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I'll Never Tell You What I'm Telling You!

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"I'm not gonna tell you what they spent on that wedding, but $40,000 is a lot of money."
Jack Geller, Friends, "The One with the Sonogram at the End"

This is when someone — usually a villain — grabs hold of the Idiot Ball, and denies information in such a fashion that states exactly what is allegedly being denied. For example, Alice has defeated Bob, The Dragon, whose boss has kidnapped Carol. Alice demands to know where Carol is, but Bob just smirks at her and says, "Ha! I'll never tell you that she's in the warehouse in Somewhere City!"

A sort of Accidental Public Confession, with a little Suspiciously Specific Denial thrown in for good measure. If the person is doing this deliberately and therefore is not being stupid at all, it's Could Say It, But... instead of this trope. Or it could be a variation where the villain has a gun in his face and he's a coward and only acts as if this is the case. If the person saying this is not a complete moron, they may follow it with "Did I Just Say That Out Loud?"

A sufficiently clever villain may give out a lie in this manner, expecting the heroes to think that they just accidentally told the truth.

The term for this trope in rhetoric is apophasis. Also related to You Just Told Me. Truth Serums in fiction have been known to cause this. Compare Cannot Keep a Secret and Loose Lips. Sub-Trope of Saying Too Much. If the person revealing information this way is doing it deliberately, it's Could Say It, But.... When done by a third party, it's Idiotic Partner Confession.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bunny Drop: Rin, the girl in Daikichi's care, abruptly starts dancing and singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
    Daikichi Kawachi: Rin, what are you doing?
    Rin Kaga: It's a secret, so I can't tell anyone at home about Parents' Day!
  • The Doraemon short which introduces the Time Cloth has the titular robot cat absent-mindedly pulling this off, during the comic's Early-Installment Weirdness period (second volume of the overall series) where Doraemon is nowhere as bright as he is in later chapters.
    Suneo: Where are you going with all those junk?
    Doraemon: You're too crafty, I'm not telling you anything. If I told you we're going to revert the junk to brand new using the Time Cloth, you might try to steal it.
    [guess what happens next. Go on, guess.]
  • In episode 1b of Jewelpet Sunshine, Ruby catches Kanon and her friends with a love letter for Mikage and gets this response from Titana when she wonders what's going on. Kanon's friends are not happy with the statement.
    Titana: Even if you torture us, we won't tell you that we're trying to steal that love letter!
  • MegaMan NT Warrior manga:
    Torakichi Arakoma: I'm sworn to never reveal that I'm here to defend th' world from impendin' doom!! I may be lost, starvin', without a single zenny t' my name, but wild horses couldn't whip that outta me!!
    Lan and Maylu: [Sweat Drop and Face Fault]
  • One Piece:
    • A heroic accidental example happens during the Alabasta Saga, when Luffy asks Vivi about the identity of Baroque Works' leader "Mr. 0", who's trying to take over her kingdom and controls his organization with absolute and total secrecy. Vivi immediately refuses, knowing of the danger of spilling out such information and claiming it would be best for the Straw Hat Pirates to never cross paths with Crocodile of the Seven Warlords of the Sea. Cue a Delayed Reaction from all people involved in the conversation, with only Zoro and Luffy actually being excited by the news. This little slip-up is the direct cause of all of Baroque Works' top agents hunting them down for the rest of the Saga.
    • A running gag with Sentomaru, who claims to have the world's tightest mouth, yet will immediately tell anyone whatever they want to know, even if they're not actually addressing him. He immediately adds that he's doing it just because he wants to, not because they asked.
    • Before him came Fukurou from CP9, who spills vital information at the first opportunity for absolutely no reason and does it so much that he was fitted with a zipper over his mouth... which he unzips before spilling vital information.
  • Rurouni Kenshin:
    Shishio's guard: Who are you?!
    Misao: Makimachi Misao gives her name to no villain!
    Guard: ... You just did.
    Misao: AGH!
  • In an episode early in the second season of Sgt. Frog, Keroro leaves a robotic copy of himself to head the invasion so he can go to the amusement park and see the Java Risers live show. After discovering the robot, Giroro presses Tamama to tell him where Keroro went. Tamama replies by saying that he'll never tell them that Keroro's at the amusement park. Later in the episode, Tamama finds a candy house and assumes it's a gift from Keroro for keeping his secret. This adds on to an already-established gag of Tamama not being able to keep secrets.
  • Comes up on a few occasions in Pokémon: The Series, most notably from Team Rocket; for example, "A Shipful of Shivers" sees Team Rocket start protesting that they don't know anything about a stolen trophy that certainly wouldn't be in the bag they're currently holding just after the heroes find them (although, to be fair, this was only James and Meowth; Jessie immediately noted that the two males were being idiots).

    Asian Animation 
  • In Happy Heroes and the City of Mystery episode 5, Careful S. and Kalo encounter a villain who introduces himself by saying he'll never say he's the Rock Warrior sent by the Dark Lord. Later in the same episode, he tells them that he'll never say where he's running away to... but points out where he'll run off to anyway.

