Expospeak Gag

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"Bolt Guard statistical assessment: Powerful. Smart. Handsome. Bolt Guard intent: Smack-laying in a downward direction."

"Irrigation of the land with seawater desalinated by fusion power is ancient. It's called 'rain'."

Michael McClary

A joke based on describing something mundane using such technical language that it takes the audience a while to work out what's being talked about.

Mostly limited to Speculative Fiction, where it can be seamlessly slotted into the standard Expospeak, but occasionally turns up in other genres, especially when the characters are meant to be especially intelligent or academic, such as lawyers scientists or doctors.

Sometimes used as a form of Unusual Euphemism or to facilitate an Oops I Did It Again plot where someone assumes the technical explanation refers to something much more serious than it really does.

Can be used to implement a Tomato Surprise, ("Their only weakness is dihydrogen monoxide!"), or serve as a MacGuffin as the hero engages in an Evidence Scavenger Hunt to work out what the Expospeak really means (For example, the hero is told that the Monster of the Week is a "lycanthrope", and then has to spend the next few scenes doing research to discover that "lycanthrope" is another word for "werewolf"). This second variety is dangerous, as you often run the risk of making the hero look like a complete moron if the Expospeak isn't impenetrable enough.

The number one all time most common Expospeak Gag is, "He suggested that you perform an anatomically impossible act."

Compare with Description Porn and Non Poetic Text Reflective Of Electromagnetic Waves Measuring Between Three Hundred Eighty And Four Hundred Twenty Nanometers.

See also Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness, Sophisticated As Hell, Layman's Terms, Blunt Metaphors Trauma, Narrative Profanity Filter, Call a Rabbit a Smeerp.

Examples of Expospeak Gag include:

Anime and Manga

Shamal: Really now, start trying to remember this world's terminologies. It's called "Karaoke".

    • Also in the StrikerS supplementary manga, Cinque calls bathing "sanitary maintenance".

Fan Works

  • Gohan in Team 4star's Dragonball Z abridged when he goes berserk.

Gohan: I'm going to eviscerate you, and use your gastrointestinal tract as a condom while I fornicate with your skull!
Nappa: What?
Gohan: I'm gonna skullf*ck you!!

GENOM MILARM testing report: This weapon experienced considerable difficulty in targeting the lateral elevation of an agricultural storage facility. You can't hit the broad side of a barn with this thing!

Yuki: At this juncture, I will attempt to communicate something to you, though I am uncertain as to the accuracy of the transmission. Words remain a weak vector for communicating vital information. Despite the lack of adherence to social norms and the correct protocols for this procedure, I am attempting to convey to you the positive emotive content of my current condition and regards for you. The outcome is uncertain; no accurate prediction can be made. Regardless of the fact that determination is unclear, I have resolved to continue due to the content of the emotive concept I wish to relay. Despite the fact that I have no comparable metric, I am currently unable to conceive a greater intensity than the one I experience at this moment in relation to you.
Yuki: I attempted to use more words. It appears that the data was not conveyed accurately.
Kyon: C...can you try it again with less, maybe?
Yuki: Yes. I like you. A lot.

Films -- Animation

Buzz Lightyear: Unidirectional bonding strip.
Robot: Mr. Lightyear needs more tape.

Mouse Doctor: (to the nurses) Bring me the epidermal tissue disruptor!
Wilbur: The epidermal what?
(The mouse nurses hoist a freaking chainsaw over Wilbur's hospital bed.)

Films -- Live Action

  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home has Dr. McCoy bully his way past hospital guards by shouting that his patient had, "acute post-prandial upper-abdominal distension," which is to say, "cramps".
    • It's not even cramps - literally it's "swelling of the stomach after eating"...
  • In Back to The Future, Dr. Emmett Brown sees a poster for the school dance and tells Marty there's a "rhythmic ceremonial ritual" coming up.

Doc: Golden fluid produced by the Apis mellifera, I'm home.
Clara: Oh Emmett, I love it when you call me honey.

  • Howard the Duck features a pizza being described as "It's a circular Italian food object."
  • The second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie involves The Professor (played by David Warner) asking Michaelangelo to pass him a vial of dimethyl chlorinide. Quips Mikey, "I don't mean to criticize science, but wouldn't it be easier just to call it 'the pink one'?"
  • Subverted in Big Trouble in Little China, where Egg Shen uses what appears to be expospeak to clarify meaning something mystically as opposed to technically:

Egg Shen: Black blood of the earth!
Jack: You mean oil?
Egg Shen: No, I mean black blood of the earth!

Roy Tam: I guess you could call it an implosive, explosive, sub-molecular device.
Lamont Cranston: Or... an Atomic Bomb.
Roy Tam Say, that's catchy.

  • The 2009 Star Trek film gives us this gem of an inversion, when raw recruit Sulu can't get the ship to move:

Pike: (jokingly) Is the parking brake on?
Sulu: Uh, no sir. I'll figure it out.
Spock: Have you disengaged the external inertial damper?
Sulu: (looks embarrassed as he disengages the external inertial damper) Ready for warp, sir.

Elizabeth: Captain Barbossa, I am here to negotiate the cessation of hostilities against Port Royal.
Barbossa: There be a lot of long words in there, miss. We're naught but humble pirates. What is it that you want?
Elizabeth: I want you to leave and never come back.
Barbossa: I'm disinclined to acquiesce to your request.
Elizabeth: (blank stare)
Barbossa: Means "no".

  • In the Bond movie Never Say Never Again, an aging 007 is prescribed a strict health regimen. When Moneypenny asks what his "mission" is, he says "I'm to eliminate all free radicals." Moneypenny looks concerned "Oh, do be careful."
  • Played for Drama in 2001: A Space Odyssey. When Hal cuts off the life support for the three hibernating astronauts, an alarm goes off and a monitor flashes "Computer Malfunction" then "Life Functions Critical". A systems status monitor shows the astronauts' bodily functions flatlining one by one (and in a subtle, disturbing note, the last function to go -- "Central Nervous System", i.e., the brain—goes haywire for several seconds before flatlining, hinting that the astronauts' deaths were anything but painless). Finally, the alarm shuts off, and the monitor flashes the message "Life Functions Terminated."
  • In National Treasure, in order to avoid being instantly laughed off about the prospect of an invisible coded treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence, Ben instead describes it to Abigail as "an encryption" of "a cartograph" showing "the location of hidden items of historic and intrinsic value."
  • The Coneheads from Coneheads.

