The Unintelligible

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Would you mind speaking up, sir?

Bumo... Bumomomo!
Bumomo Bumomomomo Bumo!

A character who speaks, but is for one reason or another unintelligible to the audience.

A variant of He Who Must Not Be Heard. There are many possible reasons the audience cannot understand the character: muffled voice, thick accent, foreign language, very limited vocabulary, a robot communicating only in beeps. Other characters on the show frequently have no trouble understanding them, however. This leads to a lot of repeated dialogue that'd make little sense if we could understand both characters. ("Are we going to Dagobah?" "That's right R2, we're going to Dagobah!")

An awful lot of unintelligible or barely-intelligible characters' speech disruptions take the form of them only being able to say their name, which is the Pokémon-Speak trope.

The Voice, when in the "only calls on the phone" variation, is sometimes also The Unintelligible. Their dialogue is usually distorted mumbling gibberish, and almost always angry-sounding (probably because half of it is cussing). A good example of this is The Mayor's wife on the Christmas Special The Year Without a Santa Claus, although to be fair, it is possible to make out the occasional word, mostly "galoshes."

See also Speaking Simlish. Starfish Language is a related trope, where the character is unintelligible because they're not even using words. Not to be confused with The Illegible, which is when a character has outrageously horrible handwriting. Sometimes The Unintelligible has a friend who acts as his Translator Buddy.

Examples of The Unintelligible include:


  • Ozzy Osbourne parodies his own manner of speech in one commercial spot. His mumble is so bad that he can't even order coffee without sending a text message to the barista. When he is having a therapy session afterwards, his therapist asks how this makes him feel. He mumbles, then sends a text. What did he say? - 'Like I want to shave my bollucks'!
    • He plays it up again in a later commercial where he laments the numerous failed attempts at having servants over the years. He explains one servant who he claims must have been deaf, then a flashback shows that the servant was not deaf, but rather unable to understand Ozzy's speech.

Anime and Manga

  • Almost all Pokemon in Pokémon, who can say only their names or parts thereof. With a little careful listening to regular cast members (such as Pikachu) in the original Japanese, though, it's possible to make out patterns. Ash (Satoshi) is "Pikapi", while Togepi, during the seasons that Misty (Kasumi) was with them, was "Pipipi." Likewise, Misty herself is "Pikachupi" and Team Rocket was "Pipikachu." Here's a list.
  • Similarly, Mone-chan in Yumeria only says "Mone" or parts thereof. (It is unknown whether or not "Mone" is her real name; it was (unsurprisingly) the only thing she said when asked what her name was.)
  • Ryo-Ohki, the Weasel Mascot in Tenchi Muyo! can only say "Miyaa," but is clearly an intelligent being capable of communicating complex ideas to the people around her. This is mainly due to the fact she is still very young. In Tenchi Muyo! GXP however, she is fully capable of speaking clearly.
  • Likewise Mokona from Magic Knight Rayearth can only say "Puu." While he may not seem to act like it and is accorded little respect, Mokona (in the manga) is arguably more intelligent than anyone else in the cast—but the details are a spoiler of monumental proportions. (Also The Voiceless)
  • Daikichi Komusubi from Eyeshield 21 communicates mainly through grunts and short sentences. It's said he speaks in pawa-go ("Powerspeak"), which only strong men, like his "sensei" Kurita, can understand (though oddly enough, Mamori seems able to understand him as well).
  • This trope is made fun of in Full Metal Panic Fumoffu when Sousuke (using a suit of Powered Armor whose voice filter turns every word he says into "fumoffu") and a man dressed in a pony mask (don't ask) have a discussion consisting entirely of "fumoffu fumoffu" and "pony pony." Kaname then yells at them for reaching an understanding just by exchanging unintelligible words.
    • The series does play it straight however, in the fact that Kaname can actually understand Sosuke in the suit - but she's wearing a comm headset in those scenes. The same episode shows that Sosuke wants to turn the voice filter off, but there's a glitch that links it to the suit's sensor suite; either both are off or both are on, and Sosuke needs to be able to see.
  • The AIR TV series featured a cute dog creature named Potato that "spoke" exclusively using the word "piko" and, occasionally, "pikori." Her owner, Kano, could understand him perfectly, but nobody else could.
  • Young I-Pin from Katekyo Hitman Reborn. She's supposed to be speaking Chinese, but no one else among the group can understand her. Aged-up I-Pin is somewhat easier to understand, having "taught herself" to speak the language (still not perfectly, but she's getting there).
  • The Monster of the Week on Sailor Moon usually suffered from Pokemon Speak syndrome.
  • The Minicons in Transformers Armada speak in beeps. Towards the end of the series, they start actually talking. It's not clear how that works.
    • The other characters' ability to understand them also varies. The humans get it most of the time, but Jetfire can't understand them at all and most of the others only vaguely know what they're saying some of the time. It's possible they just have really, really thick accents.
  • Targetmasters in Transformers Headmasters also speak in random sounds.
  • Sweden from Axis Powers Hetalia speaks in a rather thick accent (Tohoku accent in the original Japanese, which translated into English is a sort of grunt speak), so sometimes readers have difficulty following his pattern of speech. Strangely when it shows him thinking, his thoughts are perfectly comprehensible.
  • Satsuki, Sentarou's girlfriend from Ranma ½. Only Kasumi, a fellow Yamato Nadeshiko, can understand what she says.
  • .hack//Sign has Macha, whose lips move and the other characters all react as though she's speaking normally... yet no sound can be heard.
    • That's supposedly because she's using the text chat, which isn't displayed in the anime, for slightly obvious reasons.
  • Penelope/Chibimaru from Hamtaro can only say the words ookyoo or ookwee; her "older sister" Pashmina/Mafura is always on hand to explain what the youngest member of the group says.
  • Lum's Mother from Urusei Yatsura, due to her lack of knowing Japanese, speaks in her native language, which humans can only interpret as gibberish (shown quite clearly in the manga, using various symbols in place of text). Naturally, Lum and other aliens don't have trouble understanding.
  • Aria-shachou from Aria is described as having human-child-level intelligence, but speaks only with the syllables "pui" and "nyu." Maa-shachou also only says his name.
  • Keyop in Battle of the Planets. He had lines in Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. One fan rumour had it that he used too much profanity for the US networks. Probably not true though.

Comic Books

  • Arseface in Preacher (Comic Book). Most of his dialogue is subtitled (in a comic!), but somewhere in the middle of the story it dropped out for a while. Thankfully, a careful reader can make out pretty much all of his lines with a little sounding out of his gibberish. Apparently, the only characters who could ever understand him were Jesse and Lorrie Bobbs.
  • Doop, from Peter Milligan and Mike Allred's run on X-Force/X-Statix, spoke entirely in his own alien language, which other characters apparently could understand, though they would reply in English. His word bubbles were unintelligible until a reader figured out the substitution cipher used to write his dialogue.
    • It is later established that "Doop-speak" is an actual language (that, as a member of the team, you eventually come to learn) with its own grammar and rules, and that while Doop can easily understand English, he seems genuinely incapable of speaking anything but Doop-speak.
    • Eventually, we actually hear a conversation from Doop's perspective and understand him perfectly, though this isn't until Nation X.
  • Mazikeen in The Sandman is a demon who is missing half of her face. Neil Gaiman apparently wrote her dialog by trying to speak using only half of his mouth and wrote down what came out phonetically. It's almost impossible to understand what exactly she's saying.
    • Not completely impossible if you sound out her lines slowly. Fortunately, it's pretty easy to figure out what she's saying based on context, even if you can't decode the words.
  • In The Great Ten, Shaolin Robot speaks solely in hexagrams from the I Ching. Thankfully, his speech is usually shown translated in a footnote - and often he only expresses one concept or idea at a time.
  • In the current version of Blue Beetle, the scarab communicates with Jaime using strange letters that represents an alien language that Jaime can understand because he's "linked" to it. Whether this is Wingdinglish or just random symbols seems to be Depending on the Writer (or possibly Depending On The Letterer).
  • Bini from Mingamanga, despite being the only native German of the four boys. Mustafa lampshades it: "And they tell me I have to learn German!"

