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Exact Words

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And he let you?

General Chang: You'll never take this city while I'm alive, monster!
The Death Knight: Terms accepted. [stab]

When the exact wording of a rule, promise, prophecy, etc. matters more than the spirit of the wording, it's an Exact Words situation.

The Knight Templar, the Anti-Hero, and those with even looser standards (but some standards) will often stick to Exact Words even as they declare I Gave My Word. A common trait of Lawful Evil characters. Also a common (and not always evil) way to play with Just Following Orders or the Leonine Contract. Undercover heroes often tell the Big Bad that "Your operation is very impressive, and you deserve everything that's coming to you" — both of which are true, without specifying what exactly is coming their way. Often, a user of Exact Words will parrot the specific wording of the agreement, smugly or matter-of-factly, when confronted about their duplicity, in order to taunt the other person or point out that they technically didn't lie.


The Obstructive Bureaucrat will insist on them as if the Vast Bureaucracy would fall apart if exceptions were made. The Beleaguered Bureaucrat will often insist on them, when the exceptions really would be a problem.

For magical enforcement, see Literal Genie. Often the cause of Prophecy Twist. Literal-Minded characters just do it because that's how they think. Can be defended against with Legalese, though might be used (and horribly abused) by a Rules Lawyer. If someone follows established rules to annoy someone else, it becomes Bothering by the Book. If this trope is related to or defines a superpower, it's called a Semantic Superpower.

In the case of prophecies and prophecy twists, Fridge Logic kicks in, leading one to wonder what the heck the prophet actually saw, and why would the prophet word it as such?


Subtrope of Double Meaning. Compare Heroic Vow, I Would Say If I Could Say and Ironic Echo. Unhand Them, Villain! is a specific variant. Threat Backfire is a common result. It's very commonly used in False Reassurance. The actual interpretation of the words is often Not Hyperbole. When used in response to a question can often result in a Mathematician's Answer. Can also lead to a Literal Metaphor, Literal Money Metaphor and to Literalist Snarking, as well as Loophole Abuse. Also see No Man of Woman Born. Contrast with I Lied, for when the opposing party makes no effort to hide the fact that they were not holding to their end. Not to be confused with Literal-Minded. Often a very important part of the Comically Wordy Contract, but easy to overlook because the contract is so damned wordy.

In Real Life doing this with instructions (for example, in your workplace), is called "malicious compliance" or "working to rule." It's a form of striking often used by health care workers and others in industries where refusing to work would put lives at risk. Instructions have to be painstakingly worded such that someone who has no idea what they are doing can complete the task reasonably well. If an experienced worker decides to follow every detail of every instruction, work grinds to almost a halt. But of course, since you've technically complied with all instructions the company can't fire you for incompetance or insubordination. The Exact Words are also the difference between a riddle and a mere common question.

Spoilers ahead.


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  • Cape Cod Potato Chips proudly advertises their low fat (6 g) chips as "40% reduced fat," and in tiny letters underneath, "compared to regular potato chips." This is entirely true — except that it's not their (kettle-cooked) "classic" chips (8 g) they're being compared with; it's Lay's and most (conveyor-cooked) store brands, which typically have 10 g fat and are, indeed, more "regular" to the average person's idea than kettle-cooked chips. By the same logic, they could sell their classic chips as "20% reduced fat."
  • A Swedish commercial has a young man ask his date if she wants to "taste the sausage". She's disappointed that he meant it literally.
  • As Charlie Brooker has pointed out; wording in advertising is key. For example you can't say a toothpaste will "eliminate" plaque build up but will instead, "help fight". As you can fight a wall but you probably won't get far.
  • Volkswagen ads spoof the exact wording of "sign and drive" car sales by having someone drive a car while simultaneously trying to sign a contract. This then segues into their "Sign, Then Drive'' Event promotion.
  • The Simpsons:
    • A Butterfinger commercial had this:
      Homer: I'm gonna open my mouth and close my eyes and you're gonna give me a big surprise. (Bart sticks Maggie's pacifier in Homer's mouth)
    • An ad for Ritz Bits Sandwiches Smores had the Comic Book Guy offer to trade Bart a rare comic for the rest of his box of Ritz Bits, but quickly realizes he's been had.
      Comic Book Guy: Hello? This box is empty!
      Bart: You said "the box".
      Comic Book Guy: Worst. Trade. Ever!
    • In another Butterfinger commercial, Bart is at bat in a baseball game. Otto shouts for Bart to "Hit a homer". Take a wild guess as to whom Bart sends the ball flying towards.
  • The old Philadelphia-based electronics chain Silo found themselves in this situation due to an advertising campaign that backfired. In 1986, Silo ran a commercial featuring a sale on stereo systems in which the $299 stereos were described as "299 bananas"note . While most customers figured out what Silo meant, several customers in El Paso, TX and Seattle, WA decided to test the "299 bananas" gambit, bringing in a total of 11,000 bananas to the local Silo stores. The chain, to their credit, accepted the bananas (the Seattle location donated the bananas they received to a local zoo, with the zoo keeping around 1,000 and donating the rest to area food banks) but quickly scrapped the ad after announcing a loss of just over $10,000.

  • BoBoiBoy: Ochobot's reasoning to giving powers to BoBoiBoy is his programming to give powers to whoever activates him. Adu Du says he was the one who activated him, but BoBoiBoy contests that since Adu Du stole his cocoa, he was technically the one who activated him. Following that, the cocoa was truly Tok Aba's, so Tok Aba gets a free robotic helper at his cocoa store.
  • An early episode of Happy Heroes has Doctor H. entering a competition because its prize, as advertised by Mr. Lightbulb, is that the winner gets to have dinner with a certain local news celebrity. The way the in-universe ad is shown makes it look like the celebrity in question is Miss Peach, Doctor H.'s crush. However, at the end of the episode, he learns that the dinner is actually with Mr. Lightbulb himself, who has to point out that he never explicitly said the celebrity involved in the prize was Miss Peach.
  • Mechamato:
    • Amazeey's "Swiftest Mind Challenge" is to find a specific library book. When asked what book it is, Amazeey says "Shh, it's a secret." Later, Mara remembers a book with Amazeey's exact phrase as its title and finds it in time, winning the challenge.
    • Because his mother won't let him read comics in the house, Deep reads them in the playground instead.
  • Motu Patlu:
    • At the beginning of the episode "Water Problem", Motu is about to eat some samosas as per usual when Patlu reminds him that the doctor has warned him not to eat outside foods due to a stomach problem. Motu eats the samosas given to him anyway... but he takes the shells off of them and only eats the insides. He explains to Chaiwala that he can't have outside foods, so he's eating inside foods instead.
    • In "Robot of Furfuri Nagar", the contestants of the robot competition are asked to read the robots' manuals, as "whoever drinks up the information in this manual tonight and digests it really well, only he will be able to win the competition". Motu complies by turning his manual into a soup and literally drinking it.
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Mighty Little Defenders episode 13, the wolves capture Mr. Slowy and Grany Dao Yang and are told that they may try to escape their prison by pretending to have a stomachache and asking to go to the bathroom. When Grany Dao Yang asks to go to the bathroom because he has a stomachache, the wolves refuse to let him go since they think he might be trying to escape their prison. When Grany Dao Yang changes his request so that he has to go to the bathroom because his foot hurts, the wolves open the gate for him since they were never told that they couldn't let them go to the bathroom because their feet hurt.
  • Simple Samosa: In "Chutney Dam", Samosa, Jalebi, and Dhokla, fearing for the safety of Vada when he tries to make a dive into the lake from the Chutney Dam, warn him to come down from the dam. Vada takes this as "come down from the dam by making the dive".

