Two characters are discussing something... but they're discussing two totally different things. Their actions and responses—vague enough to be applied to either topic—happen to match up so well, though, that neither notices for some time, if at all.
A common scenario in comedies. Expect one of the 'conversations' to be sex-related. Similar to Three Is Company, but with the overhearing party actually being a participant. Mistaken Confession is a possible outcome if the conversation is an interrogation. The technical term in real life is "double illusion of transparency". This can also happen when a question is answered with a seemingly unrelated answer until one thinks about interpretation.
See also Multitasked Conversation. Not to be confused with One Scene, Two Monologues, where no misunderstanding is possible because nobody listens anyway. Related to Digging Yourself Deeper. If one side is doing it deliberately, it may be Non Answer.
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In a Vonage VOIP commercial, a couple with a new child walk into the room where the father refers to their daughter as "their new bundle of joy". Hearing the word "Bundle" the wife remembers something and explicitly states that they are losing a lot of money to his current phone bundle and they should drop it. The husband, seemingly unable to hear the word "Phone" in her sentence, thinks she is talking about their child. So when she states they should get rid of the bundle as it will just get harder to do the longer they don't, the husband has a look of utter horror on his face.
Some of the Bresnan Communications commercials involve a married couple talking about 2 different things
Anime and Manga
In Dragon Ball Z, Gohan gets blackmailed by a girl to go out with her (not Videl), since she knows "his secret." No, it isn't that he's the "Great Saiyaman." It's that he wears teddy bear underwear.
In episode 2 of Boku Wa Tomodachi Ga Sukunai, when playing the Monster Hunter game, Kodaka tells Sena and Yozora that since its a co-op game, they should try playing more cooperatively. Both girls immediately "agree" they should "play more cooperatively" from that point on, and in the next scene they're just fighting each other more than the monsters.
In Fullmetal Alchemist, The Elric's begin talking to Maria Ross when she mentions Hughes's death. However, due to Mustang telling them that he retired to the countryside, they think Ross is talking about his retirement. It's then subverted when she mentions that he received a double promotion. When the Elrics question the flawed logic of somebody retiring and receiving a Double Promotion, both parties realize what happened.
In Ichiban Ushiro No Dai Maou, when Akuto goes to visit Junko's father, he doesn't realize that the reason for the visit is a marriage interview, rather than just a typical meet and greet. Junko however, thought he knew, and their conversation is pretty ambiguous until she secretly meets with him in his room at night.
Expertly done in an episode of Irresponsible Captain Tylor, where the main character has a running conversation with himself which has little do with what several characters who come in one at a time have to say to him... but somehow manages to sound okay to them. Is easily the series' Crowning Moment of Funny.
The last episode of Kyou No Go No Ni ends with two of the characters talking about a childhood promise they made. The boy is talking about a Childhood Marriage Promise, and the girl is talking about her (broken) promise not to tell about the time the boy wet his bed.
Happened at least twice in Love Hina, at least in the OVA, with a newly-arrived girl claiming to be 'the promised girl', but actually talking about an entirely different (but nonetheless important) promise than the one that's been a central theme for the entire series.
In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Negi asks Asuna to accompany him on a trip to search for traces of his father, as his magic partner. Asuna misinterprets it as a love confession, as do Yue and Nodoka, who overhear it. Haruna doesn't, but she does enjoy the ensuing hilarity.
Happens in Chapter 25 of the Negima fanfic A Day Indoors between Negi & Yuuna, when Yuuna misinterprets just what is required to form a Pactio. (Negi: "We're supposed to kiss!" Yuuna (having just stripped nude): "Sounds like a great way to start!" (jumps him))
A staple of Mitsudomoe. Such as Shinya's fangirls mistaking a younger photo of the triplets' dad for their crush. Futaba being a Daddy's Girl leads to some awkward tension between them.
Revolutionary Girl Utena. In episode 27, Nanami thinks she has laid an egg. The rest of the episode is full of this trope whenever she tries to talk to someone about it.
Several times in School Rumble. A notable one is when Eri idly asks Tenma if she's seen a male body before. Tenma says yes, referring to a wrestling match she had recently gone to with Karasuma. The resulting conversation has Eri thinking Tenma is talking about sex while Tenma describes the various moves she saw at the match.
To Aru Majutsu no Index: Touma confronts his dad about getting involved with magic and casting the appearance-swapping Angel Fall spell... and his dad thinks he's just talking about collecting occult souvenirs.
Kimi No Iru Machi could be considered The Series of this trope. Seriously one cannot go three chapters without the story of the week situation around a character thinking of one thing and everyone else thinking of something entirely different. Though it doesn't help that the characters have a habit of using vague comments. Some Key Examples being:
Eba being told that Erectile Disfunction could lead to failed relationships. Believing the it is some kind of Gum Disease she goes around casually asking all of her friends about Haruto might having this.
Eba's friend asks if she and Haruto would like to try this sometime to which she holds up a magazine with an article about a vacation. Eba sees another article about sexual exploration and thinks she wants to have a threesome, and is later shocked that Haruto is so casual about accepting.
Haruto is on a trip with an old female friend to which he causally mentions that he met up with someone he hasn't seen in awhile and is happy to be with her. While he was talking about his girlfriend Eba, she believed he was confessing his feelings to her.
Then there is the situation where Haruto's female neighbor asked if there was anything she could do to help him after he helped her earlier. He comments that she could help help him with a load he needs to get out. While he is talking about his dirty laundry, she assumed he wanted to have sex with her.
In episode 2 , Nanami walks to school with Sorata and Mashiro. She asks them what their relationship is, and the resident Idiot Savant Mashiro innocently answers that he's her "first boy". She then makes it sound like they're lovers, causing Nanami to run off, and she finally clarifies he's the first boy she's befriended, which irritates him due to her out of context dialogue just moments earlier.
