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Coco 946

"What, ridden on a horse? ... You've got two empty halves of a coconut and you're bangin' 'em together!


An element that is patently unrealistic, but which you have to do anyway because viewers have been so conditioned to expect it that its absence would be even more jarring.

The best example of this is the sound of horse-hooves. From the days of radio, banging two coconut halves together was the standard way to generate the sound effect of horse-hooves. Anyone who has ever actually been around a horse knows that horse-hooves rarely sound anything at all like that, and never sound more than just a very little bit like that. All the same, that sound became so ingrained in the public consciousness that even when it later became possible to insert much more realistic sound effects, the coconut sound effect was still used. The audience wouldn't accept horse hooves making a sound not generated by coconuts.

While audiences have finally outgrown that particular quirk, there are others which persist. The ping sound made by a specular reflection; the click of a remote control, so ubiquitous that mobile phones tend to add clicking sounds to buttons pressed on their touch screen (although there is a logical reason for this as well - user feedback as to whether the button press registered or not); the loud thump of lights turning on or off; flapping sound effects for flying owls; or noisy explosions in space.

There are also fistfight noises (the 'whump' of a person getting punched in the face, or the exaggerated smack of a boxing glove) that must be certain way or they won't be believed.

In a medieval setting, whenever a sword is unsheathed, there needs to be a sound of scraping metal, even if the sheath is made of leather. (In modern settings, even looking at a knife will cue this noise.) In sword duels, there is a loud, echoing clash of metal when, in reality, swords just make a small 'tink' sound.

Car and driving noises. "Wildest Police Chases"/"Wildest Security Camera Video"-type programs are big on this. Squealing tires and crunchy crashes are all dubbed in after the fact, especially in the cases featuring security camera footage, which rarely features an audio track.

Mainframe hackers used to refer to this as green lightning [1] after an unfixed bug in an IBM terminal monitor; the term came from the bug being left in so people would think the computer was "doing something".

See also Reality Is Unrealistic, Audible Sharpness, Mickey Mousing, Radio Voice, Vinyl Shatters, Beeping Computers, V8 Engine Noises and the semi-related Extreme Graphical Representation. Related in concept is The CSI Effect and Eagleland Osmosis. Nothing to do with Coconut Superpowers (except insofar as both relate to Monty Python and The Holy Grail). Thankfully, this won't be causing any real-world casualties. We hope. Compare Aluminum Christmas Trees and Small Reference Pools. Also see Necessary Weasel.

Examples of The Coconut Effect include:


Media in General / Common Tropes Edit

  • One of the most recent and peculiar instances of The Coconut Effect is the addition of Lens Flare to computer-generated scenes. Lens Flare is a flaw resulting from the physical properties of the camera lens, but it is so ingrained in the public consciousness that its absence makes a scene look "fake;" it may be that adding it adds to the audience's Willing Suspension of Disbelief, by implying that the scene was actually shot by a camera (perhaps via the Literary Agent Hypothesis).
    • Firefly deliberately took this concept to the logical extreme: the CGI space scenes not only included Lens Flare, but also moments where the camera takes a second to find or focus on an object, or where a speeding spacecraft is blurry and slightly out of frame. The new Battlestar Galactica makes similar use of a faux camera for many space scenes; in one episode, the camera is even struck and knocked spinning by debris from an explosion. Joss Whedon points out in his commentary that brand new, state-of-the-art lenses had too little lens flare for him, so they switched them out for cheaper ones that would have wider lens flares.
    • Traditional animated programming -- Anime in particular -- often, if not always, includes drawn-in lens flares as well. Exaggerated ersatz lens flare has become fairly pervasive in recent anime.
    • It's not even limited to anime - there has been at least a few Manga out there where the artist has drawn a lens flare when a character is, say, looking into the sun. People just seem to expect to see flares.
    • Not only that, lens flare occasionally crops up even in 1st person computer games, where it has no justification whatsoever. This was especially prevalent after the introduction of affordable 3D accelerator chips in the 90's, when games began featuring ridiculously overexaggerated, colorful lens flare en masse due to that could be rendered it without a noticable drop in performance. Thankfully the excitement of the new had given way to better taste and subtler visuals in recent years.
    • Many video games make digitised water droplets fall onto the camera screen, with equally little justification.
      • The justification is, the audience wants it to look like a movie (read: look like it was a real thing that was shot with a camera as opposed to the entirely artificial rendering that it is), and so the developers included a variety of effects that would've happened had this actually been a film not a game. In other words, it doesn't necessarily contribute to the immersion into the game's world, but it contributes to our immersion to the fantasy of watching a movie.
      • Justified in first-person perspective games where the player character wears a glass-screened helmet. Star Wars: Republic Commando even has a laser-style screen-wiper effect to remove the rain drops.
  • In virtually, if not literally, all 3D animated movies film grain is frequently ADDED INTO the film. The audience is so used to seeing the artifacts of film grain that when it isn't there the image seems "unnatural" to the viewers. Ironically film grain is something that the industry has been trying to reduce for years to get better image quality.
    • In the making of WALL-E, the Pixar animators brought in renowned cinematographer Roger Deakins to demonstrate real-world lighting and camera techniques, using real cameras, lenses and lights, which they then replicated digitally in the film. He was highly amused they wanted to duplicate effects that technicians and equipment makers have been trying since the advent of film to eliminate.
    • There's been a jarring trend for makers of 3D Movies to add in lens flare and then apply 3D effects to it. This makes lens flare come out of the screen towards you.
  • The stroboscopic effect often seen on spoked wheels, fans, helicopter blades, etc. is another example of a camera artifact which is so expected by audiences that it's left in, even though there are cameras and shutter mechanisms available which would eliminate it. Although there are situations where stroboscopic effects are visible to the naked eye, commonly observered under street lights (50 or 60 hertz flicker), and sometimes even in broad daylight (PNAS article here).
  • Morse code is always received as through a WWII-era radio: bee-beep-beep-bee-bee-beep.
  • Use of defibrillators (those machines that deliver a short pulse of electric current via two paddles when someone has one of a number of heart condition emergencies) always causes the recipient to flex up from the bed. And never in real life. It looks slightly less dramatic in real life, if it weren't for, erm, it being in real life.
    • When using the defibrillator, the defibs must always charge with an audible, high pitch sound. And the defib paddles are always rubbed against one-another when charging. When discharged, the defibs also make a loud SHUNK. Let's not forget that the person using them always says "CLEAR!!"