    Comic Books 
  • The very first appearance of Mr. Mxyzptlk in the comic book Superman is a textbook example of this trope, when the imp declares, "Ha! You thought you could trick me into telling you that the magic word is 'Kltpzyxm'!" (poof). Also played with in the animated series:
    Mxyzptlk: You make me say, spell, or otherwise reveal my name backwards and I'll split until our dimensions come into alignment again in about, oh, three months, give or take.
    Superman: I can't even say your name forwards. How am I supposed to say it backwards?
    Mxyzptlk: No, dope! You don't have to say it backwards! You've got to get me to say it!
    Superman: Say what?
    Mxyzptlk: KLTPZYXM! Gosh, you're thick! Now, for the last time... [realizes] ahh nuts! [disappears]
    [ninety days later]
    Mxyzptlk: [reappearing in the bathroom mirror] Hi guy! Your three months are up, and this time, you're not gonna cheat me out of my fun!
    Superman: Oh, it's you again, Mr. Kltpzyxm.
    Mxyzptlk: Not "Kltpzyxm"! Mxyztplk! Now the first thing I'm gonna do... aw, nuts! (poof!)
    ...and so on and so on...
  • Done by the title Gentleman Thief in Don Rosa's Scrooge McDuck-story The Black Knight Glorps Again, not out of stupidity, but sheer ballsiness. In his civilian persona of playboy millionaire Arpin Lusene he gives the following statement to the press:
    Lusene: Zat would be ze greatest crime in histoire, non? But... Ah 'ave no idea what ze Black Knight plans to do... tomorrow morning at 10AM! Here! Pass zese out!
    (passes a written program of the caper's details)
  • Thompson and Thomson from the Tintin series do this a lot. An example from The Castafiore Emerald:
    Thomson or Thompson: No, our lips are sealed. We can't tell you whom we suspect, but it isn't anyone in the house. Mum's the word, you know.
    Thompson or Thomson: Yes, dumb's the word, that's our motto. So we're not allowed to tell you about the gypsies, though we suspected them from the start...
  • In one story of Monica's Gang, Smudge (Cascão) had his right arm in a cast and Jimmy Five (Cebolinha) wrote on it that Monica was short, fat and buck-toothed. Upon reading it, she became furious but realized it wasn't Smudge who wrote it. When she asked who was, he told her she'd never make him tell it was Jimmy.
  • In Asterix and the Cauldron, Asterix decides that to refill the cauldron, he and Obelix will have to rob a Roman-controlled bank. While he goes for supplies, he sends Obelix to scout the bank for the heist. The guard out front instantly catches on to Obelix, and boasts about the bank's security measures—including at what time the guards change shifts and how to open the vault—to dissuade him. Obelix returns to Asterix and reports, "I didn't learn anything. He saw through me before I could get any ideas."
  • In the 2015 Free Comic Book Day instalment of Atomic Robo, Dr Dinosaur tells Robo that there's a self-destruct control in his briefcase that he absolutely won't tell Robo about. Subverted. The "self-destruct" is a note reading "IT'S FUNNY BECAUSE U WILL DIE".
  • Impulse #77 (part of the Our Worlds at War crossover) opens with this from the narrator:
    "Okay, let's say, just for the sake of argument, that you haven't already read the first part of this star-spanning saga in the pages of Young Justice #36 (still on sale!)...
    And let's say that you don't know that the entire Young Justice gang has crash-landed on the volatile and unforgiving surface of Apokolips, home of the dark god Darkseid and about a million other unpleasant people...
    And let's just assume that you don't know that, following the crash, Superboy and Robin had a fight over priorities and the team split up: Robin's team to stay with the downed ship and effect repairs...
    ... Superboy's team striking out across the harsh terrain in search of the fallen hero Steel, whose seemingly lifeless body was seen being spirited away by the grim herald of death, the Black Racer!
    Well, if you don't know all that, we're not gonna tell ya.
    Man, we'd hate to be you...

    Comic Strips 
  • Brewster Rockit: Space Guy!: Brewster Rockit does this once when he decides to narrate his life out loud.
  • Calvin in Calvin and Hobbes writes Susie a cut-and-paste ransom note for her doll, which reads:
    If you want to see your doll again, leave 100 dollars in this envelope by the tree out front. Do not call the police. You cannot trace us. You cannot find us. Sincerely, Calvin.

    Fan Works 
  • In Flames and Twilight Flare Blitz accidentally tells the mane six that he has a pet name for Twilight. After much pestering from the other five, he says, "There is no way in the wide, wide world of Equestria that I am telling you that I call her my little Element of Harmony..." (changed to "Sparkle Fairy" in a later revision.) Reactions vary.
  • In This Bites!, Garp does this twice on the SBS, first about Luffy's parentage, and then about Vivi's Sovereign Will.
  • Harry Potter and the Prince of Slytherin:
    Harry: Let's start over. What's your name?
    Dobby: Oooooo! Dobby cannot tell the Potter child his name! If it got back to Dobby's masters that Dobby had warned the Potter child of danger, Dobby's head would be mounted on the Wall of Shame!
  • In Have You Ever Seen The Rain? a married couple tries to rob Florean Fortescue's.
    Tonks: Hey! You two! What's your names?
    Husband: Don't answer her Tasha! Damn. I mean, uh, don't answer her, Jo!
    Wife: My name's not Jo, you idiot.
    Husband: No, it's obviously not, I'm just saying that so they don't think it's Natasha! And now I've gone and blown it again.
    Wife: Honestly, Mark, you really are useless sometimes. Oh no.
  • In Blood Filled Chalice Snape catches Michael under an invisibility cloak.
    Snape: MICHAEL POTTER! You're in big trouble! Who gave you this?
    Michael: Fuck you! I'll never tell you! Now give back my Dad's cloak!
  • In With Pearl and Ruby Glowing, Zim had to get dentures due to Red and Purple abusing and neglecting him, and when Dib is about to reveal this to the Palace, he stops him while accidentally revealing it himself.

