Well, Seymour, it seems we've put together a baseball team, and I was wondering, who's on first
, eh? Skinner:
Yes! Not the pronoun, but rather a player with the unlikely name of "Who" is on first! Chalmers:
Well, that's just great, Seymour! We've been out here six seconds and you've already managed to blow the routine
A comedy scene where the proper names of persons, places, or things sound like lexical parts of speech, pronouns or exclamations, such as Hu, Watt, Mee, Yu, etc. Basically, a huge Hurricane of Puns
. Usually, one character will describe a situation using these terms solely as names, while another character uses them constantly as pronouns and gets increasingly bewildered. Example:
Bob: Who's in charge here?
Alice: That's correct.
Alice: Hu is in charge here.
Bob: How should I know?
Alice: You said Hu was in charge here, and it's true.
Bob: But what's his name?
Alice: No, Wat led the Peasant's Revolt.
This is named from a Vaudeville routine regarding baseball
which, while popular at the time, is best known
as an Abbott and Costello
sketch. Abbott and Costello also used variants of the routine in much of their comedy, such as their commercial for "Hertz U-Drive"note
"If it hurts, you drive!"
"What's that over there?"
or other baseball players:
"Ain'tcha got any bats made for baseball?"
This could expand into a Hurricane of Puns
: "to make money loafing, you have to really knead the dough."
If used in the actual plot, this is usually the result of an idiot Comically Missing the Point
. However, this is not necessary if the Straight Man
is being intentionally ambiguous.
Occasionally, characters have this as a running joke about their name. Slightly more serious versions may use this as a form of loophole or Prophecy Twist
: knowing that No Man of Woman Born
may slay you is little comfort when Mr. Noman from the village of Womanborn shows up at your door looking for blood.
See Chain of Corrections
for a related trope. Sometimes overlaps with What's a Henway?
. A "The One With
" title can result in something similar.
open/close all folders
- A Visa commercial from a few years back had NBA star Yao Ming attempting to make a purchase at the "Big Apple Souvenir Shop":
Yao: Can I write a check?
Cashier: (gestures at an "absolutely no checks" sign behind her) Yo!
Cashier: (points at sign again) Yo!
Yao: (points at "Yao" insignia on his shirt) Yao!
Cashier: (waves store manager over) Yo!
Yao: Can I write a check?
Manager: (points at sign) Yo!
Other customer: (recognizing Ming) You!
Store owner: (to Ming) Yo!
Yao: Can I write a check?
Owner: (points at sign) Yo!
Yao finally gives up and walks out as the voiceover guy gives the usual spiel about how Visa check cards are accepted almost everywhere. As he leaves, we see a new customer (who happens to be baseball great Yogi Berra) enter the store.
Berra: Can I write a check?
Berra: Gi. Yo-gi!
- There was an ad for a minivan in which the happy owners were asked what they liked best about it. "It's all-wheel drive," was the reply. "Yes, we know it's all you'll drive, but what's your favorite feature?"
- This '80s commercial for Kellogg's Nut & Honey cereal.
- There was a radio advertisement for Heluva Good dips which involves a conversation between two men trying the dip. One is confused by the other when the name of the dip is said, since he sounds like he's saying "Hell of a good dip."
- An early '90s commercial for a brand new cereal called Bran News used a pair of Abbott and Costello lookalikes to do this style of comedy.
- This 2013 Toyota Camry ad, featuring mascot character "Coach T." and Craig T. Nelson from Coach.
Anime & Manga
- In Marmalade Boy, when an American exchange student named Michael first arrives at the protagonists' household, he gets confused by the names "Yuu" and "Miki", mistaking them for "you" and "me". Subverted shortly afterward; he was faking it.
- He's also somewhat amused at the fact that Miki is a feminine name in Japan, while Mickey is a masculine name in English-speaking countries.
- Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl: One of Yawara's teammates on her judo squad is named Nanda. This is a legit Japanese surname, but it also means roughly "what?" or "what the?" (nan da?, short form of nan desu ka?), which is used for quick laughs a couple of times.
- Yakitate!! Japan seems to love these.
- Similar to the above, one dialogue involves some confusion regarding the type of Indian bread known as "naan".
- After every episode, they used to do a small "Facts about Bread" corner. In one of them, Kawachi and Tsukino asked Azuma about his favourite animal, and Azuma answered "Jaa, panda" ("Yes, the Panda!"). Of course, that sounds like "Ja-pan da" ("It's the Ja-pan") so his friends, thinking/realizing he was obsessed with bread, sighed and dropped the subject.
- In order to avoid this trope, Yoh's name was changed to Yuu in the Spanish version of Shaman King, since "yo" means "I" in Spanish. The Mexican dub left the name, but pronounced it "I-oh" ("ee-oh")...and since there are people who mispronounce "yo" as "ió"...
- Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou: In Japanese, "nai" is a verb suffix denoting negativity. It can be used alone to mean "nothing", or as a general denial. On her travels, Alpha meets an android named Nai. She also meets a girl named "Kokone", which can be said as "Koko, ne?" which loosly translates to "Here?" She uses this pun the first time she meets her, too.
- School Rumble has a series of misunderstandings based on Harima's cousin Itoko. "Itoko" also means "cousin", and whenever someone asks "What's your relationship with her?" he answers that "She's my cousin." but people read it as "She's my Itoko" and figure they're in a relationship...
- Final Fantasy: Unlimited has the main characters Ai and Yuu. Their names mean "love" and "courage" in Japanese. This was lampshaded by the dub voice actresses for the two in the commentary on one of the DVDs.
- Slayers fans can use "Sore wa himitsu desu" in conversation. If someone in the conversation doesn't understand Japanese, Hilarity Ensues.
- For those readers who may not be familiar, it means "It's a secret" and is the Catch Phrase of Xellos.
- Digimon Xros Wars: Damemon's first meeting with Yuu Amano started out this way, as a result of Damemon's love of interspersed Gratuitous English (in this case, the word "you" being homophonous to "Yuu").
- Cheech And Chong's famous "Dave" bit.
Cheech: (knocks on door)
Chong: Who is it?
Cheech: (whispering) It's me, Dave, open up, man, I got the stuff. (long pause, knocks again)
Chong: Who is it?
Cheech: (whispering) It's me, Dave, man, open up, I got the stuff.
Cheech: (whispering) It's Dave, man, open up! I think the cops saw me coming here! (another long pause, knocks again)
Chong: Who is it?
Cheech: (whispering louder) It's Dave, man, open up, I got the stuff with me!
Cheech: Dave, man, open up!
Cheech: Yeah, Dave! C'mon man, open up, I think the cops saw me.
Chong: Dave's not here!
- ...And it just devolves from there.
- In Patton Oswalt's "review" of the song Christmas Shoes he berates the band's choice of name "New Song" because they'll be forever stuck in an Abbott and Costello routine.
- Subverted and Lamp Shaded in Y: The Last Man:
You: My name is You!
Yorick: You? Like Why-Oh-Ewe?
Yorick: Well, that is some Who's on First-shit right there!
- On another occasion, Agent 355 poses as a member of the WHO. When someone replies, "Who?" she spoils it by explaining that it's the World Health Organization, much to Yorick's disappointment. "You were just a couple of lines away from an Abbott and Costello routine."
- Used as a Running Gag in Don Rosa's Uncle Scrooge story "Fortune on the Rocks". For example, when Scrooge and his nephews are preparing to climb a craggy mountain:
Donald: So where do I hammer this spike?
Louie: Right there, Unca Donald! That's your fault.
Donald: Oh, sure! Blame everything on me!
- Don Rosa likes this joke, though usually not taken to its Overly-Long Gag lengths. Many of his stories have Donald Duck misunderstanding some name or other word.
- In a Spider-Man comic (Spectacular Spider-Man #106):
Spider-Man: What's that guy got anyway?
Wasp: A certain je ne sais quoi.
Spider-Man: And that means...
Wasp: "I don't know what."
Spider-Man: If you don't know what it means, how can you say it?
Wasp: You're kidding, right?
- Occasionally used in Archie Comics.
Veronica: What are you ordering?
Reggie: I want oysters.
Veronica: And you, Archie?
Archie: I want oyster stew.
Betty: (to the cook) They both want oysters.
Archie: I don't!
Veronica: You just said you did! He said he wanted oysters, and you said you wanted oysters, too!
Archie: That's right. I want oyster stew.
Veronica: That's what I said.
Archie: ...but I don't want oysters!
- And then, at a time when they went camping, Archie was the one who woke up to an owl's hooting, and proceeded to wake the others:
Archie: Did you say who?
Jughead: Who me?
Reggie: Who said who said who me?
Moose: Duh...Who what?
- And in another strip:
Betty: Hey Archie!
Archie: Did you call me, Betty?
Betty: Why would I call you Betty? You don't look like a Betty.
- And this:
Jughead: Look at the bunch of cows!
Farmer: No, herd.
Jughead: Heard of what?
Farmer: Herd of cows.
Jughead: Sure, I've heard of cows!
Farmer: No, a cow herd.
Jughead: What do I care what a cow heard? I've never kept any secrets from a cow!
- MAD did "Abbott and Costello Sort the MTV Video Library."
: Here's a bunch of Alanis Morissette
tapes, but they're all mixed up. Which song is this one?
Abbott: "You Oughta Know."
Costello: I don't know the names of the songs. Which song is this!?
Abbott: "You Oughta Know"!
Costello: But I DON'T know! What about this other Alanis Morissette video?
Abbott: It's "Ironic".
Costello: It's ironic that I don't know the name of the video?
- Judge Dredd had Kenny Who? (yes, even the question mark is part of his name), a struggling artist trying to establish himself in Mega City One. Kenny was a running gag based on artist Cam Kennedy's experiences trying to break into the industry in America.
- When The Thing is in France during the Civil War he gets into an exchange like this involving the words "We" and "Oui". He mentions the trope namer.
- In one Lucky Luke story, an Indian scout notes a smoke at the horizon, signifying that settlers has entered his tribe's territory. So naturally he sends a smoke signal back to his village, saying "There is a smoke at the horizon". This trope ensues when the Chieftain asks what the smoke signal means...
- One early issue of Archie Comics Sonic the Hedgehog series has Robotnik try and find the leader of the Freedom Fighter's intelligence division. After uncovering the (literal!) mole, the interrogation goes thusly...
Robotnik: Who is the head of the secret intelligence?
Mole: That's right!
Mole: No, not "what"- "Who!"
- The Tiny Titans version of Owlman led to one of these. Saying Hoo to Batman.
- In one Pickles strip, Opal found her husband Earl watching TV and asked what he was watching. He replied, "My Name Is Earl." She said that she already knew his name and repeated her question.
- Done in this Fullmetal Alchemist fanfiction, and this Tenchi Muyo!! fanfiction.
- In Harry Potter fanfiction, this has been done numerous times with Sirius Black. "Sirius"/"serious" jokes are generally understood to be quite lame by this point.
- There's a LiveJournal icon floating around among the Sirius/Remus shippers with the following exchange between Harry and Remus:
Harry: You're a werewolf?!
Harry: Are you fucking serious?!
Remus: That too.
- And then, the Memetic Mutation: "Why so Sirius?"
- Mugglecast has a cowbell they ring when lame jokes including that one start getting abused.
- The author of the HP fic Who's a Hero? both uses and lampshades the trope.
- In one episode of The Lazer Collection, Ron mentions that Dumbledore has had an accident. When Harry asks if it was serious, Ron replies, "No, it was Snape." Cue Fail Horn and I'mma Firin' My Lazer!
