Created By: patches365 on December 30, 2012 Last Edited By: patches365 on January 16, 2013
Troped

Mistaken For Quake

Character thinks that there's an earthquake, but it's actually [insert non-earthquake cause here].

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Trope
The ground begins to shake. People start to panic, and someone inevitably shouts that it must be an earthquake. Which would be bad enough, except...

Cut outside. It's actually being caused by an incoming fleet of Battle Mech. Or a descending alien mothership. Or the villain's Death Ray rising out of the ground. Or a Sand Worm. Or a catfish. But most definitely not an earthquake.

Compare Bad Vibrations, however this trope is only in effect if a character explicitly mistakes the vibrations for an earthquake. It can sometimes manifest as a case of It's Probably Nothing, however characters will often still panic in response to it, just not quite enough.

Note that this trope does NOT apply if the tremors really are caused by an earthquake. The exception would be the Inversion: A character mistakes the tremors as having an outside cause, but it's actually a normal earthquake.

Examples

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime And Manga]]
  • In the Inuyasha episode "Battle Against the Dried-Up Demons at the Cultural Festival", Kagome wonders if the ground shaking is an earthquake, but it's actually a demon catfish flopping around on top of the school.
  • During the Namek Saga of Dragonball Z, Bulma tries to rationalize the ruckus being created by Vegeta and Frieza as "only an earthquake."
  • It is announced that the preliminary round of the Dark Tournament in YuYu Hakusho will take place on the ferry to the island. When the ship's deck opens to reveal the fighting ring:
    Kuwabara: "Aaaah! Earthquake!"
    Hiei: "Fool, there can't be earthquakes on the water!"
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
  • In Independence Day when the alien ships arrive at Earth:
    Steven: "Is it an earthquake?"
    Jasmine: "Not even a four-pointer, go back to sleep."
  • Inverted in L.A. Story's cafe scene, which has the ground begin to shake about halfway into the meal. Sara, just in from the UK, worriedly asks what's going on, and the others tell her it's just an earthquake.
  • In Groundhog Day, the old ladies with the flat tire scream that it's an earthquake, when it's actually Phil jacking up their car.
  • The movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids has what Ron mistakes for an earthquake actually turn out to be a remote-controlled lawn mower. As the kids are a quarter of an inch tall, this means things have gone From Bad to Worse.
  • When the aliens attack in Skyline some of the character assume it's a minor earthquake.
  • In 300, the approach of the Persian army makes the earth tremble, and [captain guy] thinks for a moment an earthquake is happening.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
  • In the Goosebumps books
    • "Go Eat Worms!": Todd thinks there are earthquakes near the school, when it is actually a giant worm under the ground.
    • "The Horror at Camp Jellyjam: The friequent earthquakes are actually King Jellyjam burping underground.
  • In Septimus Heap: Queste, the loud shaking of the Toll-Man's hut that Jenna first thought was an earthquake turns out to be a pack of Foryx running past the hut.
  • In the Soviet novel "Plutonia" a man climbs a small hill in order to take samples. Then he shouts down to his friends "A terrible earthquake!" They are confused at first, since they feel nothing... then it turns out that wasn't a hill, but rather a giant turtle.
  • Referenced in The Last Unicorn: Schmendrick remarks that people who mistake a unicorn for a horse would also mistake the Midgard Serpent for an earthquake.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
  • In the Doctor Who episode "The Angels Take Manhattan", Grayle wonders "Is it an earthquake?", but it's actually the TARDIS breaking through a temporal barrier to land in his foyer.
  • On Married... with Children Peggy's unseen mother is so fat...(how fat is she?)...She's so fat that the earth quakes when she walks, making others think an earthquake is happening.
  • Dragnet had one. Friday and Gannon stay in a hotel posing as orange growers to infiltrate a high-stakes gambling game and the room is right next to the elevator shaft. Friday mistakes the rumbling and shaking for an earthquake the first time it happens.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Tabletop RPG]]
  • Dungeons & Dragons module series "Desert of Desolation". While in the desert the PCs can experience an earthquake as a random encounter. In fact it's caused by the passage of a large number of Sand Worm type creatures called "thunderherders".
  • Call of Cthulhu
    • Fragments of Fear adventure "The Underground Menace". The inhabitants of Winnemuck, Michigan were terrified by a series of earthquakes. Little did they know that the earth tremors were actually caused by a ghoul priest trying to release a Cthulhu Mythos monster related to the Great Old One Shudde M'ell!
    • Terror from the Stars adventure "The Temple of the Moon". The earthquakes at the archeological dig site are not natural: they're caused when the bottom of the pool inside the Temple slides back to reveal a long shaft downward.
    • The Fungi from Yuggoth adventure "Mountains of the Moon". The earthquakes near the NWI facility in Peru are actually caused by the nearby mining activity of the Mi-go.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Comics]]
  • In Girl Genius, when Agatha finally manages to reboot Castle Heterodyne, the invading forces think they're experiencing an earthquake until they discover that it's actually the castle fighting back, seen here.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
  • In the first episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) Splinter is giving the turtles a lecture when their sewer home begin to shake. Michealangelo wonder if it is an earthquake, but Donatello answers that since they are in New York it's possible but not likely. Then the cause become clear when the Mad Scientist Baxter Stockmans mouser robots breaks through the wall and attack Splinter and the turtles.
  • On The Flintstones, Fred thinks there's an earthquake. Turns out it was Bamm-Bamm inexplicably destroying an addition to Fred's house.
  • Adventures from the Book of Virtues: Bobcat Socrates mistaking Aristotle's digging for an earthquake twice.
    • In "Courage":
      Zach: (to Plato) Yeah, well, it sure found you scared!
      Sock: (comes up while Zach and Plato are laughing) Did somebody say scared? I don't know the meaning of the word. Nothing, I repeat nothing, scares me.
      (the ground beneath him rumbles and he jumps as the earth shoots up spiarling toward him)
      Sock: AAAHHHHHH!! EARTHQUAAAAAKE!!
      Ari: (Sock finally falls over, he emerges) What's going on?
      Zach: (laughing with Plato) Sure, nothing scares you!
    • In the second episode about moderation:
      Sock: It's a miracle he gets in or out without starting an earthquake. (yelps in startlement as a crack shows up in the ground then Ari airs, dislodging several things with him)
      Sock: See what I mean?
      Plato: Not at the moment.
      (Sock and Annie laugh at the handkerchief that landed on his face)
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Real Life]] [[/folder]]
Community Feedback Replies: 31
  • December 30, 2012
    StarSword
    EDIT: Actually upon further reflection this isn't as cut-and-dried, but it still wanders a little close to Stock Phrase territory.

    Film:
    • Inverted in LA Story's cafe scene, which has the ground begin to shake about halfway into the meal. Sara, just in from the UK, worriedly asks what's going on, and the others tell her it's just an earthquake.
  • December 31, 2012
    Arivne
    Add to "It's actually being caused by...": "Or a Sand Worm."

    To avoid No New Stock Phrases, delete the part about the person shouting the phrase. Just make this about any situation where the ground is shaking and people think it's a normal earthquake, but it's actually something else.

    Tabletop RPG
    • Dungeons And Dragons module series "Desert of Desolation". While in the desert the PCs can experience an earthquake as a random encounter. In fact it's caused by the passage of a large number of Sand Worm type creatures called "thunderherders".
    • Call Of Cthulhu
      • Fragments of Fear adventure "The Underground Menace". The inhabitants of Winnemuck, Michigan were terrified by a series of earthquakes. Little did they know that the earth tremors were actually caused by a ghoul priest trying to release a Cthulhu Mythos monster related to the Great Old One Shudde M'ell!
      • Terror from the Stars adventure "The Temple of the Moon". The earthquakes at the archeological dig site are not natural: they're caused when the bottom of the pool inside the Temple slides back to reveal a long shaft downward.
      • The Fungi from Yuggoth adventure "Mountains of the Moon". The earthquakes near the NWI facility in Peru are actually caused by the nearby mining activity of the Mi-go.
  • December 31, 2012
    DannebrogSpy
    In the first episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003 Splinter is giving the turtles a lecture when their sewer home begin to shake. Michealangelo wonder if it is an earthquake, but Donatello answers that since they are in New York it's possible but not likely. Then the cause become clear when the Mad Scientist Baxter Stockmans mouser robots breaks through the wall and attack Splinter and the turtles.
  • December 31, 2012
    polarbear2217
    In the Goosebumps book "Go Eat Worms!", Todd thinks there are earthquakes near the school, when it is actually a giant worm under the ground.

    In the Goosebumps book "The Horror at Camp Jellyjam", the friequent earthquakes are actually King Jellyjam burping underground.
  • December 31, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    • In Septimus Heap: Queste, the loud shaking of the Toll-Man's hut that Jenna first thought was an earthquake turns out to be a pack of Foryx running past the hut.

    Not sure if Foryx needs a pothole to explain what it is.
  • December 31, 2012
    TwoGunAngel
    • The movie Honey I Shrunk The Kids has what Ron mistakes for an earthquake actually turn out to be a remote-controlled lawn mower. As the kids are a quarter of an inch tall, this means things have gone from bad to worse.
  • January 1, 2013
    Ogodei
    During the Namek Saga of [[Dragonball Dragonball Z, Bulma tries to rationalize the ruckus being created by Vegeta and Frieza as "only an earthquake."
  • January 2, 2013
    Omeganian
    In the Soviet novel "Plutonia" a man climbs a small hill in order to take samples. Then he shouts down to his friends "A terrible earthquake!" They are confused at first, since they feel nothing... then it turns out that wasn't a hill, but rather a giant turtle.
  • January 5, 2013
    SquirrelGuy
    On The Flintstones, Fred thinks there's an earthquake. Turns out it was Bamm-Bamm inexplicably destroying an addition to Fred's house.
  • January 5, 2013
    randomsurfer
    On Married With Children Peggy's unseen mother is so fat...(how fat is she?)...She's so fat that the earth quakes when she walks, making others think an earthquake is happening.
  • January 6, 2013
    Stratadrake
    We can easily call this Mistaken For Quake ... no, how about Mistaken For Quaking?
  • January 8, 2013
    Arivne
    Edit: The Empire Strikes Back example deleted.
  • January 8, 2013
    TTPT58983
    • Adventures From The Book Of Virtues: Bobcat Socrates mistaking Aristotle's digging for an earthquake twice.
      • In "Courage":
        Zach: (to Plato) Yeah, well, it sure found you scared!
        Sock: (comes up while Zach and Plato are laughing) Did somebody say scared? I don't know the meaning of the word. Nothing, I repeat nothing, scares me.
        (the ground beneath him rumbles and he jumps as the earth shoots up spiarling toward him)
        Sock: AAAHHHHHH!! EARTHQUAAAAAKE!!
        Ari: (Sock finally falls over, he emerges) What's going on?
        Zach: (laughing with Plato) Sure, nothing scares you!
      • In the second episode about moderation:
        Sock: It's a miracle he gets in or out without starting an earthquake. (yelps in startlement as a crack shows up in the ground then Ari airs, dislodging several things with him)
        Sock: See what I mean?
        Plato: Not at the moment.
        (Sock and Annie laugh at the handkerchief that landed on his face)
  • January 8, 2013
    chicagomel
    Dragnet had one. Friday and Gannon stay in a hotel posing as orange growers to infiltrate a high-stakes gambling game and the room is right next to the elevator shaft. Friday mistakes the rumbling and shaking for an earthquake the first time it happens.
  • January 8, 2013
    patches365
    Re: The Empire Strikes Back: I don't know if this one would count since I don't recall any of the characters mentioning they thought it was an earthquake. Han seemed to know what it was as soon as he shot it.
  • January 8, 2013
    Stratadrake
    Yeah, I don't think that one counts. He at least knew it wasn't a safe place to keep the ship anymore.
  • January 9, 2013
    patches365
    Taking Stratadrake's advice and renaming this "Mistaken For Quake", as that fits an established naming pattern and category on this site. If anyone's against this, or has a better name idea, let me know.
  • January 9, 2013
    StarSword
    ^^I disagree. The worm was periodically knocking the ship around for quite a while before Han figured out what it was. Threepio had this to say about it right after they landed:
    C-3PO: Captain, it's possible this asteroid may not be entirely stable.
  • January 9, 2013
    Stratadrake
    ^^ (I kinda like the rhyming version better, myself...)
  • January 14, 2013
    Dacilriel
    Literature:

    Referenced in The Last Unicorn: Schmendrick remarks that people who mistake a unicorn for a horse would also mistake the Midgard Serpent for an earthquake.
  • January 14, 2013
    Jallen
    • When the aliens attack in Skyline some of the character assume it's a minor earthquake.
  • January 14, 2013
    StarSword
    Have a fifth hat.
  • January 14, 2013
    patches365
    Whoa, sweet, I got those last two hats within, like, five minutes of each other. Thanks. :D
  • January 14, 2013
    Xtifr
    And, fresh off the press--as in, published today:

    Web Comics:
    • In Girl Genius, when Agatha finally manages to reboot Castle Heterodyne, the invading forces think they're experiencing an earthquake until they discover that it's actually the castle fighting back, seen here.
  • January 14, 2013
    Stratadrake
    That pun is ... bad.
  • January 15, 2013
    LordGro
    Liesmic Activity is a very bad name.

    Mistaken For Earthquake or Not An Earthquake would be okay, but how about Makes The Earth Tremble? This would shift the emphasis away from "character thinks there's an earthquake" to "something extremely big is on the move", and thus we get farther away from Stock Phrase territory.

    Film
    • In Three Hundred, the approach of the Persian army makes the earth tremble, and [captain guy] thinks for a moment an earthquake is happening.

    Depending on how narrowly the trope is interpreted, the following may also count:

    Literature
    • In Saga Of The Volsungs, the approach of the dragon Fafnir makes the earth tremble:
      Now crept the worm down to his place of watering, and the earth shook all about him (...)
  • January 15, 2013
    StarSword
    Makes The Earth Tremble sounds a lot like the earthquake-as-Stock Superpower definition of Dishing Out Dirt, though. I hatted it when it was Mistaken For Quake.
  • January 15, 2013
    Xtifr
    I agree, the current name is misleading, since there's no actual lying involved. On the other hand, names with at least a hint of quirkiness tend to perform better than bland, vanilla ones. Maybe something like Fake Quake? (At least it rhymes.)
  • January 15, 2013
    patches365
    Sorry, I have no idea who changed it to that terrible name. The history for some reason lists the edit as being from me, but I didn't do it. It's been reverted. But I lost a hat. ;_;
  • January 15, 2013
    Stratadrake
    The stolen hat was me, because of the pun at the time.
  • January 16, 2013
    StarSword
    ^^I've noticed mystery edits, too. I've posted a query on Ask The Tropers.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=gmcnszm262on7arx4v1by0om