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What does "my toes speak English" mean? From GLEE - Full Performance of ''Telephone'' from ''Audition'' at 0:22: A woman thought that one another don't speak English and the other woman replied "my toes speak English" or maybe I misheard it.

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    Unless you tell us the context where you read this sentence, it's impossible to say - apart from the literal meaning which doesn't make sense. Jul 11, 2023 at 18:29
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    The context should be in the post itself, not elsewhere on the internet or even behind a link. @FumbleFingers
    – Laurel
    Jul 11, 2023 at 19:06
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    You misheard it. She says, "Uhm, I totally speak English."
    – gotube
    Jul 11, 2023 at 20:19
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    I’m voting to close this question because because it arose out of a mishearing. Jul 11, 2023 at 21:50
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    @everyone While I haven't actually listened to the clip, it seems possible that the character said, "I totes speak English" and this is where the confusion between 'totally' and 'toes' comes in. Totes is a very informal slang word for "totally." As in, "That puppy dog is totes adorbs" (for "totally adorable") Jul 12, 2023 at 4:47

3 Answers 3

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Sometimes the likeliest answer is the most boring.

Which of these statement makes greater sense? Which line uttered by the actress portraying Sunshine is most likely?

  1. My toes speak English

or

  1. I totally speak English

Admittedly at first hearing, I thought the protagonist did say sentence no.1 then I listened again, with proper speakers and even though the line is muffled, and syllables are dropped there is no earthly way that any Hollywood director or script writer would have approved of such a nonsensical line. Simply because Glee is not that kind of tongue-in-cheek indy-comedy. If this were a sketch by Month Python, it would be more believable because many sketches were surreal and plain silly. This scene is devoid of clever puns, witty retorts and biting commentary. The acting is pretty embarrassing too, but I digress, here are the lines reproduced from Glee Wiki .

RACHEL: Oh hello! I couldn't help but notice you admiring me yesterday in the courtyard.
SUNSHINE: Um, what?
RACHEL: Oh you don't speak English. YOU-LIKE-ME-SING! YOU-LIKE-ME-SING-VERY-MUCH! SUNSHINE: Um, I totally speak English.
RACHEL: I even did a little research on you. You are a foreign exchange student named Sunshine Corazon because you are from the Philippines where it's sunny every day!»

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Sunshine says "Um, I totally speak English." The second "t" of "totally" is slightly swallowed/a very very soft "d." The "ly" is very fast, but it is present if you listen carefully.

Sunshine's response isn't intended to be a funny line in itself, just to point out Rachel's over the top racism in assuming that Sunshine can't speak English and then shouting "You like me sing, you like very much," which is intended to be the funny part. The humor on Glee was primarily based on outrageous statements and actions by the characters.

Here are two separate transcription sites which have the correct line. Additionally, per Billy Kerr's comment, the official transcription on Disney+ also has "Um, I totally speak English."

https://subslikescript.com/series/Glee-1327801/season-2/episode-1-Audition

https://gleetranscripts.tumblr.com/post/13214567480/2x01-audition

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  • I don't want to get bogged down in tit-for-tat, but on the basis of what I hear, I have to downvote this. Jul 12, 2023 at 3:29
  • There's a lot of missing syllables for that to be "totally" - It's probably "Um I totes speak English" which is a slang abbreviation for totally.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 12, 2023 at 12:49
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    @FumbleFingers There's an interesting article on the "indie voice" dialect: acelinguist.com/2021/05/… I don't trust any transcription by default after poking around kissthisguy.com I'm an engineer, so not inclined to make up my own truth :)
    – ColleenV
    Jul 12, 2023 at 17:01
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    This is actually the correct answer. I just checked the subtitles on Disney+. It says "Um, I totally understand English". This isn't a third party transcription, but the subtitles published by Disney themselves.
    – Billy Kerr
    Jul 12, 2023 at 17:39
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    @ColleenV - nope. I disagree. She definitely doesn't say that.
    – Billy Kerr
    Jul 12, 2023 at 20:34
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I never accepted that "lack of context" was an acceptable closevote reason for this question, but now we have got the full context (0.22), it's potentially even more confusing.

So far as I'm concerned, the woman in that clip very precisely enunciates My toes speak English, and that's what the OP here is asking about, so it's nothing to do with "mis-hearing". The question to be asked is why would she say that, given it's not an established idiom (so superficially it looks like nonsense)?

The context is a comedy, and from what I could make out, the woman who says the line seems to be intelligent, articulate, and clear-spoken. She's responding to another clear-spoken native Anglophone who (for the purposes of humour) appears to be unintelligent (and thinks the first woman knows little English).

I think there's no doubt that My toes speak English is intended to allude1 to I totally speak English, but imho that wouldn't be enough to justify the scriptwriters including the line. To me, it's a typically Anglophone "whimsical coinage" building on established idioms like...

My little toe knows more English than you! (your English is terrible)
My little finger knows more than your head (you're really dumb)
I'm English from head to toe (I'm totally English, through and through)


1 It's only an allusion, and the line would still be funny if you didn't notice the ambiguity (whichever version you think you heard). I don't really understand how anyone could seriously think they hear the woman saying I totally, given how clearly she speaks - and that toes is one syllable, whereas totally is three syllables. It's not as subtle as the McGurk Effect - where you hear what you expect to hear (far or bar depending on whether you see the speaker's upper teeth). But it's in that general territory.


EDIT: I was distracted by people claiming the actress says totally. She's actually saying totes (as in “I totes knew he liked you!”)2, but the second /t/ is deliberately underarticulated to blur the distinction between Um... I totes speak and Er... My toes speak. It's still an auditory pun, partly "licensed" by existing idiomatic uses of fingers and toes.


2 Appending extraneous /s/'s to informal slangy usages is a relatively new emerging trend, typified by for reals, funsies, hugsies instead of for real (truly, totally), fun, hugs.

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    No, she definitely does not say "my toes speak English." She says "Um, I totally speak English" and the second "t" of "totally" is slightly swallowed/a very very soft "d."
    – Katy
    Jul 12, 2023 at 3:01
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    Perhaps it's your British ear leading you astray.
    – Katy
    Jul 12, 2023 at 3:11
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    You can hear the ly. Here's me saying it the same way she does: voca.ro/17M679Mfh3dN
    – Katy
    Jul 12, 2023 at 3:30
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    Also, another factual issue in your answer: the character Sunshine is an exchange student from the Philippines, and the actor who portrays her is also from the Philippines, not a native Anglophone.
    – Katy
    Jul 12, 2023 at 3:46
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    Jesus! Give it a rest, willya? Jul 12, 2023 at 19:54

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