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By "No", I Mean "Yes"

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"I'm willing to admit that I may not always be right...but I'm never wrong."
Sam Goldwyn

A character makes a statement, then immediately adds that they actually mean the exact opposite of what they said. Usually shows up in comedies. May be used as a form of pointing out sarcasm.

Subtrope of Bait-and-Switch Comment. Compare Dissimile. See also Distinction Without a Difference, where a character prefers to use a different word to mean the same thing, and "No" Means "Yes", where people assume a person is doing this, but they aren't.



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    Comic Books 
  • Tangled: The Series: Hair It Is: In "Baking Instinct", Eugene questions if Varian thinks he doesn't have a domestic side. Varian's response is "I didn't say that! I mean, I thought it, but I didn't say it". Discerning readers will recognize that Varian is actually replying in the affirmative to Eugene's question despite phrasing it as a denial.
  • The Ultimates: No, Thor will not join the Ultimates. He despises the military complex that supports them, and the shallow celebrity lifestyle. However, he will help the team if there is some actual crisis that threatens people's lives.
    Captain America: This way we get you for free, soldier.

    Comic Strips 
  • A Garfield strip had this exchange:
    Jon: I can't go out tonight, Liz.... I have a terrible cold. Don't worry, though. Garfield's taking good care of me.... [Cut to Garfield laying on the table in front of Jon] as in NOT!
    Garfield: Can't you breathe in the other direction?

    Fan Works 
  • A Boy, a Girl and a Dog: The Leithian Script: In this The Silmarillion story, when Finrod finds out her fiancée has been building flying ships during his stay abroad he is astounded. His brother Angrod asks him if he is jealous:
    Angrod: [curious] Are you jealous? —Ingold?
    Finrod: N— Yes.
  • In The Prayer Warriors, Jerry has this to say about his girlfriend, Mary (emphasis added).
    Jerry Narrates: "I and her [sic] are not dating, if you Satanic scum think that there is something Satanic going on. We are dating, but we are not having Sex until we get married."
  • In Dragon Ball Z Abridged, Cell attempts to jab Vegeta with his tail only for Vegeta to catch it. After Vegeta asks what it's for, Cell tells him that he drinks people with it. Vegeta then asks if Cell was planning to drink him. At first, Cell tells him no only to immediately follow up with yes. Vegeta then follows up by elbowing Cell in the chest.
    Vegeta: You feel that? That's what honesty feels like.
  • In Harry Potter and the Prince of Slytherin Harry's twin brother Jim writes about him and their mother encountering Remus in a magical community in India.
    So after that, I got kicked out of Healer Baskar's office while he, Mum, and "Brother Chandra" aka Remus Lupin talked things over. And by talked things over, I mean shouted for about twenty minutes.

