"On the first page of my notes, I wrote "Starts slow." On the second page, I wrote "Boring." On the third page, I wrote "Endless!" On the fourth page, I wrote: "Bite-size Shredded Wheat, skim milk, cantaloupe, frozen peas, toilet paper, salad stuff, pick up laundry."Old comedic trope that isn't used too much any more. Basically, somebody writes down a safe combination, a speech or poem, plans for the Death Star, etc. onto a piece of paper. So they reach into their pocket, pull out a list, and more or less go.... "Now that's done, let's see what else I must do. Butter, eggs, litre of milk... wait, no. That's my grocery list", puts it away, pulls out another list: "Okay, let's start again." A variation has a messenger handing at first a grocery list instead of the intended message to its recipient. Not to be confused with Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick. Except in the most literal examples. A subtrope of Unfortunate Item Swap. See also Script Swap.
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Anime and Manga
- Used in one of the Full Metal Panic!! novels, 'Cinderella'. Sagara Sousuke lists things Cinderella needs to go to the ball: "1 pumpkin, 4 mice, 1 lizard, 1 assault rifle, 1 shotgun, 24 anti-personnel hand grenades, 160 5.56 mm bullets, three cases of c4 explosives, 6 Claymore land mines..." Turns out, all of those deadly weaponry are just his shopping list, not the things one needs to get to the ball.
- In Durarara!!, Shinra finds out that he gave Celty his shopping list rather than the license plate of the van she was supposed to chase after when he checked it at the supermarket. Later, it turns out that she didn't need to do anything anyway since Kyohei AKA Dotachin's group was chasing after it, albeit for other reasons.
- Some of the manga editions of Kingdom Hearts included a set of one-shot comic strips at the end of the volume, generally featuring an amusing twist on something that happened in the main story. One of the ones at the end of Volume 3 featured Aerith trying to decode Ansem's Xehanort's Report. "Ansem the Wise... what were you trying to do...? Pork, onion, carrot, potato, shiitake mushroom... Ansem... You like shiitake mushroom in your curry?!"
- Inverted in Walt Disney's Comics and Stories 630 (1996), story "Scandal on the Epoch Express." Donald Duck, porter on a train, reads what appears to be a grocery list of all the freight items the train should have picked up, but segues halfway through into the Witches' Chant from Macbeth. (That's the one that goes "Eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog...")
- In The Muppets King Arthur, a group of planted protestors are reading cue-cards provided by Sir Sam of Eagle. One of them shouts out "Bread, milk, cheese, armour polish..." before Sam gives him the right card.
- In The Smurfs comic book version of "The Astro Smurf", Harmony (or Drummer) makes an announcement that Astro Smurf's invention is ready to be unveiled, but the first thing he reads off is a recipe Greedy Smurf had given him.
- In Dartagnans Daughter, a series of mix-ups and misunderstandings by the heroes and the villains have both looking for (and finding) coded messages in a laundry list and a really bad love poem. Neither contain any coded messages and are, in fact, a laundry list and a really bad love poem.
- Used by a hero in Mystery Men, where Lance Hunt (alter-ego of Captain Amazing) feigns reading a letter sent by Captain Amazing - but the piece of paper he's supposedly reading from is just his grocery list.
- In Bored of the Rings, a portentous messenger (soon revealed to be Stomper) accidentally hands Frito a slip of paper reading: "Three shorts, four pairs socks, two shirts, chain mail, heavy starch?" This is immediately lampshaded by the narration referring to it as an "ancient gag."
- The trope also appears in the James Thurber children's book Many Moons, where the king's three advisors carry lists of all of the matters they have been consulted on. As each one reads out his list, all have added grocery items their wives wanted the advisors to pick up that day.
- A cartoon in the Horrible Histories book of the 20th Century parodies the infamous "cranberry sauce" lyric of "Strawberry Fields Forever", with John Lennon reading "Cranberry sauce, strawberry jam, milk and a packet of biscuits. Wait, these aren't my lines...".
- In Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco, the main characters construct an elaborate conspiracy theory around a document that is eventually revealed to be a laundry list.
- A Canticle for Leibowitz, sort of. Among the holy relics found by Brother Francis in the fallout shelter are a grocery list and a circuit diagram.