Another hilarious incident occurs in episode 7, when Mashiro enters the bathroom after Sorata is done cleaning it up. His sister Yuko wonders what he's been doing at the apartment, when she shows up, and pats her belly and says its ready. His sister immediately assumes they were sleeping together and passes out. Then Mashiro mentions that dinner's ready.
One that Mashiro was not to blame: In episode 11, Sorata overhears Rita on the phone talking to Mashiro's father. She says that Mashiro will be returning to where she belongs, and he immediately assumes she would be heading back to England. Episode 12 reveals that said place was Sakura Hall, and Mashiro was at the airport with Rita merely to send her off.
In Spider-Girl #5, there is an oblique conversation between Peter Parker and Phil Urich after which Peter thinks he made Phil understand that Mayday must not continue being Spider-Girl while Phil thinks Peter told him to train her being a superheroine because Peter can't do it himself for fear of worrying his wife Mary Jane.
Happens in X-Factor vol. 2 #29, when Theresa tries to tell Jamie she's pregnant with his child, and Jamie thinks she's trying to quit the team. The situation is resolved and lampshaded by Monet, who apparently recognizes the situation from Three's Company.
Earlier, Kyon and Mori had a conversation about protection. Kyon thought they were talking about bulletproof armour when actually...
Which started when Mori misunderstood a comment about people literallysleeping together.
A couple or few Lois and Clark fanfics have Lois thinking that her partner is gay, while Clark thinks that Lois has discovered he's Superman. Cue hilarity, with such questions as "When did you realize you were...different?"
Happens twice in My Cousin Vinny - first case is a Mistaken Confession, second is a pure instance of this trope. Vinny is introducing himself to his cousin's friend and preparing to represent him in court, but he thinks Vinny is a prisoner preparing to rape him.
In the Get Smart movie, Max attempts to drop hints in the bakery that he is trying to find the secret base hidden underneath. The lady he's speaking to, however, believes she is being hit on and responds that she has a boyfriend, but could make an exception, and the flour sacks in the back are very comfortable.
A lot of Fight Club is like this (though it's impossible to tell without knowing the big plot twist near the end).
Detective Krevoy: Well, uh, can you tell us his name? Ted: Jeez, I didn't catch it. Detective Stabler: So he was a stranger? It was totally random? Ted: He was the first hitcher I saw, what can I tell you? Now cut to the chase, how much trouble am I in? Detective Stabler: First tell us why you did it. Ted: Why I did it? I don't know. Boredom? I thought I was doing the guy a favor. Detective Krevoy: This wasn't your first time, was it, Ted? How many we talking? Ted: Hitchhikers? I don't know - fifty... a hundred maybe - who keeps track? Hey, I know this is the Bible Belt, but where I come from this is not that big a deal.
Played straight in Fiddler on the Roof when Lazar Wolf wants to ask Tevye for permission to marry his daughter, but since Lasar is a butcher, Tevye assumes he wants to buy Tevye's milk cow. See the entry under Theater.
Done in a totally non-comedic fashion in Shutter Island when Teddy Daniels finds George Noyce. Noyce actually gives away the entire, cruel Twist Ending: that Teddy is actually Andrew Laeddis (who Teddy believes is responsible for his wife's death... and he's right), that he's an inmate of the asylum, and that the entire "investigation" is just a game for Teddy's benefit. Teddy, however, is so wrapped up in his delusions that he can't understand anything Noyce is saying (except for the bit about experiments in the lighthouse, which, ironically, are Noyce's delusions), and the audience is so trusting of Teddy's subjective point of view that they can't appreciate Noyce's words until the movie's over.
Applied liberally in Roberto Begnini's Johnny Stecchino, where many, many people converse with Dante on the actions of his Identical Stranger, the titular mob informant which he is unwittingly playing Body Double for, while Dante himself is talking about something much more innocent, like the banana he stole.
Les Grossman's infamous exchange with Flaming Dragon in Tropic Thunder. They're a group of warlords trying to ransom a hostage, and he thinks they're a rival talent agency trying to sign his biggest star. Possibly subverted in that I doubt Grossman's approach would have been any different had he known they were warlords.
Grossman: "Take a step back and literally FUCK YOUR OWN FACE! I don't know what kind of Pan-Pacific bullshit power play you're trying to pull on me, but Asia, Jack, is my territory. So whatever you're thinking, you better think again! Otherwise I'm gonna have to head down there and I will rain down an ungodly fucking firestorm upon you! you're gonna have to call the fucking United Nations and get a fucking binding resolution to keep me from fucking destroying you. I'm talking about scorched earth motherfucker! I will massacre you! I WILL FUCK YOU UP!"
Juno: when Mark and Vanessa are painting the baby room, the actual lines they have about the shades of yellow is neither here nor there.
Sideways: Paul Giamatti's poetic description of why he loves Pinot Noir probably isn't about wine.
In Touch Of Pink Alim and Giles discuss a man who's played an important role in their lives. Giles talks about the guy he's been sleeping with, Alim talks about his imaginary friend, and both are surprised that the other already knows.
In Being There (both movie and source novella), the vast majority of the conversations Chance the Gardener has with other characters turn out as this due to their preconceived notions about him — because he looks and sounds like a cultured businessman, that's what he's assumed to be, rather than the mentally-challenged gardener he actually is.
In Billy Wilder's The Emperor's Waltz, the Emperor is suggesting the breeding of two poodles. The general he is talking to believes they are discussing an Arranged Marriage for his daughter.