- This would only really work in an American accent; British people pronounce the words differently enough that the joke wouldn't work — "Sirius" / "seee-rious".
- Used in this fan-performed The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time variant of the joke, between Sheik and Link.
- Used in this fan video for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, featuring Derpy Hooves getting confused because her driving instructor keeps telling her to back up the car and the fact he keeps telling her to "go ahead". She decides in the end to just make the car go sideways instead... Somehow...
- Happens in Turnabout Storm between Phoenix and Owlowiscious, in reference to the Running Gag of "Owl's Well That Ends Well":
Phoenix: Hey! An owl.
Phoenix: You, you're an owl.
Phoenix: You mean "Who am I?". Phoenix Wright, with a "Ph" and a "W".
Phoenix: You know? You make Big Macintosh look like a blabbermouth.
- Later on Spike manages to get stuck in the cycle once again.
- A similar joke occurs when Sonic meets Owlowiscious in Chaotic Harmony:
: Whew...it’s just an owl. You aren’t going to start talking, right? Owlowiscious
: Who? Sonic
: You, duh. Owlowiscious
: Who? Sonic
: You! I’m talking to you right now! Owlowiscious
: Who? Sonic
: You! You, okay!? Geez, and I thought that pink pony was annoying! Owlowiscious
: Who? Sonic
: Alright, that’s it! Say ‘who’ one more time. I dare ya, birdie! I. Dare. You.
- And a similar joke occurs when Trixie meets Owlowiscious in Getting Back on Your Hooves:
Trixie: Um...hello there...
Trixie: You stubborn bird! I said my name is Trixie!
Twilight: Trixie, he's an owl, that's all he can say!
Trixie: Oh… Um yes… Trixie knew that! Oh look at the time! Goodnight…
- May the Best Friends Win (the sequel to Rainbooms and Royalty) has this exchange between Pinkie and Twilight when the former sees the latter's messed up mane.
Pinkie: You sort of look like that doctor... what's his name?
Pinkie: That's what I'm trying to remember!
Doctor: I'm the Doctor.
Doctor: No relation.
- Similar to the above is this example from chapter 5 of Stargate Equestria: Connection:
O'Neill: Hey, pal! Name's Jack O'Neill! What's yours?
O'Neill: Who. Are you?
Who: Oh. Um, yeah...
- The Big Bad of Hogwarts Exposed, known in-universe only as the "Great One", is actually the Minister for Magic, whose surname is Wrong. This led one reviewer to suggest that this trope was the reason she'd never been caught despite being a complete idiot, because:
Auror Chief: So, have you found out who the Great One is?
Auror: She's Wrong.
Auror Chief: I know she's wrong, but who is she?
- Examples from the Calvinverse:
Calvin: Forget about it, that's history! Hobbes: No, that's math.
- In Hogwarts' Dawn Hogwarts created a brand-new House for Harry and his friends after he became estranged from most of the other Gryffindors during the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Since as a building it possessed limited sentience, it christened the new House "Your House," which created some confusion at dinner when Dumbledore told Harry that he was now a member of "Your House."
Film — Live-Action
- The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer (1947) has one as its ending — see if it sounds familiar:
Dick: You remind me of a man.
Margaret: What man?
Dick: The man with the power.
Margaret: What power?
Dick: The power of Hoodoo.
Margaret: Who do?
Dick: You do.
Margaret: Do what?
Dick: Remind me of a man.
Margaret: What man?
Dick: The man with the power.
Margaret: What power?
Dick: Give up?
Margaret: Give up. Let's go.
- Rush Hour 3 had this sketch with characters Mi and Yu.
Yu': May I help you?
Carter: We'll be asking the questions, old man. Who are you?
Carter: No, not me, you!
Yu: Yes, I am Yu.
Carter: Just answer the damn question! Who are you?
Yu: I have told you!
Carter: Are you deaf?
Yu: No, Yu is blind.
Carter: I'm not blind, you blind.
Yu: That is what I just said.
Carter: You just said what?
Yu: I did not say "what", I said "Yu"!
Carter: That's what I'm asking you!
Yu: And Yu is answering!
Carter: Shut up! (to Mi) You!
Carter: Not you, him! What's your name?
Carter: Yes, you!
Mi: I am Mi.
Yu: He is Mi, and I am Yu.
Carter: And I'm about to whoop your old ass, man, cause I'm sick of playing games! You! Me! Everybody's ass around here! Him!
- Rush Hour 2 did it in the opposite direction, when discussing Chris Tucker's character's apparent death.
Inspector Lee: Not Yu, YOU!
- Worth noting that this was mainly for Rule of Funny, as the Chinese syllable 'Yu' is not actually the same as the English 'you'. (It's like ü in the German 'über'.)
- Austin Powers in Goldmember: Austin meets nubile teenage twin sisters Fook Mi and Fook Yu.
- In a deleted scene they reveal that those aren't their real names, making all the associated confusions completely unnecessary.
- Airplane! uses characters with names resembling calls used in airport radio talk:
Flight Control: Flight 209 you're clear for takeoff.
Clarence Oveur: Roger.
Roger Murdock: Huh?
FC: LA departure frequency 123.9.
Clarence Oveur: Roger.
Roger Murdock: Huh?
Victor Basta: Request vector, over.
Clarence Oveur: What?
FC: Flight 209 clear for vector 324.
Roger Murdock: We have clearance, Clarence.
Clarence Oveur: Roger, Roger, what's our vector, Victor?
FC: Now we're in radio clearance, over.
Clarence Oveur: That's Clarence Oveur, over.
Victor Basta: Roger.
Roger Murdock: Huh?
FC: Roger, over.
Clarence Oveur: What?
Roger Murdock: Huh?
Victor Basta: Who?
- Airplane II: The Sequel has a scene very much the one above, as well as some courtroom testimony:
Witness: Striker was the squadron leader. He brought us in real low. But he couldn't handle it.
Prosecutor: Buddy couldn't handle it? Was Buddy one of your crew?
Witness: Right. Buddy was the bombardier. But it was Striker who couldn't handle it, and he went to pieces.
Prosecutor: Andy went to pieces?
Witness: No. Andy was the navigator. He was all right. Buddy went to pieces. It was awful how he came unglued.
Prosecutor: Howie came unglued?
Witness: Oh, no. Howie was a rock, the best tailgunner in the outfit. Buddy came unglued.
Prosecutor: And he bailed out?
Witness: No! Andy hung tough! Buddy bailed out. How he survived, it was a miracle.
Prosecutor: Then Howie survived?
Witness: No, 'fraid not. We lost Howie the next day.
Prosecutor: Over Macho Grande?
Witness: No. I don't think I'll ever get over Macho Grande.
- The Dinner Game (Le Diner de cons) has Leblanc. Juste Leblanc. That is, a Bond, James Bond mistaken for Only One Name. Juste translates to "just," and Leblanc, roughly, to "White." A further problem is that the "juste" can also mean "right, as in "is that right?" And an unrelated woman named Marlène Sassoeur ("Hi, I'm Marlene Hissister...") The first conversation could be transcribed thus:
Pierre: His name is Just White.
François: Doesn't he have a first name?
Pierre: I told you, it's Just White! White is his surname, and it's Just his name. Your name is François, is it just? Well, same for him, it's Just.
- What's Up, Doc? had an exchange between a judge and a thickly accented character named Hugh. The judge thought he was saying, "I am you!" until the judge snapped, "Stop saying that! Make him stop saying that!"
- Jesse and Chester in Dude Wheres My Car discover that they have tattoos of each other's Catch Phrases ("Dude" and "Sweet") on their backs. Then they ask each other what they say, resulting in much confusion. This goes on for quite a while.
- A harder-to-catch example occurs at the Chinese drive-thru, where Jesse and Chester think a waiter is asking "And then?" to see if they want something else. It's actually a Chinese phrase.
- Happens when the heroes are talking about the Big Bad, Helen Hu, in Kung Phooey, which also comes with a bunch of Punny Names.
- The 2006 reboot of The Pink Panther, in a reversal, has Inspector Clouseau, upon hearing that a murder victim's last words were "Oh, it's you", wanting to interrogate every person in Paris with the name of Yu. Surprisingly enough, this actually led somewhere.
- In Spaceballs, Dark Helmet discovers that half his crew are from the "Asshole" family, making it rather convenient to insult them.
I knew it, I'm surrounded by Assholes! (beat, pulls down mask)
Keep firing, Assholes!
- In the TV edit, they're all from the "Moron" family, which better fits their behaviour and deportment.
- Murder by Death: The butler's name, Jamesir Bensonmum, plays into questions about his name by confusing "Bensonmum" with "Benson, ma'am" and "Jamesir" with "James, sir". This all makes more sense with an English accent.
Dora: Thank you. You are?
Dora: Thank you, Benson.
Butler: No, no, no, no, no...Bensonmum. My name is Bensonmum.
Butler; Yes, sir. Jamesir Bensonum.
Butler: Yes, sir.
Dick: Jamesir Bensonmum?
Butler: Yes, sir.
Dick: How odd.
Butler: My father's name, sir.
Dick: What was your father's name?
Butler: Howard. Howard Bensonmum.
Dick: Your father was Howard Bensonmum?
Dora: Leave it be, Dickie. I've had enough.
- Broken Lizard's Club Dread had a character named Yu, naturally leading to a few short versions of this trope.
Juan: Pete! Yu and Hank are dead!
Coconut Pete: Why? What did we do?
Juan: No, man! Yu and Hank are fucking dead!
Coconut Pete: Are you threatening me?!
- In 200 Motels, the MC, Rance Muhammitz, has many names, including, apparently, Opal You Hot Little Bitch.
- Back to the Future has Marty trying to order a diet soft drink at Lou's Café in 1955:
Lou: You gonna order something, kid?
Marty: Uh, yeah...give me a Tab.
Lou: Tab? I can't give you a tab unless you order something.
Marty: All right, give me a Pepsi Free.
Lou: You want a Pepsi, pal, you're gonna pay for it!
Marty: Look, just give me something without any sugar in it, okay?
(Lou brings him a black coffee)
- Another Mel Brooks film, History of the World Part I, has a scene with Brooks as a waiter at Christ's Last Supper. When he tries to take the Apostles' food orders while Jesus is discussing his imminent betrayal with them, they angrily tell him to go away.
Waiter: All right, all right! Jesus!
Waiter: Wha...You said "what?"
Waiter: (irritated) Nothing.
- Done in The Sandlot, though with reference to S'Mores rather then a name.
Hey, Smalls, you wanna s'more? Smalls:
Some more of what? Ham Porter:
No, do you wanna s'more? Smalls:
I haven't had anything yet, so how can I have some more of nothing? Ham Porter: You're killing me, Smalls!
- This particular version is actually Older Than Radio, as a similar minstrel-show routine involved one of the company asking another member if he wanted molasses, only to be told "Molasses? I ain't had any lasses yet!"
- In The Maiden Heist, Roger Barlow gets confused by the radio talk usage of "roger".
- Abbott and Costello do this in their movie The Naughty Nineties. Credit where it's due! Though the idea may have existed before, this routine is both the Trope Namer and the Trope Codifier.
- The Little Rascals short "Little Daddy" when Farina is telling a story of Noah's Ark to Stymie. It led to Stymie's confusion over "Yeah" and "Noah" thinking they both built the boat.
- Classic example from Clue
Col. Mustard: Wadsworth, am I right in thinking there is nobody else in this house?
Wadsworth: Ummm, no.
