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I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder

A stock phrase that is almost always worded as: I'm an X not a Y. With X being their profession, and Y being whoever would be better able to do the job that they are having difficulty with.

The most famous example, and thus the Trope Namer, is Star Trek's Dr. McCoy — but the earliest example we have so far is from 1869, making it not only Older Than Star Trek but Older Than Radio. (It was in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.) Note that DeForest Kelley, contrary to popular belief, never prefaced his statement with "Damn it, Jim" or some variant thereof; he never swore on the show, given that it aired in The Sixties. He did swear up a storm in most of the movies, however, so parodists naturally combined his potty mouth with his catch phrase, to great effect. (He never actually used his Catch Phrase in a movie until the reboot — wherein he did swear, but he wasn't talking to Kirk, so the complete memetic phrase still has yet to be uttered).


Examples

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    Comic Books 
  • This appears early on in Cerebus the Aardvark. A character declares himself to be a doctor, not a General, time-keeper or martyr, all in quick succession.
  • King Shark from Secret Six:
    King Shark: Enough talk! I'm a shark, not a... talking guy.

    Fan Works 
In the first episode, he tells Calamity Coyote that he's a Tiny Toon, not an animator.
  • Tailor in the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story adaptation "A Wedding To Remember".
    Tailor: I'm only a clothes maker, not a fortune teller, Woody.
  • In the Star Trek kidfic Insontis II, the Trope Namer drops another one after calming young!Spock following Kirk's accident.
    McCoy: Glad that bucket of awkward is over... I'm a doctor, not a crisis counselor.
  • In the Transformers fanfic Trials of the Flesh, a group of human characters come across some Ancient Cybertronian writing. When asked to translate, Ratchet has this to say:
    Ratchet: Fraggit, Conrad, I'm a doctor, not a linguist.
  • There's a future fic of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon where the main characters (now years older) get dragged back into the Realm along with Hank and Shelia's daughter, Presto's adoptive daughter, Eric's son and Diana's nephew. During a battle, Hank asks Presto for some advice and Presto snaps "Damn it, Hank! I'm a pediatrician; not a military commander (paraphrased)!"
  • Jacob "X" Arrow in A New World, A New Way sidestory Swarm refuses to have a pokèmon battle with a trainer because he's a construction worker, not a trainer.
  • Legacy of ch'Rihan: D'Vex gets mildly annoyed at Morgan when she can't tell him more specifically what the problem with her tractor is.
    Morgan: Hey, I'm a farmer, not a mechanic.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Dorian Grey exclaims at one point "I'm an immortal, not a gazelle!"
  • In 1933 Philo Vance detective movie The Kennel Murder Case, the doctor is called to the scene of the crime, questioned by bystanders, and replies "I'm a doctor, not a magician". A few minutes later, he pronounces a man to have committed suicide and is reminded he's supposed to look at the body, to which he replies "I'm a doctor, not a detective".
  • This even appears in The Movie of Lost in Space, when Dr. Smith says "I am a doctor, not a space explorer." It's probably a deliberate reference to Star Trek — the two parent series were Dueling Shows, back in The Sixties.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, R. K. Maroon protests:
    R. K. Maroon: You got it all wrong, Valiant! I'm a cartoon maker, not a murderer!
    Valiant: Everybody's gotta have a hobby.
  • From The Hangover: "I'm a doctor, not a tour guide!"
  • Naturally, as an Affectionate Parody of Star Trek, Galaxy Quest includes an example of this, in one of the film's most famous lines: "We're actors, not astronauts!"
  • In the 1956 sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet, Robby the Robot responds to Alta's request for a new dress with a deadpan "Again?" The implication seems to be that "he" is a hyper-advanced super robot, not a dress-maker.
  • The Man Who Would be King. Billy Fish, on being offered a horse to escape the lost battle: "Gurkha is foot soldier, not cavalry." Then he runs to confront the entire army and dies a warrior death.
  • A Hard Day's Night: Ringo is a drummer, not a wet-nurse.
  • In North by Northwest, Thornhill says, "I'm an advertising man, not a red herring."
  • Congo. Dr. Ross is trying to buy a place on Dr. Elliot's expedition and tells him to name his price. He retorts, "I'm not a pound of sugar, I'm a primatologist!"
  • Ace Ventura. When Melissa Robinson asks the title hero to get out of Snowflake's tank, Ace responds with, "For God's sake, Jim! I'm a doctor, not a pool man!"