A very good one happens in the first Shrek movie when Shrek overhears Donkey's conversation with Fiona about her turning into an ogre at night. Because he hears only part of the conversation, when she says, "Who could love such a hideous, ugly beast?", he thinks she's referring to him. The confrontation he has with her the next day is very much two different conversations:
Fiona: You heard what I said? Shrek: Every word! Fiona: But I thought you'd understand! Shrek: Oh, I understand! Like you said, "who could love such an ugly beast"? Fiona:[stricken] ...But I thought that wouldn't matter to you. Shrek: Yeah, well, it does!
The subtext makes sense from either viewpoint, but Shrek's viewpoint makes Fiona's responses sound offensive, and vice versa. This results in a huge misunderstanding.
The inverse of this (a case of One Dialogue, Two Conversations) happens in an early scene in Shrek 2. As Shrek and Fiona approach Harold and Lillian, both Shrek and Harold argue with their respective spouses, and the dialogue strings together like so:
Harold: (Waving while nervously addressing Lillian) Who on earth are they?
Lillian: (Also waving) I think that's our little girl.
Harold: That's not little, that's a really big problem! Wasn't she supposed to kiss Prince Charming and break the spell?
Lillian: Well, he's no Prince Charming, but they do look- (Cut to Shrek)
Shrek: Happy now? We came, we saw them. Now let's go before they light the torches...
Fiona: They're my parents!
Shrek: Hello? They locked you in a tower!
Fiona: Hey! That was for my own- (Cut)
Harold: Good! Here's our chance! Let's go back inside and pretend we're not home!
Lillian: (Grabbing Harold's arm and forcing him to keep walking) Harold! We have to be-
Shrek: Quick! While they're not looking, we can make a run for it!
Fiona: Shrek, stop it! Everything's going to be-
Harold: -a disaster! There is no way-
Fiona: -you can do this.
Shrek: But I really...
(The four of them are now face-to-face)
Harold and Shrek: Here...
In Enemy of the State, Dean weaponizes this trope. Early in the movie some Chekhov's GunmenMafiosi confronted him about a tape being used as evidence in a legal case he was on. In the main plot of the movie an acquaintance had slipped Dean a tape with evidence of murder by an NSA agent. When Dean has finally figured out the plot but got captured by the NSA, he tells the NSA agents that the Mafiosi have the tape they want. A meeting is arranged and the NSA and Mafia play out this trope. They end up murdering each other rather thoroughly, never realizing that they were talking about two completely different tapes.
In The Rescuers Down Under, Bernard tries to propose to Bianca, but misplaces the ring. While he looks for it, Bianca receives word of the mission to Australia, and when Bernard returns and tries to propose again, she thinks he's talking about the mission and accepts. He is delighted, but is perplexed that she wants to do it now, and that she only needs to wear khaki shorts and hiking boots.
A very unusual musical version is done in the little-seen French film Les jolies choses (Pretty Things) (2001): towards the the end, Lucie who is really Marie pretending to be her famous sister, as Lucie committed suicide performs in a concert and sings the title song, the lyrics of which include her addressing someone named "Lucie" angrily ("tu peux partir, je ne t'aime pas"—you can leave, I don't love you) and then eventually saying "mais toi, c'est moi" (but you are me) and ending on a bittersweet loving note: "les jolies choses, c'est la mort...maintenant Lucie dort, maintenant, Lucie, dors" (the pretty things are death; now Lucie is sleeping, now, Lucie, sleep). The audience is cheering and singing along, thinking it's just a hypothetical song referring to herself and employing poetic license, entirely missing the Lyrical Dissonance and not realizing she's really talking about her twin's suicide, first expressing anger at her selfishness and then realizing her love for her and forgiving her and finally wishing her peace. It's actually really powerful.
Used repeatedly, between varying people, in Ruthless People, to glorious effect. A Gold Digger thinks she send her boyfriend a blackmail tape with him murdering his wife, but it's a man having loud sex with a prostitute. So the boyfriend calls the girlfriend thanking her for sending him the tape and promising to do the same thing to her. This makes the girlfriend fear for her safety and send the tape to a judge... who turns out be the exact man having sex, and while she thinks she's just helping him with his investigation, he thinks she's blackmailing him with the tape to arrest her boyfriend.
In Oscar, Snaps browbeats Anthony into marrying Lisa by convincing him that his tailors, the Finuccis are really hired killers. When they later brag about their success (a photo of a murdered gangster wearing one of their suits) and offer to make him a suit, Anthony thinks they're the ones who killed him and are threatening to do the same to him.
How to Train Your Dragon: Hiccup thinks his father has found out about Toothless, his father is actually trying to congratulate him on doing well in dragon training. Things get awkward.
All four of the silent debates featured there are like that.
There's another one in which the uneducated deaf-mute of Chelm defeats a Cossack who had gone to the University of Krakow. It is also silent, but it has a completely different set of misunderstandings.*
See "The Jar of Fools" for more.
Carrot and Angua's discussion of affirmative action hiring practices in Men at Arms. Carrot admits Angua was probably accepted to the Watch, and Vimes probably isn't happy about this, because she's a w... and Angua interrupts in outrage. Carrot (and, at this point, the reader) thinks Angua was hired because she's a woman; Angua, thinking (correctly) that it's more likely she was hired because she's a werewolf, assumes Carrot knows this. The resulting conversation makes sense both ways.
Harlequin novel Christmas In Cold Creek has two daughters of a con artist (for the younger one's safety from her real mother, the older one claims to be her mother) settling in Idaho. The older one, Becca, thinks the attractive local police officer has found out her "daughter" isn't really hers. Instead, he's concerned about the little girl's "illness" which turns out to be a con job.
In Sense and Sensibility, Mrs. Jennings watches a conversation between Colonel Brandon and Elinor and assumes he is proposing to her, and has a conversation with Elinor afterwards, congratulating her. The colonel had actually been offering a living to Edward. Elinor and Mrs. Jennings don't realise they're on different pages until their second conversation about it.