- Of course, since the Simplification had long destroyed every remaining diagrams and list out in the open, they're as valuable as War and Peace to the monks.
- In Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, Catherine finds some papers just before the light goes out. Having read far too many Gothic novels, she is horrified with the possibilities. And morning reveals it was a laundry list. At the end of the novel, to escape the problems of a Parental Marriage Veto, Austen has the hero's sister marry a nobleman, and the hero's father is so pleased that he approves the hero's marriage. She then asserts that the nobleman was the one who left the laundry list, and therefore she wasn't introducing a new character at the end to act as a Deus ex Machina.
- Happens to the Prime Minister in Minidoka: 937th Earl of One Mile Series M by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Having written his speech on the back of his wife's recipe book, he drops his notes. When he picks them up, he accidentally begins reading the recipe rather than his speech.
- Used as a bluff in Witch & Wizard:
Whit: "But you gave them the map."Sasha: "It wasn't a map, it was just a list of things I had to do once I got back to base."
- Detectives in Togas: In the first book, the boys write a letter to the emperor to explain that Rufus is innocent. Because they have nothing else to write on, they use the backside of a pergament with Cicero's speech against Catilina on it. When Xanthos wants to read the letter, this trope happens.
- Not used, but in Jingo Vimes reflects that Carrot is charismatic enough that he really would be able to inspire people with a speech that went "Bread! Eggs! Milk! FLOUR!"
- In Spin City, vice mayor Charlie's friends at the office come to do an intervention to make him stop betting money on football games. Paul starts reading from a list of arguments, which turns out to be a chili recipe. "Charlie, I want you to know how much you mean to me. 'One pound of ground meat....'"
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- An odd version; the Affably Evil Mayor does not actually keep them on separate lists, making it almost literally Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick : Meet with the PTA, Boy Scout awards ceremony, Become invincible, Haircut.
- In the Thanksgiving episode Pangs Willow starts reading what she thinks is a list of ingredients for a magic potion, only to be told it's the recipe for the turkey stuffing. (This is part of a running gag: virtually every conversation in the episode is eventually derailed to be about food.)
- Frankie Boyle on Mock the Week:
- "Eggs, Tea, Bread, Rich Tea biscuits.. Are you sure this is the right list Mr. Schindler?"
- Hugh Dennis: "Milk! Bread! Germoloids! I believe...I have been reading from the wrong piece of paper."
- Variation in an episode of That '70s Show where stoner Leo falls in love with Kitty and sends her a bouqet of flowers with a note reading "Roses are red, Violets are blue eggs, milk, butter"
- In an episode of Keeping Up Appearances, Hyacinth Bucket announces she has a list of demands from the Women's Institute written on the back of a voucher for 20 pence off golden syrup, and immediately afterwards reads the first demand as "20 pence off golden syrup".
- In a LazyTown episode, Robbie Rotten, disguised as a pirate, pulls out his grocery list instead of the treasure map.
- Red Dwarf:
- "Waiting for God" went farther than most with this. The evolved descendants of Lister's cat escaped the space ship years ago aboard arks using a "star map" given to them by their god, Cloister the Stupid. The star map turned out to be Lister's laundry list which he used to line his cat's basket.
- In the episode "Timeslides" the crew goes back in time and steals Hilter's Diary. It read: "Things to do: Stop milk, pay papers, invade Czechoslovakia!"
- In "Twentico", a badly wounded bootlegger tells Lister he is not going to make it and hands him a card. Lister reads the card and says "Pizza delivery? You want to order a pizza?". The bootlegger replies "Sorry. Wrong pocket" and hands him the card for the science speakeasy.
- The second episode of Psych featured Shawn reading things to the spelling bee contestants from the original announcer's shopping list. Things like "banana" and "onion".
- Inverted in an episode of The Nanny in which Fran picks up an old piece of paper from Maxwell's desk: it's from an original Shakespeare manuscript, specifically "Hamlet, Prince of Denmark". Fran's reaction is "If he wants Danish ham, why can't he just say so?" and she goes shopping with the MS page as her list. And gets mugged.
- Variation in Wizards of Waverly Place episode "Future Harper". Max reads a printout from a writer who is writing books that feature the Russos' life story: "Bread... eggs... milk... this is the worst story ever."
