Call a Rabbit a Smeerp

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
A smeerp wearing the ceremonial jackflappen.

The planet of the Rubber Forehead Aliens is just like Earth (or at least just like the Planet of Hats)...but we're in space, so regular old Earth flora and fauna just won't do.

Solution: Introduce creatures (or sports, or political institutions, or dishes, or...) that are just like familiar Earth concepts that the audience will recognize but in SPACE, and give them funny names.

Older and more retro series will forgo the funny names entirely, and call everything "Space this" and "Galactic that".

See Part One of the SFWA's Turkey City Lexicon for more detail. Writers are warned against this trope in Orson Scott Card's How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. However this trope can also be used intelligently by works with characters that are part of a culture that has a unique way of viewing familiar concepts e.g. the rabbits from Watership Down.

May also be Justified Trope by a Translation Convention. If the viewpoint characters in the work encounter a lifeform that's new to them but already familiar to an alien culture, the alien culture will probably have their own word for it, and there's no reason for that to match the real-world name of the thing. However, in monocultural stories it's much easier to overuse this trope.

Compare You Mean "Xmas", Future Slang, You Are the Translated Foreign Word, Not Using the Z Word, and Uncoffee. See also Space X, Horse of a Different Color, Call a Pegasus a Hippogriff, Flintstone Theming, and Hold Your Hippogriffs. Contrast Call a Smeerp a Rabbit, Capital Letters Are Magic.

Examples of Call a Rabbit a Smeerp include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Gundam's After Colony timeline, spacesuits have been renamed "astrosuits" seemingly an attempt to avoid confusion with "mobile suits". The original Universal Century timeline used "Normal Suit", but only to refer only to a type of spacesuit worn by pilots for maximum mobility (normal, bulkier, spacesuits are seen on non-pilots but never named).
  • Highschool of the Dead refuses to call the zombies "zombies". Instead they use "Them", and even went out of its way to imply they're two different things.
  • Dandelions in Popotan are called "popotan" after the Japanese word for the flower (tanpopo), and the same terminology is used in the dubbed version of the series. Exactly why they are called this is never explained, although there obviously is some sort of difference compared to normal dandelions.

Comic Books

  • Elf Quest has such creatures as "zwoots" (a kind of humped horse-camel hybrid) and in contrast to them, "no-humps" (better known to the reader as "horses"). Most of the planet's other flora and fauna closely resemble Earth's, except as the plot demands.
    • Speaking of which, Terry Pratchett parodies this in Pyramids by using the term "camels of the sea" (given that camels are "ships of the desert"...)
  • Cadillacs and Dinosaurs takes place in a future where a cataclysm has both destroyed most of human civilization, and brought the dinosaurs back to life. The survivors, having no record the the dinosaurs' actual names, have come up with their own names for them, such as "Shivat" and "Rock-Hopper."
  • The Swedish comic-book series "Det nya folket" takes place during the stone age and depicts the conflict between the Neanderthals and the new Cro-Magnon humans. The later refer to the Neanderthals as "trolls" while the former call the Cro-Magnon "almost-humans".


Gabe: "These goddamned Star Wars writers just don't know when to stop. This jackass just said that something can go 'through a ferrocrete bunker like a neutrino through plasma.' I get it, man. It says 'Star Wars' on the cover. I know I'm reading about 'Star Wars'. It's like, do they not have butter in space? Or hot knives to cut it with?"

    • Star Wars Expanded Universe is a grab bag of names - looking at alcoholic drinks alone, there's lomin-ale, Corellian Whiskey (with brands like Whyren's Reserve), lum, juri juice, A Walk In The Phelopean Forest (even the bartender doesn't know what's with the name), Savareen Brandy, and a lot more.
    • There are occasional subversions; a duck is still a duck, for example.
  • Kevin Smith once said in an interview on his having written for Superman that studio executives asked him to call the Giant Spider demanded by the producer, Jon Peters, something other than a spider. He suggested Thanagarian Snarebeast (Thanagar being Hawkman's home planet), and they told him to go with it.
  • Spaceballs: "He just took two hundred and forty-eight Space Bucks for lunch, gas, and tolls!"
  • The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra has two aliens from Marva. They have "cranberroids" instead of cranberries, and "linbooba" instead of cherries. Picnics are called "cooty-lana".
  • In The Movie of Twin Peaks, "Fire Walk With Me", the last scene has character(s) (When you roll with David Lynch, the pluralization can be confusing) telling BOB that they want..."Garmonbozia", which the subtitles helpfully suffix with "(pain and suffering)". It manifests itself as...creamed corn.
  • The Coneheads' speech is a heavy mixture of this and Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness.
  • In the Underworld series, the sworn enemies of the vampires are not werewolves, they're Lycans (though Selene does call them werewolves in the first film when telling Michael about the centuries old conflict that he has just found himself in the middle of). Justified in the sequel and the prequel, which both feature first generation werewolves that are related to Lycans, but do have a few key differences. First generation werewolves retain very little, if any, of their original human minds, have longer snouts and are covered nearly head-to-toe with fur in their wolf forms, and are permanently stuck in their wolf forms, unable to ever revert back to human form. Lycans, on the other hand, retain all of their original human minds, have shorter snouts and very little fur in their wolf forms, and are able to shift back and forth between wolf and human forms at will.
  • In the Cars series films, forklifts are referred as "pitties" because in the first film, they all served as the pit crews for the racecars.


