You No Take Candle

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"Yes, but please first learning how to better English."

Vietnamese Hooker: Hey baby! You got girlfriend Vietnam?
Joker: Not just this minute!

Hooker: Well baby, me so horny! Me so horny, Me Love You Long Time.

When a character or group needs to be portrayed as foreign, primitive, or inferior in intellect, yet still able to communicate and is intelligible, the language of these characters is spoken as a grammatically abhorrent mess. Characters could be speaking a mutilated version of the language they learned from another culture, or a butchered version of their own language, or simply a language so "primitive" it appears from an outside perspective to lack complexity. This trope is Older Than Print, going all the way back to Chaucer.

If the work is taking on a superior versus inferior viewpoint, the superior beings might use Spock Speak or Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe to contrast the barbarism of the other group. The inferior race is often shown speaking pidgin English and omitting articles, auxiliary verbs, possessive pronouns, and sometimes prepositions. The speakers often refer to themselves in third person. It is quite similar to Hulk Speak, though even non-combatants can or will use it. In some cases, it is a form of Aliens Speaking English, in which the creatures have their own language and speak English as a very poorly learned secondary language.

It is rarely pointed out that omitting speech elements is not actually incorrect for many languages. Many languages already do—such as Chinese, Russian, American Sign Language, and especially Japanese. In English, "Me go Seattle three day ago, visit Uwajimaya, buy fifteen manga. Me new manga very good; you want read?" is still understandable, and many languages never employed more complexity. There is already a precedent for people copying the syntax of their native tongue into English (e.g., native speaker of Italian, Irish, Yiddish, German).

One might consider English generally going by conventional Latin rules (which is where "no split infinitive" comes from—Latin, like most languages besides English, has single-word infinitives which aren't easily split), and that for a long time Chinese and ASL were sometimes considered "deficient" languages because they lacked the extra words English uses.

Super-Trope to the more racial Asian Speekee Engrish. Unrelated to You Can't Get Ye Flask, except in sense that we suck compared to computer overlords. Compare to Hulk Speak and Strange Syntax Speaker. If the speaker is otherwise very capable in their own language, then it is Eloquent in My Native Tongue. The Trope Namer is World of Warcraft.

Examples of You No Take Candle include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Xiaoxing from Real Bout High School is a Chinese transfer student whose grasp of the Japanese language is somewhat limited. To be fair, she hasn't been in Japan for very long. However, even her thoughts are presented this way; She might just be a Third Person Person. Also, as a subversion, she isn't treated as "inferior"; other characters don't even mention her language problems, and she's a valuable member of the group.
  • Shampoo from Ranma ½ is also Chinese, and speaks in a similar manner. Oddly enough her and the Jusenkyo Guide are the only Chinese characters who exclusively talk this way (Mousse is as Chinese as them and even talks in the Tohoku Regional Accent). In Shampoo's case, this is apparently blamed on learning a language by instructional tape rather than conversation; the official dub's adaptation of this quirk into broken English has the Unfortunate Implication of fans assuming she is much stupider than she is.
    • To be fair, she is The Ditz of a show where nearly every character is a first-class Jerkass.
      • Shampoo is actually a lot smarter then Fanon usually accepts her as being, she's just prone to Stupid Evil (as is everyone else in the series).

Ranma: Who'd want to date a stupid selfish cat girl like you?
Shampoo (pushing Ranma into Koi pond): Shampoo selfish, not stupid.

    • This might just be Shampoo's Running Gag or something though. In the dub, her Mandarin is almost worst than her English! If she doesn't speak Mandarin or English well, what does she speak?!
      • Considering there are well over ten major "dialects" of Chinese that are generally less mutually intelligible than Swedish and Norwegian, or Swedish and German, she speaks her native language well enough. It ain't all Mandarin or Cantonese in China.
  • Ikuto/Keenan from Digimon Savers speaks Broken Japanese/English, due to having been raised by Digimon. However for some reason; the rest of the digimon speak perfect Japanese/English, including the two who were specifically his parental figures.
  • In Katekyo Hitman Reborn, I-Pin's Japanese is atrocious; In the manga, this is conveyed by her speech being written sloppily to the point of being nearly unreadable. Admittedly, she's about the same age as Reborn and Lambo; She becomes fluent as she gets older.
    • I-pin's Japanese is not atrocious, in fact she does not even speak Japanese in the beginning. She speaks Chinese because she's from Hong Kong and later (10 years later to be exact) becomes fluent in Japanese.
  • Kuu Fei in Mahou Sensei Negima, in both Japanese and English (she's studying one while still learning the other). Her best moments have her speaking in her native Chinese.
    • The DelRey English translation just renders this as Hulk Speak.
  • Ling Yao of Fullmetal Alchemist hilariously invokes this when trying to weasel out of fixing the collateral damage brought upon the town of Rush Valley.

Edward Elric (points to Ling): This guy and his little entourage should be paying for everything!
Ling: So solly, I no understand much language of this country. Okay, bye-bye now!


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Superman has nearly every incarnation of Bizarro. "You no am Superman! Me am Superman!"
    • Subverted lately in that characters have come to learn 'Bizarro Speak' as a recognized language. Bizarro isn't stupid, just complicated (and homicidal).
      • Extremely complicated as it's practically impossible to say which parts of the phrase are to be inverted or misconjugated. He says the opposite of what he means, but Depending on the Writer, that would mean "You no am Superman" could mean "You are Superman," "I am not Superman," or "I am Superman," or even "I am Bizarro" (because Bizarro is the opposite of Superman, you'd expect him to switch their names.) And since even the comic has more than one version of the character, it can even mean "you are not Superman."
    • In the Justice League Unlimited episode "The Great Brain Robbery", Bizarro is the only member of the Legion to figure out that the guy claiming to be Lex Luthor wasn't Lex Luthor. However, telling everyone... that's a different story.

"Ever since you use brain machine, you am acting perfectly sane and rational... am you Bizarro's mommy?"

  • The Incredible Hulk, though he doesn't do as much talking as most other incarnations. Count on at least one of the people he's trying to "Hulk Smash" at the moment to tell him third-person speaking is a sign of conceit.
    • This is parodied frequently in Twisted Toyfare Theater. "...You know Hulk's grasp of language tenuous at best."
    • The Diniverse version of Solomon Grundy (who at first glance seems a Captain Ersatz of the Hulk, complete with "Grundy crush!" replacing "Hulk smash!") talks in Hulk-speak but is capable of full sentences.
    • Miek from the Planet Hulk storyline; Though strictly speaking he actually doesn't speak English and his speech is just translated by Sakaaran talkboxes, he can't seem to grasp verb conjugation at all; "is [verb]ing" is the form he uses for pretty much every verb in every context. In general, his lack of aptitude for speech is implied to be due to his people not naturally communicating verbally, but by "chemming".
  • Grimlock, from the Transformers Generation 1 comics. He's even specifically noted to not be dumb, at least in comics when Furman takes over; he just has problem with speech circuits. He uses underestimation by others for his own good.
    • Note that his original toy lists his intelligence as a 7 out of 10 (compared to poor Sludge's 3), decently above-average.
      • To put this in perspective, if Optimus Prime is sidelined, Grimlock's generally accepted as the next most-capable leader in the good guys, across almost all media in which he appears. Someone else got the job in the movie, and gets gunned down in the next fight, while Grimlock isn't only the most prominent old school survivor in the movie, he led an army in revolution in a subplot.
  • Played straight in Y: The Last Man: Natalya Zamyatin is a Russian secret agent whose English is described as being "beyond broken", making her sound somewhat stupid. However, whenever she has a chance to speak in Russian, she waxes loquacious. While not explicitly Lampshaded, she is well aware of the overall effect.

