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File:Use big words.jpg

Douglas Klump: The perimeters of our assignment were described to us with specificity, Mr. Shlubb. We are to deposit our cargo into the body of water which we now overlook. It was likeways made clear to us that any embellishments of said perimeters would not be advisory.

Burt Shlubb: I cannot prescribe to such a narrow interpretation of the perimeters which you now invoke, Mr. Klump.
Sin City: Fat Man and Little Boy

In which a person tries too hard to sound "educated" by using Big Words or carefully chosen phrases but gets it wrong, filling their dialogue with malapropisms, mispronunciations and mangled grammar. The result is that they sound less educated and at the same time pompous and pretentious. This idiosyncrasy is often given to a Know-Nothing Know-It-All, Those Two Bad Guys, or a stuffed shirt that demands respect, but is mocked behind his back. It can also be used to add charm or humor to a character who would otherwise seem a little flat.

This trope works best in print; characters with Delusions of Eloquence are funniest when you can read, in black and white, what they are doing to our mother tongue. In audiovisual media, unless the captions are turned on, they just come across as two Mooks who talk too much. ("Low-rent thugs with delusions of eloquence," as Hartigan puts it).

Compare Buffy-Speak, where the ideas may be legitimately sophisticated, but the speaker lacks the ability to properly articulate them, and Malaproper, where the character may misuse words completely by accident. Contrast Spock Speak and Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness, where the big words and proper grammar are used correctly, but for differing reasons, and Little-Known Facts, where the same motivation is expressed through making up "facts" instead of trying to use fancy words. See also You Keep Using That Word, for the most often misused words. When used in written media, this can overlap with Rouge Angles of Satin.

Alas, there really are people who do this; see the Real Life section below.

Examples of Delusions of Eloquence include:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

  • Sin City has the former (and, in a roundabout way, current) trope namers Shlubb and Klump. What can you say about people who render "circumnavigation" as "circumlocution" (when talking about driving around the block, yet!) or "quenched" as "quelched" or refer to "Consequences most dire" being "athwart us" or... you get the picture.
  • The Elseworld version of Hank McCoy in X-Men: Noir does this, in a sort of parody of the mainstream incarnation's Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness.
  • Lucullan from Empire does this often.
  • Larfleeze, largely because he's a Psychopathic Manchild who's Really Seven Hundred Years Old.
  • Imperial Pimpotron Alpha from Empowered, who could give Marcus a run for his money. It might be deliberate, at least somewhat...

Imperial Pimpotron Alpha: For I, Imperial Pimpotron Alpha am scouticruiting you for priviligious erotiservitude in the Cosmolactic Emperor's Harem!



  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the head weasel talks like this. Saying things like "Do you want us to disresemble the place?" and offering to "repose" of Roger.
  • Super Mario Bros.: The Movie has henchmen Iggy and Spike use this after they've been evolved into an "advanced" form.
  • Leo Gorcey's Slip Mahoney character, in the Bowery Boys movies, was all about this trope.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "Are you addressing I?" (Pike could have said "Am I being addressed by you?" - which, while correct, is even more pretentious.)
  • Exaggerated in Idiocracy, where the police would constantly call someone a "particular individual" which really did make them sound smart to most people.
  • Chance the Gardener in Being There is a man with mild mental delays who can't take care of himself, but he's dressed so well everyone assumes he's rich, and thinks everything he says is a profound statement. Subverted in that Chance himself was just responding in the only way he knew how and had no Delusions of Eloquence.
  • In the film adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events, Stefano claims that he wants to "facilitate and remain observatory" while working for Uncle Monty.
  • in Good Will Hunting, the scene where Chuckie poses as Will in the job interview.