A short-lived one in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince occurs when Ron accidentally eats a candy laced with love potion by Romilda Vane (originally meant for Harry, but Harry was wise enough not to eat it.) Ron then starts going on about how amazing "she" is, and Harry assumes he's talking about his current girlfriend, Lavender, until Ron lets slip that "she doesn't even know who I am".
Another one occurs in Goblet of Fire. Snape accuses Harry of stealing Polyjuice ingredients from his office, but words it in such a way that Harry thinks he's talking about the time Hermione stole those ingredients two years ago for the Polyjuice Potion in Chamber Of Secrets. In fact, Snape is talking about a much more recent (and plot relevant) theft, but Harry (and therefore the reader) doesn't learn this until the end of the book.
A sinister example in the Ruth Rendell novel, The Lake of Darkness. One character is trying to do a good deed with a pool win and is offering to buy a house for another character and his mother in the country. The other character thinks he's being hired as a hitman.
Pritkin and Cassie have a brief one in Hunt the Moon. Cassie believes they're talking about how Mircea considers Pritkin a danger to her physical well-being, while Pritkin believes she's speaking of Mircea's distrust of Pritkin as a potential romantic rival.
The Monk: Don Christoval is just trying to be nice. Leonella swears he wants her.
Played for Drama in The Traitor Game. What cements Michael's suspicion that Francis had betrayed their secret is Francis, noticing that he is acting strange, asking "is it because you found out about...?". Michael thinks that Francis is talking about Evgard, and nods. Francis thinks that Michael found out that he is gay.
How to Survive a Horror Movie describes this sort of conversation as a common symptom of being Dead All Along and recommends that people who find themselves having strangely vague conversations try asking trivia questions.
A memorable example occurred when Harry realized Tommy had grown taller than him. So they went to an enlargement clinic, not realizing, of course, that it was a penis enlargement clinic. Hilarity Ensues.
Tommy: So he used to be bigger than me, but then my aunt realized that I'm the bigger one now. He can't stand it. He makes me measure him like five times a day.
In another episode, Harry's pet from the Home Planet came to Earth as a human and destroyed one of Sally's shoes. Meanwhile, Don thinks that Sally is pregnant.
Dick: [on the phone about Sally's shoes] Well, it's my sister's problem, why don't you talk to her! [hangs up] So Don, what brings you here? Don: Sally's... "problem". Dick: Oh, it's no big deal. It's just going to cost me a lot of money, that's all. Don: Do you know who's responsible? Dick: Of course. Harry watched the whole thing happen. His best friend did it.
Frasier does the equivalent of moving from Newtonian Physics to Quantum Mechanics to this trope. About one-third of the episodes from later seasons are built on this.
The Green Green Grass: Boycie is talking to the local MP. Boycie thinks it's about him getting a knighthood for a charity donation. The MP thinks it's about gay sex...
This happened in an episode of Blossom in which Joey's dad has a (very indirect) talk with him about some drugs he found in his room. Joey knows nothing about the drugs and thinks his dad found condoms in his room. Hilarity Ensues.
In Friends, Chandler ends up thinking that Monica intends to get breast enlargement surgery, while Monica thinks Chandler is freaking out about her becoming pregnant. As a result, Chandler barges in and asks that Monica not change at all - she responds that not only her breasts will swell (as a result of pregnancy) but also her hands and feet as well. They talk for a bit, getting more and more confused, until eventually Rachel mentions the baby and they realize what the other was talking about.
On one episode of Just Shoot Me!, Maya gets Elliot a game system for his birthday, while Recurring Character Persky got him sex toys as a gag. Unbeknownst to either of them, Dennis has switched the two gifts. Thus, Elliot interprets Maya's invitation to play a few games as her wanting to engage in S&M (saying that she's going to beat him and make him cry certainly doesn't clear things up any), while Persky thinks Elliot wants to do the same.
Narrator: At no point were Michael and Maeby talking about the same person. And there were only four people in their group.
In Strangers with Candy, when Jerri and Noblet discuss Jellineck's car accident, which they both feel guilty about. Talking about "the person responsible", Jerri thinks Noblet knows she was the one driving the car and Noblet thinks Jerri knows he was there and ran off. They realize when Noblet refers to "the person" as "he".
One episode of Sister Sister had a genes/jeans confusion. They're Korean.
iCarly:In iEnrage Gibby, when Carly is talking to Mr. Klemish, She thinks they're talking about a bad review of Spencer's sculptures, while Mr. Klemish thinks they're talking about Spencer's fake death.
Dear God, all the time on Coupling. Notable examples include: Sally thinking Patrick's girlfriend is stepping out on him with Jeff, while Patrick's girlfriend (who's bisexual and in favor of an open relationship) thinks Sally is hitting on her; Patrick flirting with Jane's therapist, with each one believing the other is gay; and the telephone mess involving a phony bar full of Australians and "Giselle, the French bitch" that leads to Susan and Steve's break-up.
One favorite is when the guys are having a conversation with Sally's date. He's a butcher, but Sally told everyone he's a surgeon, so they are all shocked when he explains that she's one of his regulars and even more shocked when he states, "Well, you know how it goes. Just a few good cuts and you have the woman of your dreams."
In Desperate Housewives near the start of season 6, Carlos and Lynette have a conversation where Carlos is talking about Lynette having breast implants while Lynette thinks he is talking about her pregnancy that she is trying to keep a secret from him, no Mistaken Confession resulted though.
An earlier example (Season 5): Lynette thinks that Tom is using the warehouse where his group rehearse to have sex with another woman. It actually happens that one of his sons is using said warehouse for that. When Lynette confronts Tom, Tom thinks that he's speaking about their son, but after Tom tells her about it, Lynette realizes in horror that his son is having sex with an older woman(much to Tom's shock, as well).