Natalya (in Russian): "<Thank Christ! I sound like a retard when I try to speak English!>"
Agent 355 (an American, also speaking Russian): "<Slow down. Who is you?>"

    • In the epilogue, decades later, one character remarks on meeting Natalya and being impressed with her excellent English. An older character who knew her during this time laughs at this.
  • Subverted in the post-Zero Hour Legion of Super-Heroes with Chameleon, who starts out speaking none of the language the other characters use, and spends quite a while gradually learning the language and speaking it very brokenly... right up until the payoff of an Arc which reveals, among other things, that he's been perfectly fluent for quite a while and was simply concealing it so that nobody would suspect him of impersonating certain key figures.
  • Corollary: Starfire of DC Comics can leap over the whole hurdle of communication by kissing someone to learn their language.
    • Any brief physical contact will do. She just likes to kiss.
  • Vlad in Hack Slash talks in broken English, thanks to being brought up in isolation by a reclusive Czech-American butcher who didn't speak English very well.
  • In recent Thunderbolts comics, the Black Widow speaks English this way, until it's revealed she's actually Natasha Romanova impersonating Yelena Bolova, and consequently imitating her comparatively lacking grasp of the English language.
  • Yondu Udonta, of Marvel Comics's sadly-defunct Avengers spinoff Guardians of the Galaxy, originally spoke like this. However, as of when the Guardians got their own series, he'd become quite articulate... even as he became more of a believable alien tribal shaman and less of a Noble Savage in blue body paint.
    • In the revamped Guardians of the Galaxy, a telepathic Russian dog named Cosmo conveys his thoughts to others in a thick Russian accent, despite the fact that Cosmo is only directing his thoughts, and can convey them to people perfectly no matter what language they speak.
  • In Final Crisis, Superman notes that Overman speaks English this way because on his world (where the Nazis won World War II because they had the most powerful superheroes on their side) it's a dead language that he only knows due to his top notch education; he's never had occasion to speak it before, so he speaks it slowly and carefully enunciates every word.
  • Cleaner Slugs from Green Lantern comics are used by other species as literal organic garbage disposals. They'd probably get more respect if they could use pronouns.
  • One short story from Empowered had princess Arkashia and a Husky Russkie-like guy who talked that way.
  • A Thor story has Amadeus Cho drugging Sekhmet, the Egyptian goddess of destruction, turning her into Hathor, goddess of love... who talks like a LOL Cat (someone confused her with Bast)! Hilarity Ensues.
  • Krypto the Superdog, in a sort of meta-example, has his thoughts presented to the reader this way to emphasize the difference between the thought processes and language uses of dogs and humans.
    • Similarly, Dex-Starr from the Red Lantern Corps in the Green Lantern comics does this for the same reasons, although his thoughts are usually verbalized by his ring.


Fanfiction[edit | hide]

  • The clumsily written fanfic Lisa Is Pregnant reads like this. "You awake. Bart is d'oh."


Film[edit | hide]

  • Neytiri in Avatar switches between Na'vi accented broken English and her native tongue.
    • That's not about intelligence - she learns more English through the film, after having only initially learned a small amount. Jake's skill at the Na'vi language is actually a better example in terms of the description.
  • The mutants in the obscure René Laloux film Gandahar (called Light Years in the English translation) said everything in both the past and future tense (example: "was will be" instead of "is").
    • However, they play with the trope; the mutants are trying to tell the main character that he needs to Time Travel...
  • Full Metal Jacket. "Me love you long time."
  • Lampshaded in Murder By Death: Lionel Twain berates Inspector Wang (a parody of Charlie Chan) for his failure to "say his pronouns and articles."
  • The Moai in Night at the Museum. "Dumb dumb bring me gum gum?"
    • You better run run, from Atilla the Hun Hun.
  • Averted (or subverted) with Tia Dalma from Pirates of the Caribbean. Besides having a thick accent, she speaks in a non-standard vernacular (such as "him carve out him heart, lock it away in da chest"). However, she's clearly a very intelligent, sly and mysterious character, and her unusual vernacular makes her even more attractive. Some fanfics like this one have her speaking in the third person as well.
    • She's not supposed to be speaking English, but rather Jamaican Patois, an English-based creole. It actually does sound a lot like this.
  • In A Bug's Life, Dim the beetle has very simplified speech.
  • Examples from westerns deserve a whole section, as Native Americans mostly speak in short sentences, dropping articles and stuff. Sometimes that's also a case of Eloquent in My Native Tongue.
    • To begin with, Nevada Smith (1966). Wounded hero is healed by a bucolic tribe of natives. When he comes to his senses, he's greeted like this: "You come back to us in trouble. And in pain. You are welcome." -- "How long?" -- "Many days. You talk in fever." And so on.
  • From Alexander, the Persians (and much of the Greeks/Macedonians) speak fairly and eloquently ("If only you were not a pale reflection of my mother's heart") whilst the Baktrian Roxane speaks in this manner: "Great man, Alexander? You I kill now." Potentially justified in showcasing that Roxane was not very fluent in the native language of the Greeks, while her father Oxyartes speaks perfectly fluent.
  • Subverted in, of all things, an outtake shown during the ending credits of Rush Hour when Jackie Chan points out that Chris Tucker cannot speak even three words of Chinese.
    • Though perhaps ends up proving a real-life example when Jackie berates him by saying "Now you see how difficult I am!"
  • Borat, very, very deliberately.
  • Mongo, from Blazing Saddles.

Mongo: Mongo only pawn in game of life.

  • In the 1975 film The Wind and The Lion, the concept is parodied by the use of an old vaudeville joke. U.S. Secretary of State John Hay, seated at a diplomatic dinner next to a Japanese representative, asks him as each course is served, "Likee fishee?" and "Likee soupee?" (the "pidgin" English of the period); at the dinner's end, the Japanese gentleman rises and delivers a long and eloquent toast in English to President Theodore Roosevelt, and then, seating himself by Hay, turns to him and asks, "Likee speechee?" The same bit is used in one of the Charlie Chan films.
  • Played for laughs in Fear Of A Black Hat. A video is shown with an attractive, Asian singer with an impressively booming voice, but when she is interviewed, she can barely speak a word of English. The real singer, an overweight, unattractive woman, then confronts her. This was a parody of the video for "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)", which also featured a beautiful woman who it later came out did not do the actual singing. You can compare the original to the parody yourself.
  • In 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, the titular wizard casually switches back and forth between this and speaking perfect English.
  • Vanko from Iron Man 2 feigns this with Hammer, basically because he doesn't like him. Also, it serves as Obfuscating Stupidity, leading Hammer and his guards to underestimate Vanko.
  • In Muppet Treasure Island, the wild pigs speak this way.

"We see you have boom boom stick...bye bye."

Squaw: Squaw no dance. Squaw get-um firewood!
Wendy: Squaw no get-um firewood. Squaw go home!

  • The Russians in One, Two, Three. "We have emergency meeting with Swiss Trade Delegation. They send us twenty car-loads of cheese. Totally unacceptable... full of holes."