Beldar: It is time for mid-day cessation of activities for carbo-protien intake.
Otto: Yeah, sure. Take a lunch break.
Prymatt: ...consume mass quantities of molten lactate extract of hoofed mammals on a starched disk.
Beldar: Ah. Pizza. I shall enjoy!

    • Reversed the gag in this example:

High Master: Ford Lincoln Mercury Sable?
Beldar: A personal conveyance named after its inventor, an assassinated ruler, a character from Greco-Roman myth and a small furry mammal.

Spooner: So, Dr. Calvin, what exactly do you do around here?
Calvin: My general fields are advanced robotics and psychiatry. I specialize in hardware-to-wetware interfaces to advance USR's robotic anthropomorphization program.
Spooner: So, what exactly do you do around here?
Calvin: I make the robots seem more human.
Spooner: Now, wasn't that easier to say?
Calvin: Not really, no.


  • Discworld:
    • In The Colour of Magic, the Earth counterpart of one of the characters is described as "a specialist in the breakaway oxidation phenomena of certain nuclear reactors" (i.e. uncontrolled fires in nuclear reactors). Terry Pratchett worked in a nuclear plant before he became a Famous Author.
    • In later Discworld novels, Mr Slant of the Guild of Lawyers would often say things in the Old Language (i.e. Dog Latin) to give his interpretation of Ankh-Morpork's ad hoc legal system a veneer of legitimacy (for instance Acquiris Quodcumque Rapis, "You Get What You Grab").
      • Vis-ne vi faciem repletam capite?
        • (If you're not up on your Latin, that's Would you like a face which is full of head?)
      • Lord Vetinari rules by one single law: Quia Ego Sic Dico. "Because I said so."
    • Leonard of Quirm has a strange habit of coming up with Clock Punk versions of familiar devices and giving them very densely verbose names. For example, after inventing the first submarine:

Leonard: Because it is submersed in a marine environment, I call it the Going-Under-The-Water-Safely Device.

      • This is Lampshaded in-universe in one book. Leonard is showing Vetinari his latest invention, and Vetinari is able to guess the name exactly by thinking of the longest and most lame name he can think of. In another book, Leonard admits that he's not very good at naming things.
    • And let's not forget the description of Harga's menu in Mort:

"They don't go in for the fancy or exotic, but stick to conventional food like flightless bird embryos, minced organs in intestine skins, slices of hog flesh and burnt ground grass seeds dipped in animal fats; or, as it is known in their patois, egg, soss and bacon and a fried slice."

    • In Sourcery, a magic carpet would fly to the command "down" due to "laminar and spatial arrangements", or, more simply, because it was put on the floor upside-down.
    • In Jingo, Willkins warns Sam Vimes, "Lady Sybil has vouchsafed to me that if you are not there she will utilize your intestines for hosiery accessories, sir." In other words (and probably the ones Sybil used), she'll have his guts for garters.
  • In The Dark Side of the Sun one of Pratchett's characters pulled "You are now recumbent water-foul of the Genius Anatidae, I repeat you are now sitting ducks"
  • Hank the Cowdog, the canine narrating John R. Erickson's series of the same name, is given to describing his sensory organs as though they were sophisticated machinery:

"... As I recall the scene, I was reclined on my gunny sack bad, hovering in the twilight zone between watchfulness and more or less complete oblivion. In other words, although my more critical faculties were pretty muchly in neutral, I continued to monitor all sounds and earatory data in the Ready Room of my mind."

  • Pretty much everything in The Eye of Argon is (perhaps unintentionally) described in this fashion. As an example, eyes are probably more often referred to as "[colour] orbs" and "organs of sight" than just "eyes".
  • As in other series which blur the line between fantasy and science fiction, Steven Brust includes coded references to modern things in the seemingly Renaissance-y Dragaera universe. In one memorable instance, there is a reference to characters eating "the house bread" with some kind of fish spread. In modern terms, this is bagels and lox cream cheese.
  • Good Omens mocks this:

Tommy: Mom, if any throughput eventuates premising to interface with Sgt. Thomas A. Deisenburger telephonically, Mom, sir, this individual will be--
Mom: Sorry, Tommy?
Tommy: I said, if anyone calls, Mom, I'll be down in the Big Field, with Pop and Chester and Ted.

  • The Dresden Files has Harry describing a plant monster in narration as a "chlorofiend" because he feels silly saying "plant monster". It doesn't work, as he eventually has to use "plant monster" when everyone else wonders what a "chlorofiend" is.
  • Often happens with Telemain and his Magi Babble in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles; nearly all of it makes perfect sense if you happen to have a dictionary or someone with a very large vocabulary handy.
  • The Temps story "Pitbull Brittan" by Jack Yeovil opens with Brittan's papers regarding his transfer from One Para to the Department of Paranormal Resources. The DPR official is suspicious, believing "this is an oblatory equine situation, and we should acquire the services of a veterinarian dentist". (They should look the gift horse in the mouth.)
  • In the Ethshar series, wizards can get answers to yes-or-no questions by using the Spell of the Eighth Sphere, which makes runes appear in a black crystal globe. In other words, a Magic 8-Ball.
  • In his essay, "Politics and the English Language," George Orwell once translated the famous passage from Ecclesiastes 9:11 ("I returned and saw under the sun, that the race was not to the swift...") into what he called "modern English of the worst sort":
    • Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.
  • Dark Future: Dr. Blakeley pulls one in Comeback Tour.

"This isn't supposed to happen; he's not a subject, he's GenTech brass. The faecal matter just collided with the ventilation system."