Fan Works

  • A The Legend of Zelda fanmade flashtoon parodied the concept. Since the character is a Heroic Mime but, in many modern games, can actually be heard to make noises when jumping or attacking, he encounters some difficulty in attempting to make a purchase at a store. "Hya!" "... I'm sorry?" "Hya! Hup! Hya!" "That's a really thick accent you have, there..."
  • Dragonball Z Abridged: Lord Slug Special had Lord Slug fill this role prior to his wish for youth. The two readily understood words were "Dragonball" and what sounded suspiciously like "penis".


  • Many aliens and droids in Star Wars are unintelligible, speaking only in beeps, growls or alien speech. R2-D2 and Chewbacca are both examples. Almost everyone can still understand each other, leading to a lot of Bilingual Dialogue. However, there are occasional instances where characters will translate for each other. Examples include the two cantina ruffians and C-3PO's stint as a translator for Jabba the Hutt.
  • Captain Stimpson in Texas Across the River is capable of speaking normally, but whenever he issues a command, it sounds like, "Haroo, har!". His soldiers invariably follow the command, despite themselves being unable to understand what he's saying.
  • In the Ocean's 11 trilogy, the Amazing Yen speaks only Mandarin Chinese (except when he's swearing), yet the rest of the gang can understand him perfectly, often (but not always) leading to a Repeating So the Audience Can Hear moment.
  • Team America: World Police‍'‍s rendition of Matt Damon is only capable of saying his own name.
  • One of Robin Hood's merry men in Time Bandits has to have his friend do translating duty.
  • Inspector Kemp in Young Frankenstein speaks with an accent so thick even his Transylvanian countrymen can't understand him:

"Vee had better confeerm de fect dat yunk Frankenshtein iss indeed vallowing een ees gandfadda's vootshtaps."

"..And no sidewindin', bushwackin', hornswagglin' cracker croaker is gonna rowway... bushescutter!"
"Now who can argue with that? ...I think we're all indebted to Gabby Johnson for clearly stating what needed to be said!"

  • Whisper in Live and Let Die.
  • Mikey O'Neil in Snatch speaks with such a thick "Pikey" accent that outsiders have difficulty understanding him. His subtitles occasionally revert to "??????"
  • Mumbles in Dick Tracy, played by Dustin Hoffman. A stenographer is seen giving up entirely on translating. Tracy is able to discern what he's saying by recording him, and then playing back the tape slowly.
  • Police Constable Bob Walker of the Sandford Police Service in Hot Fuzz speaks with such a thick rural accent that Nicolas Angel needs other villagers to translate for him. However, isolated country folks are unintelligible to everyone but Bob, forcing a translation chain. Interestingly, as Angel gets more familiar with the town, Bob's dialogue becomes more intelligible.
  • The Pink Panther: Inspector Clouseau frequently slides into this trope due to his outlandish accent.
  • Fenster in The Usual Suspects. Benicio Del Toro invented this character aspect because the character was too thin, and existed only to die. He based his performance on Dustin Hoffman's performance as Mumbles in the 1990 Dick Tracy film. Cast members were asked to have him repeat himself if they couldn't understand his line delivery. A few of these end up in the final cut.
  • Hilariously played with in Hunchback of Notre Dame by Disney. The heroes are caught by the thieves, tied, gagged, mock-trialed and are about to be hanged.

Clopin: Any last words?
Quasimodo and Phoebus:[mumble incomprehensibly through their gags]
Clopin[condescendingly]: That's what they all say.

  • Farmer Fran in The Waterboy has a completely unintelligible Cajun accent.
  • Frenzy in the Transformers live-action film speaks almost entirely in Cybertronian. However, he does speak English sometimes, such as his last words: "Oh, shit." Shockwave from Dark of the Moon is also fairly hard to understand.
  • The frog hunter Two-Fingers from The Princess and the Frog.
  • Blaine Cody from Rat Race, due to a self-made tongue piercing. His brother, Duane Cody will sometimes "translate" his speech.
  • The eponymous Pootie Tang.
  • Herbie The Love Bug embodies this in that his horn is his only method of communication. At least one person from each movie understands him.
  • Played with in Enchanted as far as understanding The Unintelligible goes. When Pip enters the human world, he finds himself in the difficult position of only being able to utter word-like squeaks. Prince Edward thinks he understands him perfectly. He doesn't.
  • Gymnasia in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. A Hot Amazon hailing from the Isle of Silent Women, she expresses with pantomimes apparently unrelated to whatever it's happening. When Pseudolous, her Love Interest and Butt Monkey reveals her pantomimes as an highly organized sign language which he's able to translate to the audience, the rest of the cast is genuinely surprised.
  • Elmo in Schizopolis speaks in a weird, drawling language that includes such expressions as "Arsenal! Nose army," (a greeting), "throbbing dust expression" (roughly, "nice place"), and "ambassador landmine" (roughly, "let us copulate"). When compelled to speak in normal English, he becomes almost psychotically frantic.
  • Jack-Jack from The Incredibles speaks in Baby Talk -- reasonable, since he is a baby.
  • Darph Nader from the 1978 Star Wars Parody short Hardware Wars spends most of his screen time talking, but not a word of it (if there are indeed words to be found) is understandable, a fact that Princess Anne-Droid and Augie "Ben" Doggie take pains to point out to him.


  • The Librarian from Discworld, who says only "ook", but can be understood by some characters. There's a Lampshade Hanging in Moving Pictures, where the Bursar tries to explain to the Archchancellor the difference between the "ook" for "yes" and the "ook" for "no," and it becomes apparent he doesn't really know how he understands what the Librarian says.
    • And eek which seems to mean the same as "ook", only more emphatic.
    • Discworld actually does it well, with no parrot translations.
    • Also the Death of Rats only says "Squeak", but has no problem getting his opinions across (or if he does, Quoth the Raven can translate).
      • Given that he hardly talks to anyone but Quoth, Death, Susan, and the rodents he comes for, this might be justified.
  • Sunny from A Series of Unfortunate Events talks only in babyspeak, which is translated either by her siblings, or by Lemony Snicket's distinctive and verbose definitions. As the series goes on she gradually becomes more intelligible, going from gibberish to slurred words to distinct words to her first full sentence: "I am not a baby."
  • I don't know if he's in The Film of the Book, but The Blind Side has Ole Miss' Coach O, whose thick Louisiana drawl boarders on gibberish to everyone except fellow Louisianan Sean Tuohy.
    • He plays himself in the movie, and, in this troper's opinion, he isn't that bad, unless he's excited
  • Baby Kayla from The Giggler Treatment can only say 'a-bah' but everyone understands her anyway, because they love her so much. To the point where Mr. Mack actually mistook 'a-bah' for Kayla's first words... "Mind the poo!" (which were, incidentally, said by Rover the dog. It Makes Sense in Context.)
  • Hodor from A Song of Ice and Fire says exactly one word: "Hodor". In fact, it's not even his name (his real name is Walder). Though Bran occasionally notes that he doesn't know what Hodor's trying to say, it's generally pretty obvious from the context.
  • David Weber has fun with this - neither the Orions in the Starfire books nor the Rish in In Fury Born have the necessary vocal apparatus to speak English. On the other hand, both races can understand English perfectly well, and vice versa, even if it can be a bit hard on the human ears.
    • There is one Noodle Character who can speak High Rishathan, but the same person could also "reproduce exactly the sound of a buzzsaw hitting a nail at 8000 RPM"...
  • Tinker Gnomes in the Dragonlance universe speak extremely fast and have to be reminded constantly to slow down so other races can understand them.