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Seemingly averted in JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. While the orcs' lines appear to be perfectly good, clean English, the narrator reveals that the orcs actually utter such repulsive profanity in such a degraded gibberish that he feels no need to bother reproducing it, instead merely paraphrasing them. To a philologist like Tolkien, using language so improperly was a clear sign of how degenerate and inferior they were.
    • One character speaking sub-fluently is Ghan-buri-Ghan, though it's Justified Trope as his people have no real contact with Westron-speaking peoples, so it is not strange that he barely speaks it. Also, his people are actually rather smart and wise, and even the characters are a bit surprised at what they thought to be stupid primitives.
  • Subverted in the Phule's Company novels. Tuskanini, one of the Legionnaires of the titular military company speaks, rather brokenly, the English equivalent of the series. However, he is the company clerk, incredibly intelligent, capable of reading 10-15 books in a night, and plans to become a teacher. He speaks it brokenly because he learned the language manually, and chooses not to rely on a translator, despite the presence of normally functioning translation devices.
    • To be clear, said character is not human, but speaks a human language (if somewhat badly). He's essentially a warthog minotaur.
  • Five Get Into a Fix by Enid Blyton has Aily, a Welsh girl with extremely broken English ("Aily hide", "Aily not tell"), but speaking beautiful Welsh phrases no one is able to understand
  • Animorphs has the Hork-Bajir, who talk in very broken English with some of their own language thrown in. It's said by many characters that Hork-Bajir are "not the geniuses of the galaxy," but in what appears to be an unintended subversion, the books that feature them heavily have shown them to demonstrate street smarts that exceed their linguistic skills.
    • Later revealed that the trope is justified. The Hork-Bajir's intelligence and language skills were being kept down and manipulated by an ancient conspiracy on their own planet. An alien race originally created them for ecological purposes and actively worked to keep them as dumb as possible so they wouldn't discover the truth. The low language skills were intentional as it prevented smarter members of the race from conveying complex concepts they had grasped to the slower members, for example a Hork-Bajir genius has discovered art but his language lacked the ability to represent abstract elements. When he said a etching was of a friend, others heard that he was insisting the markers were the friend, which lead them to believe he was crazy.
  • Anthony Boucher's science-fiction story Barrier presents a future in which this has been done deliberately: only four languages remain extant, and all of them have been "regularized": there are no longer any irregular verbs ("is" becomes "bees"), all plurals are formed by adding s or es ("men" is now "mans"), articles have been dropped completely, and so forth. It sounds odd, but in fact probably would be considerably easier to learn.
  • In C.J. Cherryh's Chanur Saga, the Mahendo'sat, though no more nor less intelligent than the other oxygen-breathing space-faring species, have a difficult time learning the languages of other species, so when speaking to other species their merchants use a pidgin language which is rendered in English in a "primitive" sounding manner.
    • They speak it among themselves as well, from having hundreds or thousands of different dialects on their home planet, sort of like Chinese, with the differences between Mandarin and Cantonese and such. Because it's simplified so much, it's used as the de facto trade language between the various aliens.
  • Lampshaded to a degree by the titular character of the Firekeeper series, who was Raised by Wolves. She insists that using more words than she needs to make her point is pointless. Also Subverted Trope to a degree in that when speaking with animals (which is her native "language") she is depicted as having normal grammatical skills.
  • In the Star Trek novel The Galactic Whirlpool, a culture stuck on a lost Generation starship for three centuries develops a dialect of English that No Takes Candle. They still know full English and use it in religious ceremonies, but consider it stilted and overly ornate for everyday use.
  • Turtle Heart is to be surprised he is not to be mentioned yet. But Turtle Heart is to have been a small part that is to be served purely to be questioning Nessarose's father.
  • The Party was deliberately imposing this trope on the people of Oceania in 1984. Newspeak was an effort to chop down the English language and strip away words for concepts (like love and rebellion) which were dangerous to the leaders, under the guise of efficiency.
  • CS Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet inverts this — the supposedly civilized scientists who intend to conquer Malacandra don't bother much with the local lingo, and as a result sound crude and vicious next to the linguist they've brought as a hostage.
  • Various species of Redwall use different varieties of English, mostly based on actual British accents, but a few fall into this trope. The Sparra inexplicably use what seems to be old-stereotype Native American accents ("Can you imagine Friar Hugo's face when Warbeak tells him to 'burn fishworm good'?"), and some of the vermin use very broken English ("Dis de blade wot stop your breath"). It doesn't seem to be a sign of stupidity in the case of the Sparra, though, just that they have very little contact with the mammals.
  • Riverworld: Mark Twain's caveman buddy Kazz speaks in heavily accented, broken English. He's smart enough, but his vocal tract is not sufficiently evolved toward speech. Flashbacks have to be told in a generic style.
  • In the Xanth novels by Piers Anthony, Ogres supposedly speak in broken-English couplets. However, as evidenced by more than one book, if one abandons their prejudices, they can hear the ogre as he actually is speaking, in complete sentences. Now, Ogres pride themselves on being both ugly and stupid, but seriously.
  • In Manifold: Origin, Neanderthals speak more English, but the grammar is still broken. The Daemons (no relation) hear something similar when humans try to speak their language, though it's poorly represented since Most Writers Are Human.
  • In David Sedaris' essay collection Me Talk Pretty One Day, the essays detailing his attempts to learn French contain many examples of the translated English of his horribly mangled French. For example, when attempting to ask a butcher if those are indeed cow's brains, he asks "Is thems the thoughts of cows?"
  • Kimy, Henry's mother figure and neighbor, in The Time Traveler's Wife is a subtle example.
  • Lakota Indian Nannie Little Rose talks like this in the book My Heart Is on the Ground, which is supposed to be her diary as she goes to Carlisle Indian Industrial school, an (actual) school meant to teach Native Americans how to be "white" (no, really). Then, as if to make up for this, she learns fluent English in ten months of being there.
  • Chuck Palahniuk's novel Pygmy is written entirely in pidgin English.
  • The titular character of the novel So B. It is mentally disabled and has a vocabulary of twenty-three words. Her daughter, the protagonist, has a list of them taped to the refrigerator.
  • Benjy Compson in Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury is mentally retarded and his internal monologue takes no candle.
  • Used in Watership Down when the animals speak Hedgerow, a kind of inter-species pidgin, which appears to owe a lot to Italian for whatever reason. Especially played up with mice ("You want-a nice grass? Plenty-a nice-a grass!") and Kehaar the gull.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Monster Men, Lin, the Chinese servant, speaks entirely in very bad pidgin.
  • In John Steinbeck's East of Eden, the Chinese servant speaks "Chinee" until a white man observes how very odd it is that no one Chinese ever speaks good English, whereupon he reveals it's intentional, for those who expect it. He was in fact born in the United States and has lived his entire life there. He only reveals his true fluency and personality to people he trusts. He switches to standard English with his employer while the employer is suffering Heroic BSOD.
  • In E. E. "Doc" Smith's Skylark series, a Japanese servant speaks pidgin. In the second book, his employer speaks of it, and the servant says he started to learn English too late, and it's too different from his native tongue. (Then the employer invents a gadget to allow people to transfer linguistic knowledge.)
  • The Chinese Assistant Premier in Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.
  • Manny's narration in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress comes off like this, as it's in Lunar English. He reveals in the narrative that he can in fact speak standard English, but it's not what he prefers. And anyone who says differently is a yammerhead.
    • Consider that his narration bears a certain similarity to Russian, most notably the omission of the definite article, which neither Russian nor Chinese (among a variety of other languages) have. A smattering of other Russian-inspired or -rooted words and phrases appear throughout the book, unsurprising considering that apparently many of the first colonists of Luna were Russian prisoners. Think of it as a sort of heavily watered-down Nadsat.
  • The Coyote Dialect as we hear it in the Hank the Cowdog series. Hank talks about it as if it's an actual language, but it's never clarified whether or not we're just hearing a translation.
  • This was Truth in Television for author Amy Tan as related in her autobiography. The mothers in her books—particularly Lindo and Su-Yuan in The Joy Luck Club, Lu Ling in The Bonesetters Daughter, and Winnie in The Kitchen God's Wife, use English speech that is by and large based on that of her mom and other relatives, while quite Eloquent in My Native Tongue.
    • Discussed in The Bonesetter's Daughter, in which the main character is concerned about her mother Lu Ling being misdiagnosed in a dementia test because of her poor English and the fact that she usually translated things people said to Chinese in her head, then responded in English.
  • Happens several times in Harry Turtledove Worldwar books with the Race, reptilian conquerors to invade Earth during World War Two, although subverted in that they are a highly-advanced species. Their representatives learn major human languages, but tend to speak in this manner (e.g. "maybe you help us now"), often trying to find proper equivalent in the given human language for a specific word with the typical "how you say". This differs from lizard to lizard, though, and some get better as the series progresses. Given their physiology, though, their speech is also peppered with Sssssnaketalk. It also happens, as a necessity, between Liu Han and Bobby Fiore, as neither initially knows the other's language. They eventually develop a mix language of sorts, a mishmash of Chinese, English, Race, and sign. Only the two of them can understand it. The books show this as a You No Take Candle-like speech.
  • Ayla in the Earth's Children books tends to do this when she's learning a new language.
  • This backfired on Alexandra (Zan) Ford in the YA novel Saturday The Twelfth Of October. Thrown back into prehistoric times by a convenient glitch in the space-time continuum, Zan is discovered by two cave people about her own age. She goes into the "me Tarzan, you Jane" routine and says "Me Zan". For the rest of the book, the cave people call her Meezzan. She even starts thinking of herself as Meezzan during the year or so she lives with them.
  • Tiger Lily and her tribe in Peter Pan. Oddly enough, they use an Asian Speekee Engrish accent, despite being Indians. (Perhaps justified in that everything in Never Land is based on children's imagination, and children rarely do the research.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Subverted in Babylon 5, where Zathras spoke in a primitive manner (actually based on creator JMS's Russian Polish grandmother's way of speaking English, the syntax is unmistakably Slavic) but was, besides being capable with very advanced technology such as time travel devices, in a way, clear headed and philosophical, often seeing the big picture far better than most of the regular cast. This juxtaposition made for some classic lines, like:

"Zathras is used to being beast of burden to other people's needs. Very sad life... probably have very sad death. But at least there is symmetry."
"But only, Zathras have no one to talk to. No one manages poor Zathras, you see. So Zathras talks to dirt. Sometimes, talks to walls, or talks to ceilings. But dirt is closer. Dirt is used to everyone walking on it. Just like Zathras. But we have come to like it. It is our role. It is our destiny in the universe. So you see, sometimes dirt has insects in it. And Zathras likes insects. Not so good for conversation, but much protein for diet."
"Cannot run out of time. Is infinite time! You are finite, Zathras is finite, this... is wrong tool. No... ...no, never use this."