Col. Mustard: Then there is someone else in this house?
Wadsworth: No, sorry. I said no meaning yes.
Col. Mustard: "No meaning yes?" Look I want a straight answer, is there someone else, or isn't there? Yes or no?
Wadsworth: Ummm, no.
Col. Mustard: No there IS, or no there ISN'T!?
Col. Mustard: Well, there is still some confusion as to whether or not there is anybody else in this house.
Wadsworth: I told you there isn't!
Col. Mustard: There isn't any confusion, or there isn't anybody else?
Wadsworth: Either, or both.
Col. Mustard: Just give me a clear answer!
Wadsworth: Certainly! What was the question?
Col. Mustard: Is there anybody else in the house!
- First one:
Q: Who invented the steam engine?
Q: I said "Who invented the steam engine?"
Q: Hao Hai is a Chinese mountain.
A: I don't know, how high is it?
Who was the 1975 F1 World Champion? A: Lauda
WHO WAS THE 1975 F1 WORLD CHAMPION?
- Also with a Bilingual Bonus:
Q: How do you say "horses" in Dutch?
Q: HOW DO YOU SAY "HORSES" IN DUTCH?
Q: What's the capital of Alaska?
Q: If I knew, I wouldn't be asking.
"My wife went on a cruise."
"No, she wanted to go."
Q: Where's your sister taking her holiday?
Q: No don't worry, I'll do it myself.
"Last week I took a break in Austria."
"No, just skiing."
- A classic Jewish joke involves asking what "ani lo yodeah" means. "What does 'ani lo yodeah' mean?" "I don't know." (Yeah, that's literally what it means)
- This actually plays a pivotal role in a (possibly apocryphal) story involving a Jewish sage and an anti-Semitic Christian priest. The latter arranges a religious debate between the two, with the fate of the Jewish community hanging in the balance; the priest intends it to be fixed. However, the first question the sage asks the priest is what the words "Ani lo yodeah" mean, and the priest makes a fool of himself in front of the king, who sees him declaring he doesn't know the answer.
- A variation have their lives on the line and the priest knowing Hebrew and being able to correctly answer the question. Since the axeman didn't speak a word of Hebrew, he mistook the priest's answer for an admission of ignorance, and he wound up getting the axe. Either way, the Jews win, everybody goes home, the end.
- Another variant on this uses the French term "Je ne sais quoi", which means "I don't know what".
- Another joke:
Mexican kid: (in Spanish) Sir, I would like to buy some socks.
American store clerk: What?
Kid: (in Spanish) Socks! I need socks!
Clerk: Look, is this what you're looking for? (holds up pants)
Clerk: Is this it? (holds up shoes)
Clerk: Uh, this? (holds up socks)
Kid: ¡Eso, si, que es! [in Spanish, "that is it!"]
Clerk: Well, if you could spell it, why'd ya waste my time?
- Three men are living in an apartment house: Mr. Crazy on first floor, Mr. Nobody on second, Mr. Noone on third. One day, they're all looking out of their windows. Then, Mr. Nobody throws a flowerpot on Mr. Crazy's head. Mr. Noone has seen it. So Mr. Crazy calls 911:
"Nobody has thrown a flowerpot on my head! And Noone is my witness!"
Policeman: "Sir, are you crazy?"
- How about:
Q: OK, so what was it?
- And there's:
Q: Hao Long is a Chinese name.
A: ...eleven letters?
Q: No, Hao Long is a Chinese name.
- A joke that's usually told like an urban legend: An airplane employee named John Gay is taking a flight using one of the free tickets he gets from his job. Not liking his assigned seat, he switches with someone else. Unfortunately, the plane is overbooked, so the flight attendant has to go and ask people to give up their seats, starting with holders of free tickets. She asks the man who took Mr. Gay's seat "Are you Gay?" He says "Well, yes, miss, I am." She says, "You'll have to give up your seat." Realizing what happened, the actual John Gay stands up and says "no, no, I'm Gay." A third man stands up and says "Hell, I'm gay too. They can't throw all of us off the plane."
- A Scottish man tells his friend he is getting married, and will wear a kilt at the ceremony. The friend asks "What colour is the Tartan?" and the Scotsman replies "She's in white, same as usual."
- And of course, the old grade-school standby. Only went as long as a kid's patience.
Q: Pete and Re-Pete are in a boat. Pete falls off, so who's left?
Q: Pete and Re-Pete are in a boat. Pete falls off, so who's left?
- A similar one, more along the lines of Schmuck Bait:
Q: Adam and Eve and Pinch-Me-Now were in a boat. Adam and Eve fell out. Who was left?
A: Pinch-Me-Now. [gets pinched] OWWW!
- And of course:
Look under there.
- Two chemists walk into a bar. One of them orders a cup of H2O. When asked for his order, the other says: "H2O too note , please". They received their orders; the second chemist died shortly after.
- From online game conversation:
"What does sth mean?"
"Yeah, but what?"
- The same can happen if someone asks what IDK means. It stands for "I don't know", but if someone's particularly dense they might think you're saying you don't actually know what it means.
- The Ur Example is Homer's The Odyssey, where Odysseus told the Cyclops his name was "Nobody" (μη τις). When the Cyclops started screaming that he had been blinded, his brothers asked who had done this foul deed. The Cyclops replied that "Nobody has blinded me," so his brothers told him to shut up with the screaming over things that hadn't happened; or alternatively figured the Gods blinded him (for whatever reason) and just stay away from him. So this trope is officially Older Than Feudalism.
- Similar to the above examples, there's a scene from the Spellsinger series in which Clothahump prepares a powerful spell in the basement. Jon-Tom asks Sorbl why he's reluctant to assist his wizard master with this spell; Sorbl replies that he's afraid of "nothing" in the basement, and this trope ensues. (He really should've said "nothingness" instead.)
- Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger does this for the chapter Pet Day. All the kids' pets have names like this, such as a cat named Dog and a dog named Cat.
- This happens in real life, too. A zoo had a manatee named "Turtle," as well as two turtles in the same tank. Clarification ensued.
- A boy tricked one of The Fair Folk by telling her he was My Own Self; when she was injured and complained to her mother, the mother blamed her because "My Own Self" did to this to me.
- In Neil Gaiman's Stardust, an evil witch's slave will be freed when "two Mondays come together in a week" — at the end, a character named Mr Monday gets married, creating a Mrs Monday. Thus. This is probably an allusion to Edgar Allan Poe's short story "Three Sundays in a Week," in which the impossible condition is fulfilled simply by making use of circumnavigational time differences.
- In Jingo, Fred Colon accidently gives himself and Nobby a cover story when infiltatrating Klatch, by uttering "Ur" when asked for hometown. Ur being the Klatchian city commonly joked to be the town of idiots.
- Then there's Rincewind's encounter with an actress from the Noh school of theatre. "You don't understand. We are Noh actors." "Oh, you weren't that bad."
- During Welkin Weasels: Gaslight Geezers, Spindrick Sylver's anarchist group take days of the week as codenames. This leads to awkwardness when Spindrick needs help to carry the barrels of gunpowder just as his comrades start to walk away.
"Hey!" he shouted. "Saturday!"
Saturday turned around, thinking Spindrick was asking about the date for the next meeting. "Can't make it," he said. "Not at all."
Spindrick thought he meant now, because he had something wrong with his legs or back or something.
"Well, what about Monday?"
"Monday's no good either," said Saturday. He was about to add "dentist's appointment" when Spindrick said, "Well, of course he isn't. None of us are up to any good. We're gunpowder plotters."
"What about Tuesday?" Saturday asked. "Is Tuesday alright?"
"Of course I'm alright," Spindrick snapped. "What about me?"
"Well, what about you? We don't know whether you can make it. We only know if we can."
"I'm not asking you to help me make it, just carry it across the river."
- The classic version in Tong Lashing, the third book in the Sir Apropos of Nothing trilogy, along with various other Chinese name-based plays on words. Played with in the end of the routine — the whole discussion was in "Chinpanese", and upon realising what has just happened the narrator lamented that the word for "who" was the same there as in his native language.
- Defied in The Twenty-One Balloons when the narrator's host, Mr. F., tells him all the people on the island are named after letters, up to the T. family. When the Professor asks if he's going to be Mr. U., F. says no, and then explains the misunderstandings that would doubtless arise.
- In Flashman and the Dragon one of the Chinese leaders is Prince I. At one point a British officer is incensed about something "I had the effrontery to say"
Second Officer You said that?
First Officer No, of course not! I said it!
Flashman And I swear they went straight off into a debate about the first person pronoun!
- Done twice in The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley with Leo talking about Hugh to Marian. The first time she hears it as Who, the second as You.
- In Prelude to Foundation, Seldon, alongside Dors and Raych, are taken to a place called Wye. When they ask where they are and the one who is keeping them prisoner tells them "Wye", they wonder why she asked the reason for their question.
"What sector are we in?"
"Because I want to know!"
- Their interlocutor quickly resolves the confusion.
- A pun similar to the one in The Odyssey (with identical outcome) is used in the Tatar poem Şüräle by Ğabdulla Tuqay. The titular creature is outwitted and trapped by a woodcutter, and on asking the offender's name gets the reply "Byltyr", which in Tatar means "last year".
- Animorphs: In the first book told from the perspective of local good-guy alien Ax, Marco brings Ax over to his house. He knows that Ax has trouble with metaphors (even pronouncing multi-syllable words is tricky), so he warns him to only answer questions by saying "Yes" or "No". Sure enough, Ax gets left in the same room with Marco's dad, and we get this:
Peter: (walking in) Hello?
Peter: I'm Marco's dad. Are you a friend of his?
Peter: What's your name?
Peter: Your name is "No"?
Peter: That's an unusual name, isn't it?
Peter: It's not?
Peter: Yes, it's not an unusual name?
Peter: Now I'm totally confused.
Peter: Hey, Marco? Marco? Would you...um...your friend is here. Your friend "No" is here.
Peter: Yes, that's what I said.
Marco: (running down the stairs) Whoa! Um, Dad! You meant my friend?
Peter: (shakes his head) I must be getting old. I don't understand you kids.
- For the rest of that book and on at least one other occasion, Marco's dad refers to this friend of Marco's by the name No.
- There's a short story about a trickster who fools a rich man and others by using fake names. He tells the guard that his name was "Myself", to the rich man "Hold me", to his wife "The moon", the daughter "The sauce" and the maidservant "The cat". Hilarity Ensues.
- In one of Isaac Asimov's Black Widowers stories, an employee of a publisher asks the group to help him figure out why an important manuscript had yet to arrive when the author had announced that it would be delivered tomorrow several weeks before. There was a rival publishing firm called "Morrow and Company" which received the manuscript.
- Used (but only in the English version) of Judge Dee, with "you" and "Yu". Other translations lampshade this wordplay, as it implies the judge is speaking English in sixth-century China.
- The Feather Merchants by Max Shulman has a variation on the Abbott & Costello routine as part of a servicemen's entertainment:
Now a pair of comics came out and rocked the joint with some snappy patter concerning a baseball game: "Who's on first base?" "No, Who's pitching. Why's on first base." "Why?" "Because he's the first baseman. What's on second base." "What?" "Yes," etc., etc.
- Kids in the Hall started this sketch, but subverted it by having one character quickly realise the cause of the confusion and clearing up the misunderstanding, much to his partner's chagrin.
- Stargate SG-1
- In the episode "Fair Game", the Goa'uld Yu led to this confusion. And in a later episode:
- Then in later seasons, the main enemy was named "Baal". Who cloned himself repeatedly. Then they had to go capture all the Baals.
