Created By: KZN02 on September 4, 2016 Last Edited By: Arivne on February 8, 2017
Troped

Similar Item Confusion

Character confuses similar-looking or sounding items before using them.

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A character confuses an item for another, usually due to looking or sounding similar, and uses it to make food, chemical solution, etc. This tends to be an aspect of a Lethal Chef in cooking. Alternatively, this can be intentionally done by another party by switching items for the character to overlook.

Instances include:
  • Salt and sugar
  • Flour and flower

Compare with Mismeasurement and Unit Confusion. Super Trope to Dynamite Candle. If done as a trap, see Poison Mushroom.


Examples:

Film
  • A plot point in the George of the Jungle movie is how Lyle has a cigarette lighter that looks like a pistol. At the end of the movie he asks one of his African guides for it (earlier he asked for it to be cleaned as long as they're working on his camera), and the guy accidentally gives him an identically-looking real gun instead.
  • 9 to 5. When Violet is making coffee for her boss Mr. Hart, she accidentally adds rat poison instead of artificial sweetener. He luckily avoids drinking it and is not poisoned.

Light Novel
  • Re:Zero: averted in Episode 3 of the Break Time shorts, where it is mentioned that one of Reinhard's many abilities include not confusing sugar with salt when cooking.

Literature
  • In a MAD Magazine "Hate Book" feature, one item was "Don't you hate discovering that you've been brushing your teeth with shaving cream?" This dates back to when shaving cream often came in squeeze tubes, similar to that of toothpaste, so such an error was actually possible.

Live-Action Television
  • One episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 opened with Crow having melted himself into a puddle after mistaking a Thawmaster for a Thighmaster. Then Tom Servo does just the opposite, failing to thaw out a roast beef in time for dinner after mistaking a Thighmaster for a Thawmaster.
  • Square One TV: One brief sketch showed two men who were working at a restaurant discussing income and profit. One of the bills they were discussing involved window repair due to a customer's demonstration of how hard the Swedish Meatballs were, to which the cook replied "How was I supposed to know that flour and plaster weren't the same thing? I mean they're both all powdery and white...!"
  • One episode of Mission: Impossible has the team infiltrate a chemical plant where The Villain's henchmen are mixing deadly nerve gas. The plant's store room contains two key ingredients in similar containers, differentiated only by their labels. Invoked when the IMF use peel-and-stick labels to confuse the two chemicals. This causes the mixing process to be done in the wrong order, resulting in the anarchists getting Hoist by His Own Petard.

Video Games
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky introduces 'lookalike items,' meant to trick the player into using them.
    • Is that a healing Oran berry, or a poisonous Oren berry?
    • Will the Sleep Seed help knock out your foe, or is it a Slip Seed that will make them able to walk on water?
    • Will this Reviver Seed keep you going through this tough fight? or is it the devious Reviser Seed that still revives you, only for you to immediately laugh yourself unconscious?
  • A backstory snippet in Undertale mentions how King Asgore got an accidental food poisoning when his children confused "cups of butter" in a pie recipe for him with "buttercups" (a mildly poisonous flower).

Web Comics
  • Merlitz from Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures tries to convince his teammates that he has seen an actual human, but none believe him. Worse, they presume Merlitz has lost his mind, and oust him from the group. The team leader asks The Ditz for a pink slip to formalize the outplacement, whereupon she undresses, and offers her pink slip as it's the only one she has.
  • Strip #130 of Phillip M Jackson's Sequential Art has Kat ask Pip to retrieve shears, so as to cut away bubblegum from Scarlet's fur. Pip brings large hedge clippers, at which Kat scolds, "Barber not gardening, you little cretin." Poor Scarlet nearly panics.
  • In The Order of the Stick, Belkar learns that vampires are vulnerable to stakes, so he rustles up some T-bones.
    Belkar: No, you're a homophone!

Western Animation
  • Looney Tunes: In Speedy Gonzales' debut episode, Bennie gets a drum of petrol, thinking the word is just a funny spelling of "water", to use to douse George after being blown up.
  • In the Arthur episode, "What's Cooking?", Arthur enters a cooking competition at school, hosted by famous chef, Ming Tsai, with plans to make a chocolate cake. His dad insists on wanting to help, even thought it's a Kids-only competition. Arthur makes a mistake by adding baking soda instead of baking powder, resulting in a batch of brownies instead of a chocolate cake. He wants to throw them out at first, but then his brownies become a huge hit with the class, and he learns that many great foods were created by accident from Ming Tsai.
  • Kronk has this problem in Disney's The Emperor's New Groove, in that he mistakes a bottle of llama extract for deadly poison, which results in the intended victim being transformed into a llama as opposed to full-on dead.
    Ymza: This isn't poison. This is extract of ... llama."
    Kronk: You know, in my defense, your poisons all look alike. You might think about relabeling some of them.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode, "Applebuck Season", Applejack keeps confusing ingredients like potato chips instead of chocolate chips for the cupcakes due to sleep deprivation. What resulted was a town-wide food poisoning by "baked bads".
  • In The Simpsons, Season 10 "Viva Ned Flanders", when Mr. Burns' Casino is about to get demolished using bombs, one of the demolition worker overhears Bart say, "All right! Here comes the implosion". After detonating the bomb, the worker realized he wasn't supposed to use explosives for the casino. This confusion results in the casino being blasted into a huge dust cloud covering part of the town.

Community Feedback Replies: 30
  • September 4, 2016
    DAN004
    May happen by way of sabotage.
  • September 4, 2016
    FlyingDuckManGenesis
    Western Animation
    • In the Arthur episode, "What's Cooking?", Arthur enters a cooking competition at school, hosted by famous chef, Ming Tsai, with plans to make a chocolate cake. His dad insists on wanting to help, even thought it's a Kids-only competition. Arthur makes a mistake by adding baking soda instead of baking powder, resulting in a batch of brownies instead of a chocolate cake. He wants to throw them out at first, but then his brownies become a huge hit with the class, and he learns that many great foods were created by accident from Ming Tsai.
  • September 4, 2016
    Koveras
    • A backstory snippet in Undertale mentions how King Asgore got an accidental food poisoning when his children confused "cups of butter" in a pie recipe for him with "buttercups" (a mildly poisonous flower).
  • September 4, 2016
    DAN004
    Supertrope of Dynamite Candle?
  • September 4, 2016
    KZN02
    If I were to include that, I would need to rename this trope. Similar Item Confusion?
  • September 5, 2016
    DAN004
  • September 7, 2016
    oneuglybunny
    Western Animation
    • Kronk has this problem in Disney's The Emperors New Groove, in that he mistakes a bottle of llama extract for deadly poison, which results in the intended victim being transformed into a llama as opposed to full-on dead.
      Ymza: This isn't poison. This is extract of ... llama."
      Kronk: You know, in my defense, your poisons all look alike. You might think about relabeling some of them.
  • September 8, 2016
    DAN004
    I remember about a cartoon I watched long ago (Bugs Bunny, perhaps) where he mistook gasoline for water.
  • September 8, 2016
    alnair20aug93
    • In the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode, "Applebuck Season", Applejack keeps confusing ingredients like potato chips instead of chocolate chips for the cupcakes due to sleep deprivation. What resulted was a town-wide food poisoning by "baked bads".
  • September 8, 2016
    KZN02
  • September 9, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ ah yeah that's the one.

    And my memory fails me a bit lol.
  • September 9, 2016
    BKelly95
    From the similar sounding side:

    Live Action Television
    • One episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 opened with Crow having melted himself into a puddle after mistaking a Thawmaster for a Thighmaster. Then Tom Servo does just the opposite, failing to thaw out a roast beef in time for dinner after mistaking a Thighmaster for a Thawmaster.
  • September 10, 2016
    oneuglybunny
    Webcomics
    • Merlitz from Dan And Mabs Furry Adventures tries to convince his teammates that he has seen an actual human, but none believe him. Worse, they presume Merlitz has lost his mind, and oust him from the group. The team leader asks The Ditz for a pink slip to formalize the outplacement, whereupon she undresses, and offers her pink slip as it's the only one she has.
  • September 10, 2016
    notShemp
    • In The Simpsons, Season 10 "Viva Ned Flanders", when Mr. Burns' Casino is about to get demolished using bombs, one of the demolition worker overhears Bart say, "All right! Here comes the implosion". After detonating the bomb, the worker realized he wasn't supposed to use explosives for the casino. This confusion results in the casino being blasted into a huge dust cloud covering part of the town.
  • September 11, 2016
    oneuglybunny
    Webcomics
    • Strip #130 of Phillip M Jackson's Sequential Art has Kat ask Pip to retrieve shears, so as to cut away bubblegum from Scarlet's fur. Pip brings large hedge clippers, at which Kat scolds, "Barber not gardening, you little cretin." Poor Scarlet nearly panics.
  • September 11, 2016
    DAN004
    Plz add dat video example I asked
  • October 10, 2016
    alnair20aug93
    BUMP
  • October 10, 2016
    NateTheGreat
    A plot point in the George of the Jungle movie is how Lyle has a cigarette lighter that looks like a pistol. At the end of the movie he asks one of his African guides for it (earlier he asked for it to be cleaned as long as they're working on his camera), and the guy accidentally gives him an identically-looking real gun instead.
  • October 10, 2016
    sailing101
    • Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Explorers Of Sky introduces 'lookalike items,' meant to trick the player into using them.
      • Is that a healing Oren berry, or a poisonous Oran berry?
      • Will the Sleep Seed help knock out your foe, or is it a Slip Seed that will make them able to walk on water?
      • Will this Reviver Seed keep you going through this tough fight? or is it the devious Reviser Seed that still revives you, only for you to immediately laugh yourself unconscious?
  • October 10, 2016
    Arivne
    Film
    • Nine To Five. When Violet is making coffee for her boss Mr. Hart, she accidentally adds rat poison instead of artificial sweetener. He luckily avoids drinking it and is not poisoned.
  • October 11, 2016
    CactusFace
    • An actuall game mechanic in Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Explorers: You will find lookalike items that have a similar name as another item, but usually the opposite effect. While the Oran Berry gives you Hit Points, the Oren Berry takes them away, for example.
  • October 11, 2016
    BKelly95
    Literature
    • There was a children's book (whose title escapes me) about an illiterate man who depends on his wife for all his reading needs. One day, she takes a vacation and leaves the shopping to him. He ends up buying the wrong items because he couldn't read the labels. (Onion soup instead of soup he likes, wax paper instead of spaghetti, buttermilk instead of normal milk.) In the end, he decides that learning to read is important.
  • October 14, 2016
    Shishkahuben
    Done as a trap for the player, this is Poison Mushroom. Also, in the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon example, Oran berry is the healing one, Oren is poison.
  • October 22, 2016
    sailing101
    ^ which shows how effective that trick is ;)
  • October 24, 2016
    intastiel
    A Webcomic example:
  • January 21, 2017
    ngh93
    I really think this deserves a page on TV tropes. It's PERFECT!
  • January 21, 2017
    SquirrelGuy
    In a MAD Magazine "Hate Book" feature, one item was "Don't you hate discovering that you've been brushing your teeth with shaving cream?" This dates back to when shaving cream often came in squeeze tubes, similar to that of toothpaste, so such an error was actually possible. Another feature (possibly in a different humor magazine) had something where you know you're really a parent (of teenagers?) when you accidentally brush your teeth with pimple cream.
  • January 26, 2017
    SquirrelGuy
    In the movie Stir Crazy, some caterers mistake Harry's cannabis stash for oregano. Ouch!
  • January 30, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    Live Action TV
    • One episode of Mission Impossible has the team infiltrate a chemical plant where The Villain's henchmen are mixing deadly nerve gas. The plant's store room contains two key ingredients in similar containers, differentiated only by their labels. Invoked when the IMF use peel-and-stick labels to confuse the two chemicals. This causes the mixing process to be done in the wrong order, resulting in the anarchists getting Hoist By His Own Petard.
  • January 30, 2017
    longWriter
    Square One TV: One brief sketch showed two men who were working at a restaurant discussing income and profit. One of the bills they were discussing involved window repair due to a customer's demonstration of how hard the Swedish Meatballs were, to which the cook replied "How was I supposed to know that flour and plaster weren't the same thing? I mean they're both all powdery and white...!"
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