  • In The Bacta War, Rogue Squadron has discovered that their old X-Wings are being surplussed out. Tycho notes to Wedge that the fighters are missing a critical part, the PL-1. Wedge asks him what a PL-1 is. Turns out that's bean-counter-ese for "pilot".
  • As a side effect of his not-quite-perfect mastery of the English language, Ktch the Blue Lobster from The Butterfly Kid converts a common aphorism ("If you can't lick'em, join'em") into "If you can't run your tongue across them, merge with them", combining this trope with Malaproper. Amusingly, the (human) narrator of the book makes use of the mangled aphorism himself later in the book.

Live-Action TV

  • Stargate SG-1 uses this pretty frequently, most notably whenever an alien talks about guns (because they're unique to Earth; everyone else uses energy weapons). From the episode "Small Victories":

Teal'c: The replicators are impervious to Goa'uld technologies. They are however susceptible to human projectile weaponry.
Davis: *visible confusion*
Jack: Guns.

    • 'Undomesticated equines could not keep me away.' No matter how many times someone corrects Teal'c on this, he seems to persist in it. Upon hearing him say this, Jack accused Teal'c of trying to make a joke. Teal'c remained silent on the matter, though he did look a bit self-satisfied.
    • Then there was the one where Teal'c told Hathor she should attempt procreation with herself.
  • In an episode of Roseanne, when Nancy introduces her new girlfriend, the following exchange occurs.

Nancy: This is Sharon. She's an erotic dance performance artist.
Sharon: I'm a stripper.

Spock: Random chance seems to have operated in our favor.
McCoy: In plain non-Vulcan English -- we've been lucky.
Spock: I believe I said that, Doctor.

Data: I fear I am pursuing an untamed ornithoid without cause.
Dr. Crusher: A wild goose chase?

Tuvok: I am experiencing a slight loss of equilibrium and some gasteral intestinal distress.
Seven of Nine: Space sickness.

    • Episode "The Voyager Conspiracy"

Seven of Nine: I downloaded six months of ship's status reports into my new cortical subunit while I was regenerating.
Tom Paris: Learn while you sleep.

  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 often had Dr. Forrester use made-up technical names for cruel but simple devices, such as "Hypno-Heliostatic Stasis" for "Padding".
  • A large majority of the dialogue between Hacker and Sir Humphrey in Yes Minister consists of barely comprehensible expospeak, satirising the impenetrable workings of government. Most famously:

Sir Humphrey: The identity of the official whose alleged responsibility for this hypothetical oversight has been the subject of recent discussion is not shrouded in quite such impenetrable obscurity as certain previous disclosures may have led you to assume. Not to put too fine a point on it, the individual in question is, it may surprise you to learn, one whom your present interlocutor is in the habit of defining by means of the perpendicular pronoun.
Hacker: I beg your pardon?
Sir Humphrey: It was I!

    • Also when Humphrey has been promoted and won't be working with Hacker anymore:

Sir Humphrey: The relationship which I may tentatively venture to be not without a degree of reciprocal utility and even occasional gratification is reaching a point of inevitable bifurcation and, to be brief, is in the propinquity of its ultimate, regrettable termination.
Hacker: What?
Sir Humphrey:I'm on my way out.

      • Which Hacker tearfully misinterprets as meaning Humphrey is dying.
  • In the MacGyver episode "Last Stand", Mac is holding some piece of equipment that he's supposedly going to use to fix up a plane so the bad guys can escape. When asked by his guard what the item is, he replies "Lateral... cranial... impact... enhancer", and smacks the guard across the head with it.
    • In another two-part episode, Mac puts together an ancient device explaining at length what it does, defining it as an "optic pump". When the Girl of the Week asks what an optic pump is, he says, "a laser".
  • More infamously, The Man Show (which, admittedly, has few enough merits) managed to collect the signatures of over 1,000 women in a petition to "end Women's Suffrage"—which is to say, deny women the vote. They didn't even have to do anything, letting people assume that because "suffrage" sounded like "suffering", it was a bad thing.
    • In the comic strip B.C. the two chicks are picketing with signs saying, "Support Women's Sufferage!" Two of the guys watch them pass and yell, "So, suffer!"
  • A trope much beloved by Robert Holmes, the writer of more than a few Doctor Who serials, usually to illustrate pompous stupidity. In "Carnival of Monsters", for example, arrogant aristocrat Orum says of the low-ranking Functionaries "Give them a hygiene chamber and they'll store fossil fuel in it." This is an Expospeak Gag on a line from the early 20th century, reflecting conservative class attitudes "If the workers had baths, they'd use them to keep the coal."
    • Inverted in Holmes' "The Deadly Assassin". Rather than describe the Doctor's change of body by the rather more lofty "regeneration", a fellow Time Lord refers to them as "face lifts".
    • In "Four to Doomsday", Adric displays both his scientific knowledge and personal immaturity to irritatingly ask for the "sodium chloride", when he really means the salt.
      • The same joke was later used in a Doctor Who spoof on Extras, where David Tennant's Doctor defeats a ridiculous slug-like creature by throwing "sodium chloride" at it after spouting off lines of obvious expospeak.
    • Sent up in "The Girl in the Fireplace", where the Doctor admits that he said "spatio-temporal hyperlink" because he didn't want to say "magic door".
    • A non-Robert Holmes story, "The Idiot's Lantern", uses a Expospeak Gag.

Rose: That thing, is it trapped for good on video?
The Doctor: Hope so. But just to be on the safe side though, I'll use my unrivaled knowledge of trans-temporal extrapolation methods to neutralise the residual electronic pattern.
Rose: You'll what?
The Doctor: I'm gonna tape over it.