    Films — Animated 
  • The breakout hit of Encanto, "We Don't Talk About Bruno," consists entirely of people making clear that they don't talk about him, then proceeding to sing about Bruno.
  • The two-headed biker in The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie in denying ever having visited the Goofy Goober, moments before getting beaten senseless by every able bodied patron of the bar.
    Two-Headed Biker: It was him! Uh, he did it! I've never even eaten at *singing* GOOFY GOOFY, GOOBER GOOBERS, YEAH!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Gretchen pretends to do this throughout Mean Girls as a way of spreading gossip. ("Maybe she feels weird around me because I'm the only one who knows about her nose job... Oh my god. Pretend you didn't hear that.") Later the tables get turned when Karen does it sincerely in her apology during the trust exercise:
    "Gretchen. I'm sorry I laughed at you that time you got diarrhea at Barnes and Noble. And I'm sorry I told everyone about it. And I'm sorry for repeating it now."
  • In Horse Feathers, Wagstaff fails to guess the password to the speakeasy, and Chico tells him, "You can't come in here unless you say 'Swordfish.' Now I'll give you one more guess." Of course, Wagstaff's next guess is the correct password.
  • In Lethal Weapon, Riggs and Murtaugh question a kid who may have seen who planted a bomb to kill their prime suspect. When Murtaugh asks the kid his name, one of his friends shouts, "Don't tell him your name, Alvin!"
  • The main villain of the kung fu film, Shadow Whip, who is responsible for the massacre of the Yun family clan 12 years ago, killing everyone except for the heroine who's still a child back then unintentionally confesses himself, in front of several dozen clan members and seniors. When the heroine said she saw him murdering her family while hiding under the floorboards as a child, his response?
    "Nonsense! You couldn't have recognized me that night, my face was covered behind my veil..." [oops]
  • In Against All Flags, Hawke asks the disguised Princess Patma what her name is. Patma goes blank and then tells him that she cannot remember what name MacGregor told her to give, but she does remember that she is not supposed to say she is the daughter of the Moghul Emperor. This seems to genuine naiveté (or stupidity) on Patma's case, rather than any desire to expose her true identity.
  • An early scene in The Wog Boy has Steve trying to help his friend Theo scam a welfare payment. When the supervisor starts to recognise Steve and asks for his name, Theo chimes in, "Don't tell him, Steve!"

  • Harry Potter's Hagrid has a bad habit of this, especially in the first book. For example, the heroes are looking for info on the Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone, and Hagrid tells them that they should give up and the only people who need to worry about the Stone are Dumbledore and Nicolas Flamel... when they didn't know about Flamel yet. In the movie, they turn "I shouldn't'a told you that" his catchphrase.
  • In a variant, the Death of Discworld once tricked a swan into singing its "swan song", a necessary prerequisite before it could die, using this trope:
    Swan: Thought you'd got me there, didn't you. Thought you'd tricked me, eh? Thought I might unthinkingly give you a couple of bars of the Pedlar's song from Lohenshaak, eh?
    Death: I don't know that one.
    Swan: That's the one that goes "Schneide meinen eigenen Hals—"
    Death: Thank you.
    Swan's ghost: Bugger!
  • Charles Hamilton, writing under the pseudonym Frank Richards, made his William George (Billy) Bunter character practically live this trope. If questioned about something wrong which he had done, Bunter would almost always reveal his indisputable guilt while trying to deny it.
  • In the Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place", when Holmes is questioning John Mason, the head trainer of the Shoscombe stables, about the household, he asks if Lady Beatrice Falder's maid is devoted to her mistress. Mason looks uncomfortable and says "She's devoted enough, but I won't say to whom. I won't tell tales out of school." Holmes, who has already been told that Lady Beatrice's brother is a womanizer, takes the point.
  • Parodied in Skulduggery Pleasant when the main characters ask their friend Ghastly about a private meeting.
    Ghastly: I'm sorry, but I can't be talking about that with you. I can't say, for instance, [lists everything he can't tell them]
  • In the Fáfnismál, when Sigurth has hit the dragon Fafnir and both know Fafnir will die, the dragon asks Sigurth who he is. Sigurth knows that telling a dying person your name is stupid, since they have a special nasty curse power.
    Sigurth: My name is Badass, I have no mother and no father either.
    Fafnir: How were you fathered without a father?
    Sigurth: My race, methinks, is unknown to thee, And so am I myself; Sigurth my name, and Sigmund's son, Who smote thee thus with the sword.
  • According to Dave Barry Slept Here, Deep Throat's identity "remains a closely guarded secret to this very day because it was Pat Nixon in drag."

