The scene in question can be found here. Transcript:

Randall: 'Wazowski! Where is it you little one-eyed cretin?'
Mike: 'Okay, first of all it's "Cretan", if you're going to threaten me, do it properly.'

But cretin is the commonly used insult, and it's not mispronounced. Via Google:

a stupid person (used as a general term of abuse).
a person who is physically deformed and has learning difficulties because of congenital thyroid deficiency.

Similar-sounding words
cretin is sometimes confused with cretan

Similarly, Cretan:

adjective: Cretan
relating to or characteristic of the Greek island of Crete or its inhabitants.
"ancient Cretan pottery"
noun: Cretan; plural noun: Cretans
a native or inhabitant of the Greek island of Crete.
"on the road he meets a Cretan"

I was surprised to find zero commentary on this online given it's a 19 year old film, albeit a rather minor part of one. Google notes that the two words are commonly confused for one another given their relatively similar pronunciation, but considering that Mike corrects him I assume there's some intentional joke here - but I can't figure out for the life of me what it is. Given Crete is a Greek Island I assumed it might have something to do with Greek mythology but I can see nothing else that might back this up, Crete, unfortunately, has nothing to with Cyclopses, though I almost want to pretend it does and that this is a great, obscure joke.

I only actually came to rewatch this scene after a friend, who defended the use of cretin in a discussion of whether it should be censored from a video we were making on the basis, mentioned that it was used in the film Monsters Inc, but after a while, I noticed her pronunciation of the word was odd. It would be interesting to see whether this scene actually influenced people's pronunciation of the word, but that's a separate matter.

  • 2
    All I can guess is it's a nearly half-funny joke based on US English pronunciation of the word cretin, which to a European ear sounds more like they said Cretan. Add that to some vague Greek mythology misunderstanding & you have… ermm… not a lot to laugh at ;) US has a long E & a suppressed i… more like kree-tən , UK has a short E & pronounces the i specifically, it doesn't become a schwa, 'uh' sound… kre-tin.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 17:29
  • I hadn't watched the clip before my first comment… Randall uses the UK pronunciation, Mike the US. I'm still not sure where the joke is.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 17:45
  • 3
    I thought the joke was that Mike proves his stupidity by incorrectly correcting Randall.
    – Mr_Thyroid
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 20:15
  • It could be a reference to cyclops being from Greek mythology? But I always took it as Mr_Thyroid did, Mike proving he's a bit dim.
    – moonCat93
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 12:30
  • I have not used the word cretin since someone replied, “Non, athénien.” Commented Apr 30, 2022 at 2:46

6 Answers 6


It's probably a "snobs vs. slobs" joke.

Randall pronounces the word "cretin" using the accepted short e British pronunciation, one that is less common in the US, where the long e pronunciation is accepted and widely used.

This joke is probably a "snobs vs. slobs" joke. Americans who pronounce cretin with a short e tend to be more educated and perhaps wealthier. Pronouncing it "cree-tin" is how the "common man" says it. Correcting someone in America who says "cree-tin" would make a person come across as boorish and elitist. Correcting someone who pronounces it with the short e is essentially saying: "Quit putting on airs, around here everyone says creetin." In my opinion, the joke is a little misplaced, since social elitism and snobbery are not really among the character flaws marking Randall as a villain.

I don't believe this joke is referencing the residents of Crete at all.

  • I had no idea (being from the UK) that the 'Cretan' pronunciation is more common in the US. Since I doubt that a more satisfying answer will appear, I'll mark this as correct.
    – exitpotato
    Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 10:31
  • 2
    Just because Americans pronounce the word differently than British people do doesn't make their pronunciation "wrong". Most dictionaries I've checked (including the OED) list both pronunciations.
    – Psychonaut
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 11:16

Interestingly, the positions seem to have been flipped from the original screenplay in which Randall pronounces it the American way ('cree-tin') and Mike corrects him with the British pronunciation ('cretin').

They dump the box out into a chair, revealing Mike. This is not what Randall was expecting.

