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''The thing that most people don't realize is that John Cusack is a universal constant."

Basically either the Fish out of Water (or another character who's visiting from elsewhere) describes something or someone shows or describes something to them, usually in a very condescending or superior manner. This is met with something along the lines of "So its like a..." or "We have those too". Truth in Television - don't ask foreign people "do you have cable TV in Russia".

A variation involves the native being perplexed by the description because they passed that level of technology generations ago, and have much simpler ways of doing the same thing.

See also Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp".


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Film 
  • Subverted in Disney's Pocahontas, when John Smith explains gold to the title character. She triumphantly produces an ear of corn, at which point Smith realizes there is no gold and Ratcliffe is deluded. The idea that a culture with no metal at all might have just not mined it never seems to occur to him.
  • Used in the Martin Lawrence vehicle Black Knight. Martin tries to impress the English primitives with a Bic lighter. Cue unimpressed peasant, "We have fire."
  • While trying to barter with a goblin in Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Liz offers him "magic eyes", to which he responds he already has binoculars.
  • In the 1997 live action film of George of the Jungle while in the jungle being guided by native guides, Lyle Van de Groot, rich snob white guy, attempts to impress his native guides by offering them lighters and showing off his camera... even though his guides are clearly familiar with such things. The guides play along for a bit, and then burst out laughing at him, whereupon their translator makes it clear they're not only unimpressed, they know more about cameras than he does.
    Kwame: He says that he likes your magic pictures... but he prefers the resolution of the Leica 35-millimeter transparencies. He also says that your lens is dirty, but he has the equipment to clean it for you.

    Literature 
  • Not exactly vocalized, but in the book Bedknobs and Broomsticks, one of the children tries to scare a cannibal native into letting them go by showing him matches. Unfortunately, they've already got those.
  • A virtually identical scene happens in the book The Time Garden by Edward Eager.
  • In The Boggart, a Canadian and a Scot have a dialect mixup:
    Jessup: We could talk to each other, with flashlights.
    Tommy: ...What's a flashlight?
    Jessup: You don't have flashlights? Jeeze! A cylinder, like, with batteries inside it, and a lightbulb behind glass at one end -
    Jessup: You think we don't have pencils?
    Tommy: You think we don't have flashlights?! That's just American dialect. In the English language they're called torches.
  • From the Discworld novel Jingo:
    Lord Rust: "That's a Make-Things-Bigger device, isn't it? My word, you are up to date. They were only invented last year."
    General Ashal: "I didn't buy this, my lord. I inherited it from my grandfather."
    • Truth in Television. Many things were invented in the medieval Arab world long before Europe got them. As for the specific Make-Things-Bigger Device, spyglasses, albeit ones with magical powers as well as just ordinary magnification, were mentioned in the Arabian Nights.
    • In Interesting Times Rincewind gets to do this to a native of the land he's visiting (because of the all the various peoples that have emigrated to Ankh-Morpork, they have much better stuff than the isolated and somewhat xenophobic Agatean Empire). It's turned around on him when he brings up The Luggage, only to be reminded that it came from the Empire and they have plenty more.
  • In Notes From A Small Island Bill Bryson mentions a conversation with a British couple, who asked if they had Woolworths and cornflakes in America.
    • Happens again when he returns to America in Notes from a Big Country.
  • Inverted in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, where it's commented on that every race seems to have a drink whose name is some phonetic variation of "gin and tonic", but the drinks themselves vary wildly - the Sivolvian "chinanto/mnigs", for instance, is merely water served at slightly above room temperature, while the Gagrakackan "tzjin-anthony-ks" "kills cows at a hundred paces."