  • In the Child Ballad "The Lord of Lorn and the False Steward", the hero had promise not to tell the truth to anyone. When the heroine overheard him lamenting his fate to a horse, she asked him to tell her; he refused, she sat down on the hay and told him to ignore her and go on telling the horse, and he did so.
  • In one folk song, the two characters are in love with each other, but the woman's father has made her promise to say "No" to any request a would-be suitor makes of her. Once the man realises this, he asks her to refuse to date him, and she gladly denies this request, thus agreeing to date.
    Oh hark I hear the church bells rining, will you come and be my wife,
    or dear madam have you settled to be single all your life?
    Oh, No John, No John, No John, No
  • The sea song Paddy West is about a "sailing school" in which neophyte sailors do such things as walk around a bullock's head (thus going "around the Horn") and step over a rope on the ground ("crossing the Line") in order to claim experience to potential employers with a straight face.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering runs on this trope.
    • Indestructible permanents can't be destroyed... but they can still be exiled (a stronger effect that pushes the card into the 'exile zone', outside the normal gamenote ), bounced back into the player's hand, and (in the case of creatures) weakened with minus effects applied to toughness enough to die on their own. Hexproof creatures can't be targeted by spells or abilities an opponent controls... but their controller may be forced to sacrifice them, or an effect may be untargeted, affecting all creatures on the battlefield indiscrimiately.
    • Similarly, there are effects that deal damage and those that cause loss of life. An effect protecting from damage won't help against loss of life. There are also effects that reduce a creature's stats, potentially even fatally, but these aren't considered to be damage and so won't activate corresponding effects like deathtouch.
    • Many rules depend on exactly how things are worded, and slight changes will completely ruin the effect of the card. One notorious example is "Substance", an ability whose only reason for existing was to cheat around the significant length of time between "at end of turn" and "until end of turn," and certain cards really needed the second one.note 
    • Many, many of the creative combos (most of which are tournament-winning level ones) and lockdowns are result of this and lack of creator's foresight. Myr Superion is a card that was meant to be cast with mana generated from normal myrs, as that's what they're best known for. However its only restriction is that the mana used to pay its cost has to come from creatures. If you reduce its cost to zero, you don't need any creatures to play it.
    • In early playtesting, one card had the effect "Opponent loses next turn". While the intention was that the opponent's next turn is skipped, many players instead interpreted it as "Opponent loses the game next turn". As a result, the actual printed card instead reads "Take an extra turn after this one."
    • The Unglued (joke set) card "Chaos Confetti" was inspired by an infamous incident at a tournament involving the card "Chaos Orb". You see, Chaos Orb's text declares: "If Chaos Orb is on the battlefield, flip Chaos Orb onto the battlefield from a height of at least one foot. If Chaos Orb turns over completely at least once during the flip, destroy all nontoken permanents it touches. Then destroy Chaos Orb." So the player in question tore up the card, and tossed the now-multiple pieces of it onto the field. The judge ruled it as valid at the time because technically they were indeed touching Chaos Orb... thus inspiring the "Confetti" card, which does almost the exact same thing but requires you to tear it up in the process.
      • And on that note, Chaos Orb itself's Exact Words have proven so problematic that its text got errata'd to refer to only Permanents, it's gotten banned in all tournament formats, and it gained multiple rulings (all of which were garnered on the same date), including:
      • "Cards that are in the game but not on the battlefield, such as those in the Library and Graveyard, can't be affected."
      • "You can arrange your cards any time before the Orb is put onto the battlefield, but not after. "
      • "It must flip 360 degrees (that's what "flip" means). And this flip must be in the air and not in your hand."
      • "This is not a targeted ability."
      • And "If you have sleeves on cards, they count as the cards."
      • To which one player suggested: "So put your Chaos Orb deck in really big sleeves..."
  • There are several examples from Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • An interesting side-effect of Equip Spell Cards that give Piercing is that you can inflict damage to your opponent by equipping them to your opponent's monster(s). Then, when your opponent attacks one of your Defense Position monsters with an ATK greater than your monster's DEF, he/she will take the difference. After all, even though it's your opponent's monster, it's your Spell Card, and thus it's your opponent — not you — who takes the extra damage, due to the wording on the cards.
    • Some continuous card effects have linkage to another monster card, such as Future Fusion and Call of the Haunted. However, when the monster is removed from the field other than being destroyed, the continuous effect card remains on the field meaninglessly. Those hinder the user more than helping them… but not so with Premature Burial. Its text states that when it is destroyed, destroy the equipped monsternote . That card is the primary offender, so much so that it's been banned in tournament play.
    • Another card that deserves special mention is Question. The card states that the opposing player must remember the name of the first monster card on the bottom of his/her opponent's graveyard or it gets special summoned to the field. This was fairly jarring if your opponent enforced including prefixes, such as if the monster's card name began with "The" (like many a Six Samurai deck) or enforces his/her own specific pronunciation of the card's name.
    • A common mistake most beginners make is the difference between "destroying" a card and "negating" a card. The former simply means the card no longer exists on the field, the latter means its effects are stopped until the negating effect ends. This means that playing something like Mystical Space Typhoon on an activated spell/trap card with the same or lower spell speed is meaningless, as its effect is already in motion and it would go to the graveyard regardless anyways. Likewise, simply negating the effect of a continuous card without destroying it is moot, as the effect would resume as soon as the negation card is gone.
    • There's a card called "Yu-Jo Friendship". When activated, you offer a handshake to your opponent. The effects of the card are dependent on whether or not the opponent accepts the handshake, but you can reveal a "Unity" card in your hand to your opponent, and then they must "accept the handshake". It doesn't say to apply the one specific effect, just that they must accept the handshake. So one player, after using this card, stuck his hand down his pants, and then showed Unity to force a handshake. His opponent wisely chose to forfeit rather than to shake that hand.
      • Of course, the opponent could have instead called over a judge and gotten the player penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.
    • Not to mention the card doesn't even say that you have to shake your opponent's hand. It says your opponent must accept the handshake. A player could say "I accept the handshake" without shaking the hand.
    • One of the main reasons Blackship of Corn is popular: its effect doesn't say to "destroy" the target monster, but to "send it to the Graveyard". Cards that are destroyed go to the Graveyard, so what's the difference? Many monsters have effects saying either that they "cannot be destroyed by card effects", or that "when this card is destroyed by a card effect, do X", and many such similar cases. Due to the wording on Blackship's effect, it bypasses all of that since the card isn't technically being "destroyed".
  • Pokémon: Certain moves like Selfdestruct note  don't tell you to remove the card as if it had fainted, but to put as many damage counters on it as it has HP. As seen in the Game Boy version, this means that you can use a Defender card to remove two of those damage counters, allowing the card to remain in play for at least one more turn. This one got foreseen, as some Pokémon with Selfdestruct, Explosion, etc. do damage to themselves greater than their HP, and other self-sacrificial moves skip the self-damage and do outright state that the user is Knocked Out.
  • Munchkin has had to do this a few times, since it's a game with a sizable player base of rules lawyers.
    • Errata for the Plutonium Dragon had to say that "You are roasted and eaten" meant that you were dead.
    • A famous instance came from people using "Go Up a Level" cards to make their opponents gain a level, since there was no rule saying you had to use the level-up card on yourself, thereby forcing the other player to fight a monster they could have otherwise escaped from. The developers said that it was "a very Munchkin-y thing to do," and decided to leave it in the game, unpatched.
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse:
    • In the lore, Wager Master is vulnerable to this. The Scholar once got shot of him by offering a deal of "take my Philosopher's Stone and go away". WM stuck with this deal even though the Scholar summoned the Stone back two minutes later.
    • There are also plenty of mechanical interactions that qualify, such as the Jack Handle equipment for Mr Fixer turning all damage he deals into barrages of outgoing damage aimed at all the bad guys...including damage he would cause to himself or other heroes.
    • Anything that just says "target" doesn't care about side. This allows Absolute Zero to use some of his attacks on himself to heal up, or allows heroes to trigger Kaargra Warfang's titles or shift their health to trigger a specific Wager Master card by hitting each other.
    • Luminary has a card that lets him blow up devices and ongoings to draw up. This includes villainous devices (most of which, to be fair, he built in the first place).
    • Some villains counterattack anyone who damages them. Including themselves. This makes redirection effects hilarious against, say, the Chairman or Greazer Clutch.
    • Nemesis symbols always boost damage regardless of what side the targets are on: for example, the Ennead share Ra's nemesis icon and so will deal bonus damage to each other.
    • Legacy's Take Down card specifies that it will damage him at the end of his turn, so it becomes harmless to him yet still fully effective if played on someone else's. There are several ways to abuse this. One of them is an infinite combo that can lock a villain deck indefinitely.
    • One that can easily get an unwary player in trouble is the difference between "each" and "up to". If a card lets you do something "up to" a certain number of times, you can stop at any point, even if you haven't done it at all; for example, a card that lets you deal damage to "up to three villain targets" can deal between zero to three targets damage. Cards that say "each" can't be stopped like this, and will hit all targets of the named type. This makes Tempest and his love of the Herd-Hitting Attack a liability in many cases; he can't stop himself from hitting Ambuscade's Sonic Mines if they're on the field (which causes them to go off and cause a significant amount of trouble), his card says "all non-hero targets" which means he can hurt useful environment cards, and against the Dreamer... you do not want to bring him in a game against the Dreamer.
    • Omnitron-X has a number of cards labeled as Components. So does the villain Omnitron (and, for that matter, the environment Omnitron-IV). Omnitron-X has a number of cards that rely on destroying Components. These cards do not state that they have to be Omnitron-X Components. Omnitron-X can destroy Omnitron's Components with these cards. In turn, Omnitron's Cosmic Omnitron variant will flip from its weaker starting form into a far more dangerous "battleship" form if there are no Components in play... but again, the game doesn't specify whose Components it has to be, so if Omnitron-X or Omnitron-IV have any Components out, Cosmic Omnitron won't flip.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dilbert
    • In a comic, the company is at thirty dollars a share when Dogbert offers to buy them, but their value promptly falls. Dogbert then offers to pay "the full thirty dollars" for their stock. They ended up selling him the entire stock for thirty dollars and not thirty dollars per share.
    • Dogbert does this a lot. At one point he ran an investment firm, and promised clients that if they let him manage their investments, they could one day own "this", said while holding up a photo of a mansion.
      Client: I could own a mansion!
      Dogbert: You could own a photograph.
    • And then there is the department who has the rule "don't shoot the messenger". So they tarred and feathered them instead.
    • In this strip, Wally assures the boss that he does not have (only) two jobs outsourced to Elbonia.
  • A frequent source of humor in FoxTrot.
    • For example:
      (Peter is doing the dishes)
      Peter: It's unbelievable how much homework I have to do tonight! I can't remember the last time I had this many things due! I don't know what all my teachers were thinking!
      Andy: In that case, sweetie, why don't I do the dishes?
      (later on)
      Jason: I thought you had no homework...
      Peter: It's all in how you say it.
    • Jason asks his mom if he can keep playing a driving game for a sec. He later clarifies that he meant a parsecnote . Obviously this doesn't work.
    • Andy discovers that a plate of fresh cookies was missing, and she asks Paige if she's seen what happened to them. Paige calls back that no, she hasn't. Cut to her and Jason, eating cookies while wearing blindfolds and Jason saying that he had been wondering why they had to wear them.
    • Those instances where Andy tells the kids they can have one piece of candy, or one scoop of ice-cream... Jason has melted all his candy to form one giant piece, Paige manages to take the entire tub of ice-cream out in one scoop. Really, the kids are amazing at this.
    • Peter gets this probably even more since he's the Stomach of the family. For example, Andy said he could eat "the last doughnut"; he eats the full box to find out "which one." Another time, he tries to eat a pan of brownies before they've been cut which is, at that point, technically one brownie. Andy catches him that time and makes him cut them into smaller pieces.
    • Some other examples: Peter and Jason saying they ate one slice of pizza apiece: a large pizza cut in half. Another is Paige asking if she can have a banana as a pre-dinner snack. She eats half a loaf of banana-chocolate chip bread to get to the banana.
    • Andy catches Peter when he mentions he's halfway done with his summer reading list. She realizes correctly he means he's halfway through reading the list, not halfway through reading the books on the list.
    • Jason allows Peter to go see the film Thor with them for the weekend (even though he's only going to see it for Natalie Portman), although under the condition that he dress up as Thor for the movie like themselves. Peter then asks what qualifies as wearing a Thor costume. It then cuts to them on the sidewalk with Jason and Marcus wearing Thor helmets, a long blond wig, and Thor's hammer with Peter wearing an outrageous costume that is composed of a Philadelphia Eagles helmet, a utility hammer, and a curly blond clown's wig, with Peter saying "What?! You said a hammer, a blond wig, and a helmet with wings!" to an embarrassed Jason and a shocked Marcus when about to enter the car.
    • Still another strip has this:
      Andy: Jason, I thought I told you to turn that off at 8:00!
      Jason: Okay, mom.
      (Jason turns the TV off with his remote, then turns it back on a second later)
      Andy: What did I tell you?
      Jason: It's 8:01 now.
    • And another has Andy ask Paige how she did on her test, and Paige responding, "Infinitely better than I expected." In the final panel, she reveals that the trick is to expect a zero, since any positive number would be an infinite percentage greater than 0. Peter says he should try that some time.
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • Calvin tries this after being ordered "upstairs, in the tub now!" Calvin lies down in the empty bathtub, proclaiming:
      Calvin: I obey the letter of the law, if not the spirit.
      Calvin's Mother: Let's hear some water running!
      Calvin: Nuts.
    • Another:
      Calvin's Mother: Did you pick up your room?
      Calvin: I tried, but I couldn't lift it! Get it? AHAHAHAHA!!
      (she throws him back in his room)
    • When asked to explain Newton's First Law in his own words, he writes in his own words: "Yakka foob mog. Grug pubbawup zink wattoom gazork. Chumble spuzz."
    • Calvin is somehow falling from the sky and finds his transmogrifier gun. He exclaims "I'm safe", then is promptly transmogrified into a safe.
    • In the strip that gave name to the Noodle Incident trope, Calvin deploys this when, on being called out on said incident by Hobbes, he shouts that "no one can prove I did that!" The astute reader will note that the fact that no one being able to prove he did something is not the same thing as not doing it...
  • Garfield is a master of this.
  • U.S. Acres also has its moments.
    • Orson once took up knitting and Lanolin dared him to make her a sweater. Orson then worked on her wool and she became a sweater.
      Lanolin: I have a biiiiiig mouth.
    • Also, when Orson was trying to sleep but Bo was constantly chatting. Orson then asked if Bo would like a pillow for his head. As Bo accepted, Orson stuck Bo's head inside it.
    • In one strip, Orson (as the "Book Fairy") approached Roy, Booker, and Sheldon with a book he claimed would make them "stop watching television". After Booker voiced his skepticism, Orson broke the television screen with the book.
    • Again as the "Book Fairy", Orson told Roy he had a book he [Roy] could really get into. After Roy said he's not into books, Orson "TWAKed" the book at Roy's face.
    • When Orson invited Roy to have water with him, Roy said "Water that touches pig lips will never touch mine" He drank through a straw. While not specifically stated in the story, Roy, as a rooster, doesn't have lips anyway.
    • Booker dared a worm to show his face. The worm then showed a portrait.
    • During the ugly face contest arc, Roy told Lanolin she couldn't "make a reeeally ugly face". He forgot to specify whose face was supposed to be made ugly.
    • Orson was trying to take Bo's photography and asked him to show his teeth. Bo removed them from his mouth.
  • A running gag in The Phantom is characters telling "Mr. Walker" that he can't bring a dog into places, and him blithely responding that that's okay, because Devil's a wolf.
  • In Pearls Before Swine, a maitre d' gives Pig and Rat a dish, also telling him to be careful as the plate is hot. He really does mean it. Unfortunately for Pig, Pig thought the maitre d' meant it was "hot" as in having a high temperature, instead of "hot" as in stolen, which resulted in the Police arresting Pig for stealing the plate.
  • A couple of examples in For Better or for Worse cartoons:
    • Elizabeth was watching John as he did taxes. John moaned that even with deductions, he ended up paying through the nose. Elizabeth looked industriously at his face to see it happen until he said it was a figure of speech.
    • Michael was saving up his allowance for a pair of roller skates. He ended up spending the money he had saved up to that point, and when he told Elly, she just said, "Money seems to burn a hole in your pockets." Cue Michael and Elizabeth fearfully checking his pockets to make sure they were all right.
    • During supper, Elly suspiciously asked Michael if he was feeding Farley under the table. Michael said he wasn't. He was actually feeding Farley by surreptitiously tossing food scraps behind his chair.
  • One story by Don Martin has some kids selling snow tires for an unbelievably low price. Said tires are made of real snow. (They also sell snow shoes, snowmen, snowballs...)
  • Zits: In this strip, Connie tells Jeremy to put ice in her glass and not to use his hands. (She didn't say anything about feet.)
  • In a Peanuts story arc from the 1970s, Marcie ends up joining Peppermint Patty's game of baseball, but keeps getting harassed by an obnoxious He-Man Woman Hater named Thibault. She eventually gets sick of him constantly belittling girls, which leads to the following exchange.
    Marcie: Now look here, you cement-headed male-chauvinist dummy... I'm going to tell you something, and I want you to stand here and listen! If you say one word, I'm going to belt you right across the chops!
    Thibault: Oh?
    Marcie: That was one word!
  • In Retail, after Cooper's busted charging his electric car in the storeroom, he assures Marla that she won't see the car in there again. Marla notices the suspicious phrasing, but elects to ignore it. He uses cleverly taped together boxes to hide the car.
  • One Angus Og strip has Angus' mother cutting peat and saying that if they are to get their peat stack built up for the winter then Angus will need to put his back into it. We cut to a panel of Angus lounging against the side of the stack saying "Don't worry, that's exactly where I've got it".

    Fairy Tales 
  • In The Peasant's Clever Daughter, the king sends the daughter back to her father but permits her to take one thing from the castle — whatever she likes most. She drugs the king and takes him, since he was what she liked the most.
  • In The Goose Girl, the princess tells the truth not to anyone — which she had promised not to — but to an iron stove.
  • In some versions of The Fisherman and His Wife, the Magic Fish grants the Wife's wish to "be like God" by returning the couple to their original humble shack, not out of outrage but because God has no need for wealth, titles, or Earthly power.
  • A lad unwittingly helps Death - Death says he makes no exceptions ever, but his thanks will be that he sends him a messenger first so he can sort his earthly businesses before he dies. As the man dies decades later, he complains: "Where was the messenger you promised?" "But I sent you even more than one - didn't you recognize Mr. Hair-Loss and Mr. Toothache and Mrs. Prostate Cancer and..." note 
  • In The Tale of Norna-Gest, Gest was cursed by an ill-tempered norn to live no longer than the candle that burned beside his cradle. Fortunately, one of the other norns put the candle out before it burned away, which mean that Gest was immortal so long as the candle was kept safe.
  • In one Italian tale, the King isn't happy about having promised his daughter's hand in marriage to a peasant, so he technically fulfills the request, but stations guards in the room, makes them keep all the lights on, and makes the peasant and his daughter sleep in separate beds, or with a sword between them, or some such. Then he tells his daughter to "answer only no" to whatever the peasant asks her. The peasant proceeds to ask the princess questions like "Do you think it is right to have these guards here when we are lawfully married?" and "Do you think we should have so much space between us?" The princess, naturally, answers no, allowing the peasant to send the guards away, turn the lights off and sleep in the same bed as the princess.

  • In the final Blood Sword gamebook, one of the ways in to the Big Bad's castle requires you choose and release a demon. They all make promises to help you, all but one will involve your death and that one offers you an alternative once he is free. Examples include one who offers to send you to meet the Big Bad right away (at midnight the Big Bad is due to return to Earth, having spent a thousand years as a star in the sky to obtain magical power, being flung into space is bad for you) or the one who offers you a change since you practically have his gift anyway (the magic that restrained him is lying on the floor) offers things like a dagger that always kills when thrown (the thrower) or an artifact which turns back harmful spells (your caster will love that).

