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Distinction Without a Difference
aka: No Except Yes

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"That's right: This year there are no rules. There are, however, a whole bunch of brutal laws, traditions, commandments, and decrees..."
The TF2 Team, Team Fortress 2

First you say what it isn't. Then you say what it is. Both of them effectively have the same meaning.

This is when a character rejects a word in preference of a more colorful (or much blunter) one — with the same practical meaning, given the circumstances, maybe with some extra connotations. In most occasions, it will reflect just how easy, one-sided, or unsporting the thing in question is.

A common form is "We're not lost, we just don't know where we are."

Sometimes the word being substituted is even worse than the previous while still having technically the same meaning — "I'm not going to hurt you. I'm just gonna kill you!" being a prime example of this.

This is a Sub-Trope to Insistent Terminology (any time a character corrects another's terminology) and Super-Trope to "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word and Less Embarrassing Term (character uses a euphemism for terms with negative connotations).


Compare with:

  • By "No", I Mean "Yes": A character agrees, then disagrees; or the reverse.
  • Metaphorically True: A character hides their lies in a change of perspective.
  • Everything Except Most Things: Where conditionals applied are so numerous or so major that the usually-large difference might not be distinctive.
  • Dissimile: Where two things are said to be similar, then a list of how they aren't similar is added.

Contrast Both Sides Have a Point.

If there is a distinction that would matter to the specific people involved, but not to most people, it's You Keep Using That Word (for instance, the distinction between "murdered" and "killed" is hugely important within the legal system, but in common, casual usage, it's not uncommon for the two words to be used interchangeably).

May also relate to Cannot Tell a Lie, Will Not Tell a Lie or Weasel Words, when the wording is very deliberately selected to convey a false impression without technically being a lie in the traditional sense. Can lead to Immediate Self-Contradiction. The equivalent on TV Tropes is Ridiculously Similar Trope.


Examples? These are various instances that the trope has been used in:

    open/close all folders 

  • Twix has been relying on this trope since at least 2013 with their "Left Twix/Right Twix" campaign.
    "Each factory took a vastly different approach: Left Twix flowed caramel on cookie, while Right Twix cascaded on cookie. Left Twix bathed in chocolate while Right Twix cloaked in chocolate."

    Anime & Manga 
  • Red Garden: At the end of the series, the villain tells the main characters that he isn't killing them, he's destroying them; since they're already dead, it doesn't count as killing.
  • Azumanga Daioh:
    • Tomo loses to Sakaki in a footrace, and shouts that she's not the loser, but the runner-up.
    • Osaka asks Kaorin if she's gay. Kaorin angrily corrects her ("the correct term is lesbian!"), then tells her she's not a lesbian (she has a massive crush on Huge Schoolgirl Sakaki).
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's:
    • Used and lampshaded during the battle between Arf and Zafira.
      Arf: Are you one of their familiars?
      Zafira: In Belka space, we don't call the beasts that serve their masters "familiars"! We call them their fangs and shields! We're Guardian Beasts!
      Arf: It's just the same damn thing!
    • And again in StrikerS Sound Stage X, which is set three years after Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, when Agito visits Lutecia in the latter's Prison Planet, which, to be fair to Agito, really is a pretty nice place.
      Agito: You know, this place is really great.
      Lutecia: You mean you can't see that it's a criminal deportation world?
      Agito: That's not what I mean. It's not a penal colony. It's a world that people are currently adapting and developing.
  • In Maria†Holic, when Mariya first comes to the conclusion that Kanako is a lesbian pervert, Kanako insists that he refer to it as "yuri". He of course then points out that that means the same thing.
  • In Lucky Star, after Konata asks her dad, on account of him having loved Kanata and being clingy with Konata herself, if he is a paedophile, he insists that she's got him all wrong; he not only likes young girls but likes more mature, well-endowed women, too, so he is "also a lolicon"... Konata is suitably disturbed.
  • After another Team Rocket plot failed on Pokémon, Meowth said to think of it instead as not succeeding.
  • Apparently Futari Ecchi is not hentai, but rather the thinking man's erotic manga. The author insists he's not lying.
  • Naruto:
    • When Naruto accuses Jiraiya of being a pervert, Jiraiya replies that he's not a pervert but a super-pervert.
    • A much more serious example happens later, when Obito tells Kakashi that Rin's death is not his reason for pulling the entire world into a war. He then goes on to state that Rin's death opened his eyes to the truth that the world is worthless, and so therefore needs to change.
  • Munakata of Medaka Box introduces himself by saying that he does not kill people for no reason. He begins to list his reasons for killing, each flimsier than the last, until finally he just says, "And for no reason whatsoever, I'll kill you." He doesn't kill Hitoyoshi, nor does he intend to throughout their fight, even though his Abnormality gives him an overwhelming desire to do so. Quite possibly his real Abnormality is "self-control".
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers:
    Germany: Your enemy demands that you surrender! How do you respond?
    Japan: Like a true Japanese, I shall say "I'll think about it", or "Perhaps next time", or "I'd like to, but...". All of these answers mean no!note 
  • Dragon Ball Super: During the Future Trunks Saga, Future Zamasu states that he and Goku Black are not friends, just kindred spirits working together on the same dream. Goku even lampshades that that's basically the same thing, although "kindred spirits" technically does more accurately describe their precise relationship than just "friends".
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED: Lacus steals the Freedom Gundam from Z.A.F.T. and gives it to Kira. When questioned about this, she says that she did not "provide assistance to an enemy spy" but rather "gave Kira a new and better sword". Kira really isn't a spy but he was registered as an Earth Alliance soldier, so the distinction is moot.
  • Snow White with the Red Hair: Mitsuhide takes issue with something Prince Zen says the palace workers call him;
    Prince Zen: It's for that very reason [...] that people say you're a blunt simple idiot!
    Mitsuhide: No one's called me that before! What people say is that I'm stupid!
    Prince Zen: It's the SAME DAMN THING!
  • Yume no Shizuku, Kin no Torikago: Ibrahim planned to gain social standing and favor with the sultan, so that he could ask to be given his concubine Hurrem as a gift, and then move to a small village and live the rest of their lives in peace there. When Ibrahim gets into an arranged marriage with the sultan's sister, Alvice — a merchant that actually had the same plan, but wanting the sultan's sister — asks him why he doesn't just forget about his plan and elope with Hurrem. Either way, they'd go to some remote village. Ibrahim thinks about it for a bit but then insists that those two things are completely different from each other.
  • School Zone Girls: Tsubaki insists that it's not that she doesn't have friends. It's just that everybody has people they like more than her.
  • Maoyu: When the Hero and the Demon Queen arrive at the village they'll be staying at, the Head Maid welcomes them expressing joy about their "marriage". Both of them deny it's a marriage, with the Demon Queen calling it "a mutual possession contract for unlimited time", comparing it to a common clover and a white clover. The Head Maid reiterates both are the same thing anyway.
  • Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs: The protagonist Leon makes some statements like this about gambling, while gambling, such as "I hate gambling, but I love winning". What this really means, is that he’ll only gamble if he can fix the game in his favor.

  • A joke from the Cold War where an American and a Russian are racing with the American winning. When the Russian newspapers print the story, they read that the American was second-to-last and the Russian was in second place.
  • Jon Stewart, when paying tribute to Bruce Springsteen during the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors:
    "When you listen to the music of Bruce Springsteen, you are no longer a loser. You are a character in an epic poem...about losers."
  • Jasper Carrott did a stand-up routine about the Balinese allegedly hating to answer "No" to any question, leading to a conversation like:
    Carrott: Do you have any tartare sauce?
    Balinese waiter: Oh, yes! [does nothing]
    Carrott: Er... well, can I have some then?
    Balinese waiter: Oh, yes! [smiles, does nothing]
    Carrott: [looks at watch] Er... will it be long?
    Balinese waiter: [nodding pointedly] Oh, yes!
  • An old Russian Reversal joke: Under capitalism, man exploits his fellow man. Under communism, the reverse is true.
  • The 1974 National Lampoon album Missing White House Tapes features a spoof of Sesame Street called "Pennsylvania Avenue." The main character is Big Dick (Nixon) who gives the Watergate tapes to Shredder Monster. When Sirica the Grouch investigates, Big Dick said the tapes were suddenly missing and is accused of lying about them.
    Big Dick: Uh, I wasn't lying. I...uh...misspoke myself.

    Comic Books 
  • From the Don Rosa story "The Billionaire of Dismal Downs":
    Fergus: Oh, dear — my son is as crazy as a loon!
    Hortense: Poor people are crazy, papa! Rich people are eccentric!
    Matilda: Scroogey's as eccentric as a loon!
  • Devin Grayson stated that Nightwing's... unfortunate encounter with Tarantula "wasn't rape, just nonconsensual"—a feat roughly on par with saying "not the ocean, just a really big sea."
  • Death's Head isn't a Bounty Hunter, he's a freelance peacekeeping agent, yes?
  • In The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye, Whirl uses this, although he's not arguing for something:
    Whirl: So, this is what running away feels like, huh? I'm not keen. It's like... it's like fighting but in the wrong direction.
  • Silver Surfer once explained to Dawn Greenwood that the inhabitants of the Giraud Expanse only sound french due to their Universal Translator, and that they are actually speaking space-french.
  • Chick Tracts: In "Four Angels", Henry, the youngest of the four brothers, and the only one Chick believes remained a Bible-believing Christian, refuses to eat with his elder brother Charlie because Charlie is a fornicator. When Henry shows up after dinner, he condemns Charlie's lifestyle, calling him "a friend of the world and an enemy of God." When their brother Bobby asks Henry if he's saying Charlie's going to Hell, Henry says "I didn't say it. The Word of God does."
  • Averted in Spider-Man. Whenever John Jonah Jameson (Jr.) is accused of Malicious Slander against the titular hero, he usually retorts with an accurate (but not really relevant) legal distinction: "It is NOT! Slander is spoken. In print, it's libel."
  • The Ultimates: Nick Fury tells Stark that he's a strange man. Stark replies that he hopes with his fortune in the billions, he'd qualify as eccentric.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Peanuts when Linus develops a Precocious Crush on his teacher, Miss Othmar, Lucy exclaims, "It's ok to like a teacher, but it's wrong to worship her!" Linus retorts, "I never said I worship her. I just said I was very fond of the ground she walked on."