  • In The Ringworld Throne, Larry Niven calls some tasty rabbit-like critters "smeerps", as a reference to the Trope Namer, the Turkey City Lexicon.
    • Niven was also involved (with Jerry Pournelle and Steven Barnes) in writing The Legacy of Heorot, in which fish-like creatures swimming in the stream of a colony planet are referred to as "samlon" (much to his chagrin, it took some folks half the book to notice it wasn't "salmon"). Of course, they turn out to be rather more than that...
    • In the universe of Niven's story The Magic Goes Away, several creatures get this treatment. Unicorns, for example, are referred to as "one-horns".
  • Parodied by The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which declared that every civilization in the galaxy has some kind of drink—its exact composition varies (often drastically) from race to race and biochemistry to biochemistry—whose name is pronounced something eerily like "gin and tonics".
    • "Ouisghian Zodahs" are mentioned in the same paragraph. A page or two later, when Arthur and Ford get their jynnan tonnyx, Arthur finds that his tastes a lot like a whiskey and soda.
    • Of course, that whole passage is a reference to something that has long fascinated anthropologists and structural linguists: just about every culture on earth that independently discovered how to ferment and distill drinkable ethyl alcohol on a widespread basis went on to name the resulting spirit "water of life" - whiskey, aquavit, vodka, ouzo, et cetera (look them up!). The most widely accepted theory is that historically, alcoholic beverages were known to be much safer to drink than water: drinks made via distillation process are rendered sterile, and those that aren't (e.g. milk-based ones) at least had antiseptic treatment with alcohol itself (yeasts produce it in the first place to kill most of the stuff that could eat them), and then alcohol continues to kill anything that get into the water later and would spoil it, so it remains drinkable long after water in an organic container would become quite revolting, never mind broth.
  • David Weber's Honor Harrington series inverts this trope; in a galaxy filled with post-Terran humans, almost every creature ends up named after vaguely similar Terran animals, leading to such creatures as Treecats, the Kodiak Maximus, and the Sphinxian Chipmunk, which is often noted to bear no discernible resemblance to the chipmunk at all. However, they invariably alter folk-sayings to include the "IN SPACE" names, even when the real Terran animal should remain familiar or generic (such as 'cats, short for Treecats, instead of just cats).
    • He uses this trope so much that it can be jarring when he doesn't have characters refer to something being "a paper [1]" or suchlike. Given that Earth still exists in the setting and is a superpower to the superpowers, one wonders why these people haven't seem to heard of plain old "tigers", despite Honor referring to someone as an "old dinosaur". The impression left is that sometimes Weber simply runs out of space-animals to substitute with, and grudgingly uses the original expressions. Also, several Earth animals are mentioned as having been exported off Earth, which makes the substitutions slightly more bizarre. It's hard to believe people would replace "cat" with "treecat" when there are still perfectly good cats around.
    • This is lampshaded, or something, when one commander refers to her stealthed ships as "very tiny needles in a very large haystack", and her subordinate agrees, and then says she's been meaning to ask her "What the hell is a 'haystack', anyway?"
  • In Lacuna, the resident alien talks about distinctly Earthly things, such as tomatoes, in her own language and can't physically speak English. It's unclear if she's using her own words or trying her best to pronounce it in English.
  • The Dragon's Gold series by Piers Anthony creates new animal names by making a Portmanteau out of the names of two similar animals that exist in the real world. For instance, when the book mentions an "allidile," this of course means a creature that is similar to both an alligator and a crocodile. Or, to stick with the rabbit example, the books would probably refer to a rabbit-like creature with a word like "harebit."
  • In the foreword of Nightfall, the authors explain that, in order to avert this trope, they are replacing alien measurements and terminology with Earthling equivalents (a move which itself may fall under Literary Agent Hypothesis).
  • In The Underland Chronicles, the assorted oversized creatures of the overworld are given simpler names, allegedly by the people who live there. (Rats are known as "gnawers", spiders as "spinners", and so on.) This is what the creatures of the Underworld actually call themselves, just translated into the nearest thing in English. Humans have one of these names too among the Underworld creatures,[2] but they don't like to hear it.
  • In the "Guardians of Ga'Hoole" series, there are a large quantity of words made up in order to make the owls feel more like a unique culture.
  • With the exception of Dragonsdawn, all of the novels in the Dragonriders of Pern series have replaced "horses", "cows", "dolphins" and "dogs" with "runnerbeast", "herdbeast", "shipfish" and "canines", to name a few examples. They add a bit of spice of the series, and they are at least easy to figure out what the alien word is referring to.
    • These are explained to be versions of Terran animals genetically engineered for Pern. They don't look exactly like their ancestral species. The dolphins in particular are uplifted.
  • Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in The Sky features arachnoid aliens which are described in very human-like terms. Played with in that it's eventually revealed that they're really way more alien than that; we've been seeing them through the eyes of the brain-slaved human translating crew in orbit.
  • George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire features a few such creatures, and one of the joys of the series is how immediately evocative most of the terms are. One of the best of these is the "lizard-lion", which almost every person who reads the series understands to be an alligator. Others include zorses (for zebras, and not actual zorses), puff fish, pricklefish, snow bears, and colorful talking birds. Certain inanimate substances also get this treatments, such as obsidian (dragonglass) and napalm (wildfire).
  • According to The Areas of My Expertise, the word "lobster" used to refer to a type of East Coast sea otter (referred to as the Furry Old Lobster) before it was driven to extinction by the New Lobster. Also, during the '20s, "gorilla" was a slang term for a tough guy (this one is actually true), and "mega-chimp" was a slang term for an actual gorilla (this one isn't true).
  • In The Dark Tower, Roland has Smeerpy names for several things. For instance, anything on bread (such as sandwiches, burgers and hot dogs in a bun) is called a "popkin".
  • The various wolf terms in The Sight, which is made even more confusing when this wolf vocabulary is mixed with its English equivalent. In particular, "varg" and "wolf" are used interchangeably. The author had previously done the same thing for deer in Firebringer: sometimes they were 'deer', sometimes they were 'Herla'. Hedgehogs were occasionally 'brailah'.
  • Jayne Castle's Harmony series features "dust bunnies", which are flat-out called bunnies but definitely have a few quirks above and beyond normal bunnies, such as extra eyes.
  • Neal Stephenson's Anathem both uses and inverts this trope. Devices that are obviously cell phones and video cameras respectively are called "jeejahs" and "speelycaptors", but vegetables and animals of the alien planet on which the novel is set are named for their closest Earth equivalent and Earth Anglo units (feet, miles) are used.
    • Inversions include names like 'fraa', which is reference to what monks calling each other brother say in Latin, but distorted to remind you that's where the name 'Friar' comes from too. In this case it's like calling a rabbit a Lapidine sclerodont, or a spade a schopfel.
  • In the Night's Dawn sci-fi trilogy, author Peter Hamilton uses the word 'analogue' a lot to describe alien creatures not worth describing in detail (eg. wolf-analogue—a creature similar to a wolf).
    • Hamilton's later Void Trilogy describes the (telepathically) genetically engineered animals inside the Void by analogy to Earth animals, quite probably given the origin of human life in the Void the Earth animals from which they evolved.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien refers to tobacco as "pipe-weed." This may have been to avoid the dissonance of placing New World flora in an Anglo-European Fantasy Counterpart Culture. Though then again, they did have potatoes...
    • "Pipe-weed" is definitely tobacco, but, like just about everything Tolkien did, justified eventually. In the case of tobacco and potatoes in proto-Europe, the justification was that the Numenoreans, as great sailors, had sailed all over the world and brought back the plants from the proto-New World. We are left to assume that the European versions of the plants died out eventually.
      • It has been suggested that is pipe-weed rather than tobacco, because Tolkien in LotR was trying to create a modern English saga, an heroic epic along the lines of Beowulf, and made a conscious decision to avoid English words which were not derived from Anglo-Saxon/Germanic/Scandinavian. There are many cases where Tolkien uses words which appear a little archaic, but where the modern equivalent is derived ultimately from Latin via French/Spanish, etc. Of particular note, the Westron names for the months are derived from the old Anglo-Saxon names (as opposed to our current names, which are from Latin). (This of course doesn't apply to the other languages he invented and used in the book, which are based on a wide range of sources such as Welsh, Finnish, etc. - but the main body of the text tends to follow this rule.)
