Created By: bertrc on November 7, 2011 Last Edited By: bertrc on March 1, 2013
Nuked

Buying sand in the desert

Desperately wishing for something that could be trivially acquired.

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Trope
In several stories, a character becomes overjoyed or obsessed with the possibility of acquiring some trivial gewgaw, even though he is swimming in enough wealth or resources (or the item itself) to easily obtain the item a thousand times over. Essentially, the defining characteristic of this trope is that there is no sane reason why the person would be so obsessed.

It is often used deliberately for comedic purposes, but also occurs accidentally when the story teller does not think through the implications of the situation they have created (ie. when an author mistakenly keeps his or her real world perspective without realizing how much their fantasy world has differed from the real world)

Examples

Comic Books
  • It is lampshaded in the Apocrypha series of Miracleman. A janitor who regularly sees parallel worlds and interacts with divine/god-like beings becomes starstruck when he is passed in the road by a vintage automobile

  • The comic "Wanted" displays this at the end, where the protagonist is thrilled at the chance to claim his 10 million dollars even though he essentially owns both North and South America.

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons often used this trope for comedic purposes A prime example is from an episode in which Homer, while fantasizing about a world where literally everything is made of chocolate (Lamp posts, rain, dogs, etc.) becomes most excited upon finding a chocolate store selling chocolate at half price.

  • The old Super Friends cartoon regularly demonstrated this trope with the Legion of Doom. The Legion of Doom repeatedly conquers the world, but uses their position of power to rob some banks, or, at most, Fort Knox.

Community Feedback Replies: 42
  • November 7, 2011
    CaveCat
    Didn't you read the rule that Fast Eddie posted? No new Trope Namers.
  • November 7, 2011
    bertrc
    I searched that page for "namer" but did not find anything. What had he written?

    Besides, the Simpsons is not a new Trope Namer. There are several existing tropes that come from them and I think the Simpsons certainly has enough reknown to be considered iconic.

    Do you have another suggestion for a name?
  • November 7, 2011
    Irrisia
    Well, if you don't mind a temporarily bland name, Surprisingly Trivial Wish maybe? You can always change it to something better later.
  • November 7, 2011
    Bisected8
    May be the result of Not Rare Over There.
  • November 7, 2011
    bertrc
    It differs from "Not Rare Over There" in that the person him or herself has easy access to whatever they are obsessing over. ie. there is no sane reason for them to be obsessed.
  • November 7, 2011
    PaulA
    re: "the Simpsons is not a new Trope Namer"

    The proposed trope namer is not The Simpsons, it's the "chocolate: half-off" scene. That scene is not iconic, and I'd be very surprised if there are several existing tropes named after it.
  • November 7, 2011
    Bisected8
    @bertrc: Actually the point I was making is that they might be obsessing because they normally can't obtain it.
  • November 8, 2011
    dalek955
    Fast Eddie has too many rules.
  • November 8, 2011
    bertrc
    Is the scene really barely known? Hmmm, how about "Water actually is everywhere"?

    Who is Fast Eddie, anyway? Where is the bit about no new trope namers?
  • November 8, 2011
    SquirrelGuy
    This reminds me of the Sesame Street skit "The Remembering Game". Cookie Monster is disappointed at winning a jet plane instead of a cookie ("no can eat jet plane"). The picture on the board resembled a Boeing 707. Let's see, if he leased that aircraft to Trans-National Airlines, how many cookies could he buy?
  • November 8, 2011
    Oreochan
    ^^ He's the admin.
  • November 8, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Nthing Needs A Better Name.

    In another Simpsons, Homer drops a peanut under the couch and roots around for it, finding a $20 bill instead.
    Homer: Aw, twenty dollars! I wanted a peanut!
    Homer's Brain: Twenty dollars can buy many peanuts.
    Homer: Explain how!
    Homer's Brain: Money can be exchanged for goods and services.
    Homer: Woo-hoo!

    EDIT: from Naming A Trope: "Don't name the trope after a fondly-remembered character, work of fiction, or plot device." This is the one rule that doesn't have a counter-rule.
  • November 12, 2011
    bertrc
    Okay . . . So any suggestions for a name?
  • November 12, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Yet another Simpsons example: Homer is at the Kwik-E-Mart with Apu, who is sleeping because his octuplets at home are keeping him up. Homer uses a backlight to look through all the scratch-off lottery tickets and finds a winning one, good for $1,000. He wakes Apu and tells him he wants to buy that particular ticket and a package of Twizzlers. Apu tells Homer he doesn't have enough money for both, so after a couple of seconds of dithering, Homer decides to buy the Twizzlers.
  • November 13, 2011
    BooleanEarth
    ^^I vote you keep this one. Fuck that rule. It is the worst.
  • November 13, 2011
    originalhobbit
    I think that the rule exists to make trope names easier to understand, and it's not a bad rule at all. Not everyone is going to know what most trope titles mean, but a title from a specific scene of The Simpsons in a specific episode might warrant even more confusion. At least it'll warrant more confusion than an episode title. Basically, a title like this is Fan Myopia at it's absolute worst, which is why Fast Eddie has a rule against titles like this.
  • November 15, 2011
    bertrc
    Hmmm, how about "Needle in a Needle Stack" or "Hay in a Haystack"? I don't think "Forest for the Trees" fits, since that is an existing idiom about missing the big picture. This is specifically for when a character strives for something that they should realize is easily and abundantly available.

