Unnecessary Precision YKTTW Discussion

Unnecessary Precision
(permanent link) added: 2011-07-30 19:51:47 sponsor: Generality (last reply: 2011-08-08 16:05:27)

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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.


  • 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.
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