Live-Action TV

  • Henrietta Pussycat on The Children's Corner. The Children's Corner was an early show with Fred Rogers on a local station in Pittsburgh, before both the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Mister Rogers and PBS's Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Many of the make-believe characters from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood had their start on The Children's Corner, including Henrietta Pussycat. Henrietta could only say the words "beautiful," "telephone," and "Mister Rogers," replacing all other words with "Meow," placing her in the ranks of The Unintelligible. On the later shows, although she still replaced many words with "Meow," she spoke enough English words so that the audience could understand her meaning, and thus she no longer qualified as The Unintelligible. Although Henrietta referred to her owner, Mister Rogers, he was never seen on screen, making him The Unseen in that show.
  • Homer in Molly's Gang.
  • The Muppet Show has Beaker, who speaks in "meep"s and mumbles, and The Swedish Chef, who speaks in pseudo-Scandinavian gibberish.
    • A recurring gag in the series and other Muppet material is to give them songs -- separately or a duet, or even a trio with Animal, who has a very limited vocabulary and tends toward Hulk Speak. Thus, you end up with a song that's entirely or largely unintelligible -- The show's rendition of Danny Boy, or the web short Habanera are good examples of the result when you get all three together.
    • One sketch had the Swedish Chef readily admitting that he speaks Mock Swedish and not actual Swedish (to Jean Stapleton, who is apparently fluent in Mock Swedish) and that his real mother tongue is Mock Japanese.
    • This video has closed captions for the Chef's lines. Once the chef stops speaking, the captions writer apologises that he has no idea what the Chef is actually saying and is simply writing things down phonetically. He's not even sure which dish the Chef is supposed to be making...
  • Sonny on The Sean Cullen Show, who shouted out nonsensical syllables. In one episode, a speech therapist tried to help him, and mistook his unintelligible shouts for correctly pronouncing the word 'Marne', a valley in France.
  • In the long-running UK puppet series The Sooty Show, Sweep communicates in squeaks, "translated" by Soo or the human presenter. Similarly, Sooty himself "whispers" inaudibly, making him The Voiceless.
  • Cousin Itt in The Addams Family.
  • Chris Kattan's character Suel Forrester on Saturday Night Live. "Lackie de boo sippy doo wo!"
  • Lanny from Lizzie McGuire does not speak at all, nor does he use sign language, but Matt has no problem at all interpreting his nods and smiles, to the confusion of Matt's parents. A smile or a tilt of the head from Lanny can be translate into detailed plans and information. In at least one instance, Matt and Lanny hold a telephone conversation without apparent difficulty.
    • Melina seems to be able to understand him as well. Maybe it's just something about the age?
    • Not necessarily. A random repairman, who was appearing for just the episode, seemed to understand him perfectly while the McGuires were left in confusion.
    • When Lizzie swaps bodies with Matt, she can understand Lanny, much to her amazement.
  • When the Breen were finally introduced in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, they communicated in an electronic-metallic sound that even the Universal Translator couldn't decipher.
  • The low-talking girlfriend of Cosmo Kramer on Seinfeld. Only Kramer seemed to understand what she said. (OK, so she once says something intelligible: "YOU BASTARD!!")
  • Australian comedy show Full Frontal featured the character of Milo Kerrigan, who spoke in unintelligible gibberish (supposedly because of damage to his vocal cords, as he was a retired boxing champion) but other characters always understood him perfectly.
  • In Beetleborgs, Wolfsbane only speaks wolf-language, requiring Fangula to translate for him.
  • In It Ain't Half Hot Mum, Rumzan would always speak in Urdu without translation, ending with a few words of English such as "... one of those days!"
  • Lassie. "What's that? Timmy's trapped in a well?"
  • Jin-Soo Kwon from Lost, a Korean, is the only character who can't speak English at the beginning of the series. His wife Sun, however, speaks English proficiently. Jin's English improves over time as he picks things up and Sun teaches him. Ironically, Kwan's portrayer Daniel Dae Kim was raised in Los Angeles and grew up in a mostly-English-speaking household. In a reversal of their roles, his costar Yunjin Kim (who was born in Korea and lived there until the age of 10) taught him all his Korean parts on the show.
    • Also, by the end of the first season, Michael, who is working on a raft with Jin, can understand his Korean, although the other characters can't. One character, Sawyer, even refers to Jin as "Chewie".
  • The League of Gentlemen had Pam Doove, an actress who becomes The Unintelligible whenever it's time for her to speak in character. She auditions for an orange juice commercial and gets the part despite her inability to pronounce a simple line clearly, and the subsequent career boost lands her the part of an equally Unintelligible Nazi in a stage production of The Diary of Anne Frank.
  • The Diagnosans in Farscape speak in a high-pitched trilling language far too complex for Translator Microbes, and as most of them only know a few words of comprehensible speech, they are forced to rely on an interpreter.
    • The Pilots also have this problem, though most of them have learned to speak simply enough to be understood: however, the Pilot of Rovhu in "Eat Me" appeared to have reverted mostly to his own language, mixed with frequent terrified whimpering.
  • Rowley Birkin QC from The Fast Show.
  • In Whose Line Is It Anyway?, the Sound Effects game involves Ryan Stiles mouthing all the sounds as Colin Mochrie wordlessly improvises his scene—any dialogue involved comes out as an indistinct murmur. Most of the time.
  • Father Fay from Father Ted communicates entirely in monkey-like grunts, but is apparently still capable of giving stirring, emotional speeches.
  • In some episodes of Dad's Army, Pike would be accompanied by his girlfriend Ivy, who spoke so quietly that no one could understand her unless he was at hand to repeat what she'd said.
  • On a True Crime series on A&E: the Real Life Frank Lucas needs subtitles, and occasionally Even the Subtitler Is Stumped.
  • This is often true of the Daleks on Doctor Who.
  • Inverted in Little Britain: Meera (an Indian) speaks perfectly clear English, but the racist Marjorie acts like she doesn't understand her one bit. In one of the specials, Marjorie went on an exchange to America where she pulled the same stunt with a Latina woman in her slimming class.
  • Kelly from Misfits has such an unusual accent that the other characters can't understand her at first, and some fans claim that they still can't. Turns out it's just a really strong Derby accent (you don't tend to hear them on television, or...anywhere outside of Derbyshire really, so most people aren't familiar with it). Those who meet the actress are often shocked to discover that yes, that actually is her real accent - and if anything, she tones it down slightly for the show!
  • Don Vito on Viva La Bam, so much so that the subtitles are equally incomprehensible.
  • The window cleaner on The IT Crowd who talked Roy into keeping his bike in Roy's flat and was very persuasive, although Roy isn't sure about that.
  • Creepy Child Boris in My Spy Family is shown rarely, speaks rarely and when he speaks he does it only in Russian and without any subtitles, making him completely incomprehensible to the audience.