    • This also how Drazi speak. Ivanova hang lampshade in episode "The Geometry of Shadows":

"Just my luck. I get stuck with a race that speaks only in macros."

  • Star Trek: The Next Generation has the Pakleds, who speak in extremely basic sentences (though the grammar is correct). "We look for things. Things to make us go." (Their ship's navigation system has broken down. But not really — it's a trap for Geordi.) Although the Pakleds' ship is probably stolen, it's questionable whether they're as stupid as they sound — ever try to fly an airplane? Or to kidnap a military officer?
    • On the other hand, they are fooled by a very obvious ploy. So while they're not as dumb as they seem, they aren't much brighter than, say, TV executives.
      • The Pakleds are a textbook example of the importance of the Prime Directive. Clearly, some or another idiot species made First Contact with the Pakleds long before they were ready — and witness the result.
    • In a similar vein, an early Star Trek: Enterprise episode features a lost colony of humans whose language has "devolved" into a primitive form after 70 years of non-contact with Earth.
      • To be fair, everyone except for the very youngest children had died off all at once several generations back; so everyone living there now learned to speak from people who had barely learned to speak themselves, having no adults to teach them better.
    • There's the the epically cheesy "Brain and Brain, what is brain!" brought to us by the... questionable episode fittingly titled "Spock's Brain".
    • Or "The Omega Glory" where warfare reduced two nations to "tribes" speaking a mangled, devolved English.
    • Who could forget "Devil in the Dark", featuring the Horta, which at one point carves the words "NO KILL I" in the cavern floor using its searing-hot flesh?
    • Overly literal translations of Klingon can come across this way, as the language lacks several things considered important to English grammar (like verb tenses).
      • And the verb "to be". Also, the language structure is backward from English.

Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam. "die-someone-for be.good day-this" = "It is a good day to die."

  • Phil of the Future's Curtis, being a caveman, speaks in the primitive tone. Oddly, the Diffys, being from the future, do not speak high English; they just throw enough phlebotinum words in to appear from the future.
  • Parodied in the "Indian in the Theatre" sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus. "Me heap big fan Cecily Courtenage!"
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the second ever episode, the cavemen talk like this, which is particularly odd, since what we're hearing is actually the TARDIS translation.
    • The Ogrons, in "Day of the Daleks" and "Frontier in Space".
  • Fawlty Towers: "He's from Barcelona."
    • Qué?
      • "You're telling me the manager's a Mr C K Watt, aged forty?"
  • Why you no mention Tonto, Kemo Sabe?
    • Kind of ironic when you consider Tonto's character was created for the radio show, so the Lone Ranger would have someone to discuss his plans with.
      • This speech pattern would be imitated by Gene Rayburn for Tonto Match Game questions.

Tonto says, "Me very upset. Woke up early in morning, caught Lone Ranger ________ing Silver."

  • Comically subverted in Jeeves and Wooster. Wooster blackens his face and poses as an African tribal chief using Hulk Speak. But suddenly the real African chief shows up (wearing the same costume!) and, as he is actually college educated in England, starts speaking in a perfectly normal, and somewhat high-class, English.
  • Heroes: Nerdy, childish Hiro speaks broken English with a Japanese accent. Badass, sword-wielding Future Hiro speaks perfect English with an American accent.
  • The first two movies of Lexx include Giggerota the Wicked, who has a very unusual manner of speaking, which sometimes follows this trope. In her case, however, it is unclear if she doesn't really know how to speak properly or if she's just affecting this as part of her outlandishly savage and feral persona.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a variation of this. Cordelia talks this way to Sven, the exchange student she's hosting in "Inca Mummy Girl". "Punch-y! Fruit drink-y!" But after she's out of earshot, Sven complains about it.


Music[edit | hide]


Puppet Shows[edit | hide]

  • Subverted in Mongrels. Nelson uses this to try to communicate with Rob the chimpanzee when he first meets him. Rob assumes that Nelson normally talks like that and responds in the same way, until they realise their mistake and switch to normal English.


Radio[edit | hide]

  • The Goon Show occasionally had "primitive" characters (Africans, Arabs, Red Indians, etc), who were usually played by the show's resident (black) singer Ray Ellington. Any Unfortunate Implications of this were partly subverted by Ellington's character clearly being more intelligent than any of the white characters. And it was the 1950s...
  • Parodied in a 1949 Bob & Ray skit featuring Pronto, sidekick to the Lone Agent:

Pronto (Bob): Ug. Lone, that be completely impossible. You would be implicating me in crime, in which I can have no hand.
Lone (Ray): Huh? Is this Pronto speaking?
Pronto: Ug.
Lone: Where'd you get the education?
Pronto: Me go Harvard. Me Boston brave.

  • The Bob Lassiter Show had sketches of Dingo Boy, (voice of a then unknown Adam Carolla) who searched the land in order to "Find man who killed parents".


Stand Up Comedy[edit | hide]

  • In one of her standup acts, Margaret Cho once joked that an advantage to being of Asian descent in the United States while going out to bars was that, when getting hit on by a guy in whom you are totally uninterested, you can state in You No Take Candle that you don't speak English.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Tabletop RPG Land of Og, and its more playable successor Og: Unearthed Edition, limits its caveman characters to only a few words while speaking in character. Each character has a different set of words they can use, such as "You", "Rock", "Stick", "Thing", "Hairy", "Bang", "Go", and "Verisimilitude".
  • This is played straight within the BattleTech universe. The Clans, in their fanatical devotion to restoring the ancient Star League, speak strictly in Star League Standard English (with some new terminology and shorthand as needed to reflect their unique culture, but never contractions). Conversely, they consider the mishmashing of languages used by the Successor States and the mediocre quality of their English as further proof of their descent into barbarism.
    • Although according to The Powers That Be, Star League Standard English sounds like Valley Girl-speak.
    • Also, most of the Successor States use English as a secondary language and use a different language or languages as their primary one, such as German (the Lyran Commonwealth/Lyran Alliance), French (the Federated Suns), Mandarin (the Capellan Confederation), or Swedenese (a creole language of Swedish and Japanese used in the Free Rasalhague Republic). Despite this, all the characters in the novels speak perfectly understandable English with few notable accents or grammar problems.


Theatre[edit | hide]

  • The Sioux Indians in Annie Get Your Gun speak broken English, in accordance with the stereotype. This is the least of the show's Unfortunate Implications.
  • In The King and I, the King of Siam, as well as most of the other Siamese characters, speak broken English. (The show, as well Anna and the King of Siam, the novel and movie that inspired it, are banned in Thailand because of their historical inaccuracies and unflattering portrayals of the revered King Mongkut.)
  • The Indians in the stage musical of Peter Pan get this treatment. Their introductory song and dance has such gems as "Ugga wugga meatball!" Another one of their songs is called "Ugg-a-Wug," where most of the lyrics consist of "Ugg-a-wugg", "Gugg-a-bluck", "Puff-a-wuff", "Boop a doop," and so on. The Indians' spoken dialogue isn't any better.

Tiger Lily: We go up now. Keep guard. Watch for pirates.

    • Fortunately, the newest movie incarnation of Peter Pan has a very talented First Nation girl play Tiger Lily, who gives an extremely rude speech in one of the First Nation languages (Cree, if I recall correctly.)
    • The original play of Peter Pan combined this trope with Asian Speekee Engrish, oddly enough.
  • Bloody Mary in South Pacific.
  • Chrismas Eve from Avenue Q. Combined with a Funetik Aksent.