      • The original 1937 text of The Hobbit has Gandalf asking Bilbo to "bring out the cold chicken and tomatoes"; this particular reference bothered Tolkien enough in retrospect that when he revised the book, he changed it to "cold chicken and pickles".
      • There is some suggestion that Pipe-weed may in fact be Hashish rather than Tobacco, though this explanation is relegated largely to Fanon.
  • In Trudi Canavan's The Black Magician Trilogy and The Age of Five, she renames everything to the point of needing a glossary in the back of every book. She justifies this in an interview by saying that coming across the word 'sheep' during a fantasy novel can kinda spoil things.
    • It's handled kind of well in the Black Magician books, as there's a group of criminals who tend to take on the names animals, and these names are usually appropriate. For example, Faren (spider) is very cunning and employs poisons, Ceryni and Ravi (mouse and rat) are physically small but very quick, etc.
  • The rabbits of Watership Down have their own Lapine language to describe things that are relevant to being a rabbit. Since the story's setting is recognizable to humans as 20th-century England, many of these words describe things that humans already have names for. Elil are animals that rabbits classify as predators, such as foxes, weasels, and humans; hraka is rabbit droppings; hrududu is anything with a motor, such as an automobile or a tractor.
    • This often serves to illustrate very viscerally the differences in the way the rabbit view the world. For example, rabbits do consider "elil" to include what humans would recognise as predators...but they also consider roads to be elil. Likewise, a human would probably think that a train would be "hrududu" in rabbit speech; but when the rabbits encounter one they believe it's a divine being, because they don't have the knowledge base to grasp that it's essentially just a much larger vehicle driven by a much larger motor.
  • Similar to the Watership Down example above, in Tad William's novel Tailchaser's Song the cats ("the folk" as they call themselves) have their own language. Dogs are growlers, rodents are squeakers and squirrels are rikchikchik, birds are fla-fa'az and so on.
  • Mercedes Lackey's Silver Gryphon features this gem: "...a box, carved of a fragrant wood that the Haighlei called sadar..." Since the box never comes up again, and the wood it was made out of was not in the least important, why on earth didn't she just say "cedar"? The sense is the same either way—it's a foreign wood to these people—so why obfuscate?
    • Possibly for the same reason she has her characters perfuming themselves with "sentlewood", and a falconer taming a "cooperihawk".
    • Similar obfuscations have a Real Life precedent. For instance, there's a wood commonly called "Indian Rosewood." So if you go to India and ask a lumber seller for some rosewood, what do you think you'll get? Probably teak.
  • In addition to "caffe", Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy books include mentions oporto (port), xerez (sherry) and ouiskie (whisky). The first two, like "caffe", combine the English and French words (appropriately enough, given the book's Alternate History Anglo-French setting); the last is an alternate Anglification of the Gaelic usquebaugh.
  • The Seanchan of The Wheel of Time ride elephants s'redit.
    • And they send ostriches corlm into combat.
    • And are known to enjoy a good cup of coffee kaf.
    • The Aiel are growing zemai instead of corn, algode instead of cotton and t'mat for tomato. While these smeerps (and the Seanchan ones, too) are at least partially justified, being unknown outside the Aiel Waste, this is not so with tabac (this smeerp tends to get lost in translation, anyway).
      • One suspects that he was acutally playing on linguistic drift here. Zemai is an anagram of maize. Algode is nearly algodon, Spanish for cotton, t'mat ought to be self explanatory, and tabac is an archaic word for tabacco.
    • Also, there are no slaves in The Wheel of Time. They have da'covale in Seanchan, gai'shain (not exactly slaves if not captured by Shaido Aiel) in the Waste, and people "sold like animals" in Shara.
    • Overall, the goal seems to be to use "smeerp" words unfamiliar to readers to depict things foreign to the characters.
  • In the Agent of Byzantium Alternate History short stories by Harry Turtledove, there are several examples due to things being discovered earlier and by different people. For example, gunpowder is "hellpowder" because it was first used for creating explosions by sappers dressed in devilish costumes rather than propelling cannonballs, the printing press makes "archetypes", and brandy is yperoinos (Greek for "superwine") as it was distilled from wine.
    • In the Timeline-191 series, a fictional character with the last name Blackford is president during The Great Depression instead of Herbert Hoover, resulting in shanty towns of unlucky stockholders being called Blackfordburgs rather than Hoovervilles. Also, with the Russian Revolution a dismal failure, the Molotov cocktail is renamed "Featherston fizz" after the series' Adolf Hitler equivalent. Finally, tanks are called "barrels" because, paralleling the origin of the Real Life term, they were first made in a building labeled "the Barrel Works".
      • Also, when an atomic bomb goes off, it produces a "toadstool cloud".
    • In the Worldwar series, humanity adopted some advanced technology from the Race and thus used their words for it; for example, lasers are called "shelkwank light" and optical storage disc players are likewise called "shelkwank players".
      • The lizards also use their own terms for certain ranks and vehicles, most of these being wiki-words: "fleetlord" means admiral, "shiplord" means captain, "killercraft" means jet fighter, "landcruiser" means tank, "troopcarrier" means APC. Interestingly, certain words they use make no sense given what we are told about them. They call their spacecraft "ships", even though they're from a desert world with no large bodies of water and have never bothered to develop naval vessels. The word "landcruiser" implies other kinds of cruisers, except they have none. A Chinese woman is baffled by the Race's use of "ships", as their "planes-that-never-come-down" are most definitely not on water.
      • Also interesting are the lizards who learn a human language and will still insist on calling a tank a landcruiser, meaning they learn "land" and "cruiser" and jam them together instead of the equivalent term.
  • Although it's not exactly a completely different world, in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Harry calls the wizards and witches walking around in lime-green robes with clipboards "doctors" and Ron says, "Doctors? Those muggle nutters who cut people up? Nah, they're healers."
    • Snape also has problems with the term "mind reading", and instead prefers legilimency (which is dog-latin for "mind reading").
    • Similarly, instantaneous travel is called apparation instead of the Muggle sci-fi word "teleportation", and animated corpses are inferi, not "zombies".
  • In Diane Duane's Star Trek novel The Empty Chair, we see the sentence "like a conjurer with a smeerp up his sleeve."
  • In the Myth Adventures novels, Skeeve's homeworld of Klah is populated by such portmanteau animals as spider-bears or fox-squirrels, and Skeeve himself is often bewildered by references to mundane animals. ("What's a cow?") This running gag is built upon further from time to time, as when Skeeve is surprised to learn that steaks don't come from animals called "steaks" -- "fish" comes from "fish" or "chicken" from "chickens", after all—or when he starts to ask "What's a wombat?", then stops because his imagination suggests it's something too scary to want to know about.
  • The far-future Earth of A. A. Attanasio's novel Radix is rife with these, the most jarring being the standard currency, "zords." (No, not that kind.) A fantastic book by a brilliant author who was apparently unaware of this trope, or at least that sometimes tropes really ARE bad.
  • Played with in The Book of the New Sun. e.g. noblemen and cavalry troopers ride on animals called "destriers." Readers might assume this is just the author using a fancy medieval word for "horse," until they learn that the destriers have claws, eat meat and generally seem to be some kind of genetically-engineered jaguar.
  • Tamora Pierce does this from time to time. Her Tortall Universe in particular takes leaps and bounds in development from the earliest books to the latest ones, with all kinds of details added to keep what was a very eighties swords-and-sorcery world running smoothly, many of which seem suspiciously modern for their setting. Trouble is, she occasionally forgets what needs renaming and what doesn't. The process of a "new exercise" Kel learns as a page is meticulously described...and turns out to be a push-up. Which Alanna did in her first book, where they were identified by name and not explained.
  • Timothy Zahn, in his Star Wars Expanded Universe novels, generally tries, with the exception of hot chocolate, to keep to this trope, since the 'verse is very not Earth and involves humans, but few other Earth animals. He tends not to describe nonhumans in great detail, but will mention avians in the brush or hostile canid creatures. This does lead to some readers wondering how "avian" is less an Earthism than "bird", and why he'll use "snake".
    • A.C. Crispin's Han Solo Trilogy regular mentions mouse/rat-like creatures called "vrelts." The smeepriness is extended to common phrases featuring rats, "a deadly game of cat and vrelt."
    • Alan Dean Foster (ghost writing for George Lucas), in the Novelization of A New Hope, lampshades this during an early conversation between Obi-Wan and Luke, who grew up on a very dry planet:

