First you say what it isn't. Then you say what it is. Both of them effectively have the same meaning.
This is when a character rejects a word in preference of a more colorful (or much blunter) one — often with the same practical meaning, given the circumstances, but with some extra connotations.
In most occasions, it will reflect just how easy, one-sided, or unsporting the thing in question is.
The most common form is "We're not lost, we just don't know where we are."
See also Blackmail Is Such an Ugly Word, Half Truth, Insistent Terminology.
As an aside: In philosophy, this is a fallacy known as "Distinction Without a Difference".
Contrast Both Sides Have a Point.
Arf: Are you one of their familiars? Zafila: In Belka space, we don't call the beasts that serve their masters "familiars"! We call them their fangs and shields! We're Guardian Beasts! Arf: It's just the same damn thing!
Agito: You know, this place is really great. Lutecia: You mean you can't see that it's a criminal deportation world? Agito: That's not what I mean. It's not a penal colony. It's a world that people are currently adapting and developing.
In Maria†Holic, when Mariya first comes to the conclusion that Kanako is a lesbian pervert, Kanako insists that he refer to it as "yuri". He of course then points out that that means the same thing.
Similarily, in Lucky Star, after Konata asks her dad, on account of him having loved Kanata and is clingy with Konata herself, if he is a Lolicon, he insists that she's got him all wrong; he not only likes young girls, but likes more mature, well-endowed women, too, so he is "also a lolicon"... Konata is suitably disturbed.
After another Team Rocket plot failed on Pokémon, Meowth said to think of it instead as not succeeding.
Munakata of Medaka Box introduces himself by saying that he does not kill people for no reason. He begins to list his reasons for killing, each flimsier than the last, until finally he just says, "And for no reason whatsoever, I'll kill you."He doesn't kill Hitoyoshi, nor does he intend to throughout their fight, even though his Abnormality gives him an overwhelming desire to do so. Quite possibly his real Abnormality is "self-control".
From the Don Rosa story "The Billionaire of Dismal Downs":
Jerry Narrates: "I and her are not dating, if you Satanic scum think that there is something Satanic going on. We are dating, but we are not having Sex until we get married."
The author of Discworld fanfic about Rimwards Howondaland and its natives takes his cue from Sir Terry Pratchett, and denies this has anything (much) to do with South Africa. After all, XXXX is not Australia, even allowing for superficial similarities. Make your own mind up here
Griff: [referring to German soldiers] I can't murder anybody. The Sergeant: We don't murder; we kill. Griff: [sarcastically] What's the difference? The Sergeant: You don't murder animals; you kill 'em.
Coop: See, my feeling is that if there weren't any women none of us would be here. Maverick: What kind of sense does that make? If there were no men, we wouldn't be here either. Coop: Are you mocking me? Maverick: Don't get ruffled. Let's just say I was agreeing with you in a totally unusual way.
In Rat Race the rich gambler orchestrating the titular race (John Cleese played him) is "too rich to be crazy. I'm 'eccentric!'"
In Spaceballs, the protagonists Lone Starr and Barf need '1 million spacebucks' to get out of a debt with a creature called 'Pizza the Hutt' in a situation clearly meant to mirror Han Solo and Chewbacca's within Star Wars. After being given a mission to rescue a king's daughter and successfully demanding that price, Barf is afraid by how they are risking their lives for money. Lone Starr replies:
Wadsworth: THAT'S WHAT WE'RE TRYING TO FIND OUT! WE'RE TRYING TO FIND OUT WHO KILLED HIM, AND WHERE AND WITH WHAT! Professor Plum: There's no need to shout! Wadsworth:I'M NOT SHOUTING! (beat) ALL RIGHT, I AM! I'M SHOUTING! I'M SHOUTING! I'M SHOU—
At this point, his shouting has vibrated the candlestick from its perch above the doorway he's standing in and clocked him on the head.
Balian: What is Jerusalem worth? Saladin: Nothing. (He walks away then turns around) Everything.