      "Clear!" is sort of Truth in Television. However, in reality, the users will say, "Clear the patient," and then check to see if all persons are no longer touching the patient. A single dramatic "Clear!" followed by no safety check and a zap is pure Hollywood.
    • In addition to this, a defibrillator is unable to revive a "flatlining" (asystolic) patient, which runs contrary to their depiction in medical dramas. The heart's electrical system controls the muscles of the heart. A defibrillator is designed to "reset" the heart's own electrical system when it's erratic and causing the muscles to contract wildly (fibrillation, as in defibrillator). If the muscles of the heart are no longer responding to the electrical system (for example, Pulseless Electrical Activity), or if the electrical system is down (asystole), there's nothing to be gained by shocking the patient.
  • Kilts in Scotland. The pleated kilt as we know it today was invented in the 18th century; prior to that there was the greatkilt, which was essentially a big blanket (which may or may not have been tartan) wrapped round the waist and pinned at the shoulder. This probably dates from the 16th century. It was illegal for Highlanders to wear a kilt between 1746 and 1782 - it was seen as a rebel military uniform. And modern "Highland dress" was invented in the lowlands in the 19th century. The upshot of all this is that Scotsmen in kilts in nearly every historical period tend to be wrong, unless it's The Present Day and they're at a wedding.
    • It does appear that Highlander got this fairly right, at least in the series flashbacks. Duncan and co are wearing the correct greatkilt.
  • 19th century clothes are usually depicted in dull, dirty-looking colors such as cream or dusty rose (otherwise known as antique pink). Bright colors were in fact both available and fashionable. This is most likely because people are used to seeing clothes in museums, where the dyes have faded and dulled over time.
    • Aniline dyes had just been developed, and fashion called for color combinations most modern people would describe as clashing - like bright yellow and mauve.
    • The Gay Nineties may be an exception, at least when actually done in color. See also Gorgeous Period Dress.
  • Likewise, people expect to see ancient Romans and Greeks in films wear white togas, etc., apparently because Hollywood costume designers originally tried to make actors look like the pale statues that were their best examples of period dress. Of course, the ancient sculptors actually painted those statues in lively, more or less realistic colors, right down to the pubic areas. The paint simply wore off over the centuries.
    • Strictly speaking, the toga was exclusively Roman and exclusive to male citizens (those who could vote and hold office) in the periods most often depicted in fiction; any woman wearing a toga was either a prostitute or an adulteress. The Greeks wore a variety of other garments, including one that looked quite like the "toga" worn by modern college Greeks... and one that could be mistaken for a toga at a distance or by someone with poor eyesight or limited knowledge.
    • There are a few examples of sculpture still retaining its paint. One example in Turkey that had been buried underground was preserved well enough for restorers to see a (faded) version of the original color and infrared tech is now allowing us to see the invisible pants. Many of the statues found by 19th century archeologists had visible traces of paint on them - which they then carefully scrubbed off, because that's not how they were supposed to look!
    • For togas, basic wool was used, starting white and dirtying with use. There was little washing outside of servants and those who did a large quantity of business went through 3 to 4 togas a year. It was more or less standard in the way the black or dark blue suit is today and generally considered formal wear for business; in the Forum or elsewhere. The pure white toga candida (colored with chalk) was the uniform so to speak of men running for office, hence the word 'candidate.'
    • Dye was relegated to women, which wore a Stola if married and a Chitan if single. Even then these were poor and the colors faded to pastels quickly.
    • There were also special Togas besides the aforementioned toga candida: Toga Praetexta had a purple or maroon colored stripe around the border which represented a current magistrate, former magistrate, priest, or freeborn boys who were not yet men. A black or grey toga called Toga Pulla was for mourning. And the Toga Picta dyed a deep purple/crimson/maroon depending on the historian; which was originally presented to and worn to a celebration in honor of generals who returned victorious from wars and conquers because it was the color of the gods who obviously showed them and the empire great favor.
    • When Caesar seized power he often wore this, which convinced people he was crazy enough to think himself a god - this led to his downfall.
    • Fortunately the misconceptions are avoided in the series Rome, which portrays characters as accurately wearing the toga candida as noted above, but otherwise wearing colors appropriate to their rank (such as the senators wearing Togas with the appropriate stripe). Peasants wear a variety of colors, as do nobles, when not in a formal environment where the formal clothing must be worn. Of course this is also from the series that researched correct Roman graffiti, so hardly surprising.
  • One example of the Coconut Effect that even Rome failed to avoid is Ancient Greeks and Romans wearing wristbands. Forearm armour did exist, but was not common; no culture of the Ancient world ever wore the things as standard part of their dress. Armbands and other forms of jewelry were of course worn but they would have looked quite different. Yet, every movie, every TV series and every documentary about the period will show just about everyone wearing wristbands, and will frequently involve scenes showing them in loving detail as they are donned or taken off. All because the early epics of Hollywood were supposed to look exotic, and they needed more ways to display the lavish riches of the Ancients...
  • Greek architecture is almost always shown to be austere marble. At the time, it was austere marble covered over with bright, gaudy paints.
    • Speaking of Greek architecture, they built some of the larger temples with pillars closer to the edges leaning slightly towards the middle to give the illusion to the viewer that they were completely vertical. Might count as the first example of the trope.
  • Similarly, movies featuring the ancient Egyptians tend to make the dominant building colors sand or gray (because that's what the tombs and temples look like now, and what the audience has seen in pictures) rather than the bright painted look that archaeologists have known for a long time they originally were. One of the more effective and realistic portrayals was, ironically enough, in fantasy/horror/action film The Mummy 1999 where the backstory setting in Ancient Egypt showed the bright colors.
    • The Pyramids are a perfect example of this. When they were originally constructed, they were covered in limestone and gold, so they would have been sparkling white with a gold tip. But they're always sand colored in shows. The gold was actually stolen in the meantime, as was the limestone (which was used for many buildings in Cairo).
    • The Egyptian showed this in the opening scenes; first, what the Pyramids and Sphinx are like now; then a dramatic cut (with musical flourish) to what they looked like when new and shiny.
    • Interestingly, a lot of video games set in Ancient Egypt avert this. Whether that's because the developers did do their research or because they realized that normal people don't like to stare at variations of beige for hours on end is another question. One intro movie even includes the golden pyramid tips, though in-game, the pyramids are only shiny, shiny white.
    • The Sphinx is an even bigger example of this, about 400 years after it was built the body, made of softstone, was starting to deteriorate so the then Pharaoh had it covered in tiles and painted BRIGHT RED, with a blue headdress and gold painted face. This was maintained for centuries and was one of the most common forms of Sphinx, there's also evidence that the face originally had a beard.
    • Arabian-style music wasn't present during Ancient Egypt times, yet it is constantly used as a background music when Egypt is depicted. At the moment, only the instruments played back then are known, but none of the actual music scriptures have been found.
  • Thunderclaps are usually heard at the same time as lightning, even though we all know light travels faster than sound.
    • Amusingly, in The Sound of Music, Maria tries to comfort the children during a lightning storm by explaining that "the lightning says something to the thunder and the thunder answers back". Of course, the thunder and lightning in the film happen at once, so apparently Lightning and Thunder are talking over each other.
    • "Poltergeist" is one movie where lightning flashes silently, followed by the rumble of thunder several seconds afterwards, but this is actually a plot point.
  • For that matter, most anything sufficiently old will tend to be a bit drab. Things set in the early part of the 20th century will tend toward grays, while the latter half of the 19th tends to favor browns. While this is sometimes intentional to evoke the feel of a black and white film or sepia photographic plate, it just as often comes more from the fact that the set and costume designers were working from colorless references. In the middle ages, houses, clothes, and churches were uniformly brown, and in colonial America, everyone had white hair.
    • Brick churches usually were reddish-brown as they generally weren't plastered (at least in Western and Central Europe) but townhouses were painted in vivid colours or at least covered with white lime. Only shabby houses of the poor people were devoid of such decoration. In several Polish and German cities inhabitants were criticising the idea of painting Rennaissance-era townhouses with yellow, pink or green paint if they were painted that way in the sixteenth century (and actual colours were determined by archeologists).
  • Swords tend to make a metal-on-metal scraping sound when drawn, no matter what the scabbards are made of. The first metal scabbards which really do make this sound come from the late 19th century. Scabbards were of leather and wood before that.
    • In the Lord of the Rings movies swords make a steel-against-steel sound when drawn from leather scabbards. It is alleged that they originally intended to use more realistic sounds, but in a textbook example of the Coconut Effect decided that it sounded "wrong" on film.
    • The visual commentary from Kingdom of Heaven states that the metal-on-metal sound is just for dramatic effect; if a scabbard were designed in a way that would produce that sound would likely end up ruining the blade's cutting edge.
    • In his Little Movie Glossary, Roger Ebert describes the application of this cliche to slasher movies as "The Snicker-Snack Effect":
  • The modern version of the last entry is that people apparently always walk around, even if actively hunting somebody or in battle, with their guns effectively unloaded. They will then apply the up-to-date dramatic noise of cocking the weapon/chambering a round/sliding something (delete as applicable - or even as not applicable since often they could just pull the trigger) before firing.
    • A pump-action shotgun is always pumped before being fired. Even if the shooter had fired and pumped it once already, or pumped it upon loading. Sometimes it's done for emphasis in a "hold up" or "interrogation" scene to show the one wielding the gun means business.
  • Anyone carrying a weapon that has full-auto capability will always shoot on the auto setting. They will also fire many more rounds than the weapon is capable of holding. In reality most police or military-trained operatives are trained to use their weapons on single shot setting. Firing all out on full auto is inaccurate, in addition to emptying the magazines rather quickly. Fully automatic fire is usually used for suppressive fire i.e. throwing a lot of bullets at an enemy position to discourage return fire.
  • The view through a pair of binoculars is usually depicted as two intersecting circles, whereas the view through a true set of binoculars is one circle, if they have been adjusted properly for the user. This is parodied in the second Hot Shots movie, where they are revealed to be looking through a black sheet of construction paper with two intersecting circles cut in it.
  • Even in Real Life, calling a number on a cell phone invariably results in a rapid-fire "dialing" sound effect, despite the fact that no cell phone actually uses touch-tones to dial numbers. This is most noticeable in the first half of the 2000's, though more recent movies/TV shows tend to perpetuate it unless they're shilling to a specific phone company who presumably want their product to be realistically, or at least favorably, portrayed.
    • Ironically, calling the touch-tone sound "dialing" reflects an even older convention, harking to back when phones had actual dials instead of buttons. Touch tone phones have been around since the 1960s, yet we still call it "dialing" the phone.
