Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Annyong!: 14 characters who (mostly) say only one thing

1. Groot, Guardians Of The Galaxy

Action cinema is filthy with men of few words, the strong and silent types who say more with less. Even within that grand tradition, however, the meteoric rise of Groot—one of the five misfit headliners of the year’s biggest hit, Guardians Of The Galaxy—has to be seen as a new victory for terseness. Pulled from the comic-book pages of the film’s source material, Groot is basically a talking tree, though he can only say three words, always in the same order: “I am Groot.” So why have audiences fallen in love with the monosyllabic guy? In even fewer words: inflection. Vin Diesel, who voices Groot, manages to convey a wide range of emotions simply by delivering his one-sentence mantra in a slightly different tone each time. And given how limited the character’s vocabulary is, a climactic deviation off-script is as affecting as intended. It helps, of course, that Groot is such a charmingly slapstick CGI creation—a gentle giant whose shtick would be right at home in the silent era, when movie characters basically had to communicate with no words. For all the talk of how Guardians has rocketed Chris Pratt onto the A-list, the film’s true star goes by a different name. He’ll tell you it himself. [A.A. Dowd]

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2. Hodor, Game Of Thrones

Winterfell’s gentle giant Hodor is a catchall strongman who ends up becoming Bran’s protector when the boy falls from the tower and loses the use of his legs. He’s also, as they say, “simple-minded”; for some reason unknown to us, Hodor only says one word, and that is his name. In the show, it’s not explained if he’s named “Hodor” because that’s the only word he could say—or if he only learned how to say his name and nothing more. In the books, Old Nan reveals that Hodor’s real name is “Walder,” but neither he nor anyone else calls him that. Regardless, in the show, Kristian Nairn manages to convey shades of meaning through the one word “Hodor,” and though it’s become a running joke of sorts, it speaks to a larger, unnamed tragedy. [Sonia Saraiya]

3. Duane, Full House

In the eighth and final season of Full House, the show’s threadbare premise had been stretched far beyond the breaking point. Jesse and Rebecca were raising twins in the Tanners’ attic and apparently eluding Child Protective Services. In one of many shark-jumping moments from the season (Kimmy’s ostrich, anyone?) hapless Kimmy Gibbler finds a boyfriend in the guise of backward-hatted, dim-witted Duane. Of indeterminate age, Duane (played by Scott Menville of Ernest Goes To Camp/Wonder Years fame) is fresh out of trade school and going into the plumbing business with his dad. That’s about all we learn, as Kimmy spells out in an introductory speech to D.J. Duane is then reduced to his marginally famous catchphrase, voiced in slacker drawl: “Whatever.” It’s essentially a catchall adjective, employed in any exchange to express contentment, distress or apathy. Duane only appeared in three episodes, but he proved to be a multi-textured character, with a deep love for Shakespeare and the blind faith to agree to marry Kimmy at the Create-Your-Own-Wedding Chapel. Whatever. [Drew Fortune]

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4. Beaker, The Muppet Show

The long-suffering, oft-exploded sidekick of Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker communicates only through the word “meep.” (Or “mee,” depending on whom you ask.) Though Beaker’s meeps can take on different tones and cadences depending on whether he’s singing “Danny Boy” or just trying to express his intense panic as another of Honeydew’s experiments goes awry, he’s still consistently high-pitched and monosyllabic, a characteristic that only makes the shock-haired Muppet that much more charming. [Marah Eakin]

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5. Michael “Lurch” Armstrong, Hot Fuzz

Rory McCann is best known for playing The Hound on Game Of Thrones, but he scored major geek cred four years prior when he appeared in the second installment of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy, Hot Fuzz. In it, McCann’s character Michael Armstrong is a hulking grocery-store worker in the tiny English village of Sandford whom Danny Butterman (played by Nick Frost) calls “Lurch”—only instead of favoring “You rang?” like his namesake in The Addams Family, this Lurch can only utter the vague, all-purpose affirmative “Yarp.” When phoned by Lurch’s sinister superiors after being attacked by him, Pegg’s character Nicholas Angel mimics the monosyllabic giant, improvising what he guesses might be Michael’s negative response: “Narp?” [Jason Heller]

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6. George, Crazy People (1990)

Unlike most mental patients in movies, the titular Crazy People of the 1990 Dudley Moore comedy are cuddly and not prone to biting. (The same could be said of the film’s funny yet uneven satire of advertising.) Their illnesses could be more aptly called quirks, with the most memorable of these being David Paymer’s George and his fixation on the word “Hello.” Having said nothing but “Hello,” with varying inflections, since 1977, George surprises everyone when he begins to open up to Moore’s broken-down ad executive, adding the occasional “How are you?” and eventually developing a full vocabulary. But as demonstrated by the “Hello Box” he gives to Moore’s character as a parting gift, for George nothing says hello like “Hello.” [Sean O’Neal]

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7. Timmy, South Park
It’s theorized that the wheelchair-using member of South Park has some combination of palsy and Tourette syndrome, but Timmy is perhaps the exception that proves the rule: He is challenged when it comes to vocabulary but not solely limited to a single phrase. Although the majority of his dialogue throughout the series centers on his own name, “Timmy!”, said in a variety of tones and imbued with a variety of emotions, Timmy occasionally incorporates other phrases to hilarious effect (“Gobbles!” “Livin’ a lie!”). Still, he fits the spirit of the monosyllabic character in his commitment to using mostly his name, and a mere handful of other phrases, to express the whole of his human experience. [Libby Hill]