Gargamel isn't obsessed with The Smurfs, he just "can't stop thinking about them".
From The Shining, as Jack Torrance has lost it and starts menacing his wife.
Jack: I'm not gonna hurt ya. You didn't let me finish my sentence. I said I'm not gonna hurt ya. I'm just gonna bash your brains in. I'm gonna bash them right the fuck in!
In X-Men: First Class, Emma Frost interrupts the CIA Directer and Stryker Sr. when they're discussing the possibility of a war. She prefers not to use that term; it implies that both sides have a chance of winning.
In National Treasure, Ben tells Riley that when Thomas Edison was asked about his first failed 1000 attempts to make a light bulb, he replied that he didn't fail. He just figured out 1000 ways how not to make a light bulb.
Governor: This is the biggest thing to happen to this state since we stole it from the Indians!
The Boss: Borrowed.
In The Avengers, Tony certainly isn't stalling for time while talking to Loki (and waiting for the Mark Seven to be deployed). He's threatening him.
In Get Him to the Greek, Aldous offers the sage advice: "Don't think of it as a threesome, think of it as having sex with your girlfriend while someone else also has sex with your girlfriend." This one actually makes some amount of sense, since there's a distinction between these kind of threeways, and what could be called "true threeways" because they involve lovemaking between all three participants.
Sam Vimes, Discworld: "I was a drunk. You have to be richer than I was to be an alcoholic."
Also, Granny Weatherwax doesn't get lost. She always knows where she is. It's the rest of the world that has a location problem.
Discworld itself doesn't have continuity errors, but it does occasionally have alternate pasts.
The above is not just a clever reinterpretation - attempting to understand the canon timeline is an exercise in futility because the timeline in the Discworld was literally shattered into a billion pieces and glued together bit by bit a bunch of monks. Twice. These monks are also constantly shunting time from places with too much to places with too little, so how long things take depends on how long they need to take.
The Discworld books have also used the "poor people are mad, rich people are eccentric" line a few times. In the Companion it adds that King Ludwig the Tree (who believed there should be a new kind of frog, and wore his underpants on his head) was "a little confused".
And then there's Ahmed the Mad, AKA Ahmed the I Just Get These Headaches. He's obviously a parody of Abdul al'Hazred.
As the author has asserted, Fourecks is NOT Australia. It just happens to share certain suspicious resemblences, turned Up to Eleven.
Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM has an interesting take on this. Usually the reword puts someone in a better light. He, on the other hand, spends hundreds of pages explaining in detail how he is not a hero, that he doesn't charge the enemy, he's really retreating through them; that saving people's lives is not selfless because in the long run it ensures his survival. You can bet each one of his stories has hundreds of these rewordings; being the Warhammer 40000 universe, though, he is a Bad Ass.
Animorphs had Ax retort that he did not fall asleep in class as had been insinuated; he just became calm and restful and not completely alert.
Rachel: Did you snore when you got all calm and restful and not completely alert?
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate. But, it assures the reader, in the case of major discrepancy, it is always life that has got it wrong.
Inverted in the fourth Artemis Fowl book, when Trouble Kelp orders his troops to "retreat". The narration points out the troops' disbelief; whether it's called a retreat or a tactical withdrawal, they're still running away.
"It ain't got nothing to do with luck. Fortune delivered you into my hands."
Becoming involved in the machinations of Contact in ''Look To Windward, Ziller suggests some of the Minds may be lying and is corrected by a Contact drone in an Expospeak Gag fashion:
"Oh, they never lie. They dissemble, evade, prevaricate, confound, confuse, distract, obscure, subtly misrepresent and willfully misunderstand with what appears to be a positively gleeful relish and are generally perfectly capable of contriving to give one an utterly unambiguous impression of their future course of action while in fact intending to do exactly the opposite, but they never lie. Perish the thought."
In Honor Harrington, when a Grayson makes a promise to a doomed man, the text states that it was not a promise, but an oath. Possibly justified, since Graysons are all highly religious.