RANDALL (CONT’D) Wazowski?! Where is it, you little one eyed creetin?

MIKE: Okay, first of all it's cretin. If you're going to threaten me, do it properly.
Second of all, you're nuts if you think kidnapping me is gonna help you cheat your way to the top!

Obviously the other way makes more sense given that the characters have American accents, which is probably why it got flipped. Mike is the more erudite person in this conversation and would therefore know how to pronounce it 'properly', that is to say, in line with the prevailing local pronunciation.


There is one other possibility I can think of:

  • Assume Randall meant cretin and pronounced it the British way.
  • Assume Mike thinks Randall is referring to Cretans.

Mike is correcting Randall for mispronouncing the nationality, due to Mike not knowing the word cretin and Mike misunderstood the insult.

This joke is irony: Mike is uneducated and doesn't know the word cretin, thus proving he is foolish (like a cretin).

If my interpretation is correct, this joke matches the tenor of this later joke in the same scene:

Randall: "Say hello to the scream extractor"
Mike: "Hello"

Although, I must say that RuffDove's answer also matches the tenor of the later joke if we assume that the statements are more intentional by Mike.

The snobs vs slobs interpretation means: Mike trying to break Randall's intimidation/threat by telling him to act less elite.

The "Hello" response could be doing the same thing. Mike is putting down Randall by not being intimidated by the machine and instead making light of a situation by responding to a rhetorical command.


I’m so glad I’m not the only one who noted this - as a British person it did seem odd that Mike should ‘correct’ Randall, when Randall uses what I regarded as the correct word. In the U.K. the long-E ‘Cretan’ would mark you out as ill-educated, and potentially offensive to the isle of Crete. Whilst I enjoyed the long informative interpretation based on Homer, I don’t think this, or Crete, is relevant in anyway. Mike is no intellectual.

I’d inferred that Mike uses an alternative U.S. pronunciation (confirmed with Google), although the slob/snob association on this thread was new. For me it was more like two Brits squabbling over the pronunciation of ‘grass’ or ‘scone’ - funny because it seems such a trifling matter in the context of kidnap and torture.

Mike is only saying this to add to his verbal challenge. If Randall were British there’d be no end of similar material - Pronunciation of niche, tomato, etc.; or differences in words like maths, coriander, chips...


Actually, to call someone a Cretan (someone from the island of Crete) is an insult that is much older. “All Cretans are liars” is in Homer’s Odyssey And “Never trust a Creatan” is in the bible. So the ancient Mediterranean insult is much older. It’s not clear if it was later an inspiration for cretin or if they were later conflated, but most people who have read Homer know about the much older Cretan’s lie, which is also something that is a way of storytelling where a story is paradoxical, like in the statement “all Cretans are liars, is in fact a paradox because it is a Cretan saying it. As in a liar says “I am lying” so then the liar is telling the truth and lying about the fact that he is lying.
I wonder if there are other references to Greek mythology or Homer in the movie. I think this is a case of Mike showing off how smart he is. Another quote from the bible: "One of Crete's own prophets has said it: 'Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.' He has surely told the truth!" (Titus 1:12) It’s interesting because I think most people today say and spell it cretin but actually mean Cretan. The way I have heard it used in popular culture is not just someone dumb but actually someone who is a bully, brutish, dumb but also physically imposing, who lies about his intentions. That makes me think they actually meant Cretan and not just cretin.

  • 2
    This interpretation assumes the viewers will have this knowledge. We're talking about a cartoon, here. Commented Apr 29, 2022 at 18:30

I think Mike Wazowski gave a reference to Cyclopes who were one-eyed giant creatures in Greek mythology. He changed it to Cretan to look Greek (As you said, Cretan means a person who is from Crete island). And he himself resembles the giant powerful Cyclopes in being one-eyed. In fact, he used Randall's insult for his own benefit.

A Cyclope

  • Nope. I think you totally missed the joke here. It has absolutely nothing to do with the Greek island. It's entirely a pronunciation joke.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Jul 23, 2023 at 17:36

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