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Confucian Confusion

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"Confucius was one of the ones who invented confusion, and for that reason … he's one of the ancient Chinese, one of the Japanese of the ancient times."
Miss Panama Giosue Cozzarelli

Works with Chinese characters made anywhere other than China will sometimes have said character attribute a proverb to Confucius, often by prefacing the proverb with "As Confucius say" or simply "Confucius say". Sometimes "wise man" replaces Confucius' name. Apart from being grammatically incorrect, often intentionally, it reveals that their attribution to Confucius is erroneous. Actual proverbs from the Analects are always prefaced with "The Master said".

The phrase that started it all, "[As] Confucius say[s]", became popular in Western culture largely through fortune cookies in Chinese restaurants. Quotes from Buddha have also been attributed to Confucius at times, only aggravating the confusion.

Compare Ice-Cream Koan. Subtrope of Wrongfully Attributed. Sometimes overlaps with As the Good Book Says....


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Secret of Mamo: In the Manga UK dub, Goemon uses a quote he attributes to "a wise man" to criticize Wolf the Third for accepting a job from Fujiko simply for liking the look of her ass.
    Goemon: A wise man once said, "Nice asses turn men into asses."
    Wolf the Third: True. That sure was a wise guy.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Street Fighter and its sequels both have examples from characters with otherwise perfectly good grammar on par with the Japanese characters (and even then the only part that's grammatically incorrect is "As Confucius say").
    • In the first film, Kowloon Dingsau, upon learning that Junjo and Nachi are siblings, notes, "Coincidence, as Confucius say."
    • In Return of the Street Fighter, during the sauna scene, a random Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy attributes a proverb about not touching hot rocks to Confucius.
  • Subverted in The Fighting Fist Of Shanghai Joe, one of the '70s Kung Fu Spaghetti Westerns, in which a storekeeper in the St. Francisco (yes, you read the opening subtitle right) Chinatown during the prologue attributes a proverb to Confucius as Joe continues on his way to a wagon train headed for Texas. The subversion is in how the proverb said storekeeper prefaced with "As Confucius say" is an actual Confucius proverb, about how only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.
  • Big Fat Liar: Marty Wolf uses this as a racist insult towards his Asian director, and at the end said Asian director gets back at him with one of his own.
    Dusty Wong: I told you, Wolf, the only way to shoot this scene is from 12 different camera angles, with birds flying around. By the by, Confucius say, "Kastang! You're busted!" Rock and roll, baby!
  • Tucker: The Man and His Dream: Tucker tries to shake off the legal eagles with a quote about shipbuilding he attributes to Confucius.
    Preston Tucker: "Big ships fine," Confucius say. "Rowboats long in tooth, make big noise, go nowhere."
  • Rollercoaster: Tracy Calder attributes a Biblical quote to Confucius, which her dad promptly lampshades. Justified in that she claims to have learned that from a fortune cookie.
    Tracy Calder: Confucius say, "With faith, man can move mountain."
    Harry Calder: I thought Jesus said that?
    Tracy Calder: Well, maybe he did. But according to that fortune cookie...
    Fran: Which is yours, by the way.
    Tracy Calder: ...Confucius said it, too.
    Harry Calder: Don't believe everything you read.
  • In Twin Dragon Encounter, as the McNamara brothers deal with some rude truckers at a rest stop, Martin attributes a quote about how to go about it to Confucius.
    Martin McNamara: Confucius say, "When fighting truckers, nail the suckers!"

  • There are some old jokes (often with puns) along this theme as well, such as:
    Confucius say, he who drives like hell, bound to get there.
    Confucius say, he who drops watch in toilet, bound to have shitty time.
    Confucius say, he who farts in church, sits in own pew.
    Confucius say, he who goes to bed with itchy butt, wakes up with smelly finger.
    Confucius say, he who has four balls, no can walk.
    Confucius say, he who jumps off Empire State Building, leaps to conclusion.
    Confucius say, he who lays girl on hill, not on level.
    Confucius say, he who runs in front of car, gets tired.
    Confucius say, he who runs behind car, gets exhausted.
    Confucius say, he who stands on top of toilet, high on pot.
    Confucius say, he who walks sideways through rail station turnstile, going to Bangkok.

  • Subverted in Judge Dee: Being a Confucian magistrate in Tang Dynasty China, he only quotes Confucius in the proper context and never as a joke.
  • In the Inspector Morse novel "Last Bus To Woodstock", a don recites what the narrative calls a "tired old joke" about rape: "Confucius, he say girl with skirt up, she run faster than man with trousers down, eh?"

    Live-Action TV 
  • Lampshaded in Get Smart.
    Harry Hoo: As Confucius say: stick and stones may break my bone but name will never hurt me.
    Maxwell Smart: Confucius said that?

    Visual Novels 
  • In Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, Interpol agent Shi-Long Lang tends to quote wolf-themed aphorisms from a Confucius-expy named Lang Zi. As the story goes on, they become increasingly incomprehensible to the point that Edgeworth finds them difficult to follow.
    Lang: Lang Zi says: "A cub who disrespects others soon feels the disciplinary bite of an elder."

    Web Videos 
  • Epic Rap Battles of History: In "Eastern Philosophers vs. Western Philosophers" Confucius himself utters one: "You can all hold these fortune cookies". He even prefaces it with "Confucius say".

    Western Animation 
  • Looney Tunes: At the end of "China Jones", Daffy Duck discovers that Chinese Launderer Porky Pig wishes to settle a "small matter of large bill", and Daffy tries to weasel out of working off the debt.
    Daffy Duck: Well, Confucius says "Can't squeeze blood from turnip"!
    Porky: [pulling out a large club] Confucius also say "Is better to press shirts than press luck."
  • Popeye: "Bride and Gloom" uses this as its punchline.
    Popeye: Good morning, sweetheart! Your lover boy is ready to get marriaged!
    Olive Oyl: Popeye, I ain't gonna marry you! [clobbers Popeye with a chest of drawers]
    Popeye: Confucius say, "Female, she is fickle!"
  • In Ruby Gloom, one of Misery's family members Mildew spouts a lot of quotes she attributes to Confucius, none of which are things Confucius has ever said.
  • Spoofed by The Brothers Matzoriley (of The Super 6 and The Inspector): the middle head, Wong, being a Chinese stereotype, usually utters some aphorism prefaced by "Confusion say".

    Real Life 
  • Bruce Lee brought this up in a 1971 interview.
    You know what I want to think of myself? As a human being. Because, I mean I don't want to be like "As Confucius say," but under the sky, under the heavens there is but one family. It just so happens that people are different.
  • Miss Panama Giosue Cozzarelli produced a legendary answer when she was asked who Confucius was.
    Confucius was one of the ones who invented confusion, and for that reason … he's one of the ancient Chinese, one of the Japanese of the ancient times.

As Confucius say, man who tropes too much, ruins own life.


Video Example(s):


China Jones

Confucius says can't squeeze blood from turnip, and better you press shirt than press luck.

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Main / ConfucianConfusion

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