    • "The localised condition of planetary atmospheric condensation caused a malfunction in the visual orientation circuits. Or to put it another way, we got lost in the fog."
    • "Miniaturization ray?" "How do you know that?" "Well, there was a ray and then we were miniaturized..." And this time, the Doctor isn't who said it. That may be a first.
  • A variant occurs in Babylon 5: Garibaldi says nothing, but mind-reader Bester replies with "Anatomically impossible, Mr. Garibaldi, but you're welcome to try."
  • In Living Color based a series of skits on this premise. Prisoners with big words can be dangerous.
  • This quote from Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory: "I'm polymerized tree sap and you're an organic adhesive, so whatever verbal projectile you launch in my direction is reflected off of me, returns to its original trajectory and adheres to you." For those getting a headache from that, it's the old "I'm rubber and you're glue" retort.
    • That quote?? The whole show is this trope, Sheldon in particular. What's interesting is you often get two sets of canned laughter—one when the geeks in the audience get the Expospeak and another a few seconds later after the Layman's Terms translation.
    • Actually seems to be that the people in the live audience laugh any time that complex language gets used as they assume it is a joke, or any time that Sheldon says a long line of dialogue.
    • Another favorite, when he tries to trash-talk his opponent in a robot competition: "I'm given to understand that your mother is overweight. Now of course if that is the result of a glandular condition and not sloth and gluttony, I withdraw the comment. There are boundaries."
    • Also, in the episode when Howard accidentally drives the Mars Lander into a ditch, Sheldon remarks, "I believe the appropriate metaphor here involves a river of excrement and a Native American water vessel without any means of propulsion", which was his way of saying "up shit creek without a paddle".
    • Leonard explains Sheldon's relationship problems: "What would you be if you were attached to another object by an inclined plane wrapped helically around an axis?". The answer is, of course, screwed.
  • In the Firefly episode "Out of Gas", River tries to explain to Simon why she forgot his birthday.

"'Day' is a vestigial mode of time measurement, based on solar cycles. It's not applicable. (long pause) ... I didn't get you anything."

    • Mal in episode 2: "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling."
  • Lost: Sawyer is afraid his headaches indicate a brain tumor. Jack informs him he has hyperopia, letting him believe for a moment that this is a dreadful disease, when it really means he's farsighted.
  • Pretty much the entire point behind the Coneheads sketches on Saturday Night Live.
  • Used a couple of times in Monty Python's Flying Circus by Pepperpots (Pythoners dressed up as women). In one sketch with an exploding penguin on top of a TV, one Pepperpot said "Oh, intercourse the penguin!". In another, when one Pepperpot was proven wrong about something, she said "Coitus!". In both cases the Pepperpot was referring to the 4-letter "F word".
    • Interestingly, "intercourse the penguin" wasn't in the script. John Cleese reacts with visible surprise and almost laughs.
  • Quoth Insufferable Genius Frasier from Cheers: "I heard a line in one of those... tribal passages that I thought was the keynote for this evening: 'Everybody have fun tonight. Everybody Wang Chung tonight.'"
  • Red Dwarf played this for laughes several times, most notably in "Stasis Leak".

Cat: (to Rimmer) What is it?
Rimmer: It's a rend in the space-time continuum.
Cat: (to Lister) What is it?
Lister: The stasis room freezes time, you know, makes time stand still. So whenever you have a leak, it must preserve whatever it's leaked into, and it's leaked into this room.
Cat: (to Rimmer) What is it?
Rimmer: It's singularity, a point in the universe where the normal laws of space and time don't apply.
Cat: (to Lister) What is it?
Lister: It's a hole back into the past.
Cat: Oh, a magic door! Well, why didn't you say?

Hogan: Newkirk, please tell Colonel Klink, without getting too technical, why his truck is being repaired.
Newkirk: Certainly, sir. It's broken.

  • Better Off Ted: Veronica is late for a meeting because she was working on the "dough-based projectile ventilation targeting system". Translation: she was competing against Linda to see who could throw more bagels into the air vent.
  • In QI, to avoid setting the klaxon off by saying porn, Jimmy Carr said that 70% of the internet is filled with "gentlemen's special interest literature" (a common euphemism, of course). It didn't work.
  • In the Scottish sketch show Chewin the Fat, there's a famous sketch where a surgeon is describing with eloquent Expospeak what happened to a patient who was shot. Each time, he's called out on it by the nurses who go "Ooooh!" patronisingly and make a certain hand gesture (which has undergone Memetic Mutation in Scotland) to show their disdain for pretentious wank. When his last sentence describes how the bullet ended up in the patient's "tummy", they're a bit disappointed.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer seemed to like this. Usually it was done by Giles, but Faith and the Mayor had this exchange:

The Mayor: I don't want you staying in that motel, there are immoral liasions going on in there!
Faith: Yeah, plus all the screwing.

    • Given that this is Faith, it could also be that she just wasn't really paying attention.
  • On a web episode of MythBusters where they were going to light one million match heads at once, they brought in a bomb technician. When they asked him what they should do if it goes off early, he says to "De-ass the area with the quickness."
  • In the Blackadder II episode "Money", Edmund is trying to sell his house:

Blackadder: Well, what we're talking about in, erm, privy terms is the very latest in front-wall, fresh-air orifices, combined with a wide-capacity gutter installation below.
Prospective Buyer:You mean you crap out of the window?

Quinn: Oh my god, you're getting a nose job.
Rachel: I'm... considering having a minor procedure to repair my deviated septum.
Santana: ... so a nose job.

  • NCIS: Gibbs usually does this when somebody—usually McGee, sometimes Abby—uses the big technical words.
  • House does it sometimes to confuse patients or family. For example, he explained to the parents of a teenager patient that they will remove the underlying cause of the disease using a very common operation. Yeah, actually she was having an abortion, but House has no reason to tell them she was sexually active to begin with.


  • The pseudo-medieval band The Lost Boys disguise one of their covers as "Ode to an Unfettr'd Fowl".
  • Kids' band Rosenshontz have this at the beginning of a song about teasing: "Branches from the nearby foliage and geological specimens may fracture my skeletal framework. However, inaccurate descriptions of my personality and/or physical features will never damage my psyche." In other words: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."
    • Granting that controlling such physiological reactions is often beyond the parameters of the conscious mind, I would nevertheless advise that you withhold secretions from the ocular region with regard to an irretrievable quantity of bovine suckling fluid.

Newspaper Comics

  • In Dilbert, Wally always does that. For example, transferring hundred of thousands bytes to an auxiliary support (he copied a file on a floppy disk). He even suggested to assign him the fast of testing the internet connection using high-requested servers (he intended to make watching porn his job!).
    • Scott Adams actually advises managers lacking inspiration to do so in The Dilbert Principle.

Puppet Shows

  • Link Hogthrob, in one episode of The Muppet Show's Pigs in Space, charges Miss Piggy with the important duty of utilizing the "independent heating-slash-unifying element" and the "horizontal equalizing plane". This wording is paramount in getting her to agree to ironing the laundry without her realizing it.


