Historical Character Confusion
You heard of Alan Turing
? The father of programming? Peter-Fred Young:
Didn't he work for John Carmack
? Bob: (thinking)
Oh, it's another world out there.
This trope is when somebody mistakes one historical figure
for someone else (or, sometimes, for a fictional character), despite the two having little or nothing in common, exemplifying their lack of intelligence. In speculative fiction
settings it may also result from the fog of history getting the information muddled
The source of confusion varies. Maybe the names sound alike
and John Lennon
), or their fields are tangentially related (Thomas Edison
and Albert Einstein
), or the more contemporary figure is a reference to the older (Michelangelo Buonarroti
the painter and Michelangelo the turtle
See also Name's the Same
, which is mostly for fun
but can be a source of this confusion. Contrast Artistic License – History
, which is when the author
gets something like this confused. Compare Historical Hilarity
and Wrongfully Attributed
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Anime and Manga
- One issue of Rat-Man that parodied Star Trek had the same gag as the Family Guy episode listed below: it began with a commemoration of the first man on the moon, but when the speaker starts talking about "his beautiful music" it becomes clear that they're talking about Louis (and not Neil) Armstrong.
- In Clerks II, Randall compares a guy in a wheelchair to Anne Frank, "The chick that was all duhhh, till the miracle worker showed up and knocked some smarts into her". Dante tries to correct him by saying that was Helen Keller and that Anne Frank hid from the Nazis and had a diary. Randall then says he was right all along because the wheelchair guy had a blog.
- In The Big Lebowski, The Dude is struggling with a Lenin quote ("You look for the person who will benefit...") which he cannot remember properly. Donny, trying to be helpful, repeatedly mentions Lennon's 1967 song "I Am the Walrus".
- Facing the Giants: A Who's on First?-esque conversation involves, among other things, the speaker confusing Charles Schulz with the pilot Charles Lindbergh (then him with the Hindenburg). He's clearly joking, though, to mess with The Comically Serious coach trying to correct him.
- From Bull Durham:
You ever heard of Walt Whitman
Who's he play for?
- An early scene in Tommy Boy has Tommy filling in the name "Herbie Hancock" on a history test question about the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. Later Tommy "corrects" someone who uses the term "John Hancock" for a signature.
- Bill McNeal on NewsRadio. "Big Chief Custer? No, he scalped many palefaces that day."
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has this exchange:
- In an episode of Are You Being Served?, Mr Grainger comments that a plan the staff come up with to avoid starting work earlier sounds like something Bulldog Drummond would have come up with to defeat Oscar Peterson. It has to be pointed out to him that Oscar Peterson is a pianist, and that Bulldog Drummond's arch-nemesis was Karl Peterson.
- In one of the Fred Dagg radio skits, Fred mentions that Abraham Lincoln was shot by a man called Booth, who he always thought founded the Salvation Army (confusing John Wilkes Booth with William Booth for those who don't get the reference). Of course, he then follows this up by adding he might be thinking of the man who invented the telephone box.
- Paranoia: The Computer holds that Communists are Public Enemy Number One, making some rebellious types think that there must be something in it. However, they're sketchy on the details, and instead of Vladimir Lenin and Karl Marx, they follow the teachings of John Lennon and Groucho Marx. Close (in name) but, so to speak, no cigar.
- This is combined with Composite Character as the basic concept behind the comedy RPG Diana, Warrior Princess. According to the people making a TV series far in the future, any British royal with the same name must be the same person. So Diana is married to Bonnie Prince Charlie, whose mother is Elizabeth the Queen Mother, sister to Mary Queen of Scots. In the sequel, Elvis, the Legendary Tours, Elvis' archenemy is his brother, Abbott and Costello, and his companions are the left-wing John Lenin and the right-wing Joe McCartney.
- In the musical adaptation of The Full Monty, the lines in "Big Ass Rock":
"I've got a friend, like Carole King
, or was it Carly Simon
, used to sing, I always get those two confused, but anyway—I've got a friend."
- In an episode of American Dad!, Stan tries to encourage his son and says:
"Just look at Helen Keller. Deaf, dumb and blind, and she wrote that whole diary in her little attic during World War II
. She doesn't sound so dumb to me."
- Histeria had a character named Pepper Mills who would ask historical characters for their autograph, then realize that she had mistaken them for someone else.
- Family Guy: In the song "You've Got a Lot to See", Brian sings to an old lady shut-in about all the things out in the world that she's missing. A group of wild rappers appear during the bridge listing events she's missed, including:
Neil Armstrong landing on the moon. Meg:
Neil Armstrong? Wait, was he that trumpet guy
- Even after meeting the historical Leonardo da Vinci, Fry from Futurama keeps confusing him with Leonardo DiCaprio.
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold: In "Cry Freedom Fighters!", Plastic Man mixes up Thomas Jefferson and George Jefferson, and refers to John Paul Jones and Ringo.
- The Simpsons: In "Eeny Teeny Maya Moe", Marge phones Moe's and asks for Homer. Moe tries to cover by saying that he thought she was asking for Heimlich Himmler, the guy who invented the Heimlich maneuver note . When Marge says they are different people, Moe claims they are both in the tavern.