Obi-Wan: Still, even a duck must be taught to swim.
Luke: What's a duck?
Obi-Wan: Never mind.

  • The kind of science fantasy that gets lumped under the "Steampunk" label likes to smeerp technology:
    • His Dark Materials uses "anbaric" technology instead of "electric", based on the Arabic word for "amber" rather than the Greek (which is "electrum", also the name of a mineral compound). The books make it clear that it's otherwise exactly the same as the electricity in our world. The Movie, turned it into Glowing Blue Phlebotinum.
      • "Chocolatl" is also used instead of "hot chocolate" (based on the Spanish spelling of the Aztec "xocolatl"), while "experimental theology" is used instead of "physics".
      • You also hear of ethnic groups such as "Tartars" and "Gyptians".
    • China Mieville's uses "chymistry" in his New Crobuzon setting, though this may fall more into the "Magick With A K" category.
    • The Court Of The Air goes berserk with this trope, coming up with alternate Steam-Punky names for everything from journalists ("pensmen") to computers ("transaction engines") to the sun itself ("the Circle"). Some of the Smeerp-names, amusingly, also have entirely unrelated meanings in English, such as "cardsharps" for computer programmers (because they poke holes in punch-cards to operate the mechanical transaction engines).
  • Parodied a lot in Discworld. In The Discworld Companion, Terry Pratchett explains that every young sci-fi/fantasy writer (presumably including himself) starts out carefully avoiding references to, e.g. "Toledo steel", but sooner or later throws their hands up and cries "What the hell?"
    • In particular he likes using terms that should not exist in a different world, and then justifying them with a bizarre parallel explanation. For example, "Pavlovian response" also exists in Discworld not because it was discovered by a man called Pavlov, but because the experiment involved the dog eating a strawberry meringue when the bell was rung.
    • The Assassins' Guild Diary inverts the "bizarre parallel explanation" trope; it doesn't try to justify the word "byzantine" at all, but does claim the politics of the ancient Komplezian Empire were so byzantine, they led to the modern Morporkian word "complex".
  • In Zilpha Keatley Snyder's Green-Sky Trilogy, creatures that rather obviously appear to be rabbits and monkeys are respectively called "lapans" and "simas." Other creatures such as tree bears keep their recognizable names. A lot of the special language is based on German and French words. Snyder implied in the first book that the inhabitants of the planet Green-sky are descendants of an Earth colony founded by German and French scientists (and at least one Israeli) with a large group of war orphans. She includes some credible examples of linguistic drift and coinage.
  • Rather bizarrely lampshaded in a short story called "A Delicate Shade of Kipney" by Nancy Kress, published in an early issue of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine; her characters, third- and fourth-generation descendants of a small group stranded on an alien planet with a nearly-opaque atmosphere, speak of such colors as "kipney" and "tlem" (to the dismay of their ancestors, who still insist the planet be called "Exile" rather than "Keedaithen"). Kress unfortunately doesn't realize that words come from somewhere—that people who'd only heard of the colors you and I speak of every day wouldn't suddenly, spontaneously, start saying such things as "What a pretty shade of tlem."
  • L. Ron Hubbard's Battlefield Earth prefers odd hyphenated versions of common words; e.g. "man-animal", "picto-camera", "skull-bone".
  • In the Tairen Soul series, several things and animals, including humans, are often called by other names. A rultshart, for example, is roughly equivalent to a wild boar.
  • Several of Jo Clayton's works use this—for example, chinin, first mentioned in Moongather, are clearly dogs (and explicitly identified as such in Changer's Moon). However, there are also plenty of beasts of different colors, and even the occasional smeerp identified as a rabbit.
  • Mostly avoided in Redwall except for "hotroot pepper", which the evidence suggests is probably horseradish.
  • Eric Van Lustbader has the Pearl Saga where everything, even the race that seems to just be humans, has a different name. In fact, the only thing with a recognizable name seem to be dragons, which are just dragons.
  • Largely averted in Gurney's Dinotopia books; flora and fauna are meticulously called by their scientific names, no matter how long those might be; it's mentioned that learning these is an essential part of a child's education. And no matter that the setting takes place before most dinosaurs were given these names. However, the trope is used with skybaxes, Giant Flyer pterosaurs who have appeared in every one to date. Journey To Chandra mentions in passing that they're Quetzalcoatlus, but people usually just call them skybaxes. They, and no others, are called by a common name. It's made odder because a larger Quetzalcoatlus subspecies showed up in a previous book and was mentioned to be Q. northropi.
  • In Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls, the titular “dolls” refers to a fictional slang term for the pills Neely O’Hara becomes addicted to.
  • In Clem Martini's The Crow Chronicles, the crows do often have their own ways of describing human technology - including "moving boxes" instead of "cars." This is somewhat justified because, as crows, they don't have anywhere near the same technology we do.
  • Sheri S. Tepper's World of the True Game has a whole fauna of clearly recognisable beasts such as bunwits (rabbits), fustigars (dogs,) zellers (goats), flitchhawks (raptors) and pombis (bears) even though they are clearly said to have a completely different evolutionary background, with a pentagonal body framework rather than a spine. Weakly justified as the results of genetic meddling by the original settlers, but still...
  • David Eddings avoids this for the most part, which makes it difficult to say whether or not he actually is doing it. In the Belgariad series they encounter "rock wolves," which might be hyenas, or might simply be hyena-like monsters (vaguely wolfish, humped backs, hooting laugh). Since Garion does not know what a hyena is, he cannot contrast any differences the rock wolves might have.
  • In an odd variant, humans from the Funny Animal-populated world of Spellsinger are so accustomed to living amongst hundreds of other intelligent mammals that they (like everyone else) refer to what grows on top of their own heads as "fur", not "hair".
  • Stewart Cowley's TTA Handbooks refer to Earth as Terra and its inhabitants as Terrans, despite being set in what at the time of publication (1970s) was the near future (21st Century).
  • The Lensmen refer to Earth almost uniformly as Tellus and its inhabitants as Tellurians. There are occasional slips.
  • In The Firebringer Trilogy, horses are called daya.
  • In the Vorkosigan Saga the idiom for "Agent", "Representative, or "plenipotentitary" is "voice". For instance, when Miles oversaw a criminal investigation for his father, in Mountains of Mourning he concluded by saying "I am the Voice of Count Vorkosigan." And when he conducted a diplomatic mission for the Emperor in Diplomatic Immunity he did so as The Emperor's Voice." This is a believable idiom for a legal concept any complex civilization would need.
  • Referenced, inverted, then subverted in Expendable by James Alan Gardner. An explorer on an uncharted Earthlike planet glimpses a small brown animal jumping into the underbrush and immediately thinks "rabbit", even though she knows it probably isn't an actual rabbit. It is.
  • Dragaerans from Steven Brust's Dragaera novels refer to all predatory birds as "hawks", even if they're owls, shrikes, or whatever. There are occasional mentions of an animal called a "mock-man", which is probably an ape to judge by its description.
  • In Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory's The Enduring Flame Trilogy, there are shotors, which from the description sounds like they are camels.

