9 Hours Left to Support a Troper-Created Project : Personal Space (discuss)

Suspiciously Specific Denial


Jazz: By the way, Danny, just so you know, I'm onto your little secret.
Danny: (spits out water) W-What?! What secret?
Jazz: The clumsiness, the nervousness, I can't believe I didn't figure it out before. You have a girlfriend!
Danny: It's a lie! I'm not a ghost!...(beat)...I mean, she's not my girlfriend.
— Certainly not Danny Phantom

Certainly no one is describing Suspiciously Specific Denial here, so that people will understand what the trope is about. And this sure isn't an opening gag to preface it.

A False Reassurance works because the speaker is being vague and non-specific enough to pull the wool over someone's eyes. A Suspiciously Specific Denial, on the other hand, fails because the speaker is Saying Too Much. This may be unintentional, such as when the speaker is panicked, is a Bad Liar, or perhaps just a little stupid. Often used to establish that you're Most Definitely Not a Villain.

Sometimes, this is used more deliberately, such as when the speaker is trying to give out information that they shouldn't but doesn't want to be too obvious about it (Or So I Heard may follow). A Trickster type may also use it as the misdirecting component of a Batman Gambit, an Infraction Distraction, or Kansas City Shuffle; by making an oddly specific denial that is actually true, the mark may be led to believe that the denial is false. (For example: the mark is told that there aren't 2,300,009 invisible vampire ghosts—so the mark believes there are, when in fact there are no invisible vampire ghosts at all.) In rare cases, the speaker may be telling the truth and have no intent to deceive, but it just comes out wrong.

Oddly, it can happen in two opposite ways: the specific denial ("I won't kill you using a poisoned stiletto!") was a lie (he does, and the fact that the question and/or answer was so specific means that someone already had the answer in mind), or the specific denial was technically true, but it left so many doors open that it was suspect anyway (he kills the other guy with a non-poisoned stiletto, or a gun). Either way, the result is the same - when someone is more specific than they need to be, it's a good sign something's wrong. Bonus suspicion points if the statement was made apropos of nothing.

This is a favored tactic of a Tsundere who got caught being dere — in fact Memetic Mutation has made this the motto of the Tsundere ("Stupid [love interest]! I-it's not like I'm [doing something affectionate] because I like you or anything!")

It's also related to Compliment Fishing, where someone will make a suspiciously specific Self-Deprecation in the hopes that other people will spot the denial and contradict them.

When the speaker is assumed to be telling the truth, a listener might suspect this if the denial was expected to be more general.

When The Mafia uses it, it's the Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club. If you insist that you'd NEVER make a Suspiciously Specific Denial (while doing so), then it's I'll Never Tell You What I'm Telling You. This is not comparable to Bad Liar; a character who invokes this trope could certainly be a bad liar, but when used alone it's not indicative of Bad Liar.

Characters who are Lawful Stupid may take the statement at face value.

This is frequently seen on Police Procedurals when someone under a confidentiality requirement (lawyers and doctors mostly) make a very specific inclusion or omission in an answer to the investigators that provides a clue where they should be looking.

It is also a device in mysteries. Someone makes a statement or denial including information that they could only know if they were the perp. "Well, I didn't shoot him!" "No one ever mentioned how he was killed." That may also be related to You Just Told Me. This is the reason why it is also Truth in Television, especially why lawyers frequently advise not to make any reply to any allegation.

See also: Could Say It, But....

Super Trope of Have I Mentioned I Am Sexually Active Today? and People's Republic of Tyranny.

Compare Overly Narrow Superlative, Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant, Saying Too Much and I Never Said It Was Poison.

Contrast False Reassurance, Blatant Lies, and Implausible Deniability.

Often accompanies Mock Surprise Reaction.

These are certainly not examples:

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Not at all.
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No how.

Alternative Title(s): Specifically Suspicious Denial