- How I Met Your Mother gives us the following example:
Marshall: [looking for his password] Jelly beans, fluffernutter, gummi bears, ginger snaps- this is a grocery list.Robin: For who, a witch building a house in the forest?Marshall: Sugar helps me study.Barney: This is the kind of shopping a ten-year-old does when he's alone for the weekend.Lily: Who leaves a 10 year old alone for the weekend?Barney [Sarcastically]: Oh, and your mom was perfect.
- An episode of Welcome Back, Kotter had Mr. Kotter accused of sexually harassing a student. (Actually, she fainted due to a fat diet she had been on and Mr. Kotter was just trying to help her get up.) The Sweathogs wanted the girl in question to sign a confession stating that Kotter hadn't done anything. Horshach wrote the confession on the back of a grocery list and read that to her at first.
- At the beginning of one episode of M*A*S*H, Blake asks Radar to read a list of everything the camp is running low on because their supply line got cut. After Radar finishes the list, Blake tells him to brief the other officers on what areas of rationing they'll be in charge of, and he starts reading the first list again. Then he stops, flips the top page of his clipboard out of the way, and reads the real second list.
- In another episode, Colonel Blake is directing Trapper out of a minefield using what he thought was a map of the mines - but actually turns out to be a map of WWII Germany. Cue an Oh, Crap! moment when they realize that Trapper is inches away from stepping on a mine.
- In the episode of The Slammer where the Governor loses his memory, he introduces the next act as "a pint of milk, a bag of bin liners and three scratch cards". His nephew then tells him to turn the card over.
- In Kenan & Kel when the Hammer escaped prison and wanted revenge on Kenan.
Police: We found this list in his cell.Kenan: (Reading the list) Number one: Get out of Jail. Number two: go to the laundry. Number three: get Kenan.
- On Teen Wolf, Scott, Stiles and Allison need to find the bestiary that Allison's family keeps of everything they've ever hunted, without getting caught by her parents or grandfather, but at first they don't know where it is or what it looks like. Stiles thinks it's probably an old book, and Allison remembers that she's seen her grandfather with a book like that. They go to great lengths to get ahold of it, only to discover that it is, in fact, a cookbook. The real bestiary turns out to be on a flash drive.
Scott: (leafing through the book) Salmon. Moutarde. Creme Fraiche. What is this?
Allison: (sighs) A recipe. It's a cookbook.
- Subverted in Parks and Recreation when Andy Dwyer reads a note that sounds like a misplaced grocery list, but delivers an alternate punchline: it's a list of band names for Mouserat.
- Utopia (2014): In "Clause for Concern", Tony and Jim end drafting an amendment to a contract on the back of a piece of cardboard given to them by a homeless person (It Makes Sense in Context). The next day, Jim brings the cardboard back to Tony for him to check. He starts reading "I am down on my luck and homeless..." before realising and turning the cardboard over.
- The immortal Anna Russell used this in her "Introduction to the Concert (By the Women's Club President)", in which her character introduces "that magnificent pianist, Miss ... er ... Miss Hamburger."
- When Rush got inducted into Canada's Music Hall of Fame, Alex Lifeson's speech consisted of "Uh-oh...three dozen eggs, two liters of milk and about 150 Valiums."
- One Dilbert strip had a man trying to push a stupid plan because the pros outnumbered the cons. Dilbert read the list and found out that everything in the pros column was part of his grocery list. Having been caught out, the man claims that the fault is trying to quantize pros vs cons, rather than that the plan is stupid, and goes ahead anyway.
- Prickly City: Winslow's final comments on the budget: 1. Milk. 2. Carrots 3. Toilet paper. Except that no one notices.
- "Baxter's Book" from Bookaboo opens with Growler telling Bookaboo he's going to read him a story from a great book. He reads "Six sausages, one onion, basil, rosemary, browned all over. Put into an oven, a hot oven for one hour. Garnish with fresh parsley." Bookaboo is at first confused, then interprets Basil and "Rose Marie" as characters in the story, before realizing that Growler is reading him a recipe from a cookbook.
