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This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

Black Humor: Does anyone mind if I delete the Classic TV section and its one example? It's kinda pointless to have a subcategory for just that example, especially since it's not confirmed to be that old anyway.
Drop Dead Gorgias: Is this really a trope in and of itself? Might it not be better listed as a commentary term or meta concept?

Red Shoe: It's a subcategory of trope. That's why it's up at the top of the page.

Drop Dead Gorgias: I guess I mean because it has the Trope scroll button at the bottom, you'll see it when just casually browsing through Tropes. Is that ok or should it have a different index?

Gus: I think I see the issue. There is no reason that items like this can't be on two indexes. Like thiis: Genre Tropes.

Susan Davis: Is the Phantom's lair really an Elaborate Underground Base, or is it merely Beneath the Earth?

Sukeban: It's kind of like a Batcave with a huge organ and a whole underground lake that the Phantom crosses on a boat. In the book it's got some death traps as well.

Susan Davis: Is either the boat or the organ powered by Applied Phlebotinum? Is anyone other than the Phantom based there?

Sukeban: Except for the deadly traps in the book and the candle-lit lake, it's pretty much phlebotinum-free... but as it is a rather impressive (in a campy way) subterranean home of the token villain rather than a network of Morlock holes, I thought it went better with EUB rather than with Beneath the Earth.

Ununnilium: I agree. Considering what he does there, too, it's more a base.

Adam Cuerden: Actually, the book hints at dozens of subbasements and strangeness hidden in them, though we only see a few. The deathtraps are also pretty damn complicated, and secret passages reach almost everywhere in the opera house. There's a lot of Adaptation Decay.


Dark Sasami: Apparently, The Book is pretty darn large by now. Should we consider moving the cutoff date back, or are we still good with Kennedy?

BT The P: Well, the distribution on this is a bit uneven. If we pushed it back to 1900, we'd only lose about six entries, but they are well-established tropes. Really, when the wiki was very TV-focused, setting the cutoff at a point a decade or so into TV's development made a lot of sense; now it's arbitrary, but it still is a useful event around which to divide the timeline.

I think the problem is that a significant fraction of tropes are older than dirt, especially the ones that are so common that they're hard to spot.

Gus: Yes. Any point in time would be arbitrary. It might be interesting, though, to see the list restrained to citations from, say,Beowulf (~1100AD) or earlier.

Robert: How about listing them by period within this page?

  • Ancient - Anything Classical or earlier
  • Middle Ages - Post-roman to printing
  • Pre-industrial - printing to steam engines
  • Industrial - up to widespread radio/cinema.
  • Early Modern - up to wide spread TV
  • Classic TV - what's left.

The names might need improving. I'd avoid defining exact dates for the periods - mostly a decade or two either way would make no difference. Instead, these periods are largely defined by the technology used for telling stories.

Printing led to a massive increase in the number of books available; the industrial revolution brought increased literacy, a more modern mind set, and much cultural mixing; radio and cinema, arriving roughly together, added two new media, etc. These were changes that greatly affected the spread and survival of tropes, but the precise dates scarcely matter, and vary from country to country anyway.

Ununnilium: Interesting. I'd say it's at least worth trying out.

Dark Sasami: Wow, I think it's a great idea. You wouldn't need names, really—the descriptions you gave would work just as well for section headers. Not sure where you divide what you have as Early Modern and Classic TV though.

Morgan Wick: Probably right around the end of World War II. Television as a technology is as old as radio is as a mass media, but it was mostly an experiment in the labs of the Radio Corporation of America (which then owned the NBC radio network) and at CBS. It hadn't really reached mass market proportions by the time World War II came around, at which point, since it doesn't really have much field military application, it was mostly forgotten. At the end of the war, though, there were a whole bunch of G Is returning home with a whole lot of disposable income that were willing to try all sorts of newfangled technologies (like rich teenagers with disposable income who spend it on iPods and cell phones and make them into integral parts of our culture), and all the factories were already busy producing weapons and fighters the country didn't need anymore. As a result, television boomed; by around 1948 the FCC halted all licences for television stations because they couldn't keep up with the demand.

Robert: 1945 is about right, but with some fuzziness. Mostly, this will be for tropes from 50's TV, those originated by I Love Lucy and its peers.