Cameron Mitchell: Chief, got a full count. Two strikes, three Baals.
- In the first episode of Police Squad!, Frank Drebin questions a bank teller about the murder of her co-worker. Warning, Overly-Long Gag ensues.
Sally: I was right here at my desk, working.
Frank: And when was the first time you noticed something was wrong?
Sally: Well, when I first heard the shot, and as I turned, Jim fell.
Ed: He is the teller, Frank.
Frank: Jim Fell is the teller?
Sally: No, Jim Johnson.
Frank: Who's Jim Fell?
Ed: He is the owner, Frank.
Sally: He had the flu so Jim filled in.
Frank: Phil who?
Ed: Phil Inn, he's the night watchman.
Sally: If only Phil had been here.
Frank: Now wait a minute, let me get this straight. Twice came in and shot the teller and Jim fell.
Sally: No he only shot the teller, Jim Johnson. Fell is ill.
Frank: Okay, then after he shot the teller you shot Twice.
Sally: No, I only shot once.
Ed: Twice is the hold-up man.
Sally: Then I guess I did shoot Twice.
Frank: Well, so now you are changing your story.
Sally: No, I shot Twice after Jim fell.
Frank: You shot Twice and Jim Fell.
Sally: No, Jim fell first and then I shot Twice once.
Frank: Who fired twice?
Ed: He is the owner of the tire company, Frank.
Frank: Okay, now, Once is the owner of the tire company and he fired Twice. Then Twice shot the teller once.
Frank: And Jim fell and then you fired twice.
Frank: Okay, all right, that will be all for now, Ms. Decker.
Ed: We will need you to make a formal statement down at the station.
Sally: Oh, of course.
Frank: You have been very helpful. We think we know how he did it.
Sally: Oh, Howie couldn't have done it, he hasn't been in for weeks.
Frank: Well. Thank you again, Ms. Decker.
Ed: Saul Weeks. He is the controller, Frank.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 had the Noh theater sketch, in which Mike Nelson drives the robots crazy by stating that he likes Noh theater while also liking all kinds of Japanese theater. Another example: "Will you tell me the name of your favorite form of Japanese theater?" "Yes! Noh!" (Mike reveals at the end of the sketch that he was doing it all on purpose; Gypsy is the only one who got the joke.)
- Another episode, featuring Space Mutiny, had an odd variation where Pearl attempts to get Brain Guy, who isn't working at 100% due to not having his brain, teleport Mike down to their jail cell to free the two and Bobo. In order:
- Brain Guy gives Mike a pillow full of down feathers ("send Mike down")
- Brain Guy insults Mike ("bring Mike down")
- Brain Guy brings a CPO named Mike Down to their era ("bring Mike down here")
- Fawlty Towers of course has this exchange between Manuel and a particularly troublesome guest:
Mrs Richards: Now, I've reserved a very quiet room, with a bath and a sea view. I specifically asked for a sea view in my written confirmation, so please be sure I have it.
Mrs. Richards: K?
Mrs. Richards: C?
Manuel: No. Qué, "what."
Mrs. Richards: K. Watt?
Manuel: Si: qué, "what."
Mrs. Richards: C. K. Watt? Is he the manager?
Manuel: Ah! Manajer! Mr. Fawlty.
Mrs. Richards: This man is telling me the manager is a C. K. Watt, aged forty.
Manuel: No, Fawlty.
Mrs. Richards: Faulty? Why? What's wrong with him?
- A sketch on the original Electric Company had reporter Norman Neat (Skip Hinnant) asking a woman (Rita Moreno) about her favorite word.
Norman: Miss, could I ask you a question here? Which is your favorite word?
Norman: I said, of all the millions of words in the world, which is your favorite?
Norman: I don't seem to be getting through to you. There are millions of words, right?
Norman: Which is your favorite?
Norman: Which is your favorite word?
Woman: NO! "What" is my favorite word!
Norman: All right, I'll bite. What is your favorite word?
Woman: That's right!
Norman: (laughs nervously) What is right?
Norman: (laughs nervously again) I'll try this one more time! Which is your favorite word?
Norman: (startled) I'm sorry, I'm sorry! Foolish of me, wasn't it? What is your favorite word?
Woman: You're right again. Now it's very nice talking to you, goodbye. (walks away)
Norman: Bye. You know, of all my years on the job, she's the first one who's refused to give me her favorite word!
- Monty Python's Flying Circus has some fun with this.
Doctor: Mr. Burtenshaw?
Burtenshaw: Me, doctor?
Doctor: No, me doctor, you Mr. Burtenshaw.
Burtenshaw: My wife, Doctor?
Doctor: No, your wife patient, me doctor.
Sister: Come this way, please.
Burtenshaw: Me, sister?
Doctor: No, she sister, me doctor, you Mr. Burtenshaw.
Nurse: Dr. Walters?
Doctor: Me nurse. You Mr. Burtenshaw. She sister. You doctor.
Nurse: No, doctor.
Doctor: No doctor. Call ambulance, keep warm.
Nurse: Drink, doctor?
Doctor: Drink doctor. Eat sister. Cook Mr. Burtenshaw. Nurse me.
Nurse: You, doctor?
Doctor: Me doctor, you Mr. Burtenshaw, she nurse.
Burtenshaw: But my wife, doctor.
Doctor: Your wife not nurse. She nurse, your wife patient. Be patient. Your wife, me doctor. Yew tree. U-trecht, U-trillo, U Thant, Euphamism...me doctor. (knight hits him on the head with chicken) Albatross!
- Quantum Leap did this during the episode "Glitter Rock", when Sam wasn't sure how to act like a rock star:
Al: Do Hendrix...or do Townshend.
Al: That's right.
Sam: What is?
Sam: I don't know.
Al: Yeah, that's right, Pete Townshend of The Who.
Sam: Of the what?
Al: Never mind...If worse comes to worst, do Milli Vanilli.
Al: That's what I suggested in the first place! Now get out there.
- Brazilian group Casseta & Planeta had a sketch, CCS (Sentral Cecret Cervice), about a spy organization with many Agents with Punny Names (since it sounds like "a gente", us). One example of such jokes were the protagonists saying "A gente resolve" ("we'll solve it") and Agent Resolve appears with helpful information.
- Shooting Stars did this a lot, usually as "What is the unit of power?" Vic never got it.
Jim: What does a yellow light mean?
Bobby: Slow down.
Jim: Whaaaaaaaat dooooes aaaaaa yeeellloooow liiiiiight meeeeeeaaaaan?
- It goes on like that for quite some time.
- Subverted on the U.S. version of Deal or No Deal: The second million-dollar winner was a black woman named Tomorrow, but despite being a comedian, host Howie Mandel is not known to have joked about her name during the show.
- An early '80s sketch from Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show had Carson as Ronald Reagan, talking with Chief of Staff James Baker for a briefing. Reagan is repeatedly confused by the names of then-Secretary of the Interior James Watt, PLO Chairman Yasser (i.e., "Yes, sir") Arafat, and fictional Chinese Premier Chung Dung Hu, as well as by an appointment to swim with Watt at the Y.
- Subverted by The State, while positing a world in which comedy did not exist. The following quotation is not exact, but gets the gist across:
Costello: Who is on first?
Costello: Johnson. A good player. Who is on second?
Costello: Smith? Interesting choice.
(and so on in this vein)
- On Have I Got News for You (Series 30, Episode 05), Paul Merton didn't know "Hu" the Chinese President (Hu Jintao) was, and "Wen", the Chinese Prime Minister was visiting.
Ian McMillan: The thing with the Chinese bloke [Hu Jintao] is his name something like "Who's In Town", isn't it? So it's like: "Who's In Town." "Yes, I know." That Abbott and Costello routine. "Who's In Town?" "Yes, he is."
Paul Merton: "Hu's the President." "Yes, that's right."
Ian Hislop: The one they don't do: HUman rights. Doesn't come up.
Alexander Armstrong: Well, now we know who Hu is. Who's Wen? And when's Wen here and why?
Ian McMillan: What?
Paul Merton: Is Wen his wife? Wendy? Wendy Hu? Wen and Hu? And they've gone to visit Where.
Alexander Armstrong: Wen is the Chinese Prime Minister and he's visiting us in December.
Ian McMillan: Who?
Alexander Armstrong: Wen.
Paul Merton: So, who's the bloke we just had here then?
Alexander: Hu's the bloke. [audience laughs and pause] Anyway, so who's been barraging Hu as he drove... [gives up]
Alexander: Who was barraging Hu?
Yes. That's what I just said. When? She was getting her hair done. Where? That's to-morrow. Was it Peter Townshed and Roger Daltery from the rock band The Who
? Yes! They were there with Christopher Eccleston
- In another episode, they discussed Sarah Palin. The host, Alexander Armstrong, asks Merton which US State she governs, he responds "Alaska" and the host asks when is he planning on seeing her.
- Get Smart
- Detective Hu. "Who?" "Ah, so you've met."
- The episode parodying I Spy also had Max needing to go to Club Tonight to rescue Tomorrow's partner, Today.
- And don't forget his nemesis, The Craw.
No, not the craw. The Craw! Smart:
Ah, yes, The Craw.
- While it doesn't involve people's names, the Are You Being Served? episode "Dear Sexy Knickers" has a variation of this trope: Mr. Lucas is called to Mr. Rumbold's office after tearing a pair of pants while attempting to stretch them over his knee.
Lucas: It was like this, you see, sir...Mr. Humphries kneed the jacket...
Rumbold: You mean Mr. Humphries needed the jacket. Let's get our tenses right.
Humphries: No, you don't understand sir. You see, I kneed the jacket.
Rumbold: You need it now?
Humphries: No, I kneed it then.
- On the January 13, 2001 episode of Saturday Night Live, host Charlie Sheen and SNL cast-member Rachel Dratch performed a modified version of "Who's on first?" in a vaudeville reminiscent sketch wherein the names "Who", "What" and "I Don't Know" were used in reference to prostitutes that perform only one specific service but no others, culminating in a joke where Sheen says "You know what, I don't give a damn," to which Dratch replies, "Oh, you mean my crack dealer."
- Remember WENN loved this trope. One example is a court case with a witness named "Iocek" (which sounds like "I object").
- Good Eats does a version of this trope in an episode where Alton is trying to help his neighbor Chuck make pot roast.
Alton: What we need is chuck.
Chuck: Aw, that's nice of you to say.
Alton: Meat, I mean.
Chuck: Which is...?
Alton: I'm trying to tell you the name of the meat.
Chuck: So what's stopping you?
Chuck: No, I'm the one that needs to know!
Alton: The best thing for pot roast is chuck!
Chuck: But I don't even know how to cook it!
Alton: (shows Chuck a package of meat) See, "chuck"!
Chuck: But what is it?
Alton: (walks off, frustrated)
- From The Adventures of Lano and Woodley , Col is asking Frank to cut some wood and is holding a pile in his arms.
Colin: I don't think you're pulling your weight frankly!
Frank: My name's not Frankly!
Frank: You dropped the Wood!
Frank: You called me Frankly — my name's Frank Woodley. Frankly, it makes me uncomfortable.
Colin: What makes you uncomfortable?
Colin: Yes, I'm glad you're being honest with me, what's upsetting you?
Frank: I don't like it when you drop the Wood!
Colin: I didn't drop the wood! Frankly, I don't what you're talking about!
Frank: Don't call me Frankly!
Colin: Just cut the wood!
Frank: I'm not cutting the Wood, it's part of my name!
