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"I didn't spell it like that when I said it!"
Alan Davies, QI

Some people spell their names differently from the usual spelling. Some people not only spell their names differently from the usual spelling, but can tell when somebody saying their name is spelling it wrong in his head. It's as if they can infer the other person having an "incorrect" Funetik Aksent.

Hollywood Spelling is the inverse of this trope to some extent. Compare It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY". Can overlap with Painting the Fourth Wall or Medium Awareness.

Examples of Psmith Psyndrome include:

Anime & Manga

  • This trope is infamously well-loved by manga creators. Because Japanese names can be drastically different despite using the same kanji, characters are often seen stating that they use a rare reading. It's a level up on reading Smith as either "smith" or "smythe". On the other side of this trope, in which the same name can be written with sometimes wildly differing kanji, even characters in manga not known for breaking the fourth wall can express an unusual writing of their name in speech bubbles, so it comes across as if other characters can actually read what they're describing.
  • The villain Goda from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig manages to exemplify a Japanese take on Psmith Psyndrome. In his first appearance, he points out to Aramaki that most people read his name wrong and that his given name, written 一人 (normally read as "hitori"), is actually "Kazudo."
    • He also likes it, because after having been corrected once, people have a much easier time recalling his name later.


 Thompson: Hello, this is Thompson, with a P, as in Philadelphia.

Thomson: And this is Thomson without a P, as in Venezuela.

  • FoxTrot has an example of this when Paige babysits a child:

 Paige: Hi there! You must be little Katherine!

Mrs. O'Dell: Um, it's "Katherine", with a "K".

Paige: That's what I said.

Mrs. O'Dell: No, you said "Catherine" with a "C". I could tell. Hold on -- I'll be right back.[1]

Paige: Hi, there! You must be the little girl who's going to need massive therapy in twelve years!

Fan Works

  • Inverted in Colbert Report fandom. Since the T in Colbert is silent, fans have had to invent new ways of spelling the name to indicate when a character in fanfiction is pronouncing it wrong. "Col-bert" is perhaps the most commonly used, although "ColberT" is also seen.


  • Scott ffolliott (played by George Sanders) in Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent, whose family dropped the first capital letter following the death of an ancestor at the hands of Henry VIII. Apparently it's pronounced as a straight 'fuh'.


  • The Trope Namer is PG Wodehouse's character Psmith, who can always tell when people say his name without the P, despite the P being silent.
    • Nor should one forget the classic exchange from Wodehouse's Meet Mr. Mulliner:

 "Sir Jasper Finch-Farrowmere?" said Wilfred.

"ffinch-ffarrowmere," corrected the visitor, his sensitive ear detecting the capital letters.

"Ah, yes. You spell it with two small f's."

"Four small f's."