Damian Yerrick: I'd say 1923 because that's the cutoff date in the United States for the difference between public domain status and perpetual copyright on the installment plan.


Krid:I've added You Can't Go Home Again since I couldn't find anything addressing that particular trope. Since it's obscenely common and could be in any section under any one of dozens of names, I'd like for somebody to double-check to make sure I haven't missed it.
Ununnilium, elsewhere: (holds back rant on how overused The Oldest Ones in the Book is getting)

Robert: Don't hold back, tell us what you think.

This page can be pruned, or maybe split in two - restrict The Oldest Ones in the Book to tropes predating printing, and put the newer examples on a Older Than TV page.

Ununnilium: No, no. Rather, people are taking something old that's only tangentially related to a trope, and using that to "prove" that the trope is one of The Oldest Ones in the Book.

Robert: So prune those examples. Replace the claim that a trope is The Oldest Ones in the Book with a paragraph saying it's ultimately derived from trope X, one of The Oldest Ones in the Book.

Moving the cut-off date back is a different issue, but we might want to think about it, after pruning the current list. There's a limit to how many tropes can reasonably be described as the oldest.

Silent Hunter: I'd say move the date back. Let's say pre-Shakespeare.

Seth: I reckon we should leave it as is and just prune the examples.

Ununnilium: If we do move it back, it should still be within the 20th century, IMHO (perhaps before the broadcast of the first TV show). However, I don't think we should move it back.

Silent Hunter: I say we move it back pre-TV. That would be 1926 or thereabouts. BTW, Kennedy was elected in November 1960. He didn't become President until January 1961.

HeartBurn Kid: Personally, I feel it's fine the way it is. I only saw a couple that don't really fit on there (My Car Hates Me, mostly due to lack of examples, and perhaps Red Herring), and I'd say something that dates to the early days of television definitely counts as one of The Oldest Ones in the Book. An awful lot of the narrative devices that go into each story have a long, long line of precedent; why is that hard to accept? I think it was Stephen King that said that there are really only six stories in the entire world, and the trick is simply finding new ways to tell them.

Robert: Most of the narrative devices are ancient, true, but for most of them to be among the oldest ones strains even the flexible rules of English. Superlatives are for exceptional cases, not the vast majority.

HeartBurn Kid: Ah, so we're arguing semantics now. I always saw the title as a reference to a popular figure of speech—i.e. "You fell for the oldest trick in the book!" and the like—like so many of the page titles in the Wiki are. If you really want it to be just the oldest tricks, then really, we should just remove everything since the Classical era. After all, none of the other stuff can lay claim to being "oldest" when there's stuff older than it. For that matter, is there an actual book somewhere? Maybe we should change the title to The Oldest Ones. Which would be distinct from The Coldest Ones, of course. :)


Dark Sasami: One more thing. Can we make an effort to limit this to tropes, and not, er, other things? For example, I just cleaned up an example of Creator Breakdown that pointed at this, but that's not a trope as we have defined it here. It's something that happens, not something people set out to do. It's not a meme, it's a happenstance. So I didn't add it here, and I'm considering going back and taking the reference to this page out. Thoughts on this?

HeartBurn Kid: Now that I can get behind.
Morgan Wick: We still need to tighten up this page. If every trope is one of The Oldest Ones in the Book, it doesn't mean much at all anymore. Either we need to move the cutoff point back or rule that a trope must have two (or even three) super-old examples to go on here.

Sci Vo: It's a big page, but I'm willing to make an exception for its usefulness: an in-your-face illustration of just how many tropes are way Older Than They Think. Also, since we're most likely to just remember the biggies, not all the little me-toos that aped them, each example that we can remember probably represents a score of others that would just be annoying to track down. I don't want to get into proving that an ancient trope is notably ancient enough to qualify. If this page has to be split, then I'd suggest something like Older Than Books, Older Than Printing, Older Than Radio and Older Than TV. That would alphabetically sort in chronological order, while leaving room for something like The Oldest Ones In New Media for tropes that didn't originate in books (taking The Oldest Ones in the Book somewhat literally for convenience and humor), and it could eventually — many long years from now — be split into The Oldest Ones In Radio, The Oldest Ones In Video, The Oldest Ones In Videogames and The Oldest Ones In Web Only, while still keeping the alpha and chrono sorts mostly the same.