Christmas Eve: Blyon! You take our recyclaburrs!

  • Trouble In Tahiti has Dinah quote a couple lines of this from the "terrible, awful movie" she's seen (the stage direction calls for a South Pacific accent).
  • "Master Harold"... and the boys has two African characters. One speaks in this form (albeit not as egregious as most of the other examples), the other speaks using proper English grammar. These are used to illustrate the relationships the characters have with the White Male Lead—Sam (proper grammar) is on equal intellectual footing, and approaches Hally as a friend, but Willie isn't and treats Hally as the master of the house.
  • Used by the native heroine of the 1923 play White Cargo (played by Hedy Lamarr in the movie). Her first line, "Me Tandelayo. Me good girl. Me stay," famously provoked the critic Robert Benchley to stand and announce, "Me Bobby. Me bad boy. Me go!" before stalking out of the theater.
  • Tituba talks like this in The Crucible. If you can't find a black actress to play the part, it's gonna be all kinds of jarring.
  • Billy in The Bat is a "Jap" who speaks in such phrases as "You give candle, please?"


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The Warcraft video game series. The "primitive" language is actually named "Low Common" in Warcraft DnD - implicitly there's a "low" form of many other languages, as well. World of Warcraft actually subverts this at one point:

Draz'Zilb: Why the puzzled stare, <name>? Expecting me to speak like an uncouth ruffian merely because I am an ogre?

    • Most of the time though, ogres are more like this:

Ogre: What ecology mean? Me smash you!

    • One of the classic battle cries of kobolds is "You no take candle!". Incidentally, kobolds are one of very few races depicted as almost universally stupid. Later lampshaded/parodied by the mushroom-stealing ogres of Zangarmarsh, who sometimes shout "You no take mushroom!" Oddly, the phrase isn't echoed by the snobolds of Northrend.
      • This has become such a recognized line among the fanbase that the novel Stormrage has kobolds shouting this in a dream sequence, with another character responding "I-don't-want-your-damn-CANDLE!"
      • Also parodied in a later quest where you have to catch Kobolds with a net. One of the possible responses from the Kolbolds is "You no take... me!"
      • For those who don't know, kobolds put burning candles on their heads presumably to function as a miner's light even when they aren't in a mine.
      • However, if you spend time around one of their above-ground lairs in Loch Modan, you can overhear a kobold practicing archery—and remarking on his accuracy in crystal-clear Common.
    • Further subverted in a Northrend questline where the player learns the tongue of the local murlocs. Murlocs are always portrayed as not terribly bright and their gorloc cousins speak in pretty broken English, but in their own language, the murlocs are actually surprisingly erudite. (And there's even a gorloc who's learned better Common and speaks both perfectly and intelligently.)
      • "Before you say anything, do not assume me as foolish as most of the Gorlocs you've met. I've been into the world a bit, I've learned your language, and I'm not easily duped." The implication isn't that he thinks the other Gorlocs are foolish, but that you might think them foolish because of their not good speaking and funny acting. Their leader in particular can say quite philosophical things and catch and eat shiny bugs at same time.
    • A Justified Trope example is the wolvar (wolverine-people) of Northrend, who point out once or twice that there is no real reason for them to know Common/Orcish or how to write. For instance, on a "Wanted" notice board in Zul'Drak:

Chief Rageclaw sorry for bad writing. First time use one of these things; plus, Chief Rageclaw is wolvar, not person.

      • That said, they're also consistently portrayed as not very intelligent creatures, all told. One of the Frenzyheart hunters who accompany you on quests in Schalozar Basin thinks he has to tell you that you aren't a wolvar. Their speech also delves into Hulk Speak territory; they know of gorlocs, but only refer to them as "big-tongues." Of course, the gorlocs call them "puppy-men."
    • Furbolgs (humanoid bears) are another interesting case as most of them are encountered as enemies apparently incapable of speech, but the few of them that are willing to talk to you all speak in a rather sophisticated manner.
      • Starting off as a Draenei gives you a possibility to take a quest line where you actually learn to read/understand Furbolg, for the duration of the quest. And then, in the same way dropping a proficiency makes you weaker, you forget you ever knew Furbolgish, and they only roar at you from then on.
      • In the case of the Furbolgs it's justified in that the ones you talk intelligently to are how all Furbolgs used to be, and the brutish, animalistic ones are those that had been driven mad by the invasion of the Burning Legion during Warcraft III
      • Many of the uncorrupted Furbolgs are allies to the Night Elves, who can speak coherently. Unfortunately, almost all of these specific Furbolgs are corrupted.
      • You later encounter the Timbermaw Furbolgs, whose slightly broken Common/Orcish (depending on which side you play) sounds rather more like lack of language fluency than lack of sophistication.
    • From Warcraft III itself, you have the trolls, at least in the French translation. With the notable exception of witch doctors, who talk sophisticated instead.
  • The kobolds in the Neverwinter Nights series. Actually, being Dungeons & Dragons Kobolds, they're as intelligent as a human, and have a developed, if exceptionally violent, culture. Their poor language stems from their typical genocidal hatred of anything except dragons and other kobolds; they consider Common beneath them and don't bother to learn to speak it properly. A sample line from Neverwinter Nights 2 (where orcs also speak a form of You No Take Candle):

Deekin: Yes, Deekin very kobold, last Deekin look in mirror. Deekin not do that much; mirrors usually too high for Deekin.

    • The first game also has an Ogre Mage who has a sarcastic retort to a player character who observes that he's very well spoken for an ogre.
  • Gargoyles in the Ultima series aren't excessive users of this trope, but have one very notable trait: they use "to be" for all forms of "to be".
    • To be thinking that an example to be needed to explain. To be of the mind that the effect to be lost by your description. To know that all sentences to be of a personal nature. To explain that at first only winged gargoyles to speak, but later all gargoyles to speak. To not know why this to be.
    • In other words, gargoyles have no subject phrases—only predicates—and they do not conjugate verbs. Also, every sentence is implied to be spoken of oneself.
    • Also, the passive voice is spoken in by Emps in Ultima VII.
  • Fallout 3 has the Super Mutants.
  • The Fallout: New Vegas add-on Dead Money has Dog/God a Super Mutant with a split personality. The more bestial personality (Dog) speaks like this. The more cerebral personality (God) talks like a super villain.
  • Final Fantasy

That's Imposhibible!
Rides ze shoopuf?

      • Also exhibited with the Ronso. It's kind of hinted that this is merely a language barrier, since the Ronso Maester speaks perfectly eloquently, but Kimahri has spent at least ten years away from Mt. Gagazet and still hasn't learned a personal pronoun...
    • Final Fantasy XI has the majority of the beastmen use simpler forms of the Five Races language, if at all. Goblins and Lamia are actually more fluent in the player's language, although for Goblins, being good at language is good for business. It's also subverted in that there's a very well-spoken Orc in Wings of The Goddess, as said Orc is actually a cursed Elvaan. Why is this text spoiler'd and not the earlier part? Because it's actually an aversion; the Orc is really a well-learned Genre Savvy Magnificent Bastard real Orc who puts this trope and the expectations of it to work in order to trick you into freeing him, and it's only until you meet him again in The Lost Woods that it's revealed you've been had.
  • The Trolls in City of Heroes are a gang whose members take a drug that gives super-strength but mutates them into giving them their distinctive troll-like appearance; it also apparently causes their brains to degrade to the point they start speaking like this. Ironically, this is the only effect (well, that and rage issues) Superadine has on the brain. Trolls are still as intelligent as anyone else; it's just the language centers that are affected.
  • In RuneScape, the Ogres speak a vaguely Jamaican accent, which is commented on multiple times. Some Ogres that have lived with humans speak grammatically correct, albeit short, sentences. They still use lots of slang, making some sentences almost unreadable. The goblins, though speak in a 'stupid' way with incorrect grammar. In an inversion of this trope, they are revealed to be very smart, but most tribes of goblins care more about warfare and physical strength than science, art, and intellectuality.
  • In Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri: planetmind speaks variously broken English, but is a vast planetary intelligence into which humanity may eventually merge.
    • This is a bit of an oversimplification; it turns out the Alien Kudzu is actually a vast neural network that self-organizes into a god-like mind, but in doing so destroys its necessary supporting organisms and dies back down, only to repeat the cycle in a series of tragedies. Humanity is able to break the cycle. So initially, Planet Mind is not very bright, but it just keeps growing...
  • The Beast in Homeworld: Cataclysm starts by speaking in broken english, and has an... idiosyncratic method of speech when controlled by the player. However, as the campaign goes on and the Beast adapts and learns, it finally speaks to the captain as an equal.
  • The Geneforge series by Spiderweb Software features a race of creations called Serviles, which are designed to be human-like enough to serve as a general slave race (menial workers, assistants in offices, blacksmiths, etc.) but are kept dumb enough to prevent independent thought and ultimately rebellion. One effect of this is that they speak in very simple English.
    • In the first game, serviles are abandoned on an island and develop their own cultures. Despite significant advances, two of the three factions deliberately continue to speak in simplified speech. The Obeyers, who do so because they know the Shapers wanted it, and the Takers, who hate the Shapers and would rather speak like Serviles than like Shapers. Only the Awakened, who believe in equality between Shapers and creations, speak proper English.
  • In Kingdom of Loathing, while proper English is almost always much-lauded, one well-known player character named Bashy often talks like this, which is then lampshaded in various in-game items. Still, his vocabulary is far superior to what it seems at first glance; as for his excuse for speaking like that, he claims it to be an artifact of his Prussian upbringing.
  • In Thief: Deadly Shadows (3rd in series) the Pagan faction speak like this.