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the functional finale of Beetleborgs Metallix, the heroes have just managed to swipe the Astral Axe, which controls one of the two Humongous Mecha of the season, Boron. The one who snatched it holds the axe high, intending to summon Boron by shouting his name... nothing happens. The villains laugh at him, one of them snorting derisively about how he forgot to say "Arise", after which of course the hero repeats the incantation, giving them the key to defeating the bad guys' plot.
  • The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon Cooper is absolutely unable to keep secrets.
    Penny: [inside a restaurant] Look, why is it so hard for you to keep one little secret?
    Sheldon: I'm constitutionally incapable. That's why I was refused clearance for a very prestigious government research fellowship at a secret military super-collider, located beneath a fake agricultural station 12.5 miles south-east of Traverse City, Michigan.
    Penny: [jaw drop]
    Sheldon: Which you did not hear about from me.
  • Blackadder
    • Blackadder I: The queen insists she can keep the secret of Prince Edmund oversleeping and missing the battle altogether:
      Queen: Do I tell people that your brother is afraid of spoons? Or that your father has very small private parts?
    • Blackadder Goes Forth: Baldrick and George, denying that Captain Blackadder shot the pigeon. General Melchett's pigeon.
    • Inverted during Blackadder's subsequent court martial, when "decisive witness" Baldrick is told to "deny everything."
      George: [as Blackadder's defence] Are you Private Baldrick?
      Baldrick: No!
      George: Um... But you are Captain Blackadder's batman...
      Baldrick: No!
      George: Come on, Baldrick, be a bit more helpful — it's me!
      Baldrick: No it isn't!
    • And in Blackadder's Christmas Carol Prince Albert does this repeatedly, when not telling Queen Victoria about his surprise presents.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Heroic version. In "Once More with Feeling", Anya and Xander's song "I'll Never Tell" is one long string of these, and Buffy is later forced to reveal she was in heaven during her temporary death. This is the result of a demon compelling them to sing the truth.
  • An episode of Burn Notice, Michael is tracking down a sniper, but his personnel file only has his initials, "T. G.". So they go to his boss trying to hire someone who fits his exact description, in the hopes of determining who the guy is. His boss responds that he knows exactly what they're up to: "Did you think I wouldn't figure out you're looking for Tyler Grey?"
  • In El Chavo del ocho, this is how Quico rats out El Chavo about accidentally throwing a gum in a hat (that belonged to Don Ramón's boss). Unusually for this trope, it's intentional on his part to get El Chavo into trouble:
    Quico: Sorry, Don Ramón, but I can't tell you anything. I promised El Chavo that I wouldn't tell anybody that he stuck a gum in a hat.
  • Dad's Army: A captured U-Boat Captain starts taking notes about his supposed mistreatment by the Home Guard, intending that they be "brought to account" when the Germans win the war. When Private Pike starts singing a mocking song about Hitler:
    Captain: Your name will also go on ze list! What is it?
    Mainwaring: Don't tell him, Pike!
  • Employed as a joke in Desperate Housewives:
    Lynette: No, my favorite thing is to think all of the things I want to say to you but don't. Like "Pipe down, you annoying nutjob!" I'd never say that.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Daleks and Cybermen have a variation in "Doomsday".
      Cyberman: You will modify!
      Dalek: Daleks do not take orders!
      Cyberman: You have identified as Daleks.
    • A variation in the second Series 5 DVD "Meanwhile in the TARDIS" short.
      Amy: This big old machine must have some kind of visual records [of the Doctor's previous companions].
      The Doctor: [quietly] Oh, God. [louder] I mean, no — and anyway they're voice-locked.
      Amy: [laughs] Oh, voice-locked. So I'd just have to say "Show me all visual records of previous TARDIS inhabitants"?
      The Doctor: No, nonono, I mean voice-locked. I would have to say, "Show me all visual records of previous TARDIS inhabitants."
      Amy: Awww. Thank you.
      The Doctor: No, no! No! No!
  • From Eureka:
    Sheriff Carter: So... what? You're taking credit, but you had help? I'm guessing from somebody who'd want to hurt the new sheriff?
    Dr. Fielding: No! ... Marguerite would never harm anyone!
  • Family Matters:
    • The episode "Life of the Party" has this exchange:
      Laura: Waldo, what's with Steve, he's acting weird, even for him!
      Waldo: Willie told me not to tell.
      Laura: Tell what?
      Waldo: That he spiked Urkel's punch.
    • From "Baker's Dozen":
      Harriet: Now I'm not gonna say how you destroyed my kitchen! Or how you all act like children! Or what a dumb idea this was to begin with! I'm not gonna say that!
      Carl: I'm not gonna say she started it.
      Rachel: And I'm not gonna say I had lousy help!
      Harriet: Good, I'm glad we're in an agreement.
      [Carl and Rachel start arguing]
      Harriet: SHUT UP!!
      [Carl and Rachel sticks their tongues at each other]
  • The Fast Show featured the character of Janine, a Dumb Blonde teenage single mother, who refuses to disclose the identity of her baby's father because "it's not fair to grass on your headmaster."
  • From Glee, when Brittany is asking Will embarrassing questions.
    Will: Brittany, who told you to ask these?!
    Brittany: Miss Sylvester says I'm not at liberty to say.
  • The 1950s show House Party (redone by Bill Cosby as Kids Say the Darndest Things) was hosted by Art Linkletter, who'd interview children in hopes they'd say something amusing; one of his favorite tricks was to ask "What did your mother tell you not to say today?"
  • Happens on iCarly where Sam tells Carly she kissed Freddie, and then says "sshhh, don't tell Carly..." However, this is because she was on laughing gas at the time and wasn't aware of what she was saying.
  • A particularly clunky example occurs in a second-season episode of Lie to Me: a guy suspected of killing a woman named Connie claims to not know her husband, Eric. When asked if he'd ever been to Connie's house, the suspect immediately replies, "No, I've never been to Eric's wife's house." As an inadvertent slip, it seems oddly deliberate.
  • A MADtv (1995) sketch has the following exchange:
    "I'm not going to tell you my name. Because when you tell someone your name, you give them power over you. Like if you said, 'Ron,' I'd say 'What?' And no-one's going to have that kind of power over Ron Shaffer!"
  • Played for Laughs towards the beginning of The Nanny episode "Maggie the Model" between Fran Fine and Niles as they discuss supermodel Chloe Simpson, Maxwell Sheffield's old flame.
    Fran: Niles, I'm sensing some hostility here. (nudges him) Now, dish!
    Niles: Divulge the details of their torrid love affair, which ended with Mr. Sheffield's heart, still beating, being torn from his chest? No, I couldn't!
    Fran: Oh yeah, you know, it's best left unsaid. Now, don't tell me more!
    Niles: Mmm, not-not if you tortured me would I reveal the way he kept going back to her for more like a moth to a flame. An incredibly stupid moth.
  • In Power Rangers Ninja Steel, a Monster of the Week is asked why he has a giant clock in his chest. His response? "I'll never tell you about the source of all my evil power!" Cue an attack aimed right at the clock while the monster futilely tries to backtrack.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Doctor Bashir's father comes into the public medical facility and proceeds to say to what he thinks is his son, "Don't worry, I'll never tell anyone <detailed explanation of big secret>" Slightly more of an Accidental Public Confession, since he thought he was talking to someone who already knew, unaware that what he thought was the real Julian was actually the holographic model based on him, which was being controlled from the other room by O'Brien and Zimmerman, but they're still saying in essence I'll Never Say What I'm Saying Right Now, and even if it had been the real Julian, they're saying it in a public place (the Infirmary) without even checking whether anyone else is around, not to mention that someone else could have walked in at any time. It almost begs the question of how they managed to keep the secret for a quarter of a century given their apparent carelessness in talking about it.
    Amsha: What he's trying to say is, we would never do anything to jeopardize your career.
    Richard: And just so there's no misunderstanding, I give you my word that at no time in our interview with Doctor Zimmerman will we ever mention or even hint at the fact that you were genetically enhanced as a child.
    Amsha: Jules, you can trust us. Your father and I have kept the secret of your DNA resequencing for almost twenty-five years and we're not going to let it out now.
  • Top Gear parodies this. Very often they'll take their cars (supercars or otherwise) to a manufacturer's "top-secret road-testing facility" while the camera pans over the facility's address. That is, if Jeremy doesn't outright say the address himself, pausing to let the audience take notes.
  • Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps: Louise attempts to avoid giving any indication that Gaz is Corinthian's father. She eventually encounters Gaz and says she's not going to tell him he himself is the father.