    It is sometimes done on purpose for comedic affect; other times, it is done accidentally when the author mistakenly keeps his or her real world perspective without realizing how much their fantasy world has differed from the real world.

  • November 15, 2011
    nielas
    ^ "Needle in a Needle Stack" can easily be interpreted as seeking a specific needle that is hard to distinguish from the other needles.

    Buying Sand In The Desert?
  • November 15, 2011
    bertrc
    @nielas: Brilliant! You are a poet.
  • November 15, 2011
    BooleanEarth
    ^^That's a great title.
  • November 17, 2011
    Mozgwsloiku
    Note that some desert countries actually do import sand (for example Dubai, for its artificial islands - Sahara sand is too fine and would instantly turn into quicksand.)
  • November 18, 2011
    nielas
    I think this trope will often have a built-in justification if the item you are seeking is sightly different from what is generally available. If any sand will do then it's trivial to just scoop it up. If you need sand with specific characteristics than it's no longer trivial and might be worth paying money for.

    You really need a very specific kind of dumb for this to be played completely straight. Probably why the best examples all come from Homer Simpson.
  • November 18, 2011
    bertrc
    I think that if there is a specific difference then it doesn't fall within scope of the trope.

    So how do I request hats?
  • November 18, 2011
    Maxaxle
    The Grand Theft Auto series abuses this trope pretty badly in its own way. In a nutshell, you cannot legally purchase vehicles, but you may steal them as much as you'd like, and this is a problem when you're after an unobtainable vehicle.
  • November 18, 2011
    surgoshan
    Burying Sand in the Desert implies the character wants to hide something. Perhaps Starving In The Pantry or An Embarassment Of Riches.
  • November 18, 2011
    nitrokitty
    ^ It's BUYING sand in the desert, not Burying. You read the title wrong.
  • November 18, 2011
    surgoshan
    Sweet cuppin' cakes! And I must've read it a dozen times in the past few days.
  • December 26, 2011
    bertrc
    So should I consider this idea DOA?
  • December 28, 2011
    MorganWick
    Has Fast Eddie actually put a stock-phrase-style kibosh on trope namers? Because so far as I know, the rule is that you shouldn't have to know the trope namer to understand the title. In that sense, I don't see anything wrong with this one.
  • December 28, 2011
    Euodiachloris
    There's an old English expression that's very, very close to this trope: carrying/ selling coals to Newcastle. Here's the Other Wiki for you. I'd say "Coals in Newcastle" should actually be the name: 16th Century beats last week's sand.
  • December 28, 2011
    elwoz
    "Carrying coals to Newcastle" is the exact inverse of this: someone who carries coal to Newcastle is trying to sell something that their customers already have. (At the time the expression was coined, there were plenty of people in Newcastle who wanted to buy coal, but it was also the home of the most productive coal mines in Great Britain, so they already had more than enough.)
  • December 28, 2011
    Euodiachloris
    Yes-no: it actually means 'doing something daft that you don't need to do: getting that what's not needed'. The phrase drifted from the face of what it started meaning, to being a bit broader, in short. Idioms do that, regardless of how they're used in news media. *grin* What I was trying to say was that this trope is 'wishing for coals when in Newcastle'. Oh - and I happen to live in Wallsend. Near Newcastle-upon-Tyne. But, thanks for the Geography, for them what doesn't.
  • December 28, 2011
    Generality
    Leaving the name issue aside- can anyone think of any actual examples? I have one that may fit.

    • In a Calvin And Hobbes strip, Calvin asks Hobbes what he would wish for if he could have anything in the world, and Hobbes, after a moment's thought, says "a sandwich". Calvin criticises him for his lack of imagination, but then Hobbes goes and makes a sandwich and enjoys it.
  • December 28, 2011
    Bisected8
    • In Eight Bit Theatre, while the Light Warriors are trapped in a frozen cave, Thief sets up a shop selling Fighter ice armour (that is armour made from slabs of ice) and Red Mage an "ice ball" spell (Material Component: Ice, Gesture: Throw Ice). They both take the fact that Red Mage's new "spell" can't penetrate Fighter's armour as proof that they both work. Black Mage is, naturally, upset.
  • January 28, 2012
    bertrc
    So, how does one give hats?
  • January 28, 2012
    Desertopa
    Click the "ready to publish" button below the comments. It's below the "launch" button, or the "send comment" button if you've opened the comment box.
  • January 28, 2012
    NoirGrimoir
    Can we take the "examples" out of the description? None of those examples are particularly notable, they didn't create the trope or anything. We don't need them in there. Having random examples in the description makes it look amateurish.
  • February 10, 2012
    bertrc
    @Noir Grimnoir: I figured those examples would be moved into the example section after launch. How does one normally handle this?
  • February 10, 2012
    Bisected8
    Normally you'd list examples below the description with bullet points as you would in the final article, like this;

    Examples

    • Example
    • Another example
    • Yet another example.
  • February 18, 2012
    bertrc
    @Bisected8, Thanks. Done.
  • February 18, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    I think Abundance Is Never Enough is a more fitting name.
  • March 1, 2013
    elwoz
    I am discarding this because it has gone for more than a year with no reply. It seems like it might be a trope, but I suspect it overlaps with enough other stuff to not be worth bothering about. Don't let that stop you from resurrecting it if you want; but please do see it gets finished in that case.
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