Live-Action TV

  • "Daggits" from the original Battlestar Galactica were dogs. Amusingly, many people only think of Muffet, the robotic replacement for a daggit, when they hear the word "daggit", but it applied first to normal dogs.
    • They also had their own words for time units (micron, centon, yahren).
    • They also once referred to "a crawlon in its web", in a context where we would refer to a spider.
  • Babylon 5 parodied this trope with G'Kar's discovery that Swedish meatballs from Earth were exactly like a Narn delicacy called breen, and furthermore that every other known race in the galaxy has a dish exactly like it. It's one of those mysteries whose answer would drive you mad were you to learn it.
    • The Vorlon equivalent is, in itself, a sentient species.
  • Farscape: cycles are Earth years, solar days are Earth days, arns are hours, and microts are seconds. It is never mentioned why alien species on the other side of the galaxy would base their time units around the relationship between Earth and its sun, especially before they ever learn about Earth.
    • Lampshaded a few times by John, when he says things like, "It'll take a few hours...I mean arns."
    • The alien units are explicitly not exactly the same as their Earthican equivalents, but they're conveniently similar.
    • It might not have been so much Earth and the sun as it was some other world and the sun. Science does tend to provide very specific requirements for life to exist on a particular world, so theoretically it's not impossible that these units of measurement originated from a planet in a relatively similar position to its own sun as Earth is to its own. Also from a practicality standpoint, especially once various species started getting together and space travel became a regular part of this civilization, it makes sense to find a very specific means of measuring time since you can't use the position of the sun like you would on Earth, so an approximation of the average time a planet takes to complete a circle around its sun seems like a reasonable way of measuring a year.
    • More here.
  • Particularly in the Star Trek franchise, alien plants, animals and foodstuffs tend to have names following the pattern , such as "Romulan ale", "Aldebaran whiskey", "Altarian chowder", "Delovian souffle", etc. Klingon stuff gets more detail, because they have their own language, but they still have blood pie. Diseases get the same treatment; for instance, "Rigelian fever". Alternatively words can be rendered Startrekky by the addition of a prefix: not mere polycythemia, but xenopolycythemia; not common-or-garden triticale, but quadrotriticale.
    • With quadrotriticale at least, it was explicitly noted that the stuff was developed up from the original grain:

Barris: Quadrotriticale is not wheat, Captain. I wouldn't expect you or Mr. Spock to know about such things, but quadrotriticale is a rather --
Spock: Quadrotriticale is a high-yield grain, a four-lobed hybrid of wheat and rye. A perennial, also, I believe. Its root grain, triticale, can trace its ancestry back to 20th century Canada-
Kirk: Mr. Spock, you've made your point.

    • A particularly horrible visual example occurs in "The Enemy Within" where a putative alien creature is played by someone's poor dog in a costume made of orange acrylic fake fur and horns.
    • One of the strangest is the "Bolian" Double Effect Principle that they developed in "their Middle Ages" which is identical to the Double Effect Principle as developed by St Thomas Aquinas and the Catholic Church during 'our Middle Ages.
    • Similar to the Penny Arcade example with Star Wars above, Sci Fi Debris took exception to Star Trek "updating" metaphors like describing someone as a 'third nacelle' rather than a third wheel, pointing out that we haven't updated metaphors about horses and carriages to make them about cars, for example.
      • Indeed, Star Wars has a least a little more justification than Star Trek in using this trope when it comes to metaphors. At least Star Wars is meant to be in its own 'verse, with no canon ties to Earth. Whereas Star Trek is meant to be our own Earth (pretty much, anyway), just centuries into the future.
  • "Debbie" the Bloop in Lost in Space looks indistinguishable from a chimpanzee. The movie adaptation improved on this by making her a far more alien goggly-eyed chameleon/lemur creature with the help of Conspicuous CGI.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "The Five Doctors", the Doctors and their respective companions find a small pyramid with symbols on it that are supposedly in "Ancient Gallifreyan". Any university student who has studied math or joined a fraternity/sorority can tell you that those letters are Greek.
    • Lampshade Hanging in the novel The Gallifrey Chronicles, where Rachel asks Marnel why the readouts on his Time Lord technology are in Greek, and he retorts that they're not, they're the letters of the Gallifreyan "omegabet". (Note that "omegabet" is also calling a rabbit a smeerp; there's nothing that makes it different from an alphabet except that that's not what they call it. But it's also a joke in that "alpha" is the first letter of the Greek alphabet -- "beta" is the second, hence "alpha-beta" -- but "omega" is the last letter.)
  • In Stargate SG-1, the planets they visit are occasionally victim to this. The most common one is the Stargate itself, which is called everything from "The Great Circle" to a "chappa'ai", but they also use this trope on other words, including swear words every now and then.