  • Our Miss Brooks: In "Stretch Is In Love Again", Judy Brille, the daughter of Clay City High School principal Jason Brille, was assigned by her father to keep Stretch Snodgrass busy on dates long into the evening. As a result, he's so tired he's useless playing football; once he even ran the wrong way. Madison High looks to have an embarassing defeat to its principal rival. And nobody at Madison knows what's going on. Stretch is sworn to secrecy by his double-agent girlfriend. So, Miss Brooks, asked to investigate what's going on by Mr. Conklin, interrogates Stretch.
    Miss Brooks: Who is this new girlfriend, Stretch?
    Stretch: Oh, no you don't!
    Miss Brooks: No I don't what?
    Stretch: You don't get Judy's name out of me! (audience laughs) I promised to keep it a secret.
    Stretch: Gosh, I didn't even want that part of her name to get out. It just slipped. Look, Miss Brooks. You wouldn't want me to break a promise, would you?
    Miss Brooks: Fervently. Listen, Stretch. Even if you enjoy all this "rumbering", don't your girl's parents object to these late hours every night?
    Stretch: Oh, I'm sure they don't.
    Miss Brooks: How can you be so sure?
    Stretch: Her old man gives me the money to take her out.
    Miss Brooks: What!
    Stretch: Sure! He's not like our principal. Mr. Brille's a good sport.
    Miss Brooks: Stretch, you're telling me you're taking out Judy Brille?
    Stretch: How did you know?
  • An installment of The Secret Adventures of the Tooth Fairy (a syndicated five-minute comedy interstitial) had a dentist trying to guess the famous person locked in the broom closet. He by-chance met the famous person, Thomas Edison, and is sworn to keep it a secret. The nurse is doubtfully curious:
    Nurse Turken: Doctor...are you trying to tell me that Thomas Edison is in the broom closet?
    Dentist: No, I'm not. I swore to keep it a secret.

  • Cyrano de Bergerac: Amazingly Played for Drama at Act V Scene V, where Roxane, after fourteen years, at last realizes that Cyrano was Playing Cyrano (the whole point of the play is that Cyrano is not capable of admitting his own feelings):
    Cyrano: I loved you not.
    Roxane: You loved me not?
    Cyrano: 'Twas he!
    Roxane: You loved me!
    Cyrano: No!
    Roxane: See! how you falter now!
    Cyrano: No, my sweet love, I never loved you!
  • Launce, of Two Gentlemen of Verona, does this in monologue to the audience:
    He lives not now that knows me to be in love; yet I am in love; but a team of horse shall not pluck that from me; nor who 'tis I love; and yet 'tis a woman; but what woman, I will not tell myself; and yet 'tis a milkmaid.
  • In Annie Get Your Gun, Sitting Bull and Charlie walk in on Dolly messing with Annie's gun. When they begin to question her about it, she indignantly replies, "No matter what you do to me, you'll never get me to tell you I was going to fix Annie's rifle so she'd lose the match and go away so I could have Frank all to myself again! My lips are forever sealed!"

    Tabletop Games 
  • A variant of this is an obvious and yet surprisingly common for newbie Game Masters. GURPS gives this piece of sage advice: "It defeats the purpose (of a search roll) to say 'You don't find the gun under his jacket.'" Granted, most people are smart enough to at least downplay it to "You don't find what he's hiding" or giving other accidental cues that something is there to be found, but still.
  • Related to this, Dungeons & Dragons game masters are often given advice on how to avert this; be as evasive as possible. "You don't find anything." "So there's no traps, then?" "I never said that..."