  • Imagine you're on a boat. You're out to sea, and everything is going well. But then some sharks attack you. They slam into the boat, and you fall overboard. The sharks circle you, ready to eat you alive. How do you survive this situation? Stop imagining!
  • A riddle you may have heard in elementary school: "Can you stick out your tongue and touch your nose/forehead/ear?" (Yes. The wording doesn't specify you need to touch your nose/forehead/ear with your tongue.)
  • Can you make 35 cents with only two coins, one of which isn't a quarter? (Yes: the other one is.)
  • Can you jump higher than a house? (Yes; a house can't jump.)
  • Can you stand on one finger? (Sure: just stick out one of your fingers, put it on the ground, and stand on top of it with your foot.)
  • An old Russian joke/urban legend: Rabinovich the cynical old Jew applies to the Soviet government for permission to emigrate to Israel.
    MVD Official: You say you have no relatives abroad, but that you also have a brother in Israel?
    Rabinovich: Yes, but I am abroad, he is at home!
  • A very rich man dies, and demands that he be buried with his entire fortune (9,450,356 dollars and 39 cents). On the day of the funeral, people are surprised to see the normal-sized coffin, and demand an explanation from the widow. She replies that his last wishes were obeyed: His coffin contains a check for 9,450,356 dollars and 39 cents.
    • There's a variation where the man gives his doctor, his minister and his lawyer each the same amount and asks them to toss it in his grave. At the funeral all three toss envelopes in his grave. The minister admits to the other two he used part to pay for a new roof for the church, the doctor admits he used some to buy an X-Ray for the hospital, while the lawyer says he is ashamed of both of them, as he followed the instructions and put a check for the full amount in the envelope.
    • It should be noted that Artistic License – Law is in effect here: A check merely certifies its bearer's right to receive a certain amount of money from a designated bank account. The money doesn't even become his property until after he submits it to the bank.
  • This joke:
    Dad: Son, I told you not to eat the cookies before dinner.
    Son: I didn't touch one of them, Dad.
    Dad: But there's only one left.
    Son: That's the one I didn't touch.
  • One joke has someone boasting that they can lift an elephant with one hand. When challenged, the boaster replies, "Well, find me an elephant with one hand and I'll lift it!"
  • Another joke has a man boasting that he could "carry a mountain across the town on his back". When challenged, he asks for the mountain to be placed on his back, because he only said he could carry the mountain, not lift it himself.
  • Yet another joke has a man boasting that he could "drink all the water in the river". When challenged, he promptly takes water in a glass, walks into the river, and drinks the glass of water, thus drinking all the water in the river.
  • A man is reading the classifieds (or Craigslist, depending on when the joke is set) and sees a notice announcing an almost brand-new Porsche on sale for twenty dollars. Thinking it's a trick, he goes to the address in the ad—a large mansion—and meets a wealthy middle-aged woman who takes him to the garage, where the newest model of Porsche is waiting. The man goes for a test drive, and finds that the car works perfectly. When he gets back, he takes a twenty from his wallet and hands it to the woman, but he can't resist asking why she's selling such an expensive car so cheap. The rich woman explains that her husband recently ran off with his secretary, and sent her a message from Europe telling her to "sell the Porsche and send me the money"—and thus neglecting to tell her how much to charge for the Porsche.
  • A man tells a new acquaintance how he divorced his wife because she was having an affair with a man who worked as a Disneyland mascot.
    Old Friend: I thought you divorced her because she was crazy.
    Divorcee: I didn't say she was crazy, I said she was fucking Goofy!
    • Another version of the joke has the same punchline, but Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse are the ones getting the divorce. The judge says, "I'm sorry, Mickey, but I can't grant you a divorce on the grounds that Minnie is mentally insane..."
  • One day, a cop pulls a van over, and when he walks up to the window, he sees ten penguins in the back. The cop asks the man, "Are those your penguins?" The man says, "Yes, they are mine." The cop says, "You need to take them to the zoo right now." So the man agrees and drives off. The next day, the cop pulls over the same van, walks up to the window, and sees the ten penguins again. The cop says to the man, "Hey, I thought I told you to take those penguins to the zoo." The man says, "I did! Today we're going to the movies!"
  • The "no prepositions at Harvard" joke:
    Visitor: Could you please tell me where the Harvard Library is at?
    Professor: At Harvard, we do not end a sentence with a preposition.
    Visitor: Could you please tell me where the Harvard Library is at, asshole?
  • Canadian government offices are required to offer service in both English and French. Brent Butt (of Corner Gas fame) had a joke about this in his stand-up comedy act; he claimed to enjoy visiting government offices, asking for service in French, and then repeatedly interrupting the French-speaking employees with a confused, "What?" After all, he had only asked for service in French; he never claimed to speak or understand French himself.
  • If brain teasers can be considered jokes, then these are mostly straight examples.
  • John Mulaney:
    • Both of Mulaney's parents are lawyers and he has quite a few bits about how this made him and his siblings learn how to say things exactly the right way to get anywhere with them. One time they were on a road trip and all four of the kids were getting rowdy because they were hungry. Mr. Mulaney didn’t want to stop because they were almost there. They saw a McDonald's and started chanting “McDonald’s!" over and over. He obliged, but only ordered one black coffee for himself and drove off—after all, he agreed to stop, not get them anything, especially because they didn’t actually ask for food. John admits it was Actually Pretty Funny.
    • One routine from the special Kid Gorgeous has John explain that unlike some comedians, he would never make jokes about how his wife is a bitch and he hates her. He then goes on to say "My wife is a bitch, and I like her so much!"
  • A warship enters the harbor of a Deep South town. A local aristocratic woman writes a letter to the captain, requesting to send her a dozen well-behaved men for a ball she's throwing for the young ladies in her boarding house. But no Jews. At the appointed hour, she opens the door and sees a dozen Black guys in uniform. The shocked woman says, "There must be some mistake!" One of the sailors replies, "Madam, Captain Rabinowitz is never mistaken."
  • A semi-practical one that you can play upon your friends:
    You: I can do math really fast.
    Them: Okay, what's [math question]?
    You: [give any answer]
    Them: That's not the right answer...
    You: I said I was fast. I didn't say I would be correct.
  • Similarly, a "magic trick" (note the quotes) you can do to your friends is to claim to be a mind reader, and when they call your bluff, bet them $5 that if they think of something you can write what they're thinking of on a sheet of paper. Then write the phrase "what they're thinking of" on the sheet of paper and show it to them. More often than not they'll find it funny enough to pay up.
  • A drunk man in a bar yells out, "I'll bet anyone in the house I can bite my own eye!" When one of the other customers takes him up on it, the man takes out his glass eye and bites it. Then he shouts, "I'll bet anyone in the house I can bite my other eye!" The same guy as before takes him up on it, certain he can't have two glass eyes. The drunk removes his false teeth and gently clamps them over his other eye.
  • An Overprotective Dad knocks on the door to his daughter's room, asking what she's doing in there. She replies "nothing"/"stuff", and all seems to be well... then in walks the daughter's Sex Dressed beau, who is immediately introduced (either by the daughter or the beau) as "nothing"/"stuff". Some take the joke further by having the dad note that the person clearly isn't the weaselled phrase, but if the hapless beau doesn't leave they will be in a second.
  • Two friends, one fat and one thin, have a conversation:
    Fat Friend: I'll have you know that I'm in perfect shape!
    Thin Friend: You're round.
    Fat Friend: And round is a shape!

  • In Nem's song "Monochrome Dream-Eating Baku" (sung by Kagamine Len), the Dream Eater promises to take away all the bad dreams of a girl and fills her with pleasant and lustful ones... to the point that she can no longer make her dreams become real and is trapped in a world of endless longing and fantasy.
  • There's one Dutch song by the group Kadril, "Het Heerke van Maldegem" (the lordling of Maldegem). The song tells the story of the main character, who goes out hunting and instead of game finds a group of robbers, who organise a party and make him pay for the booze. He asks them to let him go, and in exchange promises not to speak to anyone about them. When they agree, he goes on to Bruges and writes down what happened to him and where the robbers are, making his original hunt successful.
  • In 2008, Biffy Clyro performed an acoustic cover of Rage Against the Machine's "Killing In The Name" at the Reading Festival. Since the performance was being broadcast live over BBC Radio, the band agreed that they would censor the infamous Cluster F-Bomb at the song's climax. The audience, however, were bound by no such agreement, and happily filled in the blanks.
    • Robbie Williams pulled the exact same trick when he performed at the BBC's annual New Years' concert to ring in 2017. He told the audience that, before the concert, the Beeb had pulled him to one side and told him not to swear during any of his songs: he then noted that there was nothing stopping the audience from swearing, before launching into a rendition of "Come Undone" during which the audience happily swore in his stead. He later told the audience a story about his young daughter innocently dropping an F-bomb, which also counts as this: he'd only been told not to swear during his songs.
  • "Changeling Child" by Heather Dale tells the story of a woman who bargains with the faeries for a baby. They give her exactly what she asked for:
    But soon they saw the years that passed
    would never make him grow
    The fairies would not answer her
    The stones were dark and slept
    A babe was all she asked for,
    and their promises they'd kept.
  • Pete Best just can't resist making puns on his name and famous former occupation. In 1965, for example, he released an original album called Best of the Beatles. As in, Pete Best, formerly of The Beatles. This is a Call-Back to the Beatles' early days, when the compere of the Cavern Club always described it as "the best of cellars". This was a pun, not just on a well-known phrase but on one particular use of it, the Peter Sellers album The Best of Sellers.
  • The Southern version of the American Civil War song "The Battle Cry of Freedom" includes the lyric "Our Dixie forever, she's never had a loss...". Technically true, but since they'd never had a win either it isn't much of a boast.
  • When the Sex Pistols' manager Malcolm McLaren demanded that they record a song called "Submission" to promote his punk clothing store, they did exactly that...except the song was about a mission in a submarine. As if to annoy McLaren more, the song is filled plenty of winking double entendres to his intended subject matter, but they're so intentionally ridiculous that they're useless to advertise his clothing.
  • Eminem pulls this off over multiple tracks on The Marshall Mathers LP. On his verse on "Remember Me?", he says:
    "I'm trying to clean up my fuckin' image
    So I promised the fuckin' critics
    That I wouldn't say 'fuckin'' for six minutes"
    • Just after he says this, he goes on to say "fuck" multiple times, but not "fuckin'" until two tracks later, on "Marshall Mathers" (the track before it, "I'm Back", is a little over five minutes long, allowing him to keep his promise):
      "These fuckin' brats can't sing, and Britney's garbage
      What, is this bitch retarded? Give me back my sixteen dollars!"
  • H8_Seed's "Neverending Strife", a Villain Song from the perspective of Discord, begins with the lines "Oh, please excuse me, I don't mean to alarm / And certainly I mean you no physical harm." True to his word, he won't harm a hair on your head, aside from magically and painlessly removing your horn, wings, and/or anything else you could use to escape or fight him. Mental and emotional harm, on the other hand...