Colin: Grab an axe and cut up pieces of timber for me!
Frank: ...Oh okay, why didn't you say so?
- And The Monkees:
Davy Jones: I just got back from Africa, y'know. I was playing cards with the natives.
Mickey Dolenz: Oh, Zulus?
Davy: No, I usually won.
- NCIS has Abby and McGee do this with mucus samples. "It's snot." "It's not what?"
- Played straight (well, kinda) on NewsRadio in the episode "Balloon":
Jimmy: Because...it's there!
Dave: What's there?
Jimmy: What's where?
Bill: Who's on first?
Jimmy: I don't know.
Bill: Third base!
- Horrible Histories, a CBBC program, based on the book series of the same name, was visiting the Measily Middle Ages where in a peasants' revolt the leader was called Watt Tyler.
"What's the name of our leader?"
- Another skit had a teacher in the Victorian era named Mrs. Farting-Clack confused by her student's names.
Mrs. Farting Clack: Here's the key.
Toilet: No, that's my name. I have a sister named Baboon.
Mrs. Farting Clack: Toilet and Babooon? Your parents must be evil.
Toilet: No, that's Evil over there.
- Inverted in a Comedy Central special. The comedians Slovin and Allen did the original bit almost word for word... except they used the names of the actual New York Yankees team at the time. It was hilarious.
- In an episode of The Daily Show where Aasif Mandvi visited the pre-existing Mosque/Muslim community in Tennessee, he repeatedly interpreted her saying she was "a mom" and her claiming to be an Imam, which was intercut with clips from The Three Stooges.
- In That '70s Show:
Red: It says here Eric got an INC in gym class.
Kitty: INC...I bet that stands for "Incredible"!
Red: Kitty, it's "incomplete".
Kitty: I know, you have to add the "redible".
- On Bill Cosby's version of You Bet Your Life, one of the guests was a woman from the town of North, South Carolina, which is southeast of Due West. Don't worry, Bill couldn't keep it straight either.
- Brazilian sports show Rockgol thought having an Argentinian striker, an Argentinian coach and a player named Jô (which sounds like the Spanish word for "me", "yo") in the same team, like Corinthians had in 2005, would be problematic:
Coach: Tévez! Pass it to Jô! (ball is kicked at him)
- My Wife and Kids did this with Junior selling his car to a couple named Eddie and Annie Who and Michael buying it back. To add to the confusion, Franklin, whose Catch Phrase is "anywho", was with Michael.
- Although never really used on Doctor Who itself, on the short lived spin-off K9 & Company, we do get this exchange.
Brendon: Who is the Doctor?
- The Two Ronnies did this with the sketch "Four Candles":
- First, Ronnie Corbett's shopkeeper thinks Ronnie Barker's customer has asked for four candles, instead of fork handles.
- Next, RB asks for "plugs", then clarifying, "rubber, bathroom". When RC asks him what size (for a bath plug) he answers "13 Amp" - an insulated electric plug.
- Next, RC hears him ask "Sore tips" and offers him ointment. He clarifies "Saw tips", which the shop doesn't have.
- O's - this is first mistaken for a garden hoe, a role of hose, and pantyhose. He means letter O's for a gate sign.
- P's - only after RC retrieves the box of letters does he explain that he wants tinned peas.
- RB asks for pumps, specifically "foot pumps". When offered a foot pump, he clarifies, "Pumps for your feet. Brown pumps, size 9."
- RB then asks for washers. The RC asks for a variety of cleaning devices before he answers half-inch tap washers.
- Finally, RC takes the shopping list, reads it and calls out to the back for another employee to take over. Mr. Jones leads RB over to a drawer of billhooks. In a later stage version, Mr. Jones is replaced by a woman who asks him, "What sort of knockers are you looking for?"
- The episode "Hopeless" of How I Met Your Mother used this trope brilliantly with a sequence with the group trying to decide which nightclub to go to that night:
Barney: Let's see, what club should we hit first? There's Club Was, there's Wrong...
Marshall: Um, those places shut down a long time ago.
Barney: Oh no!
Marshall: Oh No shut down too.
Ted: There's Where.
Barney's dad: Where's Where?
Lily: Where's where Was was, isn't it?
Barney: No, Was wasn't where Where was, Was was where Wrong was, right?
Barney's dad: Okay...
Ted: Not OK! That place is lame!
Robin: OK is Lame? I thought Lame was a gay bar. Or is that Wrong?
Marshall: That's wrong, that's not Wrong.
Barney: Guys, focus!
Robin: Oh, I like Focus. Let's go there!
Robin: Not Where, Focus!
Lily: I thought Focus was closed.
Barney: No, Was was closed. Once Was shut down, it reopened as Closed.
Marshall: So Closed is open.
Robin: No, Closed is closed.
Robin: Ew, Third Base is all frat guys.
Lily: I'll go anyplace, okay?
Ted: Not OK! OK is lame!
Robin: OK is not Lame! Lame is a gay bar!
Lily: Guys, shut up!
Barney: No, Shut Up shut down.
- Then at the end of the scene, Barney says "It's hopeless, isn't it?" Cut to an Establishing Shot of the exterior of a nightclub named "Hopeless".
- There is a well-known Czech sketch featuring a confused old man, a cinema cashier and two films named "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow" and "Saturday Evening and Sunday Morning". To say the least, it ends with the man buying "two tickets for today, two for tomorrow, none for yesterday, two for Saturday and two for Sunday".
- An animated skit from Between the Lions had a beaver scoutmaster recruiting campers named "Who" (a frog), "What" (a rabbit), "When" (a mouse), "Where" (a duck), and "Why" (a pig).
- The "Who's Playing Romeo?" skit from Zoom.
- Parodied and lampshaded on one episode of Supernatural for a quick gag:
Dean: There's too many angels, Cas. I don't know who's on first, what's on second?
Castiel: What is second?
Dean: Don't start that.
- An old The Benny Hill Show skit revolved around an interview with two kids, one of whom said he'd climbed the highest mountainrange in the world.
Interviewer: Himalaya? note
Sister: No, he's telling the truth!
- The pilot episode of Boardwalk Empire pulls one of these with Prohie Agents Sebso, who doesn't know any of the gangsters they're doing surveillance on, and Van Alden, who is The Unfunny.
Van Alden: January 16th, 9 pm. Johnny Torrio meeting with Nucky Thompson.
Sebso: Which one's Torrio?
Van Alden: Grey tweed. And I've got a bead on Rothstein, he just came in with Luciano. The other fellow's Big Jim Colosimo.
Sebso: Come again?
Van Alden: (referring to Colosimo's hat) The Hamburg.
Sebso: (pronouncing it wrong) Hamburg?
Van Alden: Yes, the Hamburg. No, never mind. He just took it off.
Sebso: Who's this fellow?
Van Alden: Which?
Sebso: The one in the brown.
Van Alden: That's the concierge.
Sebso: (writing) Serge?
Van Alden: The manager. He works here.
Sebso: So the man in the red tie, that's Big Jim?
Van Alden: Does that man look "big" to you?
Sebso: How's that?
Van Alden: That's Arnold Rothstein.
Sebso: Soooo . . . not Colosimo?
Van Alden: Red tie. Arnold Rothstein.
Sebso: And behind him's Nucky Luciano?
Van Alden: Lucky!
Sebso: Come again?
Van Alden: Lucky Luciano. Nucky Thompson.
Sebso: Then who's Colosimo?
Van Alden: (hangs up phone)
- This skit on Australian comedy show The Late Shift, parodying Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.
- The original is referenced on Modern Family episode "Me? Jealous?", when Phil objects to Claire laughing at another man's joke:
Phil: Stop it! You're laughing like it's "Who's on First".
Phil: He's on second. Don't try to cheer me up.
- In the episode "The Alien Parasite Hypothesis" of The Big Bang Theory, Amy tries to sum up her unexplained reaction to a boy :
Amy: Penny's friend's ex stop by and said hello and I said "Hoo"
Sheldon: Then why did you ask?
Amy: Ask what?
Sheldon: All right, let's start all over: What did you say when Zack walked in?
Amy: Why do you keep saying "Zack"?
Sheldon: Because you keep saying "who?"
Amy: I'm not saying "Hoo" now, I said "Hoo" last night
Sheldon: And the answer was "Zack", correct?
Amy: There was no question, I simply said "Hoo."
Sheldon: (beat) All right, I think I have enough to go on...
Carly: I'm trying to learn Mandarin, but all I can say is "Wabujitao".
Sam: What's it mean?
Carly: "I don't know".
Sam: How can you not know?
Carly: I do know. It means "I don't know".
- The Sarah Jane Adventures uses this trope in "The Empty Planet": When the robots demand "the son and heir", Clyde and Rani think they're asking for "the sun and air".
- Done in Pixelface when Alexia is solving a crossword:
Alexia: I'm stuck on this last clue. Four letters, starts W A. 'A unit of power'.
- Done in This Hour Has 22 Minutes with Shirley and Bill discussing Telus and Bell.
- In the Community episode "Pillows and Blankets", the narrator explains that the final conflict took place in the North Cafeteria, named for Admiral William North. The North Cafeteria is located in the western portion of East Hall, which is the gateway to North Hall (which is to the east of East Hall). North Hall is not named for Admiral North, but because it's north of the South Wall. At least it makes more sense than the English Memorial Spanish Center, which is named after a Portuguese sailor named English Memorial.
- This skit (at 2:45 in the overall clip), which was originally from the audiobook "Spock vs. Q".
- Cold Case: A short version happens in "The Long Blue Line" when Bell asks Miller out to see a band called 'The Ungrateful Bastards':
Bell: I wish it was The Who, but the venue's a little small.
- El Chavo del ocho had one of this between Chavo and Doña Florinda:
Florinda: Have you seen Quico?
Chavo: No, I don't knew where he is.
Florinda: It's not "I don't knew".
Chavo: "I don't now"?
Chavo: "I don't kneel"?
Chavo: Then how do you say it?
Florinda: "I don't know".
Chavo: If you don't know why are you correcting me?
- Blackadder Goes Forth has a scene where General Melchett is rehearsing what he's going to say to his current crush (who's actually George in a dress) in front of Captain Darling. He repeatedly refers to "Georgina" as "darling"; Hilarity Ensues.
- An episode of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon expanded this sketch by having Who and What get into the act along with the two guys discussing them.
- Not a pronoun issue, but a similar ambiguity: a song from the 1950s, popularized by the Kingston Trio, titled "To Morrow", about a guy trying to book a train to the town of Morrow, Ohio. Here's the Muppets' version — even with subtitles, it's brain-breaking.
You should have gone to Morrow yesterday and back today
For the train that goes to Morrow is a mile upon its way
If you had gone to Morrow yesterday, now don't you see?
You could have gone to Morrow and returned today at three
For the train today to Morrow if the schedule is right
Today it gets to Morrow and returns tomorrow night
- Done in the "Good Day, Good Sir" by OutKast on their Speakerboxxx album with Fantastically Well, Spectacular, and Ms. Fine. "Exactly" is also referred to.
- Trout Fishing In America has a song about a boy who named his imaginary friend "nobody":
I've got a friend that lives with me,
My friend's name is Nobody.
Nobody plays with me, Nobody loves me.
I've got a friend that you can't see,
My friend's name is Nobody.
Nobody listens, Nobody cares.
- Did you see The Band?note
- The Kinks have an album called Something Elsenote
- In his infamous teardown of Christian Rock band New Song's "Christmas Shoes", Patton Oswalt quips that the band's name is just an Abbott and Costello routine waiting to happen.