    Video Games 
  • Duolingo: The French course teaches you the phrase "I'm the one who killed him, but I'll never confess!"
  • EXTRAPOWER: Attack of Darkforce: As part of how competent Sunny Day and Funny Face are. When they're tasked with defending the device that is feeding dark energy to the fleet, which the heroes need to destroy in 5 minutes to prevent a concentrated blast on the Earth, Sunny Day and Funny Face will very helpfully and loudly argue with each other to not let the heroes know that this is that very device that they need to protect from them.
  • In Street Fighter Alpha 3, this is how Birdie reveals Shadoloo's headquarters to Chun Li.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum:
    • Invoked when Harley Quinn says, regarding the Joker's location: "You'll never find him! He's in a secret lab in the gardens and... aw, crap!" Of course, Bats already knew, so this just served as another item on the Humiliation Conga she was currently going through.
    • In a Call-Back, Harley does this once again in the second game by not telling Batman about the Freeze Tech in the boiler room, and again in the "Harley Quinn's Revenge" DLC by not telling Robin about the secret room she and many of her mooks are hiding in.
  • Final Fantasy VII plays with this trope a bit, if this is the right trope; Elena doesn't exactly tell you what she's denying, but she does continue to tell you the enemy's plans verbatim after being told explicitly that she talks too much...for telling you the enemy's plans verbatim.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Happens in Sonic Adventure 2 when Eggman finally has Sonic and Tails where he wants them, and just needs the real Chaos Emerald to complete his scheme. (He had earlier picked up two emerald energy signatures, so he had reason to believe there was a fake emerald.) Sonic sees through it. Tails... not so much.
      Eggman: Did you really think you could trick me with that fake Emerald?
      Tails: So... how did you know it wasn't the real one?
      Sonic: Tails!
      Eggman: Because You Just Told Me, Fox Boy!
    • Deliberately invoked in Sonic Battle, where Eggman states, very loudly, "They'll never find me in Gimme Shelter!" However, Eggman was actually trying to trick Knuckles and Emerl to "follow" him to Gimme Shelter.
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door: Professor Frankley says "I don't think we can trust this box. We'd better not tell it we're looking for the Crystal Stars."
  • In Super Paper Mario, Luigi announces that he'll never give his name to scoundrels like Count Bleck. Which he then immediately follows with "Now taste the wrath of Luigi!"
  • In Endless Frontier, Cute Witch Kyon does this. A lot. Usually followed by "Oops. Now I have to kill you."
    Kyon: Sorry! Kyon's on a secret mission right now. I can't tell you my name.
    Aschen: ... So, Kyon, what were you doing in a place like this?
    Kyon: Wha—!? D-Did you read my mind!? Are you a psychic robot!?
    Aschen: Yes.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In The Wind Waker, there are two girls on Windfall Island who embody this trope. They "won't" tell you anything, not even for two Rupees!
    • And in Phantom Hourglass, a Goron tells you that, since you're an outsider, he shouldn't tell you that the Elder's home is right over there, in this spot on your map! (Of course, the home is a big and obvious cave anyway.)
  • Shadow Hearts: Covenant
    • When Yuri and company reach Roger Bacon's house, Lenny appears to tell taunt them by saying Roger's been kidnapped. Yuri tricks Lenny into blabbing by claiming Lenny doesn't know where he's been taken, annoying him to the point where he vehemently tells them Roger's in Florence, Italy just to prove he does know. He then slumps to the ground, mouth agape, and sobs at what an idiot he's been.
    • Yuri tries the exact same trick on Veronica later on when trying to figure out where their leader, Nicolai, went. She pretends to fall for it before responding with "That's right. I don't know. What kind of idiot would fall for that stupid trick?!", making Lenny feel like a complete jackass in the process.
  • Commonly done by the villains in the Pokémon games. One of the most blatant: a Team Flare grunt worrying that, after you beat him, you might figure out that the password into their secret base is "open sesame"! There was no indication prior to fighting this guy that you even did need a password at all.
  • During the tutorial in City of Villains, Operative Jenkins tells the Longbow agents that have him pinned, "I'm a trained Arachnos soldier, you won't get me to spill the name of <player name> that easy!"
  • In Mother 3, Alec confronts Lucas regarding Claus's whereabouts (this is before Lucas becomes a Heroic Mime). He says:
    Alec: Don't tell me Claus went after that detestable Drago to try to...
    Lucas: Okay. I won't. I also won't tell you he grabed Dad's knife and ran off into the mountains to try and kill the Drago.
    Alec: It's a good thing you raised him to be honest, Flint.
  • The punchline when you interrogate (or "interrogate") the quillboar prisoner in World of Warcraft.
  • In Star Control II, this exchange between the PC Captain and the Thraddash:
    PC Captain: Why didn't you fight against the Alliance, and where ARE the Ur-Quan?
    Thraddash: Where did they go, you ask? This is a secret, of course! We can't tell you! If we told you that they were fighting a secret war against a mysterious invader you might find some way to use that information against our masters. So forget it! No secrets!
  • When Volgin tortures Snake in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, he insists that Snake is after "the legacy." Snake actually doesn't know what he is talking about, so Volgin brags of what it is and where he's hidden it. Cue The Mole, currently in the room with them, going to steal it for themselves. In fact, every single person in that room besides Volgin is an agent for one faction or another. note 
  • Nintendo games seem to do this a lot. In The Legendary Starfy, when Snips, Ronk, and Papes break into Pufftop Castle looking to kidnap Bunston, Starly very cleverly tells them, "I'll never tell you that he (Bunston) is safe with my brother in Sogwood Forest!"
  • Dungeons & Dragons Online has Durk the Deranged, a clever but mentally ill resident of Stormreach. Pretending to know his "secret", he explains that there's no way you could know that the two Kobold chieftain brothers in the slime-infested sewers are having a feud and that therefore it would be the perfect time to take out both sides. And he'll never tell you that either.
  • Assault on Vampire Island: The threatening note you find.
    "I know who you are, and I know what you are doing here, but you will NEVER succeed in your quest! Begone! You cannot trace me! You cannot find me! You have no idea who I am! Sincerely, Dracula, Lord of the Undead, Upper Turret of the Creepy Castle."
  • Professor Layton and the Last Specter: Exaggerated by the Chief Engineer:
    Chief Engineer: I'm just an old fool, forced against my will into making wild contraptions for a buncha crooks!
    Luke: Crooks? Contraptions? What sort of... contraptions?
    Chief Engineer: Machines that shoot great plumes of smoke into the air, machines that crawl on many legs—
    Chief Engineer: Er, I mean... machines that do boring, everyday stuff, like make toast. Y'know, toast machines.
    Chief Engineer: I've been sworn to silence. Don't tell a soul about what I said, OK?
    Chief Engineer: And don't you say anything about those hoodlums causing havoc in town with their secret plan.
    Luke: Um... What secret plan?
    Chief Engineer: The one I didn't tell you about! Don't you see I'm jeopardizing my job not telling you all this?!
    Chief Engineer: Here. Solve this puzzle so I know I can trust you. You're not getting anymore out of me until then!
    Chief Engineer: Under no circumstance can I say that this place is being used to make steam machines, they said.
    Luke: You're making steam machines?
    Chief Engineer: No! Don't you get it?! That's exactly what we're NOT doing here!
    Chief Engineer: I'm also not allowed to say that we're making other devices too!
    Luke: Excuse me, sir. Are you actually trying to tell us all this?
    Chief Engineer: Of course not! If I did that, I'd be in some real trouble!
    Chief Engineer: I'll never tell that pushing the red and blue buttons on the pressing machine operates it, either.
    Chief Engineer: Nor will I ever hint about what lies through that opening on the assembly line!
  • Depending on the player's choices in Tales from the Borderlands, Scooter can develop a crush on one of the female characters. "But I ain't sayin' which one. Fiona. Dang!"
  • In Puyo Puyo Tetris, Schezo is chasing after Sig for his left hand, which is emitting a strange energy. Amitie holds off Schezo at the request of Sig; once you beat this specific stage, Amitie blurts out "I'll never allow you to know that Sig ran off to the ruins!", and Schezo thanks her before she realizes what she just said.
    Amitie: I'm sorry, Sig...