  • Raymond Briggs' character James Bloggs. We first meet him in Gentleman Jim, where he has been a toilet attendant for many years, never moving up in the world because he "lacks enterprise and initiation" and "doesn't have the levels" ('O' and 'A' levels, school certificates or "cerstificates" as James puts it). We see him again in When the Wind Blows, where he and his wife, Hilda, prepare for nuclear war. "It could affect us all, the Ultimate Determent an' that." "I think it's called the Big Bang theory."
  • Guido, one of the two good Mooks from Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures series.
    • Mind you, Guido has an MBA, and has said that he spent considerable time perfecting his mook-speak, because (as with Chumley's Hulk Speak) he constantly deals with people who respect street smarts and a capacity for violence more than higher learning. The series as a whole has a similar preference, though... the one character who uses Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness is playing dumb.
    • It's also mentioned that Guido was in Guys and Dolls when he was in school, and developed a fondness for his character's speech patterns.
  • A character in War and Peace speaks in unintelligibly mangled French to sound more intelligent and impress a girl.
  • Shlubb and Klump Russian as used by Modest Kamnoyedov from Strugatsky Brothers' novel Monday Begins on Saturday. He is a bureaucrat working in the Institute of Sorcery and Wizardry, fails to get the local Techno Babble but still tries to use it. Hilarity Ensues (for example, he pronounces the word homunculus as "hum-moonkles").
    • Also Amvrosiy Ambroisovich Vybegallo who tries to imitate sophisticated syntax and uses mangled French phrases to conceal his lack of intellect and manners.
  • Discworld: Colon and Nobby tend to slip into this when no one else is around. Particularly noticible in Thud!
  • Unintentional example: Bella's narration of Twilight is considered to be this.
    • As is almost everything Aro and the other Volturi say.
    • And the Cullens in general (besides, possibly Emmett and Rosalie), though Edward takes the cake.
  • Mrs Malaprop, as written by Sheridan.
  • Owl in Winnie the Pooh is rather like this; he's supposed to be what a young child would think sounds educated.
  • The book The Shadow God is full of Shlubb and Klumping on the part of its author, Aaron Rayburn. Specific examples include "the blue glow emancipating from the basement" (emanating) and "Spiers's eyes popped extraneously from their sockets" (??).
  • Paolini of The Inheritance Cycle has an unfortunate tendency to lapse into this, usually as a result of his Purple Prose, thesaurus abuse and thus trying too hard to come up with creative descriptions.
  • The Eye of Argon. All of it.
  • Older Than Print: The Host in The Canterbury Tales.
  • One of Dave Barry's "Mister Language Person" columns suggested using this as "Power Vocabulary" to impress your boss with:

You: Good morning, Mr. Johnson, you hemorrhoidal infrastructure.
Your Boss: What?

  • In Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Bridget tries to start off her interview with Colin Firth by asking him about a movie of his that isn't Pride and Prejudice, and comes up with: "Do you think the book of Fever Pitch has spored a confessional gender?" He struggles to come up with a reasonable answer to this nonsensical question.
  • Informed example: the narrator of Anton Chekhov's short story "Peasants" characterizes the "hetman" of the village, saying that he is unable to read but had acquired "bookish expressions." The reader never hears much of his speech but is left to imagine that it would be much like this.
  • In Whale Talk by Cris Crutcher Dan Hole comes across as this.
  • In Les Misérables, the villainous Thenardier is a frequent example of this. He speaks and writes in a flowery manner that gives him the air of a philosopher/intellectual, but his writing is filled with misspellings, and Hugo comments to the effect that his obsession with Big Words shows a stupid person's understanding of what a smart person sounds like. Thenardier also frequently defends arguments by fraudulent citations of famous people, but has no actual knowledge of those authorities, except that they are famous (e.g. he will cite to the novels of someone who only wrote poetry). His wife also demonstrates this through the odd names she gave to her daughters, taken from romantic novels. This choice is very similar to the idea underlying a Ghetto Name.

Live Action TV

  • Shlubb and Klump French: Perceval and Karadoc from Kaamelott
  • The classic version of this trope is Amos And Andy in both radio and television shows of the 1940s and 1950s. The radio show had its black leads voiced by white actors (who also played the roles in blackface in a movie; the television show cast actual African-Americans) speaking fluent Shlubb and Klump. It fell out of favor when polite society discovered that many whites who watched the show thought that the "Negros" they met in real life were just as stupid and shiftless as these caricatures. Weirdly, even though Amos & Andy has been off the air for half a century, even as reruns, similar blackface characters keep turning up in home-grown musicals performed by all-white college fraternities.
  • Arthur Daley, the Honest John of Minder, often uses larger words than he understands and is prone to malapropisms, as tries to present himself as genteel and upper crust.
  • The best known interpreter of Runyonesque dialogue was character actor and TV producer Sheldon Leonard. His distinctive version of the overly literate gangster/thug kept him employed in movies, radio and television for nearly sixty years. When not doing character parts, Leonard produced TV classics like The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Andy Griffith Show, and I Spy, often doing guest shots on his own shows.
  • The In Living Color sketch character, Oswald Bates, is an inmate who delivers self-educated political ramblings. The humor is based on his misuse of vocabulary words, and anatomical terms in particular.

