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Hint Dropping

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Edmund: Yes. It might be wise to appoint a new Lord, to make sure the old Lords vote the right way.
Prince George: Good Lord...any idea who?
Edmund: Well, sir, one name does leap to mind.
Prince George: Does it?
Edmund: Yes, sir.
Prince George: (long pause) You couldn't make it leap any higher, could you?
Blackadder the Third

Whenever a woman wants something from the significant man in her life, she will usually tell him. Not directly, mind you; in true passive-aggressive spirit she will drop vague and subtle (or not-so-subtle) hints here and there (often in unrelated occasions), expecting he will put the pieces together himself.

Such hints almost never work. The man won't take the hints (heck, he may not even notice the hints), and the woman will end up furious at him for it. And, more often than not, since she is often wiser and he is most likely a Bumbling Dad, the writer will expect the viewer to take her side, seeing him as insensitive and clueless and her as blameless.

This can be Truth in Television, seeing as women who are forward and direct in their advances tend to be frowned upon, but TV (especially Sit Coms, where the trope is quite popular) highly exaggerates the phenomenon. One would expect a man who's lived with a woman for umpteen years to be able to read her hints with at least some degree of accuracy; but this never carries over into fiction. Nor does said fictional woman ever just speak directly about what's on her mind.

Further, despite the gender slant of this entry, both women and men are subject to this trope. Fiction, however, tends to show us more women than men dropping such hints.

Naturally, with this trope nobody dropping hints ever thinks that the recipient got the hint and merely disagrees with it. Additionally, it is a little bit odd to blame the recipient of a piece of communication for not understanding the communicator's message; one shouldn't criticise a German, after all, for not understanding French. (Now, English, of course is spoken all over the universe!)

A subtrope of Cannot Spit It Out; this is where the character will not spit it out. If the other person actually gets the hint, it's Glad You Thought of It. This is itself a supertrope to Prompting Nudge. Also see Secret Message Wink.


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  • A car insurance ad in Australia for a company called AAMI (pronounced 'Amy') features a woman called Amy in a jewelery store talking directly to the camera, giving a message to "my man Todd". She turns on a CD player that starts playing the bridal march. She talks about how much AAMI could save him on his car insurance and 'who knows what he could do with the money he saves'. She ostentatiously droops her hand forward to display an engagement ring (with the price tag still attached) and pointedly tells Todd to "give AAMI a ring" as the phone number flashes up.
    • A follow-up ad had the now married Amy standing in a travel agency, complaining the cheapness of the honeymoon and waving a brochure for Paris.

  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Asuka Langley Sohryu is drawn to Shinji Ikari. However; her psychological hang-ups, means that she cannot just spit it out because she is frightened of opening up and getting hurt again. So she occasionally — and clumsily — drops hints (the "Wall of Jericho" scene, shoving her breasts on his face, the kiss scene...). Unfortunately Shinji is too meek and just as socially inept and frightened of other people as her, so he never realizes her hints are... well, hints, even if he liked her back, and his obliviousness leads to Asuka getting increasingly furious, upset and depressed, which in turn makes him upset and depressed. Cue both breaking down.
  • Time and time again in Pokémon: The Series where a girl would express blatant interest in Ash, but he always fails to notice. Misty tried it at least once or twice, Macey (one of Ash's opponents in the Johto League) is not even trying to be subtle about her declarations of love, and Serena, repeatedly (she tried it twice in her first episode together with him, and the count only keeps going up from there). Eventually, Serena throws out the subtly and go for the broke with a kiss for Ash.

    Comic Strips 
  • Zits:
    Jeremy: Some people are going to a movie tonight... Wanna go?
    Sara: I can't. I'm babysitting.
    Jeremy: Oh.
    Sara: Until midnight. By myself. At 6539 Windmill Lane. It's a light gray house. With a big comfy couch and a kid who goes to sleep at 8.
    Jeremy: So you're busy then, huh?
    Sara: [thinking] Sara, he's a GUY... You have to be more obvious.