    • Additionally, unless there's a joke or other reason to focus on it, a cell phone will make an electronic trilling noise that almost no real phone owner uses anymore.
    • Xkcd: When someone calls my phone, it makes a goddamn ringing sound.
    • How many Real Life cells phones actually have a dial tone?
      • A model marketed almost exclusively to senior citizens emphasizes as a selling point that it has a dial tone and other features -- all essentially functionless window dressing -- that exist solely to make the cell phone behave like a land line phone.
    • DTMF tones can be optionally set by the user so that the the phone makes them when pressing the number keys when not in a call (otherwise, the phone can be set to just make simple beeps or clicks during these presses, or for silent mode, no sound at all), but they will always be heard in the earpiece when pressing the keys during a call (e.g. during automated/prompted calls, where the cellphone's network [not the phone itself] actually generates the touch-tones for the other party to receive and decode).
  • When a character goes to switch a TV set or radio on or off (or turn the volume up or down, etc.), the actor will invariably mime the turning of a "knob" on the electronic appliance in question, even if it's a modern one without anything resembling an actual knob. In theater the big hand gestures are easier for the techs to see and adjust stage lights on cue.
  • Space Is Noisy: Weapons used in space battles (e.g. Star Wars) produce cool sounds when fired, despite the inability of sound waves to travel in a vacuum. One Star Wars novelization had Han explain to Luke that ships helped tell their pilots where other things are by simulating the appropriate sounds as if they were in an atmosphere. This will likely be implemented in Real Life if society ever advances to the point of having ship-to-ship combat in space.
    • There's also the theory that the sound is like no different than the words floating in space or the music playing during battles. It's there for the viewer, but the characters don't see/hear it.
  • Two-handed swords, especially the Renaissance "Zweihänder," are usually depicted as heavy and extremely cumbersome in combat. In real life, they weighed about 12-15 pounds (slightly more that modern assault rifle) and, due to much lower blade-to-handle length ratio, they could be operated much faster than a regular medieval war sword (basic lever principle). In the case of the latter the ratio is roughly 4:1; in the case of the former it's 13:5 with two-hand handle grip or 10:8 with handle-and-ricasso grip.
    • This analysis ignores the fact that a longer sword has a higher moment of inertia than a shorter sword. This means reaching a particular angular velocity requires more torque (angular force). This makes a longer sword much harder to swing than an equally weighted short sword.
    • Most two-handed swords weighed closer to 6-8 pounds, slightly less than a modern assault rifle (8-10 pounds, loaded).
    • So much for some modern fan writers' assertion (in an apparent overcompensation to avoid accusations of Mary Sue) that women are not physically capable of handling or wearing swords.
    • 12-15 existed too. Those are mostly parade variants, however. A giant of a man standing around 6'6 and up would probably use them however, as the weight and balance would feel similar to their smaller-of-stature trainer's.
  • Frogs, save for one species, do not go "Ribbit." Unfortunately, that one species lives in Hollywood, so movie frogs tend to make that noise, and as a result we all think frogs ribbit, and even tell our children that.
    • Real frogs make a wide variety of sounds, depending on species, including barking, croaking, and chirping.
    • Smokey mountain jungle frogs scream: "Ow! Ow! Ow!"
    • The album Sounds of North American Frogs, reedited by Smithsonian Folkways, is a great resource that illustrates just how varied frog sounds are (and that's just the ones in North America).
    • The Striped Marsh Frog (or something like that) makes a popping sound similar to the sound Donkey makes in the second Shrek movie, for lack of a better description.
    • Bullfrogs are named for the sound they make, which is very similar to (though often much longer than) a bovine "moo".
    • Classically educated people know frogs really go "Brekekekex koax koax"
    • At least one documentary show had a scene of frogs doing mating calls at night. Sounds included chirps, whistles, a whimper, and something akin to a rapid fire toy laser gun.
  • For all gunplay based mistakes, please see this link. For example, people do not fly backwards when shot in real life.
  • The ubiquitous "ping" sound heard everywhere that submarines are concerned. It's actually a very specific sound: a signal pulse of the ASDIC -- an early WWII British sonar, widely used by all Allied navies in the war. It was so ubiquitous that it got thoroughly associated with every thing submarine, so it even came to be used where German submarines were involved, and their sonar pulses sounded nothing like that.
  • Real bald eagles do not actually make the long, majestic "keer" noise they always make in films. That sound is actually the call of a Red-Tailed Hawk, but because Bald Eagles and some other birds of prey have really lame and silly sounding calls in real life, their calls are usually replaced with the keer to make them sound "better". And of course, this has become so ubiquitous that now if one were to use the right sound, audiences would complain. This is only untrue in the case of nature documentaries.
    • Any shot of circling vultures is accompanied by those same redtail screeches. Real Life vultures are quiet birds- too quiet for the average sound-editor's taste, it seems.
    • They actually sound like a combination of retarded seagulls and hearing loss.
    • In a similar vein; that "Oo-Oo-Oo Ah-Ah-Ah" bird call you hear over virtually every jungle scene is made by the Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae), which can only be found in Australia.
    • Mountain lions are a victim of this all too often as well. Unlike some of their cousins, the cougar does not roar; instead it shrieks or lets out a growl much like a house cat would, albeit much louder and with a deeper tone. In some movies however, cougars roar like lions but a few notes higher on the octave scale. The mountain lion name is misleading - bear in mind the cougar/puma/mountain lion/etc/etc is a big small cat not a small big one ... i.e. it is not a slimmed-down version of the true big cats but in fact is the largest of the small cats, with vocalisations to match.
  • From vampire stakings to target-sheets at firing ranges, countless film and television images depict the heart as being located in the upper left quadrant of the chest cavity. It's actually in the center of the chest, and much lower, about where the sensation of acid reflux is felt. (Hence, the term "heartburn" ... which is also anatomically inaccurate.)
  • People are so used to the compression artifacts of MP3s that they prefer them to lossless codecs. Reminds of an xkcd strip.
    • Ultimately, any recorded media will, by definition, be compromised by the recording and playback equipment used. Different mics have different properties, speakers vary wildly in tone, the media itself will always have an effect, even "lossless." When people say they prefer to hear a "realistic" sound quality, they really mean a quality that sounds pleasing to their ears, hence people who like the "warmth" of vinyl are simply preferring the artifacts of that form.
  • The Uzi, vz. 61, MAC-10, and many other submachine guns are shown so rarely with their stocks extended or unfolded in any medium that most people truly believe they're actually pistols and that the folded or collapsed stocks are some deranged-looking part of the working mechanisms. The SPAS-12 and Striker-12 (to a lesser extent) also suffer from it. All folding stocks in movies in general tend to get hit with it but the aforementioned ones pretty much never see any exceptions to this rule, causing the issue.
    • Every lock and load sound ever.
    • The distinctive "ping" sound of M1 Garands make is very soft compared to the round firing. You're more likely to hear it because the clip hit something hard -- it is sheet metal pushed by a spring, after all -- it's not being propelled thousands of feet per second by an explosion!
  • Here are few things about fruit that you may seem wrong if they aren't portrayed wrong:
    • Coconuts. The brown, furry part we're used to seeing is actually the "stone" of a mature coconut. Coconuts themselves are very different-looking.
    • Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2, on the other hand, actually both got this right. There's even a boss where you're told to hit coconuts back at him. This trope is so ingrained that some players will try to hit the big brown rocks that are clearly on fire instead of the harmless green things.
    • Pineapples do not grow on trees.
    • Wild Bananas grow pointing up, not down. They will point downward as they mature. They are also small with scant flesh and lots of seeds, unlike the domesticated stand-ins more often used.
  • A minor yet ubiquitous example: When a revolver's cylinder is open, it will make no ratcheting sound when spun, because when open there is no cylinder lock to ratchet against.
  • Drowning is portrayed in many movies with the drowning person splashing and flailing about frantically as they sink. In reality, a person drowning will not be able to do this, as such actions require oxygen and their body is starved of it. They will stand still vertically with hands raised to the side and attempt to crane their neck and raise their mouth when underwater. An involuntary instinctive drowning response will be triggered and they will be unable to flap about to get attention, or even grasp a rope or flotation device thrown to them. A person with their mouth above water and desperately flailing about trying to get attention is not actually a drowning person...at least not yet. In that state, they would be known as a "distressed swimmer". Once underwater and drowning, they will not be able to continue this, and an untrained observer will not even know they are drowning.
  • When a woman goes into labor in the movies or on TV, her water usually breaks to kick things off. In reality, only 10% of women have their water break at the start of labor. Most women don't have their water break until things have been underway for a few hours. Of course, water breaking is far more dramatic than standing around with a stopwatch for two hours, timing contractions to see if they're regularly getting closer together.
  • Tits. Most people think tits are meant to be nearly circular and sit high on the chest. In fact, only small boobs do this. More generously sized ones will begin to hang and large tits hang on the sides of the chest. However, that doesn't stop companies from deliberately making clothing which pushes and holds the breasts high to achieve the effect of making it look like the wearer has figure-flattering antigrav gazongas, since holding the breasts up makes them look larger and fuller, hence more attractive.
  • Another female thing: breast implants. Most people think breast implants result in huge, basketball things that defy gravity and are rock hard to the touch. Sure, maybe with older, poorly done, excessive operations which used silicone lump or string implants. However, most boob jobs are done to take the patient up only one or two cup sizes and are done with soft bags of saline. This increases size modestly while keeping more of the natural shape and texture of the tits. In fact, for most breast implants, you'd never know unless you were told or you got your hands on them, and for many of the less impressive jobs, you'd only ultimately find out by squeezing hard, which any man who has any intimate experience with women will tell you, is not appreciated.
  • Whenever someone is drinking something through a straw, there is always the sound of air coming up with the drink as if it's nearly empty. Curiously, this phenomenon persists even though people drinking with straws is an everyday and mundane occurrence.
  • For a long time, people thought that the ceiling paintings of the Sistine Chapel were dark and somber. Then, there was a massive cleanup and restoration operation, and it turned out that the paintings were actually colorful and happy. This hasn't stopped movies like 2012 from portraying it as dark and somber.
  • While it's mostly now gone away, for years printers in movies and TV would make the loud sound of a dot matrix printer, even when an obvious laser printer was being used.
  • Ninjas do not dress up in all black from head to toe. Instead the best disguise for a ninja is to look like the everyman from farmers to monks. The trope started from kabuki by stage hands dressed in all black. These stage hands are suppose to be invisible so the audience are suppose to pretend they don't exist. When a character is killed by a ninja, a stage hand does it to show that the character has been killed out of nowhere for dramatic effect. In modern times, the only way you can recognize a ninja is from this costume.


