Characters like R2-D2 (Star Wars), Chewbacca (Star Wars) and Groot (Guardians of the Galaxy) share the attribute that they speak a language unintelligible to viewers and readers - we have no idea what they say - yet they have no problems communicating with other characters who speak English (or whatever is the primary language of the story).

Which Sci-Fi work introduced this concept?

  • The character speaking an unintelligible language must be a main character, and must be non-human (e.g. an alien or robot).

  • We must be able to understand the other characters.

  • Other characters must be able to converse with this character.

In other words, the dialogue, to the audience, must be one-sided.

  • 3
    I had hard time phrasing the question. If you can phrase it better way and more concisely, please edit it.
    – user931
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 21:39
  • I took a stab at the last point, but I probably invalidated the Peanuts answer. If it doesn't work for you, feel free to roll back
    – Machavity
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 22:35

2 Answers 2


In the comic Peanuts, Snoopy was always able to understand what his bird friend Woodstock was saying, though the reader had not a clue.

Wikipedia gives the date of Woodstock's appearance as April 4, 1967.

Although Cousin Itt, from the TV show The Addams Family is apparently older.

The Addams' Family was on TV starting September 16, 1964, but Cousin Itt did not appear until approximately a third of the way into its run. Since it ran to April 8th, 1966, that means he likely appeared in 1965.

There was an eponymous episode "My Fair Cousin Itt" that aired on September 11, 1965, but he probably appeared before that.

For other examples see Tv Tropes Intelligible Unintelligible


  • 6
    Don't forget the adults and their "wah waaah wah wah wah wah wah"
    – Machavity
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 22:27
  • 3
    I was curious so I looked it up - Peanuts started in 1950, Addams Family in 1938, FYI.
    – Steve-O
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 0:28
  • 2
    @Steve-O Since the question asks about for the earliest example, answers should include dates. Peanuts started in 1950 but Snoopy started making friends with birds in the early 1960s and the bird character Woodstock first appeared on April 4, 1967. As for Cousin Itt, I don't think he was shown speaking gibberish before the TV series.
    – user14111
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 2:37

Tinkerbell could be an earlier example.

'Oh, do come out of that jug, and tell me, do you know where they put my shadow?'

The loveliest tinkle as of golden bells answered him. It is the fairy language. You ordinary children can never hear it, but if you were to hear it you would know that you had heard it once before.

From what I understand the text at Project Gutenberg is from the 1911 novel.

Wikipedia also describes for the role of tinker bell in the 1904 play:

Tinker Bell was represented on stage by a darting light "created by a small mirror held in the hand off-stage and reflecting a little circle of light from a powerful lamp" and her voice was "a collar of bells and two special ones that Barrie brought from Switzerland".

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