Grounded For Life: Uncle Eddie is confronting the daughter's boyfriend because he thinks he got her pregnant. It turns out they just got tattoos together.
Family Matters: Carl thinks he is arguing with Harriet about their sex life; she is under the impression that the conversation is about barbecuing burgers.
This type of conversation happens between Charlie and Mac in an episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Charlie thinks they are talking about Mac's murderous activities and Mac thinks they are talking about the person he is dating.
An episode of Leverage, "The Three Nights of the Hunter Job", has a very brief example. The mark for the episode, a journalist, has been steered towards a politician to ask about an alleged government project called "Destiny". The Destiny that he thinks she means is his favourite stripper.
My Wife and Kids: Michael listens to his daughter and her boyfriend talk about mini-golf. He thinks they're talking about sex, much to his horror.
Subverted between Brian and Justin in an episode of Queer As Folk. They are both aware of the fact that their discussion concerns two different things at once (namely, whether Brian should accept Justin back on his firm, and whether they should resume their relationship).
In another episode, Brian and Michael are very upset about the night before; Brian because Babylon was closed down and Michael because he found out that Melanie and Lindsey had broken up months ago without telling anyone. Hilarity Ensues:
Brian: "How could you eat after what happened last night?" Michael: "You're telling me! Steam's still coming out of my ears." Brian: "My heart's broken. My soul - crushed." Michael: "How do you think I feel?" Brian: "The insensitivity. You know, it's amoral, that's what it is." Michael: "You're telling me." Brian: "How could they do this?" Michael: "You were right. Never trust munchers." Brian: "Munchers?" Michael: "Mel and Linds!" Brian: "What the hell have they got to do with it?" Michael: "Who do you think's responsible?" Brian: "For closing Babylon?"
In "Sorry, Bro" in How I Met Your Mother, Marshall needed a new pair of pants and Lily brought them to the workplace, only to run into Barney. Barney being Barney assumed she was there to give Marshall something else. Their conversation ends with Barney thinking that Lily wanted him to give Marshall that "something else."
The Scrubs episode "My Own Private Practice Guy". JD thinks Dr Cox is jealous of the time he's spending with Dr Fischer - he actually hates Fischer for having an affair with Jordan.
Dr Fischer: But you've gotta know, I never made the first move.
JD: That's a lie! You bought me a latte!
30 Rock, in an episode where Liz was having trouble with her boyfriend and Jenna was thinking of getting an Important Haircut. More a jab at Jenna's self-centeredness than anything:
Jenna: Liz, you seem really stressed out. You want to talk about what's going on? Liz: I just hope it's not a mistake. Jenna: Well maybe it is, but you have to listen to your heart. Liz: Why meddle with something that was great? Jenna: Oh Liz, it'll grow back. Liz: What? Jenna: We're talking about my hair, right?
Jack prides himself on his ability to hold two conversations in his office, one with the person in the office and one with the person on the phone, by giving a response that answers both questions. In one episode, he does this with Liz.
One episode revealed Tracy had never heard of the Google search engine and had been using "google" as an Unusual Euphemism for something else. Cue flashblack:
Tracy: Liz Lemon, you mind if I google myself in your office? Liz: Sure, Tracy! Tracy: Can I use your computer? Liz: How else are you going to do it?
On Modern Family, Claire tries to encourage Haley to break up with her dimbulb boyfriend Dylan, using an analogous couple in the soap opera they're watching. Haley thinks Claire's talking about her own marriage, which happened to start out the same way.
Also happened when Luke read Haley's diary on the computer, but Claire thought he had stumbled across pornographic pictures.
And again, when Gloria is trying to apologize to Claire for accidentally sending a rude email, and Claire is talking about the kids walking in on her and Phil having sex. By the end of it, they think Gloria is offering a threesome with them.
After Jay accidentally insults a pair of vacation acquaintances, Gloria tells them he's going senile. Then they try to talk to Manny about it, beginning with "We hear he's a little off his game," which gets Manny thinking they're talking about Jay's golf skills ("He does swear a lot. The worst is when he goes in the woods.").
The Spin City episode "The Great Pretender" has Mike being named sexiest man in New York City and finding himself unable to perform after a mistimed comment from the Mayor about not being able to get away from the public eye. He finally asks the Mayor if he had any "problems" when running for office, and he tells him about the time he took his wife on a romantic getaway... only to have his golf game run out the window. Mike ends up running with it and ends up getting great advice, though the Mayor remains oblivious throughout the conversation.
MAYOR: You a golfer, Flaherty?
MIKE: Ah, used to be. Haven't, ah, played much in a while. I'm, ah, thinking of taking it up again.
MAYOR: Well, you should. Best six hours of your life.
MIKE: *beat* I think that might be a little optimistic, sir.
Spaced: Marsha has seen Tim kissing his girlfriend, believing him to already in a relationship with Daisy. When she confronts him about this, however, Tim —unaware of this — believes her to be talking about a birthday cake he's arranged for Daisy's birthday. Misunderstandings ensue:
Marsha: If you don't tell her... I will.
Tim: But... you'll spoil the surprise.
Marsha: [Appalled] You bastard!
Thanks to Sir Humphrey's Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness and overall Obstructive Bureaucrat demeanour, a lot of the conversations he has with Jim Hacker in Yes Minister fall here, but one particularly notable example concerns the time he attempted to inform the Minister that he was leaving the department because he'd received a promotion, only to manage to convince Hacker through his pompous inability to clearly express himself that he was dying.
In Bottom, Eddie gives Richie his birthday present; a slip of paper with the words "Madame Swish, 3.30" written on it. It's a horse that Eddie's received a good tip on and is planning to put money on. Richie thinks it's referring to... something else. The conversation gets... confused.
This trope is the basis of the Whose Line Is It Anyway? game "Press Conference", where one of the players plays a certain person holding a press conference, but has no clue who he is or what he's done, whereas everyone else playing reporters does, and must try to clue him in on it.