Anime and Manga Edit

  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has water droplets hit the "camera" during Fate and Nanoha's fight.
  • In many anime, most noticeably Rurouni Kenshin, every time a sword moves while drawn, it makes a metallic clicking noise. This is usually used like gun cocking to indicate that a character is serious. This is only Truth in Television for a loose sword with an all-metal hilt, not a common construction for Japanese katana.


Films -- Live-Action Edit

  • Parodied in the movie Monty Python and The Holy Grail: They didn't actually have horses, just the coconuts. Ironically, the producers actually wanted to use real horses but didn't have the budget and the coconuts did a better job at the whole Rule of Funny bit.
  • In a notable subversion, Rocky Balboa, the sixth Rocky film, had realistic boxing sounds inserted during the actual match between Rocky and his opponent. The last few Rocky sequels before this had grown increasingly dependent on unrealistic boxing sounds, and the more authentic noises spat in the face of that dependency. Accordingly, instead of using the dramatic cinematic effect for the entire ending, the fight was presented like an ESPN pay-per-view event, complete with stats charts, graphical widgets and even the clock during the first round.
    • Ironically, Ring Girls, which is for all intents and purposes a documentary (although "creatively" edited to look more like a reality show), nevertheless added Honk Kong sound effects over all the punching and kicking, completely ruining it for every martial artist (or even fan) out there. It did not make the movie any more popular.
  • In another camera example, many films will add in the sound of a chemical flash bulb firing (a very recognizable whoosh) whenever they show flash photography, regardless of whether these old-timey flash bulbs are depicted on screen, or what era the movie is set in. Martin Scorsese and Wes Anderson frequently do this. In an interesting inversion, when an older-model electronic flash is used, the noticeable whine many make as they recharge is usually absent.
    • Actually, powerful flashes can make an audible sound, though it's fast and not very loud. It's much more of a pop than a whoosh. The sound of the reflex mirror flipping up in professional dSLRs is much louder.
  • The sound effects used in hand-to-hand combat in the Indiana Jones films are extremely over-the top (e.g. obtained by beating piles of leather coats with baseball bats) - so much so that the sounds are basically iconic to the series.
    • Ben Burtt, the sound designer for all the films, says on a DVD extra that he decided to make the punches over-the-top on purpose as he felt they were making a comic book brought to life.
    • And any Bollywood movie portrays it much, much more over the top.
  • The Dark Knight had fight scenes all the way through that sounded like a rather angry chef tenderising about half a cow.
    • Then again, that might be pretty close to the sound of getting served to the face with a gauntlet.
  • Bud Spencer and Terence Hill made a career out fight scenes with exagerrated SFX.
  • Digital readouts are an excellent example. In The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, the subway's digital speedometer makes a series of increasingly faster beeps when shown on screen, despite it being established there's no beeping noise when the trains are driven normally.
    • Common also in Knight Rider: Closeups of KITT's speedometer, usually during massive acceleration, have a frantic ticking along with each MPH displayed. In only a few cases are there closeups of slow speed changes with the corresponding tick. In addition, no wide-angle shot includes audible ticking.
  • The serial The Phantom Empire, since it has a radio Show Within a Show, actually shows coconuts being used to make horse sounds. Being partly a Western, it no doubt had many traditional examples too.
  • An intentional example in Airplane!! has the jet liner in the movie sounds just like it has propellers instead for comedic effect.
    • Airplane 2 has a similar effect, but on a space shuttle.
  • Cowboys and Aliens featured incredibly overdone punch sounds, similar to those in Indiana Jones (this may have been intentional due to the presence of Harrison Ford in the movie). Jake's punches seemed to be even louder and more exaggerated than other characters.


Literature Edit

  • The short story Damned Spot by Julian Rathbone, a Deconstruction of historical whodunnits, notes that oak darkens with age, so the dark oak we associate with Elizabethan architecture and furniture would have been quite pale at the time, before deciding that it's more important the setting fits the modern perception of Elizabethan era.
  • In the Hyperion, farcasters are implanted with devices to make a person stepping through feel like he is traveling.
  • Taking aim at the hourglass/spinning wheel/whatever which is there to convince you that your computer is actually doing something, Discworld's Hex, which is as close as they have to a computer (or more precisely a semi-sentient magical computerish thing) will sometimes drop an actual hourglass from a spring in order to demonstrate that Hex is doing something. Of course, nobody really knows if he is or not, but they do wait patiently.


Live-Action TV Edit

  • Despite the fact that it purports to have at least something to do with reality, the hit U.S. boxing show The Contender features "exaggerated impact" sound effects during the footage of boxing matches between its participants.
  • There is a parody of this concept similar to that in Monty Python and The Holy Grail in one of the Swedish Chef sketches on The Muppet Show. The Chef is trying to get his chicken to lay an egg and after it looks like she has, he angrily declares that the object is not an egg but a ping-pong ball. The humor is, of course, that the audience would expect the ball to double for an egg in the sketch, making it surprising when the Chef refers to what it really is.
  • Battlestar Galactica did this when the Galactica warped into the upper atmosphere of a planet and immediately burst into flames. Reentry fire comes from the massive sideways velocity any orbiting object has. The ship started from a dead stop, but most people equate falling from space with fire. But they probably did it because fire makes things cooler. Potentially justified due to possibility that the flames were caused by the near-instantaneous displacement of an enormous volume of air caused by the Galactica's jump.
  • Half of what the Myth Busters do is based on this trope, testing out the way things work in reality, vs. the way they're portrayed in the movies.
    • Yet ironically enough, they are guilty of this trope, especially when playing back highspeed footage with sound effects added for emphasis.
    • As well as when they synchronize the sound of an explosion with explosion video footage from a camera far enough from the point of detonation that a noticeable time delay would be expected.
  • Parodied in Gilmore Girls Ep.3/06 after Lorelai and Rory egg the car of the resident Bad Boy:

 Lorelai: "Wait, is that a siren?"

Rory: "I don't hear anything"

Lorelai: "Neither do I, it just seemed like a cool thing to say at that moment"

Rory: "It was!"

Lorelai: "Hey, let's run back and speed off like we did something really awful and the cops are after us!"

    • Then, after fastening their seatbelts, they try to produce the squealing tires by accelerating quickly, which doesn't work of course. In the end, they agree to just make the noise themselves while driving off.
  • In the mid- to late 1970s, pocket calculators were just coming into their own. However, they didn't make cute bloop bleep sounds -- the way they did in some television shows, notably Barney Miller, when Harris practically plays a tune on his.
  • Hustle had an in-universe example when the British character Stacie conned an American by posing as staff for the BBC. Instead of using her natural British accent, she put on an over-the-top stereotypical British accent, complete with "Toodle pip!"
  • The DVD set of the documentary series The World at War had a bonus feature showing some of the raw footage that was used to make the series. The footage, like much of the film shot in combat areas of that era, is completely silent. The narrator matter-of-factly talks about adding in all the sound effects.