The Belgariad has a lot of fun with this, particularly regarding nautical terms. Land-based characters are frequently called out on their use of "tip over" instead of "capsize", "right" instead of "starboard", and "boat" instead of "ship".
"You say I murdered Peter Carey; I say I killed Peter Carey, and there's all the difference."
In the man's defense Peter Carey had attacked him first. He was essentially saying that he killed the man in self-defense, rather than murdering him in cold blood, which of course is a very significant difference in a legal context.
"It's not exactly that she's unobservant. It's just that she doesn't always notice what's happening."
Lord Ivan Vorpatril, after he discovered his widowed mother had begun an affair with Simon Illyan, and Miles asked him not to yell about it: "I am not yelling. I'm being firm." Miles then asked him to be firm at a lower volume.
Which is of course an inversion, as they are not implying that all animals are equal...
Acheron Hades, the main villian of the first Thursday Next novel, isn't mad. Despite the fact that does terrible things for the sake of doing them. No, he's differently moraled. And don't you forget it.
Granted, invasion is a process. Occupation generally comes after a successful invasion. It's similar to the Army of Ghosts example above.
However, they've been around since humans huddled around fires in the dark so it's less an occupation and more that they just hang around doing whatever it is they do while noone knows they're there, at least, not for long.
Later, when the Doctor and the TARDIS get to speak.
TARDIS: Then you stole me. And I stole you.
Doctor: I borrowed you.
TARDIS: Borrowing implies the eventual intention to return the thing which was taken. What makes you think I would ever give you back?
Inara: Well, since I can't seem to find work as a Companion, I might as well become a petty thief like you! [An uncomfortable silence descends for a moment.] Mal:Petty? Inara: I didn't mean petty. Mal: What did you mean? Inara: ...Suo-shee? Mal:That's Chinese for "petty".
This is something of a subversion, however. There is a distinction between understanding and comprehending, but not one Mal is likely to understand or comprehend.
The distinction is that understand is to grasp the meaning of the word or phrase, whereas comprehend is to have a clear picture of the reasoning by which the words that are understood were reached. In the above phrase, River knows what is going on, but doesn't understand why. Admittedly, this is a pretty pedantic difference that usually doesn't matter. In fact the word "comprehend" appears in the definition of "understand" on dictionary.com, and the word "understand" appears in that same resource's definition of "comprehend." Like most synonyms, the words mean essentially the same thing, just with different implications.
Gossip Girl: "Actually, it's hash. I find it gives a softer high."
Sam Axe: Yeah, actually, I need you to keep your head down for a while 'cause this is going to get worse before it gets better. Madeline: Sam... you're asking me to hide? Sam: Oh, no, no, no, of course not. I just need you to be some place where no one can see you.
Quoth Westen, upon being asked what he was thinking threatening an FBI agent for information: "I didn't threaten him. I asked him questions... with a gun in my hand." (If you saw the scene... he was totally threatening him.)
From Jon Stewart on The Daily Show: "[The Bush] Administration does not torture logic, no! This administration merely flew logic in an unmarked plane to Bulgaria. Whatever happened to logic there, we have no idea."
John Oliver once insisted that a box marked "porn" in fact contained erotica, which was his legacy and had to go to a library.
Rigel from Farscape insisted that he never retreats, but "strategically maneuvers".
When once accused of "snurching"(Farscape-ese for stealing) he responds "I don't snurch, I... procure."
This bit from Hello Cheeky, just after Tim has told a dirty joke to the camera.
Barry: Please! There's no room for vulgarity on this programme!
Mrs. Thing: Oh, have you been shopping? Mrs. Entity: No, I've been shopping.
And from the"Nudge Nudge" sketch:
Norman: Look, are you insinuating something?
From the Red Dwarf episode "Emohawk: Polymorph II":
Kryten: It's charging us with looting Space Corps derelicts. Lister: But we don't loot Space Corps derelicts. We just hack our way in and swipe what we need! Rimmer: ...Lister, if this goes to trial, I demand separate lawyers.