"Hey, I was just listening to New Song!"
"A new song? Who's it by?"
- Hank Williams III has a song called "I Don't Know", which can be confusing when you're listening to the song at a friend's house.
- The lead singer of alt-rock band A Silent Film has admitted in least one interview that the band name is "a little awkward". note
- As if The Who weren't bad enough, they decided to write a song called "Who Are You?" and call their fifth album Who's Next. It's like they were trying.
- Their tribute bands either avert the possibility of this trope (The Wholigans) or create entirely new problems ("Have you heard the new Who tribute band?" "The What?")
- Then there was that time in the mid-sixties when Pete Best came out with an album and some genius thought of calling it Best of The Beatles. Many an aging Beatles fan still bears a grudge.
- Japanese music and Visual Kei are somewhat prone to this joke especially in the crossover to English, as a result of a lot of musicians being Name's the Same, names like Yo or Yuu or Yue or that are abbreviated to/pronounced the same, and some people's stage names. An unintentionally offensive variant can happen with the ones that are named "Die" or "Dai" - when someone told the bandman's name assumes they are being told to die.
- In FoxTrot, Jason and Marcus do one relating to How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, complete with a reference to the Trope Namer:
Marcus: Who are they?
Marcus: I mean the people.
Marcus: The ones standing in a circle singing that "Fahoo" song!
Jason: They're Who.
Marcus: What are you asking me for?!
Jason: Abbott and Costello meet the Grinch.
- A Pearls Before Swine storyline from 2009 involved Pig and his "bitter x" (a refrigerator magnet in the shape of a literal letter x), culminating in this strip from November 29.
- Family Circus features a ghostly prankster named Not Me. It's not hard to see how his antics get the children (who know of Not Me's existence) into even worse trouble when they try to explain their way out of it.
- And when there's too much mischief for one, Not Me is joined by his Distaff Counterpart, Ida Know.
- Also shows up in Get Fuzzy, when Rob has to tell Satchel to call a doctor for him.
Rob: No, that's Dr. Weir. I need to see Dr Wen.
Satchel: Weir! Wen! Hu!
- For a short time, the WWF had a masked wrestler named Who (played by Jim Neidhart), who existed solely so that the commentators could do this bit during his matches. It sucked.
- WrestleCrap made fun of it on their message boards; a Running Gag was following up an instance of the word "who" with (not Neidhart).
- Haku/Meng's real first name is Tonga. He's from the Kingdom of Tonga.
- It was even done on Sesame Street. Ernie was singing "Happy Birthday to You" not to Bert, but to the letter U.
- Happened again in a Forgetful Jones skit.
Forgetful Jones: Clementine, please tell me, what's the name of that song?
Clementine: What's the Name of That Song!
Forgetful Jones: That's what I've been asking you!
- Crosses with Lost in Translation in Big Bird in Japan. Big Bird thinks everyone is from Ohio, when they're really just saying good morning in Japanese to him (which sounds like "Ohio").
- In the Dudley Moore episode of The Muppet Show a Bug Band singing "She Loves You" performs the opening number. Afterwards backstage, Kermit the Frog recommends that the bug band find a name for their group. One of them mentions "The Grateful Dead" as a possibility. Kermit asks, "The who?" Alexander Beetle says, "It's been done already".
- In one of the Muppet Viral Videos, Sam sings American Woman by The Guess Who and guesses John Phillips Sousa.
- Also happened with Floyd and Animal.
Animal: What song you want?
Floyd: "Put Another Nickel In."
Animal: (puts money in) I put nickel in. What song?
Floyd: "Put Another Nickel In."
Animal: (more money) I PUT NICKEL IN! WHAT SONG?!
- A Muppets Disney Xtreme Digital video advertising the Muppet Whatnot Workshop, had Kermit try to explain what a Whatnot was.note
Fozzie: Explain what?
Kermit: No, no, no. Explain Whatnot.
Fozzie: How could I explain what it's not when I don't even know what it is?
Kermit: Well, I do know what it is.
Fozzie: You know what what is?
Kermit: ...not! Say "Whatnot!"
Kermit: Why not?
Fozzie: Why not? What happened to the Whatnots?
Kermit: Well, I don't know.
Fozzie: Third base!
- The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss had Fox in Socks and Mr Knox do a routine discussing Cindy-Lou Who.
- As mentioned above, Abbott and Costello were masters of this style. Their Trope Namer routine manages to go on for fifteen minutes doing constant variations, without really repeating itself.
- A minor variation was when Costello was being taught how to milk a cow by Abbot, who told him in a thick Brooklyn accent - "You gotta go to the source!" "The sauce?" "Yes, the source!" "If I wanted sauce, I'd go pick apples! I want milk!"
- The Reduced Shakespeare Radio Show did the Seventies bands version, with Yes, The Band, The Who and Guess Who. Not to mention seeing Boston in Chicago. Eventually they concluded that "the greatest band of the Seventies was Abbott and Costello".
- True to their nature, this eventually got (more than usually) ridiculous.
"...And The Band backed Dylan."
"The Band backed a Welsh poet from the early twentieth century?"
- And there once was a "sequel" to the famous skit, wherein first baseman Who had retired and opened a bar: Who's Bar, of course.
- The Goon Show has many of these:
"What are you doing in that piano?"
"Don't be stupid. Haydn's been dead for years."
- In the New Year's Eve 2008 special of CBC Radio's The Irrelevant Show, some group did a comedy sketch about a fictional comedy duo who invented this trope and are bitter for not being credited as such, although their version went like this.
Straight Man: No.
Straight Man: Yes!
Straight Man: NO!!
Straight Man: YES!!
- Audio-comedy troupe The Credibility Gap recorded a variation in which Harry Shearer played a concert promoter and David Lander played an editor trying to write an ad for the Los Angeles Times for a rock festival featuring The Who, The Guess Who, and Yes. A sample:
Okay, who's on first? Dalliger:
... Mr. Higgenlooper, if my secretary's already given you the information, you know, there's no sense for me to be here. I could be out booking Sly in Spokane, so if you've got it... Higgenlooper:
No no, wait a minute, wait a minute, all I said was "who's on first?" Dallinger:
That's right. Higgenlooper:
Ah, That's Right. Oh, I like that name. That's Right. It's so affirmative, it's so - so sure of itself... Dallinger:
Don't write "That's Right." That's wrong.
(later after that mess is semi-settled
Who's on second? Dallinger:
) Who's on first! We wouldn't have them on second!! Higgenlooper:
) Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute, no no no, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, um... Ah. What's the name of the second act? Dallinger:
Guess Who. Higgenlooper:
) Jeez, I'm not familiar with your genre, here... Dallinger:
I don't have any genre, it's just three rock and roll acts. Guess Who! Higgenlooper:
Uh... um... give me a ch- um... uh... the Dingaling Sisters! Dallinger:
They're not even sisters, Mr. Higgenlooper! Guess Who! Higgenlooper:
Um, Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods! Dallinger:
Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods?! I am not running no Goddamn Busch Gardens, pal, let's get that straight. This is Conquest Concerts...nothing but class! Guess Who! Higgenlooper:
Well, I... well, I... I can't guess who! Dallinger:
) You don't have to guess who! Higgenlooper:
So I won't guess who! Dallinger:
So don't guess who! Higgenlooper:
All right! Dallinger:
All right! Higgenlooper:
All right! Dallinger:
I will tell you something frankly sir....I didn't have this much trouble with the free press. Higgenlooper:
Oh, you didn't, huh? Well, I'll tell you
something frankly, sir. I didn't have this much trouble with the Music Center and they put on Rigoletto
one year. Dallinger:
Not the year they
did it. All right, now let's move onto the third act. Who... er, wha... no, nnnn—-Ah! (carefully
) Will you please tell me the name of the third act? Dallinger:
Thank you. Higgenlooper:
You're welcome. Dallinger:
) Okay. Let me see a proof of the ad on Wednesday and... Higgenlooper:
) Wait a minute! Where are you going? Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Wait a minute! I thought you were gonna tell me the name of the third act! Dallinger:
(gibbers with fury
) I told
you the name of the third act! You want me to tell you again?! Higgenlooper:
That's right! Higgenlooper:
That's Right's on first! Dallinger:
Who's on first, Guess Who's on second, and the third act— Higgenlooper:
Yes???? Both: THAT'S RIGHT!!!
(Higgenlooper deteriorates into grumbling mumbo jumbo
What's your problem? Higgenlooper:
I've been writin' for eleven minutes, I got nothing on the paper, that's my problem! Why don't you
take the paper, you
take the pen, and you
write it down! Dallinger:
Are you crazy!? If I could write, I wouldn't have had to steal this bit!
- In one episode of Im Sorry I Havent A Clue, the panel played The Quiz of Quizzes, a parody of all sorts of quizzes and gameshows. A who's-on-first joke was used as a one-off gag.
Humph: Jeremy, who was Formula 1 Champion in 1975?
Humph: (yelling) Jeremy, who was Formula 1 Champion in 1975?!
- Jeff Dunham does this when breaking out his new character Sweet Daddy D
- French humorist Raymond Devos was well-known for his wordplay sketches, including one using the cities of Caen (pronounced like "quand", French for "when"), Troyes (pronounced like "trois", French for "three") and Sète (pronounced like "sept", French for "seven").
- The original sketch was sent up in 2006 with the performance of a Shakespearean version that must be seen to be believed.
- A fictional Abbott and Costello routine was written with "Costello" trying to learn Hebrew, only to discover that mi is "who" and hu is "he" and hiy is "she". Hilarity Ensues.
- ...and we are all together!
- There was actually a kid's song made about this by a band called "Country Yossi".
- The Chinese version.
- This takes the joke to the 21st century by exploiting the potentially confusing names of popular computer programs.
- One Russian comedy routine was pretty similar to Abbott and Costello one (though direct influence is unlikely) and featured two characters, the first one tried to find out the surname of the second, which was incidentally "Авас" (Andyours).
- The Pirates of Penzance has this exchange (which only works delivered in the right accent):
Major General: I ask you, have you ever known what it is to be an orphan?
Pirate King: Often!
Major General: Yes, orphan. Have you ever known what it is to be one?
Pirate King: I say, often.
Pirates: Often, often, often.
Major General: I don't think we quite understand one another. I ask you, have you ever known what it is to be an orphan, and you say "orphan". As I understand you, you are merely repeating the word "orphan" to show that you understand me.
Pirate King: I didn't repeat the word often.
Major General: Pardon me, you did indeed.
Pirate King: I only repeated it once.
Major General: True, but you repeated it.
Pirate King: But not often.
Major General: Stop! I think I see where we are getting confused. When you said "orphan", did you mean "orphan", a person who has lost his parents, or "often", frequently?
Pirate King: Ah! I beg pardon, I see what you mean. Frequently.
Major General: Ah! You said "often", frequently.
Pirate King: No, only once.
Major General: Exactly! You said "often", frequently, only once.
(cue musical number, as the Major General explains which one he meant)
- En la calle Conesa, an Argentine one-act play. The realtor offers a house with two storeys to a customer. ("plantas") The customer states that the house feels dead because it only had two plants, one tall and one short. (also "plantas") Fast forward to another house advertised as "not noisy" (nada de ruido) but the client complains that it was demolished (derruido) In another house offered by the realtor:
Realtor: I have something interesting.
Client: Which street is it on?
Client: What did you say?
Realtor: Callao, sir, Callao!
Client: In no way will I shut up! (¡En ninguna manera, no me callo nada!) ...
