Jim: Mr. President, where can I get a job?
Many busy executives ask me: what about the job displacement market program in the city of the future? Well, count on us to be there Jim, because, if we're lucky, tomorrow, we won't have to deal with questions like yours ever again.
is a response to a question that is so generic or vague that it's not really an answer at all. Usually, not only is the answer very vague, it is very obvious
as well. This may be because there is no better answer, or the askee simply doesn't want to answer the question. Other times, the askee is bluntly trying to redirect the questioner's attention to what they consider to be the more important consideration. For instance "because I said so" may not be considered an answer by a junior officer, yet the senior officer may by trying to reinforce the importance of following orders.
Some seemingly Non-Answers can actually be quite profound in their simplicity, succinctly stripping away extraneous considerations. Often this overlaps with Double Meaning
, where many people dismiss the apparent Non-Answer but miss the meaning hidden within.
A favored technique for the Sleazy Politician
or Obstructive Bureaucrat
Could lead to a "Yes"/"No" Answer Interpretation
situation. Compare Mathematician's Answer
and Cryptically Unhelpful Answer
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- In Sonic X, Eggman once sent his robots to pick up an impossible amount of supplies from the hardware store.
Decoe: How are we supposed to carry all of this?
Eggman: With a great degree of difficulty.
- In Naruto:
Naruto: Pervy sage, how did you know that I have two kinds of chakra?
Jiraiya: Because I am a sage.
Naruto: That didn't explain anything.
- In Dragon Ball Z
"Piccolo, tell me the truth. Do you think there's any way that I can beat this guy?" Piccolo:
"I think there's a way to succeed in everything, you just have to be serious
about it." Gotenks: "That's no answer!"
- In Bleach: The following exchange is lampshaded by Souken when Uryuu asks if what Ryuuken said is true. Souken explains it's Metaphorically True but Uryuu's too young to understand that Ryuuken's only given an obvious and practical answer that completely side-steps the question of "hate" entirely.
Uryuu: Father, why do you hate being a Quincy?
Ryuuken: You can't make a living from it.
- In Nichijou: When Sasahara is asked what the frilly thing is that he is wearing, he laughs and responds by saying how extraordinary life is.
- In Fight Club, after the chemical burn scene, Marla asks what happened to the narrator's hand. Tyler has asked the narrator not to talk to Marla about him.
Marla: Who did that to you?
Narrator: A person.
- In First Blood, when Rambo is asked what he hunts with his huge knife, he responds simply, "Game."
- In Dorm Life, Josh asks Danny B about his documentary:
Josh: So, uh, what'd you think about my doc, Dan?
Danny B: Uh, yeah, it was just the right length.
Josh: Uh-huh. But, uh, what about the content?
Danny B: Yes, it was there too.
- Discussed in the Babylon 5 movie Thirdspace:
Sheridan: I will take your proposal under consideration.
IPX Agent: That's bureaucratese for F-off.
- Lampshaded in Lawrence of Arabia
Jackson Bentley: You gonna be a democracy in this country? You gonna have a parliament?
Sherif Ali: I will tell you that when I have a country. [Brief pause] Did I answer well?
Jackson Bentley: You answered without saying anything. That's politics.
- In the movie The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, the Governor's song, "Dance a Little Sidestep" spoofs politicians' tendency to give these.
- Lampshaded several times in Babylon 5, possibly due to the many times it was played straight, what with the Vorlons, and the Minbari, and Lorien...
Ta'lon: "That was a stirring reply, G'Kar. However, while all answers are replies, not all replies are answers."
- Kosh in particular did it so much that Sheridan sniped at him about it more than once.
Sherdian: I really hate it when you do that.
- The Big Bang Theory: Leonard Hofstadter's mother:
Beverly: Your uncle Floyd died.
Leonard: Oh my God, what happened?
Beverly: His heart stopped beating.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Killed By Death":
Xander: You don't know how to kill this thing.
Buffy: I thought I might try violence.
Xander: Solid call.
Dawn: Last night, you said you weren't helping Spike out of pity. What is it [if not that]?
Buffy: It's a good question. (sips her drink through a straw)
Dawn: Is sitting there drinking soda some kind of a Zen non-answer?
- On LOST, when Locke asks Ben how deep the Orchid station is, he simply says that it's "Deep."
- Teal'c was a master of the non-answer in Stargate SG-1. For example:
Jack O'Neill: So what's your impression of Alar?
Teal'c: That he is concealing something.
Jack O'Neill: Like what?
Teal'c: I am unsure, he is concealing it.
- From Better Off Ted:
Interviewer: Can you describe your job?
Interviewer: ...How would you describe your job?
- Sir Humphrey in Yes, Minister is not fond of giving straight answers. When pressed for one, he exaggerates this trope instead, talking for thirty seconds without saying anything at all.