Bounty Hunter: The System Lords think that you are a pain in the mit'ka.
Col. Jack O'Neill: Neck?
Teal'c: No.

    • Although when it comes to the Stargate, this trope is completely justified. "Chapp'ai", like "Stargate", is simply a translation of the Ancient name for "Stargate". And many cultures that have no idea that the Stargate was anything but where the "gods" came from, or, in many cases, just a strange struture with no apparent purpose, would come up with their own name for it, having never translated the word "Stargate".
  • In an episode of Captain Kangaroo, the Captain dreams that he is visited by aliens who need "a glunk full of gleeger" to fuel their spaceship. He tells them he has no idea where to get such a thing, but while they're there he offers them a glass of milk, and wouldn't you know it...

Tabletop Games

  • D&D is much more eager to spawn a bizarre monster, but occasionally does this for a change.
    • In 4th Edition, there are monsters called the Macetail Behemoth and the Bloodspike Behemoth, which have an uncanny resemblance to an ankylosaur and a stegosaurus respectively. The 4E names may be inspired by Eberron, where halflings name all dinosaurs this way. The dragons also have their own names for the dinosaurs, so every species has three different names. There's a chart in one of the books to help keep things straight.
    • Forgotten Realms has rothé, which is sort of musk oxen. However, they also got variants with innate magic - small "deep" and big (and silenced) "ghost" rothé. They're originally from the 2E Fiend Folio. Dinosaurs on Chult are known as "thunderers" or sometimes "behemoths".
      • Malatra has a lot, including renamed Player Character races: "katanga" (hengeyokai), "Lacerials" (Saurials), "Oscray" (Scro). More so for "garudas" (dinosaurs) — then again, the "common" names are not in a living language to begin with: horned garuda (triceratops), spiketail (iguanodon or stegosaurus), leaper (deinonychus), horn garuda/onehorn (monoclonius), bigbeak (pteranodon), garuda dog (euparkeria, flesh lizard (allosaurus), sailback (dimetrodon), gnasher (teratosaurus/t.rex), spine gnasher (spinosaurus), water gnasher (suchiminius tereminus), three horn (triceratops), horn lizard (ceratosaurus), duck bill (lambeosaurus), rock skin (anklyosaurus), garuda chicken (compsognathus), flesh ripper/tyrant lizard (t.rex), the great black gnasher (black dragon).. and the tontor (elephant).
  • White Wolf games in general do this a lot, especially both lines of The World of Darkness. Each supernatural faction seems to have multiple terms for themselves, the other supernatural groups, and normal humans. E.g., they're not vampires, they're Kindred, Damned, the Get of Caine, Servants of the Wyrm, etc. They're not mages, they're Awakened, Enlightened, Reality Deviants, Willworkers, etc. They're not humans, they're kine, canaille, Sleepers, Children of the Weaver, etc. The factions with long-established histories like the vampires and mages tend to include a generational divide in terminology, with the elder vampires and mages using traditional terms often derived from Latin, French or German, while the younger ones use a form of modern street-slang.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has a few examples, from the Eldar ('space elves') to the Squats ('space dwarves'), though most of the common usage words are either abbreviations of normal words (lasgun for laser gun, frag warheads for fragmentation warheads) or can be explained as something different from what they sound like (lho sticks, which are described as being remarkably similar to cigarettes, but probably have a more futuristic narcotic inside).
    • Not to mention Jokaero - the space orangutans, or gyrinxes - the space cats. The world of W40k hasn't always been the grim place it is nowadays.


  • Played for laughs in AA.Milne's play The Ugly Duckling. The princess' suitor is required to answer a riddle to win her hand. The king gives him the answer in advance, but the riddle is changed at the last minute and the none-too-bright suitor answers "A dog" instead of "A cat". His servant (the princess' real suitor in disguise) quickly explains that in their country, "dog" is another word for "cat". Spoofing this trope even further, he adds that there are places where the creature is known as a "hippopotamus".
    • A. A. Milne loves this trope. It's prevalent in Winnie the Pooh but distinction between real animals and stuffed ones is kind of lost in the Disney adaptations.

Theme Parks

  • Disney Theme Parks do this with their employees. The people who design the parks are called Imagineers, while those that actually work within the park are called Cast Members.
    • Actually, most companies do this nowadays. Every store I've ever worked for called employees "Team Members" and customers "Guests."
    • Not just the employees and the customers: Guest areas or any occasion where cast members are within guest view are called "on stage" whereas employee only areas are called "backstage", and uniforms are called costumes.


Video Games

  • Ryzom lives and breathes this trope. The pigs are yubos, the toucans are ybers, the dingos are gingos, the crabs are cloppas, the other crabs are kitins, there are four different kinds of giant mosquito...and there's many, many more.
  • The Baten Kaitos games do this to a degree; we have such things as "fluffpups" (poodles) and "bunnycats" (long-eared cats), as well as "pollywhales" (tiny legged orcas). And then there are the weird ones, like "pows" - pigs that, umm, give large quantities milk, and are white colored with black splotches...
    • Baten Kaitos is less Call a Rabbit a Smeerp, more of Mix-and-Match Critters. Pows for example are Pig/Cow, Bunnycats are Bunny/Cat, and pollywale seems to be Tadpole/Orca. Other hybrids include Dog/Deer and Sheep/Goat.
  • The Interactive Fiction game The Gostak, by Carl Muckenhoupt, is based entirely on this trope: you are thrust into a world where not only nouns but even the entire vocabulary of common verbs is replaced with a fantasy dialect. The grammar is still recognizably English, but the main puzzle of the game is working out the game's alien vocabulary.

"Finally, here you are. At the delcot of tondam, where doshes deave. But the doshery lutt is crenned with glauds. Glauds! How rorm it would be to pell back to the bewl and distunk them, distunk the whole delcot, let the drokes uncren them. But you are the gostak. The gostak distims the doshes. And no glaud will vorl them from you."