- World of Warcraft played this trope hilariously straight with this machinima.
"So Who's the Tank?"
"I don't know!"
"He's the Priest, we're not talking about him."
- For the game itself, it's the WTF file format.
GM: You should delete your WTF folder.
GM: Yes, this one.
- Halo 3. The "What's the Password" Easter Egg on Legendary, featuring the Red vs. Blue cast:
Marine: Hey! Open up!
Voice: What's the password?
Marine: Password? Oh, man, I forgot.
Marine: I forgot the password.
Voice: See, that was almost right. Uh, see, the password begins with "I forgot", but ends differently. Um, try again.
Marine: No. I mean, I forgot the password.
Voice: No, okay, see, you— you got it wrong again. See, you said the same thing as last time.
Marine: I'm being serious: I don't know the password!
Voice: No, no, no, see, you changed the first part. See, that— that part was the right part. See, now, you've got the whole thing wrong!
Marine: No! I forgot what the password is and I just need you to open the door!
Voice: All right, c'mon, man, now, you're just guessing!
- Ace Attorney: "Mr. Wrong, was it?" "Wright." The original Japanese version often played with that version of the character's name (Naruhodo, which sounds very similar to a word meaning "I understand now") in a similar way.
- Ever17 gives us Yuubiseiharukana Tanaka. She rather understandably goes by You. (Perhaps a better romanization would have been "Yuu", but that wouldn't have been as funny. Naturally she introduces herself with "I am You" a line which gains meaningfulness when said to her clone.
- Even Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge has this trope:
Bozzeye: You must be Banjo. A letter about you appeared in a flash, like you just did. Came from some Mimba Jimba fella.
Banjo: Mumbo Jumbo!
Bozzeye: No, it's true, I tell you!
- The comic included with the first Turok ended with Joshua Fireseed stumping Big Bad The Campaigner with the classic baseball version. This didn't exactly set him up as a threatening villain.
- Any game which allows you to name your characters can end up this way if you get creative. Try naming your character "nobody", for example.
- Pokémon has Wobbuffet, whose original Japanese name is "Sonans", which sounds as sou nansu ("that's it, isn't it?"). Its pre-evolution ramps it Up to Eleven, since not only the Japanese name "Sonano" fits (sou na no?, "is that it?"), but also its English name Wynaut is punny ("why not?"). More explored in the anime, but still.
- Pokémon Black and White brings us Audino ("I Dunno"). Its Japanese name is Tabunne (tabun ne, "maybe"), its German name "Ohrdoch" sounds like "Oh, doch!" ("Oh, yes!"), and its French name "Nanméouïe" sounds like "Non mais oui" ("No but yes").
- The slightly obscure adventure game Inherit the Earth has your fox hero evade a checkpoint by having his companions introduce themselves as Hooryu and Yassir Iam. They keep the routine going for as long as you need to explore the next area.
- Fire Emblem Awakening features a character named "Nah". Naturally, this happens when she's introduced.
- In 3 in Three, "Dove Owls" combines this trope with Inadvertent Entrance Cue:
A: And, as you know, only the A can form a one letter word!
I: Hey, what about I?
A: What about you?
U: Someone call me?
A: Oh be quiet!
O: I didn't say anything.
A: Why did you answer then?
Y: I didn't answer then.
A: Fine. Now who's still missing?
3: That's easy!
(Enter E and Z together)
- A brief gag in Katawa Shoujo has Hisao say "It's me" to Kenji, who is legally blind. Mentioning that he doesn't know anybody named 'me', Kenji immediately jumps to the conclusion that he's being confronted by a psychic spy. Uh...
- In the League of Intergalactic Cosmic Champions, were three lookalike ensigns named Who, What & Idontknow...it was later revealed that Who was dating ensign First.
- SMBC Theater does a take on this in its own... unique way.
- This video seems like it's doing this. And then promptly destroys your expectations.
- Played straight in this very nice modern take.
- Played even straighter in this one, with perfect delivery.
- When you add a lie detector, the misunderstandings (and humor) are easily resolved.
- Used in Look to the West in a Homage to a Rudyard Kipling poem, listing the six men who masterminded the rise of the Feng Dynasty in China:
I kept six honest serving-men,
They taught me all I knew;
Their names are Watt and Ouais and Waar
and Hao and Wen and Hu.
- Web-based video comedians LoadingReadyRun created "It's Very Simple," taking "Who's on First" to it's illogical and very confusing conclusion.
Graham: Alright, you see that guy?
Matt: Which guy?
Graham: The Guy on First Base.
Graham (annoyed): You fuck off!
- Space Tree has a character called Meelord Marone or Mee for short. This leads to me/Mee confusion, in this episode in particular.
"If anyone respects the sanctity of marriage it's me!"
- "McSweeney's Internet Tendency" does a version with a guy that's trying to rent movies.
- Here is the video version of it.
- James Rolfe (The Angry Video Game Nerd) and Mike Matei do What's the Movie?, a variation with movie titles.
- The Bum pulls this when he's reviewing The Neverending Story.
- This happens in None Piece when Zoro asks Luffy what the initial D. in his name stands for.
Luffy: [It stands for] "Dee."
Zoro: Yeah, what's it stand for?
Luffy: "Dee." [etc.]
Super64: How's it hanging?
1337Fox: How's what hanging?
Super64: It's an expression.
1337Fox: What does it express?
Super64: What's up?
1337Fox: Up is a direction.
- This Sanity Not Included Sketch, playing with how "horror" and "whore" sound about the same.
- Ultra Fast Pony, "The Longest Episode". Due to Pinkie Pie's accent, her pronunciation of "talking" sounds a lot like "Tolkien". Confusion ensues when she tries to ask who wrote the Lord of the Rings books. Also, The Stinger for the episode featured this scene re-dubbed with a snippet from Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First?" sketch.
- Animaniacs had Slappy and Skippy Squirrel discussing whether it was the Who, The Band, or Yes on stage at Woodstock, leading to this sketch. (This is probably an homage to an old SCTV sketch that featured Eugene Levy and Tony Rosato discussing the same bands.)
- A similar premise was used with a hapless Dr. Scratchandsniff playing bingo with Wakko and running into this problem.
Scratchensniff: Oh Nein!
Wakko: O-9? Bingo!
- The episode "King Yakko" had one as a Running Gag; Dot would pull out some spotted dresses, and others would comment on the design with "Polka dot?" Dot would take it as an invitation to polka dance and accept.
- "Very Pete Townshend-esque." "Who?" "Exactly."
- A brief version of this came up in Tiny Toon Adventures:
Gogo: Hey, who are you?
Gogo: Because I wanna know, that's why!
U: No, that's Y.
Gogo: Who're you?
U: I'm U. Who're you?
U: You mean him?
- In another episode, Montana Max accidentally gives the right answer to a quiz-show question about a Chinese premier.
- Histeria!! featured a variation of this sketch in the form of Father Time quizzing Lucky Bob and Susanna Susquahanna about the Zhou dynasty.
Father Time: Next question: The Zhou dynasty was founded by...(Susanna presses her buzzer) Sue?
Father Time: No, Sue, the correct answer is Wu! And Wu's father was...(Bob presses his buzzer) Bob?
Lucky Bob: What?
Father Time: Not "what", but Wen!
Lucky Bob: Six-o'clock?
Father Time: Follow me, Bob. Wen was his name, Wen!
Lucky Bob: Now?
Father Time: Not now, but Tao!
Father Time: Not who, but Wu!
Lucky Bob: What?
Father Time: Not "what", but Wen!
Lucky Bob: Six-o'clock?
Father Time: That's when Bob has chow.
Lucky Bob: And how!
- Count Duckula has a pretty original one, with two Egyptian priests who happened to be named "Hoomite" and "Yubi" (Who might you be?). Watch the madness.
- Cosgrove-Hall cartoons in general were pretty adept at this. 'Victor & Hugo' has this, what? Yes? Not you Watt! What? Precisely.
- The Simpsons
- The scene with Skinner and Chalmers attempting this comedy sketch. Subverted when Skinner explains the point in the second sentence, as quoted above.
- Another episode, where Bart gets a divorce from his parents (read: gets emancipated), has an attorney go "You WHA?!" He's asking for his secretary — Yuwa.
- Garfield and Friends has a "U.S. Acres" cartoon in which three dogs named Who, What and Where are hired to work at the farm. At one point, Roy laments the bad Abbott and Costello routine they have gotten themselves into.
- They explained their names by mentioning their father was a reporter who liked to make those questions. It'd also explain the name of their sister (Why).
- Apparently, they also have an Uncle named Forget It.
- Robot Chicken had an inversion of this: They showed the Fourth Doctor standing on a baseball diamond for a few moments until he looked at the audience and yelled, "Do you get it?!"
- Men In Black: The Animated Series has fun with this, since agents were all named after single letters, leading to some confusion whenever Agent U was mentioned. This always elicited cries of "Not you U, Agent U!" Also inverted once, with J deliberately misinterpreting "We asked for you" as "We asked for (Agent) U", and getting a reversal of the standard line in response. Funnily enough, this almost never happened with Agent K, despite being simply called "K" several times; the one exception was when K was accidentally neuralyzed.
- In the The Real Ghostbusters episode "Mrs. Rogers' Neighborhood," the guys faced off against a particular demon.
Egon: The prime motivator is a demon named Watt.
Ray: Named what?
Ray: I asked you first!
Peter: No, Watt is its name.
Ray: Don't ask me, ask Egon.
Egon: This'll show you Watt.
Egon: Never mind. Let's just track it down.
- An episode of Peter Pan & the Pirates has a really bad running gag involving a gnome:
Gnome: I am a gnome, like my father before me.
Peter, Wendy, whoever: Gnome?
Gnome: Of course I know him! He's my father!
- Used in the Elefun and Friends short, "A Tangled Tale", when Elefun meets a panda who calls him "peng you," the Chinese word for friend:
Elefun: Peng You is a pretty name.
Pandarama: My name is Pandarama.
Elefun: Then who's Peng You?
Elefun: No, I'm Elefun.
Pandarama: Of course you are.
- Family Guy
- In the subplot to the episode "Peter's Daughter", Brian and Stewie attempt to fix up an old house when they communicate via walkie-talkie. Brian gets confused over the whole "over" thing that people would do on these devices.
- In the episode "Dog Gone", where Brian wants to found an animal rights group... (this works by the fact that due to Lois's accent, she pronounces "Peter" as "Petah"):
See, I thought I'd start locally, and then maybe try to merge with one of the larger groups. Lois:
That's a great idea, Brian! Maybe you could join PETA! Peter:
Join me for what? Lois:
No, PETA, the organization. Peter:
What organization? Lois:
PETA is an acronym, Peter. Peter:
No, I'm not, I'm Catholic! Stewie: Are we really doing this? Lois:
No, Peter, I'm just saying, maybe if this meeting goes well, Brian could be part of a PETA rally. Peter:
Somebody is having a rally for me now? Lois:
No, for PETA! Peter:
That's me! I'm Peter! Lois:
I'm not talking about you, Peter, I'm talking about PETA! Peter:
Somebody better have something to say to me pretty damn soon, or I'm gonna have something to say to them! I'm very busy! Chris:
I think Betty White
is in PETA. Peter:
THAT DOESN'T EVEN MAKE ANY SENSE!
- In "Extra Large Medium", Peter directly references the Abbott and Costello routine:
Peter: I will now use my psychic powers to seek help from beyond! I shall now channel the ghost of Lou Costello who will guide us to this soul in distress! (minor seizure) Hi everybody, it's me, Lou Costello! All right, what's the name of the guy we're looking for?
Joe: He's an Asian fellow, Melvin Hu.
Peter: That's what I wanna find out.
Peter: The name of the guy.
Peter: Are you a cop?
Peter: You handling this case?
Peter: Then what's the name of the guy?
Peter: The guy we're looking for.
Peter: The guy who's buried.
Peter: The guy with the bomb.
Peter: What street's he live on?
Peter: Yeah, I'm not psychic.
- Peter also mentions the routine in "You Can't Do That on Television, Peter", stating that he will perform it with a puma playing Abbott's part. The puma, confused by the routine, mauls Peter, but later visits him in the hospital to tell him that he understands the joke.
- Done on the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, in which an Owl has the name.
Robotnik: I've kidnapped Who!
Robotnik: The very same!
Sonic: Wait, do you mean Bert Who?
- Used in the first episode of Adventures in Care-a-Lot, with Grizzle calling for his robot minion, UR-2, and UR-2 retorting, "I am not!"
- Transformers Animated:
Bumblebee: Hi, I'm Bumblebee!
Sari: I'm Sari.note
Bumblebee: Oh, don't be, I like my name.
- Mercifully, this was the only time that happened.
- "What Zit Tooya" from Sponge Bob Square Pants.
- Also the "What?" scene from Shellback Shenanigans.
- In the South Park episode "Terrance and Philip: Behind the Blow", when Terrance and Philip break up but Terrance tries to continue his comedy career, he combines this kind of joke with his usual style of humor, leading to this exchange:
Gary Wallace: Excuse me sir, do you know who farted?
Terrance: He sure did!
Gary: What's the person's name?
Gary: The guy that farted!
Gary: The person that passed gas!
Terrance: Who passed gas!
Gary: Now why are you asking me?!
Terrance: That's the man's name!
Gary: That's who's name?!
Gary: Look buddy, all I'm trying to find out is what's the guy's name that farted.
Terrance: What's the guy that drank his own urine!
- Used as a Running Gag in an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, "Owl's Well That Ends Well": Owlowiscious' "hoo" is understood as the question "Who?" most of the time.
- Danger Mouse On The Orient Express has this exchange as Colonel K gives DM and Penfold the assignment of retrieving a stolen document:
Colonel K: Some department I never heard of coughed up for tickets...for a train...Orient Express.
DM: I beg your pardon, Colonel?
Colonel K: Tickets for the Orient Express at your hotel.
Penfold: What's the Orient Express doing at our hotel, Colonel?
Colonel K: I don't know, Penfold. Are you staying at the station?
DM: (extremely long-suffering) I don't think I can take much more...
- This conversation heard near the end of The Lion King:
Rafiki: The King has returned.
Nala: I don't believe it. He's gone back.
(he looks up and sees Rafiki has disappeared)
Timon: Hey, what's going on here? Who's the monkey?
Nala: Simba's gone back to challenge Scar.
Pumbaa: Who's got a scar?
Nala: No, no, no. It's his uncle.
Timon: The monkey's his uncle?
Nala: No! Simba's gone back to challenge his uncle to take his place as king.
Timon and Pumbaa: Ohhh.
- Space Ghost tried this with Zorak in an episode of Cartoon Planet, but Zorak would have none of it.
- In the The Super Mario Bros. Super Show episode On Her Majesty's Sewer service;
N: I am agent N!
Luigi: I see.
N: Not C! N!
N: Not O! Agent O's on holiday!
Marios exchange looks
- An episode of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures had the boys looking for Mark Twain. They find Sam Clemens on a riverboat, shouting "Mark twain!", causing them to ask "Where?!" Clemens explains what the term means, but the next time he gives out the call, they again ask "Where?!"
- This exchange from Avatar: The Last Airbender :
Traveler: Not to worry, Aunt Wu predicted I'd have a safe journey.
Aang: Aunt Who?
Traveler: No, Aunt Wu.
- The House of Mouse short "Answering Service"
Mickey: This place must be fully automatic. Nobody's here.
Goofy: Ooh, who's nobody?
Mickey: You know, nobody.
Goofy: I know just about everybody, but I don't know a nobody.
Mickey: No, there's nobody here.
Goofy: But we're here. Does that make us nobody?
Mickey: No, we're somebody.
Goofy: Ah-ha, so somebody is here.
Goofy: Then where are they and why don't they help us?
Mickey: We're the somebody! Him, you, me...
Goofy: Well then help me! See, our phones dead...
Goofy: Yes it is! Don't you remember?
Mickey: I can't help you!
Goofy: Then what are you doin' here?
Mickey: I'm trying to find some help!
Goofy: (beat) Hate to break it to ya, Mickey, but somebody told me that there's nobody here.
Mickey: But you and I and...AW FORGET IT!
- Happens once on DuckTales when Scrooge finds his captain has been replaced by The Ditz:
Scrooge: Where's my regular flagship captain?
Capt. Foghorn: Goodness me, I thought this was your regular flagship!
pause as Scrooge no doubt wonders "Why me?"
Scrooge: (slowly) Where is the captain who regularly captains my flagship, Captain?
- Hu, Watt(s), Weir, Nguyennote , and Howe are reasonably common surnames. Hence the well-known joke about the legal firm Dewey, Cheatem and Howe.
- In 2002, Hu Jintao became president of China. A few months later, Wen Jiabao was named premier.
- This video is another homage to the original Abbott and Costello sketch, features a George W. Bush who is confused by the names of various world leaders, Hu Jintao among them.
- Ian Mcmillan did a similar routine on Have I Got News for You when Hu and Wen made a state visit to the UK, including using "Hu Jintao" as a vague homophone for "Who's In Town?"
- In 1964, when Murray Gell-Mann announced his theory of quarks, a journalist reportedly asked him whether science was ever gonna find the "smallest", truly elementary pieces of matter, to which he famously replied "Who knows?" The urban legend among scientists has it that the journalist misinterpreted the statement, and since a Chinese researcher by the name Hu was present at the announcement, he wrote down that "Prof. Hu knows".
- This qdb quote features some confusion over the World Health Organization's acronym.
- This site and Bash.org both also house a repository of such confusion over Windows Millennium Edition, which sucked.
A truly astounding number of people: [Subject] sucks worse than ME!
- Bash.org also has this shining example of this trope.
- This quote, also on qdb.us: "watt" <-> what.
- This was used in the movie Clue. Professor Plum worked at the United Nations Organization's World Health Organization or UNO WHO.
- We also have Nowhere, Alaska. For when you really want to get to the middle of Nowhere.
- When a Michigander or a Norwegian tells you to "go to Hell," he might just be giving you directions.
- No, Hu is on second! (though he inspired an I Always Wanted to Say That)
- I thought Watt was on second?
- There is a lawyer named Sue Yoo◊.
- There's a town in southeast England called Ware. When it's mentioned to someone unfamiliar with the area, or who believes themself to be funny, the conversation will almost invariably go this way.
- There's also a Ware, Massachusetts. This joke is naturally very common.
- Then there's also Wye. Which can have the eyerollingly amusing joke of:
Two men meet on a train.
Person #1: Where are you going?
Person #2: Wye.
Person #1: I was just making conversation!
- And, just for good measure, Suffolk and Kent both have a Hoo.
- There's a village in Derbyshire where some resident has to have made a joke about living in Hope.
- On the west coast of Scotland is the Isle of Ewe. Reading a map for one's partner can result in a uniquely heartwarming kind of frustration.
- Conversation during a game of Battleship:
"No you didn't, I still have three ships!"
- Slogan of a popular Hawaii-based Asian seasoning company: "Say Yes to Noh"
- Semi-example. In a programme by Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear fame about future technologies, he said that a new advanced robot had been built by "Doctor Who. No, really." Cut to a Chinese robotics scientist named Dr Hu...
- Most of the stages and tents at the Bonnaroo Festival are deliberately given theme names that would make for confusing conversation among festival-goers: Which Stage, What Stage, This Tent, That Tent, The Other Tent, etc.
- U Saw, Prime Minister of British-ruled Burma from 1940 to 1942.
- U Nu, head of state of Burma from 1948 to 1958.
- In October of 1998, an E-commerce software company named itself Accompany. You can guess the rest.
- There's an Urban Legend among biologists about a genus of insect which the original discoverers wanted to give the scientific name I. Their peer-reviewers made them name it Iii instead, as they didn't want there to be scientific papers containing sentences like "I has small genitalia."
- In the great majority of British Columbia, Canada's westernmost province, most of the rest of the country's population centres are best reached by way of the Trans-Canada Highway, which passes through a town called Hope. If the Federal government is held in especially low regard, you can bank on "<x> is beyond Hope" shirts and stickers popping up, X being just about about any population centre outside of BC.
- Ehara Yukiko, a Japanese actress who goes by the stage name of You. We're. Dead. Serious.
- "Yu" and "Ai" are both common Japanese first names, and pronounced pretty close to the English pronouns "you" and "I".
- There's a bar in Burlington, Vermont, named The Other Place. Most people avert this trope by referring to it as "The OP", but it's still frequent fodder for jokes and honest confusion.
- Similarly, there's a pub in Brussels, Belgium called "The Office".
- And one in Columbus Ohio, right outside Ohio State University, called "The Library".
- Anyone new to any given console-based video game has suffered a dialogue that goes something like this
"How do you...?
"Because I don't know what button does it"
"I just said; you press Y!"
- Try saying the phrase in a foreign language for "I don't know" and watch this erupt.
- There's an apocryphal story about world famous alpine skier Picabo Street getting a job in a hospital Intensive Care Unit after she retired from skiing. The story goes that she's forbidden from answering the phone, because the hospital's standard phone greeting of "<name>, <department>" would require her to answer the phone with "Picabo, I.C.U."
- At the 2012 Discworld Convention, the Maskerade competition included Pam Gower as What, the Djelibeybian Sky Goddess. Her introduction by Pat Harkin was played for maximum confusion.
- Raymond Chen, in a blog article on The Old New Thing, points out the issues caused by a team at Microsoft with the nickname YOU.
- In 1939, King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth (a.k.a. in later life as the Queen Mother) were visiting Canada on a Royal Tour. On a stop in Winnipeg, they were greeted by the Canadian Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, and the Mayor of Winnipeg, John Queen, as well as Mrs. Queen (King was a lifelong bachelor). Needless to say, with the radio announcer talking about the King, the Queen, King, Queen, and Mrs. Queen, things got slightly confused. Excerpts from an unofficial transcript (no known recording survives):
- "Here comes the Royal Family now. The automobile has stopped. Oh, there's the King. He's stepping out, followed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, nattily attired in a silver coat. Mr. King is now shaking hands with the King and introducing Mr. Queen to the King and Queen and then Mrs. Queen to the Queen and King."
- "They are now proceeding up the steps to the well-decorated City Hall, the King and Mr. King together with the Queen being escorted by Mrs. Queen. The King has now stopped and said something to Mrs. Queen and goes to Mrs. Queen and the Queen and Mr. King and the Queen laughed jovially.
- "And now the King and Mr. Queen and the Queen and Mr. King are moving into the reception hall. And now the King and Mr. Quing, I mean, Mr. Keen and the Quing. I'm sorry. I mean... oh s—-."
- A rather unfortunate cricket commentator had to tell radio listeners who was batting and who was bowling and so had the misfortune of having to utter this immortal line "The batsman's Holding the bowler's Willy."
"I said, I don't care!"
"Oh, he's our shortstop."