Newspaper Comics Edit

  • In FoxTrot, Jason Fox is eating a watermelon and tells Andrea how it doesn't taste like his watermelon gum. Naturally this earns a weird look from her.


Professional Wrestling Edit

  • Back in the 60's, televised Professional Wrestling placed a microphone under the ring which made some very impressive sounds when wrestlers jumped off the top rope or stomped their foot during a forearm smash.
    • They still do that. It's why fights backstage seem to fall a bit flat - the bumps don't have the same 'oomph' as bumps in the ring.


Radio Edit


Tabletop RPG Edit

  • In a rare fictional case, Laser weapons in Rifts are said to come with built-in noisemakers to satisfy customers who expect sci-fi-style sounds when they're fired. Otherwise, they would be mostly silent.
    • Averted by Lasguns in the Warhammer 40000 universe, while often huge coconuts in the art, are actually described in the fiction as firing invisible, near-silent beams. The only 'Pew' so to speak is the audible snap of the air ionizing.
      • Though played straight with lasguns given to Guard regiments who come from planets where most readily available weapons use chemical propellant. Guardsmen who expect guns to make a loud bang and flash when fired get fake noises and lights because the familiarity is good for morale. Guardsmen from less developed worlds are used to the relatively silent bow or crossbow and get no special treatment, while Guard regiments on appropriately advanced worlds are already used to las weapons.
    • In a similar fictional case, the guns in Gantz make a pathetically small sound and do nothing more than glow at the barrel.
    • In reality the predominate noise is the sound of cooling fans and water pumps. Occasionally, there will be a soft "pfft" sound when the laser fires, and that comes from the noise of the Xenon flash tubes used to pump the laser. High power microwave sources are also silent except for the cooling. What fun is a death ray that sounds like your air conditioner?


Video Games Edit

  • Crate Expectations has become a sort of coconut effect. Almost every game that involves ammo (and many that don't) have crates that must be broken to get ammo. Valve, for example, found this out during playtesting of Half Life. They attempted to avoid including crates, but so many people wanted something to use the crowbar on and get ammo from that they eventually had to give in.
  • Exploding Barrels could easily be classified as this. By now, most people realize that shooting a barrel won't actually cause it to explode, but for a game to not have explosives that can be triggered by shooting them would be just odd to the gaming audience.
    • People Can Fly found that just trying to change the ubiquitous colour (red) of the exploding barrels to green for Bulletstorm didn't work right for the players.
  • Every Platform Game since Super Mario Bros. has had a special sound effect for when the hero jumps, except for some of the Metroid games (but the Double Jump made a woosh noise to indicate the upgrade activating). Then again, Jump Physics in platformers is generally not realistic.
    • This even affects the 'realistic' platformers as seen in the SNES' heyday. Climbing up 3 straight-jump-up ledges in a row makes it sound like the hero of say, Flashback, is attempting to drop a log cabin in an outhouse. The boingy springy sound gets replaced with 'old man toilet grunts.'
    • In more classic first-person shooters, the main character says "hop" or grunts with every jump which is rarely the case in real life.
  • In the MMORPG Eve Online, the standard space-battle cliche of explosions and other sound effects happening despite the inability of sound to travel in the vacuum of space is justified in the game's lore. The sounds aren't actually real, but because the player's character is piloting the ship from within a sense-depriving goo-filled pod, the outer-space sounds are created by the ship's computers to give the pilot's mind something to focus on.
    • Tyrian uses the same justification: The ship's computer simulates sounds from outside to help the pilot keep paying attention and as a navigation aid.
    • This seems to be "industrial standard" justification, right from the A New Hope book back in 1979.
    • The onboard television crew in Starship Operators mentions that they have to add explosion noises to satisfy the viewers at home; ordinarily, the fights would be silent.
    • The space combat computer game Elite justified the noise of laser impacts and enemy ship explosions as the sound of the hits/explosion broadcast from the target's radios.
  • A number of video games have film grain among the video options, as an homage to older movies:
  • Mass Effect has a couple examples. Along with the above-mentioned film grain, one NPC in the third game mentions turning off the sound emulators so he can watch spacecraft take off and land silently. This suggests that Space Is Noisy is enforced in-universe, probably due to this trope.
    • The codex specifies that space audio is simulated, as in the above examples.
  • The whole trope Real Is Brown pretty much sums this up nicely. In real life, colors of all saturation and paleness exist, let alone lighting can vary in both outdoor and indoor settings, so things like ray tracing and desaturating are actually unrealistic.
    • A special mention can go to Sim City 4, in which took the trope to the extreme in which not only modern (which is somewhat justified, because some people associate brown as "earth-friendly") but also classic Victorian and Gothic (the Chicago 1890 and New York City 1940 styles) into the brown filter. Considering that most Victorian houses were nicknamed "Gingerbread houses" for their use of many colors, one must wonder what they were thinking... Of course, the fanbase is now led to believe that if anyone creates a building that isn't drab brown or gray and dull, they're insane.
    • This idea comes from the sepia photographs leading people to believe that everyone at that time wore drab clothing. The same phenomenon happens in Old West movies. People of that era loved bright colors, but any depiction of them will be in dark brown and black clothing.
  • Many modern video games use a variety of effects to look more realistic, which are far from it. These include, but are not limited to; bloom, grey colour pallets, blood and water splattering on the screen, ridiculously bumpy normals and a weird 'wet glisten effect' on skin and characters. Strangest of all, it seems like the viewer would be aware of what the sun or people actually look like.
    • Parodied in Uncharted: Drake's Fortune where the "realistic filter" option removes the vibrant colors and replaces them with muted browns and grays and puts in so much bloom that the game is virtually unplayable.
    • In the same way that animated studios take efforts to replicate shortcomings of real cameras, video games often go to great lengths to get the washed out effect of an overexposed shot (or a really bright light source), which is dubbed "HDR." In fact, HDR is what photographers use to get rid of that effect.
      • This is tone mapping. HDR is a technique to preserve the apparent brightness of an object when its light interacts with objects. For example, in a non-HDR render, the sun when reflected off water will somehow lose enough brightness that if it were real, you could stare at it with no consequence. In an HDR render, the sun's reflection is still the brightest thing (more or less) in the scene.
    • Many 'realistic' video games have very long draw distances, making everything look extremely crisp and sharp all the way to the horizon. In reality, atmospheric perspective means everything should get hazier (and tinted blue) the farther away it is.
  • Plenty of gun tropes are like this, due to the fact that most people who played FPS video games or watched action movies started years before being allowed to handle military weaponry (if they ever do so). In fact, this article in Popular Mechanics indicates many times the guns in games such as Rainbow 6 Vegas 2 are first made "extremely accurate, based on factory stats and more" then toned down, not just for balancing reasons, but because of the "the drive to make guns feel like the ones we've seen in movies." Like shotguns loaded with buckshot:

 People associate shotguns with powerful, close-range weapons ... So a shotgun blast [in the game] will punch through walls and armor just fine, even though buckshot is known for its lack of penetration in the real world. -- RSV2 game designer Philippe Theiren

    • Granted, if one has the appropriate license one could buy or create shot specifically made to do just that.
  • While it has been noted that the movement speed of FPS player characters has been noticeably reduced since the days of Doom and Duke Nukem (who could manage about 50 mph at full sprint), not many know that, by scale, modern FPS player characters still move much faster than a real person (especially a real soldier with their rifle readied and aimed forward). Most can manage more than 20 mph simply walking forward, with higher speeds obtained if sprinting. A character moving at real human speed would be painfully slow, especially in Wide Open Sandbox games like Far Cry or STALKER.
  • The guitar peripheral for the first Rock Band game drew some criticism in that, unlike the older Guitar Hero counterpart, the strum bar didn't click. Many players were disconcerted at this, and felt as though the lack of audible feedback meant that it wasn't working properly. For this reason, later versions of the peripheral included a clicking strum bar.
    • That said, if you actually strum the strum bar, there will be a sound. Too loud a sound, in fact.
    • Might be justified in the fact that no matter how off you are in playing the song, as long as the game thinks you hit the note, the song will play perfectly. This is jarring because you can't figure out if you're on beat or not.


Webcomics Edit

 Narrator: Arms dealer, know thy market.

  • In the alt-text of this Xkcd comic, the author discusses that using a new Guitar Hero controller that doesn't click is unsettling.


Western Animation Edit

 Martin: Uh, Sir, why don't you just use real cows?

Painter: Cows don't look like cows on film. You gotta use horses.