    Myths & Religion 
  • Even the gods fall for this one occasionally. In Norse Mythology, Loki, the God of Mischief, made a bet with the dwarf Brokk; the bet was for his head, which at the time meant "the sum that your head is worth" (i.e. to ransom himself). When he lost, it turned out that Brokk wanted his head — literally — due to his cheating over the wager, but still losing. Loki, being who he is, still managed to turn the tables, however, by pulling some Exact Words right back: "My head may be yours, but my neck is not." Hence, Brokk couldn't decapitate him to "claim his prize" because they couldn't manage to define which part of Loki was his head and which was his neck. Brokk still got the last word, however, and sewed Loki's mouth shut to keep him from performing any more trickery, hence one of his nicknames, Loki Scar-lip.
  • In Greek Mythology:
    • Apollo offered Sibyl her fondest wish if she agreed to sleep with him. She held up a handful of sand and asked to live for as many years as there were grains of sand in her hand. Apollo agreed but Sibyl still refused him. In response, Apollo cursed her by giving her the years she desired... but she would not be eternally youthful. After a few hundred years, she became a shriveled gnome.
      • Eos of the dawn once fell in love with a mortal and asked for him to be immortal... but this only resulted in him shrivelling into a grasshopper or cicada, as she forgot the youth. When Selene, Eos' sister was in a similar situation, she asked for her lover to remain the way he was when she first saw him forever, forgetting that she is the titaness of the moon, so Endymion was asleep at the time.
    • When Icarius' daughter Erigone was Driven to Suicide by hanging, she or Dionysus cursed the maidens of Athens to "swing" as she had. To save their children, the Athenians developed the Aiora rite, in which young women literally swung from the trees... safely, on rope swings.
    • A seer said that Psyche's mysterious betrothed "is a monster whom neither gods or men can resist". She was not speaking literally; Cupid is mostly human (except for his gorgeous angelic wings), attractive, and compassionate. He's a monster in the sense that he's the god of love. (As for the second part of the prophecy...she never said that gods or men would want to resist him in the first place, did she?)
    • When Thetys, the beautiful nereid, got to marriage age, a prophecy said her child will be more powerful than the father. Wanting to avoid the fate of his own father, Zeus with the agreement of the other gods hitches her with a mortal - since she is a goddess, the child would be a demigod, which would mean the child would be stronger than the father by definition. This almost backfired on Zeus though as Thetys tried to make her child immortal. Which would have made him certainly able to challenge the gods. She forgot his heel though. And forgot to stick around to make her child as arrogant as herself. In spite of his mother's wishes, Achilles chooses mortality and humanity when he goes to Troy.
    • The mother of Meleager asked the Fates how long he would live. The Fates told her that he would live until the top stick in the fireplace finished burning. She immediately grabbed the stick out of the fireplace and stowed it in a safe place. When Meleager later killed his uncles while hunting the Caledonyan Boar, his mother, enraged, threw the stick into the fire, and Meleager died on the spot.
  • According to the Quran, Iblis, the Islamic equivalent of the Devil, fell from grace after falling foul of this trope. When Allah made a prophecy that one of his most devoted servants would rebel against him, the Angels were greatly troubled and begged Iblis, one of the Djinn, to speak to Allah on their behalf; Iblis, who was loyal to Allah at the time, made Allah swear a promise that none of the Angels would be forced out of Allah's service. When the Angels and Djinn were commanded to bow before Allah's third creation, Adam, Iblis arrogantly objected, and was cursed for his disobedience; Allah had made no mention of Iblis or any of the Djinn in his promise.
  • In The Bible, God tells Abraham to bring his son Isaac up to the mountain and offer him as a Human Sacrifice. That, it turns out, is all God wants—Isaac offered as a sacrifice. Once it's clear that the two have enough faith to go through with the killing, God sends an angel to stop it from actually taking place. (Abraham then spots a ram stuck in a nearby bush and sacrifices that to prove his seriousness—and possibly to get some mutton for his trouble. We don't know what happened to the ram, exactly.)
    • There's actually another version of the story though where Isaac appears to die. The story mentions no ram, and only chillingly says that "Abraham and his family" went home.
    • In some versions of the Biblical story of Jacob, this is pulled by Laban. Jacob was in love with Laban's daughter Rachel, and asked her father for her hand in marriage. Jacob couldn't produce the normal bride-price for Rachel, though, so Laban told him that he could work for him for seven years instead and afterwards, Jacob could marry his daughter. However, Laban had two daughters, and he never specified which one Jacob would marry, leaving Jacob with Rachel's sister Leah as his wife.
      • As the story continues, Jacob then worked another seven-years so that he could finally marry Rachel.
    • Elisha served this up with a side of Prophecy Twist in II Kings 8:7-15. A lot of translators have trouble with 8:10 because the Hebrew seems ambiguous, instructing Hazael either to lie or tell the truth to his master King Ben-Hadad about whether he'd recover from his illness. However, as the story goes on to reveal, what the prophecy really meant was "Tell him his illness won't kill him, although I'm telling you he's going to die anyway." Taking his cue from a further prophecy that he would soon be the new King, Hazael returned to Ben-Hadad and told him Elisha had promised he would recover; but the next day, he cured Ben-Hadad of his illness once and for all by suffocating him with a washcloth. Then he seized the throne for himself.
    • Jesus pulls a particularly effective one in Luke 20:25 when challenged by his opponents to take a stand on whether the Jews should pay taxes to the Romans. This should have put him on Morton's Fork: say yes, and his detractors could frame him for a boot-licking Roman collaborator; say no, and either Pontius Pilate or Herod Antipas would have to have him arrested for preaching sedition against Rome. However, "He said to them, 'Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.'" Arguably, since he was pointing to a coin with Caesar's image on it at the time, that does amount to saying "Pay this tax." What he didn't actually say is what—other than the coin used in paying this particular tax—rightfully belongs to Caesar. People in the audience wouldn't have automatically assumed that anything they had rightfully belonged to a foreign pagan occupier such as Rome. Thus, no patriotic Roman listener could honestly claim Jesus had told anyone not to pay taxes, and no loyal Jew (even the Zealots, who were violently anti-Roman hardliners) could claim that Jesus had told them they had to pay any and every tax Rome might think to levy on them.
    • "The wages of sin are death" which means just about every human on Earth will die. But there's no rule saying that humans right with God cannot be brought back to life, afterwards, by Him.
  • One of the origin stories of the Red Hand of Ulster, the symbol of the Irish province of Ulster, is said to be the result of this trope. The story goes that the Kingdom of Ulster was without an heir, so a boat race was held so that "whosoever's hand is the first to touch the shore of Ireland, so shall he be made the king". As one potential king was losing, he made use of this trope by cutting his right hand off and tossing the blood-soaked hand ashore. As his hand was the first to touch the shore, he was awarded the crown.
  • King Conchobar of Ulster was honorbound to be the first man to sleep with any woman in his province on her wedding nightnote . One of these women he was obliged to sleep with was Emer, newlywed wife of Conchobhar's very tempermental and deadly nephew (or grandson; the myths vary) Cu Chulainn. Thus, Conchobor chose to interpret his obligation as literally as possible.
  • Jupiter must have been in a bloodthirsty mood when Numa Pompilius, 2nd king of Rome, asked him how to "atone" a place hit by his lightning. Jupiter asked for a head. Numa said, "OK, head of an onion." Jupiter then further asked for a body part. Numa said, "OK, my cut off nails." Jupiter then further asked for something alive. Numa said, "OK, a small fish." Jupiter said something that's probably unprintable, but the deal stuck. (Sidenote: Numa's concubine was a demigoddess, it's not recommended for YOU to play silly bugger with Roman deities.)
  • Also from Roman sagas; Tarpeia once offered to open the gates of Rome to the Sabines, who were besieging Rome at the time, in exchange for "what they bore on their left arms." She was referring to the gold bracelets the Sabines wore, but they instead threw their shields — normally carried on the left arm — on top of her, crushing her to death. Then they threw her body off a cliff.
  • One ancient Roman myth details the founding of a city in an outpost of the empire. The occupants of the territory, angry at the intrusion, give the Romans a single cowhide and tell them that they're entitled to as much land as the skin can cover. After thinking about this, the Romans tear the cowhide into small pieces and scatter them across a huge field, allowing the group to build an enormous city—after all, they covered the ground with the skin, just as requested.
    • More commonly told about Carthage, Rome's archenemy.
  • Cúchulainn in Celtic Mythology possessed three spears, each of which would kill a king when thrown. When he used them against Queen Maeve's army, they all missed, because there were no kings there. When they were thrown back, the first hit Laeg, considered a king among charioteers; the second hit Lia Macha, king among horses; and the third hit Cúchulainn himself, who was king of warriors.
  • The Fair Folk of many mythologies Can Not Tell A Lie... so they became infamous for using Exact Words, and its related tropes of Rules Lawyering and Loophole Abuse. European mythology is especially rife with unfortunates getting swindled, cursed, and all-out killed by fairies because they were only telling the truth metaphorically.
  • In Hindu Mythology, Shiva specifically promised Kama that no one, not even the highest gods, would be immune to Kama's arrows of love. When Kama shot Shiva with one, he was not pleased (though he later recognized that Kama had done nothing wrong, and apologized).
  • In the legend of Tristan and Iseult, in order to discover if Isolde was having an affair with Tristan, she was forced into a ritual where she would swear and grab a hot iron, which would burn her if lying. She swore that the only men who had ever been between her legs were her husband and the peasant who carried her across the river, who tripped and accidentally landed with his head between her legs. She was telling the truth and thus the iron didn't burn her. She just didn't mention that the peasant was Tristan in disguise.
  • In one of Aesop's Fables, two boys enter a butcher shop. One snatches an expensive piece of meat, then passes it to the other boy behind his back. When the butcher discovers the theft, the boys defend themselves using this trope: the one who stole it doesn't have it, and the one who has it didn't steal it. Since the butcher can't technically prove the theft, he is unable to punish the boys. In a subversion, though, he warns them that while human law is subject to exact wording, the law of the gods is not, and the deities will see through the trick and punish the boys severely.
    • Another story tells of the nobleman Xanthus who, while drunk, bets all his lands and his fortune on the notion that a single man could drink up the sea. Once sober, he realizes his error and goes to Aesop for help; the storyteller jerks him around for a while, but eventually concedes to help him. In order to get out of his wager, Aesop advises him to make use of this trope: He said he would drink up the sea; that doesn't include all the water from streams and rivers that's continually flowing into it, so unless someone found a way to stop up all of those or separate their flows, he couldn't reasonably go through with his end of the deal.
  • In an ancient Urban Legend, a man entrusts his property to another while he's away, with the promise, once he returns, to give him back as much as he wishes. Upon the man's return, the other guy only gives him back a small amount, which he finds unfair, so he goes to the court. The judge states that the second man, as promised, is to give back as much as he wished... for himself.
  • Conversely, an old French tale says that a man took out a loan and trickily promised to pay it back on St. Glinglin's day. There's no such saint (and "on St. Glinglin's day" is now an expression meaning "never.") Annoyed at being fooled, the creditor sued, and the judge ruled that the debt had to be paid on All Saints' Day.

  • The Magnus Archives: In "Cheating Death" the narrator starts off by telling a story of a soldier who challenged Death to a game in an attempt to save his life. He fails to notice that Death said "if you win you shall not die" - it didn't say "you will live"..
  • When the party from The Fallen Gods encounters The mother Black Dragon, she swears that she shall slaughter the party if they "laid one hand" on her child. The party states that technically, nobody touched Boss Baby Dragon with their hands.
  • Episode six of Mystery Show included a long story from Welcome Back, Kotter co-creator Alan Sacks about music producer Phil Spector. When Sacks was invited to Spector's home, he said he was "coming [him]self," then invited a colleague at the last minute. When Spector saw two people there, he freaked out and ended up pulling a gun on them. When Starlee sets up a meeting with Sacks, he's careful to ask what exactly she means when she saws "we."
  • Not Another D&D Podcast: During the Hellfire Chronicles, Moonshine makes a deal with Josh not to take any of the soul coins in the upcoming battle. They responded by saying "Then you have my army", meaning that, once Moonshine held up her end of the bargain, Josh then had to give over all the soul coins to moonshine anyway.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • In the Royal Rumble, the only way to be eliminated is to be thrown over the top rope and have both feet touch the floor. (Originally the rules just said "feet", but it was eventually pointed out that "feet" wasn't the same as "foot.") This has been taken advantage of, as some guys roll under the bottom rope and wait until later to come back in. Some guys have utilized other techniques.
  • In order to keep his undefeated streak intact, Kurt Angle would have Steve Blackman hit his opponent with a Kendo Stick behind the ref's back so that he could win the match. One night Triple H, who was in charge at the time along with Stephanie McMahon and disliked Kurt, ordered Blackman not to do this in Angle's match that night. During the match, Blackman came to the ring and hit Kurt with the Kendo Stick; Angle won the match by disqualification.
  • Triple H lost the WWF Title to Chris Jericho when referee Earl Hebner made a fast count. When confronted about this decision, he agreed to reverse it if nobody would touch him as long as he was a WWF official. Triple H agreed, noting he is a man of his word. Once the decision was reversed, Triple H told Hebner he was fired and beat him up.
  • Jeff Jarrett came out on one episode of TNA iMPACT to the usual cries of "DROP THE TITLE!" (clap clap clapclapclap). In the middle of a promo he decided to make fun of them by taking his NWA World Heavyweight Championship and dropping it on the mat.
  • In 2005, before their WrestleMania match, John Cena and John "Bradshaw" Layfield were feuding, which got to the point that it was stipulated that Cena wouldn't go to WrestleMania if he touched JBL. Cena decided to have some fun with him by grabbing his hat, pouring some water in it and putting it back on his head, cutting off a part of his tie, and spray-painting his shirt... and despite JBL's protests, Teddy Long pointed out that Cena didn't touch him.
  • In one confrontation between Vince McMahon and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin in 2007, Stone Cold promises not to use The Stunner on Vince, then proceeds to kick Vince in the nuts and Stunner Jonathan Coachman.
  • Hornswoggle won the very last Cruiserweight Championship Open in 2007, coming up from under the ring and running across the mat just as the starting bell rang, only to exit the ring and disappear back under it...until he suddenly reappeared several minutes later and performed a jumping splash on Jamie Noble, pinning him for the title.
  • During a TNA iMPACT Knockout Battle Royal for the #1 contender for the Knockouts title, Madison Rayne gets in the ring and announces that "any of the Knockouts in the ring right now" were eligible to be the #1 contender. True to form, she rushes in at the end of the match and throws Velvet Sky from the ring.
    • Rayne also did this at a TNA show in New Jersey where Angelina Love was promised a Knockouts "title shot" if she could defeat Rayne's old rival, JAPW's Women's Champion Sara Del Rey. When Love won, Rayne ran out and hit her with the belt.
  • The Undertaker uses this as an entrance at times. Many a wrestler has loudly proclaimed that there isn't a man alive who can defeat him, only to freeze in terror when the lights dim and the gong sounds and everyone knows The Dead Man is in the house.
  • When The Nexus were destroying everyone, they were told on the July 28, 2010 episode of WWE Raw they couldn't attack any superstars or they would be fired. Later that night Arn Anderson, Michael Hayes, Dean Malenko, Mike Rotunda and Ricky Steamboat celebrated the release of Steamboat's DVD, and became the targets of a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. Since they were "Legends" and not "superstars", this was perfectly acceptable.
  • During Edge's feud with Dolph Ziggler, Vickie Guerrero banned Edge's finisher, The Spear, telling him that if he ever used it in a match, he would be stripped of his title. Immediately after this, Edge hit Ziggler with The Spear four times in a row, since they weren't in a match.
  • Since the introduction of SHINE's Championship, Ivelisse Vélez's stance had been that everything's fine as long as the title's in Valkyrie, which caused friction after Radiant Rain won the belt, even more after Rain faked retirement and vowed to stay as long as she was champion. When Vélez persisted in pursuing a title match and eventually beat Rain, Rain decided Vélez was correct and retired for real. She then added Ivelisse was no longer a member of Valkyrie.
  • Extreme Rules 2015 featured the first ever Kiss Me Arse Match between Dolph Ziggler and Sheamus. One might recall that two similar encounters have taken place before in WWE: SummerSlam 1999 between The Rock and Mr. Ass, and Rebellion 2002 between Rikishi and Albert. However, those respectively were a Kiss My Ass match, and a Kiss My Arse match. There is a difference.
  • The comedic Japanese promotion Dramatic Dream Team has their own twist on the Ladder Match: a wrestler competing against an actual ladder. And because their Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship can be held by anyone or anything that can pin the current champion, it has been held by three different ladders!
  • Post-WrestleMania 31, frustrated after losing his WWE Championship to Seth Rollins, Brock Lesnar goes on a rampage after being denied a rematch, delivering F5 after F5 to every cameraman, until Stephanie McMahon orders Brock to "put the second cameraman down". Cue another F5 to the poor cameraman, because she merely told him to "put that man down", not "let him go".
  • Dusty Rhodes and his son Dustin once faced Ric Flair and Jeff Jarrett with the stipulation that if Dusty and Dustin won, Flair had to kiss Dusty's white ass. Because Dusty won the match, Flair was forced to kiss Dusty's white ass, a white mule with the words "Dusty's Ass" written on its backside.
  • One time, Vickie Guerrero ordered Montel Vontavious Porter to face Big Show in a Last Man Standing Match. If Porter lost, Triple H would not be allowed in the Royal Rumble match. To stop Triple H from helping Porter, Vickie banned him from ringside. Eventually, when the combatants fought their way to the stage, Triple H came out and hit Big Show with a sledgehammer to knock him out. Vickie reprimanded Triple H for violating her orders, but he pointed out the stage is nowhere near ringside and she grudgingly accepted it.
  • At the 2002 Survivor Series, where champion Brock Lesnar was set to face the Big Show in a title match, Lesnar's manager Paul Heyman assured him that he would do whatever it takes to make sure that his client wins. In the match itself, Heyman proceeded to turn on Lesnar, allowing Big Show—Heyman's new client—to pick up the win.
  • On the WWE Raw after Wrestlemania 29, Cena decides that he wants to do a heel in, he moves his ankle back and forth.