"First of all, we must internalize the flatulation of the matter, by transmitting the effervescent of the indonesian proximity, in order to further segregate the crux, of my venereal infection. Now, if I may retain my liquids here for one moment, I'd like to continue the redundance of my, quote-unquote, "intestinal tract", see, because to preclude on the issue of world domination would only circumvent... excuse me, circumsize the revelation that reflects the aphrodesiatic symptoms, which now perpetrates the gericurl's activation."
"Allow me to expose my colon, once again, the ramification inflicted on the incision placed within the Fallopian cavities serves to be holistic, taken form the Latin word, 'jalapeno'..."

  • An episode of Mash has Radar taking a correspondence course in creative writing. The episode consists mainly of him writing the daily reports like a bad novel, in the process angering Colonel Potter.
  • Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar in Neverwhere,. This makes them no less horrifying, as Mr. Croup lampshades.

Mr. Croup: " You find us funny, Messier Marquis, do you not? A source of amusement. Is that not so? With our pretty clothes, and our convoluted circumlocutions-"
Mr. Vandemar (murmuring): "I haven't got a circumlo...."
Mr. Croup: "-and our little silliness of manner and behaviour. And perhaps we are funny. [...] But you must never imagine, that just because something is funny, Messier Marquis, it is not dangerous."
[ Vandemar knocks out the marquis by throwing a knife, handle first, into his temple ]
Mr. Croup: "Circumlocution, It's a way of speaking around something. A digression. Verbosity."
Mr. Vandemar: "I wondered."

  • This was the schtick of Maple LaMarsh on Remember WENN.
  • Firefly: The scene from the bar in the "Train Job" episode? ("This is a most... Ass-picious day!")
  • In the Castle episode "Overkill" the hungover motel clerk tends to babble on in a fashion like this ("I appreciate you guys intervejecting [sic] with the police down there on my behest.")
  • The Detroit 1-8-7 episode "Beaten/ Cover Letter" featured a boxer's manager who spoke like this—and a detective who mocked him for it.
  • One of the running gags on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is Charlie's tendancy to slip into this mode whenever he tries to impress people. One of the most memorable happens when he receives advice on how to talk to a beautiful woman.

Mac: Just tell her you're a philanthropist. Chicks dig it when you work with kids and senior citizens and crap.
Woman: So what do you do for a living?
Charlie: I'm a ... full-on-rapist ... you know, kids and old people, mainly.

  • In one episode of Boy Meets World, Eric gets a word-a-day calendar to improve his vocabulary and he tries to use these words in conversation but repeatedly fails at it. By the end of the episode he gets the hang of it but annoys everybody by using big words in mundane conversation.
  • An episode of Friends had Joey writing a letter and discovering, to his delight, the thesaurus function on his word processor. Given the tool's imprecisions, his letter (and his dialogue for the rest of the episode) became this trope.
  • Michael Scott of The Office is likely to use several of those every time he speaks.
  • Gob of Arrested Development has not mastered either the meaning or pronunciation of circumvent.
  • Mrs. Slocombe of Are You Being Served? was frequently prone to this, including in one of her catchphrases ("And I am unanimous in that").

"The earth began as a soup, with little orgasms floating about in it."



  • This was a particular specialty of Archie the Bartender, in the old '40s comedy Duffy's Tavern.
  • Phil Harris did this all the time on The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show.
  • The Bob and Ray character of Dr. Elmer Stapley, "The Word Wizard", was all about this trope.