Ralph: What do you do if you want something that looks like a horse?

Painter: Ehh, usually we just tape a bunch of cats together.

  • Averted in The Jungle Book: The bananas point up.
  • Done in the CG Clone Wars show with R2-D2, where effects like brush strokes (as if he were hand-animated) were included on it to make it appear like it had been produced by hand. Lampshaded on Ace Of Cakes, when Charm City Cakes were commissioned to make a cake to look just like that version of R2, and they noted that they had to also include those elements, which they generally tried desperately to avoid.


Real Life Edit

  • Some people tend to be skeptical of touch screens because of the lack of physical feedback. Many things with touch screens that have pressable buttons on them will make a click button when you touch them to add to the illusion of pressing a button. Of course, this has the use of telling you that you've pressed it, but still.
    • The Blackberry Storm tried to remedy this by making the entire screen a button. Needless to say, the phone didn't really take off.
    • Nokia addressed this by using the vibrator to gently shake the phone when a "button" is touched.
    • Talk to any serious typist and you'll find just how important physical and auditory feedback is... it's why some people will shell out $70-$100 for Model M keyboards.
    • In fact, The Coconut Effect is an essential component of user-interface design. People (there are extremely rare exceptions) get frustrated when devices don't behave the way they expect them to, which includes fake buttons clicking.
    • As well, if there's any delay between the button press and the system responding, without a visual or auditory response, it's not immediately obvious that the button-press has been registered, and many people - especially savvy computer users - don't trust the computer to actually be doing what they asked it to do, so they'll press again, which starts the process over.
    • Mass Effect addresses this by stating that a man typing on a holographic keyboard usually wears gloves which provide feedback. A real hacker implants chips in his fingers.
    • The Wii remote had an interesting method to simulate the "feel" of buttons: every time your cursor passes over a button, the controller makes a very slight vibration.
  • Many low-end digital cameras attempt to simulate the old-fashioned shutter click when taking a picture - some even have inbuilt mechanical contraptions specifically to that effect.
    • Consumer digital cameras still have an old-fashioned shutter click, what with them having shutters, although the noise is practically inaudible in comparison to a $5 disposable camera. The sound they're emulating is more like the action of the reflex mirror in an SLR camera, with a hint of motor-driven film feeding, which is the stereotypical "taking a photograph" sound.
    • In a reversal of that, in one episode of Scrubs, The Janitor is taking pictures with a camera and making a clicky noise with his voice whenever he hits the shutter. A young girl asks him why he's making the noise and he explains that his camera doesn't make a real sound... problem being that he's using an SLR, so it would make the clicky noise whenever he took a shot.
    • There was a controversy in the early 2000s that digital cameras had to make the clicking noise, so people would know a picture was being taken. It had something to do with surreptitious photos taken by a camera phone in certain women's dressing rooms.
    • BlackBerrys with cameras make a loud audible "shutter" noise when a picture is taken that can't be muted (barring a bit of creative hacking), even if the phone volume is set to silent. The reason given is to to make it harder to take images surreptitiously, aside from the Panty Shot issue, a legitimate concern involving a device carried by military, government and business officials.
    • The Android Camera application makes a very loud click (significantly louder than an analog camera), but it's generated by the application, not the hardware. Coincidentally, there's a completely silent user-made Camera application for sale on the app market, and it's suspiciously high up on the popularity lists. Android 2.1, Motorola DEFY - you can turn the camera sounds off. Thankfully.
    • Likewise, Apple won't let different camera sounds in the iPhone store, or provide a way to select them like every other sound. Strange enough, you can turn the entire volume on your phone down to 1 and the camera is very quiet. (Or you can just just hold your finger over the speaker.)
      • You can also plug in earbuds, which will not stop the noise, but will render it inaudible to others.
    • There do exist exceptions. Digital SLR cameras by Nikon beep when the autofocus is locked on, though the shutter is still audible when the picture is taken. Many cell phones have the option of turning the shutter sound off. Also most professional grade cameras don't bother with sound effects.
      • In the case of Nikon SLR cameras, it's not the shutter you're hearing but the mirror flipping up so that light can pass from the lens to the photocell.
  • When the U.S. Air Force began using the F-16 fighter jet in the 1970s, its control stick was designed to change the plane's direction entirely by detecting the force and direction of the pilot's hand, without the stick actually moving. Pilots hated the fixed-in-place stick, complaining the lack of feedback repeatedly caused them to over-rotate the jet; later F-16 models came with a revised stick with some "play" in it, to replicate the feel of a mechanical linkage - an example of the Coconut Effect's essential role in product design.
  • There is real concern in the engineering world about the possibility of a sharp spike in traffic accidents caused by widespread use of electric cars as people may not hear them coming.
    • The exception to this would be in a highway, where most of the noise actually comes from the tires rubbing against the road.
    • The noise is actually caused more by the air trapped between the tires and the tarmac that starts usually between 15 and 20 mph ie. just about any drive you are likely to take. There are actually several companies developing new tarmacs to combat this problem as it is estimated to cause 50 to 80% of car produced noise. Similarly, the engine noise produced by most cars is minimal (mufflers were made for a reason). Cars not marketed as tough, rugged...etc. are typically made to run as quietly as possible but the public perception of the internal combustion engine is that of a loud roaring machine (phrases like "the roar of the engine" come to mind) causes them to believe most if not all noise comes from them.
    • Also, some electric cars can hit 80mph/130 km/h with entirely silent engines. So drivers who use engine noise as a makeshift tachometer are often unaware of how fast they're going without taking their eyes off the road to glance at the speedometer.
    • When Trolleybuses (electric buses) came into use in the UK, they were often nicknamed "The Silent Service" due to their very low sound levels. Naturally, this, combined with their speed and performance (very good for such large vehicles back when horse power was still not entirely replaced) lead to a fair number of fatalities, and them being referred to as "The Silent Death".
    • This is also why trains, tramways and trolleybuses in France make a turbine-like sound when running.
    • When diesel and electric trains became widespread in the UK, there was a noticeable increase in the number of track workers being struck by trains; they may have been noisy, but they didn't make the right chuffing sound. As a result, since the mid-1960s, British diesel and electric trains have had at least half of the front end painted bright yellow.
    • Also, interestingly, when dealing with electric and Diesel locomotives, in both cases the strongest noise comes from the suspension/wheels and the next strongest from the cooling devices, huge fans and compressors able to move many cubic meters of air per second.
    • There was a story about a gas turbine powered Volvo with which one of the biggest complaints from the sample testers was the fact that, for a car generating that amount of power, it lacked the "macho" rumble of a V8 (what's not macho about a jet engine?). There were of course plenty of other problems with the design, but the article stated the sound as one of the most common complaints from the testers.
    • On the other hand, when designing the 2010 Dodge Challenger, the company actually took great care in making sure the car made the quintessential macho growl typically associated with V8 engines with more than 5 L of displacement.
    • German sports car manufacturer Porsche, likewise, is known to have special sound designers in their development teams for new cars. If you drive a Porsche, you want people to hear it is the real thing.
    • Lamborghini and Ferrari engineers have cultivated a very distinct exhaust note over the past decades. The design of their vehicles' exhaust systems are finely tuned to get the right sound so you immediately know the pedigree of one's supercar just by hearing it. Racing varieties of Ferrari and Lambo vehicles sound very distinct in their own ways when running straight pipes or racing exhausts, but don't sound much like their street-legal counterparts.
    • When Toyota built the Lexus LFA, they enlisted the aid of two divisions of Yamaha - the automotive division (Yamaha Motors) for the engine, and the music division to tune the engine and exhaust sound (which included designing a sound tube leading from the engine compartment into the passenger area), resulting in the distinctive F1 like revving sound.
    • Truck companies actually engineer and tune the sound of their trucks so they sound tougher. By surveying people about what they think is a "tough" or "macho" sound of an engine, they actually adjust the acoustics of the truck engine itself so it produces such a sound.
    • Some people change their four stroke moped's exhaust pipe. On two stroke this would result in added power, but on four stroke the effect is much smaller. Then why do people bother? To get some sound from otherwise silent engine, of course.
    • Forklifts can be fairly quiet, electric ones for all intents and purposes are silent. You can only hear it coming if it hits a bump and the tines/equipment rattle. The silence isn't normally a problem as they are frequently used in warehouses, away from pedestrian traffic. There have been multiple stories of electric forks having tins tied behind them to make some noise.
    • This need to hear noise is also a big reason why some car enthusiasts install "Fart Cannons" into the exhaust of their cars.