  • Cabin Pressure gives us "rabbit of negative euphoria" (not a happy bunny) among others.
  • In one episode of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, Chairman Jack explains the connection between the words "ugly", "manhole", "lazy" and "stupid", saying that they're all things with politically correct equivalents.

Jack: A manhole is an utility hole, ugly is cosmetically challenged, and so on and so forth.
Graeme: That's...differently interesting.

Video Games

21:41 - Mission Specialist Solus suggests change to plan; when informed that plan will not be changing unless parameters shift, Specialist Solus suggests Commander Kirrahe has foreign object in cloaca.
21:47 - Scouts neutralized. Rentola treated for minor injuries. After assisting, Specialist Solus asks if failure to land undetected constitutes parameter shift. Commander Kirrahe suggests operation may proceed as planned. Specialist Solus suggests cloacal obstruction is in fact Kirrahe's cranium.

  • There is a "salvage" item (AKA: enemy loot) from the MMORPG City of Heroes called a "Temporal Analyzer", which is described as a wrist-mounted " chronal device that tracks the current fourth dimensional offset and velocity." If you give it any thought, it's obviously just a watch.
  • The infamously difficult Adventure Game adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy features a puzzle where the player has to take a "buffered analgesic" (i.e. an aspirin tablet).
  • Freedom Force Vs. The Third Reich

Mentor: There is a saying on Earth: "One engages in a contest with the group of cards granted to him by the dealer."

  • Portal makes a Running Gag out of the Expospeak used by Aperture Laboratories to describe the company's inventions. The most obvious example is the "1500 Megawatt Aperture Science Heavy Duty Super-Colliding Super-Button", which is, in fact, a pressure plate that resembles an overly large red button. GLaDOS also likes to use Buffy-Speak (the "Aperture Science Thing We Don't Know What It Does") and oblique terminology ("victory candescence") to describe the ways she isn't not going to kill you. Portal 2, on the other hand, takes this and runs with it, giving us such gems as:
    • Excursion Funnel
    • Aerial Faith Plate—a spring-loaded platform
    • Thermal Discouragement Beam—a laser
    • Pneumatic Diversity Vent [1]
    • Repulsion Gel
    • Propulsion Gel
    • The Edgeless Safety Cube. It's a ball.
    • Turret Redemption Line - a conveyor belt laden with turrets heading into an incinerator.
    • Check out the blink-and-you'll-miss-it diagrams and labels in some of the trailers.
      • The Turret trailer (0:20): The turret's outer shell "opens and retracts in relation to proximity of incident in need of resolution". In other words, if the turret sees you (the "incident in need of resolution"), it'll open its magazines and shoot you. Also, "Warning: Standing near turret may result in accidental empathy suppression". In other words, if the turret sees you, it'll open its magazines and shoot you.
      • The Long Fall Boots trailer: 0:17 - "Test Subject Vitality Trial: Vertical Deceleration Chamber": It's a test to see if you'll survive ("test subject vitality") making impact with the floor after falling from a great height ("vertical deceleration"). 0:35 - In the long fall boots, the "Velocity Challenge Brace" is the spring that lessens the impact of landing on your feet.
      • The Bot Trust trailer (0:19) - "Unilateral Force-Induced Isokinetic Breakfast Trial". It's a robot using one arm ("unilateral") to flip pancakes — or, as the case may be, to hit himself repeatedly with a frying pan ("isokinetic": "of or relating to muscular action with a constant rate of movement").
    • In-game, Wheatley attempting to "manually override" a wall. In other words, whacking it until it collapses.
  • In Final Fantasy XII, when Balthier, Fran, and Vaan get their equipment back in the Nalbina Dungeons, combining it with Alliteration:

Balthier: Ah! The prison repository of wrested relics and remnants.
Vaan: So our stuff is in here?
Balthier: That's what I said.

Arcade Gannon: In the words of Socrates, "Go fornicate yourself."

Web Comics

Roy: Or maybe I'm hiring you because I require the creation of a managed spherical energy release with a thermal signature no less than 1850° Kelvin, which can be manifested at specific X, Y and Z coordinates from verbal cues.
I require this precise temperature since it is the minimum level at which necrotized epidermis has been proven to combust...
And I have reasons to believe that my mission will require the incapacitation of multiple post-organic hostiles.
Vaarsuvius: So... you need Fireball spells to toast the undead you expect to fight?
Roy: Did I stutter?

crack on to -- an attempt, usually by a male, to engage another person, usually a female, in conversation as a prelude to initiating manoeuvres aimed at the eventual amorous interaction of said second person by said first person.

Vanderbeam: It's obvious, Mr. Quine, that our traditional methods of communication are ineffective. What we have here is a nonfeasance to linguically convey.

  • MS Paint Adventures is chock full of exotic terms for usually mundane things.
    • And in Homestuck, the trolls are particularily loquacious about it. In fact, using these for everyday objects is what differs lower castes from the higher ones.


    • Perhaps the most beloved example: exclamation marks and question marks are called "shout poles" and "query hooks" respectively in troll culture.
  • In El Goonish Shive, the self-writing spell-books are very, very verbose, so whenever we get a quote from one, it's going to turn out to be this. So far, Elliot has been seen completely baffled by what his book could possibly mean when it says his transformations naturally posess "exorbitant breadth" in the chest area.
  • In Bob and George, Doctor Light has said things such as "Fornicating Feces" when annoyed.
  • Wondermark strip #826; In which Power is fleeting, with extra Serious Business on top.

Web Original

  • In the Lonelygirl15 episode "Mission Alpha", Spencer explains why he has never exercised before: "I actually can't because I have a condition called nociception, which can be exacerbated by a build-up of lactic acid." Nociception is the ability to feel pain, while lactic acid is generated in normal exercise and simply causes mild discomfort.
  • The YouTube Poop trend sometimes called the "Verbose Meme" is heavily based on this. Essentially, a popular video clip is "translated" into Expospeak, Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness and dashed with Antiquated Linguistics and passed off as the "posh," "upper-class" or "old-time" version. Needless to say, it often takes ludicrous levels. One notable example:

"Oh, being of humanity which encircles the earth which had derived from multiple stages of assumed evolution, over time encompassing all prior creatures before their existence, developing new sorts of technology in order to continue its quest for domination amongst other species unsuited for the means of this intended sentence!"

