us go fo all da kine bad stuff we do to you, Jalike us guys let da odda guys go awready, And we no stay huhu wit dem Fo all da kine bad stuff dey do to us. No let us get chance fo do bad kine stuff, But take us outa dea, so da Bad Guy no can hurt us. Cuz you our King. You get da real power, An you stay awesome foeva. Dass it!
  • Expressive aphasia is an involuntary version of this. Basically, the Broca's area—the part of the brain that controls grammar—is damaged. Sufferers of this condition typically speak very slowly and their sentences often lack pronouns, articles, and conjunctions. Instead of saying "There are three bowls in the cabinet," a person with expressive aphasia would say "bowl bowl bowl three cabinet."
  • The development of English itself is bound up in this trope. Old English, having developed from several West Germanic dialects along the North Sea coast and later coming into extensive contact with Old Norse, was losing many inflections well before 1066. As for afterward, many described the developing standard as what Norman soldiers used to chat up Saxon barmaids.
  • Very common in the Canadian Armed Forces, as their military is entirely bilingual but its members on an individual level may not be, leading to such conversations between an entirely English and an entirely French soldier trying in vain to communicate to each other. The nickname for a soldier who can barely speak the language (for example, a Quebec man posted to British Columbia, the western-most and almost exclusively English province) is a "Yes-No-Toaster", as it's joked the only three English words they are guaranteed to know are yes, no, and toasternote .
    English Soldier: Do you have 404s?
    French Soldier: Yes, no... le le le... toaster?
  • Many children go through a stage of this, known as overregularization, such as saying "he runned" instead of "he ran". Researchers have studied this as an important milestone in language development.


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