- A "Graham and the Colonel" sketch on The D Generation breakfast show (later included on The Breakfast Tapes album) featured the Colonel reading a list of ingredients for a recipe: "Milk, eggs, bread, dish washing liquid, squegee... Oh wait a minute, this is my shopping list".
- In the episode "The Canal" of The Goon Show, Henry Crun attempts to read helpful advice to Neddie after he falls in the canal, and gets halfway through a cake recipe before realising he's got hold of a cookbook instead of the Lifesaving Manual. It's typical of the series that the still-drowning Neddie's response to this realisation is to wonder what he should do with the cake batter he's just made.
- The Dresden Files RPG rulebooks are presented as an early draft written by Billy and sent to Harry for him to look over, and so it's full of sticky notes and scribbles in the margin. Most of them are comments on the text, but there's one point where Harry grabbed the nearest piece of paper to take notes on a phone call, and elsewhere his grocery list accidentally got stuck in.
- In The Musical Comedy Of Murders Of 1940, Elsa von Grossenkenueten talks about her grandfather's great achievements in the Kaiser's secret police. She asks her houseguests if they've heard of various historical espionage documents. She begins with the Dreyfus Papers, lists a few more to the complete incomprehension of the others in the room and ends with "the von Emmett Shopping List!?!?
- Subverted in All The Great Books (Abrdiged) where a certain character, angry at having been given another character's grocery list instead of his poetry, tears it up. Turns out his poems were on the back.
- In the spoof play Murder In the Magnolias, the lawyer who comes in to read the will for the deceased land owner initially reads off a recipe for gumbo, going on for a while until someone points it out to him.
- Inverted in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All where a witness tries to hide her possession of an important document by claiming "This is my top-secret list of groceries to buyyyyyyy!"
- Fernswarthy's Letter from Kingdom of Loathing probably sets some kind of record, starting out as the great (but senile) wizard excoriating his pupils for digging up his body, meandering into a reminiscence about the last kid who bugged him, segueing from that to a friendly letter to someone away on vacation before finally, yes, ending with a grocery list.
- Inverted in Sam & Max: Freelance Police Season 2 where you actually have to replace a list of swear words with a grocery list to solve one puzzle. Which results in the Soda Poppers being referred to as the *bleep* Poppers for the rest of the game.
- In Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando, Angela hands a copy of her ID card to Clank, commenting that it should get them into a Mega Corp. facility.
"Forty percent off a complete service at Groovy Lube?"
- The Homestar Runner cartoon "The Interview". Strong Bad tries to interview Homestar, but Homestar at first thinks he's at a job interview and hands Strong Bad his "resume", not realizing it's his grocery list.
Strong Bad: That's not a love poem! That is a lavishly produced grocery list!
- Then in the sbemail "Love Poems", Homestar relays a "love poem" to Marizpan, which is more like an acrostic poem full of foodstuffs.
Homestar Runner: No, here is my grocery list: Amazing thing, amazing thing, amazing thing, amazing thing!
Strong Bad: Woah, where have you been shopping?
Homestar Runner: Sky Mall.
- In An early lost episode of Eddsworld called Punch'd, when they are trying to find out stuff about Peter Andre Matt says "Right, so what we know about Peter is that he enjoys walks on the beach and meals for two- hey wait a minute! Oh right that's his dating advert. So what we know about Peter is that he is a socially retarded solo artist who tried to revive his career with a crappy song"
- Not quite, but almost: In this installment of Scary Go Round, the Devil makes an appearance. He's evidently looking at the right note; just misreads it: "Excuse me. Ryan Beckwith? I believe you owe me your soup. Oh, wait, no, can't read my own writing. Soul. You owe me your soul."
- Happened in this The Noob page.
- Particularly odd example in this Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, and another one here.
- In an Adventurers! sidestory, the evil Miguel proclaims that he will "defeat chicken sandwiches" before realizing that his speech and grocery list got mixed up.
- Exterminatus Now managed to fuse this trope with a (not very) Badass Creed.
Code of the Demon Hunters: Demons are bad. Kill demons. Also, remember milk, cereal, and bread.
- Played with in this Wondermark.
- Used in this Little Dee strip.
- Least I Could Do : Rayne Summers has some unusual corporate demands. Not quite a grocery list, though.