Cloak#1: Unleash the fire of a thousand arrows!
Cloak#3: You mean the machine-gun?
Cloak#1: (Beat) Yes.

The sister stalks toward you, firelight glinting off of her form fitting cuirass with each step, her visage molded by unquenchable passions burning within. Her voice is a throaty purr as she promises you a heated evening. [2]

Western Animation

  • Chicken Run features this after Rocky wakes up with a bandaged wing:

Rocky: Ouch! What happened to my wing?
Ginger: You took a rather nasty fall.
Mac: And sprained the anterior tendon connecting your radius to your humerus. I gave her a wee bit of a tweak, Jimmy, and wrapped her up.
Rocky: Was that English?
Ginger: She said you hurt your wing. She fixed it.

McCoy: Why couldn't you have just said [x]?
Spock: I believe I just did.

  • The Simpsons uses this in the episode "Homer's Triple Bypass":

Hibbert: Homer, I'm afraid you'll have to undergo a coronary bypass operation.
Homer: Say it in English, Doc.
Hibbert: You're going to need open heart surgery.
Homer: Spare me your medical mumbo-jumbo.
Hibbert: We're going to cut you open and tinker with your ticker.
Homer: Could you dumb it down a shade?

    • Then, we get the reverse:

Homer: And so the tiny aorta fairies will take Mr. Leg Vein on a long trip to marry to Ms. Left Ventricle.
Lisa: Dad, are you trying to tell us you're getting a coronary bypass graft?
Homer: Uh...yeah.

    • In another episode, Grampa doesn't realize he does it:

Grandpa: "The Doctor says she died of a burst left ventricle, but I know she died of a broken heart!"

  • When an attack by Boris and Natasha lands Rocky the Flying Squirrel in the hospital, the doctor diagnoses him with a contusion of the cranium. Bullwinkle launches into an anguished revenge campaign upon hearing the severity of the diagnosis, not realizing that in layman's terms, Rocky has a bump on the head.
  • Dr. Orpheus from The Venture Brothers often talks this way, as when he makes reference to his daughter attending an "electronic music recital" (she went to a rave).
  • Happens on occasion with Edd from Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy. A quote from the Christmas Special:

Edd: Ed! Eddy's pillaged Saint Nick's satchel of individual Yuletide bestowals! (gets a blank stare) The presents, Ed. Eddy's taken the presents!

Bloo: Then it's time for drastic action, and I've got just the plan. Operation Abe Lincoln Drop Purple Scaredy Cat Run and Scramble. From the arboreal vantage point, we shall unleash the ultimate weapon, creating a devastating chain reaction the likes of which the galaxy has never known!
Mac: What?
Bloo: I drop this fake spider on Eduardo, he freaks out, and everyone runs away.

  • In one episode of The Tick, Neil, a scientist, has managed to grow some dinosaur tissue in a lab, retarding its growth by keeping it in an acetylsalicylic acid solution. He accidentally eats the dinosaur tissue, and ends up turning into "Dinosaur Neil", a giant monster. Upon learning about the acetylsalicylic acid, Arthur figures out how to save the day and turn Dinosaur Neal back to normal: as he tells the audience, acetylsalicylic acid is aspirin.
  • Used occasionally by Frylock in Aqua Teen Hunger Force when describing his latest invention or plan:

Shake: What is that, for vegetables?
Frylock: It translates brain synapses and neural skull vibrations into audio speech frequencies.
Shake: Yeah, I got one of them too. It's called a mouth.

  • Used in Futurama‍'‍s Anthology of Interest I:

Fry: Where am I, anyway?
Nichelle Nichols: You're travelling in a specially equipped terrestrial transport module.
Gary Gygax: A school bus!

  • SpongeBob SquarePants had an episode where Spongebob (literally of course) shattered his rear end. After everything was fixed, we had the following conversation.

Doctor: Well Mr. Squarepants, it looks like your gluteus maximus has made a full recovery
Spongebob: My what has a what now?
Doctor: Your butt's all better.

What's a Koala?
An herbivorous nocturnal marsupial
In English please?
Uh... They only eat plants, they sleep during the day, and the ladies carry their babies in a pouch.
Oh. A Hippy.

    • Not surprising in the least, as Jess Winfield is one of the uncredited writers. They're called "rennie jokes".
  • Scooby-Doo: Velma's description of a fog bank in "Hassle in the Castle".
  • In Justice League:

Green Lantern: To halt the process we would need to create an Einstein-Rosen Bridge to drain off the affecting anti-fusion matter.
Flash: Create a what? Do what?
Hawkgirl: Create a wormhole to suck away the bad stuff.

"That guy is such a gluteus maximus."