  • The theme of mooks talking over their heads was a mainstay of Damon Runyon's writings in the early 20th century and is the likely inspiration for most modern examples. Guys and Dolls, a musical and movie in the 1950s, is still being performed today, giving generations of American high school students a chance to channel their inner mook on stage.
  • Another '50s example is the musical and movie Kiss Me Kate, the plot of which concerns a production of a musical version of William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Two mooks show up at the theater to make sure the leading man pays his gambling debts. They get to strut their stuff in the classic comic song, "Brush Up Your Shakespeare."
    • The mooks can almost steal the show the show this way if they can play their respective mob stereotypes (the stocky, verbose fellow with an exaggerated accent, and the skinny old guy with the Marlon-Brando-impersonator's voice) completely and hilariously straight, even while singing.
  • Macheath in Brecht's The Threepenny Opera is sort of a cross between this and Know-Nothing Know-It-All, speaking in a much more genteel manner than his mooks, but prone to crude language when angry. In one scene, he lectures them on their ignorance and discusses Chippendale vs. Louis Quatorze furniture but doesn't actually know which piece of furniture is which.
  • Shakespeare liked to write buffoonish, lower-class characters who try to speak above their station and end up littering their speech with malapropisms, much to the confusion of many modern students.

Dogberry: Thou wilt be condemned into everlasting redemption for this.


Sir Toby: *upon seeing Maria* Accost, good knight, accost! (Meaning to woo.)
Sir Andrew: Good Mistress Accost...
Maria: My name is Mary, sir.
Sir Andrew: Good Mistress Mary Accost...

  • In the mid-1800's in the United States, the minstrel show character archetype Zip Coon was a freeman (a black man not bound by slavery living up North) who constantly tried to sound smarter and more educated (read: "white") than he actually was. To the audience, this archetype proved that blacks could never be as intelligent as white men. Yes, it's exactly as racist as it sounds.
  • G(a)linda and Madame Morrible of Wicked are both prone to this. Specifically, they tend to tack extraneous or just plain wrong suffixes onto otherwise serviceable words. Since they typically do it when speaking to people of lower class than themselves, it's possible they know it's wrong but think their audience will be impressed anyway.
    • Actually, according to the companion book The Grimmerie, this is simply Ozian English, dialectically speaking.
  • In the Danish comedy play Erasmus Montanus, the village Know-Nothing Know-It-All speaks Schlubb And Klump Latin, with a good dose of Canis Latinicus mixed in with occasionally correct words. The main character (a pompous and over-educated Stranger in a Familiar Land come home to visit his parents) tries to call him on it, only to fail because the villagers don't speak a word of the language anyway and finds the conman's gibberish more convincing.
  • In the Commedia Dell'Arte, one of Dottore's standards was to misuse words, for example pluralizing things according to Latin or Greek rules; he was terrified of being mugged by "hoodla" (hoodlums).
  • In Seminar, Douglas often comes off this way, especially in his opening speech.