  • During an episode of That Gosh Darn Hippie Show, DJ Hippie got a (fake) phone call from a grumpy old woman who was upset at the number of strange, obscure records played on the show, and demanded that DJ Hippie "play something normal, sonny". DJ Hippie sarcastically agreed to play something normal before cuing up "Normal" by Martin Mull.
  • In episode 2 of The Train at Platform 4, Dev, who mans the train's buffet car, claims to have been totally honest in his online dating profile. It turns out to say that he "runs a fast-moving catering business across four counties".

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech:
    • Hanse Davion pulls this in the course of the Clan Invasion. Promising his ancient enemies of House Kurita that "No Federated Commonwealth units would cross their borders" until the Clan invasion was dealt with, he found out soon after that House Kurita was on the verge of a catastrophic defeat. For a moment, it looks like Hanse, a man known as "The Fox", is up to something, and he is. He sends mercenary units across the border straight to the Combine homeworld. At first, several Combine high officers are furious, thinking they have been betrayed. This is quickly inverted when the mercenaries reveal that Davion has hired them to defend Luthien, not attack it as the Combine officers expected from Davion's Exact Words. By employing mercenaries rather than his own Federated Commonwealth forces, he stays true to his promise while also keeping the Combine from that he can use the Combine as a buffer zone between his realm and the invading Clans. There's a reason Hanse Davion is considered a Magnificent Bastard.
    • This is done against the Federated Commonwealth as well, when their long-time enemy, the Capellan Confederation, sends an agent to deal with the Northwind Highlanders, a mercenary unit that had been long loyal to the Confederation until an offer was made during the Fourth Succession War to grant them their ancestral home world of Northwind in exchange for defecting to the then-Federated Suns. Thirty years later, the Confederation's current ruler, Sun-Tzu Liao, sends a member of his elite special forces with Highlander ancestry on a mission to 'neutralize the Northwind Highlanders'. The agent, at first, believes that his orders mean for him to cause the destruction of the mercenaries. However, the Highlanders are struggling to fend off the Federated Commonwealth's liasons, who are trying to ensnare the Highlanders using company store tactics. The agent ends up defecting to the Highlanders, but the mistreatment from the Commonwealth's liasons cause the Highlanders to declare independence, thus 'neutralizing' them, as Sun-Tzu ordered.
  • Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine: A key plot point is that Chuubo, a fairly ordinary boy, has gained the ability to create Imperial Miracles but can't really do anything useful with them due to wording problems (unless they come from his heart, in which case they work as intended). There is a running joke that he has yet to discover the correct wording to obtain an ice cream: "I wish I had an ice cream" makes "Chuubo has an ice cream" a law of reality, meaning that he can't eat the ice cream, because he would then no longer have it.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • This is often considered the real reason players avoid casting Wish, as many DMs invoke this trope with its use. This is partially averted by kinder DMs and in the computer adaptation, Baldur's Gate II, by allowing characters with high wisdom and intelligence scores to close the more obvious loopholes if the wish is otherwise reasonable. Some sources indicate this as one of the advantages the clerical counterpart Miracle has over Wish — because it is not so much a wish as a requested miracle, it can be vetoed by your deity... but it also means that it will tend to be interpreted in your favour, whereas Wish includes a little comment about, if one goes beyond the list it has and requests a greater effect, there is danger of a literal but undesired fulfillment (that is, this trope) or partial fulfillment.
    • One sourcebook suggests this as a way The Paladin can be Lawful Good without being Lawful Stupid. In the specific example given, The Paladin is honor-bound to follow the requests of the Big Bad: When the villain says "Bring me the head of the king", the paladin brings him the head... along with the rest of the king, and his entire army.
    • This can be a way to beat truth-telling magic, depending on the edition and the spell — one book has a fallen paladin observe that very few truth-telling spells can tell a lie fashioned by putting two truthful sentences next to one another (in the case that prompted this observation, he had managed to give the impression that his dead niece had been responsible for summoning a fiend by saying there'd been a summoning gone awry by a foolish mage, and then adding that fortunately his (dead in the incident) niece had taken precautions in case something went awry like that. Not his fault if the one he was speaking to thought the foolish mage was the niece rather than the paladin himself).
    • In the adventure book Three Days to Kill, the players are hired to wipe out the head of a thieves' guild, and assured that the town watch would be very grateful to have the guild become disorganized. This is quite true, but the person hiring them didn't say he worked for the town watch.. he works for an opposing thieves' guild. Technically, the players are still doing something good, and the person hiring them doesn't backstab them (as they might expect), so it's just an additional secret they might find.
    • The Plane Shift spell allows you to specify a location you wish to arrive at on the plane you're travelling to. The rules note that if you wanted to go to a certain city, for example, the spell might deposit you outside its gates, right in the middle of its high street, or on top of a cliff gazing out at it from fifty miles away.
    • While most constructs treat their orders as this, a Helmed Horror is intelligent enough to understand the difference between an order's intent and its exact wording, seeking to fulfill the former instead of following the latter. For example, if a Helmed Horror was ordered to not let a treasure chest leave a room, it would understand that this includes the chest's contents and fight to prevent said contents from being taken.
    • In The Wild Beyond The Witchlight, Granny Nightshade will pull this on anyone accepting her posted services offered for a favor. "Win the heart of the one you love?" You get the heart, torn out, in a box. "Be buried up to your neck in silver?" You get literally encased in a silver nugget which disappears if you are freed. "No sword will ever break your skin?" Petrified. "I'll make you as strong as an octopus?" A regular, non-giant, non-magical octopus. But some of her service offers actually are genuine, like "I'll curse anyone you choose,"; she actually will, as cursing people is kind of her jam. This allows the PCs to pull a revenge Exact Words on her — by choosing for her to curse herself!
  • Eberron: This is how multiple conspiracies can exist in a world with multiple methods of magical lie detection. The example given is for a Riedran ambassador asked about the Adaran kalashtar. The kalashtar are a race that has bound extraplanar entities inside themselves, and those spirits drive them to attack Riedra in an attempt to topple the legitimate government. The Inspired gained power in Riedra by bringing an end to a period of historic war and unrest. All of which is completely true... but glosses over the fact that the Inspired are controlled by demons, they caused the period of unrest that they heroically stopped, and the kalashtar are being advised by heroic rebel spirits who are trying to save everyone from the Inspired. Furthermore, Riedra is a high-psionics, low spread nation (meaning the common people have almost no power but the leaders are much higher level; compare to Khorvaire's low-magic, but widespread use), so high-level Inspired who know too many secrets tend to have access to ways to simply ignore lie-detection.
  • Exalted: In a comic in Exalted: The Alchemicals, diplomatic negotiations hit a snag when the Autochthonian emissary says "There can be no peace between our peoples now". He meant "now" as in "at the present moment", not dismissing the possibility of future friendship. After the misunderstanding is cleared up, the Realm emissary agrees that indeed their nations are not friends "now".
    But I believe we can change that. Don't you?
  • In Nomine:
    • The Seraphim, angels who must speak the truth at all times, often take refuge in this trope when trying to maintain secrecy or otherwise keep certain things hidden. For instance, a Seraph named Zebadaiah who's been nicknamed Zane by his associates would never actually call himself Zane, but might introduce himself with lines such as "People call me Zane" or "I go by Zane".
    • This used to trip up Laurence, Archangel of the Sword, in his early days as Commander of the Host. Angels of the Sword must obey both the spirit and the letter of Laurence's orders, and, when his commands were too detailed, the servitors were left with no way to adjust for conditions without earning dissonance.
      "Thus, Laurence will not tell a Servitor 'Take Highway 41 to Tifton, Georgia, find the Tether of Death just south of there, and bring me the Seneschal's head.' Such specific orders could result in all kinds of dissonance — what if the angel knows a more efficient way of traveling to Tifton (or Highway 41 is washed out)? What if Laurence’s intelligence is flawed, and the Tether is north of Tifton, or it's actually a Tether to Dark Humor? What if the Seneschal has been destroyed already — should the Tether be left intact? What if the Seneschal wants to redeem? What if the angel can only kill the Seneschal by some means which won't leave an intact head to bring to Laurence? Scenarios like this came back to bite the young Archangel of the Sword, until he learned to loosen his control — a little." — Superiors 1: War and Honor
  • Nobilis: This is how Imperial miracles work. They can be very nasty (with things like automatic Divine-level wounds for people who just ignore them), but you can freely work toward any interpretation of the letter of the law you can sell your HG on.
  • Paranoia: Reactor failures have a 94% survival rate, provided that appropriate protective measures are taken. The specific nature of "appropriate protective measures" (donning a Green-clearance environment suit and evacuating the sector) is classified to preserve morale.
  • Pathfinder:
    • Asmodeus, the god of contracts and lord of the devils, specializes in this. His clergy are savvy in using the wording in their contracts to their avantages, they even get a spell that uses a contract as material focus.
    • Subverted with Abadar, god of cities and merchants. Like Asmodeus, he have an interest with contracts, but, unlike him, he prefers to follows the spirit over the words.
  • Truce At Bakura: Chewbacca suggested to Han Solo that he have the Tydirium return to the fleet while doing repairs. Han Solo agreed, but then it occurred to him that Chewbacca forgot to specify which fleet he was supposed to return to, thus giving him and the Endor Strike Team an easy opening to take over the Star Destroyer Accusor without having to fire a single shot.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Battle:
    • Prince Apophas, upon death, tried to bargain his way out of the Tomb Kings' equivalent of Hell with Usirian, the god of the underworld. Usirian promised that should Apophas bring him a soul "of equal value" then Apophas would be freed and can return to life. What Usirian didn't say was that no soul is ever created equal; they can be extremely similar but each would be microscopically different on some level. Thus, Apophas is forever enslaved to Usirian as he can never fulfill his end of the bargain.
    • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: In the first edition, the sourcebook Realms of Sorcery has Erik' Sword of Confusion. The warrior Erik commissioned a wizard to make a sword that "cut through things like butter". The wizard dutifully made a sword that cleaves through butter, as well as assorted dairy products, with unparalleled ease.
      This was made for Erik the drunkard, a notorious Norscan mercenary. While in the cups, he foolishly commissioned a wizard to make him a sword that could "cut through things like butter". The wizard was as good as his word. Against normal targets, the sword has Damage -3, but it cuts through dairy products with the efficiency of a fine cheesewire. The wizard who made the sword was later found drowned in a vat of yoghurt.
    • Heinrich Kemmler is repeatedly touted as the most powerful necromancer alive in the setting. This is entirely true, but that wording also excludes a number of much more powerful undead necromancers in the setting like Mannfred Von Carstein, Zacharias the Everliving, and Arkhan the Black (to say nothing of Nagash). This was actually averted during the latter half of the 6th edition, as Kemmler received a White Dwarf army with unique rules that made him the most powerful necromancer in the setting, dead or undead.
    • Bretonnia is subject to Fantasy Gun Control because of a kingly decree that states no crossbows can be used on Bretonnian soil (likely a measure to protect the privilege of the nobility - Bretonnia is an exercise in medieval classism to the extreme). A strict reading of the decree does not support a ban on black powder firearms but the decree hasn't been updated to include them and since a handgun can kill a knight just as readily as a crossbow can, including them is in the spirit of the law. However, Bretonnia's navy is full of ships bristling with cannons scavenged from anywhere the captains could get them - they don't operate on Bretonnian soil.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • During the War of the Beast, the Imperial Fists Chapter was utterly destroyed to a man, with the Chapter Master himself dying on an assault against the titular Ork Warlord Beast. However, just before the fateful assault, Chapter Master Slaughter Koorland had called all the Imperial Fists successor chapters together under a decree made by their Primarch, Rogal Dorn, during the reforms after the Horus Heresy (which split up the old Legions into multiple chapters) that would reform the Imperial Fists Legion in times of crisis to protect the Imperium. As the decree was still active by the time Koorland died, the gathered successor chapters deemed that, for the moment, they were all Imperial Fists and so even if the last actual Imperial Fists Marine died, the chapter technically did not. Several members of each successor chapter then decided to take on the livery of the original Imperial Fists, effectively "reforming" the chapter before the decree was ended. The vast majority came from the Fists Exemplar chapter (a portion of said chapter, under the First Captain, Zerbryn, had lost contact with the Imperium during the war and was forced to ally with a Warband of the Iron Warriors traitor legion and all but one company of that force defected while said one company joined the Imperial Fists reform along with the remaining loyalists of their Chapter and all files regarding the Fists Exemplar were deleted from public record on orders of Maximus Thane, who himself went from being the Fists Exemplar Chapter Master to being Imperial Fists Chapter Master).
      • Ironically, Thane was a veteran of the Horus Heresy himself, obviously an Imperial Fist at the time.
    • When a planetary governor was being beset by the Dark Angels Chapter (specifically the Deathwing and Ravenwing companies) he begged the chaos gods for help. The Changeling came and asked for his two daughters in exchange for something to "end the battle". Seeing no way out, the governor agreed. The Changeling took the man's two girls and handed him a device. The moment the Changeling left, the device activated; it was the teleport homer from the Ravenwing Squadron and on the other side the entire contingent of Deathwing Terminators had been waiting for the signal. The battle was indeed ended.
    • The Ministorum was to have no "men under arms" in the aftermath of the Age of Apostasy. Knowing that a complete lack of a military force would make them unable to police themselves and subservient to the Administratum, Ecclesiarch Sebastian Thor installed his predecessor Goge Vandire's redeemed private army as the Sisters of Battle. In some versions of the story this was arranged before they decided on the wording, especially considering the fact that the Daughters of the Emperor, as they were named at the time, turned on Vandire after being informed by the Adeptus Custodes that the Emperor wished him dead.
      • Also, nothing prevents them from having the arms themselves - that is, huge stocks of weapons which, in an emergency, can be handed to untrained Ecclesiarchy members and huge mobs of faithful citizens. These people aren't a maintained force, after all.
      • Yet another dodge is that it is only the Ecclesiarchy that is to have no men under arms. Planetary Governors in the Imperium are allowed to raise armies, and many cardinals of the Ministorum are planetary governors as well (specifically, that of Shrine Worlds), so while it is frowned upon by some, so long as the armies are raised in the role and legal persona of governor rather than cardinal it is not a violation of the Decree Passive as those men and women are the Planetary Defense Forces of the specific planet and are under the same obligations of the Imperial Tithe as other Imperial planets to hand over their best recruits to the Imperial Guard.

