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Exactly What I Meant to Say

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Shadow: Scourge. Get to your feet and I'll kill you.
Sonic: [coughs] Shads... it's "or". Or I'll kill you.

The verbal equivalent of Exactly What I Aimed At, this is when a character deliberately says one thing, and is mistaken for having meant to say another thing. Cue another character wrongfully "correcting" them.

Often used as a rebuttal to I Heard That and I'm Standing Right Here by more shameless characters towards their insultee.

A sub-variety of this is things that are mistaken for misspellings or mispronunciations, but these aren't the only cases.


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  • Anna Russell, "How to Write Your Own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera":
    "As you know, you always have to start with a homogenous chorus. I know a lot of people are going to say that isn't homogenous, that's homogeneous. But that isn't what I mean: I mean homogenous, as in milk."

    Comic Books 
  • In Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #128 (collected in The Ring, the Arrow and the Bat), the Goo-Goo-Godlike religious leader of a Fictional Country tells a treacherous general that he will be "safed". The general corrects his pronunciation of "saved", but the boy insists that's what he meant. Five minutes later, the general is hit by a falling safe.

    Comic Strips 
  • In this 1960s strip from Peanuts, Snoopy's trick of flying using his ears as helicopter blades is introduced this way.
    Linus: That's the first time in my life I've ever seen a whirlydog!
    Lucy: Not whirlydog... whirlybird!
    [Snoopy zooms by; Lucy looks shocked]
    Linus: I think if I had meant whirlybird, I would have said whirlybird!

    Fan Works 
  • Used in one of the moments of Black Comedy in Dark Fic Prison Island Break by the psychotically angry Shadow the Hedgehog.
    Shadow: Scourge. Get to your feet and I'll kill you.
    Sonic: [coughs] Shads... it's "or". Or I'll kill you.
    Shadow: I KNOW WHAT I SAID!
  • In The AFR Universe story "Boys and Queens", Ryuji and Haru are texting each other. When Haru recounts the time she was punched by their ally Makoto while she was Brainwashed and Crazy, she recalls how painful and terrifying it was and says she would wish that on her worst enemy.
    Ryuji: You mean "wouldn't" wish it on your worst enemy, right?
    Haru: That was not a typo, Ryuji-kun.
  • Harry Potter Fanfics:
    • In This Means War several of Harry's friends terrify Pansy to the point where she pees her pants.
      Blaise: Thanks to our wonderful actress here, she fell for it hook, line, and stinker.
      Padma: Don't you mean sinker?
      Blaise: I said what I meant.
    • In Red and Yellow Draco is unable to take no for an answer.
      Harry: Out of my way.
      Hannah: No. Not till you tell me what you are going to do.
      Harry: Obliterate him.
      Hannah: Don't you mean Obliviate?
      Harry: I said what I meant.
    • Harry Potter and the Quantum Leap:
      Harry: Now, I want to speak to Dumbledore. He's really getting on my pecs with his behavior, and I want it to stop. Would you please escort me so I don't explode him?
      McGonagall: Don't you mean, "explode at him"?
      Harry: If that's what you wanna think, Professor, don't let me stop you, but I'd prepare to cast Scourgifynote  just in case.
    • Play to Your Strengths:
      Goblin warrior: [Dumbledore] actually tried that with your King many years ago. He tried to tell our King which goblin maiden to pick. Our King was not pleased. It was almost the start of another Goblin/Wizard War. Luckily your grandfather, Mr. Potter, cast a silencing spell on him and informed our King that Dumbledore was a stupid child who had delusions of adequacy.
      Hermione: Don't you mean delusions of grandeur?
      Goblin warrior: I meant what I said, human.
    • His Darkest Devotion:
      Minister Riddle: You are afraid that you might have to give up the precious illusions that you've been clinging to. That only your soulmate and your family could ever love or care for you. That someone might value your magical power and still see you as a person. You'd have to start living up to your potential instead of crouching here in a kind of living death. It's been so easy, hasn't it, to dim yourself down—
      Harry: You mean dumb yourself down—
      Minister Riddle: I said what I meant. You've dimmed that light that could have shone from you, and basically decided that since fate's paired you with someone who didn't want you, that means you can't have anyone at all. Not conservative or traditional. Cowardly, Harry.
    • The New-Minted Coin of the Soul:
      Draco: We'll find the spots. The ones that make you dance on the bed, the ones that make you cry for us.
      Harry: Cry out for you, you mean.
      Draco: No, I think I meant what I said.
    • In Across the Time Fred, George and Lee discuss the chances of Ludo Bagman being in Hogsmeade during the next visit.
      George: Well, he should be. He's one of the Triwizard Tournament committee members. I guess it's payback time and I mean it literally.
      Hermione: Literally? Don't you mean figuratively?
      George: No. Literally. As in he needs to pay us back our money he owes us.
    • Harry Potter and the Rune Stone Path:
      Fleur: If we progress far enough fast enough, then perhaps we can work on improving your ability to function while on fire.
      Harry: Err, Fleur, please tell me you mean "under" fire and not "on" fire.
      Fleur: Why, Harry, I thought you realized that I explained how the Veela flame works for a reason.
    • Trickshot:
      Lisa: Are you okay Harry?
      Harry: Why do you ask?
      Lisa: Because you're acting a bit... I don't know... fishy?
      Harry: Fine, I am acting fishy, so sushi.
      Lisa: You mean "sue me"?
      Harry: I meant what I said.
    • In Harry Potter and Defeating Dark Lords, Inc. Fred and George show Hermione their plans for an anti-Inferi weapon and she tries to correct their apparent misspelling of "cannonballs".
      George: 'Canon' is the law or rule written down that is followed. You see. Inferi? They're not alive, they are supposed to be dead. So, we're going to use these to make them follow the rules of being dead.
    • In Letters From No One the Ministry is having a problem with animated doorknobs which need to be kissed in order to settle down. Harry and Ron's has duplicated itself and neither of them is in the mood to kiss either knob. Then the intern comes over with some coffee.
      Brian: Here you go, Auror Potter! Auror Weasley.
      Harry: Thanks, Brian. Would you be able to help us with a kiss today?
      Brian: You mean a case?
      Harry: Nope.
    • In The Art of Being Harry Harry asks some card players in a painting if they're images of real people.
      First player: Oh, no, not us lads. We've always been here and just here. An' happy for it, too!
      Second player: Aye, we're just pigments of some overactive imagination, we are!
      Third player: Oh, don't listen to him, he meant figments...
      Second player: No, you buffoon, I meant what I said –
    • Like Tenfold Shields:
      Sirius: Er, right. Um, Doctor Russell, the reason that I have a Godfather bond is because I took the Godfather Oath on the day of Harry's birth, after James recovered and Lily was ready.
      Robbie: After James... don't you have them mixed up? Wouldn't the mother have to recover from childbirth?
      Sirius: I meant what I said. James fainted twice. Lily nearly broke my hand the second time but bounced back a little quicker than he did.
    • Harry's Enemies List:
      Hogwarts to Remain Closed until New Year