Pagan: I hearsy, I hearsy, and you should be afearsy (When you provoke them into searching for you.)
Pagan 2: I be leaving a letter for that thiever, Garrett.
Pagan 3: I be want to be deading him, not leavings him letters.
Pagan 2: Me too. But Dyan saying hims might be beings useful to us.
Pagan 3: Thinks you hes be reading it?

    • Every Thief game in fact. Though in the first two they were mostly inhuman creatures who warned of 'someone sneaksie by!'
  • Yeta from The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess speaks like this, as does her husband Yeto. For instance, when she gets possessed and yells "NOT TAKE MIRROR!".
    • In the French version, both speak perfectly fluently... except when possessed.
  • The Vorcha of Mass Effect 2 speak this way. They're the only species met so far to do so.
    • Possibly justified in that a normal Vorcha lifespan is twenty years.
      • Twenty years assuming they don't get killed. Though they regenerate insanely fast (on higher difficulties, a headshot is the only thing that is guaranteed to kill them immediately. Everything else can be healed in about three to five seconds), their culture is based on injuring each other to become stronger. Because they regenerate so quickly, being injured actually makes them stronger. Their culture has a lot of murder, according to the Codex.
    • Salarian doctor Mordin Solus. Subversion of trope. Salarians have short lifespans. Fewer words means more time. Also speak very fast.
    • In Mass Effect 3 however, Shepard does meet some Vorcha who actually speak in complete sentences.
  • Jedi Knight 2 has a bartender who randomly adds unnecessary plurals to his speech ("You seek informations?" etc), leading to the infamous quip "Never trust a bartender with bad grammar." Amusingly this can't be a species thing because he's a Chiss, the same as the supremely cultured Grand Admiral Thrawn.
    • Not necessarily. With any foreign ethnic group you can find plenty of people with thick accents or grammar quirks and plenty of people without. Thrawn could simply have a better command of Basic than the the bartender, being much more highly educated and erudite, as well as a definite Omniglot.
  • Kongol in Legend of Dragoon speaks this way, never using pronouns if he can avoid it. What makes the whole thing so strange is that Kongol was raised by humans, but his brother who only lived with others of his species speaks with a perfectly normal syntax.
  • In Vandal Hearts 2, your hero will - after a Time Skip - pick up two faithful allies. One of them is a guy known as 'Vlad the Ox' who speaks like this, when not devolving all the way down to Hulk Speak. Naturally, everyone - including your other ally - assumes that he's simply Dumb Muscle... which he finds really annoying since, as he soon reveals, he is simply a forreigner who did not start learning the local language until a few years ago. In truth, he's both quite wise and clever. Mostly noteable due to this trope being directly adressed by him.
  • Parodied in Red Dead Redemption. When Professor MacDougal (a Know-Nothing Know-It-All par excellence) introduces John Marston to his Native American assistant Nastas, he speaks You No Take Candle to the latter. Nastas, with an air of Never Heard That One Before, calmly points out that they taught English on the reservation and he's fluent. This doesn't stop MacDougal from treating him like a stupid child up to the point where Nastas is killed, and makes it really satisfying in Undead Nightmare when Zombie Nastas eats him.
  • "We strong! We kill all with big magic!" The poor little demon had obtained a tavern sign depicting a sun and naturally expected it to be magical.
  • Both Mumbo Jumbo and Humba Wumba, in addition to a few side characters, in the Banjo-Kazooie games. Rather jarring in Wumba's case, being a heavily stereotypical Native American in a game released in 2000.
  • In Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, the natives on the island (known as Oho Oasis) where Mario and Luigi learn their hand powers speak simple sentences like "This fire temple. Thunder temple that way."
  • Kobolds, Orcs, and other monstrous races in Dungeons and Dragons Online vary in their eloquence. Sometimes this can be written off as different tribes having different levels of understanding of Common, but other times it's jarring when two members of the same group or even the same individual switches depending on which stock quote they use.
  • In Sunset Riders, the third boss, Dark Horse, who rides a dark horse covered in plate armor, introduces himself with, "You in big heap trouble!" When you defeat him, it turns into, "Me in big heap trouble!" The sixth boss, Chief Scalpem, talks like this, too; he shouts, "Me ready for powwow!" when you meet him, and "Me powwowed out!" when you take him out.
  • In the English language version of Rumble Roses, Aigle, the Mongolian girl, speaks like this.

Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • Generally played straight in The Order of the Stick. Races that get an Intelligence penalty frequently talk this way, and don't even get capital letters in print. This later gets a lampshade hung on it when we get to see a tribe of orcs in their private time, eager to learn better speech, because "gok look forward to first-person pronouns," among other aspirations.
  • In Gai-Gin, the American protagonist's Japanese starts at the level of "No eat tomato," and improves to fluency during her prolonged stay in Japan. Her tortured, roundabout sentence construction is typical of new speakers. It fades and is replaced by comfortable if simple language, but her grammar remains off in varying ways and is prone to breaking down when she does. The effect is fantastic when compared to the competition. Granted, the competition is dominated by retarded kobolds.
  • In Narbonic, there is an awards convention interrupted by a giant robotic foot that speaks like this.

"MASTER ALSO RUN OUT OF FUNDS TO PROVIDE FOOT WITH ARTICLES OR PAST TENSES."

  • In The Law of Purple, we have Thud, who hails from the "primitive" Claw Jungles of Caligula. Subverted in that Thud and his tribe are all quite intelligent (not to mention far less racist than their supposedly "civilized" counterparts).

"Me Thud NOT STUPID! Me have VERY THICK accent!"

  • Parodied in Sluggy Freelance with Grammer Gorilla, "the super-strong simian who likes to talk good!"

Dr. Ironologue: You fools! Ending a sentence with a preposition sends Grammer Gorilla into an uncontrollable rage!
Grammer Gorilla: Me hating you!

    • Also on the occasions when Torg becomes Jungle Torgo.
  • In Digger, Ed the hyena is always being speaking like this thanks to his long solitude, but by that same token is extraordinarily philosophical and eloquent, in a broken sort of way.
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, back in the days, Anja and Brinnie didn't quite speak in a perfect English.
  • In Dominic Deegan, the Mongrelman Bort speaks like this (when he speaks at all).


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • As Strong Bad points out in one of his e-mails, Strong Mad has a very "tenuous grasp on the English language". Not to mention that Strong Mad tends to yell almost everything to near incoherent levels.

Strong Bad: Hey, Strong Mad. What's...uh..what's my favorite movie?
Strong Mad: GARBLEDINA!

Strong Mad: I'M A WEB SITE!