    Fan Works 
  • A Crown of Stars:
    • Throughout the story several characters point Shinji out that Asuka had dropped several hints at his direction. Their explanations usually are followed by Shinji face-palming and groaning at being clueless and oblivious. Later Shinji and Asuka often wonder if their lives could have gone differently if he had got her hints or she had been more straight-forward.
      'I'm starting to really like the feeling of a warm body keeping me company in bed while sweat cools on my skin. Too bad Baka-Shinji didn't catch my 'Walls of Jericho' hint. This would have made synch training a lot more fun… we could have had more days like this.'
    • During a conversation Hikari reveals Touji she liked him and had dropped several hints. He admitted that he was figuring it out and he was thinking of talking to her about it when the Bardiel accident happened and ruined his plans.
  • Advice and Trust: After kissing for first time Asuka asks Shinji why he had never responded any of her advances favourably if he liked her. Dismayed, she learns that Shinji never realized that she was dropping hints.
    • In chapter 1:
      Asuka:"Wait, if you feel like that about me, why didn't you ever respond any of the other times I tried to flirt with you? I've been trying to get you to do something for weeks!"
      Shinji:"Wait, other times? What other times?"
      Asuka:"When a girl walks up to you in a bikini and starts using her chest as a physics demo, she's trying to get your attention!"
    • And in chapter 2:
      She'd finally gotten that dense, oblivious, blind baka to finally notice the fact she'd been trying to get him to react to her hints that she... kind of thought he was cute.
    • Fortunately, they really made up for lost time afterwards.
  • In the appropriately titled Teen Titans fic Dropping Hints, when Starfire is desperate because Robin won't ask her out. Raven recommends she stop being subtle, and start dropping a lot of hints for him. However, when Starfire asks Beast Boy what that means, he realizes Robin might be too thick for the trope to work, so he tells Starfire the Earth custom is to leave around notes stating her intentions. At least it works...
  • Doing It Right This Time: When Asuka meets Shinji she mentions on passing she had been constantly hitting on him… and getting exasperated because she could not tell whether he was dense or not interested:
    Asuka:"You masturbating over my comatose body was far from the worst thing to happen to me that week. At least it proved you were too dumb to know when you're being hit on instead of just gay."
  • The One I Love Is...: During the first half of the story, Asuka teases Shinji, incites him to kiss her, tries to sleep with him... and Shinji didn't got it until she bluntly said she loved him.
  • In the Fairy Tail fanfiction The Young And The Reckless, the kind and cheerfully helpful young man the Main Characters meet up with drops dozens of hints that he is actually The Dragon, The Mole, a Bifauxnen, and in it all For the Lulz; the woman he was talking to when they met is married to another member of the Quirky Miniboss Squad; The Bartender who led them to him is another member of the Squad, and the Big Bad has planned ahead for ways to kill them all as efficiently as possible. Of course, no one gets the hints at the time, though they smack themselves upside the head for missing it once The Reveal happens.
  • Synépeies - A Collection Of NTR Consequences deconstructs this in the short story "The Childhood Friend Waited Too Long", in which Miki tried using this multiple times in order to get Takashi to make the first move. He never did, mostly because Takashi self-admittedly kind of dense. Not helping Miki's case is that she Gave Up Too Soon, trapping herself between flings and putting herself in a negative light out of frustration. Meanwhile, Saki was able to gain Takashi's feelings simply by directly telling him exactly how she felt.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Vince Vaughn/Jennifer Aniston movie The Breakup is all about this, though in this case neither one is favored by the audience; he seems to be dedicated to being incredibly insensitive, and she fancies herself a mistress of manipulation, though her many plans backfire. In the end, nobody wins; contrary to expectation, they actually break up, each wiser for the wear, apparently.
  • In Django Unchained, Lara Candie and the ranchers are trying to devise a Fate Worse than Death for Django in the wake of Calvin's death. Stephen painstakingly recalls how he repeatedly made "casual" mentions to each suggestion that Lequint Dickey Mining Company slaves have it way worse than any of that, before anyone took the hint.