      With the support of Minister Diggory, Headmistress McGonagall announced today that Hogwarts will remain closed until after the new year.

      "We have several staff to replace with short notice and plans to make that will provide our students with the instruction needed to make up for the lost time with the interruptions of this past fall. Hogwarts is a school – it will no longer host deadly tournaments, Death Eaters or Dork Lords."

      When asked about her pronunciation, McGonagall repeated her words, "Yes, I said 'Dork Lords'. No more at Hogwarts!"
    • Harry Potter's Secret Weapon:
      Harry: Will you do the honor of joining me in whatever mad adventure Mad-eye has planned?
      Moody: A Harry Potter official adventure? Aye, that's what this is. And will no doubt involve a treasure hunt and fighting a mad Kreacher.
      Hermione: Don't you mean facing vicious creatures?
      Harry: Oh, likely that too. Let's go.
  • Past Sins: At the end, when talking about Spell Nexus, calling him a drama queen instead of a drama king:
    [Spell Nexus] can be such a drama queen at times.”
    “Don’t you mean ‘king’?”
    “No, queen,” Celestia corrected with a small grin. “Don’t tell anypony else, but he has a very high-pitched scream.”

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Iron Man 3, after Tony reboots JARVIS, JARVIS reports that "I seem to do quite well for a stretch and then at the end of the sentence I say the wrong cranberry." As a result, when he tells Tony a few minutes later that the Mandarin is in Miami as opposed to somewhere more exotic, Tony has trouble believing him. But no, he actually did mean Miami.

  • "I had a box of sordid chocolates the other day."
    "Don't you mean assorted?"
    "No, they were all the same, and absolutely vile."

  • In the novel Freaky Friday, Annabel's friend Boris has problems breathing through his nose, and when he offers to "bake a beetloaf" for dinner, she assumes he means "make a meatloaf". He doesn't. (Also, his name is actually Morris, but that's a case of Annabel failing to correct for his pronunciation.)
  • In "The Singing Bell" by Isaac Asimov, a police officer claims that he cannot prove the suspect's guilt because he has no alibi. Not because he has one, but because he doesn't. A document or witness can be suspected of being false, but when a person is simply known to live in complete isolation for a month every year, what reason is there to assume this year was different?
  • In Jingo, Sergeant Colon, Corporal Nobbs, Leonard of Quirm and Lord Vetinari are flying across Klatch on a flying carpet. Colon is not happy with this:
    Colon: It's not natural, just a bit of broadloom between you and certain splash.
    Vetinari: We're not over water, sergeant.
    Colon: I know what I meant, sir!