Real Life

  • Any list of US Armed Forces slang will include the terms "cranial loopback" and "rectal-cranial inversion". If you can't figure it out, both refer to having your head up your ass.
    • In Give War A Chance, P.J. O'Rouke writes that out of everyone in Saudi Arabia preparing for Operation Desert Storm "when it comes to truly not speaking English, it's impossible to top the [US] Department of Defense" which calls a metal nut (which goes on a bolt) a "hexaform rotatable surface compression unit."
    • See also Percussive Maintenance.
    • One from a list of humorous discrepancy maintenance reports has the corrective action as "Removed and replace flight stick actuator. The flight stick actuator is the pilot.
  • When physicists refer to "closed timelike curves", it's because they don't want to get caught talking about "time travel".
    • There's a subtle difference between "time travel" and a "closed timelike curve": a closed timelike curve is a path through spacetime that, if followed, results in time travel. One is the method, the other is the outcome.
    • Slight addition, the term "closed" also point that you can't change the future you come from in this type of path.
    • That is, it allows only the "Stable Time Loop" sort of time travel. Time travel is usually presented as being a feature of a device (e.g. this box moves through time), but a closed time-like curve is a feature of the geometry of space-time that makes it impossible to create a consistent ordering of events (and thus makes "going into the past" somewhat meaningless), much like a Klein bottle has no "inside" or "outside".
  • When helicopter pilot Michael Durant was shot down and captured over Mogadishu, he managed to frustrate his captor's attempts to interrogate him by doing exactly what this trope describes.
  • There is a site on the internet dedicated to the dangers of the highly addictive compound Dihydrogen Monoxide.
    • For those do not have basic understanding of chemistry or are simply too thick to get it, dihydrogen monoxide is a chemical nomenclature of the chemical H₂O used by those who do have such understanding to illustrate the ignorance of the attentive populace, and analyse how the usage of language can generate misplaced and irrational fears, for the purpose of amusement. In other words, it's basically another way of saying water, which most people outside science don't hear everyday and is only parody science.
    • This even inspired, for a while, another website claiming to defend against the first's libelous claims, created by an organization calling themselves the "Hydrogen Hydroxide Anti-Defamation League", Hydrogen Hydroxide being another excessively technical name for water, following the acid-base naming conventions.
    • Wikipedia lists the official name for water as "water." But also lists dihydrogen monoxide, oxidane, hydrogen hydroxide, and hydroxylic acid.
    • Penn & Teller: Bullshit! used this same trick to convince attendees at a environmentalist rally to sign a petition to ban it to illustrate that as long as they mention something in scientific terminology, environmentalists will automatically assume its bad and sign petitions to ban it. However, it didn't work for everyone at the rally, but the majority of the people they showed were happily signing the petition.
  • The Plain English Campaign has several examples.
  • The medically alarming term "idiopathic" just means "We have no idea what caused this."
    • That's more alarming.
    • As House puts it:

"Idiopathic, from the Latin idiot meaning we're idiots because this kid's lungs are turning into swiss cheese and we don't know why." [3]

"Our process is to turn over the data to a team of highly-skilled data insertion analysts who are responsible for importing the data."
"So, you've got people retyping this directly into the database."

  • Aerospace engineers sometimes jokingly refer to a hypothetical crash/explosion as an RUD (Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly).
    • Or CFIT (Controlled Flight Into Terrain): a crash.
      • Okay, specifically a crash wherein the pilot accidentally flies into a mountain or somesuch, and the crash isn't due to the failure of some part of the aircraft.
    • Or, for that matter, lithobraking, for a spacecraft crashing into a planet. (The term is a joke on aerobraking, in which a spacecraft runs though the atmosphere of a planet to kill its speed.[4])
  • Read some resumes, you'll see some interesting twists. "Director of Vertical Transportation" = Elevator Operator in a luxury hotel, for example.
    • "Verified incoming deliveries, Maintained Warehouse facility, Distributed materials to auto repair facilities." for: "I worked at an auto parts store as the one who put stuff of the shelves and drove the delivery van".
    • "Decision-making position at a produce marketing unit": Finding and removing fruit and vegetables that had gone bad at the supermarket.
      • Career counselors actually encourage this, since it can help people get a job they desperately need.
  • One rumored modification of the French school sport curriculum included the notion of "constant-trajectory bouncing referential". Also known as a ball. As for the "randomly bouncing referential", it's a rugby ball
    • The "bouncing referential" story is really a hoax stemming from an inside joke that was running in the University Institutes for Teachers Training. This phrase was never actually used anywhere, even though former education minister Claude Allègre contributed to revive the myth.
  • In Czech, a common joke (or riddle) is to translate a proverb into scientific-sounding language.
  • A popular phrase in Britain (it's used by Fred Colon in the Discworld novel Men at Arms) is "extracting the urine"; a way of saying "taking the piss" without, well, actually saying "taking the piss".
    • Another British example: as an expression of surprise, "seduce my antique footware!" instead of "fuck my old boots!"
      • Similarly, "are you taking the clear golden liquid?/making off with the Michael?", (which may make more sense to non-Britons if you know that "taking the mickey" is a more polite of saying "taking the piss" [5]) and "Robert's the avuncular figure in your life!" (or individual variants of it) are fairly common ways of expressing surprise or satisfaction in a deliberately OTT and camp way. Yes, the nights get long and boring in Britain.
  • If a computer technician tells you a laptop isn't working because of "deceleration sickness," he thinks you're an idiot for not realizing someone threw it at a wall. Or, perhaps more commonly, dropped it from a significant height.
    • Or PEBKAC (Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair) and ID-Ten-T (ID10T).
    • Chair-to-Keyboard Interface Malfunction
      • Or a "Carbon Based Error".
    • Layer 8 of the OSI-ISO model is also often identified as the problem.
    • And that's when you're lucky to not get into proposed Layer 9 of the OSI Model.[6]
    • A coworker always used to refer to my occasional problems with work equipment as ESO errors. Equipment Superior to Operator.
    • Then there is the classic 'wetware problem.'
  • This is how many newspapers described Cheney's infamous "Go fuck yourself" to a Senator Patrick Leahy (a democrat). "Performing an anatomically impossible maneuver", "an illogical sex move", "gave advice on solo/self intercourse", and many others were used in family oriented magazines to describe his quote without actually outright saying it. Many who had never heard about it and were getting their news from the newspaper were genuinely confused.
  • The Wikipedia page's for Baby Got Back attempt to summarize the lyrics. It begins with expospeaking "I like big butts and I cannot lie" as "In the opening verse, Sir Mix-a-Lot professes his affinity for large buttocks and his inability to disguise this fact from others" and only gets better from there.
    • Ditto for an old revision of C is for Cookie.
    • The '90s rap song "Got Your Money" has an equally hilarious page: "The song is initially dedicated exclusively to the world's population of attractive females, until ODB seems to have pangs of guilt for not including ladies who might be considered 'homely' or 'ugly,'"
    • What takes the cake are usually rap songs, since they usually contain quite a bit of vulgarity or general raunch that even rap fans admit is pretty extreme. Take for example, the page for Lil Kim's song "How Many Licks?"

In the initial stanza, Kim rhapsodizes over the large, heterogeneous population of men with whom she has engaged in intercourse, and how they have satisfied her sexually and non-sexually. (To translate: Kim starts the song singing "I've been a lot of places, seen a lot of faces. Aw, hell, I've even f***ed with different races.)