Also from the episode "Holoship":
Rimmer: Oh, and sir — you're wrong. We won't be apart, we just... won't be together. (beat) I cannot believe I just said that.
Itself a callback to some crappy Casablanca knockoff they were watching at the start of the episode. (Rimmer considered it Glurge.)
Marnie: We'll always be together! It's just... that we'll be apart.
A skit on Royal Canadian Air Farce during the Bre-X scandal: "Now, Pamela [Wallin, a somewhat famous Canadian newsanchor], we don't lie—we misappropriate the truth."
This snippet from Skins, when Naomi goes to visit Effy in her psychiatric institution.
Effy: You think you're going mad, so you came to see me to see what a crazy person looks like. Naomi: No. NO! No... yes.
Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: "I wasn't yelling. I was expressing my opinion loudly." It seems to run in the family, as his father once claimed "I wasn't sleeping, I was checking my eyelids for holes."
The Female Changeling, when declaring the need to pull back their forces, is accused of retreating by her Breen allies. She and Weyoun immediately try to spin it as a momentary withdrawal so they can build up their forces and attack again.
In The X-Files, Mulder once claimed "I would never lie. I willingly engaged in a campaign of misinformation."
"It's one of those irregularly declining words. I have an independent mind, you are an eccentric, he's round the twist." Bernard Woolley, Yes Minister. Also, "I hold confidential briefings, you leak, he's been charged under section 2A of the Official Secrets Act."
Janos Slynt: "I won't have my honour questioned by an imp!" Tyrion Lannister: "I'm not questioning your honor Lord Janos. I'm denying its existence."
From the M*A*S*H episode "To Market, To Market," as Henry is polishing his new desk:
Henry: Radar, you know what kind of wood this desk is made with?
Radar: Oak, sir.
Henry: Nope. It's oak.
An atypical example, because each time he does it (which he does to everyone he shows the desk off to) he's not actually listening to them. He's just glorying in having something cooler than MacArthur has.
The WWE uses the phrase "released to pursue future endeavors" as a much politer euphemism for "We fired his ass".
There are also the the phrase: "WWE has come to terms with the release of [insert wrestlers name], we wish him/her the best in his/hers future endeavors." Not surprisingly, it has reached meme status.
In his series Wrestle! Wrestle!, Spoony uses "future endeavors" to mean "The company is screwing you up the ass, quit now while you still have your dignity".
While normally just a case of Insistent Terminology, whenever a ring announcer commentator or wrestler superstar verbally corrects their colleague about how to refer to Professional Wrestling Sports Entertainment, it starts slipping into this territory. Especially if it's blatant enough to get the fans The Universe to start booing about it.
A variation occurs in a 'news show' sketch from Dutch comedian Herman Finkers. Translated: "The cement pole thrown from a viaduct unto the US president caused strong reactions all over the world. The English prime minister spoke of murder, the Dutch prime minister spoke of a cement pole."
A joke from before the Great Politics Mess Up where an American and a Russian are racing with the American winning. When the Russian newspapers print the story, they read that the American was second-to-last and the Russian was in second place.
In the musical Finian's Rainbow, there's the song "When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich", which covers this trope. A typical example:
When a rich man loses on a horse Oh, isn't he a sport? When a poor man loses on a horse— He's a gambler, he's a spender He's a low life, he's a reason for divorce!
Call of Duty 2 has a mission called Retreat? We're Advancing in Another Direction.
World Of Warcraft joins in on the fun. Victory over a certain encounter relies upon you running from a boss and escaping his fortress before he one-shot kills your entire party. The linked achievement for doing this in a certain time is "We're Not Retreating; We're Advancing In A Different Direction!"
Because of Japanese linguistic conventions, the word "pirate" refers to one who is not in a Navy and not a fisherman - so it can also refer to people who claim salvage and seafaring (or skyfaring in this case) Treasure Hunters. Although he may be a thief as well, in Japanese media you can't assume Thief = Pirate.