    Fan Works 
  • Princess Corona does this in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Fanfic The Successors when her sister asks her how her flying lessons went:
    Corona: Um... awesome! Yeah, they were great. I, uh... well, I'm still having trouble taking off... and staying airborne... and, uh... landing... [Beat] Okay, so I'm not really doing all that great.
  • In Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, Admiral Grayson pulls a very long-winded version of this trope. The Republic Intelligence Service doesn't use the Current/Force, except, here's a rather lengthy anecdote about problems they had that would only occur if they were dabbling in that which he just said they weren't doing.
  • Nora uses this to deny running a betting ring on when Darrel and Yang would kiss in RWBY: Reckoning.
    Nora: No, no, it's not betting. We just put some money into a communal account, and depending on when you two engage in certain activities together, we each earn a little bit depending on when we said it would happen.
  • Families and Familiars: Second Year:
    It had been almost two months since his exceedingly ignominious... no, he refused to call it a defeat. He, Lord Voldemort, had not, and never would be, truly defeated. It had merely been a setback.
  • In No Obvious Truths Lucius tries Pepsi for the first time and decides he likes it.
    Tom: Oh, good, now Lucius will have a new addiction!
    Lucius: I do not have addictions! I merely indulge in what pleases me.
  • The Best Revenge:
    Harry: I did not faint! I only blacked out just for a little bit.
  • Advice and Trust: Asuka tells Misato over the phone that she'll do her best to fight Shinji's Don Juan-like charms and keep him from ravishing her. When Shinji questions her on it, she claims that she considers him more of a Casanova type and that she'd be ravishing him.
  • The Savior and the Scourge:
    Giles: I'll have you know that I chose to come escape all the bloody teenage female hormonal insanity! By all that is holy, that many twittering, fighting, whining, overpowered females should never be confined in a single place. It's enough to drive a Shorchak demon to vegetarianism!
    Spike: So you ran away.
    Giles: I merely made a strategic retreat.
  • In Harry Potter and the Golden Ring Harry buys his wife a renovated 747.
    Karen: But you know what this makes us, don't you? A pair of self-indulgent wieners with too much bloody money.
    Harry: No, ma'am. We're connoisseurs.
  • Where Paths Cross:
    Harry: Shouldn't we be heading back? You always tell me to be indoors before it gets dark.
    Beth: We are going home, we're just -
    Harry: Lost?
    Beth: - Following the scenic route.
  • The Legacy Preservation Act:
    Tracey: I know that I don't know Harry half as well as you, which is almost not at all, but I do know that he isn't going to like being manipulated.
    Daphne: I don't intend to manipulate Harry. I am going to discuss things with him and guide him to the decisions and conclusions I want him to reach.
  • Wear Me Like a Locket Around Your Throat:
    Harry conceded the point and crossed his arms. He wasn't 'sulking', he was conducting a strategic silence.
  • Harry Potter - Three to Backstep:
    Daphne: This is the ladies' parlour. Normally, no males allowed. However, we've found it better to at least let the menfolk see the room at least once, when it's not otherwise in use. It tends to stop you men being nosey when it is.
    Harry: I... am not nosey; I am merely... inquisitive.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series: In "She Blinded Me with Card Games":
    Joey: Shut up, Tristan! You just want to get into my sister's pants!
    Tristan: No, I don't. I just want to have sex with her! [Beat] Oh, that's what you meant!
  • To Catch A Thief:
    Snape: Mr. Potter, you will refrain from stealing. You will obey all of Hogwarts' rules. If you get caught breaking them, you will earn a detention with me. If you lose points it's two detentions. I don't care who you are, what you have experienced, you are here in Hogwarts and you will be a model student, or be expelled.
    Harry: Not happening. First, if I do get caught, it will be a frame job. Second, I don't steal, I liberate useful items for future endeavors.
  • Harry Potter and the Grinning Goblins:
    Harry: I'm not short, just... not big.
  • In A Rainbow in the Dark Lily casts a hex that makes Dumbledore's nose grow when he lies.
    Snape: However long it lasts he will deserve every moment of it. Maybe it will make him realize how often he actually does lie.
    Lily: He would claim he doesn't lie; he merely dissembles.
  • Universe Falls: In "Log Date 7 15 2", Peridot objects to Dipper observing that she seems to be in the middle of an existential crisis.
    Peridot: I am not having a so-called existential crisis! I'm merely questioning my suddenly changed overall purpose in the grand scheme of reality!
  • on arkanis it rains every day has Rey accuse 'Tag' (Hux) of using the Force after the latter told her that he is not Force sensitive. Tag vehemently denies this.
    Rey: The Force. You’ve got it too
    Tag: I beg your pardon?
    Rey: I can feel it every time you bend someone to your will.
    Tag: I don’t bend people to my will! [Beat] I merely ... recondition them to be more open-minded about my requests. [Beat] With my rhetoric!
  • A Change in Perspective:
    Greg: Pansy said she doesn't squeal. That only foolish girls squeal and she's far too dignified for that. She said the noises she makes aren't squeals – they're simply loud exclamations of surprise.
  • The Devil's in the details: While in college, people think that Peter is a mutant whenever they find out that he has powers, especially his mutant friends. Peter insists that he isn't one (being a mutate caused by the spider that bit him, as well as his learned sorcery and his cyborganic components).
  • Australian Ethics:
    Ron: Hermione, for all our sakes, just calm down.
    Hermione: I can't calm down, I'll calm down when I've fixed this!
    Harry: I don't know if fix is the right word. I know it's not what you were expecting, but you're going to drive yourself crazy trying to deny the truth. Your parents are happy apart.
    Hermione: It's not denial. I'm just very selective about the reality I accept. And I would prefer the reality where my parents are not separating! Or getting a divorce!
  • Mastermind: Rise of Anarchy has Tenya try reassuring his classmates they aren't holding an intervention:
    Kaminari: Are we sure we want to do this? I mean, interventions never go very well in movies…
    Tenya: It’s not an intervention. We are simply pointing out our friend’s self destructive tendencies and letting her know we’re here to help!
    Shinsou: That’s the definition of an intervention, Iida.
  • The Black Sheep Dog Series: In chapter 24, James denies lying to Lily about the clandestine meeting he's having with Orion by claiming that he simply didn't inform her of the fact. The narration describes this as "a meaningless distinction that not even the most flexible moralist would pretend to square".
  • In Hell's Kitchen, Full of Grace, Matt thinks he isn't a "Super" in-spite of having Super Senses because he doesn't have Super Strength or a Healing Factor like the rest of the Defenders.

    Films — Animation 
  • Robin Hood (1973), the Disney version:
    Little John: Y'know something Robin, I was just wondering. Are we good guys or bad guys? Y'know, our robbing the rich to feed the poor.
    Robin Hood: Rob? Tch tch. That's a naughty word. We never rob. We just... sort of borrow a bit from those who can afford it.
    Little John: Borrow? Heh. Boy, are we in debt.
  • Monsters vs. Aliens:
    "Don't think of it as a prison. Think of it as a hotel you can never leave, 'cause it's locked from the outside."
  • On the DVD commentary for G.I. Joe: The Movie, it was mentioned that while Cobra retreats, the Joes withdraw.
  • In Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, Kowalski's latest invention powering the Penguin-Mobile... Skipper corrects Gloria in a way that makes you wonder how he made it.
    Gloria: That's a nuclear reactor?!
    Skipper: [calmly] NUKE-u-lar.
  • Sulley in Monsters University:
    Sulley: You're wasting time. We need a new team.
    Mike: We can't just "get a new team"! I checked this morning, it's against the rules.
    Sulley: What if we disguise the new team to look like the old team?
    Mike: Oh no, we are not cheating!
    Sulley: It's not cheating, it's... leveling the playing field. [Mike narrows his eye] Okay, so it's kinda cheating.
  • My Little Pony: The Movie (2017): When Rarity apologizes to Applejack for a "raised in a barn" comment, Applejack replies that no apology is needed because she wasn't, although her family did have one where she was born and spent most of her childhood...
    AJ: My family just happens to have a barn. Where I was born. And... spent most of my formative years...
    Rainbow Dash: Rrrrraised in a barn!
  • Storks: Junior (stork) responding to Tulip (human) about the baby they are trying to deliver.
    Junior: We're not like a family, we're just a guy and girl trying to put our baby to sleep.
  • In The LEGO Batman Movie, when Dick Grayson discovers the Batcave and sees Batman:
    Dick: Does Batman live in Bruce Wayne's basement?
    Batman: No, Bruce Wayne lives in Batman's attic!
  • In The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, when Batman agrees to marry Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi, she asks him if he wants to have the wedding in 15 minutes. Batman tells her to make it a quarter of an hour.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Tony has a plan involving the casket they just recovered from Ultron.
    Bruce: So, you want me to help you put Jarvis into this thing?
    Tony: No, of course not! I want to help you put Jarvis in this thing. We're out of my field here. You know bio-organics better than anyone.
  • The Big Lebowski:
    The Dude: Just stay away from my fucking lady friend.
    Da Fino: Hey, hey, I'm not messing with your special lady.
    The Dude: She's not my "special lady," she's my fucking lady friend.
  • The Big Red One:
    Griff: [referring to German soldiers] I can't murder anybody.
    The Sergeant: We don't murder; we kill.
    Griff: [sarcastically] What's the difference?
    The Sergeant: You don't murder animals; you kill 'em.
  • In The Blues Brothers, Jake finds out from Elwood that the rest of their old band had taken straight jobs. Jake is upset that Elwood lied to him and claimed that the band might still get back together; Elwood replies, "It wasn't a lie... it was bullshit."
  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off has this during Ferris and Cameron's argument after Cameron dupes Rooney over the phone.
    Ferris: I didn't hit you. I lightly slapped you.
    Cameron: You. Hit. Me.
  • In Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties, as Jon tells Smithy about the mix-up between Garfield and Prince:
    Smithy: Are you saying you have a cat that's Prince's Doppelgänger?
    Jon: No, I'm saying they look exactly alike, and there's a chance they may have gotten mixed up.
  • In Get Him to the Greek, Aldous offers the sage advice: "Don't think of it as a threesome, think of it as having sex with your girlfriend while someone else also has sex with your girlfriend." This one actually makes some amount of sense, since there's a distinction between these kind of threeways and the kind that involve lovemaking between all three participants.
  • In High School Musical 2, Sharpay whines about how she doesn't deserve the bad things currently happening to her, as (in her view) she's a good person: "I've never lied! Beat Except when necessary..."
  • Home Alone 2: Lost in New York: The black/white mafia movie that Kevin watches (and includes in the security system) has one of the criminals claim that they're convinced the other character is innocent... except the gun they have isn't convinced and opens fire on them.
    "Alright, I believe ya. But my Tommy Gun don't!"
  • It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: On their way up to the park in Santa Rosita, Ding tells the cab driver to pass the cab in front, which has the Crumps in it. When the cab driver asks what they're in a rush for, Benjy replies, "We ain't in any rush, we want to get there in a hurry!"
  • In Kermit's Swamp Years, one scene has Blotch refer to Kermit, Goggles, and Croaker as "the Soggy Pants Brothers". Goggles replies that they don't wear pants and proves it by presenting his backside to Blotch. When angrily asked by Blotch if he just mooned him, Goggles answers that he wasn't mooning him, he was just showing him his bare backside.
  • From Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation:
    Luther: Benji needed my help.
    Benji: I didn't need help. I just...I needed assistance, it's a different thing.
  • The Mummy (1999): To save his own skin, Beni agrees to work for Imhotep. In a scene where Beni is acting as translator, Evie tries to show how much "better" she is with languages than he by "correcting" his translation... with a synonym.
    Beni: Come with me, my princess. It is time to make you mine, forever.
    Evelyn: "For all eternity", idiot.
  • The Mummy Returns:
    Evie: Alex, I'm serious. If you've lost that key, you're grounded.
    Alex: I didn't lose it, I just can't find it. There's a difference.
    Evie: Well you'd better start finding it, then.
  • In National Treasure, Ben tells Riley that when Thomas Edison was asked about his first failed 1000 attempts to make a light bulb, he replied that he didn't fail. He just figured out 1000 ways how not to make a light bulb.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl:
    • Jack Sparrow loves doing that.
      Anamaria: You stole my boat!
      Jack: Borrowed! Borrowed without permission, but with every intention of giving it back to you.
      Anamaria: But you DIDN'T!!
    • Subverted earlier; Jack is not denying theft, per se, but if Will's going to be on a ship, he needs to use the right terms.
      Will: We're going to steal a ship? That ship? [beckoning to the Dauntless]
      Jack: Commandeer. We're going to commandeer [points to the Interceptor] that ship. Nautical term.
  • In Rat Race the rich gambler (John Cleese) orchestrating the titular race is "too rich to be crazy. I'm 'eccentric!'"
  • From The Shining, as Jack Torrance has lost it and starts menacing his wife.
    Jack: I'm not gonna hurt ya. You didn't let me finish my sentence. I said I'm not gonna hurt ya. I'm just gonna bash your brains in. I'm gonna bash them right the fuck in!
  • Gargamel isn't obsessed with The Smurfs, he just "can't stop thinking about them".
  • Spaceballs
    • The protagonists Lone Starr and Barf need '1 million spacebucks' to get out of a debt with a creature called 'Pizza the Hutt' in a situation clearly meant to mirror Han Solo and Chewbacca's within Star Wars. After being given a mission to rescue a king's daughter and successfully demanding that price, Barf is afraid by how they are risking their lives for money. Lone Starr replies:
      Lone Starr: Barf, we're not just doing this for money. [Beat] We're doing it for a shitload of money!
    • Before that, they were hesitant to accept the mission:
      Barf: Look, Your Highness, it's not that we're afraid—far from it! It's just that we've got this thing about death. It's... not us.
  • The Don Rosa quote above mirrors one in Speed:
    Jack: [to Payne, holding Annie hostage] Mister, you're crazy!
    Payne: No, Jack. Poor people are crazy. [pointing to ransom money] I'm eccentric.
  • A classic example from This is Spın̈al Tap:
    Marty: The last time Tap toured America, they were, uh, booked into 10,000 seat arenas, and 15,000 seat venues, and it seems that now, on their current tour, they're being booked into 1,200 seat arenas, 1,500 seat arenas, and uh, I was just wondering, does this mean uh... the popularity of the group is waning?
    Ian: Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no... no, no, not at all. I, I, I just think that the... uh... their appeal is becoming more selective.
    • Subverted in the end. Ian is the only one who knows that the band's popularity is declining in America, but is exploding in Japan.
  • Hela, while recruiting Skurge in Thor: Ragnarok:
    Hela: When I was young, every great King had an executioner. Not just to execute people, but also to execute their vision... But mainly to execute people.
    • The Grandmaster really wants people to know that he doesn't own slaves. He employs "prisoners with jobs". They're people used as chattel and forced to unwillingly perform menial labor or fight in a colosseum, but they're totally not slaves.
  • Troll 2:
    Holly: He's not my beau. He's my boyfriend!
  • In X-Men: First Class, Emma Frost interrupts the CIA Director and Stryker Sr. when they're discussing the possibility of a war. She prefers not to use that term; it implies that both sides have an equal chance of winning.
  • Avengers: Endgame has Ant-Man pitching he use of the Quantum Realm to time travel back to get the Infinity Stones. Captain America then asks if he's talking about a time machine. Scott denies it's a time machine (since it's more a process than an actual machine), but when he tries to explain this, he realizes the difference is inconsequential and concedes that, yes, it's a time machine.
  • The Slipper and the Rose: The King of Euphrania at one point declares, "Kings don't cheat. They adapt to circumstance, but they don't cheat."
  • Wrong is Right: General Wombat says that America "may not always be right, but God knows we're never wrong."

  • Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: When Thunder Dick's cat complains that Dick neutered him, Dick protests that this is untrue: he had a vet do the neutering because the instructions were too complicated for him to do it himself.
  • Discworld:
    • Sam Vimes: "I was a drunk. You have to be richer than I was to be an alcoholic."
    • Granny Weatherwax doesn't get lost. She always knows where she is. It's the rest of the world that has a location problem. This is actually accurate as of Witches Abroad.
    • The author himself said Discworld doesn't have continuity errors, but it does occasionally have alternate pasts. This is not just a clever reinterpretation—attempting to understand the canon timeline is an exercise in futility because the timeline in the Discworld was literally shattered into a billion pieces and glued together bit by bit by a bunch of monks. Twice. And those are just the incidents we know about; it's strongly implied that the History Monks do this all the time. These monks are also constantly shunting time from places with too much to places with too little, so how long things take depends on how long they need to take.
    • The Discworld books have also used the "poor people are mad, rich people are eccentric" line a few times. In the Companion it adds that King Ludwig the Tree (who believed there should be a new kind of frog, and wore his underpants on his head) was "a little confused".
    • The Assassin's Guild are masters of this trope:
      1. Small-a assassins are thugs who kill people for money; capital-A Assassins are refined gentlemen of wealth and breeding who enjoy food, wine, and culture and are occasionally commissioned by other refined gentlemen of wealth and breeding to "remove, for a consideration, any inconvenient razors from the candyfloss of life".
      2. Capital-A Assassins do not "kill" people. They "inhume", "delete", "rub out", or "remove" people, but "killing" implies a certain unprofessionalism.
      3. Capital-A Assassins are never "employed". They are "commissioned", "engaged", "retained", "contracted"note .
      • The Assassins' Guild are so insistent on this, they've got regular citizens doing it. In Jingo, when Angua asks Carrot if Snowy Slopes (a deceased criminal) is an assassin, Carrot replies, "No. He just kills people for money."
    • It's not "necromancy", it's "Post-Mortem Communication". Necromancy is a very bad form of magic, done only by evil wizards. Since we are not evil wizards, what we are doing cannot possibly be called necromancy. To make it even better, the main stated reason why the Unseen University has a position for Post-Mortem Communication relies on it being necromancy (it allows UU to claim a monopoly on necromancy and such things done by bad wizards, and enforce it. With fireballs).
    • As the author has asserted, Fourecks is NOT Australia. It just happens to share certain suspicious resemblances.
    • Ankh-Morpork has a low rate of murder but a high rate of suicide. This is because there are many more ways to legally commit suicide in Ankh-Morpork than elsewhere in the Disc. These include calling a dwarf a lawn ornament or a troll a rock, announcing yourself as Ulfric the Unkillable, or walking in the Shades.
    • Unseen University doesn't pay taxes since the Wizards do not believe themselves subject to those laws. However, they do make a voluntary donation to the city which is equal to the amount they would pay in taxes if they were required to pay taxes.
    • In Men at Arms, Colon says only pillocks have shiny breastplates, like Captain Quirke. When it's pointed out Carrot himself has a shiny breastplate, Colon can only reiterate that the distinction is Quirke is a pillock (without saying what, if anything, applies Carrot for non-pillockhood).
    • In The Fifth Elephant, Vimes complains about the diplomatic trip to Uberwald that Vetinari seems to be suggesting he go on (Vimes and diplomacy do not go together well). Vetinari replies that Vimes is right, this is far too important a task to send a mere Commander of the Watch to represent the city for. He's sending the Duke of Ankh-Morpork instead - which is Vimes.
  • Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM, has an interesting take on this. Usually the reword puts someone in a better light. He, on the other hand, spends hundreds of pages explaining in detail how he is not a hero, that he doesn't charge the enemy, he's really retreating through them. You can bet each one of his stories has hundreds of these rewordings; being the Warhammer 40,000 universe, though, he is a badass, since that's a basic requirement just to still be alive.
  • Animorphs has Ax retort that he did not fall asleep in class, as has been insinuated, he just became calm and restful and not completely alert.
    Rachel: Did you snore when you got all calm and restful and not completely alert?
  • The Lasher series:
    Mona: I didn't lose my virginity. I obliterated all traces of its existence.
  • Inverted in the fourth Artemis Fowl book, when Trouble Kelp orders his troops to "retreat". The narration points out the troops' disbelief; whether it's called a retreat or a tactical withdrawal, they're still running away.
    • "It ain't got nothing to do with luck. Fortune delivered you into my hands."
  • Becoming involved in the machinations of Contact in Look to Windward, Ziller suggests some of the Minds may be lying and is corrected by a Contact drone in an Expospeak Gag fashion:
    Drone: Oh, they never lie. They dissemble, evade, prevaricate, confound, confuse, distract, obscure, subtly misrepresent, and willfully misunderstand with what appears to be a positively gleeful relish and are generally perfectly capable of contriving to give one an utterly unambiguous impression of their future course of action while in fact intending to do exactly the opposite, but they never lie. Perish the thought.
  • The Belgariad has a lot of fun with this, particularly regarding nautical terms. Land-based characters are frequently called out on their use of "tip over" instead of "capsize", "right" instead of "starboard", and "boat" instead of "ship".
  • Thus Was Adonis Murdered by Sarah Caudwell has a nice example:
    "It's not exactly that she's unobservant. It's just that she doesn't always notice what's happening."
  • Acheron Hades, the main villain of the first Thursday Next novel, isn't "mad", despite the fact that he does terrible things for the sake of doing them. No, he's "differently-moraled". And don't you forget it.
  • The Dresden Files: In Skin Game Murphy asks Harry if they're really panning to rob Hades, Harry replies that he intends to burgle him. Legally speaking robbery involves violence or the threat of violence while burglary is just breaking in and taking things, and in spite of what people assume about him, even Harry would prefer to avoid offering violence to a god. While the distinction would be unimportant or unclear to most people, Murphy, being a police officer, would be well aware of the difference, and considering how powerful Hades is, avoiding direct conflict with him is probably the single most important part of the plan.
  • In Monster Hunter Legion:
    • The Hunters are fighting a monster that can take your worst fears and make them real. Trip worries about what it might be able to pull from Owen's mind:
      Trip: I mean, come on, you've been to Hell.
      Owen: It wasn't really Hell. It was more of an infinite dimension of eternal suffering populated by awful beings beyond comprehension. Totally different.
    • The sequel contains descriptions of what a Christian like Trip would probably consider Hell (the dimension where Lucifer and the other Fallen Angels were banished after their rebellion against God failed), and it reveals that yes, it is in fact a totally different place from the dimension of the Old Ones that Owen visited, and they don't have much in common beyond the fact that they both suck.
  • In Paul Robinson's In the Matter Of: The Gatekeeper: The Gate Contracts, George Green is asked if he was rude to someone. He pulls a Rules Lawyer and asks for the definition of "rude". His boss hands him an electronic dictionary and discovers he was, so he admits it. Later he tells his boss he was going to say no, he had been "curt" but he discovered it's essentially the same thing, so he said yes, he was rude.
  • Ender's Game:
    • Graff claims that Ender isn't a killer, he just "wins thoroughly" killing his opponents.
    • Similarly, Word of God is that Ender didn't exterminate the Buggers, he "removed their ability to make war" - and it just so happened that he did so by exterminating them. This isn't just sophistry, though: the idea that the morality of an action is determined solely by the motives behind it is prominent throughout the series, to the point that it's at the core of the religion Ender founds.
  • In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Oompa-Loompas' song about Augustus Gloop:
    But don't, dear children, be alarmed;
    Augustus Gloop will not be harmed,
    Although, of course, we must admit
    He will be
    altered quite a bit.
    He'll be
    quite changed from what he's been,
    When he goes through the fudge machine.
As the song goes on to make clear, "altered" includes being sliced up with knives and boiled.
  • In Star Wars: Kenobi, Orrin Gault, deep in debt to Loan Sharks, doesn't want Annileen's money! He just wants to marry her so he can access her account!
  • Lampshaded in Angel in the Whirlwind. Of course the Theocracy doesn't persecute other religions, they allow total religious freedom! ... Except its tax policy is heavily slanted in favor of the One True Faith, and their standard practices upon conquering a planet include the destruction of native places of worship and summary execution of any religious leaders.
  • In The Ramayana, Ravana reassures Sita that, of his "great love", he's not going to rape her. Just kill her if she doesn't have sex with him.
    • Interesting that the distinction might be meaningful in Ravana's case. Long ago he raped an apsara (basically, a minor goddess) and consequently was cursed: should he try to rape another woman, he would immediately die. But the curse said nothing about killing or threatening murder...
  • World War Z T. Sean Collins is a mercenary and calls himself such. He finds the tendency among his colleagues to use euphemisms like "freelance security consultant" to be a hypocritical way of whitewashing their profession.
  • In Lawrence Block's Burglars Can't Be Choosers Ellie claims to be David Merrick's secretary over the phone to get some important information from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
    Bernie: I thought you never lie.
    Ellie: I occasionally tell an expeditious untruth.
    Bernie: How does that differ from a barefaced lie?
    Ellie: It's a subtle distinction.
  • The Reckoners Trilogy: Megan teases David about being a nerd throughout Steelheart; in the sequel, Firefight, David's narration frequently states that he's not a nerd, eventually leading to:
    David: I hadn't been a nerd, mind you. I'd just been the type of guy who spent a lot of time by himself, focused entirely on a single consuming interest.
  • Sacred Monster: After Jack describes his Casting Couch incident:
    Detective O'Connor: You had sex with George Castelberry!
    Jack: Mostly, George had sex with me.
  • Doctor Sleep: Dan notes at one point that "AA has no rules, but many unbreakable traditions". A minor character is also described by Dan as only having two emotions: "Angry" and "Severely Pissed-Off".
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel: Chauvelin is shocked when Marguerite accuses him of using blackmail to force her to spy on her friends. He'd never do such a thing! He's simply offering her the opportunity to serve her country, and simultaneously prevent her brother from being killed.
  • N. K. Jemisin's Inheritance Trilogy: The four Physical Gods trapped in enslavement to the Arameri Dynasty are euphemistically called the Enefadeh — they can't be slaves because slavery is illegal. To Yeine, the weasel words are even worse, Adding Insult to Injury by not acknowledging that the injury even happened.
  • In The Dark Profit Saga, Heraldin Strummons very much insists that he was not a thief. Nope, he used to be an acquisition specialist or an improvisational locksmith. He explains that if a certain Benny the Hookhand learns that he is still in the thievery business, things wouldn't end well for Heraldin.
  • In Heroics for Beginners, Kevin explains to his girlfriend, the princess of a foreign country, that he's not a spy. It's just that sometimes he sneaks into the rooms of important people, and sometimes reads their documents, and relays any information discovered back to his dad the king. And these endeavours require picking locks and writing in code.
    Kevin: Deserae does the same thing to us. It's expected.
  • In The Trouble With Peace by Joe Abercrombie, King Orso demands to know if the Closed Council are really proposing to deny a man a fair trial (because he's almost certainly guilty, but finding him so would be politically awkward, so the expedient thing to do is just keep him locked up on suspicion, forever). The Council are outraged; they would never deny someone a a trial. They just aren't going to give him one.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Holden Radcliffe in Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. insists that his robot is not artificial intelligence, but rather mimicry of human behavior.
  • The "I'm not racist, but..." formula was parodied in an episode of Alas Smith and Jones, with one man saying he's no racist, he just believes black and white have separate cultural identities, another saying he's no sexist, he just believes men and woman are good at different things, and a third saying he's no chiropodist, he just makes a living performing medical procedures on people's feet.
  • On Angel, Cordelia tries to move in with Angel when she gets sick of her own roach-infested apartment, saying "It's not that you're my last resort; it's just that I had nowhere else to go."
  • Arrow:
    Oliver Queen: Felicity, are you hacking into the Merlyn Global mainframe?
    Felicity Smoak: "Hacking" is such an ugly word. No, I'm... [pauses, can't come up with a better word] yeah, totally hacking into the Merlyn Global mainframe.
    • When Oliver Queen is lodging with the Yamashiro family, he thinks that Tatsu doesn't like him, but her husband assures Oliver that's not the case. She hates him.
  • Blake's 7.
    • In "Shadow" our anti-heroes decide to form an alliance of convenience with Terra Nostra.
      Blake: We're going to use them, Gan, not do business with them.
      Avon: A subtle distinction that escapes me for the moment.
    • From "Trial".
      Vila: I see. You've decided to be led [by Blake] like the rest of us.
      Avon: I shall continue to follow. It's not quite the same thing.
      Vila: I don't see the difference.
      Avon: I didn't really think that you would.
    • In "Assassin", Avon gets a bit testy on hearing a legendary Professional Killer has been hired to kill them.
      Avon: All right, he's not infallible. It's just that up to now he has never failed!
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Cordelia does this as early as the second episode.
      Cordelia: I have to have the most expensive thing. Not because it's expensive, but because it costs more.
    • Buffy also prefers to think of it as "slaying" vampires rather than "killing" them.note 
    • Spike is insulted when Buffy accuses him of lurking in her yard.
      Spike: I wasn't lurking. I was standing about. It's a whole different vibe.
  • From Burn Notice:
    Sam Axe: Yeah, actually, I need you to keep your head down for a while 'cause this is going to get worse before it gets better.
    Madeline: Sam... you're asking me to hide?
    Sam: Oh, no, no, no, of course not. I just need you to be some place where no one can see you.
    • Quoth Westen, upon being asked what he was thinking threatening an FBI agent for information: "I didn't threaten him. I asked him questions... with a gun in my hand." (If you saw the scene... he was totally threatening him.)
