Big things are happening on TV Tropes! New admins, new designs, fewer ads, mobile versions, beta testing opportunities, thematic discovery engine, fun trope tools and toys, and much more - Learn how to help here and discuss here.
Edmund: Yes. It might be wise to appoint a new Lord, to make sure the old Lords vote the right way. Prince George: Good thought...new Lord...any idea who? Edmund: Well, sir, one name does leap to mind. Prince George: Does it? Edmund: Yes, sir. Prince George:[long pause] You couldn't make it leap any higher, could you?
Whenever a woman wants something from the significant man in her life, she will usually tell him. Not directly, mind you; in true passive-aggressive spirit she will drop vague and subtle (or not-so-subtle) hints here and there (often in unrelated occasions), expecting he will put the pieces together himself.
Such Hint Dropping almost never works. The man won't take the hints (heck, he may not even notice the hints), and the woman will end up furious at him for it. And, more often than not, since she is often wiser and he is most likely a Bumbling Dad, the writer will expect the viewer to take her side, seeing him as insensitive and clueless and her as blameless.
This can be Truth in Television, but TV (especially Sit Coms, where the trope is quite popular) highly exaggerates the phenomenon. One would expect a man who's lived with a woman for umpteen years to be able to read her hints with at least some degree of accuracy; but this never carries over into fiction. Nor does said fictional woman ever just speak directly about what's on her mind.
Further, despite the gender slant of this entry, both women and men are subject to this trope. Fiction, however, tends to show us more women than men dropping such hints.
Naturally, with this trope nobody dropping hints ever thinks that the recipient got the hint and merely disagrees with it. Additionally, it is a little bit odd to blame the recipient of a piece of communication for not understanding the communicator's message; one shouldn't criticise a German, after all, for not understanding French. (Now, English, of course is spoken all over the universe!)
A subtrope of Cannot Spit It Out; this is where the character will not spit it out. If the other person actually gets the hint, it's Glad You Thought of It. This is itself a supertrope to Prompting Nudge.
open/close all folders
A car insurance ad in Australia for a company called AAMI (pronounced 'Amy') features a woman called Amy in a jewelery store talking directly to the camera, giving a message to "my man Todd". She turns on a CD player that starts playing the bridal march. She talks about how much AAMI could save him on his car insurance and 'who knows what he could do with the money he saves'. She ostentatiously droops her hand forward to display an engagement ring (with the price tag still attached) and pointedly tells Todd to "give AAMI a ring" as the phone number flashes up.
A follow-up ad had the now married Amy standing in a travel agency, complaining the cheapness of the honeymoon and waving a brochure for Paris.
The Vince Vaughn/Jennifer Aniston movie The Breakup is all about this, though in this case neither one is favored by the audience; he seems to be dedicated to being incredibly insensitive, and she fancies herself a mistress of manipulation, though her many plans backfire. In the end, nobody wins; contrary to expectation, they actually break up, each wiser for the wear, apparently.
In Home Improvement, Jill has made plans for her and Tim to attend some formal event. She's marked the date on the calendar (apparently only marked it, not indicated what it was), ordered up his formal wear and all that. Tim, of course, doesn't take the hint.
It should be noted, though, that this is a case where the trope is treated in a more balanced fashion. Jill and Tim are equally to blame for the misunderstanding: he for not noticing what she's up to (or at the least, asking), and she for not realizing he wasn't catching on and just straight up telling him.
Of course, in the end, just as Jill is about to apologize to Tim, he apologizes first... and Jill doesn't bother.
Compare and contrast with Father Dougal's idea of a subtle hint in Father Ted — writing what he wants on a banner that covers most of the parochial house.
Everybody Loves Raymond uses this trope pretty regularly, but offered a realistic subversion in at least one episode. After Debra criticizes Raymond for not picking up on her hints, he responds by saying that, after being married to him for so long, she should've already known that he can't take hints, and thus should've just told him directly. She reconsiders, admits that he's right and apologizes as well.
Ryan: What comes to mind when I say "Ricky Ricardo" and "great cigars"? Colin: Oh, tapioca. [beat] Ryan: Really. Why is that? Colin: Wasn't that his big hit? "TAPIOOOOOOCA! TAPIOOOCA!" Ryan: [trying not to laugh]. Oh, no no. I'm talking about Cu— [bursts out laughing] I'm talking about Cuba, Col— [loses it again]
In Mike And Molly Mike constantly misses hints, notable examples being when she objected to his gallon of combined shampoo/conditioner so he bought separate gallon jugs of each. Also the time a week before Christmas she told him how much she loved the coffee from a certain shop that also sold the machine they used and he asked her if she liked birds.
Inverted in The Cosby Show. When an old girlfriend of Elvin's comes to visit and wants to have dinner with him and Sondra, Sondra declines, as she has to work on her law school application, but repeatedly (over his own insistence that he not go out) tells Elvin that it's all right if he does. Of course, this is exactly the opposite of what she really means and is furious with him when he comes home. Elvin is completely confused as to why she's so angry and wonders how she expected him to know that being told "Yes, it's okay if you go out" actually mean, "No, I don't want you to go out."
Spoofed in the final episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, where the guys riffed Danger: Diabolik; when the film's female lead outright points out what she wants for her birthday, Crow quips "Typical guy, didn't take the hint."
Jeremy: Some people are going to a movie tonight... Wanna go?
Sara: I can't. I'm babysitting.
Sara: Until midnight. By myself. At 6539 Windmill Lane. It's a light gray house. With a big comfy couch and a kid who goes to sleep at 8.
Jeremy: So you're busy then, huh?
Sara (thinking): Sara, he's a GUY... You have to be more obvious.
In the second act of Spamalot, after telling Arthur that his Broadway musical needs to end with a wedding, The Lady of the Lake proceeds to drop a series of increasingly blatant hints that his wedding should be to her. He gets it eventually.
Hilariously used near the conclusion of Dragon Age: Origins, where your character can be completely oblivious to Leliana's invitations to bed the night before the final battle, forcing her to speak more frankly.
One Wapsi Square story arc included a segment where a sphinx repeatedly dropped hints that Shelly should cut open a sacred tree with a sword, but she repeatedly missed them.
In another episode, Chris gives Lois smoker's toothpaste for her birthday, asking her to "take the hint."
Subverted in Aladdin: The Series, in one episode Aladdin is shopping for a locket for Jasmine. When Genie asks why he sarcastically mentions she's been dropping "little hints" like pointing at them and shouting "I want one!"