  • A man is filling out an insurance application and one of the questions is "How did your father die?". His father had been executed by hanging, so he writes "My father died at age of 64. He was participating in a public function when the platform gave way."
  • Doctors have made an entire list of ways to more or less insult their patients and make it sound scientific. Hysterical patients who just need to be quiet and go away is labelled PRATFO (Patient Reassured And Told to Fuck Off.) Another common one is Coporophagic Encephalopathy (literally shit-for-brains.)
  • In some military forces, Individual Body Maintenance is a euphemism for "taking a nap". This is often used to account for the whereabouts of the troops [to a superior officer] without having to admit that they're on an unscheduled afternoon siesta.
  • A man once bought a box of expensive cigars and had them insured. He then smoked them and claimed on the insurance, saying that the cigars were destroyed in "a series of small fires". He did indeed collect the insurance money, but he was subsequently charged with arson by the insurance company.
  • In Britain's Parliament, an MP cannot say another is 'lying', as this is 'unparliamentary language'. This has led to some very inventive euphemisms, such as "the honourable gentleman is being economical with the truth" or even "I fear the honourable gentleman is perpetrating a matter of terminological inexactitude".
    • In the Dutch Parliament, the euphemism for lying is "verkeerd informeren" (inform wrongly).
  • "Tired and emotional" is a well-known stock phrase in the UK media. Due to UK libel law, it's extremely dangerous to imply that a public figure is/was drunk. "Tired and emotional" is how public figures tend to get after a night involving too much alcohol and not enough sleep.
  • The book "Tech Speak, or How To Talk High Tech" (by Edward Tenner) is a humourous application of Expospeak, consisting of an assortment of everyday items described in high-tech terms. The book includes such gems as the Material Sectioning Tool (knife), the Canine Seclusion Habitat (doghouse), the Kinetic Demonstration Device (toy balloon), and the Accreted Crystalline Anthropoid Homologue (snowman); the last of these is described as "a solar-recyclable aqueous transitional-state hominid isomorph assembled as a juvenile peer-bonding mechanism." Sadly, the book is out of print.
  • In a column about what to study in college, Dave Barry suggested that sociology consisted of translating simple observations into scientific-sounding code. His example was the observation that children cry when they fall down: "Methodological observation of the sociometrical behavior tendencies of prematurated isolates indicates that a casual relationship exists between groundward tropism and lachrimatory, or 'crying,' behavior forms."
  • Wikipedia on the heavy metal usage of the sign of the horns: "...the sign eventually came to signify, variously, that the one gesturing is rocking him or herself, is encouraging the recipient of the gesture to rock, and/or that he/she emphatically appreciates the rocking that has already commenced." Also counts as Sophisticated As Hell.
  • This interview with Stephen Fry includes the following description of his drug use:

So for many years really I never went out without at least four or five grams of cocaine powder on my person. And I would ingest it intra-nasally, as was the fashion, through the use of some sort of straw or rolled up currency note.

  • The abbreviation "ADR" is a highly scientific veterinary term used in patient charts for decades to describe the owner's complaint, or presenting problem. "ADR" stands for... Ain't Doin' Right.
  • The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is currently undertaking a number of "vertical transportation improvements" at several of the subway stops—that is, they're repairing/replacing the elevators. Also arguably qualified is the "Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line" at the south end of the Red Line, which is in fact run as streetcar service.
  • From a site that sells approximations of Klein bottles: Non-metric topological manifolds may be considered ideal elastic objects, able to be bent, stretched, twisted, or deformed as long as nearby points in one space correspond to nearby points in the transformed version. However, Acme's Borosilicate Klein Bottles are physical instantiations of such mathematical concepts. As such, they should not be subject to transformations which substantially increase the material's internal stress tensors. Specifically, please recognize that dihydrogen monoxide has a coefficent of expansion which is negatively correlated with temperature near its freezing point, and thus expands when changing from liquid to solid. This increase in volume can cause stresses within a containing vessel. Borosilicate glass—such as that which Acme uses to manufacture its fine Klein Bottles—has a finite capacity to absorb these stresses and retain a linear stress-strain relationship. When a certain stress is exceeded, the intermolecular silicate bonds will delaminate, resulting in stress-induced fractures. In other words, FREEZING WATER EXPANDS AND WILL SHATTER YOUR KLEIN BOTTLE.
  • This trope can be a good way of telling that someone has reached their maximum capacity for fecal matter, especially if they're upset. Since people who are upset generally use shorter words and simpler explanations—often with a lot of swearing in the middle—someone who is upset yet still using a complex explanation is likely either a)going out of their way to do it, or b)doesn't really understand what they're describing and therefore can't put it in Layman's Terms. It can be quite amusing to watch someone switch from Cluster F-Bombing to a technical explanation and right back again.
    • Also, if a discussion is using simple terms, and someone uses more complex ways of describing it, then refuses to dumb it down, they're probably also full of it. For example

If it is argued that people were in location X when A happened to them, and when we see them they are in location Y, not X, then that does not mean A never happened, especially since there's additional non-video evidence to show that it did.
P ∈ X

Please note that this was the second time the simple explanation had been used, yet the "refuting" somehow got even more complex. A explanation here.
    • Want to say someone is lying on the internet but don't want to do so openly? Say they're making "misleading statements". Just hope that no one asks you to clarify whether a "misleading statement" is the same as a lie.
  1. not in the final game
  2. I.e. she approaches you with face contorted in rage, and pilot light of her flamer is ON. She is quite straightforward about what's going to happen.
  3. Fun fact - that's almost correct! Idiot comes from the Greek idios ('one's own, private'), referring to someone who kept to themselves, a private citizen. Idiopathy adds a suffix from pathos ('suffering'). A term deriving from that root was used in Athens to refer to someone unfit for public office (therefor being separated from the democracy), which is the font of popular use from which 'idiot' sprang.
  4. Note that this applies both to interplanetary craft slowing down enough to orbit or land, as well as orbital craft trying to land
  5. "micturation" being itself an example of this trope, meaning piss
  6. read: the Boss of the Layer 8 operator