  • Discworld:
    • This is the last straw for Nobby in The Fifth Elephant. After Vimes and Carrot both go to Uberwald, acting-captain Colon becomes increasingly tyrannical, but Nobby is willing to put up with it if he can make sergeant. After dropping several boulder-like hints that he would definitely make a good sergeant and leaving no doubt the name he has in mind, Colon takes the advice and promotes Bauxite the troll. This prompts Nobby to finally organize the other angry Watchmen into a strike.
    • In Hogfather, Nobby complains that people can't take a hint. The hint in question is that he's told them he rarely takes baths, in the hope that they'll stop giving him bath stuff every Hogswatch.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun subverted it: Officer Don thought Sally was dropping hints that she wanted him to propose; but Sally, being an alien and all, actually meant what she said literally.
  • The page quote is from the third series of Blackadder, when Blackadder is trying to rise from butler to Lord by citing the work he's just done in keeping the spendthrift George from being bankrupted by Parliament. George, being who he is, doesn't get it at all and needs several increasingly-obvious hints to realize who Blackadder is suggesting. So he makes Baldrick a Lord.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: When Willow was unsatisfied that her and Oz's relationship wasn't progressing to smoochies:
    Buffy: Have you dropped any hints?
    Willow: I've dropped anvils!
  • Inverted in The Cosby Show. When an old girlfriend of Elvin's comes to visit and wants to have dinner with him and Sondra, Sondra declines, as she has to work on her law school application, but repeatedly (over his own insistence that he not go out) tells Elvin that it's all right if he does. Of course, this is exactly the opposite of what she really means and is furious with him when he comes home. Elvin is completely confused as to why she's so angry and wonders how she expected him to know that being told "Yes, it's okay if you go out" actually meant, "No, I don't want you to go out."
  • Doctor Who: At the end of "Flesh and Stone", Amy, having gone through a near-death experience that's led her to put her view on her upcoming marriage in perspective, tries to hint to the Doctor about "who" she wants, but he doesn't get it. So she tries to outright jump him. This leads him to decide that grabbing her fiancé and making him come along is absolutely necessary.
  • Everybody Loves Raymond uses this trope pretty regularly, but offered a realistic subversion in at least one episode. After Debra criticizes Raymond for not picking up on her hints, he responds by saying that, after being married to him for so long, she should've already known that he can't take hints, and thus should've just told him directly. She reconsiders, admits that he's right and apologizes as well.
  • Compare and contrast with Father Dougal's idea of a subtle hint in Father Ted — writing what he wants on a banner that covers most of the parochial house.
  • In Home Improvement, Jill has made plans for her and Tim to attend some formal event. She's marked the date on the calendar (apparently only marked it, not indicated what it was), ordered up his formal wear and all that. Tim, of course, doesn't take the hint. It should be noted, though, that this is a case where the trope is treated in a more balanced fashion. Jill and Tim are equally to blame for the misunderstanding: he for not noticing what she's up to (or at the least, asking), and she for not realizing he wasn't catching on and just straight up telling him. Of course, in the end, just as Jill is about to apologize to Tim, he apologizes first... and Jill doesn't bother.
  • In Mike & Molly Mike constantly misses hints, notable examples being when she objected to his gallon of combined shampoo/conditioner so he bought separate gallon jugs of each. Also the time a week before Christmas she told him how much she loved the coffee from a certain shop that also sold the machine they used and he asked her if she liked birds.
  • Spoofed in the final episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, where the guys riffed Danger: Diabolik; when the film's female lead outright points out what she wants for her birthday, Crow quips "Typical guy, didn't take the hint."
  • Our Miss Brooks: Miss Brooks drops hints left and right for Oblivious to Love Mr. Boynton. Usually they don't work, that is until the Grand Finale.
  • A Running Gag on Whose Line Is It Anyway?. in the game "Greatest Hits", Ryan would sometimes try to drop a hint about the next style of music. All too often, Colin would end up Comically Missing the Point.
    Ryan: What comes to mind when I say "Ricky Ricardo" and "great cigars"?
    Colin: Oh, tapioca.
    Ryan: Really. Why is that?
    Colin: Wasn't that his big hit? "TAPIOOOOOOCA! TAPIOOOCA!"
    Ryan: [trying not to laugh]. Oh, no no. I'm talking about Cu— [bursts out laughing] I'm talking about Cuba, Col— [loses it again]

  • Cabin Pressure:
    • In order to help Martin win a competition with Carolyn, Douglas, who had previously agreed not to tell Martin the correct answers, has to resort to this. And since it's Martin, some of those hints are very blatant.
    • in "Ipswich", Arthur is preparing for a written test he's required to take, and knows full-well he's going to be terrible at it. One of the men who works at the center tries dropping some hints about the correct answer Arthur will need, but Arthur's too stupid to get it. And later on admits he wasn't listening to the conversation to begin with.

  • In the second act of Spamalot, after telling Arthur that his Broadway musical needs to end with a wedding, The Lady of the Lake proceeds to drop a series of increasingly blatant hints that his wedding should be to her. He gets it eventually.