He has a series of abilities called Plunder, which are just more effective variants of the Thief's Steal abilities. It is made pretty clear what his job entails.
Similarly, in Final Fantasy VI, Locke insists, "I'm not a thief, I'm a treasure hunter!" Regardless of the fact that some of the treasures he hunts are currently owned by someone else.
Soldier: We have you surrounded, at least from this side!
Borderlands 2: "I'm not saying you owe me, but I am implying it."
Assassins Creed III: Connor has just gone through an epic naval battle at Chesapeake Bay, all to get some French ships to aid him in his assault on Ft. George in New York. When he begins to explain his request to the Admiral, the following exchange occurs:
Admiral de Grasse: "Wait, wait. I thought you might need some pirates killed, or goods transported. And instead, you ask us to....what, shell New York?"
Spoony: "So, it's like LARP'ing?" Critic: "No! That's just a bunch of dorks dressing up and fighting for a fake reward." Spoony: "While we're a bunch of dorks dressing up and fighting for a real reward." Critic: "Exactly!"
As with many other examples, it doesn't fall under the Distinction Without a Difference fallacy — obviously a real reward is a fairly important difference to a fake reward (especially given how greedy some of the reviewer-characters can be)!
From the Something Awful review of the movie The House That Screamed: "I'm not saying I disliked the film, I'm just saying that I'd rather rip all of my teeth out with rusty pliers, make them into a comb, and use the comb made of my own teeth to scrape all of my skin off than watch it again."
This line from a post on "Children Who Need To Check Their Privilege":
"Ignorant shithead, I never said “KILL ALL WHITE BABIES” you’re putting words in my mouth asshole. We just need to kill some of them, especially the racist ones."
In the little-known Dream Works Animation miniseries Invasion America when the evil Dragit attempts to capture the Cale Oosha so he can invade/conquer Earth, this exchange takes place:
On the DVD commentary for G.I. Joe : The Movie, it was mentioned that while Cobra retreats, the Joes withdraw.
Rugrats in an episode just after Chas and Kira's wedding (and after the word "no" was established as Chuckie's first word), Chuckie is offered some juice and accepts, despite replying with "no". The adults understand him. This is Truth in Television, as "no" is easier to pronounce and is learned earlier.
Billy:GRIM! Guess what I got on our camping trip! Guess guess guess guess guess!!
Grim: I don't know, Billy! ... A rash?
Billy: No! ... well, yes.
A sketch on Histeria! with a boat salesman trying to sell some Vikings various boats with cute, adorable figureheads:
Viking: It's like all your designs were done by a three-year-old!
Salesman: Why sir, that is not true! ... Actually, I don't think he's much over twelve months.
(cut to Big Fat Baby and a figurehead of the Easter Bunny)
Danger Mouse uses this in "Gremlin Alert" when he corners the anti-logic Gremlin with a "how can you agree with me when gremlins always disagree?" argument.
An example that's arguable: Maj. Gen. Oliver P. Smith, the Commanding General, 1st Marine Division, at the Chosin Reservoir, said, "Retreat, hell! We're not retreating, we're just advancing in a different direction." To a civilian, retreat means "move away from a battle or position" but the military definition is specifically "withdrawal of troops to a more favorable position to escape the enemy's superior forces or after a defeat. Since they were moving to attack the enemy as part of their break-out, their actions could be described as an advance rather than a retreat.
What it all comes down to, of course, is that Marines would much rather point out that they were attacking the enemy instead of getting hung up on the fact that they were also getting themselves out of a very untenable situation. "Retreat" is a word that brings with it connotations of running away from the fight, which they were certainly not doing.
For context, the Marines had been surrounded. The Chinese forces, outnumbering them 30 to 1, were between them and their friendly lines, thus "advancing in a different direction."
People from Brussels have a habit of saying "non peut-etre" ("maybe no") when they actually mean "yes".
Astérix once parodied this habit mercilessly, to the utter confusion of the Roman legionaries.