Done for rare dramatic effect on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy and Xander go to talk to Spike, who seems distracted and occasionally says things that don't make sense. Since he's been a bit nuts since getting his soul back, we don't think anything of it. Then we see that Willow is also there, having unconsciously cast a spell that prevents her and the other Scoobies from sensing each other at all.
A dark, *dark* variant in the last episode of Blake's 7, and a literal example of Poor Communication Kills. Blake assumes he's explaining the situation. His second in command, Avon, assumes he's confessing to a betrayal. It doesn't help that his behaviour towards Avon's fellow crewman Tarrant has been equally open to misinterpretation. The conversation goes something like this:
Avon: Stand still! Have you betrayed us? Have you betrayed *me*?
Blake: Tarrant doesn't understand.
Avon: Neither do I!
Blake: I set all this up! (What he means is that he's set up an anti-Federation network and wants Avon to join. The paranoid Avon thinks it means that Blake has set him up.)
One episode of Family Matters had Harriette complaining about her husband Carl's bland barbecue technique, so she left him a magazine article on barbecue recipes. Carl thought she wanted him to read the "Rate Your Mate" article a few pages over. The scenario climaxed in a hilarious conversation packed to the brim with double entendres where Harriette was talking about barbecue but Carl thought she was talking about their sex life:
Carl: I read your magazine article. And if you had a problem, why didn't you just come to me? Harriette: Oh, Carl. I'm sorry. I was just trying to be helpful. I thought it might be fun to try something different. Carl: Oh, so you're saying that I'm boring. Harriette: Not you, just your technique. Carl: Harriette! Harriette: Well, what's the big deal? I talked it over with Laura, and she agrees! Carl: You talked it over with Laura?! Harriette: Sure, she's part of the family! Carl, it's just that you do the same thing over and over, all summer long, every single Saturday. Carl: Well, excuse me, but I think once a week is pretty darn good considering my back problem! And besides, you can help, you know. Harriette: Well, I would, but you always want to be in control! I thought if you got your act together, we could invite the neighbors over! Carl:Invite the neighbors over?! Harriette: Well, why not? It's not like it's a big secret! They know what we're doing! They're doing the same thing, only better! Carl: Just how do you know that? Harriette: Because Marge gave Ted the article and he's cooking up a storm. You should taste his burgers! Carl: What's that supposed to mean? Harriette: What I said. You should taste his burgers when he barbecues. Carl:(pause) Barbecue? We're talking about barbecue here? Harriette: Yeah. What did you think we were talking about?
Played for drama between Dov and Chris in the second season of Rookie Blue where they open and honestly promise to compete for everything. Chris merely thinks the conversation is about promotions and so forth. Dov on the other hand, is in love with Chris's girlfriend.
On Boy Meets World Cory and Eric have one of these where Cory thinks Topanga told Eric that she is pregnant and Eric thinks that Cory is talking about Topanga's diet, which is what she actually told Eric about.
In "Disharmony," Harmony comes to visit Cordelia in LA. Cordelia hasn't seen Harmony since graduation, and doesn't know she's a vampire. So when she wakes up to Harmony lurking in her bedroom, and Harmony apologizes for her "urges," well... Cordelia thinks she's telling Harmony it's okay she's a lesbian, while Harmony is apologizing for nearly killing Cordelia.
In the episode "Fredless", Fred runs to Lorne, The Empath, for help after panicking and running away from her parents, who have been looking for her for years. Lorne says something about "those monsters" being after her, and both she and the audience are led to think he means her parents... Nope, turns out she was being followed by literal monsters, in the form of demons from what appeared to be just a bit of b-plot - her parents have nothing but good intentions. Interestingly, given how Lorne's powers seem to work, it seems likely that he wasn't entirely sure what the specific threat was, just that something dangerous was after her.
Happens in a more comedic way in Carpe Noctem, in which a man pulls Grand Theft Me on Angel himself - Cordelia tells him to talk to Fred about her crush on him, and because of her gender blender nickname, he assumes Angel is gay, and later mistakes Wesley for the "Fred" she spoke of. He also initially gets the wrong idea when Cordelia says they're going to "the hotel" together.
In Walker, Texas Ranger Trevet and Syd wonder if Gage would like Salsa (the dance). After he comes in he claims he loves Salsa, especially on chips.
In an episode of Castle, Beckett asks the victim's therapist what problems he came to her for. She said he had battled depression, which led to an eating disorder: "His diet was horrible. Scraps from the garbage... dead birds, even his own feces." After a beat, Castle realizes she was actually talking about the victim's dog.
An early episode of Cheers has this conversation between Diane (talking about meditation) and Rick (talking about sex):
Diane: Wait a minute. Don't say that it's not the answer until you've tried it.
Diane: Excuse me. My name is Diane and I have done this for years. I'll tell you I would be happy to teach you how to do it.
Rick: Well, Diane, this is very kind of you but I don't think...
Diane: No, no no. Please do me the favor of trying it with me.
Rick: (To Sam) Is she serious?
Sam: Oh yes. She's serious. She does it all the time. She just said so.
Diane: That's right.
Rick: (pointing to Sam and Diane) Do you...?
Diane: Are you kidding? Him? He would just make jokes.
Rick: Well okay then. Okay! What time is good for you?
Diane: Well personally I like to get at least half an hour of it in before breakfast. But look anytime is alright with me.
Rick: Golly I like you.
Diane: You know there is something so beautiful about experiencing it outdoors.
Rick: Don't people stare at you?
Diane: Yes, sometimes but they end up learning something. Sometimes people even join in. You know all this talk had gotten me so excited. Hell let's do it now!
Diane: Oh oh no, it's a little cold and I prefer to take my shoes off. Um, Sam could we use your office?