  • It happens occasionally in Piers Anthony's Xanth series.
  • Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures has neophyte magician Skeeve as the protagonist, with a demon from the dimension Perv as a mentor. There are few ways to get under Aahz's skin faster than referring to him as Oz the Pervert.
    • Inverted in the comic, where Skeeve addresses a Pervect correctly, but the fellow is so used to people getting it wrong he "corrects" Skeeve anyway: "HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO SAY IT? IT'S NOT PERVECT, IT'S... Say, that's right. What can I do for you, kid?"
    • Also, in the first book, Skeeve's previous mentor is killed by an imp employed by Isstvan. Skeeve relays this to Aahz, who claims to have never heard of him. Later, another character tells the two that he is also employed by Isstvan, whom Aahz recognizes. Skeeve can't tell the difference.
  • Thursday Next character Jack Schitt once mentioned that he can tell when it's being mispronou... misspe... let's go with audibly misspelt. This happens frequently, his name being as appropriate as it is.
  • Anne with an E from Anne of Green Gables, who always corrects anyone who makes the mistake of pronouncing it "Ann". Of course, they're pronounced the same way, so...
    • English actually has short and long syllables. Even though "Ann" and "Anne" are both one-syllable words, "Anne" is a longer syllable in some accents, so it's not inconceivable one could hear the difference.
    • She introduces herself as "Anne spelt with an E", but doesn't natter about the pronunciation so much, so it's not quite this trope.
  • Of course Terry Pratchett plays with this trope.
    • Pteppic from Pyramids (a reference to the Ancient Egyptian Ptolemaic Dynasty (after Ptolemy)). Going from this, some readers refer to Pratchett as "Pterry".
      • Played with, in that while initially Pteppic pronounces every "t" word with a "p" in the beginning, by the time he's finished his education in Ankh-Morpork, even he doesn't include the "p" in front of his own name, thinking of himself as Teppic.
      • Ptraci, on the other hand, determinedly hangs on to her accent, invoking Rule of Sexy.
      • This is rather irritatingly averted in the audiobook, where usually-reliable narrator Nigel Planer pronounces it Pa-Teppic and Pa-Traci, despite the jokes about others pronouncing that way and being wrong. He also hits the D in Djelibeybi, ruining the pun.
      • In Real Life, some people believe Ptolemy's name was pronounced with a bit more of a "click" than a normal t-sound.
    • During the initiation in Going Postal, Moist thinks to himself that it's amazing that he can hear the capital letters in "Let him don the Boots!", but this is only one of many occasions in Discworld novels where someone audibly pronounces capital letters or punctuation (for example, quotation marks or italics for the particularly unhinged).
    • Let us not forget the Igors, half of whom are named Igor, while the other half is Igorina, and they know which Igor you mean. "Oh, you mean my cousin Igor."
    • There was one instance (the context and details of which I've unfortunately forgotten) where a character deduces that another character is respected because he's referred to as "Mister" rather than "Mr."
      • It's William de Worde thinking to himself about Commander Vimes when he first meets him in The Truth. According to William, when speaking about Vimes, 'Mister' really is a two-syllable word. He also notes that everything about Vimes can be prefaced by the word 'badly', as in 'dressed, spoken and in need of a drink.'
  • In Piers Anthony's BEARING AN HOURGLASS, the protagonist can actually hear when Satan is capitalizing His pronouns.
  • In Danny Wallace's autobiographical book Yes Man, his love interest can tell when people pronounce 'Big Things' without the capital letters.
  • In Wicked, "animals" are ordinary creatures, while "Animals" are creatures who can talk, think, and act like people. Apparently Ozites have a way of telling whether or not words are pronounced with a capital letter.
    • When a lecturer began his sentence with the word "Animal", the reader is left wondering if it was capitalized to indicate importance, or just because it was the first word in the sentence. Elphaba then wonders the same thing, due to his "unusual accent".
    • A similar convention is used in Larry Niven's The Ringworld Throne, with sentient races' names receiving a capital letter. Justified by Translation Convention, as a character remarks that one species "takes the prefix" for animals, not people.

Live-Action TV

  • Invoked by Alan Davies in the pilot episode of QI, leading to the above quote. When Alan answers a question by saying 'Adolf', it turns out that that answer was one of the pre-designated ones that make you lose points, so after Stephen Fry reveals the card reading 'Adolph', Alan protests with the page quote. This issue is also brought up in another episode, when Sean Lock asks 'can you tell if I'm spelling things wrong when I say them?' and Stephen Fry brings up Psmith.
  • The BBC children's TV series Chucklevision had a character who was always referred to his surname as "Smyth, pronounced Smith".
  • Done on Will and Grace: "It's Filip with an F. You said Philip, with a Ph."
  • Achmed the Dead Terrorist, one of Jeff Dunham's puppets, corrects him when he says its name...the ch being prounounced with a back-of-the-throat spitting noise is drawn out as a gag:

 Jeff: Well how do you spell it?

Achmed: Uh...A...C...Phlegm...

    • 'Course, technically he's just being a bit anal about a common mistake in Real Life -- the sound in question isn't a phoneme in English so we generally pronounce it either ah-med or ak-med. That kind of subtle phonetic distinction in foreign words is probably where the trope comes from in the first place.
      • It's more common in the UK, with a reasonable number of people familiar with the correct pronunciation of "Loch". One character in Iain Banks's novel The Crow Road is put out by the fact that after decades of apparent inability to pronounce the guttural 'ch' sound in Scottish names, the western television and radio media suddenly demonstrate that they're quite capable of doing so in Arabic names.
  • Parodied in an episode of The Golden Girls, where the four come into contact with a funeral director named Mr. Pfeiffer. The pronounciation of his name is exactly how it's spelled: "Puh-feiffer"; the "P" is not silent.

 Dorothy: Anyway, Mr. Puh-feiffer... about the puh-funeral -- about the funeral...