  • William Shakespeare:
    • A very early example is The Merchant of Venice: Antonio suddenly finds himself unable to repay his debt to Shylock, the loan shark, and his contract said Shylock would cut a pound of flesh from his body if Antonio doesn't pay him back. When appeals for mercy fail, Shylock prepares to take his pound of flesh, until Antonio's lawyer (actually Portia, a young woman passing herself off as a man) points out that the contract "doth not give one jot of blood; / The words expressly are 'a pound of flesh'"—in other words, Shylock has to cut the flesh without spilling any blood. Since doing this is physically impossible, the contract is declared null and void.
      • Portia shows off her talent in this trope earlier in the play as well, making it a pre-Chekhov Chekhov's Skill. According to her late father's will, Portia cannot choose her own husband. Any man who wants to win her hand must undergo a trial by choosing between three chests—one of gold, one of silver, and one of lead—to discover which contains a portrait of Portia. It's a Secret Test of Character, as Portia's picture is in the lead chest, and only a man who is not tempted by riches or appearances can find it. When Bassanio, who Portia genuinely loves, arrives and has to take the challenge, Portia realizes that the terms of the will state that she can't tell him the answer...but there's nothing that prohibits her from hinting at it, so long as she doesn't say it outright. She quickly arranges for some musicians to play a song about ignoring "fancy" ("Tell me, where is fancy bred? / Or in the heart, or in the head?"). Bassanio correctly recognizes the song as a clue and chooses the leaden chest, thus allowing Portia to marry a man of her choice after all.
    • In Henry IV, Part 1, Hotspur uses this while playing Agent Scully to his Welsh ally Glyndwr:
      Glyndwr: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
      Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man.
      But will they come when you do call for them?
    • In Julius Caesar, Marc Antony agrees to give the assassins credit for allowing him to speak at Caesar's funeral and to refrain from denouncing them. Antony proceeds to turn the crowd against the assassins even while repeatedly describing them as "honorable men".
    • Macbeth runs afoul of this trope in a big way. The Weird Sisters foretell that "No Man of Woman Born" can harm him, and that he will not be defeated "until great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane hill [his castle] march against him." When Prince Malcolm leads a charge against him, he has his followers use branches from the trees of Birnam Wood as cover, fulfilling the second prophecy; Macbeth is actually slain in battle by Macduff, who was delivered by Cesarean section and is thus not technically "born of woman" if you take "born" to mean "emerged through the birth canal."
    • Othello: Much of what Iago says can be considered true, if you interpret what he says as literally as possible. Indeed, it's what he doesn't say that really causes tragedy.
    • Lighthearted example in Twelfth Night with Viola speaking to Feste who, being a clown, uses this trope as comedy:
      Viola: Save thee, friend, and thy music. Dost thou live by thy tabour?note 
      Feste: No, sir, I live by the church.
      Viola: Art thou a churchman?
      Feste: No such matter, sir. I do live by the church; for I do live at my house, and my house doth stand by the church. note 
  • In Show Boat, the couple Steve and Julie are about to be arrested for miscegenation—Steve is white, and Julie is secretly mixed-race. Steve cuts Julie's hand and swallows a drop of blood; when the sheriff arrives, Steve asks, "You wouldn't call a man a white man that's got Negro blood in him, would you?" He's willing to swear under oath that he's got "more than a drop" of black blood; the two are able to leave the boat (and the south) in safety.
  • In Dorothy L. Sayers's The Emperor Constantine,
    • Constantine likes his prophetic dream, because it clearly predicts that he will win, and prophecies are normally filled with weasel words that allow this trope.
    • In Rome, the prophecy that the enemy of Rome will be defeated is more ambiguous. Livia, the wife of the emperor who lost and died, proclaims that it is certainly true.
  • Some of the lazzi, or classic bits, from Commedia dell'Arte fall into this category. Notable examples include:
    • Harlequin, a Big Eater, rushes into a dining room during a feast and announces that the kitchen is on fire. When all of the guests run off to check, Harlequin sits down and begins to devour as much food as possible. When the diners return and complain that the kitchen is perfectly fine, Harlequin defends himself: he said the kitchen was on fire, not your kitchen was on fire.
    • A servant character is tasked with guarding a rich man's house while he is away. When the rich man returns and asks if anyone has entered the house, the servant replies, "Not a fly!" The pleased master goes inside, only to discover dozens of people in the rooms. When he takes the servant to task for this, he responds that the master didn't find a fly in the house—he said nothing about people.
    • A servant enters a scene bragging about delivering a blistering, insulting speech about her employer, going into detail about all the ways she told him off. Another servant is inspired by her words and rushes off to try verbally attacking his own master...only to get brutally smacked for his insolence. The first servant then admits to the audience that while she indeed gave her insulting speech, she made sure to do it when her boss was out of earshot—in other words, it was about him, not to him.
  • This appears in a heartbreaking way in Sweeney Todd: When Sweeney first returns to Fleet Street and asks what happened to his wife Lucy, Mrs. Lovett replies, "She poisoned herself...arsenic from the apothecary on the corner." At the end of the musical, Sweeney discovers that the old Beggar Woman who has been harassing him throughout the show—and who he just murdered—is Lucy, driven insane by her rape, abandonment, and attempted suicide, which leads to this exchange:
    Sweeney: ...You lied to me.
    Mrs. Lovett: No, no, not lied at all! No, I never lied! Said she took the poison, she did, never said that she died!
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory adds a twist to Willy Wonka's promise of "a lifetime supply of sweets" to the Golden Ticket finders. A single Everlasting Gobstopper — which is an Indestructible Edible — counts as this. Grandpa Joe feels this is a cruel trick and he and Mr. Wonka almost come to blows over it, stopped only by Charlie Bucket, who understands that Wonka wasn't deliberately trying to trick them and regards it as a great present all the same (especially since he's never received presents from anyone outside of his family before).
  • The Music Man combines this with On One Condition. "Old Miser" Madison, a wealthy man, donates extensive property to River City after his death, including the Madison Public Library. But his will expressly states that he's left the city the library building—the books inside belong to Marian Paroo, the old man's only friend. It's implied that Madison did this because he realized that most of the people in town hate Marian; by making the library books her legal property, he guaranteed her a job for as long as she lives.
  • In The Pirates of Penzance, young Frederic is apprenticed to serve the pirates until he's twenty-one. He is eager to leave the eponymous pirate band, and does so upon turning twenty-one. In the second act, the Pirate King and Ruth inform him that he was born on February 29th, and that the apprenticeship was to end on his twenty-first birthday. Consequently, he isn't free to leave the pirate band until he's eighty-four years old. This makes things awkward for him when the Pirate King decides to hold to the exact letter of the contract. In a bit of Lampshade Hanging, Frederick points out that this is unfair, but as his whole character is defined by the concept of Honor Before Reason, he begrudgingly rejoins them.
  • In Why Marry?, Jean says "Words cannot describe my happiness" when her engagement to Rex is announced—because she doesn't want to marry him at all.
  • In The Merry Widow, Hanna still loves her Old Flame Danilo, and vice versa, but he refuses to court her because he doesn't want it to seem that he's only interested in the money she inherited from her late husband (whom she married after Danilo's family judged her unsuitable because of her then-poverty). She eventually gets him to propose by telling him that, according to the terms of the inheritance, she will lose her fortune if she remarries — not mentioning, until after the engagement is settled that she will lose the fortune in the sense that it will become her new husband's property.
  • Discussed in the stage version of Hairspray when Edna talks about her failed dream of being a fashion designer: "I said I was going to be the biggest thing in brassiers. Be careful what you wish for."
  • In Les Misérables, Thenardier wasn't lying when he said he served "food beyond belief" or when he said he treated Cosette like "one of [his] own".