  • I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER?
    • Somewhat justified in that house cats aren't the brightest creatures, especially as kittens. (Which just makes all of lolcats/icanhascheezburger.com even funnier)
      • Cats aren't very bright? You try getting a human to house you, feed you and generally adore you, while you generally treat them with contempt.
        • It worked, until about when I turned five!
  • Used for horror in Instruction for a Help and the explanation.

Human The Bodie is wonderful thing. It is is made from MEAT.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Futurama had Native Martians (a clear analogue of Native Americans) talk like this. Amy's dad, Leo, spoke in the same way, leading to a bit of a Lampshade Hanging when he read a note from the Martians.

Leo Wong: Me know it them, 'cause they no use good grammar.

    • Also in Futurama, there are the Amazonians, a race of giant cavewomen. Also, when the robots rebel against the humans in one episode and all technology is lost, Leela reverts to speaking like this. "Leela bring fire?" "No, we're set for fire, thanks."
    • Then for one episode, everybody spoke like this when the brainspawn drain the intelligence of everybody on Earth except Fry.
    • And then there's Fry, who - being Fry - just does this randomly.

Bender need brain for smart-making!

  • The Lord of the Rings spoof Edward the Less features a barbarian strongman who speaks in the typical caveman dialect. However, he explains that he can use articles and personal pronouns, and just finds that they take up too much time in an eloquent speech that is nonetheless completely lacking in articles and personal pronouns.
    • "Few! Happy few! Band brothers!"
  • Lady and the Tramp had the Siamese cats speaking this way.
  • Skwisgaar Skwigelf and Toki Wartooth from Metalocalypse, being Scandinavian, often add 's'es to words that don't need them (or leaves them offs of words that shoulds have them).

"Let me explains again, in perfectly clear Englishs, I wants flies in on a dragons, okay? How many times I got to tells this peoples?"

    • This, interestingly enough, is perhaps best explained as overcompensating for a difference between the Scandinavian language(s) and English - plural is not indicated by s in Scandinavian.
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force does this with Oog the Caveman. When Frylock's supercomputer spontaneously travels back in time, Oog finds it, and...:
    • "So there me was beating boulder into powder because me couldn't eat it, and magic ball land in lap. Naturally me think, "All right, free egg." because me stupid and me caveman. So me spent about three days humping and bust open with thigh bone so me could eat it good, then magic ball shoot Oog with beam, and next thing me know, me go out and invent wheel out of dinosaur brain! Magic dino wheel roll for three short distance until me eat it; the point is, me get smarter. Soon me walk upright, me feather back dirty matted hair into wings for style, and me stop to use bathroom as opposed to me just doing it as me walk."
      • Oog simultaneously subverts this trope by speaking in a very clear, precise manner (save for the occasional outburst).
        • "Me bored, BORED! RAAAARGH!! BORED BORED BORED BORED BOOOOORED!!! * smashes shit up* "
        • "YOU BUY, MAKE OOG RICH! RIP HEAD OFF, AAAARGH!"
    • Incidentally, he claims "master english language" on his list of accomplishments.
  • See the example under Comic Books, but in the cartoon Teen Titans adaptation, Starfire explains/retcons: her race learns languages through "lip contact," selling the kisses as platonic, or even less. Hilarity Whiplash ensues.
  • Transformers Generation 1: Me Grimlock thinks me should be here too! (The other Dinobots speak the same way. In the comic, though, only Grimlock talks this way. Comic Grimlock, however, is not stupid. Depending on the Writer, it's Obfuscating Stupidity or a broken speech processor Grimmy never bothered to fix.)
    • On a related note with Beast Machines — TANKOR SLAG BEAST BOTS! Subverted when Rhinox's spark reawakens, giving Tankor a signifigant IQ boost — enough IQ to start plotting the downfall of Megatron and Optimus Primal. To hide what's happened, he still talks like he did before to most people, good guys and bad.
    • Strika and Obsidian do as well when also pretending to be idiots instead of the master tacticians they actually are.
  • Freakazoid!! subverts this with Cave Guy
  • The clones of the Gargoyles Broadway, Brooklyn, Lexington and Hudson speak this way. Lampshaded when Talon offers to teach them how to use freewill "and verbs".
  • "Me so hungee" and "Me fail English? That's unpossible!" from The Simpsons.
    • In another episode, where Lisa grows an entire civilization in a dish with a tooth and some soda in it, a spokesman says, "We learned to immitoot you exarctly."
  • Subverted for laughs in an episode of Harvey Birdman, where the main cast travels back in time due to a freak accident. They expect this to happen when they are captured by cavemen. Instead, the cavemen speak American English and have academic degrees.
  • The businessmen from Adventure Time.

"We love work for you!"

  • The Piplings in the UK/Canada kids' show Waybuloo. (NB since it's a mixture of CGI and live action I'm not sure whether Waybuloo should go here or under Live Action TV, but the Piplings are CGI characters, so...)
  • The old Rocky and Bullwinkle spoofed this. In a Peabody and Sherman short, an evil man is trying to kill them, so he enlists some natives to do the job. He speaks to them in broken English, making incredible racist assumptions. "You make tiny buffalo and brave go dead. Arrows and tomahawks. Die die." Cue confused looks from the natives, until one figures out what he means, and explains the message to the rest of the tribe with a New Yawk accent. "He wants us ta whack da dog and da kid."