  • In one host segment of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Tom Servo declares that his name has been changed to Tom Sirveaux. Later, he adds an H to his first name... to make it Htom Sirveaux.
  • Babylon 5 features ten alien brothers (only two are given screen-time), all named Zathras, each with a pronunciation so subtly different that the human ear cannot distinguish it.
    • What makes you so sure only two are given screen time? They can't be distinguished by the human eye, either, so all we really know is that at least two are given screen time. That is, of course, apart from the brief shot of (four? anyway, several) of them conversing.
    • In the trading card game of the show, their characters are distinguished by the placement of an apostrophe (Za'thras, Zath'ras, Z'athras, Zathras'...)

Video Games

  • Ron DeLite in the third Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney game corrects Phoenix's spelling of Mask* DeMasque. Apparently there's a difference between 'mask' and 'masque', and you have to get them in the right order. Also, you have to include the star, somehow. This has led to the fan theory that the star is pronounced by pausing and doing jazz hands.
    • The second Ace Attorney game does this too: although the incriminating evidence (a message supposedly written by Maggey Byrd's boyfriend which calls her "Maggie") is a photograph and thus makes total sense, once this distinction is brought up, everyone seems fully capable of distinguishing the two spellings by sound.
      • Of course, since this is Ace Attorney, it's almost certainly done for humor.
    • Imported straight from the Japanese version, in which the court can tell apart two names that are pronounced exactly the same way but spelled using different kanji. "Her name isn't Suzuki... it's Suzuki!"
  • Kingdom of Loathing provides the usual lampshade hanging:

 "The Slime extends a pseudopod and pstrangles you."

    • Not to mention the gnomish awaregness of the silent "g".

Web Comics

  • Comes up a few times in Order of the Stick, with Xykon knowing when someone pronounces his name with a Z instead of an X (likely a Take That to the many varied and bizarre mis-spellings that show up on the forums). One of the bonus strips in the compilation books also played with this, as a creature refers to finding a dragon "horde" instead of hoard, and after being corrected confusedly asks "I mean, technically I said that out loud, so how did you know that I..."
  • T-Rex from Dinosaur Comics at one point tries speaking in homophones, except that no-one can tell the difference. Also, God can tell whether or not a spoken sentence is properly punctuated.
    • Unfortunately, several of the homophones are only homophones in some dialects, which makes them quite offal awful to speakers of dialects that distinguish them clearly.
    • And as for punctuation, while the marks themselves are not audible, they change the intonation of nearby words - even the mentioned friend's/friends/friends' in some accents.
  • Used by Glock from The Wotch.

 Glock: No, it's D.O.L.L.Y. All caps, with periods.

Robin: Oh, okay. Wait...

Web Original

  • In Whateley Academy, Fey's name is often misspelled by others as F-A-Y. The reader can tell that a character doesn't know the proper spelling by looking at how it's written in their dialogue. For some reason, though, characters that are aware of the correct spelling seem to know instinctively when it's being misspelled, despite "Fay" and "Fey" sounding exactly the same when spoken.

Western Animation

  • Used in in a sketch on Punch! where Tom Cruise and Penélope Cruz's relationship is said to have been broken up due to her frustration about everyone calling her Penélope Cruise.

 Penélope: No, not "Cruise" "Cruz"!

    • However, the letter Z is in fact pronounced differently in Spanish (like "s" in Latin America and parts of southern Spain, like "th" in the rest of Spain). Whether or not this is an example of this trope, if the difference between languages is considered, is debateable. The Spanish "r" is nothing like the English "r" either; it's trilled like in most (all?) Scottish accents.

Real Life

  • The "H" in Pete Townshend's name is silent, but many people don't know that.
  • A "calorie" (with a small "c") and a "Calorie" (with a big "C") are not the same thing, the latter being equivalent to one thousand of the former. This is not a problem when written, such as on the Nutrition Facts section of food boxes, but the two cannot be distinguished when spoken, such as in commercials. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the big-C kilocalorie is what is meant, despite there being absolutely no indication of this in the commercials themselves.
  • In the same vein, being deaf and being Deaf are two similar, but different things. Being deaf means that you yourself have some degree of hearing loss (not, as commonly assumed, complete hearing loss; the term for that is "profound deafness"). Being Deaf (which is actually referred to by Deaf people as "big-D Deaf") means that you are a member of the Deaf culture; while you yourself do not have to be deaf, you are closely enough associated with the community that you are considered one of them (think "deaf-friendly").


  1. to get a hidden camera she placed in a doll, which will prove she's correct
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