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  • In the Animorphs book Visser the charges against the former Visser One are read during her trial, followed by the different forms of death penalty associated with each crime. It ends almost incongruously with "... treason by murder of subordinate Yeerks, which carries a sentence of exile to punishment duty."
  • During a chase sequence in Book 7 of the Aubrey-Maturin series, Captain Jack Aubrey promises his men: "The lookout that first sights the cat shall have ten guineas and remission of sins, short of mutiny, sodomy, or damaging the paintwork."
  • When Tyler of A Bad Day For Voodoo tries to chase after his stolen car which has the voodoo doll of himself in it, he curses: "S-word, f-word, s-word, d-word, s-word times three, f-word, and a z-word that [he] made up on the spot".
  • In Dan Gutman's novel Back in Time with Thomas Edison, one of the characters, Ashley Quadrel, is arrested in 1879 for trying to pass off counterfeit money. When arguing his case - that he's a time traveler from the future, and that he's carrying real, 21st century cash - he quips, "I know what's going to happen! There's going to be a World War in 1914, and another one in 1939. There are going to be nuclear weapons that can destroy entire cities. There's going to be a new kind of music called rock and roll!"
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  • Mundane occurrences are often listed after exciting ones in Candide: or, Optimism. It fits particularly well due to the dry and dispassionate tone of the narrative. After the titular character slays the Jew, who was a joint owner of Cunegonde (Candide's love interest), the Inquisitor, the other joint owner, sees this upon entering: "Entering, he discovered the whipped Candide, with his drawn sword in his hand, a dead body stretched on the floor, Cunegonde frightened out of her wits, and the old woman giving advice."
  • In George and Harold's Captain Underpants comics, when the Monster of the Week begins its rampage, a kid will cry for help and name two things the monster just did. An adult will voice concern over the less dramatic one. The "more dramatic one" will always be "attacking the gym teacher".
    Kid: Help! The Inedible Hunk just ate fifteen folding chairs and now he's attacking the gym teacher!
    Principal: Oh no! Not folding chairs!
  • In Bob Dylan's autobiography "Chronicles: Volume One", he describes a guy named Billy the Butcher who used to play at one of the same cafes as Dylan in the early '60s, and always played the same song, "High Heel Sneakers".
    The Butcher wore an overcoat that was too small for him, buttoned tight across the chest. He was jittery and sometime in the past he'd been in a straitjacket in Bellevue, also had burned a mattress in a jail cell. All kinds of bad things had happened to Billy. There was a fire between him and everybody else. He sang that one song pretty good, though.
  • Clue: In Booby-Trapped!, the chapter "The Scarlet Key" has Mr. Boddy about ready to leave for a conference on Zillionaire Island, when he gets a call from the chairman informing him the conference has been delayed for a week because "a tornado, a hurricane, a monsoon, a blizzard, a tidal wave, and an earthquake have all struck the island at once. Also, I have a sore throat."
  • In Crown of Slaves, the reasons for Jessica Stein's being "off" are given as being too quick at judging the political value of respects paid, too punctual in brushing well-wishers off, too fawning of bad witticisms and having front teeth that are too big. Or wearing high-heeled sandals to the funeral.
  • In Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, we learn that much of Qwghlm Castle has been burned down over the centuries "by a combination of Barbary corsairs, lightning bolts, Napoleon, and smoking in bed."
  • Dave Barry Slept Here describes the years between 1963 and 1968 as "A Long String of Bummers," starting with President John F. Kennedy's assassination, followed by the election of goofy-looking President Lyndon Johnson, the Vietnam War and its associated controversies, more assassinations and riots, and Gilligan's Island being canceled. The same book describes The Great Depression as "an era of unemployment, poverty, social turmoil, despair, and—worst of all—Shirley Temple movies." Serious problems of the 1980s include "the AIDS epidemic, the Greenhouse Effect, the trade imbalance, drugs, illiteracy, Geraldo Rivera getting his own TV show, and so on."