    Live-Action TV 
  • Mr. Rumbold from Are You Being Served? would sometimes get the wrong idea of a word. For example the sales staff had the verb "to knee" meaning "press one's knee in the armhole of a suit to loosen a few threads so as to make it fit the customer better." Thus creating this exchange:
    Mr. Lucas: You see, it was like this, you see, Sir. Erm, Mr. Humphries kneed the jacket.
    Mr. Rumbold: Ah! You mean, Mr. Humphries needed the jacket. Let's get our tenses right.
    Mr. Humphries: No, no, you don't understand, Sir. You see, I kneed the jacket.
    Mr. Rumbold: You need it now?
    Mr. Humphries: No, I kneed it then.
    Mr. Rumbold: You mean, you needed it then.
    Captain Peacock: If I might clarify the situation, Sir.
    Mr. Rumbold: Thank you, Captain Peacock. It does seem to have got rather out of hand.
    Captain Peacock: Yes. It's a matter of spelling, Sir.
    Mr. Rumbold: Spelling?
    Captain Peacock: Yes Sir. You spelled kneed with an N. Mr. Humphries was using a K.
    Mr. Rumbold: Oh, you mean like kneading dough? Is that it, Mr. Lucas?
    Mr. Lucas: Yes, that's it. I needed the dough, but he didn't want the jacket because it was too tight.
    Mr. Rumbold: So you kneaded it to make it more supple, which was why you needed the jacket, you may recall Captain Peacock. That is what I said in the first place.
    Captain Peacock: Nearly right, Sir, yes. But what they're trying to explain, Sir, is that, erm... and coming from Hardware, you would not be aware of this, but there is a method used, and I disapprove of it myself, Sir. There is a method used to enlarge the arm holes of jackets, and the method used is to knee the jacket... with a K.
    Mr. Rumbold: I am aware of how you spell jacket, Captain Peacock.
  • On Cheers Norm's favorite restaurant is the Hungry Heifer, which specializes in cheap food. One time he got Cliff to go with him.
    Norm: Cliffy had himself the "Ton O' T-Bone". For less than four bucks you get 24 ounces of USDA Choice bef.
    Cliff: Bef? No, you mean beef.
    Norm: Beef? Don't be ridiculous, Cliffy. That stuff is bef. You see it's a Hungry Heifer trademark for a processed, synthetic, meat-like substance.
    Cliff: Ah, no.
    Norm: What do you expect for four bucks? You see me complainin' about the loobster?
  • In Green Acres ("It's Human to Be Humane"), Lisa asks Oliver to play "Scribble, Cabbage, or Monotony", and he assumes it's one of her malapropisms Later, Mr. Drucker tries to sell him those same games, which apparently do exist in Hooterville.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus:
    • There is a sketch involving a man who cannot pronounce the letter 'C' (his 'C's coming out as 'B's) that includes this exchange:
      Tourist: Yes I'm sorry I can't say the letter 'B'
      Bounder: C?
      Tourist: Yes that's right. It's all due to a trauma I suffered when I was a sboolboy. I was attacked by a bat.
      Bounder: A cat?
      Tourist: No, a bat.
    • Another Monty Python example is a sketch about a person who sometimes ends his sentences with the wrong fusebox.
      Burrows: It's so embarrassing when my wife and I go to an orgy.
      Thripshaw: A party?
      Burrows: No, an orgy. We live in Esher.
      Thripshaw: Quite.
  • Dramatic version in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Deadly Years", when Kirk, whose forced, space-disease-imposed aging had imposed progressive senility, returns to the bridge supposedly all better; then he orders Uhura to send a message in a code Uhura knows to be compromised, a fact of which Uhura has had to remind Kirk earlier in the episode, much to his chagrin. But when she questions him this time, Kirk affirms that he meant what he had said. He then dictates a message that he actually wants the enemy to hear.
  • A harsh but funny version on The Office (US):
    Kelly: I want a June wedding. I've always wanted one. Ryan, do you know when you would want to get married?
    Ryan: Actually, I don't see myself ever getting married.
    Kelly: Oh.
    Pam: Ryan, you should be more sensitive. It's obvious she likes you and comments like that, they just...
    Ryan: I know what I said.
  • Ron Swanson of Parks and Recreation rephrases himself to his server before he can fall victim to this trope:
    Ron Swanson: Just give me all the bacon and eggs you have. Wait! Wait. I worry what you just heard was, "give me a lot of bacon and eggs." What I said was, give me all... the bacon and eggs... you have. Do you understand?
  • Happens in the first season of Modern Family when Claire was revealed to have insulted Gloria. Gloria, whose native language is Spanish, says Claire can make up for it by jumping in the pool. Claire assumes she means the expression "go jump in a lake", but Gloria meant exactly what she said: she wanted Claire to jump in the pool with her clothes on, embarrassing herself like Gloria had been embarrassed.