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Telegrams were usually in You No Take Candle as a way to save money on transmission costs and work for the operators, cutting transmission time.
    • Recently, Twitter has brought back this mode of English-mangling. With only 140 characters, you either sacrifice grammar or risk running o
      • Another option would be the logical one to shorten the message...
      • Not all messages can be shortened, though. You could of course relay messages across multiple tweets, as well. Or just cheat and use twitlonger.
    • Text messaging can be this way. Originally, it could be chalked up to character limits and an inconvenient 'keyboard' (the phone's dialing pad).
  • Justified in newspaper headlines, which routinely omit "the" from phrases for brevity's sake.
    • And "and" is often replaced by a comma.
  • The reason so many characters who exhibit this trope are barbarians is that this trope is literally the origin of the word "barbarian". A barbarian was someone who spoke "bar bar bar..." (i.e. incoherent babble, like the bleating of sheep) instead of the language proper. Only later did its meaning broaden to uncivilized behavior in general.
    • I thought the word came from the Greek for "Outsiders with Beards?"
    • Both are true to an extent- in that the "bar bar bar" is specifically Greek.
    • Latin too. "Barba" means beard, and "barbarus" means unintelligible/jargon. Barbarian can be called a bearded babbler then.
  • "Now he dead from coke".
  • Afrikaans sounds this way compared to Dutch. Although the language has naturally matured over the centuries and has become a solid and distinct part of the Germanic language family, many, many aspects of it sound like "baby speak" to the average Dutch person. This, in turn, makes the stereotype of an African person speaking in very broken and primitive syntax a very valid (and definitely not dead) trope in Dutch media, because this is exactly what the linguistic roots of Afrikaans are. The indigenous people were forced to speak Dutch, with no way of actually learning the syntax and grammar - and several centuries later, the language still retains many "you no take candle" type phrases.
    • While not exactly "baby speak", particular Dutch expressions and phrases sound like "oversimplified" or colloquial German to Germans.
    • Also, although the majority of Afrikaans speakers are not white, only slightly less than half of us are in fact white as lilies (compared to the majority population at any rate). And of the majority of (first-language) Afrikaans speakers who aren't white, only a small percentage are black (the rest being "coloured," which is a specific ethnic group and not an offensive term in South Africa). So if you're going to parody an African language, Afrikaans is the most politically correct one you can pick. It's pretty hilarious to think that the ever-P.C. Dutch have a stereotype like this, whereas generally they seem to act all horrified if you say anything that might be construed as racist (like this sentence). Still, I can admit that a lot of our simplified grammar would probably make us sound pretty stupid to them; e.g., we always use the equivalents of "is" and "us", leading to sentences like "us hope us teammates is doing well" ("we hope our teammates are doing well"). This of course leads to speakers of other Germanic languages, when learning Afrikaans, to sometimes have a lot of have trouble constructing simple sentences... because to build a sentence that sounds correct to them, they're searching for words that don't exist.
  • Any Russian speaker who has ever tried their hand at classical Russian (i.e., Russian written before the revolution) has realized that the Russian language, not so much in grammar but in spelling, has been greatly simplified in the last century or so. The result is a sort of inversion of this trope, temporally speaking- if a nineteenth century Russian speaker came over to take a look at some modern Russian literature, he would sit agape at the enormous impropriety of the modern Russian language; the equivalent, to an English speaker, would be going into the future and finding that everything is written "liek tis, wit hardli ani varyashun in speling rools end leters remoovd at evri oportoonty".
  • This trope may be the perception of speakers of relatively more synthetic languages towards speakers of relatively more isolating languages, and their accents when crossing the linguistic barrier. Isolating languages tend to have a low morpheme-per-word ratio, with word order usually being more critical to comprehension. Synthetic languages, on the other hand, commonly use words with many morphemes fused together in a high degree of inflection, and actual word order is less critical for comprehension (though may in fact help determine a sentence's emphasis).
    • There is recognized a sort of sliding scale of languages being more isolating or more synthetic. Afrikaans and Chinese are less synthetic than English, which is less synthetic than Japanese, which is less synthetic than Finnish, which is less synthetic than Nahuatl.
  • Patois in general does exist all over the place, and do SEEM to be full of errors when compared to "proper" language, but after a generation or so any apparent bugs have probably become features. For instance, in Nigeria "I went to the store to get milk" and "I went to the store for get milk" are both correct, but have different meanings... the second one means that you weren't able to get the milk. Note that this a shade of meaning that can't be conveyed quite as efficiently in standard English... note also that the sentence "I went to the store to get milk, but they were out" might strike someone fluent in Nigerian patois as ungrammatical.
  • This really is something that happens, especially when people are first learning the nuances of a new language. What seems incoherent to us as an idiom, makes perfect sense to a native. Try saying "two birds with one stone" in another language, and you'd get blank stares from a lot of them.
    • Phrasal verbs! As well as idioms, they are the bane of English-learners.
  • Many Americans view Ebonics this way, since it changes about half our grammatical rules. For instance, there's no word for the present tense of "is" or "are" in Ebonics. It's just skipped over. As is the possessive -s. The result can sound like a very broken form of English, and has helped contribute to the "stupid black youth" stereotype.
    • The irony of reliance upon the idea of Ebonics as an identifying language for a group as opposed to a descriptive language for a dialect is that a great many white people from Appalachia and the South speak a pidgin nearly identical to Ebonics with the same rules. Those with very little black interaction assume there is more there than actually is.
  • When making contact with "primitive" cultures in the 19th and 20th centuries, many people assumed that these cultures used hand gestures (like the "drinking" sign of making a fist and "drinking" from your thumb) in everyday speech, even though they indigenous people would usually only use them as an easy way to communicate with foreigners.
  • King Amadeo I of Spain was an Italian prince that had absolute zero knowledge of Spanish when he accepted the throne, and would have pains to learn just a few words. In one occassion he tried to discuss a law that was being debated in the Cortes (parliament) and could only come with something like "I contrary". This heavily contributed to the massive flop in popularity that led to his abdication only three years after taking the crown.
    • Although, apparently, King George I, being from Lower Saxony, had fewer problems in working with the English Parliament. He just used French, which everyone spoke anyway.
      • Well, that, and the fact that he mostly left the government of Great Britain and its empire to Parliament, which at this point was better-equipped to do so than the Cortes was in the 1870s (considering that the English Civil War had more or less guaranteed its supremacy over and unity as a check against the monarch twenty years before George took the throne, while Amadeo's Cortes was fractious and inexperienced). He mostly focused on governing Hanover and his other German territories, and left the business of government to Sir Robert Walpole (thus unofficially establishing the office of Prime Minister and inadvertently inventing parliamentary government more or less as we know it today).
  • For some reason, this happens with ex-Balkan migrants in Australia, especially the older ones. They simply ignore "the", "you", "and" along with other words like that. They also have a somewhat amusing trait for saying "fucken" after every line. So a line that might go "Would you like to buy this car?", might turn out as "like to buy this car fucken?"
    • That's because most of the Slavic languages (with the notable exception of Bulgarian) actually lack any articles whatsoever. And have a radically different phrase structure — what about having a free word order where the linguistic role of a word is determined by inflection, rather than position, which is used for emphasis instead. Thus, having learned English as adults, they simply carry the imprinted grammatic structure of their native language into English.
      • Additionally, at least in Polish, the repetition is strongly discouraged so the omission of "I", "you" etc. is common (the subject of sentence can be deduced from grammatical structure of sentence). The reverse projection of using the "I", "you" would be a stylistic error (especially in written text).
  • A version of this used to be very common in English spoken by Irish people, because Irish grammatical structures were imported directly into the language, sometimes creating strange, convoluted sentences. The best known example arises from the fact that Irish has an extra form of the present tense called the "gnáth láithreach" (habitual present) used for actions which occur on a regular or ongoing basis, which uses "bíonn" (to be) as an auxiliary verb in its conjugation, resulting in constructions like "I do be going to the pub every day". Other typical "funny Irish" sentences like "Is it looking for a slap you are?" or "I have a great thirst on me" can be attributed to the same kind of imported grammar. Now that the English language has so strongly taken hold in Ireland, you rarely actually hear grammar like this outside of rural areas or those few places where people still speak Irish primarily - though our friends the English were still using it in "Paddy the Hilarious Irishman"-type skits long after it fell out of general use.
  • Speaking of, Cockney rhyming slang is intended to sound just like this: a bunch of idiot lower class people utterly butchering the language beyond comprehension. In actuality, it's code that relies heavily on local teaching and euphemisms, and virtually impenetrable because the key to translation—the rhyme—is assumed to be known to the audience already, and is not spoken: "I'll have a look" becomes "I'll have a butcher's", referring to "butcher's hook", which rhymes with "look".
    • It gets even crazier than that. You can make up a new rhyme on the spot, never say the second half, and have it be obvious simply from the context. The listener will deduce that because the sentence makes no sense, it must be a new rhyme, will work out what it must mean from the context, then find the rhyming word to complete the phrase so they will remember it. From that point on, the group may use the rhyme when context isn't enough to deduce it, and the outsiders are stumped yet again.
  • Chinese (even, and even especially, Classical Chinese) has a simple (or even simplistic for our tastes) grammar with only a few exotic things, which can lead to the stereotype of Chinese people speaking with simplistic grammar. Masterpieces such as the Tao Te Ching or The Art of War, when translated literally, would seem to fit this trope. Of course, it didn't deter them from being such a prestigious civilisation.
  • Subverted by Israelis who often depict themselves as such on their own media, as a form of self-humour. Their speech usually isn’t that bad, but its grammar is usually poor and the accent is very thick, not to mention the occasional phrases uttered in Hebrew. In reality, Israelis can very often have rather decent English with an accent better than the one depicted, and occasionally there are Israelis with a near-perfect American accent thanks to American media (notable case: Bar Refaeli), although this is quite often a case of Truth in Television among the poor and uneducated.
  • Almost any creole or pidgin language will sound like this to speakers of the language it draws most of its words from. For example, written Hawaiian pidgin (mainly a combination of English and Hawaiian) looks like this: "He goin give me everyting I need." "Da peopo ova dea dat stay inside da dark, dey see one big light now." "You guys know how da food need salt fo stay good."
  • Expressive aphasia is an involuntary version of this. Basically, the Broca's area-the part of the brain that controls grammar-is damaged. Sufferers of this condition typically speak very slowly and their sentences often lack pronouns, articles, and conjunctions. Instead of saying "There are three bowls in the cabinet," a person with expressive aphasia would say "bowl bowl bowl three cabinet."
  • The development of English itself is bound up in this trope. Old English, having developed from several west germanic dialects along the North Sea coast and later came into extensive contact with Old Norse, was losing many inflections well before 1066. As for afterwards, many described the developing standard as what Norman soldiers used to chat up Saxon barmaids.


Other[edit | hide]

  • "Confucius say, he who no take candle not very bright."
  • The Gorgeous Tiny Chicken Machine Show. Explains itself, really.
  • In Chris Jericho's autobiography, he mentions that while he worked in Japan, he couldn't really speak the language and a couple of the friends he made there couldn't really speak English. However, he said that because he was fluent in "broken English" that he could still communicate; asking his friends "Would you like to go to the music store with me?" wouldn't work, but saying, "Maybe you me go CD shop?" would.