    • Said game is clearly a deliberate 'spin-off' from the 1930 science-fiction story The Gostak and the Doshes, by Dr. Miles Breuer, in which the sentence "The gostak distims the doshes." plays a major role. This sentence is not Dr. Breuer's invention; the credit goes to a writer named Andrew Ingraham, who coined it in 1903. The sentence became much more widely known as a result of its appearance in the 1923 book The Meaning of Meaning, by C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards.
  • Although not set in outer space, The Legend of Zelda series consistently refers to common clucking barnyard fowl as "Cuccos". One character even refers to a cowardly character as a "Cucco". It's less out-there than most examples, since it's based on the Japanese equivalent of "cock-a-doodle-doo" (kokkekokkoh! --> kokko).
    • Mind you, this is rampant throughout the series. Crows are called guays, bats are keese, vultures are takkuri, snakes are ropes, ghosts are poes, skeletons are stalfos, zombies are redeads, mummies are gibdos, spiders are tektites. It's important to bear in mind, however, that almost all of these examples of mundane things (like cuccos) have extra-ordinary powers. To use the cucco example, chickens cannot instantly form vast indestructible Determinator flying swarms to avenge fallen brethren, whereas cuccos do.
    • According to Ganon, books are actually referred to as pits, and they BURRRRRNNNNNNNNN!!!
  • The Fire Emblem games Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn refer to regular humans as "beorc." To make matters worse, the laguz (a race of humanoid shapeshifters) use the word "human" as an insult.
  • Skies of Arcadia is full of either specially named animals or combinations of animals we'd think of as normal. Rabbats (rabbits that hang upside-down), Kotekas (hybrid chicken/crows), Icebirds (the only birds in the game that can't fly), Huskras (small dogs), Arcwhales (flying arctic sperm whales)...Not to mention the Delphinus, which is named after an extinct species of dolphins with wings.
  • Final Fantasy XII is an exceedingly Egregious abuser of this trope. No, humans can't just be humans. They're "humes." Those techniques you use in battle? "Technicks." Oh, and that isn't magic you're using against your enemies; they're "magicks." Strangely enough, though, creatures based on real-life animals usually keep their real names - wolves are wolves, rabbits are rabbits, etc. And yet something as simple as a manufactured crystal is actually "manufacted."
    • No, they're not dinosaurs, they're tyrannids.[3]
    • Tall, slender humanoid races with pointy ears are usually called "Elves", but Final Fantasy XI chooses to call them Elvaan.
  • Fallout calls its ubiquitous bovines "Brahmins" instead of cows, and "Brahminshit" has apparently entered the lexicon as a replacement for a more familiar term. The new name might be justified, though, as the Brahmins are horribly mutated monster cows with two heads and cancerous udders.
    • Oddly, in Real Life, a Brahman is a breed of zebu cattle.
  • Only a person who has played Ultima Underworld II can adequately describe to you what it means to use a Delgnizator on two Control Crystals to skup a new Bliy Skup Ductosnore.
  • In the MMO Space Cowboys Online, also known as Flysis, also known as Air Rivals, also known as Ace Online, humans are called DECA and eagles are called Rocks.
  • Ground Control and its sequel have Terradynes (Tanks and tracked vehicles) Aerodynes (Planes), Helidynes (a different kind of aircraft)and Hoverdynes (Hovering tanks).
  • Aion does this with the plants you can gather; they even have different names for the same plants on the Elyos and Asmodian sides.
    • Animals too, such as airon (heron), brax (bison), elroco (squirrel), worg (wolf), abex (goat), etc.
  • Those large-mawed reptilian creatures you find near water in World of Warcraft aren't crocodiles, they're crocolisks. And those big pincer'd and stinger'd exoskeletal creatures aren't scorpions, they're scorpids.
    • Well, that's partly true. The normally-sized "critter" scorpions are just called scorpions. The dog-to-horse-sized scorpions that try to kill you on sight are called scorpids.
    • The crocolisk example is also justified. If you actually look at the model, all crocolisks have six legs. What else has six legs in game? Basilisks. They're hybrids.
    • Those giant bipedal dinosaurs with the really tiny arms are not Tyrannosauruses, they're devilsaurs.
    • The zebra-like horned creatures are zhevras.
    • The dodo-like creatures found throughout the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor are tallstriders.
    • The elephant-like creatures from Outland that the Draenei use as their racial mounts are elekks. Outland also has creatures known as talbuks that look like horse-sized goats, though there are actual goats in-game as the dwarves' racial mount.
    • This even extends to some of the playable sentient races. Those humanoid bull/cow people that are part of the Horde are not minotaurs, they're Tauren. The new sixth race for the Alliance in Cataclysm are not werewolves, they're Worgen.
  • Fable doesn't have werewolves, it has balverines! Who (in the first game) can only be hurt by silver, disguise themselves in human form, howl at the moon, and, oh, can infect other humans who survive being bit.
  • Day 9 TV gets a kick out of StarCraft doing this—calling a coyote a lyote, to be precise—in (starting around 47:15).
  • Super Mario Bros.: They're Koopa Troopas. Not turtles.
    • Admittedly, Turtles aren't talking, bipedal entities with removable shells. However, in some games "Koopa leaves" are referred to as "Turtley leaves," which just demands the question--who thought changing the name would be a good idea?
  • Clonk has zaps instead of bees. Oddly, the trope isn't used for anything else.
  • Lampshaded in Eien no Aselia where Yuuto refuses to refer to yofwals as anything but waffles.
  • In a more literal example of this trope, the rabbit-people of Odin Sphere are called "Pookas" (not to be confused with the other Pooka)
  • Donkey Kong Country: Almost all primates, ape or monkey, are referred to as "kongs". The main antagonists are crocodiles, but are referred to as Kremlings. Vultures are neckies, Beavers are gnawties, sharks are chomps, etc.
  • In the Ys universe, wolves are called "rhebolls", squirrels are "quias", pigs are "pikkards", etc.
  • In the first two Ecco the Dolphin games, the cetaceans call themselves "Singers" and have different names for other animals in their ocean home: Shelled Ones are clams, Hungry Ones are sharks, giant octopuses are Eight-Arms, and so on.
  • Ghosts N Goblins, with their spinoff series Gargoyle's Quest, have a race which has been called Red Devils, Red Demons, and other assorted names in the past; their correct name is "Red Arremer".
    • "Arremer" is, however, probably a mistranslation of "Ahriman", the Zoroastrian God of Evil.
  • The Tower of Druaga and its anime spinoff both do this with classical dungeon-crawling enemies. Minotaurs are "Kusarakks" and Dragons are "Quokks", for example.
  • In the universe of The Elder Scrolls, those aquatic mammals with tusks and whiskers aren't walruses - they're "Horkers". It is borderline in that horkers aren't exactly walruses, just very similar (they have three tusks, although it's easy to miss, and in Bloodmoon they had arrow-shaped snouts), but gets highlighted by the fact that almost all the other almost-like-Earth animals get to keep their Earth-analogue's name (the four-tusked fur-covered Elephantidae are mammoths, for example).
    • Morrowind includes an in-universe example - Bonewalker is stated to be the Dunmer term for the category of undead generally called 'zombies' in the west (where your character came from).
    • In Oblivion, one of the plants you can pick to use for alchemy is called "St. Jahn's Wort", presumably because Tamriel has no St. John to name St. John's Wort after.
  • Star Fox Adventures uses dinosaur terminologies similar to The Land Before Time, including "Earthwalkers" for Triceratops, "Snowhorns" for Wooly Mammoths, and "Red Eyes" for Tyrannosaurus.