  • In Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age, there is a scene describing a fresco portraying previous generations that had to live in a world without nanotechnology. They're said to have had to put up with things like cancer, pogroms, ethnic cleansing, etc., as well as running with scissors and... heating a cold house with charcoal briquets. Which makes this a subversion, since that last one is also deadly.
  • Discworld:
    • In Men at Arms, Nobby finds a Klatchian Fire Engine, which is banned by three religions. A footnote adds that five more religions have embraced it as a holy weapon to be used on infidels, heretics, gnostics, and people who fidget during sermons.
    • In Interesting Times, "Teach" Saveloy introduces Cohen the Barbarian thusly: "Doer of mighty deeds. Slayer of dragons. Ravager of cities. He once bought an apple." Though actually buying an apple instead of stealing it is quite an accomplishment for a member of the Silver Horde.
    • Soul Music describes the influence of Music With Rocks In It thusly: "It made you went to kick down walls and ascend the sky on steps of fire. It made you want to pull all the switches and throw all the levers and stick your fingers in the electric socket of the Universe to see what happened next. It made you want to paint your bedroom wall black and cover it with posters."
    • In Going Postal, Moist is tested by the Order of the Post to see if he's worthy of becoming the new Postmaster. Moist rhetorically wonders "What's the worst that could happen?", Mr. Groat explains, "The worst that could happen is you lose all your fingers on one hand, are crippled for life, and break half the bones in your body. Oh, and then they don't let you join."
    • In Making Money Cosmo Lavish says Moist Von Lipwig is "a cheat and a liar, an embezzler, and [has] no dress sense whatsoever." Moist replies: "I happen to think I dress rather snappily!"
  • The narrator of The Divine Comedy asks the audience to imagine his amazement at seeing the divine, the eternal, and the good in the Heavenly Rose after coming from mere humanity, mortality, and Florence. Yeah, Florence is as far away from "a sane and just people" as a human is from the infinity of God.
  • From Dune: In Fremen society, when a man defeats another man in combat he receives that man's wife, home, and coffee set.
  • The Elenium: Darestim is universally fatal, but is also known to cause sterility. A bit of Fridge Logic: How would they even know it causes sterility if the patients are dead in the first place?
  • In the second Esther Diamond, Dopplegangster, Esther screams at the Big Bad for his various horrible deeds while hitting him, ending with the fact he nearly ruined her audition. To be fair, she's an actress and that was pretty important for her.
  • In cartoonist Roz Chast's book Going Into Town: A Love Letter to New York, she describes her fears when her family moved from New York City to the suburbs: "Would we become philistines? Zombies??? ...Republicans???
  • In Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens, begins a section with a list of phenomena commonly thought to be caused by demonic influence: such as "wars, plagues, [and] sudden audits". It shows the demons are just as much behind the banal evils as the calamities people tend to blame them on.
  • Gravity Falls:
  • Gulliver's Travels:
    • The third chapter is titled, "Part III: A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib and Japan". (Of course, the society and culture of Japan was still mostly unknown to Swift's target audience.)
    • Gulliver gives a Long List of various evil things and people that were absent in the country of the Houyhnhnms. After listing "gibers, censurers, backbiters, pickpockets, highwaymen, housebreakers" and "dungeon, axes, gibbets, whipping-posts, or pillories" among other things, he ends with "dancing-masters".
  • In Han Solo at Stars' End when infiltrating a base the droid he is working with hacks a computer and fakes an alarm. Upon being told that, because the computers of the base are all interconnected, he can do it anywhere on base, Solo tells him to sound every alarm he can "fires in the power plants, riots in the barracks, indecent exposure in the cafeteria".
  • Harry Potter
    • Gilderoy Lockhart: "Order of Merlin Third Class, Honorary Member of the Dark Force Defense League and Five-Time Winner of Witch Weekly's Most Charming Smile Award." And he thinks that last one is his greatest achievement (it actually is), which makes Harry's detention in that book all the funnier. "Thought you'd make an entrance, didn't you? Well, it's not quite the Most Charming Smile Award, but it's a start, Harry, it's a start!"
    • During the first Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:
      "You need to be prepared. You need to be alert and watchful. You need to put that away, Miss Brown, when I'm talking."