    Jokes 
  • A newlywed couple moves into their new house. One day the husband comes home from work and his wife says, "Honey, you know, in the upstairs bathroom one of the pipes is leaking, could you fix it?" The husband says, "What do I look like, Mr. Plumber?" A few days go by, and he comes home from work and his wife says, "Honey, the car won't start. I think it needs a new battery. Could you change it for me?" He says: "What do I look like, Mr. Goodwrench?" Another few days go by, and it's raining pretty hard. The wife finds a leak in the roof. She says, "Honey, there's a leak on the roof! Can you please fix it?" He says, "What do I look like, Bob Vila?" The next day the husband comes home, and the roof is fixed. So is the plumbing. So is the car. He asks his wife what happened. "Oh, I had a handyman come in and fix them," she says. "Great! How much is that going to cost me?" he snarls. Wife says: "Nothing. He said he'd do it for free if I either baked him a cake or slept with him." "Uh, well, what kind of cake did you make?" asks the husband. "What do I look like," she says, "Betty Crocker?"

    Literature 
  • Prince Roger: Inverted with Dobrescu's repeated claims he's a shuttle pilot, not a medic. Later it is re-inverted, when Dobrescu has to start working on the Mardukans and complains that he's a medic, not a xeno-surgeon.
  • In Death Star, Doctor Uli Divini is ordered to make routine checkups and says "I'm a surgeon, not an internal meds doctor!" He has to do it anyway.
  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1869): After Captain Nemo Kicks the Cachalots with the Nautilus, he asks Ned Land his opinion:
    "Well, sir," replied the Canadian, whose enthusiasm had somewhat calmed; "it is a terrible spectacle, certainly. But I am not a butcher. I am a hunter, and I call this a butchery."
  • Quoth Butters, in The Dresden Files book Cold Days: "Dammit, Dresden, I'm a medical examiner, not an intelligence analyst."
  • Robert A. Heinlein's The Rolling Stones:
    Roger Stone: Are you sure [that their son will not get space-sick again]?
    Edith Stone: How can I be sure? I'm a doctor, not a fortune-teller.
  • The title scientist in The Priest The Scientist And The Meteor parodies this by stating: "I'm a scientist, not a rocket scientist!"

    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek:
    • Trope Namer is Dr. McCoy from Star Trek: The Original Series. McCoy twice had this inverted on him when he tried using it (in both cases McCoy was trying to get out of an assignment):
      McCoy: I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer!
      Kirk: You're a healer, there's a patient. That's an order.note 

