Bob makes a historical/cultural/pop culture reference and Alice thinks he is referring to something entirely different. Bob corrects Alice but this only leads to another correction, which only confuses Alice again. Bob makes another correction and so on and so on.
Just one mistake and this would just a simple misunderstanding, however string together a chain of these and Hilarity Ensues
Due to the nature of this trope with multiple cultural references
in quick succession, some of the allusions may fly over the audience's head. This usually doesn't actually hurt the comedic potential though.
See Who's on First?
for this trope dealing solely with people with unfortunately confusing names.
- Abbott and Costello's famous "Who's on First?" comedy routine, where Abbott tries identifying the players of a baseball team to Costello, but Costello's constant misinterpretation of the players' names and nicknames as non-responsive answers leads to Abbott constantly invoking the trope ... and leaving Costello even more confused and frustrated!
- From Psych:
Shawn: "I decided to be and therefore I am." Socrates said that.
Gus: No, that was Descartes.
Shawn: That was the cologne I wore in high school.
Gus: No, that was Drakkar Noir.
Shawn: That was a wine.
Gus: That's pinot noir.
- Psych does this a lot. Shawn seems to do it on purpose, like many of his Book Dumb moments, mostly to annoy Gus.
- The Office has been doing this a lot, for example:
Michael: I am going to donate to Afghanistanis with AIDS.
Jim: Whoa, I think you mean the Aid to Afghanistan.
Michael: No, I mean Afghanistanis with AIDS.
Michael: That's a dog.
Pam: No, that's Afghan.
Michael: That's a shawl.
Dwight: Wait, canine AIDS?
Michael: No, humans with AIDS.
Creed: Who has AIDS?
Jim: Guys, the Afghanistanannis.
Michael: Okay, you know what? No, no. AIDS is not funny. Believe me, I have tried.
- Aaaaand a somewhat shorter one:
Pam: It's almost time for Ultra-Feast! Where's Kevin?
Michael: What? You wanna eat cat food with Kevin and not go to the hospital?
Oscar: That's Fancy Feast. Ultra-Feast is something they made up so they can pig out together in the name of ceremony.
Michael: What is Oktoberfeast? (sic)
- A short but funny example from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, after Willow has been called "Old Reliable."
Willow: (sarcastically) Old Reliable, yeah, that's really a sexy nickname.
Xander: She means you're like a geyser of fun that goes off at regular intervals.
Willow: That's Old Faithful.
Xander: Isn't that the dog that the guy had to shoot...
Willow: That's Old Yeller.
Buffy: Xander, I beg you not to help me.
- This exchange from Wings:
It's like Dylan said. "Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage, for the times they are a-changing." Roy:
I think you're confusing Bob Dylan
with Dylan Thomas. Lowell:
Don't be silly, Roy. Dylan Thomas was the poet laureate of Wales. Bob Dylan was the star of Gilligan's Island
No, no, no, that's Bob Denver
No, Bob Denver was the guy who sang "Rocky Mountain High". Roy:
- Incidentally, that was actually John Denver.
- Referenced, oddly enough, in Family Guy.
- In another episode the main cast correct each other over people who have the words 'ice' in their names; such as musicians and athletes.
- The Thin Blue Line:
I don't want to buy the queen a present, sir, she's an antichrist. Fouler:
I beg your pardon!? Goody:
Oh, no, I mean anarchist
. No, no, what's that name for someone who is out of date and does not matter anymore? Habib:
I think you mean an anachronism. Goody:
Yes, that's right, the Queen is an anachronism. Gladstone:
I though that was someone who was scared of spiders. Fouler:
No, no that is an arachnaphobic. Gladstone:
I thought that was someone who was scared of wide open spaces. Habib:
No, that's agoraphobics, they can't handle going outside. Arachnophobics hate spiders. Fouler:
Look, we're talking about the queen. Goody:
Is the Queen scared of spiders? Gladstone:
Well I wouldn't have thought so, but it is starting to look that way. Goody:
Perhaps that is why she is scared to go outside, sir.
- Ziva, from NCIS, absolutely constantly.
- Community has a chain of offensive statements that probably qualifies:
Jeff: I'm saying you're a football player. It's in your blood!
Troy: That's racist.
Jeff: Your soul!
Troy: That's racist.
Jeff: Your eyes?
Troy: That's gay.
Jeff: That's homophobic.
Troy: That's black.
Jeff: That's racist!
- The Electric Company lived for this. They did numerous sketches like this one, where Rita Moreno and Judy Graubert drove each other nuts:
Rita: Hey, how do you like my new giggles?
Judy: You mean goggles.
Rita: No, no - that's what someone does for a sore throat - goggles with mouthwash.
Judy: You mean gargles!