Video Games

  • Perhaps the most Egregious example of this is Yangus of Dragon Quest VIII, who while mostly being a lower-class Boisterous Bruiser, occasionally tries to mix in words of more than 2 syllables...and always, ALWAYS screws them up. How hard is it to say 'specific,' man?!
  • The character Redd White (Head of Bluecorp) in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Appropriately enough, he's the chapter's villain.
  • Abercrombie Fizzwidget from Ratchet and Clank Going Commando. It turns out that he does this because he's actually dim-witted Captain Qwark in disguise. The real Fizzwidget speaks normally.
  • Lukan the Witless in Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura. He's convinced that "witless" is a synonym for "humorless."
    • "Who am I? Who am I? Lukan! Lukan the Witless! Where I go, the masses quabble in perturbisiveness and trepidunction!"
  • Lord Rugdumph gro-Shurgak in The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. He manages to work about three malapropisms into every sentence. He wishes you to exterminize some ogres, who have abjected his daughter. Should you do so, he will grant you a sword that has been passed in his family for many generators.
    • This sword has the effects of temporarily stealing "Speechcraft" skill and applying a Silence effect, by the way. (... on your enemies. It's not that kind of Joke Item!)
  • Qui the Promoter from Jade Empire, an NPC at the Imperial Arena who tries to impress others by (ab)using big words. At one point, if you complain about this, he retorts with "Everything I say is perfectly cromulent, and it might do you well to embiggen your vocabulary before you fling accretions in my discretion."
  • Barnum from Fable II, who learned his "ridiculousitous" vocabulary from a dodgy thesaurus he purchased.
    • From a merchant in the beginning of the game who speaks in much the same manner.
  • Yoshimitsu's dialect is somewhere between this and Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe. Not that it stops him from being a Badass.
  • In Pokémon XD, one of the Cipher Mooks regularly spouts nonsense statistics. This often works on his companion, though he's left with a vague suspicion that he's being tricked.
  • The K'tang of Star Control 3 use words like Crushify and Destructimate rather often. They also react very badly if you point this out. Of course, they react badly no matter what you do. They really really like to crushify.
  • The manual for Bulletstorm describes the planet the game takes place on as "once-beatific." Beatific can literally mean "bestowing bliss" or "blissful", which is what they were likely shooting for... but it carries very strong connotations that this bliss is sacred or holy in nature, which make the line all kinds of awkward.
  • Donny, the sign-in guy from You Don't Know Jack 2011, especially when you ask him to explain the rules.
  • One of Those Two Bad Guys in Exit Fate is clearly trying for Talks Like a Simile. Instead, he constantly forgets where he's going with them, resulting in a bad case of this that usually confuses listeners into Visible Silence. He always assumes they're just crushed by his devastating insults.
  • After you beat up some common thugs in one part of Devil Survivor 2, Commander Hotsuin shows up and asks if it's fun playing with imbeciles. The beaten thug replies, "You're an umbilical!"


  • El Goonish Shive came close to this in its early days. The author himself admitted, that he actually spoke like this in those days. The scripting has undergone major improvements since then.
  • Marcus from 1/0
  • From Homestuck, uu has a tendency to occasionally use phrases he doesn't actually understand in an attempt to make himself look more intimidating, such as here:

TT: It sounds like you don't even know what a red herring is.


Web Original

  • Torq, the 3/4ths Orc from the Critical Hit Podcast often says these when he tries to repeat things the smarter characters say.
  • The Binder of Shame features Biff Bam, a guy with "a habit of randomly mispronouncing things in ways that made little or no sense at all". The resulting Funetik Aksent has the mispronunciations capitalised so they're not mistaken for typos.

"I looked over your character sheets and everything is okay except for one thing. I asked everyone to make ACAMADEMIANS and one of you made a NIMJA."


Western Animation


Joey: Yeah, but what if management remains intragnizent?
Donbot: From the context it is clear what you mean.

    • Zapp and his cham-paggin.

Zapp: These would be great with some gwak-a-mole.
Lrr: STOP EATING OUR YOUNG! And it's pronounced guacamole!

  • Bugs Bunny occasionally indulges in this "stragedy", particularly when confronted with a "huge Frankincense monster" that means to render him "non compus mentus".
    • As does Daffy Duck, when contemplating "self-preservatiomunum...munum".
      • THAT, sir, is an inmitigated frabrication!
  • Peter Griffin finds the use of this trope "both shallow and pedantic".
    • This holds for any word used that Peter doesn't understand, such as "esoteric".

Peter: * after being told his theme choice was esoteric* Lois, Who's The Boss is not a food.
Brian: Swing and a miss.

    • Or...

Rehab Director: "You know this degenerate?"
Peter: "Oh yeah? Well you're a... festizzio!" (Beat) "See? I can make up words too."