Sam: Wait a minute. I'm sorry I let this go too far.
Diane: (while walking with Rick to the office) No no, we don't need to hear from Mr. Skeptic. Rick here is after something and I can show him where it is.
Dharma And Greg. Shortly before Dharma and Greg's "official" wedding, Dharma and Jane are planning to install a shower into the apartment's bathroom. Kitty calls:
Dharma: You know what, I'd love to, but my maid of honor and I are just out the door trying to get stuff for a shower. Kitty: You're having a shower? Dharma: Yeah. Kitty: When? Dharma: Well, we're hoping today. Kitty: Today? Well, you just can't do it like that! I mean, how are people supposed to know about it? Dharma: I just figured they'd just open the door and - bam! - they'd it be! Kitty: Oh, you... unusual girl. Is your mother going to help you? Dharma: Yeah, she read up on it in one of those Time-Life Books. Kitty: Oh my god!
In ''The Two Ronnies" sketch, Crossed Lines, the two people are actually having separate conversations on different phones, but you'd be easily forgiven for thinking they were talking to each other most of the time. Can be watched here.
Another, similar sketch has two people having separate conversations on a train, whose remarks (one about his wife, the other about his garden) begin to dovetail. Eventually they find themselves talking to each other.
Matador has a rather amusing example. The Varnęs family is talking about Hitler's death, when Misse steps in a mentions a death. The Varnęses asumes she's talking about Hitler too, but it turns out that she's talking about her husband, Professor Andersen.
Played with, as a technique, in House. The characters will often hold two conversations simultaneously, seamlessly seguing from Conversation A to Conversation B, replying, and then seguing back to Conversation A. Lather, rinse, and repeat. However, every time, everyone knows what the other person is talking about, as Conversation A is about the medical case, and Conversation B is usually the cast social dynamics.
"Pass the Pepper" by Lou and Peter Berryman.
Madness' "House of Fun". The teenaged protagonist wants to buy some condoms from a chemist. However, for whatever reason he's incapable of actually using the word 'condom' and instead refers to them by a series of increasingly bizarre euphemisms that confuses the chemist into thinking he wants to buy some party supplies.
In one Zits comic strip, teenage Jeremy is explaining to his friend Hector how he's Googled everybody he knows. Hector is somewhat startled (perhaps at the fact that Jeremy now knows everything he'd need to know about everybody), as Jeremy goes on: "Friends, teachers, neighbors... you name 'em, I've Googled 'em." All the while, Jeremy's dad is standing behind them with an increasingly alarmed look on his face, until he runs over to Jeremy's mom to learn that Google is actually an internet search, and not, well...
In one Fox Trot strip, Andy asked Roger what he thought of her new haircut. Roger thought she was asking about the new brand of beer he was drinking and replied that it didn't have much body and he hoped she hadn't paid a lot of money for it. He then wondered why she ran off crying.
Stand Up Comedy
Comedian Carl Barron tells of a conversation based around the two meaning of the word 'thongs' (either footwear or underpants).
Carl: I always wear thongs.
Carl: When I feel hot. I don't see the big deal. My mum wears thongs. My dad wears thongs. When we get to the beach we take them off, put them on our hands and run down to the water.
Others: Are we talking about the same thing?
Carl: I don't think so.
British comic Jasper Carrott describes a similar conversation with some American friends, concerning his getting aroused by suspenders (either stocking supports or trouser braces. Just to be clear, he does mean the former).
Swedish comedian Adde Malmberg once talked about how he had been on a train and heard how two people who didn't appear to have ever met before were talking to each other. One of them told the other that he was a scientist who for the moment did research about "skator" (magpies, that is), but because of his peculiar dialect, the other thought he said he did research about "scouter" (scouts, as in members of the scout movement). Apparently, they had a very long conversation about it, until the scientist started talking about how they like to steal things, and the other person got a bit confused.
Dave Allen did a routine about two different meanings of the word 'shit'
Most of the Alan Ayckbourn play Relatively Speaking.
Fiddler on the Roof: Tevye and Lazar Wolf meet up in a bar in one scene. Lazar Wolf wants to talk about potentially marrying Tevye's daughter Tzeitel. However, Tevye doesn't know that, believing that Lazar Wolf wants to buy one of his cows. Cue an awkward conversation between the two with Double Entendres and innuendos abound.
In an relatively old Norwegian theater piece, Rett i Lomma ("Right in the Pocket", referring to money easily obtained through fraud), the Villain Protagonist (Erik) has spent the last two years making up fake personalities to cash in on their various "illnesses" and subsequent state support money. Then a tax inspector shows up and wants some signatures on a few papers in order to confirm the next payment to "Mr. Thomasen". Erik promptly says he is Thomasen and signs the paper. But the inspector also needs Erik's signature. He asks his friend Normann to do this, but the attempt is thwarted as Normann is forced to take on another role as the inspector mentions other people and Erik begins lying about them too. This leads to him and Normann having to play various fake roles in order to cover up the fraud as more and more oblivious people arrive at the scene and begin asking questions. Hilarity Ensues as they take on more and more ridiculous personality traits and come up with more and more complex excuses. Most conversations are then misunderstood as the roles become too complex to keep track of. Several scenes have not double, but multi-layered conversations.
In Moličre's play The Miser, Harpagon and his steward Valere are talking about the supposed thievery Valere has done. Harpagon is talking about his stolen money box, while Valere is talking of Harpagon's daughter whom he's in love with. Harpagon is so fixated on the stolen money that he takes unusually long to realize what's up, even when Valere begins talking of the "fair eyes", "modesy" and "purity" of the daughter.
The infamous elevator scene from Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. The elevator seemingly can go down to a part of the ship that is flooded. Naturally, June is worried she might get wet "down there."
