By "No", I Mean "Yes"

"I'm willing to admit that I may not always be right... but I'm never wrong."
Sam Goldwyn

A character makes a statement, then immediately adds that they actually mean the exact opposite of what they said. Usually shows up in comedies. May be used as a form of pointing out sarcasm.

Compare Dissimile. See also No, Except Yes, where a character prefers to use a different word to mean the same thing, and No Means Yes, where people assume a person is doing this, but they aren't.


Live-Action TV
  • Subverted by Niles Crane in Frasier.
    Niles: Her lips said "no", but her eyes said, "Read my lips."
  • In the Castle episode "One Man's Treasure," Alexis tells Beckett, "I know my dad can sometimes be a handful, and by sometimes I mean all the time."
    • In the sixth season premiere, after Castle proposes to Beckett, a very surprised Beckett kisses him. When Castle asks if that's a yes, she answers, "No, wait..." leading to some confusion over whether she was saying "Yes" or "No". Her initial "No" was because she wanted to tell Castle she was offered a job with a Federal task force in Washington DC. Ultimately her answer was a resounding "Yes."
  • Used by Mark Lamarr on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, usually along the lines of "...I like x. I say like, I mean tolerate. I say tolerate, I mean (Description of elaborate torture he'd rather be put through rather than have anything to do with x)"
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look: The interviewer in the "Realistic Film Director" sketch asks questions like this.
    Interviewer: Peter, what would you say — and apologies if this seems like a crass question — is the horniest bra size on a woman?
    Director: What?
    Interviewer: By which I mean, what, if anything, is the message in your films?
  • A good multi-part one from Scrubs:
    Dr. Cox: And this... abomination is the reason we can't afford a new computer?
    Dr. Kelso: Well, that, and a little medical boondoggle I have to go to in Cleveland. And by "medical boondoggle" I mean "golf weekend." And by "Cleveland" I mean "Hawaii." .... Anyway, I have to go catch my bus to the airport. And by "bus" I mean "helicopter."
  • In Conspiracy Thriller Utopia, hapless Dugdale is talking to Donaldson about how they are both being blackmailed by The Network, it leads to this amusing exchange:
    Donaldson: All I know was within the next few weeks I was embroiled in a sex scandal. Professor Pervert addicted to coke and prostitutes.
    Dugdale: So did they just set you up?
    Donaldson: Yeah. Well, no. *beat* I.. I do like cocaine and prostitutes but they didn't have to tell anyone.

  • The Living End has a song called Short Notice with lyrics like:
    I said I wanna, I wanna see you
    I really meant I wanna, I wanna leave you
    I said I wanna, I wanna touch you
    I really meant I wanna, I wanna punch you
  • "Only on Days That End in 'Y'" by Clay Walker:
    The only time I ever miss you, honey
    Is when I'm alone or when I'm with somebody
    Your memory never even gets to me
    'Cept when I'm awake, and when I m sleeping
    Girl you never even cross my mind
    'Cept just when I think I left you far behind
    Only when I laugh, only when I cry,
    And only on days that end in "Y"
Newspaper Comics
  • A Garfield strip had this exchange:
    Jon: I can't go out tonight, Liz.... I have a terrible cold. Don't worry, though. Garfield's taking good care of me.... [Cut to Garfield laying on the table in front of Jon] as in NOT!
    Garfield: Can't you breathe in the other direction?

  • In Fellowship! The Musical, Frodo says he thought Sauron was killed. Gandalf responds: "Oh, he was killed. If by 'killed', you mean turned-into-a-giant-flaming-evil-red-eyeball, then SURE, you betcha he was 'killed'!"

Video Games

Web Original
  • Agents Of Cracked has with Michael: "If by "I want a hot dog" you mean "I want your junk in my mouth", then sure!"
  • The FAQ from The Best Page In The Universe includes the question, "How often do you update your page?" His answer: "At least once every week. And by "once every week," I really mean "when I get a chance." And by "when I get a chance," I really mean never."
  • Amy Ratcliffe describing her search for 'water dancing' lessons at a convention.
    ...we eventually tortured a volunteer for correct information. And by torture, I mean we looked sad and tired and frustrated.

Western Animation
  • In the South Park episode "Cartman's Incredible Gift," the police come to Cartman, who has (supposedly) gained psychic abilities, and offer to pay him to help them catch a killer. Cartman replies, "I'm afraid that my powers are not for sale. And by that, I mean that they absolutely are for sale."
  • Lionel Hutz from The Simpsons, explaining to Marge why Judge Snyder is not on good terms with him:
    "Well, he's had it in for me ever since I kinda ran over his dog... Well, replace the word 'kinda' with the word 'repeatedly' and the word 'dog' with 'son'."
    • Leonard Nimoy introduces The Simpsons episode "The Springfield Files" with, "The following tale of alien encounters is true. And by true, I mean false. It's all lies. But they're entertaining lies, and in the end, isn't that the real truth? The answer is no."
    • This...
    Homer: I have to go do some serious thinking.
    Bart: I think dad meant "do some serious drinking."
    • In "Kill Gill Vols. 1 & 2", Marge has trouble saying no to freeloader Gil and when she finally gets the guts to, he's gone. Which leads to this...
    Homer: Hey Marge! Want $1000?
    Marge: NO! I mean yes.
    Homer: Too late. (burns the money)
  • Doctor Doofenshmirtz does this about Once an Episode on Phineas and Ferb, usually when Perry bursts in to foil his evil scheme of the week.
    Doofenshmirtz: Ah, Perry the Platypus! What an unexpected surprise... and by unexpected I mean completely expected!
    • Also, Major Monogram once said he wanted to approve Perry's request for a vacation but there was a small problem. He admitted that by "small" he meant "big" and by "approve" he meant "deny".
    • Also, there was at least one occasion where, by unexpected, Doof actually meant unexpected. And he sometimes isn't sure what he meant by other variations of this trope.
  • Used in an episode of Maryoku Yummy, with Baburu commenting on Hadagi's latest scheme: "I can see this is going to be fun. And by fun, I mean no fun at all."
  • Futurama, "The Devil's Hands are Idle Playthings": "You may have to metaphorically make a deal with the devil. And by devil, I mean Robot Devil. And by metaphorically I mean get your coat."
  • A literal case happened in King of the Hill. Peggy was once asked to teach German and she answered "Nein", thinking it meant "Yes". As she related this to her niece, Peggy said she had lost an opportunity because of that.
  • Pushed to the extreme by Sasha in Titan Maximum:
    Sasha: We thought you’d given up on us. And by We I mean I and by thought I mean hoped and by given up I mean died and by on us I mean in a fire and by period I mean disappointed ellipses.
  • The Fairly OddParents episode "Hairicane" had Chet Ubetcha playing with this trope. When it seemed the Air Force would defeat the hairicane, he announced "We're saved!". Then the hairicane defeated the Air Force, prompting Chet to say "And by saved, I mean doomed!"
  • Robot Chicken has a skit where the Care Bears ethnically cleanse the Care Bear Cousins. Quoth Bedtime Bear:
    "It's bedtime! And by "bed", I mean "ethnic", and by "time", I mean "cleansing". (shoots a rainbow that decapitates the elephant)

Real Life
  • Pundit Rachel Maddow consistently refers to the Republican Party's current (c. mid-2012) highest priority as "Jobs, jobs, jobs, and by that we mean 'abortion'."