Created By: superluser on December 27, 2009 Last Edited By: rodneyAnonymous on November 20, 2010

Correct By Coincidence

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Formerly Critical Research Success, probable redirect that and Accidentally Accurate (extremely close between this and CBC, each is good). Up for Grabs. Probably a Subjective Trope based on what the troper believes to be common knowledge and crackpot theories.

The combination of writers or characters who Did Not Do The Research and an audience filled with too much Common Knowledge. Anyone with a cursory knowledge of the subject will realize the writers made this up, while anyone who actually researches the subject will believe the writers are aware of current research on the subject.

If research not available at the time of the writing proves them right, that's a case of Science Marches On, not this trope. If the theory would never have been accepted by researchers working in whatever field (e.g. Professor Alexander Abian's theory that we should blow up the moon to stop Typhus), it's just the writers fertilizing some Epileptic Trees.


  • Examples from The Simpsons
    • In the commmentary for the episode The Crepes of Wrath, the writers note that the bit about adding antifreeze to wine was a parody of an incident where some wine was found contaminated with antifreeze. Obviously, it wasn't deliberately added. Except that the contamination was discovered when a winery started listing antifreeze as a business expense, and it was very deliberately added to make the wine sweeter.
    • While the writers may have known that a torus is one of the contenders for the shape of the universe, Homer certainly didn't know that when he told Stephen Hawking about his theory of a doughnut-shaped universe.

Possible examples:

  • Dolphins are frequently given an Alternative Character Interpretation as violent, venal and murderous animals, unlike their actual gentle and caring personality. As anyone who has studied dolphin behavior can tell you, this is not true. It's not clear which, if any, writers knew this when they used it.
  • Seaquest DSV had an episode where someone claims to have found something in Homer's handwriting. This has to be incorrect, because it would be impossible for a blind man to write something that wasn't written down for many years. While it's not clear if the writers knew it, there is a significant amount of scholarship debating whether Homer was blind and whether the Odyssey was written.
Community Feedback Replies: 25
  • December 27, 2009
    As for Dolphins, yes, it is true that some dolphins may kill their young. And, again, some dolphins, long held in captivity might turn "insane" or aggressive toward humans.

    However, there are a large number of well documented cases of dolphins saving the lives of stranded swimmers / sailors.

    As far as aggression toward humans, the very small number of "insane" dolphins does not reflect on the species as a whole.
  • December 28, 2009
    Isn't this Shown Their Work?
  • December 28, 2009
    This seems more like a case of something being correct by coincidence.
  • December 28, 2009
    FYI, in Homer's era, the Greeks didn't have a writing system, hence Oral Tradition.
  • December 28, 2009

    This can't be Shown Their Work, because they Did Not Do The Research.

    @Larry D

    The Greeks had Linear B in Homer's time, and there is actually considerable scholarship on the subject of whether the Iliad and Odyssey were written or oral compositions. I don't want to bog down the thing with examples, but Andrew Lang discusses the debate in Homer and the Epic, Bernard Knox supports the theory in the introductions to the Fagles translations of both the Iliad and the Odyssey, and A new companion to Homer by Ian Morris and Barry Powell also comments on the debate.
  • September 7, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    We NEED this trope. How Did We Miss This One?
  • October 15, 2010
  • October 16, 2010
    I remember being very annoyed by that Seaquest DSV episode. It's interesting that it might actually be plausible.
  • October 16, 2010
  • October 16, 2010
    Oh, and I forgot: In The Eye Of Argon, there IS such a thing as a scarlet emerald. If the author knew that, he'd have known proper grammar, spelling, usage...
  • October 16, 2010
    I think this needs a more accurate name to show that it is different than Shown Their Work. Coincidental Relevance? An Expert Unexpectedly?
  • October 16, 2010
    second Correct By Coincidence... alliterative and accurate... possibly Coincidentally Correct
  • October 16, 2010
    "Anyone with a cursory knowledge of the subject will realize the writers made this up, while anyone who actually researches the subject will believe the writers are aware of current research on the subject." If the authors really are aware of current research, is this similar to Viewers Are Geniuses?
  • October 16, 2010
    No. This is when on the surface the author got it wrong, but some research will show that the author got it right--by total accident. Look at the example for the Eye Of Argon. Jim Thiess mentioned a scarlet emerald--considering "scarlet" is a shade of red and emeralds are known for being green, this sounds as ridiculous as the rest of the story.

    As it turns out, scarlet emeralds (also known as red beryls) do exist--but it's unlikely (considering that people flush pale and pastily light up to a cherry red radiance) that Jim Theiss knew this.

    Another possible name: Accidentally Accurate.

    Also, I may suggest an alteration to the description: "Anyone with a cursory knowledge of the subject will realize the writers made this up, while anyone who actually researches the subject will know that these 'facts' are indeed true--though whether or not the writers were aware of current research on the subject is debatable."
  • October 16, 2010
    youshould add Princess Tutu and its investigations about ballet was simply amazing
  • October 17, 2010
    "Anyone with a cursory knowledge of the subject will realize the writers made this up..."

    Does that suggest that the writers do not have a cursory knowledge of the subject they're writing about? That seems unlikely. Rephrase?
  • October 17, 2010
    It does, and it should; this is about authors coming up with something out of their imaginations and being correct. It is fumbling into fact.
  • October 17, 2010
    I like Correct By Coincidence and Accidentally Accurate the best.

    • Any paleontologist watching Jurassic Park could, among other things, call out the movie for its depiction of velociraptors as man-sized monsters when real raptors were about the size of turkeys (though no less dangerous for it). Two years prior to the movie's release, however, paleontologists discovered Utahraptor, which really was about the size of the raptors in the movie. (The lack of feathers is another matter entirely, though...)
  • October 18, 2010
    Hmmm... were the Velociraptors man-sized in the books? And was Utahraptor known to Steven Spielberg at the time of filming?
  • October 18, 2010
    FWIW, the Homer example should be rewritten to clarify that it's about the Odyssey guy. At first, I thought it was about some Seaquest DSV character named Homer.
  • October 18, 2010
    Correct By Coincidence is my personal favorite title.
  • October 18, 2010
    @Mr Initial Man

    No, He just thought the bigger ones looked cool.
  • November 13, 2010
    I think Accidently Accurate would be the best title, since it's short and to the point. And has Added Alliterative Appeal to boot.
  • November 14, 2010
    Another vote for Accidently Accurate.

    In the old Star Trek shows, writers portrayed fancy, hand held communicator devices. Who knew that they were basically describing modern day mobile phones? Accident or Incite?
  • November 20, 2010
    The communicators would be Defictionalization that took a few decades. There's a clear line between the two: Defictionalization would be something that became true afterwards. Accidently Accurate would be when someone was seemingly talking out his ass but turned out to be right all along.

    Defictionalization: Mobile communicators didn't exist in the 1960s; now we have cell phones.

    Accidently Accurate: Jim Thiess wrote about "scarlet emeralds" in the Eye Of Argon which is known for (amongst other things) adjectives being used regardless of their actual meaning. However, there are, and have always been red beryls.