  • Quoth Esposito, in an episode of Castle, while chasing a suspect: "No, I didn't lose him, I just... don't have visual contact."
  • El Chavo del ocho: There's an episode where el Chavo leaves the neighborhood because he couldn't sell a lottery ticket. Quico and la Chilindrina ask him how he's gonna get by.
    Quico: Don't tell me you plan to become a beggar.
    Chavo: 'Course not! Before being a beggar I'd rather ask for money on the streets!
  • In the Chuck episode "Chuck Versus the Best Friend", Morgan wants to figure out if his ex has a new boyfriend.
    Morgan: Dude, it's not stalking, okay? It's caring enough about someone to learn things about them they won't tell you themselves.
    Chuck: Which is stalking.
  • Community: "She's not dead. Her brain, heart, lungs, and kidneys stopped working."
  • In the Corner Gas episode "Whataphobia":
    Emma: You've got to stop with this revenge.
    Oscar: This is not about revenge. This is about getting even.
  • The Daily Show:
    • From John Stewart: "[The Bush] Administration does not torture logic, no! This administration merely flew logic in an unmarked plane to Bulgaria. Whatever happened to logic there, we have no idea."
    • John Oliver once insisted that a box marked "porn" in fact contained erotica, which was his legacy and had to go to a library.note 
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show: In "Punch Thy Neighbor", when Laura asks him what happened, Rob says that he didn't punch Jerry in the nose; he hit him. Laura asks what the difference is. However, it turns out that Rob hit Jerry by accident while gesturing for the check; "punch" does imply the hitter intended it.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Army of Ghosts":
      Yvonne: They're invading the whole planet.
      The Doctor: It's not an invasion, it's too late for that. It's a victory.
    • "Doomsday": The Daleks and Cybermen prepare to fight, with the Daleks distinguishing the conflict between war and "pest control"; implying that the Cybermen weren't worthy of the fight.
      Dalek Sec: [to Cybermen] THIS IS NOT WAR!! THIS IS PEST CONTROL!
    • The same logic shows up in their Catchphrase. It isn't "killing", it's "extermination".
    • "Amy's Choice":
      Amy: They're just old people.
      The Doctor: No, they're very old people.
    • "The Doctor's Wife": When the Doctor and the TARDIS get to speak, they argue over the distinction between "borrowing" and stealing.
      The TARDIS: Then you stole me. And I stole you.
      The Doctor: I borrowed you.
      The TARDIS: Borrowing implies the eventual intention to return the thing which was taken. What makes you think I would ever give you back?
    • The Eleventh Doctor does one with himself in "Night Terrors": "Pantophobia. Not fear of pants, though, if that's what you're wondering. It's the fear of everything. Including pants, I suppose, in that case."
    • "The Eaters of Light": After misplacing his companion in Roman Scotland, a terse Doctor explains that they haven't lost Bill, they simply don't know where she is.
  • Drake & Josh has this exchange where the titular stepbrothers are doing their homework in one episode.
    Josh: Are you copying my answers?
    Drake: No. I'm just comparing your answers with the answers I'm about to write.
  • Elementary has this exchange after Joan Watson is taken captive by Le Milieu. Bonus points for almost referring to the trope by name:
    Marchef: [the Le Milieu lieutenant who’d chloroformed and kidnapped Watson] You are very beautiful. For a cop.
    Watson: I'm not a cop.
    Marchef: "Not a cop". Then why did I find an NYPD identification card in your purse? Why did I find this? [produces the card in question]
    Watson: I'm a consultant. I work with the police.
    Marchef: A distinction without distinction.
  • Rigel from Farscape does this a lot.
    • He insists that he never retreats, but "strategically maneuvers".
    • When once accused of "snurching" (Farscape-ese for stealing), he responds, "I don't snurch, I...procure."
  • Firefly:
    • When Inara and Mal fight (well, at one point), Inara crosses the line and implies Mal is a petty criminal. She tries to backtrack and call it suo-shee instead.
      Inara: Well, since I can't seem to find work as a Companion, I might as well become a petty thief like you!
      [uncomfortable silence]
      Mal: Petty?
      Inara: I didn't mean petty.
      Mal: What did you mean?
      Inara: ...Suo-shee?
      Mal: That's Chinese for "petty".
    • From "Objects in Space", River is having a moment and distinguishes between "understand" and "comprehend".
      River: She understands. She doesn't comprehend.
      Mal: Glad we have that cleared up.
  • Flight of the Conchords: When a fruit vendor mistakes the titular New Zealand duo for Austrailians because of their accents, Jemaine tries to convince him that New Zealand and Austrailian accents are completely different. ("They're like 'Where's the car?' and we're like 'Where's the car?'")
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: In "Not With My Pig, You Don't", Uncle Phil gets angry with Will for apparently ruining his image by telling the press stories about his boyhood on a farm, and his visiting mother is furious that he's ashamed of his upbringing.
    Hattie: What have you got to be ashamed of? We always put food on the table and clothes on your back!
    Phil: Mama, I'm not ashamed! There are just certain aspects of my life I don't wish to emphasize.
    Hattie: Where I come from, we call that being ashamed, Mr. Bigshot!
  • Early in the second season of Game of Thrones:
    Janos Slynt: I won't have my honor questioned by an imp!
    Tyrion Lannister: I'm not questioning your honor, Lord Janos. I'm denying its existence.
  • On Gilmore Girls, Luke and Jess have a discussion about Jess's Love Confession to Rory the last time he was in town. Luke asks what her response is, and is flabergasted when Jess says he doesn't know, because he left before she could answer.
    Luke: What, you just said it and walked away?
    Jess: No. I got in my car and left.
    Luke: You just dropped the bomb and ran?
    Jess: I drove!
  • In The Golden Girls, Dorothy does this after Blanche calls Roses a slut after finding out she had 56 boyfriends in the span of a year before marrying Charlie.
    Dorothy: Oh, come on, Blanche, how can you say that? So the woman had fifty-six boyfriends in one year. She's not a slut.
    Rose: Thank you, Dorothy.
    Dorothy: She is The Slut! She is the Grand Poobah of Slutdom! She is the easiest woman in this room!
  • The Good Place:
    • Jason describes his career: "I wasn't a failed DJ. I was pre-successful."
    • From "Janet and Michael" when Tahani admits she and Jason are an item.
      Michael: Woah, woah, woah, woah... you two are sleeping together?.
      Jason: Only when we're done having sex....
  • Gossip Girl: "Actually, it's hash. I find it gives a softer high."
  • Gotham: "Smile Like You Mean It": When Selina accuses Bruce of lying to her, he says, "I didn't tell you the truth." Selina tells him they're the same thing.
  • On the 2010 reimagined Hawaii Five-0, Danny is a regular offender of this, usually when it comes to Steve and his tendency to do things his way which, according to Danny, is the insane way that requires professional help.
    Steve: You were worried about me!
    Danno: No, I wasn't worried, I was rationally concerned.
  • This bit from Hello Cheeky, just after Tim has told a dirty joke to the camera.
    Barry: Please! There's no room for vulgarity on this program!
    John: Why?
    Barry: There's too much filth and nonsense!
  • Hey Dude!:
    Buddy: Mom, Dad, I'm gonna lasso you two if you don't stop yelling!
    Mr. Ernst: We're not yelling, Buddy, we're talking loudly.
    Buddy: That's what you always say.
  • House: Cuddy confronts House about something or other, and he says, "Who squealed? Taub?" Cuddy responds, "I'll never tell. But yes."
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The Gang is Playing Pictionary, where the challenge involves one member of each team having to sculpt something representing the word "love" out of clay while the other member guesses the word they were given. Dennis' take on the task is to make what appears to be a woman's decapitated head in a box. The others call him out on this, which makes him quite indignant:
    Dennis: This is not a woman's head in a box, you sick freak! This is a woman's head in a freezer! And it's supposed to represent the preservation of love forever and ever.
  • JAG: "Heroes" in the second season has Harm firing a loaded submachine gun into the courtroom ceiling. Mac, for her part, goes diving under the table when this happens. When she later claims that Marines never hide, Harm asks her what she was doing down there.
    Mac: Taking cover.
  • Leverage:
  • M*A*S*H:
    • A typical conversation...
      Hawkeye: Oh, no. No credit extended to visiting supply sergeants.
      BJ: It's nothing personal, he just doesn't trust you.
    • Also, when Margaret states that they are blackmailing Frank, Hawkeye and BJ respond, "Blackmail is such an ugly word. We prefer extortion."
  • NewsRadio:
    • For example:
      Dave: Wait a minute, you wrote that review?
      Jimmy: Why not? I own the damn magazine.
      Dave: Isn't that a conflict of interest?
      Jimmy: No, no, no, no... well, yeah.
    • In another episode, Dave lectures the staff about how important the office security system is and how he doesn't want them trying to circumvent it. Beth protests that they're not circumventing it, they're "just trying to get around it."
  • Odd Squad:
    • In "Whatever Happened to Agent Oz".
      Olive: Otto, it's not polite to stare.
      Otto: I'm not staring. I'm just looking at someone for a really long time.
      Olive: Fine. It's not polite to look at someone for a really long time.
    • In "The Potato Ultimato", Oscar pulls out a miniature figure he made of Precinct 13579's bullpen, causing Otto to ask:
      Otto: You made an Odd Squad dollhouse?
      Oscar: No, I made a house for my dolls to live in.
    • Invoked by a disguised Oswald in "Follow the Leader" when attempting to throw Greta off of her suspicions that he, Omar and Orla are stalling.
      Oswald: [disguised as William Ocean] Before we choose our instruments—
      Greta: I'm starting to get this feeling that you've all been stalling.
      Oswald: Stalling? mean, uh, a delaying tactic used to mislead or distract, uh, unsuspecting person or persons from their goal?
    • The episode "The Void" has this exchange between Omar and a missing agent from the Maine Odd Squad precinct.
      Omar: Hang on, I recognize you! You're one of the missing agents the Big O sent us to find!
      Oneta: And now you're stuck here too.
      Omar: We're not stuck, we just haven't figured a way out yet.
  • From Red Dwarf:
    • In the episode "Emohawk: Polymorph II":
      Kryten: It's charging us with looting Space Corps derelicts.
      Lister: But we don't loot Space Corps derelicts. We just hack our way in and swipe what we need!
      Rimmer: ...Lister, if this goes to trial, I demand separate lawyers.
    • Also from the episode "Holoship":
      Rimmer: Oh, and sir—you're wrong. We won't be apart, we just... won't be together. [Beat] I cannot believe I just said that.
    • This is itself a callback to some crappy Casablanca knockoff they were watching at the start of the episode. (Rimmer considered it Glurge.)
      Marnie: We'll always be together! It's just... that we'll be apart.
  • The Revolution Will Be Televised has the sketch character of Eugene X, a South African white supremacist. He denies being racist, saying that he instead knows some races are superior to others.
  • A skit on Royal Canadian Air Farce during the Bre-X scandal: "Now, Pamela [Wallin, a somewhat famous Canadian news anchor], we don't lie—we misappropriate the truth."
  • Monty Python's Eric Idle did a sketch on Saturday Night Live in which he begins a talk show on which he'll be interviewing Richard Nixon by assuring the audience that his show is, of course, "completely uncensored, except for the little bits we'll cut out."
  • In an episode of Selfie, Eliza is hit by a car and then falls down a manhole. When Henry comes to visit her, she says she's okay — and then lists her terrible injuries.
    Eliza: Oh, it's not a big deal. I just got hit by a smart car, dislocated my tailbone, fell down a manhole, fractured my pelvis, banged my head, got a concussion, saw the white light, ran into Tupac and Biggie, who squashed it.
  • On Slings & Arrows, playwright Lionel Train suffers an attack of insecurity over his new play and tries to get the actors to improvise a script for him.
    Lionel: You're paraphrasing. That's not what I want you to do. I want to tell the story as written, but in your own words.
    Ellen: That's what paraphrasing is.
  • Smallville: Insistent Terminology possibly due to the fact that she is still trying to snag Clark Kent (she is talking about another guy):
    Chloe Sullivan: This is not a date. This is a fact-finding mission to see if he deserves a date.
  • Stargate SG-1, when Mitchell finds Carter has been working in her lab all night.
    Mitchell: Did you sleep here last night?
    Carter: No... I slept down the hall in my quarters.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series:
      • The episode "Court Martial" has this exchange when Spock tries to defend Kirk on the witness stand.
        Shaw: Are you disputing with the computer?
        Spock: I am not disputing with the computer; I am merely stating that it is wrong.
      • Several times through the series and movies, Spock is accused of lying, only to reply that he "exaggerated", or "implied" or in some other way deliberately led others to false conclusions without technically lying.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • At one point, Sisko says, "I wasn't yelling. I was expressing my opinion loudly." It seems to run in the family, as his father once claimed "I wasn't sleeping, I was checking my eyelids for holes."
      • The Female Changeling, when declaring the need to pull back their forces, is accused of retreating by her Breen allies. She and Weyoun immediately try to spin it as a momentary withdrawal so they can build up their forces and attack again.note 
    • Star Trek: Discovery:
      • When Captain Pike calls Admiral Cornwell out for allowing Section 31 to mine the space around their headquarters in violation of Federation law, she tries to claim it wasn't the Federation but Section 31 that did it, prompting Pike to drop the trope name.
  • In The Twilight Zone episode "Number Twelve Looks Just Like You", everyone that reaches the age of nineteen undergoes "Transformation." It is a change in physical appearance that makes you "beautiful and young with the only drawback being there are a limited set of choices for each gender, so every adult looks identical to a large chunk of the population. The doctors assure the main character that nobody has ever been forced to undergo the transformation if they didn't want to, before calmly adding "We just find out why you don't want to and make the necessary correction."
  • Veep: In "C*ntgate", Mike states to the press that the President is not planning on bailing out banks, she's just going to give them large infusions of cash.
    Leon West: That's literally the definition of "bailout", Mike.
  • Inverted on The Vicar of Dibley in "Love and Marriage", when Alice shows her mum's ideas for her wedding dress (which includes Teletubbies, a bobbie's helmet, and a train made of Thomas the Tank Engine characters, all made of wool and linoleum). Geraldine asks if she can give her honest opinion and Alice says yes... so long as it's not nasty or critical in any way.
  • In The X-Files, Mulder once claimed "I would never lie. I willfully participated in a campaign of misinformation."
  • "It's one of those irregular verbs, isn't it? I have an independent mind, you are an eccentric, he's round the twist." Bernard Woolley, Yes, Minister. Also, "I hold confidential briefings, you leak, he's been charged under section 2A of the Official Secrets Act."