    Film — Animated 
  • From Meet the Robinsons:
    Wilbur: If my family finds out that I brought you from the past, they'll bury me alive and dance on my grave. I'm not exaggerating! Well, yes I am.
    • Later:
      Lewis: You lied to me?!
      Wilbur: No! Well...yes.
  • This is how the Blue Meanies are ordered to communicate in Yellow Submarine:
    Chief: Pepperland is a tickle of joy on the blue belly of the universe. It must be scratched. Right, Max?
    Max: Yes, your Blueness.
    Chief: WHAAAAAATT???!! We Meanies only take "no" for an answer! Is that understood, Max?
    Max: No, your Blueness!
    Chief: That's better!
    • Lampshaded when John makes the offer of a truce to the Blue Meanies:
    John: Are you with us? Will you join?
    Chief Meanie: Shall we?
    Max: No!
    Chief Meanie: Aargh?!
    Max: Nnnn... yes, Your Newness!
  • My Little Pony: The Movie (2017): Rarity complains that Rainbow Dash's attempts at helping with decorations is only acceptable "if you were raised in a barn"... and then offers a "No offense" to farm-girl Applejack.
    Applejack: None taken. Especially since I wasn't raised in a barn. My family just happens to have a barn. Where I was born. And... spent most of my formative years.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Film/7Zwerge: this is the mirrors normal way of talking
  • Clue:
    Professor Plum: There's no need to shout!
    Wadsworth: I'M NOT SHOUTING! (beat) All right, I am! I'M SHOUTING! I'M SHOUTING! I'M SHOU—
    • At this point, his shouting has vibrated the candlestick from its perch above the doorway he's standing in and clocked him on the head.
    • Later, we get a glorious exchange of whether or not there's someone else in the house, with Wadsworth even name-dropping this trope.
  • Kingdom of Heaven:
    Balian: What is Jerusalem worth?
    Saladin: Nothing. (He walks away then turns around) Everything.
  • Hot Shots! Part Deux: Topper to Harbinger when he's wary of a Mole on the strike team.
    Topper: I'm not saying that I don't trust you, or that I do trust you, but I don't.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    Loki: [to Odin] It's not that I don't love our little talks, it's just... I don't love them.
    • Thor: Ragnarok: When Hela tells Scourge about how each ruler of Asgard has a right-hand official known as the Executioner, she explains that 'Oh, it's not just about executing people. It's more about... executing their vision. ...Mostly by executing people'.
  • In The Host, Gang-du tries to convince an Obstructive Bureaucrat that his daughter is alive.
    Officer: Your daughter, Park Hyun-seo, a seventh-grader at Dangsan Middle School... she's on the deceased list.
    Gang-du (desperately): Yes, she goes to Dangsan School... she's deceased... but she's not dead. (The officer scoffs) I mean, she died, but she's still alive.
  • In Jerry Maguire, when Rod is telling Jerry to have The Talk with Dorothy, and Jerry ends up talking more about her son, Ray:
    Rod: A real man would not shoplift the pootie from a single mother.
    Jerry: I. Didn't. Shoplift. The Pootie! (Ray just looks at him). All right. I shoplifted the pootie!
  • In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Short Round gives Indy's sanity a ringing endorsement:
    Willie: Oh my god! Oh my god, oh my god, is he nuts?
    Short Round: He no nuts, he's CRAZY!
  • When asked if they stole the map of the time holes, Randall, leader of the Time Bandits, says "No! Well, sort of."
  • In his Villain Song in Muppets Most Wanted, Constantine reminds Dominic Badguy of his place:
    I'm Number One, you're Number Two,
    I believe in equality,
    As long as you get less than me.
  • In Superman, when Otis assures Luthor that he's fulfilled his part of the plan, Luthor replies "It's not that I don't trust you, Otis, but ... I don't trust you. What did you do?"