    Video Games 
  • In The Darkside Detective, when McQueen and Dooley are Christmas shopping, Dooley sees something he likes in a shop window and tries to hint to McQueen that it would make a good gift. When McQueen is unreceptive to his first, relatively subtle, hint, he starts getting more blatant; his last attempt is a straight-up statement of what he wants that only qualifies as a hint because he says "Hint, hint" at the end.
  • Hilariously used near the conclusion of Dragon Age: Origins, where your character can be completely oblivious to Leliana's invitations to bed the night before the final battle, forcing her to speak more frankly.
  • In Dragalia Lost, Cassandra tries flirting with Aurelius in the past, only for them to never get married. In the present day, she regrets not being more direct with him.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Daughter for Dessert, Amanda tries to seduce the protagonist by small but significant actions, such as delaying covering herself when he sees her in the shower. The culmination is in Whiskeyville, when she walks into his hotel room naked. Still, it takes the protagonist finding out that Amanda is actually writing the father-daughter incest stories that Kathy is posting for him to figure out what's going on. Justified by the taboo on incest.
    • Later on, Amanda asks the protagonist if he notices anything different after he gets home from work. After he gives a generic answer, she is angry that he didn't notice the work she put into her makeup.
      • Then, Amanda does this for a third time. She gives vague clues that she wants the protagonist to tell her about her mother, and when he doesn't take the hint, she surreptitiously moves out of their apartment.
  • Double Homework:
    • Johanna and Tamara both do this with the protagonist to show their respective feelings for him. He gradually wises up to Johanna's feelings, but Tamara soon loses patience and goes direct.
    • Dennis does this to the protagonist in a non-romantic example. After the yacht trip, Dennis starts making not-so-veiled references to the protagonist's role in the Barbarossa incident before playing a recording of his "therapeutic" conversation with Tamara about the incident. Subverted, as the protagonist actually wonders if Dennis could actually know about the conversation and/or what the two of them did.

  • Erma: One of Erma's friends in Rat Trap states that a rat is causing a lot of havoc and it would be nice if somebody had the ability to stop it. Erma smiles and nods then returns to eating her lunch. The next scene has her friend pushing her to the area saying "that means you".
  • One Wapsi Square story arc included a segment where a sphinx repeatedly dropped hints that Shelly should cut open a sacred tree with a sword, but she repeatedly missed them.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    Marge: Oh, Homey, look at that watch. I've always wanted a watch like that.
    Homer: (slyly) Well, maybe someone will give you one for Christmas...
    Marge: (happy sound)
    Homer: (thinking) Now she'll really be surprised when she opens that ironing board cover!
  • In Family Guy, Stewie drops hints that Meg should become bulimic.
    • In another episode, Chris gives Lois smoker's toothpaste for her birthday, asking her to "take the hint."
    • Another episode has Brian's new girlfriend give not-so-subtle hints that they should start having sex; namely, by hiring an air traffic controller and installing runway lights in her apartment, both of which point to her in a suggestive position.
  • Subverted in Aladdin: The Series, in one episode Aladdin is shopping for a locket for Jasmine. When Genie asks why he sarcastically mentions she's been dropping "little hints" like pointing at them and shouting "I want one!"
  • Phineas and Ferb: Isabella tries to reveal her crush on Phineas in non-direct ways. It...doesn't work and she eventually gives up. When the tables turn in their teenage years, Phineas doesn't bother with hints.
  • Arthur:
    • In "Kiss and Tell", D.W. spends most of the episode trying to hint to her classmate James that she wants a kiss from him. He never gets the hint, and it takes D.W. ultimately being direct with him to get one.
    • Implied in "The Great MacGrady", where Ed Crosswire's butler Bailey gives him a copy of Samuel Beckett's Endgame for his birthday. That book is about the life of an Old Retainer who is desperate to leave his demanding master but is constantly prevented from doing so, implying Bailey may be trying to hint to Ed that he feels the same way about working for him.
  • 6teen: Caitlyn pretty much personifies the "passive female" in relationships and thus struggles to communicate directly with any of her various beaus. When she's unhappy with the way Tallen kisses her, the only thing she can think to do is take him to a romcom and talk about how "nice and soft" the kisses look, rather than politely asking him not to use quite so much tongue. She freezes up trying to get a date to a Sadie Hawkins dance because her usual method of flirting is "flutter her eyelashes and await the invitation" and she actually considers it desperate and pathetic for a girl to be the one to ask, even when that's what the dance calls for. In another episode, when a boy isn't taking her hints and Jen encourages her to be direct, her solution is dressing up as a penguin because they mate for life and telling the boy she's chosen him to be her mate. She's not great at taking hints either; when Kevin tells her her flirtatious notes seemed "masculine" and "[he] and [she] are looking for the same thing," she still doesn't get why he's no longer interested in her until another character spells it out (though still euphemistically).