    Visual Novels 
  • Detective Dick Gumshoe from Ace Attorney has this as a habit. He usually reveals secret details about a murder investigation to Phoenix, all while thinking he's successfully concealing the info from him. In his first occurence, Gumshoe reveals the name of the prosecution's witness and the fact that she's still in the hotel next to Phoenix's office.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue: Recreation has Sarge pulling several in a row early in the series, when trying to warn Donut, "captured" by Caboose, not to tell him about their new vehicle or hologram chamber. Of course, since this is Caboose we're dealing with, nothing comes of it.

  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Thog has a slight variation — he gloats along with Nale about how the heroes will never be able to turn a petrified Celia back to normal... so long as they don't have the scroll Nale is carrying.
    • In the Prequel On the Origin of PCs, Elan has an exceptionally long and detailed instance:
      Elan: Sir, I'm not about to tell an innkeep I just met about the priceless antique shield Sir François carries, or the pouch of rare gems he keeps hidden in his saddlebags, of his purse filled with platinum pieces that he hides in his left boot when he sleeps.
      [in the next panel, the innkeeper is seen scribbling down notes]
      Innkeeper: left... boot...
      Elan: Platinum has an "i" in it.
  • Yori almost gets himself killed doing this early on in No Need for Bushido.
  • Darths & Droids: Jim (as Captain Antilles) does this while talking to Darth Vader.
    Jim: I'll never tell you how we stole the the plans! Or if we did steal them. Which I'm not saying.
  • An odd meta-textual example from El Goonish Shive: During the non-canon "Goonmanji 2" arc, Hanma the immortal greets Ashley and Liz by pointing out that you aren't allowed to spoil canon events in a non-canon story, "and therefore no acknowledgement should be made as to whether you've seen me at an anime convention before." Nobody in-story points out her mistake.

    Web Original 
  • In Suburban Knights, Ask That Guy with the Glassesnote  helps Team B find the location of Malachite's Hand while specifically claiming he was keeping it a secret.
  • The SCP Foundation entry SCP-4357-J is a demon that keeps mocking the Foundation employees for the insufficient attempts they make at containing it. And, in the process, keeps revealing how to make its containment more effective. In some cases, it improves its own containment itself. Once it is so thoroughly contained that it cannot escape, it is asked why it didn't escape before all the changes to its containment were made. Cue Angrish as the demon realizes that it has no good answer.
    SCP-4357-J: Shit, man, where's the goddamned summoning circle? Or the protective hexagram? You guys don't know jackshit. Hell, go get me some chalk and I'll show you myself! [does so] And THAT is how you make a proper summoning circle. All the runes in place, everything nice and neat. NOW, if I step in it like this, it'll be hard for me to get out!
    [SCP-4357-J tries to step out of the circle and bumps against an unseen barrier]
    SCP-4357-J: Oh, FUCK ME!