June: Your body will force you to swallow some of it, eventually...
Junpei: Wh-What are you trying to do to me...?
June: Nothing... I'm not going to do anything to you. I'm just saying that that's what happens. It's a psychological reaction to what you're experiencing...
Was...was that really how it happened? It occurred to Junpei that perhaps that was how it worked... Perhaps he'd been mistaken all these years. Had he misunderstood life so gravely? The thought terrified him. June seemed to be entirely oblivious to Junpei's mounting confusion and terror.
Da Capo (Visual Novel): As Junichi and Nemu set off for school, they start talking about who should get married first, and Junichi decides that they should get married at the same time. Nemu immediately assumes he means to each other, and the practical-thinking Junichi doesn't understand why Nemu's getting so flustered. And just a moment later as Nemu threatens to deliver a Megaton Punch, Sakura suddenly admonishes them that they can't do "that", because they're brother and sister. Both siblings take it the wrong way and start realizing their feelings for each other, until Sakura finishes her sentence—that siblings shouldn't hit each other. Oops.
Clannad: Tomoya is an expert at arranging this kind of situation for his own amusement. In one case, Nagisa wants to ask for Ryou's help in establishing the theater club, so Tomoya has Sunohara tell Ryou that someone wants to ask her out on the rooftop. When they arrive, Tomoya introduces Nagisa as the girl who wanted to "talk to her", and a beautiful Schoolgirl Lesbians confession scene unfolds until Nagisa finally mentions the club itself. (As a bonus, Ryou said yes, before she realized what the question was.)
Larry's final conversation with Annette Boning in Leisure Suit Larry 7: Love for Sail! features Larry trying desperately to prevent Annette from thinking he's gay, while Annette is trying desperately to stop Larry from blackmailing her about her husband's assassination.
In the opening video for Story Mode Advance Wars:Dual Strike, Jake vagely responds to what Rachel is saying, when it turns out he's just singing along with his music.
Notable examples include Oghren announcing that he caught Alistair practicing "pike-twirling" in the woods, and that he likes "polishing his weapon" in public to relieve tension. In both cases he's not being euphemistic, but makes it sound extremely dirty.
In Tales of Monkey Island, you have to do this deliberately. Guybrush has to exchange insults with a pirate, while simultaneously cheering up Morgan.
Out There has a rather subtle one. Keep in mind that Clayton's serious, and Sherry's just bantering:
Clayton: I can't believe someone as unconfident as you won't at least consider giving someone as unchallenging as me a shot. Sherry: Another in a series of life's paradoxes. 
ThisPenny Arcade strip ... maybe. According to the News Post the strip itself became a real life example: the real Tycho thought it was about miscommunication, while the real Gabe thought it was exactly what it sounded like.
LoadingReadyRun has a three-way version with cell phones, though it's not actually a "dialogue" as none of the three are actually talking to each other. Kathleen is breaking up with a boyfriend, Graham is making a business deal, and Matt is talking to a friend about returning a defective product to the store. It's just the 3 halves of the conversations that we hear match up perfectly.
Madoka: They were so... awesome... Subtitle: Referring to Mami's boobs Homura: I've never seen another magical girl with ones quite like that. Subtitle: Referring to Mami's rifles Madoka:If only I could have held them... Just once... Subtitle: (Boobs) Homura: You... like them that much? Sorry to disappoint you by not having any. Subtitle: (Rifles)
Static Shock, as quoted above, involves Virgil's description of his superpowers being at first mistaken for referring to puberty, later mistaken for referring to sex.
In one King of the Hill episode, Dale's Camp Gay father is attempting to come out to him; when he tells Dale that he's been "living a secret life" and that a younger man who lives with him is his "partner", Dale is disgusted and kicks his dad out of the house. In the next scene, we discover the reason for Dale's reaction: he thinks his father was confessing to being a government agent.
In an episode of South Park, the boys think they're talking to rival talent agents when they were really talking to the mob. They managed to convince them to give up their life of crime despite the difference.
The main plot of "Jared has Aides", the joke being that Jared actually means "aides", as in a dietician and a personal trainer, and not "AIDS", the disease. Jared thinks that everyone is angry because he didn't actually lose his weight solely by eating Subway, when, well, why do you think people might be upset when Jared goes around saying that he "wants to give everyone in the world aides"?
Family Guy: Brian eats the hair in Meg's pie. But don't worry- Stewie had some too.
With Cool Hwip!
In an episode of American Dad, Francine sees Stan's body double making out with Hayley. When she confronts Stan, he thinks she's talking about his stealing cookie dough from the fridge. Video is here.
An episode of The Simpsons has Homer become a labor union boss, and eventually facing a bribe attempt from Mister Burns. The offer's made with a great deal of Accidental Innuendo, however, and Homer mistakenly assumes Burns is coming on to him, leading to the following refusal (which Burns simply takes as Homer being above bribery and getting righteously indignant at the attempt):
In one Tiny Toon Adventures episode, specifically one of Elmyra's A Day in the Limelight episodes with her family, she was heartbroken over the death of one of her hamsters, "Jan Brady", which coincidentally happened around the same time her grandmother went on vacation. When she fainted from grief in class, she was sent to the school nurse, where she babbled a bit about her hamster (but in incomplete sentences) and ended by saying "Grandma went bye-bye." The nurse then promptly spread word that Elmyra's grandmother passed, leading to a bunch of people arriving at the Duff household for an impromptu wake. Nearly every conversation with the Duff family regarding the deceased falls into this for the rest of the episode.
In one episode of The Cleveland Show, Cleveland is trying to find a friend for his son, Cleveland Jr. He walks up to one boy and asks him if wants to play with Cleveland Jr. The predictable reaction ensues.
Cleveland:"You know, after reading a transcript of what I said, I can understand why the officer might have thought I was talking about something else."