  • Tom Waits is sometimes accused of this. He seems well aware of it, as at least two of his songs - "Let Me Get Up On It" and "Dog Door" - have no printed lyrics, and the former may not include any actual words at all.
    • You can add "Kommienezuspadt" to that list.
  • Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam, the Trope Codifier for Nose Yodeling.
  • Though Bob Dylan's songs themselves aren't particularly unintelligible, he will always be portrayed as such in parodies. A particularly notable example is the last verse of Eric Bogle's "Do You Know Any Dylan?" which simply doesn't have any consonants at all.
    • Probably more accurate to say that all the words themselves are perfectly legible, but the whole makes less sense than the sum of it's parts.
    • Same for Ozzy Osbourne. Oddly enough, understanding his songs isn't too hard, but some people have trouble understanding him when he talks. He once made a video [dead link] where he drove this one into the ground. In reality (I.E. not that video) he is mostly intelligible, though he does mumble sometimes.
      • Neurologically, people use different areas of the brain's language center for speaking and singing. That's why people who stutter (such as country singer Mel Tillis) can sing without doing so, and why Ozzy's much easier to understand when he sings.
    • Another Ozzy example: most of this interview are Cluster F-Bombs and [Indiscernible].
  • Same for Tom Petty, as he had a similar speaking voice to Dylan.
    • In Conversations with Tom Petty, Petty himself gave an example: "When Linda Ronstadt did 'The Waiting,' she phoned me, because she couldn't figure out all the words. It was the line 'No one could have ever told me about this...' She couldn't figure out what the hell it was. And I thought, 'Damn, I've got to try to enunciate better.'"
    • Petty also mentioned in a 1979 article that producer Jimmy Iovine told him that he sang like he had a mouth full of food.
  • Kurt Cobain's half-stoned mumbling in "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is the entire reason for the "Weird Al" Yankovic parody "Smells like Nirvana." According to Al, when he asked for permission to make "Smells Like Nirvana," Cobain asked, "It's not going to be about food, is it?" When Cobain learned that it would be about how no one could understand his lyrics, he was quite amused.
    • When John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants did his own accordion cover, he just sang "Mnyeh mnyeh whooah" noises. It sounded remarkably convincing.
    • And Japanese beatboxer Dokaka's cover appears to lampshade this; the only actual words (in any language) is the phrase "buona sera." Until you listen to the rest of his material and realize all his songs involve Scatting over vocal melodies, regardless of the source's vocal legibility.
  • The opening theme to the Hellsing TV series, "World Without Logos," has lyrics that appear to be sung by someone in a later stage of aphasia.
  • Early R.E.M. albums (Murmer was named for this phenomenon) had Michael Stipe singing in a slurred, "mumbly" style, which was one of the reasons they stood out as much as they did in the divided 80's. Thy broke away from this approach with their 1986 album Life's Rich Pageant, coinciding with both a change in producer and shift in lyrical focus from cryptic poetry to sociopolitical musings. Stipe has gone on record saying that "the early albums didn't have lyrics", a reference to his penchant for taking a stream-of-consciousness approach to lyric writing and singing at the time.
  • My Bloody Valentine are famous for burying their vocal legibility under walls of guitars and asynchronous harmonies. Unless you have the original mix tapes on hand, good luck figuring out the lyrics.
  • Cocteau Twins.
  • Ben Sotto of Heavenly, a French band that releases and tours mostly in East Asia, has a masterful way of ignoring all English emphasis, syllabery and pronunciation, never seeming to quite match up to any other human being's interpretation of the language. Watching their first video single while trying to read along with it is an interesting exercise.
  • Brian Johnson of AC/DC. Just listen to the album version of "Thunderstruck."
    • His destruction of his vocal chords in the mid-'80s (which isn't surprising, given his, erm, "singing" style) compounded this quite a bit.
  • Lil Jon. Other than YEEAAAH! WHAAAT? OKAAAYYY!
  • Sting [dead link].
  • Subverted by a track called "11h30" by DANGER. It has yet to have any correct lyrics sheet for it, but sounds like human speech. When asked if the song was meant to be unintelligible, the artist said that it was made up of fractured and mixed-up syllables spoken in French and was not meant to be 'unintelligible', but more 'whatever the listener believes it is supposed to be'.
  • Barry Cryer and Ronnie Golden's parody blues singer Mumblin' Jack Spanner. He achieved his unique style after he lost his teeth. In a poker game.
  • Paul Westerberg, during many of The Replacements' early live shows. This wasn't really a result of how he sings; it was mostly because of how drunk he was.
  • Death Metal is the genre most famous for embodying this trope, especially during its "Golden Age" in the early-mid '90s. It's hilarious how much controversy bands like Cannibal Corpse and Deicide got for lyrics that no one could make out anyway. More recent vocalists such as Amon Amarth's Johan Hegg and Arch Enemy's Angela Gossow have somewhat averted this trope over the years.
  • Grindcore in general. Especially frustrating since it's genre built on quirky lyrics. When deprived of both a lyric sheet and a track listing, Anal Cunt become more of a prank than a joke band.
  • Some of the more obscure Metalcore bands (or bands that started out metalcore in their early days) are notorious for invoking just about every metal trick in the book to garble their vocals. Try deciphering more than a single line per song on As I Lay Dying's first album Beneath the Encasing of Ashes without a lyric sheet on hand, I dare you.
  • Shane MacGowan of The Pogues. [1]
  • German singer Herbert Grönemeyer. Less so in the studio records, very much so in live performances. Often parodied.
  • El Chombo. Macarron Chacarron is the crowning example of what happens when a deaf guy raps. This one is also known as The 'Tard Song.
  • Some of Slipknot's earlier work suffers from this at times. Namely Corey's fast-paced rapping that was exclusive to their self-titled album. Then there's their self-released debut Mate, Feed, Kill, Repeat in which Anders Colsenfi handled lead vocals, often in the tried-and-true "cookie monster" style so often associated with this trope.
  • Not only is Korn frontman Johnathan Davis a major offender with his psychopathic vocal style, but the band further compounds the matter by offering no lyric sheets. Go look online for lyrics, you'll find no two websites offer anywhere near the same results.
  • Sly Stone is clearly stoned out of his gourd throughout "There's A Riot Goin' On."
  • "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen is so unintelligible that after a complaint that it was obscene, the FBI, after two years of investigation, concluded that the recording could not be interpreted, that it was "unintelligible at any speed," and therefore the Bureau could not find that the recording was obscene. Your tax dollars at work with the FBI laboratory...
    • And yet, somehow they managed to completely miss what is often the most overlooked f-bomb in music history. About a minute into the song, you can hear drummer Lynn Easton accidentally hit his sticks together, and he swears in frustration and what he says is quite clear - if you know what to listen for. See for yourself: at 55 seconds in.
  • I dare you to listen to the Touhou song "Bewildering Impending Spiriting Away ~ Border of Life and Death" and realise that around half of it is in English
  • Dave Mustaine's vocals on the first Megadeth album Killing is My Business... and Business is Good is a garbled mess thanks to a mumbled delivery made even worse by a blurry production job that drowns it in an endless sea of reverb. Peace Sells... but Who's Buying? isn't much better in this regard. So Far, So Good... So What! shows substantial improvement, however, despite Dave being at the apex of his drug addiction at this point, as well as some of the reverb that plagued Killing is My Business making a comeback. By Rust in Peace (his first record after getting clean), Mustaine's singing is pretty clear, with only a few "break out the lyric sheet" moments.
  • England Dan & John Ford Coley were not normally known for being The Unintelligible, but a single hard-to-understand line in their hit single "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight" briefly became a national obsession in the 1970s, to the point that they would deliberately mumble it during live performances to help maintain the mystique. (The line, repeated several times in the song, is "I'm not talking 'bout movin' in" and if you know what you're listening for is actually quite clear, but it was frequently misheard as having something to do with a "millennium".)

Newspaper Comics

  • "Mumbles" in the syndicated cartoon strip Dick Tracy, as well as the movie based on it, where he was played by an uncredited Dustin Hoffman. In the movie, his speech appears to be modeled on that of Marlon Brando. In the post-Chester Gould period of the strip, writer Max Alan Collins created Merky, a man whose speech is totally incomprehensible, being made up of original symbols.
  • Snuffles, the cat from Pearls Before Swine, only talks in meows. Somehow, everyone else can understand him.
  • Woodstock and the other birds from Peanuts; their dialogue is represented with hash marks. Snoopy, however, understands them.
    • Linus, too, at least once; a short conversation in the February 3, 1977 strip revealed that Woodstock is a Vietnam veteran.
  • The Imp in Little Nemo in Slumberland. In the words of the Princess: "He can't understand English or any other language!" (He can talk to lions, however). In his own words: "Gimmel iggle ip soggle opp sog!"
  • In a Garfield Sunday strip, Odie stands on a fence and tells a joke to an invisble back alley audience. However, since Odie can't talk (not even "thought speech", like Garfield), he barks the joke. Not only does the audience understand him, but they think the joke is really funny.
  • In Peanuts, Woodstock and Snoopy's other bird-friends talk in a series of chirps drawn as vertical lines that only Snoopy can understand. This allows for some interesting Visual Gags now and then using the dialogue balloons. For example, in one Beagle Scout strip, Snoopy takes roll, and they count off "|", "||", "|||" and "||||", then Harriet, who is five, says "||||" with a diagonal slash through it.

Professional Wrestling

  • CHIKARA mainstay Delirious speaks in a loud, rambling matter, occasionally spitting out a coherent phrase or sentence.
  • The Iron Sheik. Really, the only word he says that is generally and universally understandable is the one that Botchamania has adopted as a slogan.
  • Kimala, Abdullah the Butcher, The Original Sheik...


  • At least one episode of the wartime sitcom It's That Man Again featured an ambassador from an unnamed European country's government-in-exile whose dialogue consisted entirely of the word "Dvorak" (like the composer). This was, of course, translated into perfectly comprehensible English by his interpreter.
  • The Goon Show‍'‍s Little Jim always spoke in gibberish except for his Catch Phrase: "He's fallen in the wa-ter!" This was lampshaded in the one-off revival show The Last Goon Show of All.

Little Jim: (Gibberish)
Bluebottle: Eccles, I do not understand what he is saying.
Eccles: Just a minute, I'll ask him. What did you say, Little Jim?
Little Jim: (Gibberish)
Eccles: He said that he doesn't understand what he's saying either.
Bluebottle: Oh. He's one of Mrs. Thatcher's incomprehensives. [A reference to Britain's controversial Comprehensive School system].

    • Michael Palin, talking about how influential the show's Absurdity Ascendant principle was on Monty Python and other British comedy/culture, said that when his father walked in while he was listening to The Goon Show he thought the radio was broken.
  • Dead Ringers did this with their parodies of real-life Labour ministers John Prescott and Robin Cook (which, though exaggerated, was somewhat Truth in Television):

John Prescott: I think you'll find that in point of fact that I make no apology for the fact and thank you you've had your say and now I'll have yours as well years of Tory neglect and the Prime Minister agrees with me on this and I think you'll find that the Government's position has been consistently that and!
Robin Cook: Hvee shaw hvay hmm hmm ethcal furn pulsie?

  • Bob and Ray would occasionally feature agricultural reports from the consummately unintelligible Dean Archer Armstead, of the "Lackawanna Field Station."
  • The Boston-based Howie Carr Show has an occasional feature in which he plays recordings of Mayor Thomas Menino speeches and invites listeners to try to figure out what His Honor is saying.


  • Any line spoken in the Siamese language in The King and I is represented by instruments of the orchestra. This is subverted during Anna's first conversation with the Kralahome, when he angrily dismisses the interpreter and shows he can speak English.
  • Cirque Du Soleil loves this. Most of the shows use imaginary language for all the characters (save for opening announcements), though foreign-language lyrics may turn up in some of the songs. Some of the more recent shows have been moving away from this, with more English dialogue and lyrics worked into the action: Corteo, KOOZA, Delirium, Zumanity, and LOVE (completely in English, since this is a show about The Beatles). The emcee in Mystere not only speaks both English and gibberish, but is mocked for the latter by both his puppet and the principal clown Brian Le Petit (who speak English).
  • In Peter Schickele's Hornsmoke: A Horse Opera, the four characters never speak, but they sometimes play their musical instruments in the manner of speech.

Video Games

  • Every single character in Banjo-Kazooie and any other sequel. All of them speak in unique sounds that need to be translated in subtitles for the player to understand.
  • Crash Bandicoot speaks in cheerful gibberish. The other Bandicoots and Aku Aku can understand him, but other characters' mileage varies.
  • Also in the Star Wars Expanded Universe: Darth Nihilus, in the game Knights of the Old Republic II, communicates only in a series of tones which, it is implied, are generated telepathically. The other characters, including the player character and his apprentice Visas, seem able to understand him, but decline to translate for the benefit of the player. Nihilus later appeared in issue 5 of the comic series Star Wars: Legacy, where his only line was rendered as incomprehensible symbols that no other character bothered to translate.
  • Half Life 2 has Dog, a ten-foot Robot Buddy with the build of a gorilla, who communicates entirely through expressive beeps and posture. Naturally, Wrench Wench Alyx Vance understands Dog perfectly.
    • Combine Soldiers are occasionally guilty of this, however they seem to have no trouble at all understanding each other. Normally, if you listen carefully you can tell exactly what they are saying, but there are a few instances where nomatter how many times you hear it, it's still unintelligible:

Prison Soldier Radio: Negative, no sector containment, no conformation on *mumble* , we have secondary perimeter overrun *mumble* .
Prison Soldier Radio: Drop reinforcement teams deploy and prosecute sector Delta 7, contact confirmed with Primary Target. Target is *mumble* scan for possible *mumble*.

  • Snott on Earthworm Jim. He speaks in slurps, and everyone understands him. At one point, one of the characters calls him "incredibly eloquent," but this may have been sarcasm.
  • The Guru in Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves speaks in apparently aboriginal gibberish, intelligible only to the other characters.
  • Regularly spoofed in Mario & Luigi: Super Star Saga, where the brothers try to communicate this way, but no one understands them.
  • The Pyromaniac class from Team Fortress 2 wears a gas mask and speaks in an unintelligible muffled voice - one can occasionally make out what he is trying to say, such as when he calls out for a medic. This is spoofed here and here.
  • Q in Street Fighter III: Third Strike communicates only in odd groans and grunts. Whether he's being silenced by his steel mask or just can't talk intelligibly is unknown.
    • Also in the same game, we have Twelve, whose win quotes are all in binary code, therefore implying that he speaks in binary.
      • And then there was Blanka in Street Fighter Alpha 3, in which all he could do is grunt (even in his win quotes!). We later learn that, in the gap between SFA3 and SFII, Dan taught him to speak properly.
  • Torr from Fallout 2, due very limited vocabulary. However, if you play a retard (Intelligence below 4), you can have a Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness conversation with this fellow!
    • You get to play The Unintelligible if your intelligence is too low. There are like two people in the whole game who you can really talk to.
  • The clones of Gary in Fallout 3, which are the sole human inhabitants of Vault 108 by the time of the player character's arrival. For the most part, they speak only their name "Gary" in various tones (however, they can be found speaking minor NPC to NPC dialogue occasionally).
  • In a Fallout: New Vegas expansion, Doctor 8 is this. With high enough Perception or Science though, you can determine his speech pattern and determine (by your speech options) what he's saying.
  • Sir Daniel Fortesque of Medievil fame, having been dead for a hundred years and reanimated as an armor-clad skeleton, has lost his lower jaw and can only mumble his way through the game.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, the Minish can only say the word "Picori" (as well as various syllables of said word) least until you eat the Jabber Nut, at which point you can understand them.
    • They talk backward in the Japanese and the German version.
  • And of course in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Midna's lines are all dubbed as unintelligible gibberish, (though they appear 'translated' on screen) although apparently Link understands her just fine.
  • Most beings in Loco Roco speaks only in various sounds and songs. The only thing you can make out is when they spot an enemy moja, to which most loco's will say "moja! moja!"
    • If you listen closely you can also hear them say "Toge! Toge!" if you get too close to spikes, greet MuiMui, and even exclaim "There!" if you are close to a breakable wall.
  • In Lost Souls MUD, a mental disorder, productive aphasia, converts player characters and NPCs alike into this. Hilarity ensues.
  • One of the "silly" emotes for the female blood elf in World of Warcraft relates a story about getting a facial in the Undercity. When the storyteller protests getting a facial from someone who doesn't have a lower jaw, "She got mad. At least, I think she did. Have you heard someone trying to talk without a lower jaw?! 'RAURGHAURGHAURGHAURGH!' She sounded like a Murloc!"
  • Two words: Yoshi's Island. Starting in Yoshi's Story, he speaks in an unintelligible language. He is voiced by one of Nintendo's sound effects men, Kazumi Totaka.
    • Although Yoshi has shown the ability to say a few words (aside from "Yoshi," of course, he can say "yum," "yay," "wow," etc.), in the recent Mario Kart Wii, he can be heard saying "Hello" and "Here I go!" It was rather... jarring.
      • And of course, he says the name of the company, Nintendo, when you first turn on the console for Yoshi's Story as well as in the Yoshi's Island GBA version, although it sounds more like he's saying "Weepinbell."
    • Yoshi has spoken English since Super Mario World, but mainly in Text.
      • Super Mario RPG uses text, but also has it so that the Yoshi is the only one Mario can actually speak with (presumably because he speaks Mario's language). The other Yoshis can only be understood if Mario is riding the Yoshi, and having him translate.
  • In many games, Donkey Kong only lets out gorilla grunts.
  • Bon Bonne from Mega Man Legends. "Babu?"
    • The Yellow Devil from the original Mega Man series would like to have a word with you. Unfortunately, as one of the page quotes above indicates, there's only one.
      • Humorously, Cut Man tries to communicate with the Yellow Devil before the boss fight by nervously imitating its speech pattern. Judging by the Yellow Devil's response, Cut Man either wasn't convincing, or accidentally said something insulting.
      • Ice Man understands what the Yellow Devil is saying, but doesn't try to reply; instead, he just says "...I understand." followed by a translation. The Yellow Devil, however, doesn't seem to understand English at all, as its response here doesn't differ from what it says to the other robots.
  • Zombies in the online game Urban Dead can only groan variations on "Graagh" and a vague approximation of "Brains" ("Brnhr.") unless they purchase an ability, and even so they have a loose grasp of pronounciation.
      • As Urban Dead is an MMO, players have done everything from make entire cryptographic translations of the available letters, to the more generally-used form of zombie pidgin which is exemplified above. "Barhah" is the zombie rallying cry, akin to "Sonno-joi", "Allahu Akbar", or "U-S-A! U-S-A!".
  • Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, multiplayer modes. American Marines and British SAS call out easily comprehensible things like "Changing mag!" or "Grenade!" or "Poppin' smoke!" Russian Spetznaz and Arab OpFor, on the other hand, fluctuate between speaking English ("Enemy UAV is airborne"), speaking comprehensible Russian (something that sounds like "PROSEI GRENADO!") and saying stuff which is less than obvious (something about Neutrogena, apparently, at least once in every game).
    • This also happens, naturally, in Call of Duty: World at War, which is based off of Call of Duty 4.
      • Probably only me who thinks this, but I find it completely incomprehensible what one of the marines shouts in the opening cutscene that sounds like "For Neilion!"
  • Grand Theft Auto IV introduces us to Badman, an associate of Little Jacob whose rasta accent is so thick, Jacob has to translate it to Niko.
    • Also, some other characters have difficulty understanding Jacob himself. One of Elizabeta's missions can be accessed when she calls Niko while arguing with Jacob:

Shut the fuck up, Jacob! Niko, I hear you can understand this rasta shit! Get over here before I run out of patience and start shooting!