  • The Opening Narration to DFE's Super President states that the hero can change his body into "whatever the need requires".
  • Octagon Vreedle (but not Rhomboid) of Ben 10 Alien Force.
  • Edd slips into this sometimes in the later seasons of Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy. It's not clear whether this is intentional, or the writers actually think they're using those large words correctly. (Regardless, since Edd is the smartest kid on the cul-de-sac, nobody calls him on it...)
  • Coach Wittenberg from Hey Arnold! is made of this trope.
  • Although Early Cuyler from Squidbillies is not trying to sound intelligent, he mispronuncitates and adds sylabbizanation to almost every word over three syllables because he is a hillbilly stereoishtypery.
  • Blob from The Dreamstone has bouts of this.
  • Chicken from Cow and Chicken uses large words at times (largely incorrectly) to sound smarter than he really is. Thing of it is... it actually works, but only because the people with whom he lives and interacts are complete morons.
  • Beavis and Butthead Do America: After being repeatedly told not to end sentences in prepositions, an underling asked his boss: "Hey chief, isn't that the guy off in whose trailer they were whacking?"
    • Since in this case the underling had a justified reason (namely, said boss being an enema-happy nutjob) for not screwing up, this isn't really a straight example.
  • Pugsy from the Ruby-Spears series Fangface is an example of both this and Malaproper.
  • Stinks from Erky Perky tends to talk like this. Of course, no other character is actually smart enough to call him on it.
  • The "Ungroundable" episode of South Park had all the "cool" kids at school jumping on the Twilight bandwagon and pretending to be vampires. One of the "vampires" is a snobby preppy in a Classical Movie Vampire cape who repeatedly misuses the phrase "per se", just to sound important.

Real Life

  • The letters page of one issue of Just a Pilgrim had a letter from a reader praising Garth Ennis for creating "Believable characters whom can make mistakes".
  • Moral guardian Tom Carder of Childcare Action Project spent the first paragraph of his review of The Village bemoaning the fact that the monsters are referred to as "Those we don't speak of", it should, he insisted be "Those of whom we do not speak". He bemoaned the lack of respect for The King's English, an odd expression from a US citizen, especially at a time when Britain has a Queen, but we'll let that pass. However, this defender of the language is quite capable of including in his reviews sentences like, "He looked at her and she at he". He also lapses into sermonising very often and frequently reminds readers that "Jesus died for you and I".
    • About the only people to note Carder's grammatical whining seem to have been a group he hates, the makers of the Scary Movie series. Their parody of The Village dutifully calls the bogeymen "Those of whom we do not speak". Carder, however, was too busy being shocked and outraged by the movie to notice this.
    • In the same scene, the writers offer a nice Take That at Carter's pedantry. One of the leads, in an attempt to speak like the Villagers, quotes the classic Churchill comeback, "This is something up with which I will not put."
  • The standard Don King parody performed by, well, anyone, uses this.
    • Including as performed by Don King himself.
  • Whilst is a somewhat archaic but perfectly good word. Meanwhilst, on the other hand, is not - it's a word made up on the analogy of meanwhile, but it has no historical basis in English.
  • The joke that goes: "Sometimes I like to masturbate a large word into conversation even if I don't know what it means."
  • Reverend Spooner, who named Spoonerism.
  • Portuguese example here, a man trying to praise the broadcaster with words such as "strogonoffically sensible" and "inoxidable, I mean, shiny" (he even uses an actually existing word, "batrachian").
  • The language spoken by the Church of Happyology might count.
  • A Russian joke, easily translated into English because the words involved are international:

"Is there life on Marx?" (Mars)
"It's just a scientific hypotenuse" (hypothesis)
"Maybe, I'm not Copenhagen in these matters" (competent)

  • A common German reply (less common in recent years but prevalent in the 1980s) to Shlubb and Klump expressions would have been: "That sentence would make any Japanese samowar commit Kalahari."[1]
  • Many high school and college students fall into this trap, as they are enticed by the "Synonyms" feature on MS Word. Fanfic writers too.
  • A while ago, some smart-aleck decided that since something that gives help is "helpful", something that gives health is "healthful". There are now people who are convinced that referring to a meal as "healthy" is "wrong", and referring to it as "healthful" makes you look more intelligent, rather than just pompous.
    • The logic is that "healthy" would more accurately describe the state of the food, rather than the effect.
      • Thank you. That was a very helpy remark.
  • Check out this article: It's about a bunch of pompous Britons criticizing "Americanisms", despite the fact that what they declare "wrong" is either not objectively worse, or in fact objectively better, than what they declare as being "correct". For instance

"It was closely followed by ‘I’m good’ as opposed to ‘I’m very well, thank you’. This phrase is even more infuriating when used as an alternative to ‘No, thanks’, in declining a second helping.
‘I just want to yell, “NO, you are NOT good – you might be really, really BAD,” ’ wailed Patsy Holden."

