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.
The Non Answer
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.
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: Ero-sennin, how did you know that I have two kinds of chakra?
Jiraiya: Because I am a sennin.
Naruto: That didn't explain anything.
- In Dragonball Z
Gotenks: "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."
- 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.
- The Bible:
- Karen Armstrong claims that the Biblical "I am that I am" is a Non Answer.
- Similarly, some view "Thou sayest it," the answer Jesus gives to Pilate's question "Art thou king of the Jews?", as a Non Answer. Does Jesus mean "Yep, you said it; you got that right," or "That's what you say; I never made that claim"? (Jesus Christ Superstar understands it in the latter sense.)
- "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's", as an answer to whether the Jewish people should pay taxes to the Romans, is specifially stated in the Bible to be a Non Answer. The questioners were trying to trap Jesus into making a statement either way, at which point they would either declare him to be a Roman sympathiser to the Jews, or declare him to be a Judean revolutionary to the Romans. Regardless, even Jesus' enemies were impressed at how he wiggled out of that rhetorical trap.
- In Lest Darkness Fall, Padway dodges inquiries about his religion (a touchy subject in sixth-century Ostrogothic Italy) by saying that he's a "Congregationalist", which he describes as "the closest thing to (name of questioner's religion) in my country".
- 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: "While every answer is a response, G'kar, not every response is an answer."
- 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?
Veronica: Very cleverly.
- 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."
- Real life example: when asked in one of the interviews what happened with Russian military submarine Kursk, Vladimir Putin answered "It sunk". (Which is also a grammatically incorrect non-answer, as he should've said "It sank".)
- Urban Legend: When Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he reportedly replied "Because that's where the money is."
- More helpful than most, if you follow the logic train. "I want money." "Banks have money." "Thus, get them from the banks." "They won't give me money." "Then I'll take it."
- Another real life example: When famous moutaineer George Mallory was asked why he wants to climb Mount Everest he replied "Because it is there." (Mallory died on Everest in 1924. It's unknown whether he reached the summit)
- Arguably not a non-answer, but simply the most concise way to express what drove climbers like Mallory.
- Real world example: in Zen, the answer Wu or Mu, in Chinese and Japanese respectively, is a cross between this and a Mathematician's Answer. The original question asked was, "Has a dog Buddha-nature?" The answer loosely means, "Without meaning." A philosophical STFU to an Armor-Piercing Question. The Other Wiki has a better discussion for those interested.
- Politicians use these from time to time. And maybe we should leave it at that.
- In Hamlet, Polonius asks Hamlet what he is reading. Hamlet's response: "Words, words, words."
- Overused joke for MMORPGs, "What killed him?" "Ran out of Hit Points" (Not enough hit points, etc.)
- Similarly among medical types: "Cause of death?" "He stopped breathing" "His heart stopped" etc.
- "Heart failure" is a legitimate answer to (almost) any cause of death. Of course, the real question is why the heart stopped.
- Protip: To kill the cyberdemon shoot at it until it dies
- The Shivah enables you to make almost every answer a Non Answer by responding to every question with a question. To be fair, the point of your questions seems to be to make your interrogator realize the answer on his/her own... sometimes.
- 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:
Height: Taller than Buford.
- How Phineas tells Candace that the Nose Lake Monster is real... she figures it out pretty quickly.
- Hey Arnold: Arnold's bus pass is essentially this.
Name: Arn(obscured by thumb)
- In The Simpsons episode Homer vs. The Eighteenth Amendment, Homer is using hollow bowling balls to smuggle illicit beer.
Marge: Why do you have so many bowling balls?
Homer: I'm not gonna lie to you, Marge. (proceeds to get in his car and drive off)
- Jack Handey played it for laughs: "When my little nephew asked if the equator was a real line around the Earth or an imaginary one, I just laughed. Laughed and laughed. I laughed because I didn't know the answer, and I hoped if I laughed long enough, he'd forget the question."
- Probably happened to you at some point: "Why can't I do X?" "Because I said so."
Q: "How do I do [task]?"
A: "Very [adjective]ly."
- Question: "What's For Dinner/What do you want for dinner?" Answer: "Food"
- Rule 34 variant:
Q: "How do(es) he/she/they [squicky or improbable sex act]?"
A: "Very carefully."
- Gunnerkrigg Court: Tom Siddell does this when he doesn't want to answer a fan's question.