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • From "Simple Simpson":
      Pieman: No trap can hold Homer Simpson! Uh, but I'm not Homer Simpson... I'm the Pieman! Homer Simpson away! I mean, the Pieman.
    • "The President Wore Pearls" ends with this disclaimer: "On the advice of our lawyers, we swear we have never heard of a musical based on the life of Eva Perón."
    • There's a much more extended example in "Bart The Fink":
      Cayman Islands Banker: Oh, I'm sorry. I can't divulge information about that customer's secret illegal account. (hangs up the phone) Oh, Crap! I shouldn't have said he was a customer. Oh, crap. I shouldn't have said it was a secret. Oh, crap! I certainly shouldn't have said it was illegal. Ah, it's too hot today.
    • In "Please Homer, Don't Hammer 'Em", peanut products are banned from Springfield Elementary due to someone (Principal Skinner) having an allergy, and Bart asks Groundskeeper Willie who it is.
      Willie: I'll never say his name.
      Bart: "His", eh? So, it's a dude.
      Willie: Who says it's a dude? A principal can be a man or a woman these days.
    • In "Secrets of a Successful Marriage" Homer tries to keep a story about an "anonymous" couple by calling them "Mr. X" and "Mrs. Y".
      Homer: So, Mr. X says "Marge, if this doesn't get your motor running, my name isn't Homer J. Simpson!"
    • Skinner does this in "Lisa the Vegetarian", when he delivers an address to Lisa's class to respond to Lisa's complaints about the school adopting anti-vegetarian policies:
      Skinner: Children, a certain individual, let's say "Lisa S"... no wait, that makes it too obvious, let's say... "L Simpson"...
      [the entire class turns to look at Lisa, who facepalms]
    • In "Homer the Great", when Homer confronts Lenny and Carl about their secret society:
    Carl: We don't, uh, know what you're talking about, Homer.
    Lenny: And you can't join the Stonecutters because it's too exclusive.
    Carl: (sighs) Oh, well, that was a real nice secret organisation we had once.
  • In Invader Zim:
    Zim: I'm infecting this city with genetically enhanced vermin, but you'll never know.
    Dib: You just told me.
    Zim: YOU'RE LYING!!!
  • A Cutaway Gag from Family Guy:
    Lois: Peter, it's just a phase! You've gone through a few yourself, you know.
    Brian: Yeah, like those two weeks you spent narrating your own life?
    Peter (in flashback): I walked into the kitchen and sat down at the table. I looked with a grimace at the questionable meal Lois had placed in front of me. Of course I'd never tell her how disgusted I was with her cooking, but somehow I think she knew. [Lois glares at him]
  • SpongeBob SquarePants
    • Done in The Movie:
      Dennis: Plankton was very specific.
      Spongebob: Plankton?
      Dennis: For some reason, he wanted me to step on you.
      Patrick: Step on us?
      Dennis: Yeah, that way you'll never find out he stole the crown!
      Dennis: Perhaps I've said too much...
    • There also a variation with Mr. Krabs in the episode "Jellyfish Hunter" as SpongeBob tries to free the jellyfish Krabs tricked him into imprsoning.
      Mr. Krabs: Well, you can't. That door's voice-activated, and it'll only open if I say "Open"! (cue him quickly covering his mouth)
  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog: Robotnik captured Tails and used him as a bargaining chip to convince Sonic to deliberately lose a race, which will have every member of a sheep race put into slavery. It works until Sonic demands Grounder (his opponent) to reveal where Tails is. Grounder responds, "You'll never find him under the arena."
  • The classic in this genre: Private Snafu - Spies, from a series of WWII training films. "Private Snafu has a military secret which he tells us he will never tell." Directed by Chuck Jones, written by Dr. Seuss.
  • Sylvester the Cat and Tweety Bird: Sylvester has immobilized the dogs in a dog pound, and Tweety wants to know how to break the spell. Sylvester's reply: "You expect me to tell you that the only way to wake them up is with a police whistle?" Sylvester then clamps an upside-down glass over Tweety while the bird was in his paw, silencing Tweety's whistle. Unfortunately for Sylvester, Tweety happens to have a straight-pin with him.
  • The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries: Pepe Le Pew stole all the perfume of Paris and replaced it with his own smell. When caught, he said he'd not reveal it's hidden at the old chocolate factory.
  • Danger Mouse: In one episode, Penfold is hypnotized into going with Danger Mouse in a roller coaster ride and not telling anyone it was a trap. While in trance, he constantly mentioned in front of Danger Mouse he'd never tell anyone it was a trap. Because of how much the show follows the Rule of Funny, Danger Mouse didn't suspect a thing until Penfold broke free from the trance and "told" him it was a trap.
  • Goof Troop: In one episode, Goofy tells a group of criminals, "I'll tell you where I live, but I'll never tell you where my next door neighbor Pete lives".
  • The New Adventures of He-Man: During a peace meeting with the Galactic Guardians, Slushead slips the fact that the meeting is just a diversion while Skeletor and Flogg attack Primus.
  • Gravity Falls: In "Little Dipper", Soos tells an enraged Gideon "You'll never find Stan, on the second door to the left down the hall... uh, wait, why did I say that?"
  • Care Bears (1980s): In one episode, Treat Heart and a young girl are in No Heart's castle, trying to find a potion that will help them shrink giant vines that have captured their friends, when Beastly appears. They ask him if he knows where it is and Beastly says that he is not going to tell them that it is "next to the dumb-dumb pills."
  • The Hair Bear Bunch: In "Panda Pandemonium", Mr. Peevly gives Bananas the Gorilla a stalk of bananas for his friendship the the Bunch, assured that he'd never tell the keepers to where the bears escaped.
    Bananas: No sirree, Bob! I'd never tell anyone they escaped to the carnival!
  • Kaeloo: Pretty does this in one episode where she goes on a TV show and says "I'd never say..." followed by one of her friends' secrets each time. She's actually doing it on purpose, not because she's stupid.
  • Gravedale High: In "Night of the Living Dad", Gill Waterman accidentally lets slip that Marty is a fake dad that Frankentyke made to prevent everyone from finding out that his real dad is the human scientist who created him.
    Gill: I'm not telling you about the monster dad Frankentyke made because he was ashamed of his real dad.
  • Jelly Jamm: In "My Little Queen", Bello tries to blame Mina for the Queen becoming a kid again. Mina then posits the possibility it was Bello, leading to Goomo (who saw what had really happened) saying this line:
    Goomo: Leave my BFF alone! Just because he wished the Queen to be little again when he saw a shooting star, it's not his fault!
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: In "The Spy Humongous", a Pakled comes aboard the Cerritos requesting asylum, but the crew quickly figures out that he's a spy, simply because he's so terrible at it. They give him the runaround. After returning him to Pakled Planet (that's the actual name of their homeworld), he triumphantly admits to being a spy to Captain Freeman, while stating that he learned a lot (he didn't) while also not revealing Pakled secrets. Thinking quickly, Freeman asks what exactly he didn't reveal, causing him to blurt out the Pakled plan to bomb Earth.
  • The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald: In the final video "The Monster O'McDonaldland Loch", Grimace tells Birdie to not tell anyone about his fear of ducks. After Birdie states that she never told anyone about his fear of ducks, Grimace is relieved, forgetting that the rest of the McDonaldland gang just heard his admission.
  • WordGirl: In "You Can't Crush City Hall", the titular heroine finds out about the secret code to deactivate Chuck's sandwich press, which threatens to destroy city hall, in this manner.
    WordGirl: There must be some way to stop it!
    Chuck: Oh, there is! But I'm not telling you about the secret code! [realizes he's said too much] I didn't say secret code out loud, did I...?
  • The Angry Beavers: Combined with an accidental example of Spiteful Spoiler. After being bopped five times into last week by Norbert, Dagget promises not to do anything to ruin Norbert's movie, such as spoiling him how the protagonist travels back in time to kill the radioactive squirrel that bit and mutated his son with a radioactive nut. Norbert is naturally less than pleased after that, and ends up bopping Dagget into the dawn of time.

  • A Textbook Humor joke paper on Arxiv (by a reknowned cosmologist), researching the variation of pi over time, concludes with the following crowner: "A number of colleagues were kind enough to comment on the manuscript. For some reason they did not want me to use their names, so I will identify them by their initials:". Followed by their first and middle initials... and unabbreviated last names.


Video Example(s):


Dad's Army

A classic joke from ''Dad's Army'', in which an attempt to conceal someone's identity from a German U-Boat captain fails before it even starts.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / IllNeverTellYouWhatImTellingYou

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