    • Along that note, Americans who try to "speak British" often tend up end up sounding this way.
  • People who refuse to split infinitives often end up writing ridiculously worded sentences in an effort to sound formal.
    • The origin of the rule, "Never split infinitives," is this trope incarnate. The new social mobility of Britain in the 1700-1900 period meant there were folks who were "new money." They wanted to sound like "old money," and so a market emerged immediately for language manuals. To compete, your language manual had to be the most precise, with more rules and pointless mannerisms than anyone else's. Much of the English Kludge traces back to this time. So why don't we split infinitives? Because you can't in Latin, where the infinitive is a single word. Modern languages like Spanish still have one-word infinitives like "hablar," to speak. English does not need this rule. Those rules you were hit with in grade school are mostly the Delusions of Eloquence of new money early factory owners and capitalists.
      • At one point, the rule was accurate (ie, it just wasn't done). Probably a good thing too, since back when it was first done (circa Chaucer's time), people got downright Egregious with what they'd stuff in there (Geoffrey included).
"There is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to split an infinitive, any more than we should forsake instant coffee and air travel because they weren’t available to the Romans."
—Bill Bryson
  • For some reason, American police spokesmen are on-camera masters of Shlubb & Klump English. There are no "men," "women," or even "persons"/"people": it's always "individuals." "Apprehend" invariably replaces "arrest," etc.: any word that has a ten-dollar synonym is regularly dropped in favor of the latter. And engorged-snake syntax is de rigueur: passive voice throughout, empty joining/padding clauses, etc.
    • Newspapers do this as well. Often they take a "find and replace" method of dealing with terms deemed politically incorrect. When someone is named Gay or Black, or someone is actually from India, Hilarity Ensues. (See also Politically-Correct History, which is almost as absurd.)
    • It's generally seen as proper for formal and scientific/academic writing to be in the passive voice, primarily to demonstrate a lack of bias. In this sense, the police and journalists may very well use it for the same ends, as a show of professionalism and objectivity, although the phenomenon could also be perceived as a pointless and embarrassing imitation of "intellectual" writing.
    • The example of police doing that is because that type of language is required in the way they write reports and testify in court and it seeps into other communication. If there's any possibility of ambiguity attorneys will go after it, so they'll say things such as "I activated my emergency equipment to signal for the driver to pull over" instead of "I pulled the car over" to make what happened as unambiguous as possible. In fact, it's not delusions of eloquence at all, because they are being very precise and exact in what they are saying.
  • One of the many types of errors in Richard Lederer's Anguished English books. This example is from a court transcript:

Attorney: How did you know he was drunk?
Witness: Because he was argumentary and he couldn't pronunciate his words.

  • One of the many language fumbles made by the writers of Nigerian scam e-mails, particularly when they try to sound official. Actual example:

The choice of contacting you aroused from the geographical nature of where you live particularly due to the sensitivity of the transaction and the confidentiality herein. Now our company has been waiting for any of the relatives to come-up for the claim of the inheritance fund but unfortunately all efforts has being void. I personally have been unsuccessful in locating neither the relatives nor any next of kin to Mr. Saba. On this regards, I seek your consent to present you as the next of kin / will beneficiary to the deceased so that the proceeds of this account valued at Eighty Five Million Dollars($85M) can be paid to you.

  • Writers—most often Fanfic writers, but by no means limited to them—who rely overly much on spellcheckers (and their often wildly-incorrect suggestions for "correct" spellings) can accidentally inflict this on their work, sometimes to the point where it becomes a Word Salad. For instance, the Crossover fic Awaken Sleeper by "Water Mage" is littered with constructions like

We both can do it, so it's obliviously genetic.


Even Mab and Titania were compelled by treaties formed from the broken bodies of gods of Before and neo faith burned throughout time marjoram.

which are so unlikely to be authorial error that they had to have been spellchecked into existence.
  1. Samowar being a samovar, a kind of Russian tea item, and Kalahari meaning the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa, the joke being...well..."Samurai" and "hara-kiri" aka Seppuku.