- In the Punyverse arc of Sluggy Freelance, one of the pilots of that dimension's Voltron expy is kidnapped, and the replacement pilot is given a note card to read her vehicle's transformation catchphrase:
Secret Cranky Office Temp: Gallon of milk, tube of hemorrhoi...
Secret Leader Weatherman: Wrong note-card.
- In A Loonatic's Tale: Stone Cold Crazy, Laguna puts some organs into a machine for analysis. The analysis comes back buried in a grocery list.
- Inverted in VG Cats, where the title character of Slender accidentally grabs one of the crazy notes people keep leaving around his forest instead of his grocery list, which Aeris and Leo find tacked to a tree.
- Subverted in Cyanide & Happiness here. A doctor informs someone that he has an STD, and suggests to make a list of his past sexual partners. When the man shows the doctor such a list, the doctor points out that it's a grocery list. The man's response? "I like food."
- Inverted in one My Little Pony fanart. Vinyl Scratch came home with a bunch of food for a party: Berry Punch, Lemon Drops, Bon Bons, etc. Octavia asked what all this was for. It turns out it wasn't a grocery list, but the guest list.
- Used in French audio webseries Le Donjon de Naheulbeuk. The Ranger's list of the kind of monsters the adventurers are likely to encounter runs thus:
"...all sorts of living dead, giant spiders, orcs and goblins, cave trolls, wizards, cursed warriors, mutant rats, a bottle of oil, toilet paper, two sponges and pasta."
- It can help to check which piece of paper went where, as one woman discovered at the pharmacy while trying to figure out why another household member was taking so long getting groceries.
- DuckTales, Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck, TaleSpin, etc. (Common in "The Disney Afternoon" set of cartoons.)
- One specific example - In one Goof Troop episode, Goofy was obsessed with writing poetry, and all his poems were spectacularly bad. When he picked a poem at random, it later turned out to be his grocery list... and it won. To be fair, it rhymed.
- The villain in Darkwing Duck's "In Like Blunt" is beaten when he tries to auction off a list of spy information but Darkwing manages to swap it with a chocolate chip cookie recipe. The supervillain audience is not amused.
- Used a few times in Kim Possible:
- In Kim Possible Movie: So the Drama, Drakken plays "the trading game" with bad guy Big Daddy Brotherson and initially receives the man's grocery list.
- In the first episode of the fourth season, Professor Dementor drops his list at one location, making it easier for Kim and Ron to find him in the next.
- In another episode of the fourth season where Drakken keeps his plans on 3x5 cards, he mistakenly says that after remembering his foolproof plan, they bowl with the henchmen, indicating his cards are out of order.
- In yet another episode, Ron writes a love poem to help Wade impress Monique. When Wade starts reading, it turns out to have been Ron's biology report. Ron then realizes he turned the poem in for his report (it gets an A+).
- The Critic: Subverted through overuse- When Jay Sherman's Iraqi captor intends to hand him anti-American propaganda to read on live television, he ends up giving Jay a letter to the Urkel fan club, a personal ad, and an invitation to a kegger.
- The Simpsons:
- In the episode "Cape Feare," Sideshow Bob writes a list of his diabolical plans in his own blood and ends it with "Buy corn holders". Then he starts writing a letter to "Life in these United States" before passing out.
"Use a PEN, Sideshow Bob!"
- Subverted when Bart and Milhouse were left in charge of Comic Book Guy's store, Milhouse read out his instructions (chocolate malt balls, doughnuts, etc). Bart dismissed this as his grocery list, but no, it was indeed his instructions.
- In the episode "Cape Feare," Sideshow Bob writes a list of his diabolical plans in his own blood and ends it with "Buy corn holders". Then he starts writing a letter to "Life in these United States" before passing out.
- In Arthur, Francine and the Brain are fighting, so Arthur and Buster write fake apology letters to try to get them to make up. When Arthur delivers his to the Brain, the Brain reads it and yells "This isn't an apology, it's a list of demands!" as the letter is just a list of toys and dolls preceded by "I want." Arthur quickly realizes that he wrote the letter on the back of his little sister's Christmas list.
- Spongebob Squarepants a few times
Plankton: The secret formula is — One bottle of molting lotion, take passport photo, buy new safe, travel size?! This is a to-do list!