  • Almaz pulls the plug to the Overlord's hand at some point in Chapter 4 in Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice and reduces Mao's mind to a larval state, complete with "Babloo!". He sets things right in short order, though.
    • A number of the monster classes in Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten have at least one personality type that doesn't communicate in an understandable fashion, such as the barking Mystic Beast, crowing Cockatrice, and Bone Dragon who only says "bone". However, conversing with them in the hub gives a translation of what they're saying (Which can be rather deep for, say, a single "woof").
  • Who can forget Kirby, whose entire vocabulary basically consists of "Hiiii!" "Whoa!" and variations of "poyo!"?
  • Umaro, an optional party member in Final Fantasy VI, is a sasquatch who communicates only in grunts.
  • In the Wii Punch-Out!!, King Hippo has only animalistic roars.
  • BlazBlue‍'‍s Arakune quite literally has no mouth, so he fashioned himself a mask that would help him communicate with others. However, even with it Hi. wor.. sti.. ..nd t. ge. cu. off .
  • Septerra Core has Badu and Runner.
  • Sims, of course!
  • The Lego Adaptation Games.
  • The Medal King in Dragon Quest VIII. He's really sick in bed speaking only in coughs and mumbles which is understandable through the text box.
  • Marilyn from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door makes "guh" noises whenever she tries to speak.
  • Most demons in Persona speak intelligibly. Grimies is not one of those demons. Its favored method of communication is strings of seemingly-random numbers. Good luck negotiating with that. Made even more fun because its questions are impossible to decipher, on top of it being a Demonic Spider; is it asking you for a common life stone or a diamond? Who knows?
  • Yokuba (Fassad in the fan translation) becomes this in Mother 3 after falling off Thunder Tower. He can only communicate by speaking through two trumpets, and requires a robot to translate for him.
  • All of the characters in the original Star FOX spoke unintelligible gibberish, which was helpfully translated into subtitles. Apparently Slippy had time to text Fox while he was getting his aft blown off.
  • Everyone in the prehistoric chapter of Live a Live. Spoken language hasn't been invented yet.
  • The Interns from Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee, which have their mouths sewn shut and only speak in mumbles.
  • Starfy from the Starfy series. He only speaks in squeals, but the other characters can understand him just fine.
  • Honda Tadakatsu in Sengoku Basara is a Humongous Mecha. So when he talks, it's like his engine is making up sounds, which is usually translated to ".................!!". Other characters (usually Ieyasu) translate what he said.
  • In SNK vs. Capcom SVC Chaos both Mars People and Red Arremer are this. Mars People speaks only in "Beep Bop Boop Bee" while Red Arremer speaks in "Gyah Gyah". The pre-battle dialogue when they fight one against the other is the most meaningful of them all.

Mars People: Beep Boop Bop Blap!
Red Arremer: Gyah-Gyah!
Mars People: Beep Boop Bap!
Red Arremer: Gyah!

  • Ivan from Jagged Alliance series is this for most players, as he speaks in Russian. It is possible to turn on the subtitles, but contrary to all of the other mercenaries (who get English subtitles), his are also in Russian.
  • Volt from Tales of Phantasia communicates only in binary or in symbols. The player party can't understand him which is probably why he picks a fight with them. After being defeated he still manages to make contract with Claus.
  • One of the voice options in Saints Row: The Third is a "Zombie" voice option, in which the player speaks exclusively in gibberish that's reminiscent of the Tasmanian Devil.
  • Nuruko in Monster Girl Quest Paradox only says "kyu". Luka can apparently understand her to some extent (such as being able to tell if she wants an apple) and Sonya can completely translate her vocalizations into sentences.
  • In Splatoon, the Inklings and Octarians speak an odd language that requires subtitles for the player to understand.

Web Animation

  • In Baman Piderman, Tuba can only speak in tuba sounds.
  • The Homestar Runner universe has several. Pom Pom speaks in bubbling sound effects. The Cheat speaks in animalistic squeaks and growls. Strong Mad originally spoke by yelling the word "DUH!" but eventually graduated to yelling intelligible words and short phrases. And Sherlock, the "star" of the "crazy cartoon" Sweet Cuppin' Cakes (who is described as looking like "a cross between a cow and a helicopter" despite actually resembling neither) only speaks in "these weird sounds, and no words." This is lampshaded in episode 2 of Strong Bads Cool Game for Attractive People, in which Pom Pom reprimands Strong Bad for repeating everything he says.
    • Both Strong Mad and The Cheat are sometimes capable of speaking intelligibly. The Cheat, in particular, does the voices for all the "Powered by The Cheat" cartoons according to the creators—the voices sound like half-assed impersonations of the main cast, which are all delivered by the less vocally talented half of the two creators in reality.
    • There's also Homsar, who speaks English, but nothing he says makes any sense whatsoever. In episode 2 of Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, Strong Bad finally discovers a way to understand Homsar and speak his "language." If he imitates Homsar's usual speech pattern after this point, Homsar will ask him "Why are you talking gibberish, Strong Bad? You sound like a two year old boy!"
    • If we're talking about Homsar, then let's not forget Senor Cardgage.

"Carrageenan, Monteljohn. Can you detect me to the nearest bus stamp?"

    • There was a competition between Homsar and Senor Cardgage for the title of Non Sequitur Champion. Cardgage lost, and his prize for losing was having to complete a coherent sentence, which took him three tries. "Grape Soda Banked" is apparently as close as he comes to actual coherence.
  • Boing Gloing has a lot to say in The Demented Cartoon Movie, but never says it intelligibly.
  • The eponymous character of Spoilsbury Toast Boy. Though most of the characters' voices are garbled, they're relatively understandable. Toast Boy, on the other hand, speaks only in odd tones that require subtitles to be understood.
  • All the characters in Happy Tree Friends. The one who comes closest to making sense in speech is Pop.
  • There are only about three characters in Weebl and Bob whom the viewer can actually understand, which is even lampshaded upon twice. The only way the eponymous characters can understand each other is by reading their speech bubbles.

Web Comics

  • Mr Socks, from Commander Kitty, is a Ferret whose native language sounds like either "Dook Dook Dook" or "HRBLRUHBLRUBH" (or some variation of those letters). It's unknown if all inhabitants of Ferret speak like this, or if Mr Socks is unique in this way.
  • In Kukuburi, the big white creature in this comic speaks in electronics symbols, but it doesn't seem to hinder him.
  • In The Order of the Stick, one of the principal characters is traumatized and finds herself unable to speak intelligibly for 150 strips. It's represented in the text by writing her dialogue in acryptogram, with a different translation key for every episode. All of her lines still make sense if you can read them, leading to a rather long-running Bilingual Bonus.
  • In PS238, there's an alien who becomes a student at the school. He's called 'Prospero' because no one has any idea what his real name is. His speech is represented as squiggles, and only Angie understands it. Word of God is that his speech is written in English using the Camouflage font, which is all squiggles. This doesn't help much; one of his speeches is actually a recipe.
    • Full translations available here.
  • The Pyros in Cuanta Vida are muffled by their masks, and it's very hard even for their teammates to actually understand what they're saying.
  • All major characters in Listening to 11.975 MHz are this. It isn't because they all speak foreign languages (or mathematical equations), it's because translating them gets you gibberish. The secondary characters are not much better.
  • The Allosaurus from Irregular Webcomic. "RAAARRRHH!!!"
    • And he's the President of the United States!
  • Parodied in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja—Judy, the gorilla receptionist can speak very fluently in sign language, which is subtitled for the readers but which the doctor doesn't understand a word of.
  • Everyone and everything in Grumble is written in an unreadable language cipher. Even the sound effects.
  • Kandra Corentin in Unity. Lampshaded in this strip.
  • The eponymous protagonist of Capt'n Crazy.
  • Becsprite in Homestuck can only speak in .gifs of green, black, and white. Jade even lampshades it, deciding to keep conversations with him to a minimum from now on.
    • After prototyping it with Jade's dreamself, the issue has gone.
  • Exillon from Our Little Adventure is of the BEEPing variety. Brian seems to understand it, but isn't translating it for his other minions.
  • Vexxarr uses Wingdinglish for some aliens. Also, there's one-shot crossover with "conversation" between Minionbot and R2-D2.