  • Rejection Slips: The third letter, "Kind", spends most of the lines praising how much they enjoyed the manuscript. In the postscript, it finally says the submission was rejected.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of 30 Rock, Jack gets Hauled Before a Senate Subcommittee, where he is grilled on NBC's spending by a certain federal official.
    Devon Banks: Is it true, Mr. Donaghy, that your executives routinely used company helicopters to dry their home tennis courts?
    Jack: Yes and no: yes, it happened, and no, it didn't not happen.
  • The Big Bang Theory, "The Luminous Fish Effect": Sheldon is fired for mouthing off to the new university president.
    Penny: So you got canned, huh?
    Sheldon: Theoretical physicists do not get canned... But yeah.
  • On Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • "Restless" has this example:
      Dream-Giles: You hold them, you touch them, uh, use them, um...
      Dream-Harmony: Props?
      Dream-Giles: No.
      Dream-Riley: Props?
      Dream-Giles: Yes!
    • When Willow and Tara have a spat in season 5:
      Tara: Do I act like ... the big knowledge woman?
      Willow: No.
      Tara: Is that "No" spelled Y-E-S?
      Willow: ...S-O-R-T of?
    • From the Season 9 comics:
      Sophie: We certainly don't associate with anyone who'd do something like that. Wait. Yes we do, don't we?
  • Castle:
    • In "One Man's Treasure", Alexis tells Beckett, "I know my dad can sometimes be a handful, and by sometimes I mean all the time".
    • In the sixth season premiere, after Castle proposes to Beckett, a very surprised Beckett kisses him. When Castle asks if that's a yes, she answers, "No, wait...", leading to some confusion over whether she was saying "Yes" or "No". Her initial "No" was because she wanted to tell Castle she was offered a job with a Federal task force in Washington DC. Ultimately her answer was a resounding "Yes".
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Beast Below": "Except it's not a torture chamber, is it? Well, except it is. Except it isn't."
    • "The Big Bang": Rory is holding his dead fiancée as the universe dissolves around him, and mentions that the Doctor once told him that the universe is miraculous and ridiculous, and that "I could really use a ridiculous miracle right now." Then the Doctor appears, holding a mop and wearing a fez.
      The Doctor: Listen, she's not dead. Well, she is dead, but it's not the end of the world. Well, it is the end of the world. Actually, it's the end of the universe.
    • "Thin Ice": Bill Potts wants to know if they'll be totally defenseless while diving beneath the ice in primitive diving gear to investigate the people-swallowing Monster of the Week.
      The Doctor: No, no, no, no. Well yes. But don't worry about it.
    • Bill points out the Doctor has (as usual) steered the TARDIS wrong. The Doctor says you don't steer the TARDIS, you reason with it. When Bill asks how you reason with the TARDIS, the Doctor replies, "Unsuccessfully, most of the time."
  • Firefly: "Objects in Space": Simon thinks Jubal is doing this when he asks if Jubal's a bounty hunter and Jubal responds with "No, that ain't it at all". When Simon asks him to explain what he is, Jubal looks at him and says "I'm a bounty hunter". However, Jubal has been fixated on River's empty room and had just been wondering if the best word to describe an empty room's purpose was "imbue" when Simon asked his question. He was rejecting his choice of descriptive word, not Simon's question.
  • Happy Days. Richie catches Joanie and her friends with cigarettes and demands to know if she has been smoking. Joanie opens her mouth to answer with an indignant "No!" As she speaks, out comes a puff of smoke, forcing her to admit that she actually has been.
  • Sylar does this in Heroes.
    Sylar: I'm not a Serial Killer.
    Luke: You kill people, you take souvenirs...
    Sylar: Okay, technically, I'm a serial killer.
  • Sam Puckett from iCarly and Sam & Cat did this a few times. Example: "I don't want to point at anyone or call any names, but someone gave him the wrong medication and someone's name is Cat"
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: "The High School Reunion": When Dennis confronts Mac over having sex with his date, Mac lies about it, for maybe two seconds.
    Dennis: You slept with my prom date?
    Mac: No... Yes.
  • In Kim's Convenience, an elderly couple offers Mr. and Mrs. Kim a generous payment in exchange for giving up Mr. Kim's reserved gravestone (since it's right next to the elderly woman's reserved gravestone and she wants her husband's gravestone next to hers as a symbol of Together in Death). The Kims are wary but are excited by the prospect of getting a lot of money. Before they can officially accept, however, the woman passes away and so her husband is left responsible. He wasn't added to his wife's will and has a more modest retirement income, so the money being offered decreases significantly. Disappointed but still trying to be sympathetic and polite, all Mr. and Mrs. Kim can say in response to the deal is, "Yeah. But no."
  • From the M*A*S*H episode "To Market, To Market", as Henry is polishing his new desk, he wants to brag to everyone coming into his office. This is an atypical example, because each time he does it (which he does to everyone he shows the desk off to) he's not actually listening to them. He's just glorying in having something cooler than MacArthur has.
    Henry: Radar, you know what kind of wood this desk is made with?
    Radar: Oak, sir.
    Henry: Nope. It's oak.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus:
    • This dialogue snippet between two pepper pots plays with it:
      Mrs. Thing: Oh, have you been shopping?
      Mrs. Entity: No, I've been shopping.
    • From the "Nudge Nudge" sketch:
      Norman: Look, are you insinuating something?
      Him: Oh, no, no, no...yes.
    • From "The Silliest Interview We've Ever Had"
      Sir John: May I take this opportunity of emphasising that there is no cannibalism in the British Navy. Absolutely none, and when I say none, I mean there is a certain amount...
  • Used by Mark Lamarr on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, usually along the lines of "...I like x. I say like, I mean tolerate. I say tolerate, I mean (Description of elaborate torture he'd rather be put through rather than have anything to do with x)"
  • From Parks and Recreation:
    Leslie: Is this audit even real?
    Tammy One: In a sense, yes. But in another, truer sense, no.
  • A good multi-part one from Scrubs:
    Dr. Cox: And this... abomination is the reason we can't afford a new computer?
    Dr. Kelso: Well, that, and a little medical boondoggle I have to go to in Cleveland. And by "medical boondoggle" I mean "golf weekend". And by "Cleveland" I mean "Hawaii". ...Anyway, I have to go catch my bus to the airport. And by "bus" I mean "helicopter".
  • This snippet from Skins, when Naomi goes to visit Effy in her psychiatric institution.
    Effy: You think you're going mad, so you came to see me to see what a crazy person looks like.
    Naomi: No. NO! No...yes.
  • Sports Night has:
    Dan: You went to a woman's apartment, and there you had wine. And there you had sex.
    Casey: You are way off base. That is not what happened. Except, yes, that's what happened.
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look: The interviewer in the "Realistic Film Director" sketch asks questions like this.
    Interviewer: Peter, what would you say - and apologies if this seems like a crass question - is the horniest bra size on a woman?
    Director: What?
    Interviewer: By which I mean, what, if anything, is the message in your films?
  • In Conspiracy Thriller Utopia, hapless Dugdale is talking to Donaldson about how they are both being blackmailed by The Network, it leads to this amusing exchange:
    Donaldson: All I know was within the next few weeks I was embroiled in a sex scandal. Professor Pervert addicted to coke and prostitutes.
    Dugdale: So did they just set you up?
    Donaldson: Yeah. Well, no. *beat* I.. I do like cocaine and prostitutes but they didn't have to tell anyone.
  • On The Vicar of Dibley, Jim Trott's "No, no, no, no, no...yes", which is his Verbal Tic. And also his (rarely seen) wife: "Yes, yes, yes,".
  • The West Wing:
    President Bartlet: You told the press I have a secret plan to fight inflation?
    Josh: No, I did not. Let me be absolutely clear, I did not do that. Except, yes, I did that.