- "Oh my God! A floating shopping list! Aaaaaaaahhhhhhh!" "I'm not a shopping list... I'M A GHOOOOOOOOOST!"
- Spongebob reads his to-do list: "Let's see... go to work, go to work, go to work, go to work. That isn't right. I need the one for Sunday!"
- Another one has Spongebob reading form a book for a seance, but is actually reading the ingredients for a bottle of mustard.
- An example shows up in an episode of Phineas and Ferb when Major Monogram is relating to Agent P a list of suspicious items that Doofenshmirtz has purchased. As soon as he reads off "blood sausage", he cites this trope word for word.
- Made more amusing by the fact that, given some of Doof's prior schemes, blood sausage wouldn't have been outside the realm of possibilities.
- The hybrid list idea is done with "big laundry".
- This trope was also partly responsible for thwarting one of Doofinschmirtz's schemes. While using an -inator that moves objects to a random horrible location, he mixes up his "horrible location" wheel with a "dry cleaning wheel" which exists for... reasons he can't recall, and zaps a party into his pants.
- Subverted in the Family Guy episode "Brothers and Sisters", where Cloudcuckoolander Mayor Adam West is getting married to Lois' sister, Carol, and they're saying their own vows:
Adam West: Milk, butter, cat food, those new potato chips in the snack aisle, beer, deodorant, garbage bags, toothpaste...Carol: Adam, I think that's your shopping list.Adam West: No, these are my vows. They're all the reasons why I'll always love you.
Quagmire: Today I ate Peaches, Honey, Candy, Ginger, Olive ... you know what? This is the wrong list.
- Inverted in the episode "Amish Guy". Quagmire reads what is implied to be a list of women he has slept with, thinking it is his food journal.
- Freefonix: In "Back by Unpopular Demand", BCD are recording a new song. One of the takes is ruined when The Ditz accidentally starts singing a Chinese take-out menu rather than the lyrics of the song.
- On one episode of Inspector Gadget, the Once an Episode reading of the exploding mission document was completely thrown off the rails by Chief Quimby accidentally handing Gadget his grocery list. The assignment still did explode after Gadget read it, of course.
- On Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, when Robotnik gives Scratch and Grounder the coordinates to where they're supposed attack;
Grounder: (Reading from paper) "Single, 700-pound villain seeks suitable companion..."Robotnik: (Embarassed) Whoops, uh, wrong paper, give me that. ''(Snatches paper back)
- The Kids From Room 402: Freddy once accidentally brought his mom's grocery list to school, rather than his homework, and didn't realize his mistake untill Miss Graves started to read it out loud in front of the class.
- In "Yes Monkey" on WordGirl, the Mayor does this when he pulls out the wrong note card for a prepared speech in presenting yet another key to the city to WordGirl and Captain Huggyface.
- The Fairly Oddparents: Timmy's Dad has a bucket list he keeps inside an actual bucket. When he first tried to read it to Timmy, he instead picked up the bucket's receipt.
- On the Australian claymation series Plasmo, at one point one of the alien bounty hunters who teamed up with the protagonists successfully talks the Team Pet through disabling a malfunctioning system on their spaceship, only to realise after success that he was actually reading the instructions to their new toasted sandwich maker.
- In "The Balance" of Justice League Unlimited, Hermes comes to deliver a message from the Gods that Wonder Woman has to go to Hell and free Hades from Felix Faust. However, the scroll he hands her is actually a personal ad; "I think I have a shot. It's her cell number."
- Strange Hill High: In "Snoozical", Becky hands Miss Grackle what she thinks is the sheet music for her audition:
Becky: Can you play this for me, please?
Becky: Why not?
Grackle: It's the owner's manual for an electric tin-opener.
- The Danger Mouse episode "The Aliens Are Coming" has Colonel K reading the wrong side of a message received from outer space: "Two pints, please, and small cream."
- The Loud House: Episode "Party Down", when Leni bounces for Lori's party, Lincoln points out that her "guest list" is actually a grocery list. Leni being Leni, she immediately laments that this means feta cheese isnít coming.
- Happened to Woody Woodpecker when he was presenting the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, reading from his shopping list instead of the list of nominees.