  • "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
    Except for when I'm awake and when I'm sleeping
    Girl, you never even cross my mind
    Except just when I think I've left you far behind
    Only when I laugh, only when I cry
    And only on days that end in "Y"

    Pro Wrestling 
  • While normally just a case of Insistent Terminology, whenever a ring announcerahem, commentator or wrestler...superstar verbally corrects their colleague about how to refer to Professional Wrestling as "Sports Entertainment", it starts slipping into this territory. Especially if it's blatant enough to get The Universe(fans) to start booing about it.
  • Portia Perez was highly displeased when her long time rivals Sara Del Rey and Courtney Rush won SHIMMER's Tag Team Title belts despite being a barely functional team. To Perez Rush and Del Rey were NOT a tag team but co corner wrestling partners.

  • In one episode of The Men from the Ministry the General Assistance Department is given the task of distributing Culture Ministry's yearly Art's Council Grants for the entire Britain's artists. After giving most of it away to small-time no-names and simple con-men, Sir Gregory angrily calls and asks Lennox-Brown if he's forgotten annual grants for all the national organisations. He immediately states that he definitely hasn't, since he's never even heard of them.
  • The Procrastination Song from John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme is all about this.
    But I resent the implication
    this was mere procrastination
    the project underwent gestation
    sitting on the shelf.
    I was not procrastinating
    I was simply wisely waiting
    in case the project came to life
    and somehow did itself!

  • Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
    • Simon's mother gets angry with him after she finds out that he hasn't taken his medication. When he points it out, she rebuts that she isn't angry, she's just pissed off.
    • Sebastian freaks out upon discovering that Daigo has murdered two people. Fesxis 'helpfully' clarifies that it's only attempted murder, since neither of them is dead yet, which doesn't make Sebastian feel any better.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed III: Connor has just gone through an epic naval battle at Chesapeake Bay, all to get some French ships to aid him in his assault on Ft. George in New York. When he begins to explain his request to the Admiral, the following exchange occurs:
    Admiral de Grasse: Wait, wait. I thought you might need some pirates killed, or goods transported. And instead, you ask us to... what, shell New York?
    Connor: No. Of course not.
    de Grasse: Ah...
    Connor: Only part of it.
    de Grasse: ...explain yourself.
  • Batman: The Telltale Series: Batman tries to convince the captured Penguin to give up his masters plan.
    Batman: You think she cares for you? You are nothing more than a pawn she has discarded.
    The Penguin: What the hell do you think I am? I am no pawn, I am a Soldier — I’ll tell you nothing!
  • Borderlands 2: "I'm not saying you owe me, but I am implying it."
  • Call of Duty 2 has a mission called "Retreat? We're Advancing in Another Direction".
  • Cyberpunk 2077: Saul insists that the Aldecaldos' main source of income is "logistics", not "smuggling", but when pressed for a distinction, he shrugs and admits that given the type of "logistics" they mostly get called upon to do, there really isn't one.
  • Used in the PC adventure game The Dagger of Amon Ra:
    "Kill is such an ugly word. Actually, we're going to sacrifice you to Amon Ra!"
  • Yuan Shao in Dynasty Warriors 5: "This is not a retreat! Rather, a move for my future!"
  • Endless Sky: For the most part of the game, the difference between a Space Fighter and an Attack Drone is clear - while both are launched from carrier craft, one is crewed and the other is not. The one instance when it stops mattering is for Korath Automata spacecraft, none of which are crewed.
  • From Fallout: New Vegas:
    • This exchange:
      Courier: In the meantime, you'd rule Vegas as some kind of dictator?
      Mr. House: I prefer the term "autocrat".
    • Also, from the "Old World Blues" DLC:
      Dr. Klein: I'm not going to harm it. I'm going to dissect it until it's dead!
  • Final Fantasy thieves have a tendency for this.
    • In Final Fantasy VI, Locke insists, "I'm not a thief, I'm a treasure hunter!" Regardless of the fact that some of the treasures he hunts are currently owned by someone else.
    • In Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions, Balthier clarifies for some bounty hunters: "I'm no thief. I'm a Sky Pirate."
    • Final Fantasy X-2 has the Machine Faction and "machines," which are a really just salvaged machina, but which are called that in order to avoid a term which still holds negative connotations for some in Spira. A random NPC woman even comments "A machine? It's just a machina."
    • Final Fantasy XIV made the same mistake as World of Warcraft further down — originally, the Anti-Grinding came in the form of a "Fatigue" system which reduced experience as your session grew longer, and players hated it. An update changed it to a limited "rested bonus" that accumulated while logged out, and this time players loved what was essentially the same mechanic.
  • Fire Emblem Awakening: Regarding the passing on of important information:
    Lissa: Vaike! Did you forget to tell Stahl about our mission?
    Vaike: The Vaike never forgets! ...I just don't always remember, is all...
  • In Gizmos: Riddle of the Universe; Kurt suggests reporting a crashed NASA unmanned spacecraft to the Gizmo Land government.
    Sid: Are you serious? Man up!
    Kurt: Hey, I'm not scared, I'm just a little frightened.
  • Hitman:
    • In Hitman, the game calls several of the flashy kills that require a bit of setup "Opportunities". The following game changes the name to "Mission Stories", despite being identical in every way except the name.
    • In Hitman 2, the "MK.II" line of weapons are functionally identical to their non-MK.II counterparts, save for a tiny little square pink sticker with the number "2" on it. The exception is the ICA Executive Briefcase MK.II (which is some Self-Deprecation on this trope, and has a massive worn out "2" sticker on the lid, and the homing speed is super-slow, a nod to the games' "Slow Homing Briefcase" bug).
  • This trope's name is dropped in Injustice 2, in one of the intro quotes between Atrocitus and Brainiac:
    Atrocitus: You're worse than the Manhunters!
    Brainiac: I collect planets, not destroy them.
    Atrocitus: A distinction without a difference!
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie has Lloyd asking for Lapis' help in the final chapter to obtain the Tower of Babel and restore Lapis as the administrator of the Elysium System. Lapis however says no to the surprise of many in attendance. She even says that she still would have said no if Rufus had asked her to do so. Her reasoning however is that because she's the one who has to solve this, she's therefore the main party involved in this. From her perspective, they're not asking help from her. She's asking help from them. Swin lampshades that there's literally no difference with Lapis arguing there is.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword: The developers said that the girl in the early promotional art wasn't the Master Sword, she was the Goddess Sword... which becomes the Master Sword over the course of the game.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Schnells the salarian isn't trying to help people cheat at Quasar. He's just making a machine that could help people cheat at Quasar. If they wanted.
    • The directive of the Reapers is to prevent synthetic life from completely destroying organic life. Despite being synthetic themselves, they seem to think that there is nothing wrong with turning all advanced organic life into goo and using it to make new Reapers, since using the goo to make new Reapers means the organic life they obliterated is not technically completely gone since it had become raw material for new Reapers. Notably not a case of Loophole Abuse, since the Reapers seem to genuinely believe they are doing what they are supposed to do. Players found this to be an unsatisfying conclusion to a series-long mystery, to say the least.
  • Mortal Kombat 9: Raiden quotes the trope name word-for-word when the Elder Gods refuse to aid Earthrealm against Outworld's invasion; according to the Elder Gods, since Shao Kahn is merely invading Earthrealm and has yet to actually merge it with Outworld, he hasn't actually violated the laws of Mortal Kombat.
    Raiden: A distinction without a difference! Innocents are dying at the hands of Outworld!
  • In Persona 3, near after The Reveal regarding Ikutsuki's manipulations to Eiichiro Takeba's video:
    Ikutsuki: Ah yes, he did record that himself. Of course, I had to make some modifications.
    Yukari: You doctored it?
    Ikusuki: I corrected it.
  • In Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, "war" has become a taboo term, on account of the memory of Earth That Was. Nevertheless, the various factions still get into bloody conflicts with each other. So how do they get around this? Well, instead of "declaring war," they "pronounce Vendetta." That oughta do it!
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
  • In Tales of Berseria, after the party fights Phoneix, Bienfu and Grimorh reveal that there are "dog normin" and "cat normin" and that there's an irreconciable difference between the two. They compare it to the difference between sky blue and sea blue, though some of the party think that those two really aren't any different. Eizen insists that to the trained eye there is, but then they start giving other examples, like pudding vs. custard, sherbet vs. sorbet, or a hoagie vs. a sub sandwich, which Velvet says there really is no difference.
  • When you're Ubercharged as Soldier in Team Fortress 2:
    Soldier: We have you surrounded, at least from this side!
  • Touhou Project:
    • It's a Running Gag for resident kleptomaniac Cute Witch Marisa Kirisame to employ Insistent Terminology in regards to her thieving habits: She has never "stolen" anything, she's just borrowing stuff. Without permission. Until the day she dies. And she won't return the things she's "borrowing" if asked to, either, because she needs those things in order to create an Elixir of Immortality.
    • Sakuya Izayoi's signature ability is often billed as her being able to halt the flow of time. Sakuya herself, however, insists that of course she doesn't stop the flow of time in the entire universe; she just makes herself move at infinite speed with zero mass.
  • In the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen game, this is used by Grindor to question Starscream's courage under fire:
    Grindor: I'm sorry, Starscream, I forgot: you don't retreat, you advance backwards!
  • Mentioned as a backstory element in Tyranny: Occulted Jade, the (now-fled) leader of the Tidecaster faction of mages, insisted on calling herself an Archon instead of an Exarch — an Archon being simply an Exarch (being with special individual power) who is recognised by Kyros, the local Evil Overlord (Jade did it as a Take That! against Kyros' authority). Since every other Exarch is an Archonnote , it's not something that comes up much.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • Victory in The Halls of Reflection relies upon you running from The Lich King and escaping his fortress before he one-shot kills your entire party. The achievement for doing this in a certain time is called "We're Not Retreating; We're Advancing In A Different Direction!" - quoting Maj. Gen. Oliver P. Smith (see Real Life examples below).
    • During the alpha and beta tests, your character's experience gain would gradually decay as you kept playing, and only recover while you were logged out. This mechanic was poorly received, as it made players feel like they were being punished for playing the game. So in the game proper, your character would instead accumulate an experience bonus while logged out, which would of course be used up in the course of grinding until you didn't have any left. Despite being the same basic mechanic and serving the same basic purpose, players interpreted this version as a reward for taking breaks, and so it was much better received.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In the first case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, prosecutor Winston Payne asks defendant Larry Butz if his ex-girlfriend, Cindy Stone (the murder victim in the case), broke up with him:
      Butz: I wasn't dumped! She just wasn't taking my phone calls... or seeing me... ever. What's it to you, anyway?!
      Payne: Mr. Butz, what you describe is generally what we mean by "dumped".
    • A truly dark example shows up in Justice for All. When questioning Matt Engarde about his innocence regarding the current trial, he declares "I didn't kill anyone"; this doesn't set off Phoenix's lie-detecting Magatama, so he (and the player) believes it to be true. It's later revealed that while Engarde didn't actually kill the victim, he did hire an assassin to do it. What makes it frightening is that anyone with a shred of morality would see that this trope applies, but Engarde doesn't, letting the players know just how twisted he really is.
    • In the fourth case of Spirit of Justice, Blackquill doesn't think Nahyuta knows enough about rakugo, but due to politeness, we get this exchange:
      Blackquill: Do you have enough knowledge of this art form to handle the case competently?
      Nahyuta: Are you implying that I am not qualified for this case?
      Blackquill: Not yet — I am simply trying to ascertain your familiarity with the topic... for now.
  • Daughter for Dessert:
    • Mortelli claims that his tryst with a prostitute in Las Vegas isn't a secret.
      Mortelli: [My wife] just hasn't asked the right questions.
    • Lainie, Cecilia, and their family hate when people call them "rich". They prefer to say that they own a lot.
  • In Double Homework, Ms. Walsh has trained to teach children who are "intellectually disabled", not "retarded". Justified in that school systems are more politically correct than most other environments, and in that schools do not want to discourage the parents of children who need special education from eschewing it due to social stigma.

    Web Animation 
  • FTL: Kestrel Adventures: "We prefer the term 'laborers who only accept payment in terms of food, shelter, and water'." — A rock slaver on slavery.
  • The American Civil War OverSimplified gives us this gem:
    General George B. McClellan: I didn't lose! I merely failed to win!
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • There's Sarge's "We're not retreating; We're advancing, towards future victory!"
    • Also: "It's not pink, it's lightish red!" Which gets the appropriate response: "They have a word for that. PINK!"
    • "I wouldn't really use the word 'replace', but there's no word for 'take over for you and make everything better almost immediately', so we just say 'replace'."
  • In Hunter: The Parenting, the vampire Kevin hates vampiric blood bonds, calling them effectively slavery. The blood-bonded detective Chapman disagrees, because he prefers to call it "indentured servitude".

    Web Comics 
  • The Last Days of FOXHOUND
    Ocelot: "Torture" is such an inelegant word. I'm an artist. Their testicles are my canvas.
  • Vincent from My Life In Blue:
    Vincent: I'm not queer, I'm inverted, thou lie-breeding swine.
  • The Order of the Stick:
  • Schlock Mercenary got a lot of this:
    • Like this one, on which our amorph answers:
      TV Con: ...If what I just said insulted your intelligence, you should change the channel now.
      Schlock: I need this guy's address, and some breacher-round reloads.
    • Andy is not bait. He is flypaper.
  • From Misfile: I'm not spying, I'm strategically listening.
  • From Three Panel Soul: "They're not replacements. They're just going to do the same job as you, and eventually you won't work here anymore."
  • From Vexxarr, a variation.
    Firstofficerbot: Is this true?
    Vexxarr: Only in the sense that it's factually accurate...
  • In Sorcery 101, Asagi states he doesn't make threats since he lacks the reputation to make them effective. "For that sort of reputation, one must occasionally leave survivors."
  • From The Sanity Circus, as Attley and Fletch quiz Donovan Sparc for answers to some of their problems:
    Donovan: Uh, yes, the "secret" organisation. I wouldn't so much call it "secret", though... it just... handles things without the public knowing.
    Attley: That's pretty much the definition of secret.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: After an event that has every reason to have taken an emotional toll on him, Reynir, when asked, insists that he's not depressed, just feeling crushing regret and helplessness.
  • Lampshaded in this Penny Arcade:
    Tycho: Dropmix is a music game, not a Rhythm Game.
    Gabe: I want you to shove this whole mechanism up your asshole, not your butthole. See? I can do this shit too.
  • From Unsounded, a rewording of the page image:
    Ruffles: [Duane]'s inside the mop closet spying on us.
    Duane, bursting out of the closet: I am not! I was assessing the situation ere intruding!
  • Freefall has Sam Starfall gets talking to a robot modeled after Jar-Jar Binks about copyright laws while speaking of Wookiee opera coming into being.
    Sam: Someone other than Lucas might do it.
    Jar-Jar Bot: No. Copyright lasts for the life of the creator plus seventy years. George Lucas had his head frozen. Not completely dead, his copyright shall never expire.
    Sam: Weren't copyright laws made to ensure creative properties didn't get locked up forever?
    Jar-Jar Bot: It's not forever. It's only until the heat death of the universe.
  • Questionable Content: Marten pulls this when he's in denial about his First Gray Hair.
    "Oh, no, that's not a grey hair. It's just one that happened not to have any pigment."
  • When Nin Wah is found guilty of a crime in Commander Kitty, it's decided by the court of the planet Gazelle that she won't be getting the death sentence, but get off with community service. Said community service is to clean the space station, from the outside, without a spacesuit. (She survives anyway, through luck.)
  • Dregs: Mags's collection isn't of guns, it's of pneumatic weapons. That fire bullets. Hard enough to kill.
  • Unknown Lands: When his name is questioned Mischief agrees that it's not his real name, and when subsequently asked what his name is replies Mischief.
  • Sweetheart in Skin Horse knew her creator was a homicidal maniac. She just didn't think he was the kind of homicidal maniac who went crazy and killed people.

    Web Original 
  • In its early days, Pointless Waste of Time published an excerpt of the supposed script for the then-unmade The Matrix Reloaded. A warning read "it doesn't contain spoilers, but it does contain details about the plot that may ruin the film if you read them."
  • From the Something Awful review of the movie The House That Screamed: "I'm not saying I disliked the film, I'm just saying that I'd rather rip all of my teeth out with rusty pliers, make them into a comb, and use the comb made of my own teeth to scrape all of my skin off than watch it again."