    • Ask many American motorcycle enthusiasts, and they'll say "Japanese bikes whine, American bikes roar," although often times specific companies are inserted, most often Harley Davidson. It's so ingrained that, when Harley Davidson developed a far more efficient engine, they had to redesign the exhaust system to give it the classical Harley Rumble without affecting the new performance.
      • Harley Rumble is the sound of an inefficient engine design - practically all 45 degree V engines from Harley, starting in the 1930s, were prone to vibration by design, mostly due to V angle and the way the cylinders fired. They dragged on until the modern age (finally gave up when the Twin Cam was introduced) exactly because people associated vibration and specific sound with power and traditional Harley image and shunned more efficient and quiet designs.
    • The American M1 Abrams main battle tank was sometimes nicknamed "Whispering Death" because its gas-turbine engine makes a very different (much higher-pitched) noise than the diesel engines of most other armored vehicles, causing soldiers to fail to hear the tank coming during exercises in the 1980s.
  • The digital signboards in some train stations produce a click-click-click that approximates the sound of flipping numbers on an old mechanical board.
  • You know that smell of medicated creams? That is actually added, because it gives people the impression that it works. Ironic, since most people find it unpleasant, but they add it anyway because people don't think that something medicated can be working if it doesn't have that smell.
    • Also, many cosmetics that are supposed to clean up oil and dirt have a tingling sensation when you use them. That is thanks to an added ingredient that they put in to make people feel like it's working.
    • They add that to some acne medications too, which is a bad thing: the tingling sensation is actually a warning that the product is harming the outer layer of skin. Harming the outer layer of skin makes it more prone to acne, which naturally means that the sufferer will go right out and buy more of the product. The old slogan was, "it tingles because it works". They simply didn't tell the consumer that "works" meant "gives you more acne".
    • Sodium Lauryl or Laureth Sulfate is added to most soaps/cosmetics/toothpastes these days because it's a cheap way to create the satisfying froth that makes the consumer think the cleaning action is better. SLS is a known irritant and BAD to put on your skin. Commercially produced soaps without SLS clean just as well, they just don't froth.
      • SLS is also added in powdered egg white for the same reason; 100% pure powdered egg white doesn't froth like fresh egg white, so it's added in to avoid less savvy consumers complaining that there's something wrong with the product.
    • There was a antiseptic for cuts developed to be sting-free, but it sold poorly because people didn't believe it worked. They had to put some alcohol back in it to make it sting.
    • Natural Gas is likewise odorless, its characteristic smell coming from methylmercaptane added so that human beings will notice a gas leak by smell rather than by unexpected immolation. This also has the side effect that methylmercaptane leaks, despite not being really dangerous, are handled with the same urgency as a gas leak, because people have learned to associate the smell of methylmercaptane with natural/propane gas.
    • Ditto for propane, after an unfortunate incident about half a century ago -- a high school literally exploded after a propane leak went unnoticed due to it having no smell.
    • This is used in Avatar: The Last Airbender, where Sokka and the Machinist eventually put rotten eggs in the sealed natural gas room to produce the common sulfur smell and warn for gas leaks.
    • The smell of WD-40 is similarly totally artificial and added deliberately.
    • As is the 'bittering agent' in compressed air cleaning cans that leaves a horrible taste in your mouth just from breathing around it, although that's less a warning and more to discourage huffing.
      • On the other hand, kids and drugs that taste like candy would not mix well....
      • Hence why antifreeze is so dangerous: it's sweet.
    • Cough suppressant syrups like Robotussin are made thick because consumers are often under the impression that such syrups need to coat the throat to work, even though the active drug is just absorbed into the bloodstream in the usual way, via the gut. This obnoxious thickness, combined with overwhelmingly strong flavors, also helps discourage many people from drinking large amounts to get high.
  • Food is often Color Coded for Your Convenience to convince you that it tastes how it looks.
    • Natural mint flavoring has no color, but consumers have come to expect mint-flavored foods to be colored green. Only gourmet mint foods will abstain from doing this, allowing consumers to feel proud that they don't need the coloring.
      • The exception is peppermint sweets, which are usually white.
      • In ice cream at least, part of the reason that they have mint green is because green is quite visible - if you notice, other than Pistachio, lime sherbert, or homebrew flavours (Such as lime ice cream), it's the only green ice cream flavour there. There have been a few customers surprised by this, and if you ask around at an ice cream place that doesn't use food colouring, you'll probably hear a few stories about how a customer or new employee mistook the mint for Vanilla.
    • Strawberry-flavored food is always colored pink.
    • Most consumers expect raspberry flavoring to be red, but strains of dark blue raspberries exist, leading to some (often brightly) blue-colored raspberry flavors.
      • Raspberry candies and ice pops are often colored blue because research showed that children like the way it stains their tongue, and also to distinguish them from cherry.
    • Margarine is white, not yellow. To look more like butter, yellow colouring is typically added.
      • Even in Quebec, now. Until only 3-5 years ago margarine sold there had to be undyed -- as the powerful dairy lobby convinced the province to make margarine less appealing to consumers in order to protect a valuable industry that employed so many rural (Francophone) voters.
    • Flour is bleached in part so that it looks appealingly white. Naturally it would be a yellowish color that might look unwholesome to some consumers (especially now, after years of conditioning). Also to differentiate it from corn meal
    • After slaughtering, meat becomes greyish, as the blood is drained from it. It is coloured red with nitrates, which are actually unhealthy in large doses. In Finland, however, uncoloured "grey-salted ham" has been around for a while and has become a hit.
      • This is easily proven. Just take some ground meat and put it in water. After awhile, the red coloring drains out and you see the meat's true greyish color - this is especially true if the meat was frozen before hand.
      • This can prove quite a shock in a cadaver lab or dissection. Anyone who has taken even elementary school science knows muscles are nice red, arteries a brilliant red, veins are blue, and nerves are yellow, right? In vivo, muscles are a dark red and most of the other tissues are dull colors. In a prepared cadaver, the muscles have lost their blood and are a very sickly pale grey, while most of the other tissues come in various shades of grey, dull-brown, dark brown, and yellowish beige. Likewise, bones in labs are never, ever that nice, bleached white many shows use.
        • Rats used in high school lab dissections sometimes have dyes injected into their veins and arteries to give them the blue and red colors everyone expects.
    • Banana Ketchup, popularized in the Philippines as an alternative/substitute to Tomato Ketchup since World War II (during which major shortages of tomatoes threatened Tomato Ketchup production, and the abundance of bananas in the Philippines led to its use as a substitute ingredient), is normally brown (and is sold as such in a few places), hence it's usually colored red to mimic Tomato Ketchup. Being made from bananas, it's also normally sweet, hence some manufacturers add vinegar to make it taste like the sweet-sour Tomato Ketchup (though some consumers like Banana Ketchup for its sweetness and consider it more pleasant than Tomato Ketchup).
    • The color of salmon flesh varies from almost white to the well-known pinkish-orange color that shares the name, according to the fish's diet. On fish farms, food coloring are added to the salmon's food to achieve the same color.
    • Cheddar cheese is actually white. The bright orange cheddar North Americans are used to is dyed to have those colors (using carrots and beets, so there's no cause for alarm). What is shown off as "white cheddar" is just cheddar with no food coloring added.
    • Rice is not supposed to be white. "White rice" is just brown rice that has outer layers milled off. This is actually detrimental to the health value of rice as it completely removes the nutrients and minerals that are present in rice husks.
      • This is partly counteracted in manufacturing by spraying white rice with a nutrient mixture. This is the reason you're not supposed to rinse white rice like you would pasta, because rinsing would just wash off the spray and make the rice little more than empty calories and starches.
  • On most mobile phones, the sign on the button for ending a call looks like a receiver about to get hung up. Of course, that has nothing to do with what actually happens, but many people still talk about "hanging up" their phone, even when they're just pressing a red button.
    • Likewise, the standard "Save" icon in most office suites is a floppy disk. Most of the people using them don't remember what a floppy disc is.
      • And "floppy" discs were still called that long after they ceased to be.
  • The original typewriter keyboards were in alphabetical order. This presented a problem for people when the keys would frequently jam because words had the letters and the subsequent typebars too close to one another. Thus it was redesigned into the familiar "QWERTY" key scheme we are all familiar with. Why with the invention of the electronic keyboard, where there are no typebars for letters (hence no issues of jams) this has continued, can only be attributed to the endearing familiarity of the typewriter scheme.
    • If you ignore that QWERTY was also designed to minimize instances of having to use the same finger for multiple characters in a row.
    • It's also worth remembering that QWERTY really is as good as an alphabetical layout- the alphabet is a one-dimensional string, not a two-dimensional array like a keyboard, so, to anyone already familiar with their preferred keyboard layout, an alphabetical layout would be essentially coincidental.
    • By this point, it's probably too late to change. Too many people in the workforce trained on a QWERTY layout, and way too expensive to retrain all of them on a new keyboard arrangement (And keeping enough QWERTY keyboards on hand for them to use instead of the revised version would get pricey as well). In other words, it's a case of Damn You, Muscle Memory!.
