Historical Character Confusion
A character confuses one historical figure with another.
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(permanent link) added: 2011-12-23 19:43:21 sponsor: MTsurugi edited by: StarSword (last reply: 2013-04-19 13:04:29)

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Bob Howard: "You heard of Alan Turing? The father of programming?"
Peter-Fred Young: "Didn't he work for John Carmack?"
Bob: (thinking) Oh, it's another world out there.
-- "Pimpf"

This trope is when somebody mistakes one historical figure for someone else (or, sometimes, for a fictional character), despite the two having little or nothing in common, exemplifying their lack of intelligence. In speculative fiction settings it may also result from the fog of history getting information muddled.

The source of confusion varies. Maybe the names sound alike (Vladimir Lenin and John Lennon), or their fields are tangentially related (Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein), or the more contemporary figure is a reference to the older (Michelangelo the painter and Michelangelo the turtle).

See also Name's the Same, which is mostly for fun but can be a source of this confusion. Contrast Artistic License - History, which is when the author gets something like this confused.

Examples

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[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
  • This line from the Pokémon episode "Haunter Vs. Kadabra";
    Jessie: Oh, James, this is the greatest discovery since Einstein invented the light bulb!
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[[folder:Film]]
  • In Clerks II, Randall compares a guy in a wheelchair to Anne Frank, "The chick that was all duhhh, till the miracle worker showed up and knocked some smarts into her". Dante tries to correct him by saying that was Helen Keller and that Anne Frank hid from the Nazis and had a diary. Randall then says he was right all along because the wheelchair guy had a blog.
  • In The Big Lebowski, The Dude is struggling with a Lenin quote ("You look for the person who will benefit...") which he cannot remember properly. Donny, trying to be helpful, repeatedly mentions Lennon's 1967 song "I Am the Walrus".
  • Facing the Giants: A Who's on First?-esque conversation involves, among other things, the speaker confusing Charles Schultz with the pilot Charles Lindbergh (then him with the Hindenburg). He's clearly joking, though, to mess with The Comically Serious coach trying to correct him.
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[[folder:Literature]]
  • In The Laundry Series, the short story "Pimpf" has Bob get paired with an intern named Peter-Fred Young, a Neverwinter Nights modder who almost summoned an Eldritch Abomination with one of his scenarios. Bob tries to explain what the Laundry does, mentioning Alan Turing in the process. PFY's lack of historical computing knowledge results in the page quote.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]] [[/folder]]

[[folder:Radio]]
  • In one of the Fred Dagg radio skits, Fred mentions that Abraham Lincoln was shot by a man called Booth, who he always thought founded the Salvation Army (confusing John Wilkes Booth with William Booth for those who don't get the reference). Of course, he then follows this up by adding he might be thinking of the man who invented the telephone box.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
  • Paranoia XP. In the Communism-obsessed Alpha Complex several hundred years in the future, Groucho Marx and John Lennon are confused with Karl Marx and Lenin.
  • This is combined with Composite Character as the basic concept behind the comedy RPG Diana, Warrior Princess. According to the people making a TV series far in the future, any British royal with the same name must be the same person. So Diana is married to Bonnie Prince Charlie, whose mother is Elizabeth the Queen Mother, sister to Mary Queen of Scots. In the sequel, Elvis, the Legendary Tours, Elvis's archenemy is his brother, Abbot Costello, and his companions are the left-wing John Lenin and the right-wing Joe McCartney.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Theatre]] [[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
  • In an episode of American Dad!, Stan tries to encourage his son and says:
    "Just look at Helen Keller. Deaf, dumb and blind, and she wrote that whole diary in her little attic during World War II. She doesn't sound so dumb to me."
  • Histeria! had a character named Pepper Mills who would ask historical characters for their autograph, then realize that she had mistaken them for someone else.
  • Family Guy: In the song "You've Got a Lot to See" Brian sings to an old lady shut-in about all the things out in the world that she's missing. A group of wild rappers appear during the bridge listing events she's missed, including:
    Diane Simmons: Neil Armstrong landing on the moon.
    Meg: Neil Armstrong - wait was he that trumpet guy?
  • Even after meeting the historical Leonardo da Vinci, Fry from Futurama keeps confusing him with Leonardo DiCaprio.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Real Life]] [[/folder]]

Indexes: Comedy Tropes, Stupidity Tropes

replies: 37

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