8. Matt Damon, Team America: World Police

South Park’s Timmy isn’t the only character Trey Parker and Matt Stone created who’s obsessed with his own name. In their 2004 film Team America: World Police, one of the many celebrities being satirized (via supermarionette) is Matt Damon—but in the film’s scathingly skewed vision of reality, Damon is either intellectually or egotistically incapable (maybe both?) of saying anything other than “Matt Damon!” In his Reddit AMA earlier this year, the real-life Damon said he approved of his less than flattering portrayal in the film, saying it was “brilliant” and that “all the comedy [Parker and Stone are] doing is really next-level stuff.” To which the fictionalized Damon might have added, “Matt Damon!” [Jason Heller]

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9. The Road Runner, Looney Tunes

As usual, Weird Al Yankovic said it best: “It’s a sad, depressing story about a pathetic coyote who spends every waking moment of his life in the futile pursuit of a sadistic road runner who mocks him and laughs at him as he’s repeatedly crushed and maimed! Hope you enjoy it!” Yes, beneath the classic Looney Tunes zaniness there’s a current of existential despair, as happiness is perpetually just out of reach for Wile E. Coyote, who can never experience true happiness no matter how furiously he rocket-skates towards it. In the end, we are all that coyote, pursuing our dreams and forever falling frustratingly short and plummeting off the cliff of thwarted ambitions. But while the rest of us can find solace in friends, alcohol, and expertly written pop-culture web sites, the coyote is left with only the cold comfort of a mocking rejoinder ringing in his ears: A cheerfully oblivious “Meep Meep!” [Mike Vago]

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10. Finding Nemo

Considering that Disney and Pixar’s animated production of aquatic life near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is mostly about animals, it’s not terribly surprising that they wouldn’t all have a strong command of human speech (or memory, in Dory’s case). Bubbles, the yellow tang fish in P. Sherman’s aquarium on Wallaby Way, is traumatized enough by his captivity that he’s obsessed with the bubbles that come out of the tank’s treasure chest. That means mostly he says “bubbles,” but to be fair, he adds a few possessives here and there, and even once drops in a “I love the bubbles,” the poor guy. The real one-word wonders in the film are the seagulls that populate the pier; the film captures perfectly the tone and mindset of the greedy birds, who only say “Mine? Mine. Mine!” [Sonia Saraiya]

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11. Domo, Domo-kun

A character spawned as the promotional mascot of Japan’s public broadcaster NHK, Domo turned into a manga star and Internet darling. But he first saw life as a stop-motion animation creation who existed in a world populated with animal friends who could understand him—despite his vocabulary consisting of muffled grunts that mostly sounded like his own name. Domo’s star may shine brightest on the Internet, however, where his sweet face and kind demeanor have made him a merchandising superstar. He’s a gentle soul who, despite a limited vocabulary, is capable of speaking volumes (masturbating kitten memes notwithstanding). [Libby Hill]

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12. Magnitude, Community

Magnitude is introduced as a one-man party, and he never fails to amp up an episode with his staccato “pop, pop!” and accompanying emphatic raise-the-roof gesture. He’s not so much of a one-trick pony as a human running gag that’s applied to virtually any situation (Dean Pelton tells Magnitude: “You usually have the perfect blend of brevity and wit that sums up situations”). Magnitude (Luke Youngblood, who’s British and played a young Lee Jordan in the first two Harry Potter movies) does say more than “pop, pop”—in “For A Few Paintballs More,” for example, he explains that as a one-man party it would be a paradox to join up with a team. But his consistent “pops” are his defining character trait, and he always delivers them with aplomb at precisely the right moment. In fact, the episode “Economics Of Marine Biology” plays out what it means when Magnitude’s catchphrase is taken away. After a rich potential student decides he wants the motto for himself, Magnitude’s breakdown and pathetic search for a replacement (“Diggity do?”) forces Dean Pelton to confront his mistake. “Greendale is Magnitude saying ‘pop, pop,’” the Dean says. He’s right: Characters like Magnitude, and their intermittent but important contributions to the show, are part of what makes Community so special. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]

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13. Annyong Bluth, Arrested Development

It comes as no surprise that Arrested Development, once committed to a long-term gag, could really make it sing. Perhaps one of the most fruitful jokes from the series comes in the form of Annyong Bluth. The adopted Korean son of George and Lucille, the boy arrived knowing no English and greeting his new family with the Korean word for hello: “Annyeong.” Which they repeated. Which he repeated. The Bluths took ” “” “annyeong” to be his name, launching the group down a riotous path in which the majority of the character’s dialogue was repeating the Korean word for hello, with a few notable exceptions, including selling the entire family out to the SEC in the (original) series finale. That his actual name was Hel-loh, revealed in the same episode, made it all the more delicious. [Libby Hill]

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14. Uh-Huh, Our Gang, Little Rascals

Most people probably recognize Uh-Huh from 1994’s Little Rascals, but the source material for the film comes from Hal Roach’s Our Gang, a series of black-and-white shorts beginning in the 1920s. The neighborhood group of trouble-making, Sunday-school skipping, derby-racing kids includes Uh-Huh, who answers everything in the affirmative with “uh-huh” or sometimes a drawn-out “uh-huuuh.” Luckily, no one asks him anything for which “uh-huh” isn’t a sufficient answer, until (in the 1994 movie) Uh-Huh shocks his friends by responding “nuh-uh” and eloquently explaining: “Actually, I’ve always had a rather extensive vocabulary, not to mention a phenomenal grasp of grammar and a superlative command of syntax. I simply chose not to employ them.” Uh-Huh is arguably better in the earlier product, as the children in the 80-year-old shorts are far less grating than their 1994 counterparts. There are some oddities, like 8-year-old boys dressed to the nines in suits and girls toting old-lady bags, but their overall style is realistically childlike, recalling Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts. Also like Charlie Brown and his friends, the earlier gang of rascals rarely interacts with adults, whereas the 1994 group is subject to interacting with Donald Trump, who plays the oil tycoon father of the new rival kid. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]

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