Rita: No, that's what the water in the tub does - it gargles down the drain.
Judy: No, you mean gurgles!
Rita: No, gurgles are what we wear to look thinner. Frankly, my gurgle is killing me!
Judy: You mean girdle!
Rita: No! A girdle is a think you cook flapjacks on - and girdle cakes.
Judy: You mean griddle!
Rita: No! A griddle is a tricky question with a funny answer, like 'what has four eyes and sings through its nose'. I know a lot of great griddles.
Judy: You mean RIDDLES!
Rita: No! A riddle is something a worm does - it riddles off the hook!
Judy: You mean WRIGGLES!!
Rita: No, that's what happens when you act silly and you can't stop laughing - you have the wriggles!
Judy: No, you mean GIGGLES!
Rita: Oh well, for goodness' sake, that's what I said!! How do you like my new giggles??
Judy: Oh, they're terrific - I got myself a pair here!
- And that was just in the first episode...
- On The Golden Girls, Sophia and Rose attempt to figure out who the president is married to:
Rose: Well, it doesn't matter anyway, they're not married anymore. Now he's married to Nancy Davis.
Sophia: That woman who beat her kids with wire hangers?
Rose: No, you're thinking of Joan Crawford.
Sophia: The fat cop from Highway Patrol?
Rose: That was Broderick Crawford.
Sophia: The president was married to Broderick Crawford?!
- From The West Wing:
Bartlet: I hear you're thinking about ophthalmology.
Bartlet: Why would you want to study people's feet?
Ellie: That's podiatry.
Bartlet: That's children's medicine.
Bartlet: I thought it was obstetrics.
Ellie: That's pregnant women.
Bartlet: And what's the study of feet?
Ellie: Dad, you're not going to make me laugh.
Bartlet: The only thing you ever had to do to make me happy was come home at the end of the day.
- From Arrested Development:
Wife of Gob: I'm in love with your brother-in-law.
Gob: You're in love with your own brother? The one in the army?
Wife of Gob: No, your sister's husband.
Gob: Michael? Michael....
Wife of Gob: No, that's your sister's brother.
Gob: No, I'M my sister's brother. You're in love with me. Me!
Wife of Gob: I'm in love with Tobias.
Gob: My brother-in-law?
Wife of Gob: I know it can never be, so I'm leaving. I'm enlisting in the army.
Gob: To be with your brother?
- From episode "Foiled Again" on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody:
London: Too late, we're gonna get married, buy a big villa, and live in Acapella.
Maddie: People sing A Capella; he lives in Acapulco.
London: That's what my sweater's made out of.
Maddie: That's Alpaca!
- A Sunday strip of Pickles did this once. Two of the main characters did this in order to drive a third character to leave the bench they were sitting on.
- On Fibber McGee and Molly, the character of Mayor LaTrivia was subjected to these practically Once per Episode. They'd usually involve him innocently using some figure of speech, which Fibber or Molly (or both) would either take too literally or otherwise misinterpret, sometimes on purpose. LaTrivia's subsequent attempts to clear things up would only create more confusion, making him increasingly flustered and confused and generally reducing him to sputtering, incoherent rage by the time his visit was over.
- One not involving Mayor LaTrivia, from "Cleaning the Closet":
Fibber: Remember that spring we were up there, and those people were selling flowers on the street corner? Trailing arthritis, I think they were.
Molly: You don't mean trailing arthritis, you mean trailing arbutusnote .
Fibber: I do not; Arbutus was a guy in Shakespeare. He's the guy who stabbed Caesar in the toga.
Molly: No, that was Brutus.
Fibber: No, you're thinking of that fairy tale: Puss and Brutus.
Molly: No, you that wasn't Puss and Brutus, and what you mean is arbutus.
Fibber: If that's arbutus, what's arthritis?
Molly: Arthritis is when your joints swell.
Fibber: Well, that's what I say. Any place that sells flowers on every street corner is a swell joint.
- From The Reduced Shakespeare Radio Show:
: Now, Adam. Speaking of film versions of Hamlet
, remember that one a few years ago with Mel Gibson
Adam: Was that the one with Tina Turner in it?
: No, you're thinking of Mad Max 3
Adam: Oh yeah, Beyond Thunderdrome. That was the one where Tina had to be rescued from Ike, because he kept hitting her, till she went...
Austen: No, no, that's What's Love Got To Do With It.
Adam: Mel Gibson was in What's Love Got To Do With It?
: Well, no, I didn't say that ... he wasn't ... He was Phil Spector
- Hello Cheeky sometimes did this, but with words instead of references.
Tim: Look here, Cryer, that's a calumny!
Barry: What is?
Tim: That thing that Nelson stands on in Trafalgar Square.
John: No, no, that's a column.
Tim: No, that's two full stops making love.
Barry: No, that's a colon!
John: No, that's an army officer!
Tim: No, no, that's a colonel! note
Barry: ...Isn't that what they find in nuts?
Barry: Nuts. Nuts!
Tim: And knickers to you, mate!
- Hamish And Dougal's Hogmanay Frolic, introducing Tim Brooke-Taylor As Himself:
Hamish: Oh, Mr Tim. I've always admired your musicals.
: I think you've got your Tims in a twist. Rice
is the name you're looking for.
Hamish: So you're Anneka?
Tim: No, that's a Jewish holiday.
Tim: No. In any case, Tim Rice has nothing to do with Cats.
Dougal: Oh, is he allergic?
Tim: (shocked) Jesus Christ!
- This trope is illustrated beautifully in a Penny Arcade strip entitled "Linguaphiles Unite".
- Played with in Darths & Droids with Jim. He's wrong more than he's right though.
- From DM of the Rings:
Aragorn: What the heck are corsairs? You mean those leopard things that cast magic?
Gimli: You're thinking of coeurls. A corsair is just a kind of dinosaur.
DM: No, you're thinking of ceratosaurs. A corsair is actually just—
Legolas: Didn't you idiots ever play Starcraft? Corsairs are flying air units!
Aragorn: Dang, we don't have any way to fight flying units.
DM: ATTENTION! Corsairs. Are. Sailing. Ships. OKAY?
Legolas: I'm confused. Don't you mean galleons?
- From Red vs. Blue:
Doc: I'm a pacifist.
Caboose: You're a thing that babies suck on?
Tucker: No, dude, that's a pedophile.
Church: Tucker, I think he means a pacifier.
Tucker: Oh, yeah, right. Man, I was totally thinking about something else.
- From Dragonball Z Abridged
Vegeta: I don't even know where that's from
Krillin: I think that was Tetris
Vegeta: Isn't that what you get when you cut yourself with something rusty?
Goku: Nope, that's rabies.
Gohan: Actually, Dad, you contract rabies when you're bitten by an animal with the disease.
Goku: Silly Gohan, animals don't eat people. People eat animals. Silly Gohan!
- From This video
Adam the Alien: Did you burrow?
Skrufy: What's a barrow?
Adam the Alien: A barrow is a cart, but I asked did you burrow?
Skrufy: I don't own a donkey!
Adam the Alien: You know that a burro is a donkey but you don't know that a barrow is a cart?
Paul: I thought a borough was a place.
Adam the Alien: It is.
Paul: You said it was a donkey!
Adam the Alien: No, that's a burro.
Skrufy: I still don't know what a barrow is.
Adam the Alien: A barrow is a cart.
Paul: Never put the barrow before the burro.
Skrufy: This is making me hungry for Mexican food.
Adam the Alien: That's a burrito.
- Basically this entire sketch from BriTANick. And it's sequel
- From Frisky Dingo:
X-tacle #2: Oooh, about the kid with all the chains, and the goggles, and at the end he gets killed with a shotgun?
X-tacles #2, #3, #4: Boosh
X-tacle #1: That's Tom Bergeron.
X-tacle #1: Damn it, that's Agamemnon!
- From The Venture Bros.:
Jefferson Twilight: On three we give him the old Rochambeau.
The Alchemist: Rock-paper-scissors?
Dr. Orpheus: What does a general from the American Revolution have to do with this?
Jefferson Twilight: American Revolution? Rochambeau sounds...sounds French to me.
Dr. Orpheus: Yes, the Franco-American forces.
Jefferson Twilight: They fought with Spaghetti-o's and meatballs?
The Alchemist: Why would a company called Franco-American make Italian food?
- Frequently toyed with on Family Guy
I'm sorry, it was Tom Berenger, we were looking for Tom Berenger.
Lois: Okay, one more minute, and then if there are two pink lines...
Peter: Oh god, I hope you're not pregnant, we can't afford another kid. We already got Chris, Stewie, Richie, Joanie, Greg, Marsha, Bobby, Jan, Mike Seaver, Carol Seaver, Boner, Urkel, Mr. Furley...
Brian: Peter those aren't your kids; that's the Nick at Nite lineup.
Peter: Blanka, Zangeif, Chun-Li, Guile, E. Honda...
Peter: Red, blue, green...
Brian: Those are colors.
- Old joke here - three old men:
Old man #1: Windy, isn't it?
Old man #2: It's Thursday.
Old man #3: So am I, let's get something to drink.
- And in the same spirit
Old man: Look at my new watch!
Young man: What kind is it?
Old man: About three-thirty.
- An absolutely epic one from Facebook◊
- Threads featuring these are very popular on Reddit.