    Visual Novels 
  • In Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, Zero of all people uses this trope to create unnecessary violence in their Nonary Game with the rules. The goal, as given via a sheet of paper, is to find a way off the ship before it sinks, a door with a 9 on it. It never says there is only one number 9 door. There are actually two, but everyone assumes there's only one because there's only one of every other numbered door. When this is discovered, one character observes that there was no need for distrust and competition since two number 9 doors are enough for everyone to escape. Of course, knowing that from the start might not have prevented various murders since the murderer was familiar with the game's layout anyway. Zero also didn't specifically say that the number 9 doors were the actual exit, just that the only way off the ship was through them. The party eventually discovers one more number 9 door blocking the final escape route that's actually a number q door (which, through the use of base-36 and digital roots as was used all throughout the rest of the game, makes it a number 8 door.) Lastly, depending on if you mean the Japanese or English translation of the game, the setup for all this changes. In Japanese, Zero announces to "seek a door that caries a kyuu", which the cast takes to mean the Japanese word for 9. However, Zero meant the aforementioned "q" door, the true exit to the ship. Meanwhile, to preserve the pun in English, the instructions are changed to written text given to each player, with the font choice making a lower-case q look like a kind of seven-segment-ish 9, (which can be confirmed by looking at the visual made to show the rules sheet in-game).
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney:
    • At one point in Justice for All, Matt Engarde gets away with lying to Phoenix despite his Magatama which lets him physically see people keeping secrets from him using this method. Specifically, he answers "no" to the question "Did you kill the victim?". Which he didn't. He did, however, hire an assassin to do it. The Magatama activates when he later answers "no" to the question "Did you have anything to do with the victim's death?". It's implied that this only worked because the client was warped enough to consider there to be an honest, meaningful difference between the two, and so he didn't consciously hide anything from Phoenix the first time around. Not to mention that the assassin in question, Shelly de Killer, blackmailed Phoenix into defending Engarde in court because somebody framed Engarde. What de Killer didn't say was that the Frame-Up and the murder have two separate culprits (with de Killer obviously being the latter).
    • In the third game, Godot is introduced as yet another prosecutor of legendary skill who has never lost a case. Pretty standard opponent for Phoenix at this point. When the judge asks him how many cases he's prosecuted, he answers with... zero. And this is actually two examples in one: he's never prosecuted a case before, but he has defended many cases in the past.
      Judge: But you said you've never lost before.
      Godot: ...Exactly. I've never lost. I've never won before either.
    • In Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, in one point of Lamiroir's testimony, she says "As for what I saw... I saw nothing." and she means it. She really saw nothing, she is blind at that point.
    • In Spirit of Justice, Dhurke spends the final chapter spouting nothing but this trope, to the point where his dialogue alone gives the game replay value.
      • Near the start, he tells Apollo that he (Dhurke) is "not long for this world" and he "hear[s] the Twilight Realm calling [his] name". He is dead and being channeled by a spirit medium. It will not last forever.
      • When Apollo shows him a photo of a woman and a baby and uses a background detail to guess that the baby is Nahyuta, he asks Dhurke if the photo is really 23 years old. Dhurke replies, "You're really good with numbers!", never actually confirming anything. It later turns out that the baby is Rayfa, and the photo was actually taken while Dhurke was on the run with Amara, rather than before Amara's supposed assassination.
      • Partway through his trial, Dhurke escapes from the courtroom, yelling about how he can't leave Amara in danger. The player is led to believe this is because she is being held prisoner somewhere, but he is actually saying this because she is the medium currently channeling his body, and he does not want her to die if he gets executed.
      • Even before all of that, while Phoenix is agonizing over Maya being kidnapped (again), Dhurke reassures him that "she's in a safe place". Maya is currently channeling him.
    • In the DLC case of Spirit of Justice, Pierce Nichody, the butler for the Sprocket family, says he was present to hear the last words of the eldest daughter Selena "in a professional capacity." He's not talking about being a butler, but a surgeon whom Selena asked to operate on her brother Sorin before her with her last words. Pierce complied, resulting in Selena's death.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, anything said in red is true. This means its exact wording (including what is not told) is really important in figuring out what actually happened. For example, for the first twilight of the first game, it is said that "The identity of all unidentified corpses is guaranteed" and that "no body double was used". But no red truth says that there were six corpses in the garden shed. It turns out Shannon's corpse wasn't actually there from the beginning. It's all because third-person narration is not neutral, and lies to the player in a number of scenes.
  • Zig-Zagging Trope in Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward. Some characters are very particular about promises, so a shrewd player pays close attention to exactly what is being promised before making a difficult choice. Of course, some characters—even the nice ones!—also have no problem lying to the player character's face. It's amazing how a little freedom-or-death struggle brings out the manipulative sides of people.
    • Possibly the straightest example of this trope is in a possible bad ending, where just before a certain Ally or Betray choice, Clover asks Sigma to choose "Betray", so she and Sigma can get more points and Clover in particular will reach 9 points. Clover promises Sigma that if Sigma chooses Betray, Clover will listen to anything Sigma says! But picking "Betray" at this point will get you the bad ending, because upon reaching 9 points Clover promptly goes for the exit. Sigma angrily shouts to Clover that she promised she would listen to anything Sigma said, and Clover replies that she is listening, she can hear Sigma very clearly even from all the way over there! She never promised to actually do what he said.
    • Another example is in Tenmyouji's ending. Tenmyouji and Quark pick betray, and picking ally results in Sigma asking why they betrayed him. They don't answer, however Tenmyouji promises him that even though both him and Quark have 9 points, they won't open the number 9 door. A moment later, Clover, who had also reached 9 points in her own voting session, opens the number 9 door. Tenmyouji and Quark promptly move to go through it with her, much to Sigma's anger who reminds them of their promise. Tenmyouji then says to Sigma that he promised they wouldn't open the number 9 door. Which they didn't, Clover did. They didn't say anything about not escaping.
    • In any ending where someone escapes, the announcer declares that the Nonary Game is now over and that all doors other than the Number 9 Door have been unlocked. This includes the identical door on the floor below, though it can only be opened from the outside. This means that it might be possible for the winner(s) to let everyone else out, depending on whether or not the game being over also deactivated the losers' bracelets, which will kill them if they leave with less than 9 BP (or if the kill switch is activated by specifically going through the number 9 door with less than 9 BP). However, the only ending where the door actually gets used is the Golden Ending where everyone escapes legitimately anyway, and then decide to go back inside for some more answers.
  • In Steins;Gate Okabe needs information from Faris. Faris is a grandmaster at a game Okabe has never even heard of, but he agrees to play her for the information anyway. His friends try to get him to back down, since he can't possibly win, but Okabe insists he'll finish the game in ONE MOVE!!! The game starts...and he loses immediately. Hey, the deal was he just had to play her, not win.
  • Grisaia Series:
    • In The Fruit of Grisaia, Sachi does exactly what you asked of her, no matter how you meant it, if you asked her to bring the "best" milk she will travel to the part of the country most famous of it's high quality milk in order to get "best" quality. Be careful of what and how you ask of her.
    • Pulled accidentally by Amane in The Eden of Grisaia. After stopping by a maid cafe and having to eat admittedly good soba noodles from an obnoxious waitress, Yumiko gets home and asks something to eat so long as it's not soba. Amane makes udon instead, causing Yumiko to grumble about more noodles.
  • In Reflections on the River, the king and queen went to a witch for help in having a strong, healthy child, and interpreted the witch's response as promising one. When the resulting child is sickly, they therefore consider themselves to been cheated. However, what they were actually promised was merely "their greatest desire" — and that wasn't what they said (and perhaps even genuinely thought) it was.
    King Jianyu: All those years ago, we asked for your help and you promised us our greatest desire: a healthy child. Yet look at the results!
    Zheng: Then maybe in your heart, there was an even greater desire. One that turned true while the other didn't.
  • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc: Monokuma repeatedly insists that the students are the real villains. After all, they're the ones who are killing each other; he only executes the ones that break the rules. This conveniently ignores the fact that he's the one who engineered the situation to begin with, trapping them in the school and informing them that murder is the only way out, going so far as to wipe their memories of having previously known each other, and then repeatedly introducing additional motives when nobody dies. So it's technically true that he doesn't murder anyone, but it's obvious that none of the murders would've happened if not for his interference.
  • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair:
    • Big Bad Monokuma calls the Future Foundation "World Enders", leading the player to believe that the Future Foundation is a Nebulous Evil Organisation. While the "World Enders" bit is objectively true, Monokuma doesn't say that the Future Foundation wants to "end" the world brought about by The Tragedy by fighting against the Ultimate Despair, making them Good All Along.
    • In chapter 4, he lures the group to the amusement park with the promise of giving them information about their situation, as well as claiming that there are ship parts on the island. He neglects to mention that they don't actually get the information unless they undertake a potentially lethal challenge, and even then the information is incomplete anyway. And the ship parts? They're from a toy.
    Monokuma: Tee-hee! You totally got tricked! I never said a single word about the ship being real!
  • In the common route of Little Busters!, one of the missions from Lennon asks Riki and Rin to cure a student named Aikawa of his love sickness towards Rin's rival Sasami, as it's gotten to the point where he can't focus on school. At first, they interpret this as playing The Matchmaker for the two of them. However, due to Sasami's feelings for their friend Kengo, Riki and Rin fail to hook them up. While consoling Aikawa after their failed attempts to hook them up, the two realize that the mission only said to cure his love sickness, not get him a girlfriend. The fact that Aikawa can think about something besides Sasami and can focus on schoolwork again is enough to complete the mission.
  • A Little Lily Princess:
    • Sara never learned French. Doesn't mean she cannot speak the language, which comes as a big surprise for Miss Minchin.
    She had not learned French, exactly, not out of books, but her papa and other people had always spoken it to her, and she had read it and written it as she had read and written English.
    • If Lottie's route is committed to in Act 2, Miss Minchin tries to get her to stop treating Sara as her "mother" by telling that she is now supposed to treat Sara, who has gone through Riches to Rags, the same as Becky. Lottie's response is to also bring food for Becky when she visits Sara to give her food.
    • During the second half of her route, one event has Lottie start asking Sara questions about herself. When Sara asks why she's so curious about all those details all of a sudden, Lottie says that she's going to tell the story of the Princess Sara. Sara understands the answer as Lottie planning to emulate her The StoryTeller activities with a story involving a princess based on her. It later turns out that Lottie's widower father was the intended audience for the "story of Princess Sara". Sara herself points out that Lottie, did, indeed, "tell the story".

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner:
    • In the Strong Bad Email "virus", Strong Bad's computer gets infested with hundreds of thousands of computer viruses that apparently infect the Flash cartoon itself. That leads to this exchange, in which Strong Sad catches Strong Bad doing this:
      Strong Sad: Did you get a virus?
      Strong Bad: No...
      Strong Sad: Did you get 400,000 viruses?
      Strong Bad: Yes... very yes!
    • In the SBEmail "shapeshifting", Strong Bad wishes for the power to turn into "almost anyone in the world". He tries to use this power and turns into the King of Town's right half.
      Strong Bad: Oh, I get it. I can turn into almost anyone.
  • In Red vs. Blue:
    • Lopez builds some very slow moving robots, with the reasoning
    Senior Lopez "You said you wanted a DAY of victory. At this speed, they will win in exactly 24 hours."
    • In seasons 11 and 12, beyond claiming that they were the greatest soldiers in the galaxy, Felix never actually lies to the Blood Gulch Crew, instead using half-truths.
      • In season 13, Felix did it again when he and Locus hijack a prison ship and invite the prisoners to work for them. Felix tells them that if they fight against the people of Chorus, they will go free and rich. Then he tells the prisoners who will join him to put their hands on the prison bars while those who won't join will be let off the ship. And he did let them off the ship... by opening the air locks in the cells, sucking all of those not grasping the bars out into space.
  • RWBY: When Team RWBY are assigned to their field mission, Dr. Oobleck instructs them not to bring any bags as he's packed all the essentials. Once they've reached their destination, he tells them that they must do exactly what he tells them from this point forward. When he spots Ruby's bag, he calls her out for it by stating that he told her to leave all her bags at school. She points out that he hadn't instructed them to listen to him at that stage. He concedes the point.
    Oobleck: ...she's not wrong.
    • Volumes later, Team RWBY end up unleashing the spirit within the Staff of Creation, who warns them to be careful as to what they want. He's actually impressed at them making sure of this, only disappointed that their request on saving Penny was so concrete that he couldn't play around a bit.
  • In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, the Reasonable Authority Figure Descius makes Big Bad Karamazov promise that no blood shall be spilled on Terra's sacred ground. Karamazov agrees, then goes to his fellow Inquisitors and promptly tells them to burn all the suspects.
  • Tonin, a Brazilian web series featured in, has many instances of this:
    • In Tonin - O Ninja Que Veio da Roça, , Vilano-san, the main villain, asked a spirit to make his body resistant to harm. The spirit said he'd only do it if Vilano defeated him in a card game. Vilano only agreed on the condition that each one would draw one's own cards. Instead of drawing cards from the spirit's deck, he drew cards from his pocket, getting himself a better hand. When the spirit protested, Vilano reminded him about the agreement about drawing one's own cards.
    • In sequel series Tonin - A Vorta dos Que Num Foi, Tonin and his friends were stuck in the future and the spirit was their only chance to return. Being an oracle, the spirit said his only duty was of answering questions. The spirit also told that he's bound to this duty until Tonin dismisses him. Tonin then challenged the spirit to send them back to the past, promising he'd never ask any questions from that day onwards if the spirit succeeds. Once they went back in time, Tonin pointed out that, since they've gone back several years from the day he promised to stop making questions, he still has all that time back to make questions without going back on his word.
    • Years later (from Tonin's perspective), he went back to the day he made that deal and asked the oracle how could there have two of him in two different places at the same time but, since they were in a period of time the oracle no longer had to answer questions as per the agreement, the oracle refused to answer. Tonin argued it was the other Tonin who made the deal but the oracle explained they were the same Tonin. Tonin then asked how this could be possible. By doing so, he unwittingly answered the question he initially refused to.
    • In trequel series Tonin - O Ninja dos Inferno, Tonin sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for the power to defeat Vilano-san and Pai-Meio. The terms of the agreement stated that the Devil would be able to collect the soul once Vilano and Pai-Meio would no longer be able to pose a threat. The two villains were eventually killed. When the Devil tried to collect the soul, it was argued that Vilano and Pai-Meio being dead doesn't mean they'd never be able to pose a threat again. Considering the world where the story took place, the argument makes sense.
    • In order to reach the Devil to strike the deal in the first place, Tonin had to, once again, outsmart the spirit. The spirit was unwilling to help Tonin in any way other than doing his job (answering questions). Tonin then asked if he'd make a good deal with the Devil. Since the only way to know was having Tonin meet the Devil, the spirit had no choice but to take Tonin to hell. Also, when Tonin proposed the deal to the Devil, Tonin offered his "arma". ("Arma" could be either the Brazilian word for "weapon" or the way Brazilian unsophisticated country people say "alma", the Brazilian word for "soul".) The spirit, who served as witness for the deal, said that either Tonin and the Devil reached for an agreement on which meaning the word "arma" would be employed for the deal, or the deal would be null and void. Unable to convince the Devil to taking anything from him as a "weapon", Tonin agreed to offer his soul.
    • In Tonin - A Saga Final, a witch tried to avoid a witch hunter by magically disguising her appearance but he saw through her disguise and offered her a deal: if she taught him how to disguise himself, he'd leave her alive somewhere nobody would lay their hands at her. After she fulfilled her end of the bargain, he left her alive, but tied at a stake where nobody would lay anything other than fire.
    • Also, hoping to have the same near-invulnerability his father won in the deal from the first season, Vilano Segundo (Vilano the Second) sought the same oracle, who had him play a cheese eating contest against The Chosen One. If Overlord Jr. wins, he'll gain said near invulnerability; if he loses, he loses his life. Being somewhat of a Chaotic Neutral and considering the villain was alone while The Hero had lots of friends in the place where the contest was held, the oracle granted the villain temporary protection from harm until the contest was over. The oracle also ruled that the first contestant whose pile of cheese was eaten would be the winner; no cheese could be wasted; no cheese could be vomited; there was no time limit; and the villain would win by default if he had no opponents. The Hero shared his cheese with his friends because shared food isn't wasted food and there was no rule saying who had to eat his cheese. The villain then stabbed The Hero to death to invoke the win by lack of opponent rule because there was no rule saying he couldn't kill the opponent. Beause of the oracle's protection, nobody could kill the villain until the contest was over. Once the villain was declared the winner and the oracle declared the contest over, one of the good guys killed the villain before the oracle granted the powers. (The protection being over once the contest was over) Nobody mentioned it in the series but, since the powers came with vulnerability to cheese, the hero's friends could have hit the villain with the remaining cheese if the villain had been granted the powers.
  • In episode 4 of Charlie the Unicorn, the pink and blue unicorns who antagonize Charlie promise him that if he enters the cavern on the moon, they’ll never bother him again. Because they're going to blow it up.
  • In episode 24 of Dr. Crafty, Sarah Sanderson from Hocus Pocus say that the sisters would love to have co-host Nurse Worse for dinner. They mean this literally as a few seconds after being resurrected, they eagerly surround Nurse commenting on how "plump and juicy" she is and saying she'll keep them fed for centuries. The Sanderson Sisters lean in to eat Nurse like a trio of hyenas on a zebra and would've actually consumed Nurse had Dr. Crafty not intervened.
  • Spooky Month: In "The Stars", Skid and Pump break into Susie's room and use her computer before she barges in and finds them. Skid shouts 'Let's get the hell outta here!', to which Pump steals Susie's homework, a scale model of the gates to Hell, before both jump out the window.