Web Original

  • Razorback of the Whateley Universe can only make weird growling and barking noises. Since he looks mostly like a velociraptor, it's not really surprising he doesn't have a human larynx.

Western Animation

  • Tooter Shellby in The Snorks can't speak, but only tooter out of his snorkel. The other Snorks can't understand him, but some other sealife can.
  • All adults in the various Peanuts animated specials. (They are also unseen.) They all sound like a muted trombone. This is because they were voiced by a trombonist who was told to mimic the line's delivery with the instrument.
  • South Park
    • Kenny's mouth is (almost) always covered by his parka, so his speech comes through as muted nonsense. Matt Stone is actually saying lines through his hand, and knowing the context can usually allow you to recognize many of the words. This allows the creators to get through some words that would otherwise be censored. Some of his speech is readable in closed captions. Other times his dialogue consists of verbal gibberish used for comic effect, as a sort of "fill in the blanks" device. Because we rarely hear Kenny's unmuffled voice, the identity of Mysterion is not spoiled early just by hearing his voice, due to the fact that he takes a gruff intonation that clashes with the clean farewell in The Movie.
    • Timmy can only say his own name and a series of meaningless grunts. This was originally supposed to represent his mental disability. However, in later episodes he occasionally shows understanding of complex situations, and attempts to communicate complicated messages through inflection and gestures.
    • In one episode they have a strange creature from New Jersey called "Snookie", which can only speak in weird gibberish and say "Snookie want smoosh-smoosh."
  • Coco in Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. Frequently, the other characters repeat her lines a la Repeating So the Audience Can Hear: "Coco coco!" "Ripoff artist?!?" The ambiguous nature of her dialogue is often played for laughs, such as when Coco makes a suggestion about dealing with a common enemy that leaves everyone else shaken and Mac replying "I think we'd go to jail if we did that." Her clucking does, however, match the syllables of an equivalant, sensible phrase in English ("Co-CO!"/"Yeah, right!").
  • Snowpea in Mucha Lucha who is only capable of saying his or her own name.
  • Man, talkin' bout dang ol' Boomhauer on King of the Hill. Boomhauer's speech actually is decipherable, but his Motor Mouth pacing, array of verbal tics, and thick accent often make it possible only to get the gist of what he's saying. The show often subverts the gag in a variety of ways for comedy:
    • Sometimes he momentarily becomes completely incomprehensible (except for his usual verbal tics), and for the character he's talking to to act like he just said something profound.
    • Another gag is for minor characters to not understand him at all, even when he is being relatively clear.
    • And yet another is for his friends to tell him they can't understand a word he's saying, due to echo, bad phone reception, etc.
    • One episode featured the four main characters each telling their side of the same story. In Boomhauer's version, he is completely intelligible for the first time, and the other characters all talk with his usual speech patterns.
    • His mother and younger brother share his unique speech patterns.
    • Lampshaded in an early episode where Hank makes friends with Willie Nelson; at Nelson's party, we see Boomhauer talking to Bob Dylan, who's just as hard to understand.
  • Japanese exchange student Toshi on American Dad. He has accurate subtitles, but his friends always react as if he said something else entirely.
  • In a similar manner, Papi on The Proud Family speaks only in Spanish, with accurate subtitles about how much he hates Suga Mama.
  • Mush-Mouth on Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. Though his speech was simply normal speech with a "buh" added after every vowel, and was thus entirely intelligible i-buf you-buh pai-bud a-butte-buntio-bun.
  • Parodied on Drawn Together, in which Ling-Ling (a send-up of Pikachu from Pokemon) speaks in badly garbled pseudo-Japanese, called Oriental in one episode; the other characters have to read his subtitles to understand him, when they can at all.
  • Gibber, one of the air pirates from Tale Spin, would only whisper into the ear of the person he wished to talk to. The audience never heard exactly what he said, only the other's reaction to it.
  • Likewise, in the Clyde Crashcup shorts on The Alvin Show, Crashcup's assistant Leonardo would only communicate by whispering into Clyde's ear.
    • He did speak audibly on one occasion, when upset with Clyde, in a sort of whimpering wail, without any real words to it.
  • Simon on Frisky Dingo, who speaks only in quiet mumbles which the characters in the show can apparently understand but which are incomprehensible to the viewer. On careful examination, it appears that the voice actor simply repeats the same nonsense sentence fragments, such as "When I was seven..." over and over.
  • When Ben from Ben 10 is in his beastly Wildmutt form, he qualifies. There's nobody who can understand him, though.
    • Also from Ben 10, the alien bounty hunter Sixsix, who appears in the episodes "Hunted" and "Galactic Enforcers" and the made-for-tv movie The Secret Of The Omnitrix, speaks an unknown alien language. Those working with him tend to be able to understand him, and it's implied that he's pretty mouthy. Apparently you can avoid Repeating So the Audience Can Hear if no one wants to repeat it.
  • Lil' Cheney on Lil' Bush, he begins all his sentences with rah, rah, rah followed by a random word relating the conversation.
  • Parodied in Lilo and Stitch. Stitch will occasionally revert to an alien language, often for the purpose of saying something rude. Later in the film, he manages to convince Jumba to help him rescue Lilo from Gantu with a single syllable.

Jumba: After all you put me through, you expect me to help you just like that? Just like that?!
Stitch: Ih.
Jumba: Fine.
Pleakley: "Fine?" You're doing what he says?
Jumba: He is very persuasive.

    • And then, of course, the joke gets even more funny when it's implied that "Ih" just means "yes."
  • Shnitzel in Chowder can only say "Radda," but everyone can understand him as if he's saying full sentences.
    • This was Lampshaded in one episode, where Schnitzel reads a card to a board game... that actually reads "Radda Radda Radda."
      • Another episode implies that he has quite a mouth on him, as it shows he had a swear jar filled to the brim.
        • In another episode, he actually becomes so relaxed that he starts speaking normally for a few seconds.
      • Schnitzel: "Radda radda." Chowder: "What do you mean you're still dead inside?"
  • Pretty much every robot in WALL-E either talks in beeps and whirrs or can only say its name plus a couple of extra words. The irony is it surpasses some other cartoons by doing that alone.
    • The bots gain some tonal expressiveness as the movie goes on. EVE, in particular, starts off sounding very robotic and by the middle of the movie has a recognizably human (if distorted) voice.
  • Wasabi on Sushi Pack speaks only "mustard", but the other members of the Pack can understand him just fine. Ben, not so much.
  • On Adventures in Care-a-lot, the robot Wingnut speaks in beeps, whirrs, and clicks, but all the Care Bears are able to understand him. Oddly, his creator, Grizzle, is unable to understand him. In one episode, Wingnut translated for another robot that only spoke in blurps.
  • H.E.L.P.E.R., the Robot Buddy of The Venture Bros, speaks in a series of frantic beeps, which doesn't seem to impair any of the characters in the show from understanding what he says.
    • On a couple of occasions H.E.L.P.E.R. has behaved as if everyone has completely misunderstood what he was trying to convey, although, considering the audience, they may have simply ignored his advice and done something stupid anyway.
  • The Clangers only ever spoke in slide whistle tones, which nevertheless had the rhythms of human speech. This was probably because they did in fact have "lines" (though they were never heard by the audience) and when BBC read that one of them was "Bugger it! The bloody thing's stuck!" they were not amused. Their friends, the Soup Dragon and the Iron Chicken, only spoke in growls and squawks respectively. All of these non-verbal communications were interpreted by The Narrator as necessary.
  • The title character in Ivor The Engine could only communicate through his organ-pipe whistle. How comprehensible he was varied from episode to episode and character to character, though Jones the Steam seemed able to hold full conversations with him.
  • Zipper on Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers rarely speaks anything the viewer can understand due to his often fast and very high-pitched voice (the high pitch being appropriate for him being a fly). The other Rescue Rangers all seem to be able to understand him to some degree, although Monterey Jack is really the only one who seems to be able to understand him perfectly.
    • Chip and Dale themselves were The Unintelligible in most of their shorts with Donald Duck.
      • Donald Duck himself is difficult (but possible) to understand most of the time, and goes full-on unintelligible when angered enough. One short had him completely unintelligible all the time until he swallowed special pills (which temporarily gave him a normal human voice.)
    • If one were to slow down their dialogue, they speak very clearly; it's worth noting that until 1950, all of their dialogue was repeated from their first episode "Private Pluto".
  • The eponymous character of the Canadian cartoon Kevin Spencer apparently does speak, and the other characters around him react as if he had actually said something, but the audience never hears his voice. Instead, the show's voice-over narrator tells us what Kevin "says."
  • The Looney Tunes‍'‍ Tasmanian Devil. In the spinoff series Taz-mania, his family seems to understand his growls and gibbers just fine.
    • There's also Buster/Shorty from the short Rabbit's Kin, his high pitched sped up voice makes it difficult to understand what he is trying to say, however, if you were to play it in slowmotion you can understand him perfectly.
  • The Godpigeon in the "Goodfeathers" shorts on Animaniacs spoke in such an impossible mumble (an extreme parody of Marlon Brando as Don Corleone) that he had to be translated by his associates. The one time he was subtitled, the pigeon he was talking to completely misunderstood him. (He thought he was being given romantic advice; the Godpigeon really just wanted to go get pasta.)
  • There was also an episode of Pinky and The Brain where there were two old fellows, one of which understood the other's incoherent rambling.

"*mumble mumble* "
"Yes, yes, I know, I know, but where on earth are we going to find a duck and a hose at this hour?"

  • The World Leader in The Secret Show speaks in an unintelligible gargle that only her husband can understand—he translates for both the viewers and the other characters.
  • All dogs in The Mighty B! are The Unintelligible. This wouldn't normally be worth noting, except for the fact that they're the kind that the other characters can understand fine, just not the audience.
  • Gary, Spongebob's pet snail from SpongeBob SquarePants, can only communicate through meows, but everyone understands him just fine.
    • Except at one point where his response to one of Spongebob's borderline insane ideas is, "Ehh, NO."
      • And when Spongebob was able to visit Gary's dream, revealing the snail's true loquacious nature.
  • Bucky the squirrel from The Emperor's New Groove, although if Kronk is around, he Speaks Fluent Animal.
  • Grubber of the Gangreen Gang in The Powerpuff Girls, who communicates purely in raspberries. Despite this, he can still imitate people's voices flawlessly and once demonstrated that if he stands up straight he speaks clearly (and generally looks less weird).
  • Klunk and the General, in Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines.
    • In reality, if one listens to the General carefully, they can tell he is actually just talking very fast.
  • Rufflefeather from the "Go Go Gophers" segments of Underdog speaks a fictitious American Indian language. It doesn't offer much variety to the phonemes; in fact, if Runningboard didn't understand him, we might assume that he just sputters insanely. This is ironic, because Rufflefeather is The Smart Guy who comes up with most of their plans to screw up the cavalry.
  • Ron Stoppable's pet molerat Rufus in Kim Possible.
  • Fiskerton of The Secret Saturdays speaks in a series of grunts and mumbles. According to the series creator, his voice actor has a script of what he would say in English, but translates it to 'Fisk-speak'. Fisk does have bits of easily intelligible speech mixed in with the gibberish (most notably, his Catch Phrase, "Say what?"), though.
  • One of the members of Lars' clique in Rocket Power, though Lars seemed to be able to understand him perfectly.
  • The (very un-P.C.) animated adaptation of Dick Tracy from 1961 had, of course, Mumbles. His partner in crime, Stooge Villa, was the only character (or at least, only other gangster) that could understand him.
  • One episode of The Simpsons had Homer telling Marge something in a panic.

Homer: Marge! (unintelligible nonsense spoken rapidly)
Marge: Homer, slow down!
Homer: (unintelligible nonsense spoken slowly)
Marge: Think before you say each word!

  • On his second appearance on The Fairly OddParents, Sylvester Calzone's speech is so slurred it's impossible for the viewer to understand him.
  • In Yellow Submarine, Old Fred tries to get the Beatles to help him, but his agitation has his entreaty to each of them coming out in frantic, unintelligible gibberish, always ending in "...BLUE MEEEEEEANIES!!!" (which, by the time they get to George, Ringo and John have joined in).
  • James William Bottomtooth III, James William Bottomtooth VI and Virgil Mastercard from Family Guy.
    • Peter's brewery co-worker, Opie, speaks in complete gibberish that the audience can't understand, but everyone else can understand him perfectly.
  • Rico from The Penguins of Madagascar to an extent. Although as the series progresses, his vocabulary increases to occasionally include intelligible phrases and words besides "Ka-boom!"
  • The Voice over the telephone example: The General in Dastardly and Muttley.
  • Clockwork Smurf and Wild Smurf of The Smurfs are both this in the cartoon show, whereas in the comic books they either are able to speak in Smurf language from the start or learn how to do so.
  • Paw Rugg from The Hillbilly Bears, he mumbles most of his sentences where the only intelligible word is usually the last one.
  • Vulturo of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law has this as a Verbal Tic where he descends into incomprehensible mumbling every sentence.
  • The Adults in Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy, any time we hear them "speaking", it is usually garbled mumbling or sound effects.
  • The villains of the pilot episode of The Tick, the Idea Men, could not be understood because the helmets they wore muffled their voices too much. They had to wave a sign with their ransom demands in front of a camera in order to get The City to understand what they wanted.
  • In Transformers Prime, Bumblebee does not speak, presumably for similar reasons as his movie counterpart. He communicates by way of electronic beeps a la R2-D2, and is understood just fine by his fellow Cybertronians, but can't use human speech. Raf Esquivel can understand him anyway, and as of the end of season one, the reason for this remains unknown. Even he has said he doesn't know why he can understand 'Bee.
  • Without a Universal Translator Mustache, the alien Meap from the Phineas and Ferb episode "The Chronicles of Meap" can only say the word "meap", which is utterly meaningless to English speakers. To be fair, though, it's evidently a legitimate language amongst his species, where the single word contains implausibly high amounts of context and nuance. To illustrate, in "Meapless in Seattle", Meap has to warn his home planet that the villain, Mitch, had obtained the source of Cutonium and was returning with it to their home planet with the intent to take it over, and as such to ready the armies for war. Trying to explain the situation in English to another fellow alien only gets a confused "meap?" in response; taking off the translator mustache and uttering a single "meap", however, gets all of that across instantly.
    • In "Tri-Stone Area", the entire cast is turned into this, since the episode revolves around caveman versions of the main characters who spend the episode speaking in a nigh-incomprehensible caveman language.
  • Glep from Smiling Friends is absolutely impossible to understand, and seems to exist to give Zach Hadel/Psychicpebbles an excuse to just make a bunch of funny babbling sounds. Not like that's a bad thing, though, since Glep's few scenes are hilarious because of it.
  • In Evil Con Carne, Bosco only speaks bear-language, but the rest of the main cast seem to have no trouble understanding him. Many a funny situation comes about due to the Skarr or Hector knowing something he said when the viewer does not.


  • The giant teddy bears called "The Teds" in the first DVD for Bella Dancerella "Let's Dance!" They whisper silently to each other, but Bella can hear and understand them from twenty feet away.

Statler: What was the Chef saying there?
Waldorf: I don't think even he knows what he's saying sometimes.
Statler: Or what he's cooking?
Both: Dohohohohohohoho!