    Web Videos 
  • "Technically you could call me a Serial Killer. I don't know if that's the correct noun. Personally, I just think I'm a bloke who had a few people put down. I don't have any voices in my head, and I haven't got any mother-love fantasies. Well, not really." ~ Terrence, KateModern: The Last Work
  • Third Rate Gamer:
    • In his Daze Before Christmas review:
      Third Rate Gamer: Ooh, I know what you're thinking: "How dare you make fun of Santa Claus!?" But I'm not! This game is awesome, but it's a piece of shit.
    • In his Super Mario Bros./Super Mario Bros. 2 review, he parodies and quotes near-verbatim what the The Irate Gamer said about Super Mario Bros. 2:
      Third Rate Gamer: This is a horrible game that I remember fondly playing when I was five years old. I don't really hate Mario 2, but when you compare it to the other Mario games, it just has "ass" written all over it!
  • Jimquisition: In Jim Sterling's second crack at Kobra Studios' Second Warfare (after KS suggested that Jim had been criticising the game "poorly" by missing features like a flashlight and grenade launcher, both of which turned out to be equally hideous-looking and borderline nonfunctional) they make this gem of a comment:
    Jim Sterling: Some people might suggest, like in other videos where I've had tiffs with developers, that I'm being "petty" here. I would like to refute that; I would say I'm being infantile and petulant. [Beat] And spiteful. That's what I'm— I wouldn't say I'm being "petty". I think "spiteful" is a much better word for what I'm being right now.
  • With the Philadelphia Eagles one of the teams that were playing in Super Bowl LII (held in 2018), the team itself having last won an NFL championship in 1960, and Philadelphia itself infamous for its sports fans' reputation for unruly behavior, Urinating Tree's "The Hater's Guide to Super Bowl 52" summed up the situation as "Will we see Philadelphia joyously rioting in the streets, or Philadelphia angrily rioting in the streets?" It ended up being a joyous rioting.
  • Folding Ideas:
    • When discussing Uwe Boll, Foldable Human flies in the face of conventional wisdom by saying he isn't a terrible director... he's a mediocre director and a terrible producer.
    • Another video, dealing with The Last Airbender, backs down from a section title card saying that one of the problems is M. Night Shyamalan, deciding to look at the department heads and see if there's a weak link. Cue the amended title card, which reads "M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN IS THE WEAK LINK."
  • In the opening dialogue of this clip, one of the Epic NPC Man muggers proposes this as a threat to try out on their next victim:
    Mugger: ...if you don't give me that gold, I will mug you.
  • The Warp Zone: In "Mandalorian Couples Therapy", when Boba Fett accuses the Mandalorian of being part of a cult.
    Boba Fett: At least I'm not a member of a freaky helmet-obsessed cult.
    Din Djarin: What? I'm not in a cult! I'm just part of an isolated group of people who live by a stringent set of rules and morals that must be followed absolutely and unquestioningly and if you ever break the rules, you're ruthlessly cast out and shunned by the rest of the... okay, I might be in a cult.
  • X in X Minutes: Stronheim isn't a "Nazi". He's simply a "German soldier from the late 1930s".
    Speedwagon: So, you're a Nazi?
    Stronheim: ACH! Just because I'm a major in the German military in the late 1930s (walks around doing a Nazi salute), you can't just go around and accuse everyone you don't like of being a Nazi!

    Western Animation 
  • The Addams Family: "The Day Gomez Failed" has Gomez, who's tired of being great at everything, try to fail at something for once, only to succeed with blinding colors at everything he attempts in spite of himself. His quest to fail at something is finally stopped by Morticia telling him that he's been failing at failing, which is good enough for him.
  • Adventure Time: In "Up a Tree", when Finn is being held prisoner by squirrels, he asks whether he will be a prisoner forever. The squirrel guard replies that that's only sort of true — he's simply a prisoner who will never be free.
    Finn: So does that mean I'm a prisoner forever?
    Squirrel: Well yes. And no. Are you a prisoner? Yes. Will you ever be free? No.
  • Aladdin: The Series: In one episode, Iago says "This isn't stealing! It's surplus inventory reduction!"
  • In the Alvin and the Chipmunks Halloween special, "Trick or Treason", Simon accuses Alvin of lying to him that they were going to go recycling when he was actually going to try prank a neighborhood kid everyone thought was a monster, but was really a Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold.
    Alvin: No, I adjusted the truth to get what I wanted. Adults do it all the time.
    Simon: Don't stoop to their level!
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
    • Twice happens in "The Name":
      Gumball: I can't do it! I'm weak!
      Darwin: You're not weak! You just lack upper body strength, lower body strength, and mental strength!

      Gumball/Zach: Zach doesn't listen... he hears.
      Darwin: They're the same thing.
      Gumball: What's that? I can't listen you right now.
    • In "The Boss":
      Gumball: You have a better idea?
      Darwin: No, I have a much better idea.
  • Archer:
    • A Running Gag is for somebody (usually Krieger) to be accused of some immoral or bizarre activity, then to give a long, implausible denial, and finally state "Also, yes."
    • In "Job Offer", we learn that Malory had moved without telling Archer when he was a kid coming back from Boarding School for the winter break, leaving him stranded at the station on Christmas.
      Malory: Eve! It was only Christmas Eve!
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
  • One episode of Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse sees Barbie start a boutique that quickly becomes popular. Raquelle, envious as always, decides to open her own store to compete. She tasks her twin brother Ryan with stocking the shop and tells him what she'll be doing:
    Raquelle: I'll be formulating a business plan and conducting market research.
    Ryan:'re gonna go spy on Barbie.
    Raquelle: [already in camouflage] I'm gonna go spy on Barbie.
  • Bojack Horseman: At the end of Season 3, Princess Carolyn decides to leave her career as a Hollywood agent to focus on her new relationship... and then decides to become a "manager" instead. The distinction between the two she states is incredibly flimsy and from that point on, she is clearly doing exactly what she did before. Even characters that exist entirely in her own imagination are confused by it.
  • The Critic: In one episode, Jay's mother Eleanor writes a very cruel children's book based on Jay called The Fat Little Pig. Jay asks if it's about him, and she replies, "No, no, a thousand times, no... well yes, but so what?"
  • Danger Mouse uses this in "Gremlin Alert" when he corners the anti-logic Gremlin with a "how can you agree with me when gremlins always disagree?" argument.
  • Dan Vs.:
    • "Dan vs. the Bank", Dan corrects Chris that they won't go to jail for robbing the bank. Prison, probably, but not jail.
    • "Dan vs. the Dinosaur": Dan admits to being "a deceiver, a misleader, and a fabricator", but denies being a liar.
  • DuckTales (2017): In "Louie's Eleven", the Three Caballeros tell Scrooge they aren't asking him to give them money, but rather expensive stuff like a jet. Then they decide he's too busy to go jet-shopping and say they would just take the money to do it themselves.
  • Family Guy:
    • Rush Limbaugh regarding his car: "I'm not saying you have to be gay to drive something else, but if you drive something else, you're probably a guy who likes to pleasure other men sexually".
    • "It's not so much that I want to kill [my mother], just that I want to... make it so that she's not alive anymore."
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, "Berry Scary": "We can still do it together, just without you."
  • Futurama:
    • From "Anthology of Interest I", Bender claims that since "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word he prefers the term "extortion". The "x" makes it sound cool.
    • "The Cryonic Woman" has this happen two times. The first occasion is when Fry claims that he doesn't regret a decision he made, but he does rue and lament it. The second is when he claims that his girlfriend is clearly different because before she was demanding and possessive, but now she wants him to do stuff for her and be with her all the time.
    • In "The Sting", Professor Farnsworth assures Leela that nobody thinks she's going crazy, but he is thinking it loudly.
    • "A Clone of My Own" uses this twice. This is first invoked when Dr. Zoidberg makes a joke about how he's not saying that Professor Farnsworth is old, "but considering his age, he's likely to die soon". Later, Farnsworth's young clone Cubert states that just because they're identical in every way it doesn't mean he's anything like him.
    • In "The Birdbot of Ice-Catraz", Free Waterfall Sr. assures Leela that they're not going to enjoy shooting penguins... but if they have to shoot penguins, they might as well enjoy it.
  • The Ghost and Molly McGee: In "Getting the Band(shell) Back Together", Molly and her family are trying to raise money for repairs to the Brighton Bandshell. Scratch comes in with a big sack of cash, and Molly accuses him of stealing it from a bank. Scratch insists he didn't, but after a dye pack goes off in his face he admits he stole it from a credit union.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy:
    Mandy: Objection! He's leading the witness!
    Billy: I'm not leading him, I'm just making him say everything I want him to!
  • Invasion America: When the evil Dragit attempts to capture the Cale Oosha so he can invade/conquer Earth, this exchange takes place:
    Cale: TREASON!
    Dragit: Revolution.
  • Kim Possible: Drakken once decided to start "outsourcing" instead of "stealing"... yeah.
  • The Little Rascals: In "King of the Hobos", after Porky introduces his friends to Boxcar Bill, Darla asks the hobo to wash all the windows on her house.
    Boxcar Bill: You mean, work?
    Darla: Think of it as a game you have to play.
  • Muppet Babies: In "Piggy's Time Machine", when Miss Nanny scolds Piggy for being impatient for her birthday, Piggy insists that she's not impatient, she just wants her birthday to happen now.
  • My Gym Partner's a Monkey: Lampshaded in an episode where Adam thinks that Lola the llama is trying to steal Ingrid's life.
    Windsor: It does appear that Ingrid is a victim of an APA: Aggressive Pack Assimilation. It's when a wayward and oftentimes mentally unstable animal with no pack to speak of attempts to circumvent the normal and customary rituals for joining a group by simply disposing of the weakest member and taking their place.
    Adam: So, Lola's stealing Ingrid's life? That's what I said.
    Windsor: Yes, but my description was wordier.
  • Played for Laughs in The Oblongs when Bob gets injured at Globicide's theme park and their legal team is trying to placate him so he doesn't sue:
    Lawyer: Just whatever you do, don't talk to any lawyers!
    Pickles: But aren't YOU guys lawyers?
    Lawyer: Heavens, no! We're attorneys!
  • The Raccoons: In "Moving In!", when the Pigs talk to Mr. Willow about getting unemployed:
    Pig One: As a result of recent cutbacks, we find ourselves available for gainful employment.
    Pig Three: But we'd settle for a job.
  • Rugrats: in an episode just after Chas and Kira's wedding (and after the word "no" was established as Chuckie's first word), Chuckie is offered some juice and accepts, despite replying with "no". The adults understand him. This is Truth in Television, as "no" is easier to pronounce and is learned earlier.
  • The Simpsons:
    • "Tennis the Menace":
      Lisa: You're replacing me?
      Homer: Oh Lisa, dumping is such a harsh word. Let's just say I'm replacing you.
    • From "Diatribe of a Mad Housewife", when caught lying, Homer claims that he was writing fiction with his mouth.
    • "Team Homer":
      Mr. Burns: Look at them, Smithers, enjoying their embezzlement.
      Smithers: I have a much uglier word for it, sir: misappropriation.
    • "Homer Defined":
      • When the power plant is having a meltdown, Kent Brockman asks Mr. Burns about it in a news report. Mr. Burns replies saying that meltdown is "one of those annoying buzzwords" and calls the situation an "unrequested fission surplus".
      • When Marge is trying to convince Milhouse's mom that Bart isn't a bad influence, she explains "He's got a spark. It's not a bad thing. Of course, it makes him do bad things..."
    • In "Krusty Gets Busted", when Krusty the Clown is accused of armed robbery and the Simpsons are gathering Krusty merchandise for a public bonfire, Homer firmly denies giving in to mob mentality. He's just hopping on the bandwagon.
    • In "I Am Furious (Yellow)" when Bart creates the web comic "Angry Dad", based on Homer, he claims that it's actually a Composite Character of his dad, Lisa's dad, and Maggie's dad. Bart, Lisa, and Maggie, of course, are full-blood siblings.
    • In "Don't Fear the Roofer", Homer is led to believe that his new friend was a hallucination. Doctor Hibbert states that this is usually treated with electroshock therapy. When Homer is worried, he clarifies that the correct medical term is electroconvulsive therapy, which makes Homer feel better.
  • In Sonic Boom, Cubot does this frequently, almost to the point of Running Gag.
    Orbot: But what will we do in your absence?
    Cubot: Never mind that, what are we gonna do while you're away?
    • Knuckles also does it on at least one occasion, in "Aim Low":
      Tails: Ever since Eggman got depressed, Sonic's been making me nuts!
      Knuckles: He hasn't cooked for me. He's just been driving me crazy.
  • South Park:
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
    • "Storm over Ryloth": When Commander Axe asks Ahsoka why they're retreating, she replies that they're "not retreating. [They're] following orders." Those orders are to retreat.
    • "A Distant Echo": When Anakin comments that he hopes no one is afraid of heights, the other Bad Batchers all turn and look at Wrecker. He denies that he's afraid of heights, just that he "has a problem with gravity" when he's high up. So... he's afraid of heights.
  • Super Mario World:
    • Oogtar puts it plain and simple. "Oogtar not lost! Oogtar just... not know where he is."
    • This exchange:
      Oogtar: Oogtar not run. Oogtar jogging for health!
      Yoshi: Jogging good for health?
      Oogtar: Is when hungry, Oogtar-eating caterpillar behind you!
  • TaleSpin: In "Plunder and Lightning", Don Karnage insists that he and his crew will not be robbing Cape Suzette, they'll be plundering it. The difference being, in his mind, that when a pirate is the one doing the stealing and looting it becomes more dashing and romantic.
  • Tangled: The Series: In "Fitzherbert P.I.", when Eugene asks the other crooks whether they agree with Cassandra's statement that he's a two-bit hood who's no good at anything other than lying, cheating, and stealing, Big-Nose says that they don't agree with her, as such. They simply happen to have come to the same exact conclusion.