Jasper Carrott did a stand-up routine about the Balinese allegedly hating to answer "No" to any question, leading to a conversation like:
Carrott: Do you have any tartare sauce? Balinese waiter: Oh yes! (does nothing) Carrott: Er...well, can I have some then? Balinese waiter: Oh yes! (smiles, does nothing) Carrott:(looks at watch) Er...will it be long? Balinese waiter:(nodding pointedly) Oh, yes!
Their neighbours, the Javanese, also have this habit. This concept is called "Inggih, boten kepanggih" which is "Yes" as in "Yes, I understand perfectly what you said, but I never said I'm agreeing with you/confirming that".
"It's not war, it's murder," said Confederate general Daniel H. Hill about the carnage of the Seven Days battles.
Of course, all the "it's not war, it's carnage/murder/slaughter/etc." lines are undoubtedly trying to convey the idea that "war" should be somehow "honorable" or at least the opponents should have some fighting chance or fighting CAPABILITY. So, a battle primarily killing civilians/non-combatants or a battle where it is so one-sided the opponent has no chance to even inflict damage on your side, may get this kind of line.
Another army story has Canadian troops during World War 2 moving through a village, when a German Tank rounded the corner. Beating a hasty retreat, they told their CO, who angrily yelled "You are Canadians! You do not retreat!" The troops feared he was going to order them on a suicide charge, until he followed up with "You are moving to a more strategic location!"
According to William Lutz, author of The New Doublespeak, the first Doublespeak Award went, in 1974, to US Air Force Colonel David Opfer in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for saying to American reporters, "You always write it's bombing, bombing, bombing. It's not bombing, it's air support."
Strictly speaking "air support" is a type of bombing, as distinguished from interdiction and strategic bombing.
Publicly stated by a foreign official in 1998: "No viewpoints have been banned, except for those that have been banned by the law."
David Dinkins, after it was discovered that he hadn't paid income tax some years earlier, replied: “I haven't committed a crime. What I did was fail to comply with the law.”
He didn't commit a crime by taking an action the law prohibits. He failed to comply with the the law by failing to take an action the law requires. The distinction is understandably lost on ordinary citizens who can't get away with either. The difference between an offence and a failure to comply can be the difference between a jail sentence and a request from a legal authority to kindly comply with the law.
There was a Swedish quote: "Jag har inte begått något brott, jag bara misslyckades med att följa lagen." Translation: "I haven't committed a crime, I simply failed in following the law."
After losing to the Americans in a sporting event (not the Olympics) the Soviet media (supposedly) claimed that they had come in second, while the US came in second to last. Which is all totally true...since the event only had two nations competing: The U.S. and the Soviets.
Such a common way of speaking there was a book about racism named (in Finnish) after the phrase: "I'm not racist, but..." (Alternative: "I'm not racist, I just...") There are legitimate ways of continuing at least the latter sentence, of course, but the usual use falls under this trope.
The other one is "I have black/gay/Jewish/white/Asian/insert minority to taste friends..."
There is a "game" called Conjugation, which works like the "irregularly declining" words noted in the Yes Minister example above. I'm liberal, you're radical, he's a bomb-throwing anarchist; I'm cautious, you're conservative, he's puritanical.
Clarke's Third Law can be paraphrased as "the Hand Wave I'm using isn't magic, it's just science we don't understand yet!" You'd be surprised how often this excuse is given for stories which violate well-understood laws of physics.
A country club spokesman on why a specific person was refused admission thereto:
Books on marine mammals will often claim that "the orca isn't a whale, it's a dolphin"… despite the fact that dolphins are whales themselves (at least if the beluga & sperm whale are considered whales).
Orcas are more closely related to dolphins than to the other toothed whales, and the whales as a whole divide into two main groups, the toothed whales and the baleen whales. The separation of dolphins from other cetaceans (whales) is a relic of classification methods that allowed groupings of the form "All of THESE except for THOSE", which the most modern classification method (cladistics) does not allow.
Daniel Boone once said of himself, "I can't say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days."
It's not a recession, it's an economic deceleration.