    Web Original 
  • Bastard Operator from Hell:
    • If you ask the BOFH for more disk space, he'll give it to you — by deleting all your files. And that's nothing compared to what he does with his contract. It got "numerous strange clauses", including one about UFO sighting in the vicinity of the building... which he successfully used... more than once.
    • And don't tell the PFY to "fire her up" when you want him to start a computer; you'll be calling the emergency line soon after.
  • On his Bad Gods website, Lore Sjöberg had skits about a radio station that plays nothing but R.E.M.'s Stand. One of them had the DJ excitedly announce that The Pussycat Dolls had just released a cover of the song, and they had a copy, but since they play nothing but REM's Stand, he played that instead.
  • An April Fools' Day article about Magic: The Gathering detailed a supposed ultimate deck that "never allows your opponent to deal lethal damage" and "ends games quickly". It actually consisted entirely of ways to trigger a "you automatically lose" condition.
  • The New Hansel and Gretel: Much like most Faustian Bargians, Mathair puts the specific things she offered them as part of the deal, though not all of it was as intended.
    • In Jamie's case, she wanted her own private bathroom.
      Mathair: You did want this house because you wanted your own bathroom, darling. Well, now you've got it,... It's a very private place for you to go potty in... Until it isn't.
    • One of the things Jack liked about getting the house was access to a pinball machine. In the brief time Jack and Jamie are allowed to be more "grown-up" (being able to walk and talk), he tries killing time by playing with it.
    • While Mathair agreed to set Jack and Jamie free if they won their bet, she never said anything about undoing the various enchantments that gives them the bodily autonomy of adults. Winning would mean that they would be a pair of adult babies out on the streets without her to care for them. It is this that makes Jamie give in, Jack only submitting to stay with her.
  • In The Questport Chronicles, the Fellowship forces a demon to swear that he will lead them to a specific place. They neglect to make him promise to bring them back...
  • SCP Foundation:
    • SCP-810 is a lamp with the inscription "Ask what you will, and you shall never want for it." If (for example) you ask for "food", rather than ensuring you never run out of food, you'll never again desire food, and will thus starve to death without realizing it.
    • Then there's SCP-294, a drinks dispenser that dispenses any liquid you ask it for. It was considered completely harmless until someone ordered a "cup of joe", and a security guard collapsed. Upon further inspection, it turned out he was missing about a cup of blood, tissue and various bodily fluids, all of which could be found dispensed into a cup by the machine. And that his name was "Joe".
  • In Shamus plays World of Warcraft, Norman is a warlock who tries to be Lawful Good. When called upon to "slaughter a virgin" as part of his induction into the Warlock Union, he buys a virgin sheep and pays a butcher to slaughter it for him.
  • Skippy's List has examples:
    33. Not allowed to chew gum at formation, unless I brought enough for everybody.
    34. (Next day) Not allowed to chew gum at formation even if I did bring enough for everybody.
    48. I may not use public masturbation as a tool to demonstrate a flaw in a command decision.
    55. An order to "Put Kiwi on my boots" does *not* involve fruit.
    56. An order to "Make my Boots black and shiny" does not involve electrical tape.
    135. An order to put polish on my boots means the whole boot.
    124. Two drink limit does not mean first and last.
    125. Two drink limit does not mean two kinds of drinks.
    126. Two drink limit does not mean the drinks can be as large as I like.
    127. "No Drinking Of Alcoholic Beverages" does not imply that a Jack Daniel's ® IV is acceptable.
  • This is common when it comes to requests on Songs to Wear Pants To. Andrew will often take poorly thought-out or silly requests and do this to them. For example, one person offered some lyrics and asked for them to be recorded, "not necessarily in this order." This was the result.
  • In Thalia's Musings, Aphrodite's blessing on the Pythian Games: "To whichever two among the gods and goddesses here whom the Fates will choose, may you each meet your true love at the Pythian Games." Thalia knows that if she or Apollo is chosen, they won't end up together since they've already met. The first to be chosen is Aphrodite's own son Eros, who finds love at first sight with Psyche. The second is Hephaestus, Aphrodite's husband, who meets Aglaea. Aphrodite is more than happy to let him go.
  • In The Tim Tebow CFL Chronicles, this comes up when interpreting the rules of Canadian football:
    • You can't ground the ball to end the play if you aren't on the ground. Which means there's no way to end a play (and conversely, nothing to stop opponents from trying to "force a fumble") if the carrier is in the third story of a house, or in water, or on a ship.
    • In Greenland, Tebow uses a catapult to "throw" the ball over the horizon, based on a vague promise that there's an Argonaut over there to catch it.
      Schooner: Are you allowed to throw it if there isn't an intended receiver?
      Tebow: Sure there is. I intend for there to be a receiver.
  • TV Tropes: On the page for Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing, the description of the game says that it "features never-before-seen freedom", which it does indeed: there is no collision detection (in other words, you can go through any object except the ground), and no angle detection (allowing you to drive vertically), and the game allows the player to freely drive straight off the map and into an infinite void.
  • This is an April Fool's Day tradition on Wikipedia — the "Did you know?" section of the front page on April 1st contains a bunch of misleading but true facts, with the misleading nature of the assertions revealed if you click on the relevant link. One year, for example, it claimed that "The Australian government requires high-risk sex workers to wear full-face respirators"; clicking on the word "sex" revealed that they were actually referring to the chemical sodium ethyl xanthate, which is indeed a respiratory hazard.
  • A writer posted a list of musicians who were in great bands but had terrible solo careers. He invoked this trope to justify including Paul McCartney on the list, pointing out that technically Wings counted as a band.

    Web Videos 
  • A long-standing gag of The Angry Video Game Nerd is that the video game of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the worst video game ever made, yet he's long-since played much worse ones like Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing and Plumbers Don't Wear Ties. He's since justified this with the Shit Scale, which categorizes the badness of video games. Jekyll and Hyde makes up the second-worse category all by itself while everything that's worse falls into the "so bad it doesn't even count as a game" category; as anything worse than Jekyll and Hyde no longer counts as a game, it makes Jekyll and Hyde the worst video game ever made.
    Nerd: When ranking terrible games, there's usually a certain level of playability. Even though I maintain Jekyll and Hyde is the worst game I've ever played, there's still that unholy category that lies underneath; games that can't even be called games.
  • After the Asian Jake Paul diss track that was directed at the infamous Ricegum, Boyinaband said that he was going to apologize for the venomous comments that resulted from his insults in the song, even going to do so in person. It turns out that the guy he's apologizing to is Casey Neistat for a throwaway line in the disstrack that was still meant to insult Ricegum anyways The Line in Question , and Ricegum is still an acceptable target for him because of all the other stuff he's done.
  • Channel Awesome:
  • Chuggaaconroy once stated that he would never Let's Play Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Galaxy due to those games being overrated and Let's Played a lot. Since then, he has Let's Played Super Mario 64 DS and Super Luigi Galaxy. (And he fudged a bit on that first one too, by including parts of the original game whenever an original star was removed in the remake.)
  • Critical Role: Garmelie wants "a piece of a Syngorn threshold crest", meaning a fragment of the magical devices that allows the whole city to travel between the Material Plane and the Feywild, but never explicitly specifying it as such. What Percy gives him is a piece of a crest which Keyleth molded out of the threshold of the door to their guest room in Syngorn, using the Stone Shape spell. Much to Garmelie's dismay, he has to accept this deal as fulfilled.
  • In Danganronpa Abridged Thing, Monobear promises the class that if a murder occurs, the class will get to see pictures of what Sayaka Maizono looks like under "those clothes", meaning her "idol outfit." A murder does occur, but the murderer is caught before the photos can be released to the class. We do get to see a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shot of what the pictures look like, though: they're just Sayaka in her school outfit under those clothes...because the idol outfit is on her head, meaning she is literally under those clothes.
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
    • When Gohan, Krillin, and Dende use Porunga to revive Piccolo and bring him to Namek, he ends up a good distance away, just like in the anime. Dende actually lampshades it.
      Dende: He is on Namek.
      Gohan: Wait, where is he?
      Dende: On Namek.
      Piccolo: [in the distance] You dumbass!
      Krillin: Why didn't it bring him here?
      Dende: You must be specific.
      Gohan: Oh, so it's a sort of monkey's paw. You have to be careful with the hubris in your wishes.
      Piccolo: [still in the distance] NEEEEEEEERRRRDDD!
    • A few episodes later, Vegeta tells Krillin to almost kill him (since Saiyans get stronger on the brink of death) so that he can fight more evenly with Freeza. Krillin then asks if there will be any repercussions.
      Vegeta: ...I won't punch you.
      Krillin: Oddly specific.
    • This trope is also used to revive Nappa at the end of Season 2. Popo has Shenron revive everyone who was killed by Freeza and his men. Because Vegeta was still working for Freeza when he killed Nappa, that means Nappa gets to come Back from the Dead, much to Vegeta's annoyance.
    • When a confused and frustrated Semi-Perfect Cell demands to know how Vegeta has gotten so much stronger, Vegeta smugly responds that "I trained all day yesterday." This really is what Vegeta did to get stronger, but he leaves out the fact that he did this training in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber.
    • It's also used the other way once Cell has been killed; Yamcha wishes for everyone on Earth that was killed by Cell to be revived. That ends up excluding everyone that got killed when Cell blew up King Kai's planet, with the latter being quite upset about it.
      King Kai: Yeah, thanks for specifying "on Earth", by the way! YAMCHA! YOU ASSHOLE!
  • Dream:
    • At the start of every Minecraft Manhunt video, Dream says, "If I beat the Ender Dragon, I win." This comes into play at the end of "Minecraft Speedrunner VS Hunter (Again)", where Dream kills the dragon but George kills him before he can enter the overworld portal- Dream successfully argued that he won, as the rules state he only has to kill the dragon before he dies, not enter the portal. It also comes into play at the end of "Minecraft Speedrunner VS 3 Hunters Rematch", where Dream kills the Ender Dragon a second before the hunters kill him, barely giving him the win.
    • At the end of "Minecraft Speedrunner VS 3 Hunters FINALE REMATCH," Dream complies to BadBoyHalo's request to come down, but Bad didn't say not to attack him; so Dream did.
      BadBoyHalo: Come down here please.
      [Dream comes down and attacks him.]
      Bad: Ooh! He came down!
  • Dream SMP: Jschlatt orders Technoblade to "take out" Tubbo at the Manburg Festival. Although Techno ends up following through with this order, he delays by asking whether Schlatt wants him to take him out for a fancy dinner.* JonTron released a trailer stating that Jontron's StarCade Episode 1 would be released on May 9th. The episode was released... On the last possible second before May 10th.
  • When the Game Grumps are mocking Gubble, with Arin talking it up as if it's some epic and deep difficult gaming experience with Danny not buying it for a second, we get this.
    Danny: Oh, so it just sort of does it on its own, huh? Oh, so it's Pac-Man!
    Arin: Yeah! Not as easy as it looks, is it?
    Danny: It's actually easier than it looks.
  • Tokusatsu fan Marcosatsu posted a video titled Kamen Rider Wizard- Life is Showtime (Extended). It was extended alright — three lines were the only thing repeated in the video for over 10 Hours.
  • The Mark Remark: Fans asked him to stop having to take a pee break instead of actually talking about the women's matches. So Martin makes sure the next time not to eat or drink anything for days before recording, which just makes him pass out.
  • Meta Ball Studios: The "DRAGONS Size Comparison" video features size comparisons of many literal dragons — and the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft as a "reference".
  • PewDiePie caused an uproar when, as his channel was nearing the 50 million subscriber milestone, he released a video announcing to his viewers that he "would delete his Youtube channel once pewdiepie hits 50 million", grabbing widespread media attention. True to his word, once he passed the 50 million mark he did delete his channel... his secondary channel "Jacksepticeye2", which was a fairly new, seldom used joke channel which saw comparatively little attention. This stunt especially earned the ire of all the trolls and detractors who had subscribed to him at this point just to force him to quit.
  • Rooster Teeth:
    • In Episode 61 of the "Let's Play Minecraft", Ryan had captured a cow in the bottom of his dirt house and named him Edgar after an incident lead him to losing a game. Flash forward six episodes and Michael covertly frees Edgar and Geoff unwittingly kills the cow. Ryan finds the damage, hunts down another cow and puts him in the hole, leading to Michael freaking out over his victory being rendered null. As he tries to point out that the cow he lured in probably isn't the real Edgar, Ryan responds "No, no, you don't understand. Edgar is the one in the hole.", meaning that it doesn't matter how many cows anyone frees, the one in that hole will always be Edgar.
    • In the Rooster Teeth Shorts episode "Sex Dogs, Sex Dogs", Matt notices that in the background Chris has forgotten to hide a photo of dogs having sex. He requests that Chris pay attention to the full frame, which he agrees to. Chris being Chris, however, he moves the dogs into the foreground, increases the size of the picture and blurs Burnie out. When Matt returns to point out the new problem, he requests that the photo focuses on the subject, so Chris focuses on the dogs having sex (mistakenly believing them to be the subject) and not Burnie. When he has that error called out and is told to focus on Burnie, he dresses Burnie up in a dog suit for the next photo, making him cry in the process, and points out he did exactly what he was told by making people's eyes go right to Burnie, albeit for the worst possible reasons. This last one is enough to get him fired by Matt, who is by this point exasperated.
  • Yogscast:
    • In an episode of the series YogNews, Turpster is busy boasting that with Strippin no longer working at Yogtowers, he is the strongest man in the office. He then struggles to open a simple water bottle, which Kim Richards opens with ease. His response?
      Turps: Goddammit, Kim, I said strongest man. Not strongest wo-man. Can't compete with women. Their boob strength.
    • During the first playthrough of Trouble in Terrorist Town, the common "spell the word innocent backwards" test is put to use note . Simon Lane gets challenged to do it by Hat Films, and says "I-N-N-O-C-E-N-T B-A-C-K-W-A-R-D-S". This gets him killed. He was a traitor, and the round ends.
  • YouTube is Going to Be Fine in 2020, which despite going over YouTube's vague and shady policies growing worse day by day, isn't sarcastically titled. YouTube the corporation will be fine in 2020 and isn't going anywhere no matter how many fuck ups, terrible policies, and acts of censorship they can and will keep doing.


The Professor Must Pay

The girls failed Him's challenge and now the Professor must pay...

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / ExactWords

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