      McCoy: I'm a doctor, not an engineer.
      Scott: Now, you're an engineer.
    • The novelization of "Mirror, Mirror" from The Star Trek Reader averts this with McCoy simply saying, "I'm not an engineer," and Scott quipping "You soon will be." (Though Scott is proud of McCoy's help later.)
    • He also once had to specify what kind of doctor he was: "I'm a surgeon, not a psychiatrist."
    • Proudly continued by the Emergency Medical Hologram (EMH) from Star Trek: Voyager who was in fact an actual placeholder.
    • The EMH from Star Trek: First Contact almost gives the trope title with "I'm a doctor, not a doorstop." anecdote 
    • If you shoot him in the game Elite Force, he says "I'm a doctor, not a bullseye."
    • Lampshaded by B'Elanna ("I'm a Doctor—" "Not an engineer, right,") and flipped around by Tom. "I'm a pilot, Harry, not a Doctor!"
    • The justification variant is frequently abused by Tuvok, who seems to feel compelled to begin any and every sentence or explanation with "I am a Vulcan."
    • Bashir used it many times on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, one of the most notable (but far from the first or only) series 3 protest, "I'm a doctor, not a botanist" when Dax brought him a sick plant because Keiko O'Brien (the station's resident botanist) was at a conference at the time. He did, of course, use it in the show's anniversary episode "Trials and Tribble-ations" (a "cross-over" episode with Star Trek: The Original Series courtesy of in-universe time-travel and real-life special effects wizardry).
      Dr. Bashir: I'm a doctor, not an historian.
    • A morally repugnant example in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Broken Link", when Garak tries to convince Worf to stand by and let him commit genocide. Worf responds with "I'm a warrior, not a murderer!"
    • Dr. Phlox of Star Trek: Enterprise got into the act when he had to singlehandedly cold-start the warp reactor: "I'm a physician, not an engineer!"
    • It was such a trope of McCoy's that it had to be in the 2009 revival. "I'm a doctor, not a physicist!" (Well, his understanding of the physics Spock suggested seemed okay....)
    • Another one, again directed at Spock, in Star Trek Into Darkness: "Dammit, man! I'm a doctor, not a torpedo technician!"
    • Subverted in the Saturday Night Live episode that William Shatner hosted. In one sketch with the Enterprise now a restaurant, one of the customers starts choking on his food. Shatner, as Kirk, tells "McCoy" (Phil Hartman) to help him. "McCoy" responds, "Dammit, Jim! I'm a doctor not a— Oh! Oh, sure!"
    • However, it was played straight in the earlier "Last Voyage of the Starship Enterprise" skit: Dan Aykroyd as "McCoy" deadpans the line "I'm a doctor, not a tailor, dammit!" and gets a huge laugh.
    • Inverted for laughs on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In by DeForest Kelley himself: "I'm not a doctor, I'm a convicted murderer!"
    • There's another parody example in Bobby Pickett and Peter Ferrara's Star Drek. Mr. Schlock advises Captain Jerk to wait for further plot complications before taking action; when Jerk asks McCoy his opinion McCoy replies "I'm a doctor, not a scriptwriter!"
    • An episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air had Will, Carlton and William Shatner get high off of a leaking laughing gas tank at the dentist's and start acting like Star Trek characters; after Shatner addresses Will as "Bones", he responds "Dammit Jim, I'm a black boy from Philly, not a doctor!"
    • In a Trivial Pursuit commercial featuring DeForrest Kelly, the actor was asked a medical question, only to respond, "How should I know? I'm an actor, not a doctor!"
    • The In Living Color! skit where Jim Carrey riffs how the cast of Star Trek: The Original Series are getting too old for the movies. Captain Kirk calls for McCoy to come to the bridge, only to find Bones really lives up to his name this time.
      Skeleton in a wheelchair: Dammit Jim, I'm a corpse not a doctor!
  • Monk has a few good ones.
    • This one from "Mr. Monk and the Critic":
      Captain Leland Stottlemeyer: Where the hell is Randy?
      Natalie Teeger: Oh, I sent him out to get a newspaper.
      Captain Leland Stottlemeyer: (looks at her incredulously) You? You, you sent Randy out? Well, who are you, the new police commissioner?
      Natalie Teeger: The morning edition comes out at midnight! They're gonna review Julie's play!
      Captain Leland Stottlemeyer: For the love of god, he's a police lieutenant, not a bellhop! Though maybe he is.
    • In "Mr. Monk and the TV Star," when Monk and Sharona arrive at a crime scene at a major star's house, Sharona is focused on her teeth, and Monk tells her, "Sharona, this is a murder scene, not a high school dance."
  • Stargate SG-1 provided a variation of this trope in "Deadman Switch" where Aris Boch demands that Daniel Jackson treat his wound after capturing them:
    Daniel Jackson: I'm an archeologist.
    Aris Boch: But you're also a doctor.
    Daniel Jackson: ... of Archeology.
  • Stargate Atlantis had Carson Beckett do this in a couple of episodes:
    • In "The Eye" he said: "I'm a bloody medical doctor, not a magician."
    • In "The Brotherhood" the line is: "For the last time — I'm a doctor not a bloody fighter pilot."
  • LOST:
    • A character exclaims "I'm an internist, not an obstetrician" (which means, "I specialize in innards, not reproductive organs.")
    • Bernard is a dentist, not Rambo.
      Tom: Shephard says he's a spinal surgeon, not an anesthesiologist..
    • In the Season 3 blooper reel, Elizabeth Mitchell responds to Matthew Fox's wondering how a flooded hatch can still function by saying, "Dammit, Jack, I'm a doctor, not a marine engineer!"
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun has Officer Don say in one episode "I'm a cop, not a goat" when meeting Sally on a Hill at night.
  • Moseby of The Suite Life on Deck wanted to put Zack on permanent detention for detonating a stink bomb in the chemistry lab. Tutweiler's response:
    Tutweiler: I'm an educator, not a warden.
  • Joked about in the second of Criminal Minds.
    Morgan: Can you do it?
    Garcia: Remember on Star Trek, when Dr. McCoy always said, "I'm a doctor, not a miracle worker?"
    Morgan: So you're saying you can't?
    Garcia: No, I'm saying that I'm not a doctor.
  • Friends:
    • Played with when Rachel tells how her former fiancé, an orthodontist, once went to a Halloween party disguised as a dentist.
    • Joey has this line while pretending to be a doctor and unable to figure out a person's age from their date of birth.
      Joey: Dammit, I'm a doctor, not a mathematician.
  • The Smallville episode "Rush" has Clark say, "I'm an alien, not a cartoon!" when Chloe asks him if he can fly.
  • An episode of Roundhouse referenced this by having Star Trek-esque scenes playing during a channel surfing montage. On the third appearance...
    Kirk: Bones, this man is dying!
    McCoy: Dangit Jim, I'm a doctor, not... oh.
  • In the The Big Bang Theory episode "The Desperation Emanation":
    Sheldon: Leonard, I'm a physicist, not a hippie.
  • In the Doctor Who serial "The Day of the Daleks", the Doctor himself tells the Brigadier that he is "a scientist, not a politician."
  • On Once Upon a Time, Dr. Whale declines to give an opinion on what the creature a man just turned into is:
    Dr. Whale: Don't look at me. I'm a doctor, not a vet.
  • In The X-Files Season 4 episode "Demons", when Mulder is held as a suspect in the murder of two people and Scully says she'll get him out.
    Mulder: You're a doctor, not a lawyer, Scully.
  • In "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux" of Community, the study group are asked to play characters on a new college commercial. Pierce is outraged when he learns the commercial shoot won't be catered and he won't have a trailer.
    Pierce: I'm an actor, not a circus freak!
  • On M*A*S*H, Winchester had a few during his time at the 4077th.
    • "I'm a doctor, not a woman!"
    • "I'm a surgeon, not a social worker."
    • "I'm a man of medicine, not a medicine man."
  • Dr. Elizabeth Shannon of Terra Nova, when talking to her Cowboy Cop husband: "I'm a doctor, Jim, not a chemist." Considering that some of the people working on that show had also had a hand in Star Trek, that may have been intentional for any Trekkies watching.

    Puppet Shows 

    Theatre 
  • In Chess, Anatoly's chess second (and KGB spook) Molokov suggests seducing Trumper's chess second Florence Vassey in order to throw off his game. Anatoly's response:
    Anatoly: I'm a chess player, Mr. Molokov. You go and play these other... "games".

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy VI:
    • When Celes is asked to impersonate a famous opera singer: "I'm a general, not some opera floozy!"
    • Another Celes line: "I'm a soldier, not some love-starved twit!"
  • This line is said using "miracle-worker" in Final Fantasy IX.
  • Knights of the Old Republic:
    HK-47: Expletive: Damn it, Master, I am an assassination droid, not a dictionary!
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic:
    Talos Drellik: I'm an archaeologist, not a fighter!
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, when you ask Varick why he isn't going to be fighting in The Proving, he responds with "I'm a miner, not a warrior!".
  • In Gex: Enter the Gecko: "Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a pincushion!"
  • In Mass Effect, when you encounter the Rachni, Shepard will ask Liara what they are (if she's on the squad at the moment). She will just say that she's an archaeologist, not a biologist, and is as clueless as Shepard.
  • Starcraft II: click on the Terran Medic enough and she'll go "Dammit, I'm a medic, not a doctor!...Oh." Technically speaking this is correct: Combat Medics don't need doctorates to be a medic but have nurse/orderly training instead.
  • In Duke Nukem Forever, a dying Alien Queen blasts Duke so hard, he begins to lose consciousness. An EDF soldier comes to his help, but he turns out to be an engineer, not a doctor, and desperately calls for The Medic, as Duke blacks out. Of course, this being Duke, he gets better real soon.
  • Fallout: New Vegas
    • An NCR ranger hiding out in a bunker owned by the Brotherhood of Steel states in his journal that he is a scout, not an electrician, and that he can't quite get his radio to work.
    • Even more directly, with the Wild Wasteland trait activated, NCR Ambassador Crocker will shout the line "I'm an ambassador, not a doctor!" in response to a question about Jet and the human heart.
  • In The Sims Medieval if you make the Physician do the King for a Day quest, they'll say "I'm a doctor, not a monarch!"
  • Company of Heroes
    "Hey, assholes! We're Panzergrenadiers, not Panzers!"

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Mr. Peabody, an Insufferable Genius Funny Animal in a Rocky and Bullwinkle short, used to constantly remind his pet human, Sherman that he was "A genius, not a miracle worker," (substitute sharpshooter, etc. to taste).
  • In The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 episode "Oh Brother", King Koopa's pipes burst, leading to the following conversation:
    Koopa: Well, don't just stand there, Kooky. Fix it!
    Kooky: I'm a mad genius, not a plumber.
  • A particularly brilliant example in Animaniacs when the Warner Siblings are backed into a corner in Hades:
    Yakko: (William Shatner voice) Wakko... anything in your... Gag Bag that will help us..?
    Wakko: Nothing, Yakko.
    Yakko: Dot... comments... analysis...?
    Dot: Nothing, Yakko.
    Yakko: Bones..?
    Bones: Darn it, Yakko, I'm a doctor, not a magician!
  • The predecessor series Tiny Toon Adventures beat them to it. In the episode "Duck Trek", Furrball-Bones tells Plucky-Kirk "Darn it, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a barber!" It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles, the animated series, has a conversation while defusing a bomb that goes something like this:
    A: OK, what color of wire do I cut?
    B: Why do ask me, I'm a doctor not a electrician!
    A: What's your favorite color?
    B: Blue.
    A: (cuts red)
    B: Why did you cut the red one? I said blue.
    A: You're a doctor, not an electrician.
  • Beavis And Butthead, similar to Saturday Night Live's example:
    Captain Kirk: Bones, I've got an injured crewman here and you've got to do something! You've got to do something!
    Dr. McCoy: Captain, there is a limit to what one man can do. Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor not a doc—... Oh, yeah, I'll get right on it.
    Butt-head: Hey Beavis.
    Beavis: What?
    Butt-head: Beavis.
    Beavis: What?
    Butt-head: Those guys better look out for the Klingons near Uranus!
  • The U.S. Acres episode "Swine Trek" from Garfield and Friends parodied this as well. When Orson Pig, playing The Kirk in a dream, asks Wade Duck, playing The McCoy, about a distress call that didn't sound right, Wade went, "How Should I Know?!? I'm a duck, not the Wichita Lineman!!"
  • On an episode of Justice League, Lois Lane tells Superman, "Look, I'm a reporter, not a public relations person."
  • In the final scene of The Simpsons episode "D'oh-in' in the Wind," Homer ends up in the hospital from a flower lodged in his head, which Dr. Hibbert asserts he cannot remove, because "I'm a doctor, not a gardener."
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) gave Donatello a line that was clearly a Shout-Out to the Trope Namer during the Big Brawl arc: "What can I do? I'm an engineer, not a doctor..."
  • In the Danny Phantom episode "Masters of All Time", Danny asks Clockwork if he could save Vlad and Danny's friends from the Ghost Pox. Clockwork's response: "I'm the ghost of time, not the ghost of miracle cures."
  • X-Men: Evolution has Storm give us this one: "I'm a weather witch, not a snowplow!" Even funnier when you remember Wolverine's first name is actually Jim.
  • The Kim Possible episode "Rappin' Drakken" has a twist on the "morally repugnant" version: Dr. Drakken tries to sell a mind-control shampoo with a name ("Dr. D's Brainwashing Shampoo and Cranium Rinse") and slogan ("Lather, Rinse, Obey") that tells people what it does, because "I'm a supervillain, not a corporate shyster".
  • An episode of Codename: Kids Next Door has Tommy transported to a world where dirty boys and a stinky captain are trying to avoid a giant rubber duck (Moby Duck) from giving them squeaky-clean bathes. When Tommy finally convinces them to fight back, their plan involves throwing harpoons at it. When ordered to do so, one of the kids argues, "Darn it, Jim, I'm a doctor not a ducker!"
  • An episode of The Garfield Show has a running gag of everyone getting stuck up a tree because of a dog. First it was Garfield and Nermal, then Odie, then Jon, and finally a fireman. Jon questions how come a fireman doesn't know how to climb trees. His response: "I'm a fireman, not a monkey."
  • In Hercules episode "Hercules and the Green Eyed Monster", when Hercules was asked to put some sense into Icarus, he said he was "a demigod, not a miracle worker".

    Real Life 
  • The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius reportedly said "I'm a composer, not a psychic!" when his wife wanted to know when he would be back from one of his drinking sprees.
  • The newly appointed (as of 2014) chief prosecutor of Crimea, Natalia Poklonskaya, seems nonplussed about her internet fandom gushing over her Moe characteristics. In one interview, she stated that she's "a lawyer, not a Pokémon or something".
  • Responding to criticism of his ridiculously-wild first pitch at a New York Mets game, rapper 50 Cent said "I'm a hustler, not a damn ball player."


Herr DoktorDoctor IndexI'm Not a Doctor, but I Play One on TV
Ill GirlOlder Than RadioI'm Going to Hell for This
I'll Take Two Beers TooDialogueI'm Thinking It Over!
I Am X, Son of YI Am An IndexI'm Not a Hero, I'm...
HulkspeakImageSource/Web ComicsInner Monologue
I Love the DeadThis Index Is A JokeIntelligence Equals Isolation
Imagine the Audience NakedStock PhrasesI Am the Trope

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