"Well, minister, if you asked me for a straight answer, then I should say that, as far as we can see, looking at it by and large, taking one time with another, in terms of the average of departments, then in the final analysis, it is probably true to say, that at the end of the day in general terms, you would probably find, that, not to put too fine a point on it, there probably wasn't very much in it one way or the other. As far as one can see. At this stage."
- In an early-season episode of Mash, Hawkeye and Trapper are trying to get an incubator for the hospital lab. After several failed attempts, they end up posing as journalists at a press conference, and we are treated to the following:
Hawkeye: General, can you tell us why M.A.S.H. units never get any incubators?
General: Our people have this question under scrutiny at the moment. If this scrutinization should yield negative, then I feel that we must maximize our efforts.
- After Hawkeye presses (and is rebuffed), Trapper is recognized:
- In a later episode, Hawkeye himself is accused of doing this as he attempts to avoid having to tell a patient that his bloodwork revealed he has leukemia.
- In the Supernatural episode "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part One" (S02, Ep21), the Yellow-Eyed Demon is very good at deflecting Sam's questions or only answering with an answer that he wants Sam to have.
Sam: Where’s my brother?
Yellow-Eyed Demon: Quit worrying about Dean. I’d worry more about yourself.
- QI has an example given by host Stephen Fry that is immediately called out by a panellist, who asks how big a stalactite they're talking about is:
: How big is it? Stephen Fry
: Vast, is the answer. Phill Jupitus
: Thanks for that
. "How big is it?" [as Stephen] "Oh, very. If I was to quantify its bigness would be doing it a disservice! To say just how bigly big, the vastly big bigness of the dripping thing..." I want feet, meters, anything!
Throw me a f***
ing bone, Fry!
- Star Trek: Voyager
Chakotay: Can I ask you a question, off the record? If things had happened differently, and we were on the Maquis ship now instead of Voyager, would you have served under me?
Janeway: One of the nice things about being Captain is that you can keep some things to yourself.
- Zits: When Connie asks Jeremy whether he was at Pierce's house instead of going to a movie like he claimed, Jeremy says that he's not going to lie to her. When Connie says that's not an answer, Jeremy replies that it's also not a lie and she can't punish him. He's wrong on that last point.
- In Hamlet, Polonius asks Hamlet what he is reading. Hamlet's response: "Words, words, words."
- In A Chorus Line, the director asks the cast what they would do if, one day, they could no longer dance. Would they have anything at all to fall back on? They don't answer, instead they sing "What I Did For Love," about moving towards tomorrow without regret or pain, which is a great song, but doesn't answer the specific question that the director posed.
- In The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, the governor sings the song "The Sidestep", about how he loves to evade the answers to reporter's questions.
- In the Robin Hood play Nottingham, Robin Hood goes to Friar Tuck for advice on where he should be the following Sunday. The following exchange occurs:
Friar Tuck: Listen to your heart. You know where you must be on Sunday.
Robin Hood: Yes, I know where I must be. Indeed, I know where I must be.
Friar Tuck: That's a cryptic non-answer! You can't put that past me, I'm a priest! I know cryptic non-answers!
- Gunnerkrigg Court: Tom Siddell does this when he doesn't want to answer a fan's question.
- In Shadow of the Templar Jeremy is a master of this, as is Ethan.
- Not Always Right is full of these.
- asktheendermen explains how Minecraft Endermen teleport.
Enderman: it is quite simple
- When Monty Oum was asked in an interview if he planned to kill off characters in RWBY, this was his answer:
- Red vs. Blue, when Lopez's disembodied head is somehow operating a mounted machine gun.
Sarge: ...how was he pulling the triggers?
Grif: He was very determined.
- In Family Guy, Meg comes downstairs with a dress on, in preparation for a prom. She asks Brian, "How do I look Brian?" Brian says, not wanting to either lie to her or insult her, "Ahhhhh... You sure do, Meg."
- Batman: The Animated Series used it in "Night of the Ninja." When Batman tells Robin that Kyotai is "good" at the martial arts, Robin asks how good he is. Batman reiterates, "Good." (Translation: "Better than me.")
- Not in-universe (though there probably are several examples to be listed) but if you browse through the Phineas and Ferb wiki you can find the following 'information' about Ferb:
- How Phineas tells Candace that the Nose Lake Monster is real... she figures it out pretty quickly.
- In Adventure Time we have Magic Man who gives us this gem.
Finn: So, how long have you had this house for?
Magic Man: Yes, that is true!
- Hey Arnold!: Arnold's bus pass is essentially this.
Arn(obscured by thumb) Born: Yes
- In The Simpsons episode Homer vs. The Eighteenth Amendment, Homer is using hollow bowling balls to smuggle illicit beer.