    • The final QWERTY layout was devised for the Remmington typewriter partially so that the then-trademarked name "Type Writer" could be typed out from a single row during sales demonstrations. The commercial success of the machine solidified its keyboard layout as the de facto standard.
    • The Dvorak Simplified Keyboard layout was introduced in 1936, designed to offer substantial improvements over the QWERTY layout for speed and fatigue, although few tests were done to compare the two layouts and those few are criticized for not adhering to any strict academic standards. By that time, QWERTY had been the most widely used layout for about 50 years, so it never really caught on until computers became more prevalent, and changing keyboard layouts became a simple matter of changing a configuration option. It's still used only by a very small minority of typically highly-technical computer users, and it certainly doesn't helps if you factor in how difficult it is to find a Dvorak keyboard that can write something other than English.
    • On a similar note, this is also why QWERTZ keyboards or "kezboards" (German keyboards with the Y and the Z swapped) and French AZERTY keyboards are also in common usage.
  • Endodontic therapy (better known as a root canal) is still frequently portrayed as the quintessential fearsome dental procedure (as in "I'd rather be having a root canal!"), even though modern anesthetics have rendered it all but painless.
    • It is however a very long (up to two hours) and very, very boring thing to have done, considering all you can do is stare at the ceiling.
    • In fact, Root Canal Therapy and Apicoectomy/Retrofill procedures are nowhere near as painful as normal dental restorations (e.g. drill 'n fill sessions). Likewise, nowadays the worst part of a dental restoration procedure is usually the anesthetic injections beforehand. And that's mostly in our minds anyway since we think needles should hurt more than they actually do.
    • Even fillings aren't nearly as painful as they once were. Most fillings are now the 'white fillings,' which are actually a UV-hardened plastic that actually adheres to the tooth itself, without need for shaping the hole to mechanically hold it in as with amalgam fillings. The cavity is prepared with a chemical 'etch' agent that dissolves the decayed material away without drilling. The most painful part is that the hole must be completely dry for the plastic to bond with the tooth, which can be painful as the only way to do it is with a jet of dry air.
    • Root canal therapy can still sometimes be painful as it's often performed on heavily infected teeth, and the relative acidity of infected flesh can make local anaesthetics less effectively absorbed.
  • Early remote controls were mechanical and did have plastic buttons that clicked into place when you pressed them (hence the nickname "clicker").
    • In the earliest remotes (like the one linked), the clicking sound wasn't just a resultant of a mechanical button being moved, it's how they sent the signal to the T.V. Each button flicked a different tine, setting it resonating (like a tuning fork), and the T.V. was able to detect this sound; different tones would trigger different functions. Naturally, there isn't a lot of bandwith there, so these early remote controls did little more than adjust the volume, power, and sometimes change the channels. It was only later that televisions began to be signalled electrically, first by wired remote and later wireless (via infrared or radio-frequency).
  • Oddly, for years after the introduction of early B&W televisions, it was assumed by a significant number of people that dreaming in monochrome was the norm and dreaming in color was a rarity. If you could have asked someone from a time before the age of TV if they dreamed in black and white, they'd look at you funny like you just said the sky is green with pink polka dots.
    • This study notes that before the advent of B&W TV, most people dreamt in color, but people who were exposed to only B&W TV during childhood are more likely to dream in B&W than people raised on color TV.
  • Digital telephones have a clause in their governing standards that mandates the use of "comfort noise", a soft hissing generated in the receiving end, in order to fake the atmospheric noise from normal land lines. The most often cited reason: in a normal analog telephone, a soft hissing means the line is working fine, whereas complete silence means the line is dead, and the audio data sent by digital phones is pretty much impervious to atmospheric noise and thus it must be added. Another reason is that while the silence is encoded as true silence, transmitted speech always contains some noise from the speaker's environment and speech encoding. If comfort noise was not added during silence, the end result would be a chopping background noise whenever the speaker says something.
    • Similarly, Bell System engineers discovered long ago that feeding the speaker's voice back into the earpiece prevented users from shouting into their phones. This feature, called sidetone, actually had to be carefully calibrated; too much and users will speak too softly. Most cell phones are on the soft end of the extreme, which is why people on cell phones in public are often so obnoxious.
    • Talking on the phone without comfort noise usually results in a "hey, are you still there?" after nearly every sentence.
    • Telephone networks in offices typically have the dial tone added so the phones emulate what the users are used to at home. I've seen (or heard, I suppose) where the dial tone isn't working but the phone system is otherwise fine but the users will think there's a problem with the lines.
  • Pulsing progress bars, spinning wheel graphics and similar graphical tricks used in computer operating systems and applications, sometimes referred to as "customer assurance widgets". They're there to convince you that something's happening - that your files are actually being copied or the computer's working hard in some way. Perhaps the most famous example of this is the strobing bar that has appeared for years on the various versions of Microsoft Windows as it boots up. The progress of the bar doesn't actually mean anything, but people - particularly those of a non-technical disposition who make up the bulk of computer users, to the bane of technical support staff everywhere - tend to get antsy when they're stuck watching a computer apparently not doing anything for several seconds. Conversely, eschewing the graphical interface and running from a command line in most OSes will produce little to no visual indication that the computer is actually doing anything at all, even when it's running hell for leather under full processor load.
    • This actually goes back to the days before computers became mainstream. In the olden days when computers only existed in labs and were attended by white-coated priests, it often took the primitive systems of the day several hours to perform a single operation. If a scientist didn't sit in front of the terminal the whole time, what usually ended up happening was that some idiot would come along, try to use the machine, be unable to because it was busy, assume it had crashed and reboot it, screwing everything up. Graphical progress representations curbed this trend and improved productivity, despite the fact they effectively doubled the time it took to perform the operation because of all the processor power they used (this was back in the day when a "megabyte" sounded big, remember).
    • Similarly, the progress bars in web browsers are largely meaningless, since there’s no way to predict how long it will take for all the parts of a page to load. Generally, they jump forward a certain amount when the page starts loading, then asymptotically approach full in random bursts while data is being received. One version of Safari got rid of the placebo progress bar and replaced it with a spinner, but it was brought back by popular demand.
  • In Finland, there have reportedly been young women worried because their menstrual flow wasn't blue. This is because sanitary pad adverts used to use blue fluid instead of actual blood to demonstrate the pad's being less leaky than a Brand X pad. Some brands of scented tampons have a tendency to turn your flow blue with the (blue) scent-disperser.
  • In modern Continuously Variable Transmissions (C.V.T.s) the car does not have traditional gears. C.V.T.s have some form of cone, belt, chain, or "universal gear" which smoothly transitions to the appropriate power ratio among a seemingly infinitesimal progression of available states. However, many people feel that the lack of discernible gear changes made the car feel underpowered or flawed. This led many automakers to incorporate the option of simulating the bump of gear changes that aren't really there.
  • UK broadsheet newspaper the Financial Times was originally printed on pink (ie. unbleached) newsprint because it was cheaper. In time, white newsprint became ubiquitous and therefore the cheaper option, but by then everyone expected the FT to be pink. The modern newspaper is printed on white paper that has been dyed. So first the paper is bleached, then it's dyed to look unbleached.
  • The trope here goes even deeper. Really-high-end electric pianos weight the keys differently, with the higher keys on the right side with less weight, and the lower keys on the left side with more weight. The rationale is that this gets the keys even closer in feel to a real piano, which do require less weight on the high notes because of the smaller impact needed to hit a shorter string... except that, well, high-end grand pianos have weights in the high keys to equalize the key weights.
  • Annoyed by loud lawn mowers on the weekend? It's possible to make them much quieter, but then they don't sell because people think the louder ones are more powerful and do a better job.
    • Also, another reason would be that loud mowers actually give a warning so people know to get out of the field. Especially if you are mowing a large tract of land.
  • The "stage accent" that American actors use when portraying actors (or making fun of themselves) hasn't been seriously used for at least a century, and in most performances they're advised against using it. Why does the stage accent still persist? Partly because it's fun, and partly because audiences don't expect actors to talk normally even in contemporary plays that are clearly stated to take place in a specific area.
  • Modern ATMs make almost no sound. The clicks and whirrs of machinery that you hear in modern ATMs are usually sound effects that are added to give the user confidence that it is working.

Notes

  1. or "compatibility logic" when the suits were around