  • The Cyantian Chronicles: Acid Whip = Dragon. Equid = Horse. Just don't call the sentient cyantians "animals", they consider it a major insult. And just look up "Mounty" in the Shivaewiki to find the alternate names for the various terran felines in their anthropomorphic cyantian forms.
  • xkcd comments on this in strip 483 and strip 890.
  • Erfworld parodies this with its "dwagons," "gwiffons," "spidews," and other such beasts. Main character Parson Gotti, from Earth, explains to his boss Stanley that he's used to "dragons" and "griffons" on Earth. Stanley replies that they sound stupid, especially "Earth."
  • Sorcery 101 decided to call Chinese Sipanese even though before now one thought this was our world with werewolves and vampires and mages and demons.
    • Pretty much every region in that comic has a different rename. UPH for USA, Terra for England, and so on.
  • Averted and Lampshaded in El Goonish Shive; The author decided to concede and call his not-exactly-a-vampire thing a "vampire" because he knew the readers would accuse him of trying to pawn a vampire off as something else. A character in the story was telling her friends about a monster conceded to her listener's suggestion that it is a vampire because no what she says that is what they are going to hear.
  • Homestuck parodies this trope with the trolls, who use an exaggerated form of U- and non-U-English. Where a low-class troll like Sollux would say "ablution trap", a higher-blooded troll like Equius would say "bathtub".
    • Additionally, Alternian versions of Earth animals are named after a word relating to the animal with the suffix "-beast." For example, horses are "hoofbeasts", and cats are "purrbeasts." Also, professions are given combat-related names, even if they have nothing to do with combat (so lawyers are "legislacerators".) Justified in this case, as literally every troll is in the military or will be in the future.
    • Also, some celebrities on earth have troll counterparts, who are literally called "Troll (name)".

Web Original

  • The Chaos Timeline often does this. America is called Atlantis, teddy bears are mishkas since they were invented in Russia, computer hackers are Logos (from 'logic'), Angst is called horreur, a blitzkrieg is a molniya (Russian for 'lightning'), tanks are Walzen ('steamrollers' in German), capitalism is monetarism etc. Justified, since history diverged in 1200 and people could well invent different names for things.

Western Animation

  • The Jetsons did this a lot, despite us being tired of it after The Flintstones did it first.
  • The Land Before Time series has used this trope to death, but in the past, with dinosaurs. On the one hand, if you saw stegosauruses every day, you'd want to come up with a word for them that's easier on the tongue than the polysyllabic ones that scientists come up with. On the other, the reasoning could have had more to do with the Viewers are Morons mindset...because, of course, kids always have a hard time remembering words like "tyrannosaurus" and "stegosaurus". Therefore, everything has incredibly simplistic names, such as "spike tail" for stegosaurus. They even have a word for the sun, "great circle".
    • To be fair, this is least annoying in the first film, where it was agreed that having the dinosaurs call themselves in names that were given to them millions of years after the fact by some talking primates would make little sense.
    • Of course, anyone that thinks the target audience would be unable to cope has never been dressed down by an 8-year-old on matters paleological, and how one's knowledge is at least five years out of date...If anything, the terminology change keeps the film from looking dated by its own naming conventions.
    • One exception is 'sharp tooth' which eventually is generically applied to any carnivorous animal, though from a herbivore's point of the view this is probably sufficient.
    • Occasionally the animals will refer to things by the 'correct' names.
  • In Looney Tunes, Marvin the Martian's weapon of choice is the Illudium PU-36 Explosive Space Modulator, which to the untrained eye looks just like an ordinary stick of dynamite.
    • The original name "Uranium Pu-36" changed to "Illudium Q-36 " in subsequent cartoons. Pu is the chemical symbol for Plutonium. So I'm guessing that either Uranium Pu-36 didn't sound "spacey" enough or they wished to not have kids think of nuclear weapons whenever it was referenced.
    • Or maybe someone finally caught onto the "Uranus? Pee-Yew!" joke and decided it was too much.
    • Also, the device is quite capable of blowing up the planet Earth (or so I've heard). This particular smeerp might look like a rabbit, but if so, then it's (perhaps) no ordinary rabbit.
  • Chowder does this with food. Butter is now "blutter", coriander is now "Snoriander", pizza is now "feetsa", etc.
    • Lampshaded once when Chowder gained super-intelligence and realized these are just made-up words on some cartoon.
    • Chowder is inconsistent with this trope, forsaking it when their substitute names would make a joke confusing or less funny. For example, there is an exam for apprentice chefs (i.e. Chowder) called the BLTs...which stands for Beginner Learning Tests. However, Chowder still runs around, repeating "Bacon, lettuce and TOMATO! Bacon, lettuce, and TOMATO!" and it's never lampshaded.
      • The show is inconsistant on whether eggs are eggs or "schmeggs".
    • This might simply be to avoid confusing food with characters named after food, which is most of them.
  • The Simpsons: "Behold, the two headed dog, born with only one head! And behold, out of the mists of time, the legendary Esquilax, a horse with the head of a rabbit, and the body...of a rabbit!"
    • The thought of which raises many philosophical questions...
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Although not considered "A different planet", this series has tons of different animal hybrids (duck turtles, platypus bear, badger mole, etc.), along with plants and food (sea prunes, ocean kumquats). The Fridge Logic of naming animals after other ones that don't exist in their world is lampshaded when the group went to Ba Sing Sae and received an invitation from the Earth King to celebrate the birthday of his pet "bear", and are bewildered that it's "just a bear" and not a hybrid bear-something.

Toph: This place is weird.

Real Life

  • Quite often employed by authority figures to get children to do something. Mostly just by selling something boring and/or unpleasant as really interesting and necessary and what not.
  • As mentioned under Theme Parks, it's very common for places of employment to call their staff "Team Members" or something themed to the establishment (the Subway chain of restaurants uses "Sandwich Artist", for example.) The practice started to make jobs sound more respectable than say, "burger flipper" or "janitor", but has been criticized for being an example of Political Correctness Gone Mad.
  • Move to Florida and you will have to deal with palmetto bugs. Doesn't sound to bad? Well, palmetto bugs are actually giant, flying cockroaches.
  • Eesh Squeesh. Apparently they mean Onions.
  • Rocky Mountain oysters. Sounds more appetizing than "testicles".
  • Anglish is a Con Lang based on the concept of replacing English's non-Germanic words with Germanic replacements and retaining the grammar. Nouns are frequently very different, even when the rest of the sentence is largely unchanged.
  1. tiger
  2. "killer"
  3. Possibly a Shout-Out to Warhammer40000's Tyranids