Morgan Wick: I still think that having the dividing line be anywhere after WWII is a little too inclusionist, and I think we don't need to do anything more than move it back to there. Although there aren't that many tropes in that region. Dang.

Pteryx: I tend to be of the opinion that anything that does not have an example that's 19th Century or earlier is not one of The Oldest Ones in the Book.

Sci Vo: I've looked it over again, and changed my mind. I decided that I like the idea of splitting it at the invention of the printing press. Anything before that is one of The Oldest Ones in the Book; anything from there to the first commercial radio broadcasts are The Oldest Ones In Print. Then, we'd have The Oldest Ones In Electronics for the oldest of the media-specific tropes that were enabled by each new technology: radio, TV, videogames, and new media.

Mister Six: I like the assassination of Kennedy as a quirky dividing line, and the size of the page isn't really a concern for me. I say just leave the damned thing as it is.

HeartBurn Kid: If you guys really want shorter articles, perhaps we should just split the article up along the time periods we've already defined? Tropes Of Ancient Times, Tropes Of The Middle Ages,Tropes Of The Pre Industrial Era,Tropes Of The Industrial Era,Early Modern Tropes... and just turn The Oldest Ones in the Book into a sort-of Table of Contents leading to those pages.

Devil's Advocate: I tend to agree with HBK - just split it into individual pages according to the categories we already have. I agree with Sci Vo's general point—we shouldn't move the overall cutoff point back, because the whole is useful as a demonstration that there are a lot of tropes that are Older Than They Think. And if all tropes eventually end up here, well, that's just proof of the page's epigraph.

Jae: Anyone else support the idea of adding She Is All Grown Up to the list? It sounds a lot like a version of the "The Ugly Ducking," which was written by Hans Christian Andersen and published in 1843. Yay or nay?


Perhaps we should get a list of what ISN'T an oldest one in the book, by this point. ((Jack Cain))


Adam Cuerden: I've added Death by Sex - I'm a Victorian theatre geek, and it's so prevalent in Victorian theatre that it's absolutely ridiculous. I'm not sure if I need to do anything else to add it to the index markup?
Stm177: I wanted to add Haunted Castle to the list, but I'm not sure if it should go in Industrial or pre-Industrial. Were there examples of the Haunted Castle in the 18th century?

Devil's Advocate: I'd just go ahead and it to the oldest one you have evidence for. Wiki Magic will move it to an earlier period if someone else has evidence for that.
That Other 1 Dude: did dividing the area into separate pages (Older Than Dirt, Older Than Steam, Older Than Radio) get lost in The Great Crash?

Lord Seth: Question about Doorstopper: Would that be Older Than Feudalism, Older Than Print, or Older Than Steam? I know there were long books before the printing press (i.e. The Bible) but I don't know if they were put together in a Doorstopper-esque format or not. Anyone know?
Mr Death: Just out of curiosity, is there some sort of moratorium on actually saying "The Oldest Ones in the Book" on the pages? Because seriously every single link to this page that I've found runs something like, "...making this...You know..."

Insanity Prelude: It started out as a lampshade of how it gets applied to everything, I think. And now that's just how everyone does it.
Arivne: I've changed the description for Older Than Dirt for two reasons: (a) to make it a better match for the current page description, and (b) to make it easier for someone to tell, based on the trope's age, whether it falls within that category. By the way, according to The Other Wiki writing became common during the 4th millenium BC (4000-3000 BC), so either the description shouldn't mention writing or the page description for Older Than Dirt should be changed.


Wyvernil: I wonder if there should be one last category, since the "Classic TV" part seems a bit underutilized. It'd be a bridge between Older than Television and The Newest Ones in the Book.

I'd call it Older Than Computers, marked at the point of the introduction of the personal computer (around 1977), which is about the cut-off point for The Newest Ones in the Book anyway.


Dausuul: What the heck? 500 BCE is NOT "older than writing." Writing goes back to 3000 BCE or thereabouts. For most tropes, there's no way we could know they're older than writing, because there's no record of them having existed before writing, because you can't make records until you can write!

I'm changing the definition of Older Than Dirt to "before the Roman Republic." Since the Republic was founded about 500 BCE, that keeps the chronology about the same. Feel free to come up with a better cutoff.