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 10th Kingdom. Tony is in a fairy-tale world. He attempts to barter his wristwatch, using overly simplified language and refering to it as a "clock." The Tooth Fairy quietly turns around, opens a cabinet full of old-fashioned fob watches, and says "we call them watches."
  • On the first episode of The Dead Zone, someone starts explaining to Johnny what a CD is, only for him to tell them that they had CDs when he went into his coma in 1996.
  • An episode of Top Gear reports on Toyota's latest invention: "I didn't have the heart to tell them, but we have something like this in Britain already. It's called a wheelchair."
  • Something along these lines happens with John's first Love Interest in Farscape.
  • In Babylon 5, Narn ambassador G'Kar does this when introducing an Earth food to his colleague, which he then proceeds to justify:
    Na'kal: Breen. You've managed to import breen from homeworld. How?
    G'Kar: It... isn't actually breen.
    Na'kal: But the smell, the taste...
    G'Kar: It's an Earth food. They are called "Swedish meatballs". It's a strange thing, but every sentient race has its own version of these Swedish meatballs. I suspect it's one of those great universal mysteries which will either never get explained or which will drive you mad if you ever learned the truth.
  • In an early episode of Lois and Clark, Lois and Clark visit Clark's parents in Smallville. Lois at one point asks Ma and Pa Kent if there's a place in town that has a fax machine, and then goes on to (condescendingly) explain what a fax machine does. Ma Kent then offers Lois the use of her own fax machine, effectively shutting Lois up.
  • Similar to the Black Knight example above, in an early episode of Stargate Atlantis, Sheppard tried to impress the Athosians with his lighter. Teyla pulled out a much fancier lighter that also functioned as a flame thrower, much to his consternation.
  • The Red Dwarf episode "Waiting For God" has this exchange:
    Cat: You see, sometimes, in a book, we have a drawing of something that is happening in the story, and we call them "pictures".
    Lister: (amused) Yeah, yeah, we have pictures too.
    Cat: Hey, you monkeys are smarter than I thought!
  • Inverted in A Colbert Christmas when Jon explains Hanukkah to Stephen:
    Jon: We have latkes—
    Stephen: What are they?
    Jon: Potato pancakes. We have dreidels—
    Stephen: What are they?
    Jon: Wooden tops. We have candles—
    Stephen: What are they?
    Jon: THEY ARE CANDLES!
  • Meanwhile, over on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Anya and Giles visit a somewhat less than omniscient oracle.
    Beljoxa's Eye: The eye sees not the future, only the truth of the now and before.
    Anya: Yes, we've all got that - it's called memory.
  • In the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode where Lady Sif guest-stars, Coulson tries to acquaint her with SHIELD's computerized database. In keeping with the interpretation of Asgardians as Sufficiently Advanced Aliens; she replies that she's already familiar with such systems, having used them when visting other not-as-advanced worlds. She even calls SHIELD's system "antiquated".
  • In Sleepy Hollow, Lt. Mills at one point begins explaining the term "John Doe" to Crane. Since the term originated in England in the 1300s, he's entirely exasperated.

    Webcomics 
  • In Homestuck, Terezi dialog with Dave shows that troll society has things like orange creamsicles and cotton candy, while invoking this trope. Of course, this actually ties in with how the trolls made the protagonists universe to begin with.
    • Karkat's bedroom posters show that many Earth actors have Alternian troll equivalents.
    The thing that most people don't realize is that John Cusack is a universal constant.
  • In this Modest Medusa strip, Marah is unable to pay for her stay at an inn with "copper pieces" (copper-plated zinc US pennies). Instead they have to barter with the Medusa's Nintendo DS.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the episode "Lisa's Wedding", Lisa's fiancee tells Homer that they have the "pull my finger" joke in Britain.
    • Another time, Ringo Starr answers a letter from Marge:
      Ringo Starr: "Dear Marge, thanks for the fab painting of Yours Truly. I hung it on me wall. You're quite an artist. In answer to your question, yes, we do have hamburgers and fries in England. But we call French fries "chips." Love, Ringo. P.S. Forgive the lateness of my reply."
    • Another episode has the cops eating at Krusty Burger; Lou says that while he was in Shelbyville, he went to McDonald's, and instead of being called a non-dairy partially-gelatinated gum-based beverage he is surprised to hear it's called a "shake". This is, of course, a spoof of the "McDonald's in France" scene in Pulp Fiction.
  • Futurama has a lot of these.
    • The best example would have to be:
    Hermes: Get ready for fun, Fry! Nowadays we have a type of game played entirely on video.
    Leela: We call it a "video game".
    Fry: (deadpan) Oh, well you mighty space men of the future will have to show me how it works.
    (The next scene has Fry kicking their asses six ways to Sunday.)
    • And then there's this:
    Giant Amazon: What men good for anyway?
    (Amy whispers in her ear)
    Giant Amazon: Ohhh... you mean snu-snu!
    • The first time crew encounter the sewer mutants, Fry quickly lights a makeshift torch and starts swinging it around threateningly. One of the sewer mutants casually lights a cigarette from the torch.
  • In the episode of The Venture Bros. "Escape From the House of Mummies Part 2", Doctor Venture and Brock set up a Totem Pole Trench in an attempt to scare an Egyptian cult by pretending to be their "giant four-armed god". Doc aims a flashlight at one of them and boasts about his ability to create light from his hands. A cultist responds "It's just a flashlight!"


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