  • Composers occasionally write footnotes in their scores to indicate that a particular note, with or without an accidental, should not be considered accidental. False relation is a typical cause of this.

    Web Comics 
  • In The Order of the Stick, during Roy's duel with Thog in the arena:
    Roy: I don't care how strong you are, thug.
    Thog: thog's name is thog.
    Roy: I didn't misspeak.
  • xkcd:
    • "My hobby: Using the more obscure meanings of 'affect' and 'effect' to trip up amateur Grammar Nazis."
    • Black Hat Guy "pleads the third."
      Interrogator: You mean the fifth?
      Black Hat Guy: No, the third.
      Interrogator: You refuse to quarter troops in your house?
      Black Hat Guy: I have few principles, but I stick by them.
    • "I could care less": rather than using the usual meaning of the phrase, even though the words themselves indicate the opposite, the speaker literally means she does care a little bit.
      Alt Text: I could literally care less.
  • This page of Monster Soup.
    The Ferry Man: Damn mermaids. I lost a testicle to them last year.
    Jacklyn: Don't you mean "tentacle"?
    The Ferry Man: Why would I worry about losing a tentacle? Those things grow back.
  • The Handbook of Heroes: From "Tools", when talking about Mercy, a Named Weapon:
    Paladin: Repent, or receive mercy.
    Villain: Don't you mean 'and' receive mercy?
    Inquisitor: Nope.

    Web Videos 
  • In the Dragon Ball Z Abridged movie "Cooler 2: the Return of Cooler's Revenge - The Rekoning", the Z Fighters are confronted by Cooler once again, whom Goku still mistakes for Freeza.
    Goku: So, you return once again, Freezer.
    Gohan: Cooler.
    Goku: Cooler.
    Cooler: Yes, I have returned, dumbass.
    Goku: Goku.
    Cooler: Dumbass.
  • Sword Art Online Abridged has an exchange when a roleplaying Leafa introduces herself to a Spriggan she just met.
    Leafa: My name is Princess Leafa, heir to the throne of Sylvain, pleased to make my acquaintance!
    Kirito: Don't you mean "your?"
    Leafa: I know what I said. ...Well? Bow!

    Western Animation 
  • From The Simpsons:
    Bart: Because I like you, I'll even do it pro-boner.
    Skinner: You mean, "pro bono".
    Bart: I know what I said.
  • Danger Mouse:
    • From an episode:
      Colonel K: Danger Mouse! Wales is being devastated by a giant fire-breathing dragon!
      Penfold: No, no, Colonel, it's "whales are being devastated."
    • The villiains got in on that act too:
      Stiletto: I've given him his new destructions.
      Greenback: Don't you mean instructions?
      Stiletto: I know what I meant, Baroni.
  • In Family Guy:
    • When Brian checks out Quagmire’s RV before a trip:
      Brian: "Quagmire's Cross-Country Tour." Wait, isn't "country" supposed to have an "o" in it?
      Quagmire: Nope!
    • In another episode, Peter mentions that he’s looking forward to "phone sax" with Lois. No, he did not mean "phone sex".
  • From He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2021):
    Beast Man: Give Beast Man the king in the cage and everyone gets hurt.
    Sorceress: Don't you mean, "no one gets hurt"?
    Beast Man: Beast Man wasn't negotiating! He was stating intent!
  • From Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo:
    Scrappy: Professor Spaulding, eh? I bet that's an alien!
    Velma: You mean an alias?
    Scrappy: Nope! I mean alien! Like in Star Creature!
  • From Rocky and Bullwinkle, Boris sounds like he's using his usual Poirot Speak pronunciation when he suggests they beat Bullwinkle with "stragedy," but:
    Natasha: You mean "strategy", darling.
    Boris: No, stragedy! I'm going to stretch the rope across the door and fasten the end to trigger on the shotgun, and when moose comes out the door, what is it?
    Both together: Is tragedy!
  • In The Fairly OddParents! episode "A Wish Too Far":
    Wanda: We're in Fairy Court, and Jorgen von Strangle is the persecutor!
    Timmy: Don’t you mean prosecutor?
    Wanda: No!

    Real Life 
  • Real life: Tell someone that an anime was macekered and sometimes they'll say, "Don't you mean massacred?"
  • Stage critic George Jean Nathan belittled Tallulah Bankhead for her performance in what he called Queen of the Nil: "No 'e', please, Mr. Printer; don't make something out of nothing."note 
  • Saying an actual quote instead of the Beam Me Up, Scotty! version of it could get this reaction.