    Real Life 
  • When Augustus defeated all his opponents and stood as the sole ruling man in Rome, he was by all means a monarch. But instead of using the term king (rex in Latin), which was totally despised in ancient Roman culture, and while trying to give an appearance of having preserved the republican institutions, he instead called himself Princeps Civitatis ("first citizen"). Meanwhile, he concentrated for life on his persona various titles and positions that held power, for example: primus inter pares ("first among equals", previously an honorific title for the most respected member of the senate), imperator ("commander", or more properly "he who holds the military rule"), pontifex maximus ("greatest priest", the most important position in the ancient Roman clergy), censor, tribune, and so on.
  • Maj. Gen. Oliver P. Smith, the Commanding General, 1st Marine Division, at the Chosin Reservoir, said, "Retreat, hell! We're not retreating, we're just advancing in a different direction." To a civilian, retreat means "move away from a battle or position" but the military definition is specifically "withdrawal of troops to a more favorable position to escape the enemy's superior forces or after a defeat. Since they were moving to attack the enemy as part of their break-out, their actions could be described as an advance rather than a retreat.note  What it all comes down to, of course, is that Marines would much rather point out that they were attacking the enemy instead of getting hung up on the fact that they were also getting themselves out of a very untenable situation. "Retreat" is a word that brings with it connotations of running away from the fight, which they were certainly not doing.
  • Near-ubiquitous in any culture where saying No is disapproved of, whether because it entails a loss of face ("I am unable to satisfy you") or because it implies an insult to the asker ("you want something you can't have"). See the Jasper Carrot stand-up routine about the Balinese in Comedy above. Their neighbors, the Javanese, also have this habit. This concept is called "Inggih, boten kepanggih" which is "Yes" as in "Yes, I understand perfectly what you said, but I never said I'm agreeing with you/confirming that."
  • According to William Lutz, author of The New Doublespeak, the first Doublespeak Award went, in 1974, to US Air Force Colonel David Opfer in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for saying to American reporters, "You always write it's bombing, bombing, bombing. It's not bombing, it's air support."note . The source of the colonel's complaint is presumably that American journalists deliberately used only the term "bombing", probably in order to bring to mind the deliberate bombing of civilian targets that was common in World War II (the only war most of the American public had had any direct contact with)—rather than giving the details of what "air support", something very different, entails (it's generally much more precise and smaller-scale, and mostly only used against enemy forces that are actually a threat).
  • David Dinkins, after it was discovered that he hadn't paid income tax some years earlier, replied: “I haven't committed a crime. What I did was fail to comply with the law.”
  • There was a Swedish quote: "Jag har inte begått något brott, jag bara misslyckades med att följa lagen." Translation: "I haven't committed a crime, I simply failed in following the law."
  • After losing to the Americans in a sporting event (not the Olympics) the Soviet media (supposedly) claimed that they had come in second, while the US came in second to last. Which is all totally true...since the event only had two nations competing: The U.S. and the Soviets.
  • Clarke's Third Law can be paraphrased as "the Hand Wave I'm using isn't magic, it's just science we don't understand yet!" You'd be surprised how often this excuse is given for stories that violate well-understood laws of physics.
  • Daniel Boone once said of himself, "I can't say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days." This anecdote is sometimes used by the Boy Scouts while training in orientation to make an important distinction: To be lost is to be beyond hope of recovery. To be disoriented is to simply not know where you happen to be, a situation which is quite fixable if you do not lose hope.
  • This famous dialogue from The French Revolution just after Louis XVI was informed of the Bastille's fall:
    Louis XVI: Is it a revolt?
    Aide: No, sire. It is a revolution.note 
  • Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery had to get around this problem in World War II. During his limited participation on the Battle of the Bulgenote , he was placed in command of a significant part of the American forces on the northern flank of the German advance. His American subordinates were clearly unhappy about his request to them to retreat without firing a shot or even having seen the enemy. this was even though Monty had seen their positions were clearly untenable in the event of any determined German attack and could easily be outflanked and encircled. With great and uncharacteristic diplomacy and tact, Monty got them to see that this was not so much a retreat as a strategic realignment to positions they could realistically hold, upon which the Germans would blunt their offensive strength, and from which a quick counter-attack could be launched. The Americans complied.
    • Montgomery famously said that Operation Market Garden (almost entirely his brainchild) hadn't failed, because 90% of the objectives were achieved. Unfortunately, that remaining 10% included establishing a position on the German side of the Rhine, aka the entire point of the operation.
  • In the Pacific Theatre of World War II, the Japanese were notorious for refusing to surrender, which they considered shameful. The few Japanese who did surrender early on gave their captors a word of advice: telling Japanese troops to "cease resisting," rather than "surrender," would greatly overcome that indoctrination. This resulted in higher numbers of captures, although the Japanese still continued to fight to the death in most cases.
  • Common in politics from every side, "It's not a cut, it's an efficiency dividend", "We're not raising taxes, we're indexing them to inflation", "It's not a new tax it's a levy/co-payment/tax adjustment", "It's not a broken promise, circumstances changed which meant we couldn't fulfill our original commitments", "It's not a lie, it's an alternative fact". This is the reason for the counter from the people, "left wing, right wing, same shitty bird."
  • The Republican and Democratic Parties in the United States respectively use the term RINO and DINO (Republican/Democrat In Name Only) to describe members who strike them as this trope (identifying with one party while seemingly promoting the values of the other), particularly when they support the entire party platform except for one item.
  • Due to the peculiarities of British History, cavalry regiments did not have sergeants. They had Corporals of Horse, which were exactly equivalent to sergeants, but since even enlisted cavalrymen were gentlemen, and the word "sergeant" shares a root with the word "servant", the term could not be applied to them. To this day, the Household Cavalry maintains the tradition (though it is the only regiment to do so).
  • The same tradition applies in the French army: the infantry has "caporaux" and "sergents", the cavalry (now armored regiments) has "brigadiers" and "Maréchaux des Logis". Same ranks, same functions, different names.
  • This is also the reason why NATO Rank Codes exist. A Canadian Warrant-Officer, a German Hauptfeldwebel, a UK Colour Sergeant, and a United States Sergeant First-Class are all the same rank, which you conveniently know since they are all listed as NATO OR-7. The same can be said for the Canadian Petty Officer 1st Class, the German Hauptbootsmann, the UK and United States Navy Chief Petty Officer, and the United States Marines Gunnery Sergeant, which are also all NATO OR-7 ranks found in Naval branches.
  • "They aren't dolls, they're action figures". This trope has gotten so bad that companies advertise their own products as doll or action figure.
  • During the Suez Crisis, British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden insisted the UK was not at war with Egypt and was merely in "armed conflict".
  • Businesses these days like to insist that their staff are not employees but associates or family, and that you are not a customer but a guest in an attempt to sound more friendly or like they're not Only in It for the Money. They're not fooling anyone.
  • In all US court jurisdictions, there is a general rule that hearsay statements (statements made outside of the testimony of the current trial used to prove the truth of the matter asserted) are inadmissible. There are plenty of exceptions to the hearsay rule that allow certain types of out of court statements into evidence. One of the exceptions is the opposing party statement, where a statement by the plaintiff or the defendant can be used by the other party. In many jurisdictions, an opposing party statement is defined by the law as not hearsay, even though something being not-hearsay makes it just as admissible as if the statement constitutes an exception to the hearsay rule.
  • When representatives from Electronic Arts were called up in front of a committee about the gambling-like loot boxes in their games, most notably Star Wars Battlefront II (2017), their representative infamously insisted that they didn't like calling them "loot boxes"- they preferred the term "surprise mechanics". This came in for a metric crapton of mockery from unimpressed gamers, who sent it memetic with responses like "It's not 'piracy', it's 'cost-free acquisition'."
  • US Vice President Dan Quayle once said, "It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it."
  • People in high-ranking positions in business and government tend not to be "fired" or "terminated". Instead, they are often "asked to resign".
  • During the spree of failed lawsuits Donald Trump and his legal team filed in an attempt to overturn the 2020 US presidential election — all of which fell through, largely due to their claims of voter fraud conspiring against Trump lacking any evidenceone lawyer during a Philadelphia case was questioned by the federal judge on whether there were any Republican observers present while votes were being counted. The lawyer responded by saying there was "a nonzero number of people in the room." Judge Diamond was not amused by this show of bad faith and promptly got the lawyer to respond with a more straightforward "yes".
  • Authoritarian and totalitarianism are sometimes used conjectuarlly since their methods are similar to each other (for example the use of oppression, lack of freedom of speech, censorship, forbids individualism) and in some cases (read: CCP) it's pretty accurate.
    • Similarly, some (often Libertarians) argue there's no fundamental difference between Fascism and Socialism/Communism, because both are basically forms of hyper-statist authoritarian control that claim to be for the Greater Good, and the actual conflict is over statist "market share", so to speak. As you might expect, both leftists and rightists hate this argument only slightly less than they hate each other. Let's leave it at that.
  • In Japanese Idol Singer culture, there is a distinct difference between the terms "graduate" and "withdraw" when it comes to an idol retiring. Both words relate to the idol moving on past her idol career, but when an idol "graduates", it is treated as an amicable departure, usually accompanied by a farewell performance. Conversely, an idol "withdrawing" is seen as due to less than pleasant circumstances, such as an idol being fired.
  • Serial killer David Berkowitz, aka Son of Sam, claimed "I didn't want to hurt them. I only wanted to kill them."


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): This Is Pest Control, Yes Except No, Useless Distinction, Meaningless Distinction, No Except Yes


The Elder Gods

The Elder Gods refuse to get involved despite the obvious danger it proposes which Raiden calls them out on.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / AlienNonInterferenceClause

Media sources: