Created By: Generality on July 30, 2011 Last Edited By: Generality on August 8, 2011

Unnecessary Precision

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A standard, if uncommon, comedy gag: using a precise count in a situation where a generalisation would be normal. For instance, instead of saying that there are some bricks over there, saying that there are 13 bricks, even though the exact number of bricks is in no way important.

This is different from Ludicrous Precision in the essential respect that it's not impossible. One doesn't have to be Good with Numbers to do this, just cringingly finicky about precision. Or trying vainly to impress someone. A common variant is for the counter to be wrong, sometimes very wrong, especially after putting a lot of effort into getting the number.

Expect the chance to verify their's efforts- the audience will usually be shown the object of the count, although sometimes at a fast pace, making the event a Freeze-Frame Bonus. If not, you may be mocked for your attention to detail. Rarely, a number will be treated as important, in accordance with the Law of Conservation of Detail, only to be shortly revealed as a meaningless distraction.

Examples:

  • A trait of the Coneheads, along with their penchant for Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness. For instance, at the end of the film, Beldar takes his daughter's boyfriend aside, asking to have "fifty-five words" with him. He then gives a short speech about automobile safety which is, indeed, exactly 55 words long.
  • At the end of the Dresden Files book Ghost Story, the Archangel Uriel reveals that Harry was Driven to Suicide by a Fallen Angel whispering a seven-word lie into his ear at a precise moment, but that Uriel, being bound by laws of balance, can only reiterate by whispering seven words of his own. When this happens shortly after, Harry actually counts the words out loud to make sure.
  • In the first two Monkey Island games, Guybrush must go through various hurdles to acquire money, and always receives a very specific amount. He never needs this much (although it is possible to waste it all and render the game Unwinnable if the player is very determined), so there is no need in having an exact number. This is averted in later games, when any sum of money he has is labelled as simply being a large amount, and enough to cover his needs.
  • In an episode of Futurama, the Professor uses a Memory Ray to engage a flashback sequence, which he narrates starting with, "It was the 8th of May, and 23 birds were flying outside of the window." Cut to a window with 23 birds outside of it.
Community Feedback Replies: 14
  • July 30, 2011
    CaveCat
    From Garfield Goes Hollywood:
    Pet Search host: Our final act this evening is Bob the Wonder Dog. He will play five, count 'em, FIVE instruments simultaneously!
  • July 31, 2011
    doubleyouteeeff
    ^If stuff like this is gonna happen, I think this will need a better name.
  • July 31, 2011
    Stratadrake
    Avoid naming a trope after a Stock Phrase if you can help it, editors have a tendency to start listing places where only the phrase shows up, rather than the trope.

    "Far greater precision than necessary" is a subjective judgement, and sounds too close to Ludicrous Precision.
  • July 31, 2011
    neobullseye
    Speaking about Ludicrous Precision; You made a typo in the Trope description. You wrote down Ludicrou D instead of Ludicrou S. As far as examples go; i feel like i have seen this a lot, yet can't seem to think of any actual examples.
  • July 31, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Not sure if this counts (no pun intended) since the precision is neccessary, at least sometimes: on Sesame Street Count von Count's whole schtick is counting things. He'll count the number of bats flying about, etc. In the Sesame Street movie Follow That Bird he counts the Closing Credits.
  • July 31, 2011
    Octagon8
  • July 31, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Duck Tales: this is how Fenton got a job with Scrooge McDuck. Fenton was working in a manufacturing plant where he could instantly count how many beans there were in a jar (removing or adding as neccessary in order to have the exact right number in each jar). When he met Scrooge, Scrooge shot a shotgun at him and as he ducked, out of habit he counted the buckshot, which impressed Scrooge so much that he hired him.
  • July 31, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    Red Herring version in Aunt Dimity and the Family Tree: Lori counts her father-in-law's snuffboxes after they've been inexplicably moved, and he comments on it. Lori suspects the new housekeeper and gardener are secretly planning to rob the house. They have a secret, but it isn't that.
  • July 31, 2011
    Generality
    Okay, obviously I need to improve the description of the trope. It also needs a better title as mentioned, though I have no other ideas. As for examples:

    the Duck Tales example doesn't count, because the counting is important to the plot and a noticeable character trait to boot. I'd say it goes under Good With Numbers. The Sesame Street example is iffy, because the Count has no pressing reason to count everything other than his latent obsessive-compulsion, but because the counting fits clearly into the main purpose of the show- education- I'd say it doesn't count. I remember the Garfield example, and I'm debating whether it counts; the joke there is more about the dog's egregious talent with musical instruments, but it is true that counting them exactly was not necessary.
  • August 1, 2011
    doubleyouteeeff
    I can't think of anything better than Lack Of Conservation Of Detail.
  • August 2, 2011
    Generality
    Okay, I have rewritten the description and given it a different title. Let's see how it flies.
  • August 4, 2011
    Generality
    Not so well, it seems.
  • August 6, 2011
    Generality
    Okay, let's give this one more try.
  • August 8, 2011
    Generality
    This is the last time I will bump this.
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