  • The third verse of "Strawberry Fields Forever" by The Beatles:
    Always, no, sometimes think it's me,
    But you know I know when it's a dream,
    I think a "no", I mean a "yes", but it's all right,
    That is, I think I disagree.
  • The Living End has a song called Short Notice with lyrics like:
    I said I wanna, I wanna see you
    I really meant I wanna, I wanna leave you
    I said I wanna, I wanna touch you
    I really meant I wanna, I wanna punch you
  • "Only on Days That End in 'Y'" by Clay Walker:
    The only time I ever miss you, honey
    Is when I'm alone or when I'm with somebody
    Your memory never even gets to me
    'Cept when I'm awake, and when I m sleeping
    Girl you never even cross my mind
    'Cept just when I think I left you far behind
    Only when I laugh, only when I cry,
    And only on days that end in "Y"
  • Played with on "Maybe I Mean Yes" by Holly Dunn:
    When I say no I mean maybe
    Baby, don't you know me yet?
    Nothing's worth havin' if it ain't a little hard to get
    So let me clarify so you won't have to try to guess
    When I say no I mean maybe, or maybe I mean yes

  • In Fellowship! The Musical, Frodo says he thought Sauron was killed. Gandalf responds: "Oh, he was killed. If by 'killed', you mean turned-into-a-giant-flaming-evil-red-eyeball, then SURE, you betcha he was 'killed'!"

    Video Games 

  • Darths & Droids episode 1821:
    "Is this another one of your brilliant plans?"
    "I wouldn't call it brilliant... But it is pretty brilliant!"

    Web Original 
  • Agents of Cracked has with Michael: "If by "I want a hot dog" you mean "I want your junk in my mouth", then sure!"
  • The FAQ from The Best Page in the Universe includes the question, "How often do you update your page?" His answer: "At least once every week. And by "once every week," I really mean "when I get a chance." And by "when I get a chance," I really mean never."
  • Amy Ratcliffe describing her search for 'water dancing' lessons at a convention.
    ...we eventually tortured a volunteer for correct information. And by torture, I mean we looked sad and tired and frustrated.
  • SF Debris' review of David Lynch's Dune (1984), discussing the changes in the Baron's character from the book:
    "I hate to be all "they changed him now he sucks"...but at the same time, they did change him, and now he really does suck.
  • Paul O'Brien discussing the economic realities of the comics industry on House To Astonish:
    It only balances out if there are enough readers that, collectively, what it's worth to them matches up with what it's worth to the creator, and if it doesn't match up, the entire system collapses. Now, I'm not saying it doesn't match up and the entire system's going to collapse, but it doesn't match up and the entire system's going to collapse.
  • Nick's Strength and Power host Nick Miller, in a video posted August 6, 2020, speculated about a cryptic post by seven-time Mr. Olympia Phil Heath. It featured a photo of Phil hanging out with eight-time Mr. Olympias Lee Haney and Ronnie Coleman, and came with a teasingly-worded inspirational message about powering through setbacks to reach your goal, ending with a wink emoji. Phil seemed to be implying that he, who was dethroned by Shawn Rhoden in 2018 and had been on an indefinite hiatus from bodybuilding competition ever since, was finally planning to make his Olympia comeback in order to win his eighth title and match the record held by his heroes Lee and Ronnie. Nick made the following prediction, which was confirmed and even exceeded the next day when Phil officially announced that he’d compete in the 2020 Olympia:
    Nick: "Now I’m not saying that Phil’s gonna come back, but I’m saying Phil’s gonna come back."

    Western Animation 
  • In the South Park episode "Cartman's Incredible Gift," the police come to Cartman, who has (supposedly) gained psychic abilities, and offer to pay him to help them catch a killer. Cartman replies, "I'm afraid that my powers are not for sale. And by that, I mean that they absolutely are for sale."
  • The Simpsons:
    • Lionel Hutz, explaining to Marge why Judge Snyder is not on good terms with him: "Well, he's had it in for me ever since I kinda ran over his dog... Well, replace the word 'kinda' with the word 'repeatedly' and the word 'dog' with 'son'".
    • Leonard Nimoy introduces the episode "The Springfield Files" with, "The following tale of alien encounters is true. And by true, I mean false. It's all lies. But they're entertaining lies, and in the end, isn't that the real truth? The answer is no".
    • This...
      Homer: I have to go do some serious thinking.
      Bart: I think Dad meant "do some serious drinking."
    • In "Kill Gill Vols. 1 & 2", Marge has trouble saying no to freeloader Gil and when she finally gets the guts to, he's gone. Which leads to this...
      Homer: Hey Marge! Want $1000?
      Marge: NO! I mean yes.
      Homer: Too late. [burns the money]
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • Doctor Doofenshmirtz does this about Once an Episode, usually when Perry bursts in to foil his evil scheme of the week. There was at least one occasion where, by unexpected, Doof actually meant unexpected. And he sometimes isn't sure what he meant by other variations.
      Doofenshmirtz: Ah, Perry the Platypus! What an unexpected surprise... and by unexpected I mean completely expected!
    • Major Monogram once said he wanted to approve Perry's request for a vacation but there was a small problem. He admitted that by "small" he meant "big" and by "approve" he meant "deny".
  • Used in an episode of Maryoku Yummy, with Baburu commenting on Hadagi's latest scheme: "I can see this is going to be fun. And by fun, I mean no fun at all."
  • Futurama:
    • "The Devil's Hands are Idle Playthings": "You may have to metaphorically make a Deal with the Devil. And by devil, I mean Robot Devil. And by metaphorically I mean get your coat."
    • In "Viva Mars Vegas":
      Zoidberg: You mean I'm invisible?
      Professor Farnsworth: No, no, no. Not in any sense of the word. But essentially, yes, entirely.
  • A literal case happened in King of the Hill. Peggy was once asked to teach German and she answered "Nein", thinking it meant "Yes". As she related this to her niece, Peggy said she had lost an opportunity because of that.
  • Pushed to the extreme by Sasha in Titan Maximum:
    Sasha: We thought you'd given up on us. And by We I mean I and by thought I mean hoped and by given up I mean died and by on us I mean in a fire and by period I mean disappointed ellipses.
  • The Fairly OddParents:
    • "Hairicane": When it seemed the Air Force would defeat the hairicane, Chet Ubetcha announced "We're saved!". Then the hairicane defeated the Air Force, prompting Chet to say "And by saved, I mean doomed!"
    • "I Dream of Cosmo": Timmy's Dad meets an amnesiac Cosmo and assumes Cosmo must be a magical mix of witch and genie and says Cosmo must grant him Three Wishes. By three, Timmy's Dad means a gazillion.
  • Robot Chicken has a skit where the Care Bears ethnically cleanse the Care Bear Cousins. Quoth Bedtime Bear: "It's bedtime! And by 'bed', I mean 'ethnic', and by 'time', I mean 'cleansing'". (Shoots a rainbow that decapitates the elephant)
  • Gravity Falls:
  • Shimmer and Shine: In "Ahoy, Genies", Shine admits that sometimes she gets carried over and, by "sometimes", she means "all the time".
  • This is how Danger Mouse defeats the anti-logic Gremlin in "Gremlin Alert," by confusing him with a "yes means no" Logic Bomb.
  • The ZhuZhus Zhu Land, Midge the Mighty stops the hamster car with her foot.
    Nice try!
    "Nice" meaning "bad".
  • Batman: The Animated Series: In "Harley's Holiday", after Harley accidentally kidnaps Veronica Vreeland, her father, a general, comes to the rescue in a tank, prompting Harley to make a hairpin turn the opposite direction.
    Veronica: What are you doing, that's my father!
    Harley Quinn: No, that's your father—IN A TANK!
  • In an episode of Scooby-Doo, Shaggy is heard to say:
    "Scoob, there's a time and place for eating, which is all the time and every place. But not here and not now!"
  • In the Risk episode of Undergrads, Nitz calls on a friend to show up with an excuse to allow him to leave the game because he knows Gimpy will actively try to keep him from ditching:
    Nitz: It's not that I don't trust Gimpy to let me leave but... I don't trust Gimpy.

    Real Life 
  • Pundit Rachel Maddow consistently refers to the Republican Party's current (c. mid-2012) highest priority as "Jobs, jobs, jobs, and by that we mean 'abortion'."
  • During the filming of the 1972 version of Under Milk Wood, Richard Burton reportedly told the director: "I'm not drinking on your film. And by not drinking, I mean just one bottle of vodka a day."


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