      Lavender jumped and blushed. She had been showing Parvati her completed horoscope under the desk.
    • During the Ministry's smear campaign against Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, he joked that he didn't care that they strip him of all his awards and honors, unless they take away his Chocolate Frog Card.
    • Another example comes from Order of the Phoenix on a sign at St. Mungo's Hospital. The Plant and Potion Poisoning department deals with "Rashes, Regurgitation, Uncontrollable Giggling, Etc." Then subverted by the end of the same book, when Ron's encounter with uncontrollable giggling is what nearly gets him killed.
    • Luna Lovegood believes that Aurors are part of the "Rotfang Conspiracy" and try to bring down the Ministry of Magic by using "a combination of Dark Magic and gum disease".
    • At the beginning of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, there's a nice example of an inversion: "Harry Potter was a highly unusual boy in many ways. For one thing, he hated the summer holidays more than any other time of the year. For another, he really wanted to do his homework, but was forced to do it in secret, in the dead of night. And he also happened to be a wizard."
    • It's noted that Voldemort's unsupported flight is illegal under wizarding law. When you're the Chief Death Eater, responsible for numerous murders and umpteen other crimes besides...
  • In Michael Flynn's In the Lion's Mouth, Oschous recounts how, after a governor's house was burned, the boots leveled a town, and the man responsible wasn't even in it, because the over-governor could imagine arson and rebellion, but not leaving your licensed township.
  • Journey to Chaos: Sathel's Cruel Mercy punishment to the guy who kidnapped her daughter is the following: "years of nightmarish hallucinations, random memory loss, and itchy spider bites". Although, having several constant itches that don't go away for years may or may not be worse than the other two.
  • In Just Shy of Harmony, the goals of the church in 1970 are said to be:
    • 1. Spreading the gospel to every tribe, tongue and nation
    • 2. Ending world hunger
    • 3. Carpeting the boardrooms
  • Juvenal (second century A.D.) uses this now and then in his satires. Most of the time his examples actually escalate (adultery, murder, murder of close relations) but now and then he throws in this trope, as in listing the dangers of living in Rome as "conflagrations, collapsing buildings, poets reciting in the month of August". Which makes this one Older Than Feudalism.
  • Stephen King: In the novel The Dead Zone, when Johnny Smith becomes known as a clairvoyant, Dees, a reporter from Inside View magazine (a tabloid about supernatural things) comes to him and offers him a contract, while cheerfully admitting that he doesn't believe in any of the things his magazine writes about. Johnny gets quite upset over this and calls him all the worst insults he can muster ("ghoul," "grave robber," "your mother should have died of cancer the day she conceived you") before Dees tries to interrupt, prompting Johnny to end his barrage of insults by sayying he sounds like he's "talking through a Saltine box." Its just a little barb that denies him even the smallest dignity left.
  • In King Dork, after Tom and Sam Hellerman's band performs at a school talent show, Sam sells a zine with lyrics to their songs. A lot of them criticize the mean assistant principal, Mr. Teone, and Tom mentions in passing that one of the songs is called "Mr. Hitler, Mr. Stalin, Mr. Teone." (After it's revealed that Mr. Teone was filming underage students having sex and selling the tapes, it's not quite as much an example of this trope - but still an extreme comparison.)
  • Left Behind:
    • In Tribulation Force, a news report states that the Antichrist's armies have killed thousands of civilians and caused a traffic jam.
    • In Armageddon, the crimes that Chloe Steele has been accused of by the Global Community upon her capture is being expelled from her university for making threats against the faculty, aborting two fetuses (and being suspected of killing a third daughter), while naming her son Jesus Savior Williams.
  • In The Lies Of Locke Lamora, Locke describes his treatment of the bondsmage: "I cut off his fingers to get him to talk, and when he'd confessed everything I wanted to hear, I had his fucking tongue cut out, and the stump cauterized." Cue everyone staring at him. "I called him an asshole, too. He didn't like that."
  • In Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, Marcus describes to a judge how he attempted to overthrow the Department of Homeland Security, disrupted a city causing millions of dollars in damage, set up an illegal gathering which caused near-riots, and beat up a girl in order to steal her phone. The judge says, "You stole a phone"!? As it turns out, she's not joking. Because DHS is in disgrace for (among other things) illegally imprisoning him and his friends, and nearly causing a riot at the aforesaid gathering, his crimes against them are swept under the rug and forgotten. But he gets sent to prison over the phone.
  • The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul repeatedly mentions that King's Cross Station after dark is an awful place, full of "muggers, pimps and hookers, drug-pushers and hamburger salesmen".
  • Inverted in Jasper Fforde's Lost In A Good Book by the Goliath Corporation who demand an employee of theirs be returned to them so he can "face a disciplinary board on charges of embezzlement, Goliath contractual irregularities, misuse of the Corporation's leisure facilities, missing stationery... and crimes against humanity." Played straight when Acheron Hades lists his hobbies as murder, torture, and flower arranging.
  • Subverted in Maggody and the Moonbeams, where Arly Hanks states that she avoids arguing with people armed with shotguns, rifles, handguns, crossbows, or even spatulas. The spatula seems like the trivial entry in the list ... until readers recall that the chief spatula-wielder in Arly's life is her mother, who runs a bar & grill. And is not lightly to be argued with, if Arly wants to live on something besides canned soup that day.
  • Walter Sinnott-Armstrong's Morality Without God (The last two words strikethroughed) begins with asking if the average theist would agree to marry an atheist. The reasons given are that the theists perceive atheists as untrustworthy. They would see spousal abuse and adultery as permitted, they would be immoral, cause trouble, get in trouble, infect children with depravity and couldn't be counted on to help with the dishes.
  • In the Night Watch novel Twilight Watch, Anton is discussing the crimes of the historical figure Gilles de Rais that got him burnt at the stack. They were raping and brutally murdering hundreds of children... and not paying his taxes. In this case, Anton isn't really using the trope for humor- it's more like he's sarcastically noting that the latter was what got the authorities after him; you could get away with a lot as a Medieval aristocrat.
  • In Notes from the Overfed, a short story by Woody Allen, a character is asked by his uncle if he believes in God. He answers: "I do not believe in God. For if there is a God, then tell me, Uncle, why is there poverty and baldness? Why do some men go through life immune to a thousand mortal enemies of the race, while others get a migraine that lasts for weeks?"
  • Dean Koontz's Odd Apocalypse: Odd, while trying to talk the chief of security for the place he's a guest at out of killing him, says, "if you kill me, the girl I'm with will be upset, and Mr. Wolflaw is so charmed by her that he'll be upset, and there goes your job. Not to mention prison, gang rape, and the loss of your right to vote."
  • In the final Origami Yoda book, Tommy is upset that the field trip has a No Origami Rule. He writes, "Wug!", "NOOOOOOOO!", "I have a bad feeling about this!", "SAD WHISTLE!", and "I like nuts!".
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians:
    • This also occurs when Percy described The Fields of Eternal Punishment. "... I could see people being chased by hellhounds, burned at the stake, forced to run naked through cactus paths or listen to opera music."
    • As Dionysus says while playing Pac-Man: "The world will fall, the gods will die, and I will never get a perfect score on this stupid machine."
  • In Perelandra by C. S. Lewis, one exchange between the protagonist and the devil's servant provides an excellent example of this, as Ransom quizzes his opponent on things he'd do for the mysterious spirit guiding him. First he asks if Weston would murder, then if he'd betray English to the Germans, and then - most awful at all - if Weston would publish lies as research in a scientific periodical. When Weston agrees to that last one, Ransom exclaims, "May God have mercy on your soul!" It says something about Weston's character before his turn that breaking research guidelines is the only line Ransom couldn't see him crossing.
  • The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary - actually a book about how one of the biggest contributors to the Oxford English Dictionary was criminally insane and went to jail for murder.
  • The Quotable Atheist, lists some of George Monbiot's most breath-taking adventures as a journalist as: "...sentenced to life in prison in absentia, pronounced clinically dead from cerebral malaria, and required to visit Texas."
  • Invoked in Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock: Ariel, the sylph assigned to protect the fair and noble Belinda, has a premonition of disaster one day, so he assigns a veritable army of sylphs to guard the most important things - such as Belinda's honor, chastity, dress, fan, hairstyle... wait, hold on a sec.
  • One of the Redwall books features a hare beating the shit out of a verminous Mook, both for eating the hare's friends and for persistently referring to the hare as a rabbit.
  • In The Retribution by Val McDermid (the author behind Wire in the Blood), the villain is described as such: "Jacko Vance, killer of seventeen teenage girls, murderer of a serving police officer, and a man once voted the sexiest man on British TV [...]"
  • In Revenge of the Stainless Steel Rat, the Hero at one point impersonates an enemy pilot and his "superior" attempts to arrest him on charges of "Looting and consorting with the enemy. And 10 G landing too. Which is not a shooting offense although the other two are."
  • In Rule 34 by Charles Stross, the rulers of Issyk-Kulistan have made their country very welcoming to the Organisation (basically, organised crime as internet startup) because they're the bait in a co-ordinated effort by international law enforcement (and a crimefighting behaviourology AI) to take them all out in one go. Shortly before the trap snaps shut, Issyk-Kulistan's General Bakhar learns the Organisation took advantage of their hospitality to smuggle 3D printer feedstock to Edinburgh disguised as bread mix. So when he, with great satisfaction, arrests the Organisation's representative in his country, he can't resist topping off the list of charges with "Oh, and there's an inquiry from Scotland about the import of illegally mislabelled food products..."
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events:
    • The back-cover blurbs for books list five or more events, props, or characters, a few of which (usually but not always the last) are often something harmless-sounding, such as "a doll named Pretty Penny" or "a bad casserole". Some of the later books subvert this by making the last item on the list something more dramatic— such as "a surprising survivor of a terrible fire". This is re-subverted when some of the harmless-sounding items are actually very important and dangerous, like "a sugar bowl", while some of the dangerous-sounding items, like "Chabo the Wolf Baby" are harmless.
    • There's an arrest warrant out for Count Olaf for Arson, Fraud, Murder, and stealing a tray of cupcakes
    • The carnival freaks from book 9: a hunchback, a contortionist, and an ambidextrous guy.
    • Speaking of examples from the ninth book, while discussing which part of a ferocious beast is to be the most feared, Snicket writes, "Some say the teeth of the beast, because teeth are used for eating children, and often their parents, and gnawing their bones. Some say the claws of the beast, because claws are used for ripping things to shreds. And some say the hair of the beast, because hair can make allergic people sneeze."
    • From Book the 13th: "Sooner or later everyone's story has an unfortunate event or two, a schism or a death, a fire or a mutiny, the loss of a home or the destruction of a tea set."
  • Sentimental Education: In order to deal with his unrequited love, Frederic Moreau writes a novel about a man with a grand love for a woman. “To possess her he murdered several gentlemen, burnt down part of the town and sang under her balcony.”
  • In Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth, Tommy Oblivion talks to himself as he ponders how time travel might rectify the heroes' predicament, muttering about "divergent timetracks, opposing probabilities, experiment's intent, and whether or not someone's pizza had anchovies on it". But then, he's an existentialist, so maybe this trope makes perfect sense to him....
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Daenerys is forced to eat a raw horse's heart to fulfill a Dothraki superstition regarding childbirth. It is said that if she fails to keep the heart down, her child will be "defective, stillborn or female". (See also Values Dissonance.)
    • In the fifth book of the series Roose Bolton is describing how he came to have a bastard son, and how "all in all it was a dismal day" because the girl he raped after executing her husband wasn't that much fun, the fox he was hunting got away, and his favorite horse came up lame.
  • In Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries, Sookie describing Pelt in Dead to the World "...whom I despised because she had been cruel to Alcide, insulted me grievously, burned a hole in my favorite wrap -oh- and tried to kill me by proxy. Also she had stupid hair.
  • In Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations: Watching the Clock, Agent George Faunt suffers a breakdown, attacks his colleagues, takes a researcher hostage and turns the DTI branch office into a siege zone. He also makes a lame time-related pun. Dulmur notes this last in a manner suggesting it's almost as serious as the other offenses.
  • In her non-fiction book, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Mary Roach describes her experience at a mortuary college embalming lab. Anyone who enters the blood "splash area" has to wear plastic and latex to protect against "HIV, hepatitis, stains on your shirt".
  • Suspicion by Swiss Author Friedrich Dürrenmatt has a character named Fortschig who loves to complain about everything, especially the Swiss government, the city Bern and him being poor. He also loves to complain about Trolley buses, dogs, the radio, stamp collectors, ballpoints and traffic police.
  • In the last chapter of The Third Day, The Frost, Ellie is examined by a doctor in New Zealand who sums up her various injuries sustained during the war: "Shock, cracked vertebrae, fractured patella, malnutrition, cuts and abrasions, acute anxiety state, headlice."
  • In Those That Wake, corporations rule everything, advertisements invade every minute of your life, people retreat into their cellphones, the government patrols public transportation... and the Mets have moved to Las Vegas.
  • Tough Magic has some outtakes in the back of the books; several of which have the characters reciting lists of various issues and problems, always ending in something ridiculous.
  • In Lawrence Block's Two for Tanner Evan encounters a one-eyed child in Laos.
    I tried not to look at her face. I felt tears welling up behind my own eyes and blamed them on the fever. The world, after all, is filled with blind children who envy the one-eyed ones, and legless men who envy cripples, and millionaires who envy billionaires. One has to maintain a sense of proportion...
  • Unsong lampshades how questionable translation causes this in some versions of The Bible, specifically a King James verse that mentions "unicorns, satyrs, and screech-owls." The addition of a mundane screech-owls to a group of mythical creatures gets investigated thoroughly.
    "If God starts by promising unicorns and satyrs, screech-owls are going to be something of a let-down."
  • Quoth King Elend, in The Well Of Ascension, on why his kingdom is in dire straits: "The Assembly is a mess, a half-dozen warlords with superior armies are breathing down my neck, barely a month passes without someone sending assassins to kill me, and the woman I love is slowly driving me insane."
  • Victoria has what looks like a straight example, with John Rumford resenting the setting's Nazi faction for endorsing racism, totalitarian police state methods and color television. Subverted, in that Rumford really does think TV is a deadly menace to society, so to him at least it actually does rank up there with their other crimes.
  • In another Brandon Sanderson book, Warbreaker, when two Returned (Godlike individuals who came back to life after dying) are discussing their lives before Returning which they have no memory of Blushweaver gives us: “Please. Why would you want to know about your normal life? What if you were a murderer or a rapist? Worse, what if you had bad fashion sense?”.
  • In Whispers Under Ground, Lesley lists off some possible crimes she might charge someone with: trading without a license, criminal trespass, receiving stolen goods, wearing heavy black mascara in a built-up area.
  • Kvothe, at one point in his narrative comprising the majority of Patrick Rothfuss's The Wise Man's Fear, mentions that in order to survive a trip, he "begged for crusts, stole a man's shoes, and recited poetry." He's been poor his whole life, often starving, but as a musician he's disdainful of poets, finding them useless and indulgent, so for him poetry was actually much, much more humiliating than begging and stealing.
  • The 2009 edition of The World Almanac had on its front cover, highlighting what were presumably the most important events in 2008, a picture of Barack Obama and John McCain, a picture from the Olympic Games and... American Idol winner David Cook.
  • The bandit gang from The Worst Shots in the West is accused of robbing a whole list of people, finishing with them having managed to successfully steal candy from a baby (Without losing a man!).
  • Wonder Woman: Warbringer: The Dire Warnings about humanity are of: war, torture, genocide, pollution, and bad grammar
  • Christopher Fowler's Bryant & May mystery, The Ten-Second Staircase. In the memo that begins the novel as Ch. 1, a supervising bureaucrat complains, "My instructions are disobeyed, my reputation has been irreversibly damaged, and my office wallpaper has been ruined."


Example of: