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In-Universe Factoid Failure

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Even (most) first graders know this one.
Henry: You're safe. Bears can't climb trees.
Peter: Of course they can!
Henry: Oh. Then why are you up here?

An instance where a character, usually but not always someone who is Book Dumb if not The Ditz, proclaims an incorrect bit of information they learned from a highly questionable source if they researched it at all in the first place. Often, someone else will try to correct them. Almost always this is Played for Laughs. Often overlaps with Epic Fail.

See also Didn't Think This Through, when a plan goes awry from lack of planning. Expect a cloudcuckoolander or a Know-Nothing Know-It-All to do this often. Future Imperfect is a specific version of this in which people misrepresent past cultures.

Compare Little Known Facts, Historical Character Confusion, Global Ignorance, Eskimos Aren't Real, Gretzky Has the Ball, Don't Be Ridiculous (when attempted correction is more absurd than the original explanation) and The Blind Leading the Blind.

In-Universe Examples Only:

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  • The famous 'House Hippo' PSA invokes this trope for the sake of An Aesop; by 'educating' the viewer about the titular fake animal in question, before it admits that it's not actually real, and you should ask questions about what you see on television.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Chapter 140 of Kaguya-sama: Love Is War revealed that Fujiwara was under the impression that Pretty Cure is a video game franchise. It also doubles as an Actor Allusion, as she shares a voice actress with Cure Milky (whose season had just premiered a few weeks before the chapter was released).
    Ishigami: Your knowledge of otaku culture is astoundingly shallow.
  • Pokémon: The Series
    • Pokémon the Series: Ruby and Sapphire:
      • When Ash first sees the Hoenn starters he assumes Treeko is the Water-Type, in spite of its name and color.
      • Jessie's first contest has Jessie command Seviper to use several moves its incapable of learning such as Sacred Fire, a move that can only be learned by Entei and Ho-Oh. This combined with Seviper accidentally launching Jessie out of the arena results in them getting 0/30 points.
    • Pokémon the Series: Diamond and Pearl: One late Sinnoh episode has Team Rocket scheme to steal Kenny's Floatzel believing the inflation sac would make a good pillow for their boss. James is the only one of the trio to even note the (correct) possibility that Floatzel's inflation sac isn't removable from its body.
    • Pokémon the Series: Black & White:
      • During Ash's battle against Elesa, he attempts to use Snivy's Attract to immobilize Elesa's Emolga, after Elesa used that strategy to beat his Palpitoad. However, Ash forgets that his Snivy and Elesa's Emolga are both girls, and Attract only works if the opposing Pokémon is the opposite gender of the user. Ash also forgets that Snivy's resistance to Electric-type attacks doesn't matter much when Emolga is part Flying-type, a type that Snivy is weak to.
      • Ash and his friends meet Cameron, a Unova League hopeful who says that he has all seven badges he needs to compete—except, as our heroes point out, he needs eight badges. He also believes that the Unova League tournament will be held in Ecruteak City — which is in the Johto region. Oh, and when he finally gets to face Ash in a full battle in said tournament, he believes that "full battle" means "5-vs-5". It's actually 6-vs-6, meaning that he inadvertently handicaps himself. Amazingly, despite being a complete moron, he still manages to eliminate Ash due to sheer dumb luck.
      • Iris gets the opportunity to battle Ash's Charizard and is subsequently confused about why her Dragonite's Dragon Rush attack didn't do more damage to it, saying Charizard is part Dragon-type and should have taken super-effective damage. Everyone present is baffled by her claim before Ash pulls out his Pokedex to confirm to her that Charizard is actually a Fire/Flying type. Iris is left disappointed because she specializes in Dragon-types and really wanted to train a Charizard.
  • In My Hero Academia: World Heroes' Mission, several characters claim the villain's 'Quirk Doomsday Theory' is unsubstantiated/mythical... including Katsuki Bakugo and Shouto Todoroki, who both dealt with children who had incredibly strong Quirks during the 'Remedial Licensing Exam' arc. The episode(s) in question address the 'Quirk Singularity', which is practically word for word the same as Quirk Doomsday, only scientific instead of religious. Other characters might be forgiven for making this mistake assuming they just didn't have exposure to this, but considering Shouto is literally used as a pillar of the theory, and both himself and Bakugo had exposure to this ideal makes their ignorance in parroting the disbelief baffling.

    Comic Books 
  • Ambush Bug once made a huge error on seeing a young blonde woman in a familiar costume flying. Ambush Bug immediately realized that some malevolent magic or Red Kryptonite had turned his "pal" Superman into a girl, and that Superman desperately needed the Bug's help. Somehow, Ambush Bug was completely ignorant of the existence of Supergirl, who was naturally mystified by the encounter. (Supergirl, In-Universe, was publicly known and quite famous in her own right at the time.)note 
  • Astro City: A one-shot villain calling himself Majordomo does a lot of this. After he's defeated by the very people he'd been trying to turn into brainwashed minions, he's told that a majordomo is a servant, not an evil overlord.
  • Jack Of Fables often notes the hero's lack of understanding of history or science. He boasts of himself before a battle like Napoleon at Waterloo or the defenders of the Alamo "and like them, I will be victorious."
  • Team Fortress 2 comics:
    • In Ring of Fired #1, when the Demoman and his sentient sword the Eyelander are watching the show Ghost D.A., the title ghost character disappears with a "doodily-doodily-doot" noise. The Eyelander, which is possessed by a ghost, points out that it never does that and questions whether the writers are actually ghosts. It has more to complain about when the TV ghost puns "the defense rests... in peace."
      Eyelander: Ugh. "The defense rests"? He's the @$%ing prosecution! Ghost D.A.! "District Attorney!" It's in the title of the @$%ing show!
    • Turns out the entire town of Teufort suffers from a major case of this in Unhappy Returns. The Mayor is apparently completely oblivious to what he can and can't do in his position, apparently thinking he's allowed to force someone to become a fake-Italian, and hang people without a trial. No-one else in the town finds a problem with this. This is due to them having drunk lead-contaminated water for over a generation.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin tends to do this a lot for his assignments from school—he hates school and usually doesn't bother putting much effort and research into his assignments and also tends to put off doing his assignments until the last possible minute. In fact, Calvin once completely forgot about a project until the day it was due despite having at least a month to work on it. To name a few specific examples:
    • In a story arc from January 25th to February 4th of 1988, Calvin and his rival, Susie Derkins, are assigned to do a report together on the planet Mercury. While Susie takes the project seriously (possibly too seriously) and puts actual effort and research into it, Calvin spends pretty much the entire time goofing off—in fact, the below quote is Calvin's only contribution to the project, which he did the morning of the day the report was due, despite having a week to work on it.
      Calvin: The planet Mercury was named after a Roman god with winged feet. Mercury was the god of flowers and bouquets, which is why today he is a registered trademark of FTD florists. Why they named a planet after this guy, I can't imagine. ...Um, back to you, Susie.
    • In a story arc from October 27th to November 4th of 1989, Calvin and his classmates were assigned to do a report (complete with a scientific illustration) on a specific animal, with Calvin being assigned to do his on bats. Being the lazy six-year-old that he is, he does absolute no research for his report and the only "fact" he can think of is that bats are bugs, because "they fly, right? They're ugly and hairy, right?" Despite literally everyone who hears this telling Calvin that bats aren't bugs, he refuses to listen ("Look, who's giving the report, you chowderheads, or me?"). Not helping matters is the fact that his "scientific illustration" amounted to tracing the Batman logo and giving it fangs. Predictably, he fails the assignment. Bill Watterson said in a commentary that one of the nice things about writing this strip is that he didn't need to know more than a lazy six-year-old, and that after writing the story he got sent more information on bats than he ever wanted to know.
    • In one history test, Calvin wrote down that the first president of the United States was Chef Boyardee, among other answers that his teacher considered "an absolute disgrace".
    • Calvin is also absurdly bad at basic addition and subtraction math problems, such as believing that three plus four is a billion, eight plus four equals seven (how can an addition problem end with less than you started with? Because "it's a free country"!), seven plus six is three-hundred billion gazillion, that nine plus four requires the use of imaginary numbers and calculus, or that a math problem can be answered with "Eli Whitney and the cotton gin".
    • Hobbes is, if anything, even worse at math than Calvin. For example, he once said a basic addition problem couldn't be solved without the use of imaginary numbers... and then gave an incorrect definition of what imaginary numbers are- instead of being the square root of -1, they're numbers like "eleventy zillion." He also once claimed that the term "paper tiger" referred to a tiger with a newspaper route.
  • Knights of the Dinner Table: In a "SpaceHack" game, B.A. warns the players that they're running out of fuel. After confirming that their ship has "a standard hydrogen drive", Brian comes up with the solution of skimming a nearby planet's ocean and extracting hydrogen from the water. B.A. insists that hydrogen is a rare element (in fact, it's the most common element in the universe) and doesn't believe that it can be extracted from water (H2O), continuing to argue the point for half an hour.
    Sara: B.A., they're right. Let's move on.
  • Peanuts:
    • Sally is very prone to this. For example, in a book report on Little Women, she claimed that Louisa May Alcott was just a Pen Name used by Judah Ben-Hur.
    • Peppermint Patty's D-minus grade average is at least partly due to this trope. In a report on Washington, D.C., she claimed the D.C. meant "doctor", going on to say that "Doctor Washington" was an opthamologist who treated his friend Bunker Hill's eye whites on the battlefield and was given a coaching position as a reward.
    • One arc involved Charlie and Sally helping younger children in Sunday School. Sally was continuously frustrated by a young boy who inexplicably believed Jay Gatsby was in The Bible.
  • Pearls Before Swine: Members of the Zeeba Zeeba Eeeta fraternity often incorporate fake appearances by famous people into their plans... while being unaware of very well-known details about said famous people. One instance was them trying to trap Zebra with a fake Jimi Hendrix concert, not knowing that Hendrix had been dead for decades. Another had one of the crocodiles disguise himself as Stevie Wonder, but he didn't know Wonder was blind until Zebra told him.

    Fan Works 
  • The fictional authors' works in Bleach: Fan Works have several of varying severity. For example, Christina doesn't realize who Oshima (an extremely minor character who tries to threaten Ichigo, only to get taken down by Chad), while Jolene Myer has Ichigo's father called "Barnubus" rather than Isshin, and claims that Masaki divorced him when the twins were born (instead of getting killed by Grand Fisher and Yhwach, although they most likely couldn't have known that when this installment was uploaded).
  • A Brief History of Equestria: Apparently it's common — due to their rivalry prior to and during the Lake Trot Crisis — to portray Viscount Arsenic as Lady Cripps' father, who abandoned her mother after a brief affair. This despite the fact that at the time of said affair, Arsenic was two years old.
  • Couturiere: Lila tells Alya she was just talking with Marcelle Auclair - which would have been impressive if she hadn't died in 1983.
  • Crumbling Down: Lila claims to be in contact with the lead actress from the film Solitude. Nino and Marinette both know that Lila can't possibly have spoken to her recently, because the lead actress is Emilie Graham de Vanily, now known as Emilie Agreste - Adrien's mother, who the entire class knows disappeared long before Lila even arrived in Paris. Upon hearing about this, both Adrien and his father are absolutely enraged.
  • In an in-universe example, the Lemony Narrator of Equestria: A History Revealed seems to fulfill this trope in spades. To her credit, she does do research, but she blatantly ignores what is stated in favor of her own opinions, going as far as to cross out sections of quotes that don't agree with her view.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Missing Link: A book in the Monktown Valley library claims that bombchus are created by binding the souls of mice to bombs, though both the bombchu shop owner and Word of God confirm that it's a complete lie.
  • Occurs in Queen of All Oni with Lung. Not only did his Evil Plan revolve around the stubborn as a mule Jade submitting to his will, he clearly has no idea about the curse that only allows her to summon her Co-Dragons.
  • In Raise Your Voice Against Liars, Lila twice attempts to wow the Japanese students in Hawaii with her lies and falls victim to this. The first time, she tries to tell Yusuke that she's a former pupil of a famous Japanese artist and ends up choosing Ichiryuusai Madarame (he ends up sarcastically apologizing to her for all the shit she supposedly went through under him); the second time, she claims she's in a relationship with the son of Kunikazu Okumura while his sole child and daughter Haru is in earshot.
  • Supper Smash Bros: Mishonh From God shows various examples in relation to the games that Smash Bros are based upon. The most egregious examples are in 'The REEL Sekwel', where she believes Pacman is a Pokémon and Captain Falcon is a villain in Fire Emblem.
  • Turnabout Storm:
    • Phoenix Wright makes a loud objection during the trial when it's revealed that the decisive evidence against the defendant is a storm cloud, mocking the prosecution for suggesting that his client could move that cloud around and make it shoot lightning at will. Too bad he happens to be in Equestria, a world where controlling the weather is a common sense fact.
      Phoenix: Oh... Hehe... Sorry! My mistake...
      Twilight: Maybe you should have... Oh, I don't know, studied!?
      Phoenix: I said I was sorry!
    • Shortly after he makes another mistake in trying to contradict a statement, pointing out that the thunder is heard after the lightning strike, not at the same time. Not in Equestria, though.
  • Used intentionally and Played for Laughs in the Twilight fic Third Wheel. (The narrator is something of a ditz.)
    [Discussing Bella Swan's family] So the acorn didn't fall too far from the pine tree.
  • With This Ring: Senator Knight's proposal to ban magic after the 'deaths of thousands of children' in Displaced. Senator Knight didn't know that literally anyone can learn magic and he could have found this out by asking Zatara, a Justice League member with a public address who is a magic specialist. His name became synonymous with obliviousness and ignorance when Orange Lantern calls him out on it in a live interview.

    Films — Animation 
  • In the film of James and the Giant Peach, the Centipede, bragging about his (fake) experience in world travel, mentions the "five seas" and the "icy shores of Tripoli". The Grasshopper calls him out, pointing out that there are seven seas and Tripoli is in the sub-tropics.
  • Scooby-Doo! and the Monster of Mexico : Mr. Smiley leaves a clue in the form of a grammatical error when writing a threat on the Mystery Machine. Fred points out that the word “mañana” was written without the tilde, making it come out as “manana” instead of “mañana”.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The title character in The 40-Year-Old Virgin displays his complete lack of sexual experience when he mentions that breasts feel like bags of sand.
  • Alien: Covenant: During one his usual self-righteous monologues about how superior to humanity he is, David quotes Ozymandias, falsely attributing it to Lord Byron. Walter casually responds that the poem was actually written by Percy Bysshe Shelley; how is David superior to humans when he can't even get a simple poetry quotation right?
  • From Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy:
    Ron: Discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named it San Diego, which of course in German means a whale’s vagina.
    Veronica: No, there’s no way that’s correct.
    Ron: I’m sorry, I was trying to impress you. I don’t know what it means. I’ll be honest, I don’t think anyone knows what it means anymore. Scholars maintain that the translation was lost hundreds of years ago.
    Veronica: Doesn’t it mean Saint Diego?
  • Bluto's speech in Animal House gives us this gem:
    Bluto: Over? Did you say "over"? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!
    Otter: [to Boon] "Germans?"
    Boon: Forget it, he's rollin'.
  • Avengers: Endgame: When listing movies that use time travel, Scott Lang names Die Hard, a movie with no time travel whatsoever. He may have been thinking of Looper or 12 Monkeys, since those films also star Bruce Willis. Fortunately, Scott catches his mistake!
  • Camel Spiders: When the main group are hiding in the rich guys' facility, they decide to start wondering how to kill the camel spiders after them. One person decides he kill their queen, and is called out for his ignorance.
  • S.H.I.E.L.D. of all people have this at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger. After Steve Rogers is unfrozen after crashing the HYDRA Valkyrie in 1945, they try to ease him into the present day by building a fake 1940s hospital room, complete with a 1940s baseball game broadcast "live" on the radio and a woman in period-appropriate attire entering to greet him. However, Steve immediately notices something is wrong—the "live" baseball game is actually from 1941, and he knows because he was there. Cue him breaking out and experiencing massive culture-shock at 21st century Times Square. Nice going, S.H.I.E.L.D. Sharp-eyed fans have noted that's not the only thing wrong with the scene—the woman's hair is wrong, her attire isn't quite period-appropriate, and so on... and so they've theorized the many minor mistakes are because Nick Fury wanted to know how much sharpness Captain America lost during his long sleep.
  • Cocaine Bear: A boy who climbed up a tree to avoid the cocaine bear asserts that bears can't climb trees. A naturalist counters, "Of course they can!"
  • Die Hard:
    • In the news station, an interviewee claims that the hostages in the building will by now be suffering from Helsinki Syndrome.note  The interviewer turns to the camera and smugly says "As in Helsinki, Sweden."note  The film then cuts to the cameraman facepalming at the incompetence on display.
    • Hans references High Noon but mistakes one of the lead actors.
      Hans: This time John Wayne does not walk off into the sunset with Grace Kelly.
      John: That was Gary Cooper, asshole.
      Hans: Enough jokes.
  • In Dr. Strangelove, the Russian ambassador explains that the Soviets built their world-ending machine because they feared a "Doomsday-gap" when they "discovered" that the Americans were building one. When the US President truthfully rebukes that as a ludicrous fantasy, the ambassador replies: "Our source was The New York Times."
  • In A Fish Called Wanda, this is a defining trait of the Wicked Pretentious thug Otto, as Wanda drives home when she punctures his facade of intellectualism:
    Wanda: Now let me correct you on a couple things, okay? Aristotle was not Belgian! The central message of Buddhism is not "Every man for himself!" And the London Underground is not a political movement! Those are all mistakes, Otto, I looked 'em up.
  • In Hitman, 47 meets with an arms dealer under a false identity. When his cover is secretly blown, the dealer attempts to intimidate 47 by showing off some of his weapons and even threatening to kill one of his prostitutes with a pistol. In so doing he misidentifies aspects of every gun he picks up (such as calling an M4A1 rifle with an M203 underbarrel grenade launcher an "M203 with under barrel grenade launcher"). 47, not the slightest bit intimidated, points it out to him.
  • Actually serves as a plot point in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. The characters win a vacation on a radio contest by answering the question "What is the capital of Brazil?" with "Rio de Janeiro", while the actual capital is Brasília. It is however revealed later that the trip was a set up, so they would have won regardless of what answer they gave.
  • Jungle Cruise: Part of Frank's kitschy tour in the beginning is having fake hippos menace tourists a bit. One little girl tries to point out that hippos don't live in South America, but Frank shushes her.
  • Knives Out:
    • Different members of the Thrombey family continuously say that Marta is from different Latin American countries that are unrelated to one another. The film itself never clarifies which country she's from, so at the very least almost all of them must be wrong.
    • Various Thrombeys sneer at Meg's education because she's in humanities, but in ways that make it clear they don't actually have any knowledge of humanities and are just spouting buzzwords they've heard are "liberal", like "Marxist deconstructionist". This is kind of like saying someone's degree in economics is "some kind of laissez-faire anarchist state socialism" or in science as "neo-chemical quantum biology".
  • Shaun of the Dead: Shaun and Ed recall a past argument about whether dogs can look up, apparently getting dogs mixed up with a similar, and more accurate, urban legend about pigs.
  • In The Siege of Jadotville, while the Irish troops are digging trenches, a snake slithers into one, causing everyone to clear out of the trench thinking it was poisonous. Commandant Quinlain calmly walks over, picks up the snake and tosses it away, pointing out it was non-venomous and asks if anyone bothered to read the pamphlets they were issued on the local flora and fauna.
  • Snatch.: Tommy says to Turkish that he shouldn't drink milk because it's not in sync with evolution and that human digestion hasn't gotten used to drinking dairy products yet. Not only is this complete nonsense on every level (human infants nearly all drink milk, and lactose persistence is one of the best-known examples of divergent evolution between human populations after our exodus from Africa), but Turkish seems aware of it as well.
    Turkish: Well fuck me. What have you been reading?
  • Trading Places has this example from the heroes' scam:
    Coleman: Let me see, you would be from Austria. Am I right?
    Ophelia: No, I am Inga from Sweden.
    Coleman: Sweden? ...But you're wearing ...Lederhosen.
    Ophelia: Ja, from Sweden.
  • Transformers:
    Simmons: Nokias are real nasty! You've gotta give respect to the Japanese - they know the way of the samurai!
    Maggie: Nokia’s from Finland.
    Keller: Yes, but he's, you know, a little strange. He's a little strange.
  • In Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, at one point Wonka opens the way forward on the tour by playing a brief sequence of music on a little piano. Mrs. Teavee glances at one of her fellow tourists and confidently identifies the composer as Rachmaninoff. It's actually the opening notes of the Overture from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro.
  • The Wizard of Oz: After the Scarecrow gets a diploma, he suddenly states that "The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side", showing off how intelligent he is. Shame that only applies to a right triangle. Possibly justified, since the whole point of him getting a diploma instead of a brain is that you don't have to actually be smart as long as you can make people believe you are.

  • A recurring bit of Adrian Mole is that Adrian (a classic case of Small Name, Big Ego) never bothers researching his writings and thus can't grasp why his "genius" work is dismissed by others.
    • He had a character do a "day trip" from England to China that was just walking on the Great Wall as that's the extent of Adrian's knowledge of the country.
    • He thinks the Sistine Chapel was painted by Rembrandt in Venice. In truth, the Sistine Chapel's ceilings and sculptures were painted by various artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, and Sandro Botticelli.
    • He complains that Jane Austen is "too old-fashioned and should write something more modern."
    • He thinks Evelyn Waugh was a woman, doesn't grasp why Pandora has a nickname of "the box" and is constantly mixing up various artistic names and their achievements.
    • There's also how Adrian prides himself on being a master chef but it's clear he has little to no idea how to make some rather obvious dishes.
    • One segment has Rosie becoming a Goth, which is made out to be a cult, complete with not washing and worshipping a "Goth god." However, it's indicated that instead of the author, it's Rosie herself who has no idea what a Goth really is.
    • The Evelyn Waugh bit gets a Call-Back in the first of the "Pirate Radio 4" monologues, when he explains that he now knows Evelyn Waugh is a man. And probably dead proud of his daughter, Auberon.
  • American Psycho: As much as Patrick Bateman tries to present himself as possessing immense knowledge and informed opinions in appreciation of pop culture, music, movies, TV, and other trivia, he does often get things wrong, although this isn't always made glaringly obvious:
    • There's a scene where Bateman references a quote which he attributes to infamous murderer Ed Gein. In actuality, the quote in question was said by another notorious serial killer, Edmund Kemper.
    • Patrick frequently refers to the depiction of "Eponine's" face on posters for the Broadway musical Les Misérables. The actual character appearing in the promotional posters is Cosette.
    • In the first chapter, Patrick refers to "The Crystals still blaring on the radio" while Timothy Price is trying to enjoy the 60's pop song "Be My Baby" being played at maximum volume in the middle of a cab ride, but the song is actually performed by The Ronettes.
    • He identifies the saddest song he knows as "'You Can't Always Get What You Want' by The Beatles". It's actually by The Rolling Stones. It also humorously demonstrates complete ignorance of the uplifting, reassuring quality of the song's pop hook that explains, "You get what you need."
    • Conversely, Patrick names the happiest song he knows as Bruce Springsteen's "Brilliant Disguise", whose lyrics actually paint a troubling image of a narrator expressing confusion, doubt, and anxiety over whether his lover holds any true feelings for him beneath her mask.
    • At a U2 concert, Patrick and his friends aren't sure which one is "The Ledge".
    • He attempts to compliment Tom Cruise while sharing an elevator by telling him how much he liked the actor in the movie "Bartender". Tom Cruise corrects Patrick on the film's actual title—Cocktail.
    • Patrick kills a street performer with a .357 Magnum revolver, somehow managing to attach a suppressor to it, but the suppressor doesn't do anything and a police car passing by immediately responds to the loud gunshot. Unless specifically designed for them, revolvers can't be suppressed.
    • Timothy Price/Bryce makes the claim when trying to sound world conscious that "Sikhs are killing tons of Israelis" in Sri Lanka. Israelis certainly do not have a large presence in Sri Lanka in either a military or civilian capacity, and Sri Lanka is predominantly Buddhist.
    • Some of Bateman's coworkers mistakenly believe the killer in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is named "Featherhead". His actual name is, of course, Leatherface.
  • At the end of the Belisarius Series, top spymaster Narses is sent to China as an ambassador. He asks which kingdom he should be heading for, as there are sixteen kingdoms making up China at the time. Only one problem: the Sixteen Kingdoms period had ended a century earlier, and never had more than ten kingdoms present at any one time. The person he's asking says it doesn't matter (the important thing is that he not be present in India anymore), but that he'll find there are rather fewer kingdoms to choose from.
  • The Catcher in the Rye:
    • Holden Caulfield writes a paper about ancient Egypt, which reads thus: "The Egyptians were an ancient race of Caucasians residing in one of the northern sections of Africa. The latter as we all know is the largest continent in the Eastern Hemisphere. The Egyptians are extremely interesting to us today for various reasons. Modern science would still like to know what the secret ingredients were that the Egyptians used when they wrapped up dead people so that their faces would not rot for innumerable centuries. This interesting riddle is still quite a challenge to modern science in the twentieth century." That is the paper, in its entirety.
    • The title of the book comes from Holden mistaking a line from the song "Comin' Through the Rye". He thinks it's "If a body catch a body comin' through the rye", but it's really "If a body meet a body comin' through the rye."
  • G. K. Chesterton loved to have characters impersonate members of the clergy and then give themselves away by getting basic details of their supposed faith completely wrong.
    • In the first Father Brown story "The Blue Cross", Flambeau tries to convince Father Brown that he is a fellow Catholic priest, but then in conversation tries to argue for moral relativism. Other Father Brown stories have him catching impersonators out by ignorance of Anglican High Church/Low Church distinctions, or attacking reason as a supposed fellow Catholic priest.
    • The Man Who Was Thursday has an anarchist disguised as a bishop give himself away by attacking reason, along with another impersonating a colonel acting in the manner of a comically stereotyped Blood Knight.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid:
    • Greg's idea of a "report" typically involves substituting half-remembered details and wild guesses for actual research. For example, in a biology report on moose, he claimed that moose and humans have a common ancestor — birds.
    • His older brother Rodrick is no better. Typically, he'll hand-write his reports and then have his dad type them up for him. More often than not, his dad feels the need to correct him on mistakes he made, pointing out errors like the fact that Abraham Lincoln didn't write To Kill a Mockingbird. As Greg learns the hard way when he buys Rodrick's assessment, his dad didn't even do that for him until high school, resulting in the terribly written and clearly unresearched poem he ends up buying from him, 'A Hundred Years Ago', which says that the planet was ruled by giant spiders back then.
  • The Dresden Files: Dead Beat has a plot point about a book titled Die Lied der Erlking which contains information on how to summon the titular Erlking. The title is intended to be written in German, but is grammatically nonsensical and uses the English name for the Erlking (the correct title would be Das Lied des Erlkönigs). This was an admitted mistake by the author, but became canon in Turn Coat, when Dresden meets the in-universe author of the translation and mocks him for making such a humiliating mistake.
  • The original Jack Higgins novel of The Eagle Has Landed has the framing device of a writer discovering the attempt by the Germans in 1943 to kidnap Winston Churchill. In the epilogue, the writer meets a local priest to talk of how he's ready to publish this as historical fact with the evidence he's gathered. With a sad smile, the priest tells the man he's missed the one key bit of research that guarantees his book will always be dismissed as fiction: on that particular weekend, Churchill was halfway across the Atlantic on a trip to Tehran and the "Churchill" the Germans were after was a Body Double.
  • Encyclopedia Brown:
    • Every book has a chapter where Wilford Wiggins tries to scam a crowd with some sort of big project or such. Every time, Encyclopedia is there to point out the huge error that makes the whole thing useless (such as trying to sell a dinosaur dig with a drawing of a dinosaur attacking a caveman). Justified in that Wilford is a high school dropout.
    • Bugs Meany falls into this with a few of his scams. He once tries to sell an "authentic" Confederate Civil War sword, proudly showing the engraving of it being presented after "The First Battle of Bull Run." Encyclopedia points out two mistakes: one, that it'd be a bit odd for the inscription to name the 'First' battle when they didn't know there'd be a second (a bit of a counterfactual clue; ceremonial swords took a long time to make and the second battle might well have happened after the sword was commissioned but before it was finished) and second, 'Bull Run' was the Union name for the battle (named after a nearby creek), while the Confederacy called it the Battle of Manassas (after a nearby town). The Northern name for the battle stuck in history because they won, but contemporary Southern troops wouldn't use it.
  • Ender's Shadow: Bean's nemesis Achilles thinks that Josef Stalin was promoted by Vladimir Lenin but then imprisoned and killed him, when in reality Lenin died of a stroke while urging his followers to not put Stalin in charge. His mistaken belief may be due to his own lack of schooling coupled with his desire to become a dictator twisting his memory of history.
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: When the police drug "expert" tries to explain why a marijuana cigarette is colloquially referred to as a "roach".
    "What the fuck are these people talking about?" my attorney whispered. "You'd have to be crazy on acid to think a joint looked like a goddamn cockroach!"
  • From Gordon Korman's Son of the Mob 2: Vince is heading off to film school in California with his girlfriend and best friend and decides to chronicle their road trip in script form. His girlfriend immediately points out one minor problem: he has them driving west into the rising sun.
  • Harry Potter: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them mentions a kappa, and states it's Japanese. One of Harry's notes next to it says "Snape hasn't read this book either", since Snape incorrectly identifies the Kappa as Mongolian in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
    • Ford Prefect chooses his name — the name of a rather mediocre British car — apparently on the assumption that cars were the dominant species on the planet. The movie adaptation extrapolates from this the scene of Ford and Arthur's first meeting, Arthur saving Ford from attempting to shake hands with a car.note 
    • The Cutaway Gag sequence about the Vl'Hurg-G'Gugvuntt fleet that attempted to invade the Earth, only to be accidentally swallowed by a small dog in its entirety "due to a terrible miscalculation of scale".
  • How to Bicycle to the Moon to Plant Sunflowers: A Simple but Brilliant Plan in 24 Easy Steps is a picture book about a boy's plan to go to the moon by bicycling and planting sunflowers there. Obviously, the plan would be impossible to complete. For example, it would take a long time to reach the moon on a bicycle, there's nothing on the moon to support life, and the bicycle would burn up in the atmosphere. This is somewhat justified, as the boy is a child.
  • The Hunger Games: Delivered by none other than Effie Trinket: "Well, if you put enough pressure on coal it turns to pearls." That should be diamonds. And as Katniss notes internally, even then it's not accurate; it's graphite that turns to crystallized carbon under pressure, but that doesn't sound as punchy.
  • Pick Up Sticks: This trope is the murder motive. It seems the killer didn't realize the land he'd bought for a new vacation resort was part of the Appalachian Trail. Thatcher points out at the end of the novel that if the killer had done any local research, he would have learned that. note 
  • In the Harry Harrison novel Rebel in Time, a racist U.S. colonel goes back in time to help the South win the Civil War. His plan is to instigate a rebellion armed with submachine guns and seize key Union command towns to help achieve an early victory. A black soldier follows him and in their final confrontation, asks why Wesley would do this when John Brown tried it and failed spectacularly. Wesley's dying words: "Who's John Brown?" Going over Wesley's possessions, the soldier discovers that Wesley (who barely passed his history classes in school) just happened to be going off the one book on the Civil War that doesn't mention John Brown or his raid on Harper's Ferry.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: The villains of The Slippery Slope proudly boast about how they control "two of the greatest mammals: the lions and the eagles!" Klaus calls them out on their error, but they don't care. Earlier, Esme defines "individual practitioner" as "a life of crime". Even baby Sunny knows that she's completely off the mark (and, funnily enough, provides the correct definition).
  • Spaced Out (2016): While playing a Romeo and Juliet VR game, Rodrigo "Roddy" Marquez tells Dash that William Shakespeare was a game designer, believing that even after Dash corrects him that Shakespeare was actually a playwright. Video Games Roddy believes Shakespeare made include "Macbeth's Battle For Scotland", "Revenge Of Hamlet", and "Shrew-Tamer".
  • In Stephen King's novella The Body, the 12-year-old protagonist wrote a bunch of stories about Americans trying to take a French town from the Nazis... in 1942. Only two years later did he find out that the Allies didn't land in France until 1944.
  • In There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom the titular boy gets in an altercation with a few other boys. Afterwards, he claims he gave one of them three black eyes.
  • In These Words Are True and Faithful, a local newspaper quotes "certain observers" as giving a hilariously wrong etymology for the gay slang "bear": "According to certain observers, the term 'bear' refers to gay men from rural environments, who, of course, are more likely to see actual bears than people living in urban or suburban areas."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Most episodes of Amazing Animals have a segment where the unseen narrator has Henry give a report on something related to the subject of the episode. The reports are always full of ridiculously incorrect claims about animals, such as claiming basking sharks eat entire islands, passenger pigeons disappeared because they went to outer space, and animals go on strike when the rainforest floods. The narrator then corrects Henry and explains the truth.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Whenever Andrew flexes his storyteller muscles, he'll usually include events of which he has no first-hand knowledge (i.e. previous seasons) in his spiel and is thus occasionally widely off the mark. For example, when he talks to the Potential Slayers about Faith he claims that she killed a Vulcan, "the most pacifist and logical of races". Flashback to Faith locked in deadly hand-to-hand combat with a Vulcan. In reality she killed a volcanologist. When one of the Potentials tries to correct him, he says "Why would she kill someone who studies Vulcans?"
  • Cheers: So many of Cliff's Little Known Facts fall here, like claiming the Aztecs invented parquet floors. On the occasion Cliff is actually right about something, he and the barflies are surprised.
  • An episode of Class has Matteusz draw a comparison between the characters' situation (fighting amongst themselves after they're forced to tell the truth to each other) and Susan Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia, citing the scene in which she magically overhears a friend gossiping about her (which ruins their friendship). Except this didn't happen to Susan, it happened to Lucy in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
  • Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report uses this intentionally and mixes it with Insane Troll Logic for laughs. This is really the entire premise of the show.
  • Doctor Who: In "Voyage of the Damned", Mr. Copper, the ship's historian, describes Earth before escorting a group of passengers down for a visit.
    Mr. Copper: To repeat, I am Mr. Copper, the ship's historian, and I shall be taking you to old London town in the country of U.K., ruled over by Good King Wenceslas. Now, human beings worship the great god Santa, a creature with fearsome claws, and his wife Mary. And every Christmas Eve, the people of U.K. go to war with the country of Turkey. They then eat the Turkey people for Christmas dinner... like savages!
    The Doctor: [eyebrow raised, raises hand] 'Scuse me? Sorry, sorry, but, um... where did you get all this from?
    Mr. Copper: Well, I have a first-class degree in Earthonomics.
  • Downton Abbey: Cora (mother of three girls) grumbles about having daughters: "you think it's going to be like Little Women but instead they're at each other's throats." It must have been a while since she read the book, since at least two of the little women (Jo and Amy) were constantly at each other's throats.
  • One scene from Flight of the Conchords's HBO series has a racist fruit vendor mistake Australian stereotypes for New Zealander ones.
    Jermaine: I'm a person. Bret's a person. You're a person. That person over there's a person. And each person deserves to be treated like a person.
    Vendor: That's a great speech. Too bad New Zealanders are a bunch of cocky a-holes descended from criminals and retarded monkeys.
    Jermaine: Hey, you're thinking of Australians.
    Vendor: No-no-no, New Zealanders, "throw another shrimp on the barbie", ride around on your kangaroos all day.
    Jermaine: No-no-no, that's Australians. You're thinking of Australians; that's not us.
    Vendor: I've totally confused you with Australians, I feel terrible. It's just your accents are just kinda similar.
    Jermaine: Our accents are completely different. They're like: "Where's the cahh?" and we're like "where's the cahh?".
  • Friends: In "The One with Chandler and Monica's Wedding", Joey is making a WWI movie and proclaims he's off to fight the Nazis. Rachel corrects him that America fought the Nazis in WWII. When asked who was the enemy in WWI, she suggests Mexico, to which Phoebe acquiesces.
  • The opening of the The Goes Wrong Show "The Pilot (Not the Pilot)" has the explanation the play being presented isn't usually performed "due to what critics called 'offensive historical inaccuracies' caused by the author's lazy research." It's a World War II drama...set in 1961 where Britain and Germany are in war in Vietnam, Henry VIII is King, and culminates in Adolf Hitler shot down while in a fighter plane.
  • Hawkeye: When watching the musical Rogers, Clint points out that it incorrectly shows Ant-Man participating in the Battle of New York.
  • House of the Dragon: In Season 1, Rhaenys belittles Rhaenyra for being the king's supposed heir while also serving as a cupbearer in small council meetings. Except serving as cupbearer to a lord—let alone the king—is not a diminutive position. It's a respectable role commonly given to young noble children, including heirs. Rhaenyra is only unusual in that it's her own father she's serving as opposed to some other House's lord. Much like Stewards of the Night's Watch as shown in Season 1 of Game of Thronesnote , serving in close proximity to the highest authority is an indicator that the cupbearer/steward is explicitly being groomed for command. A cupbearer is supposed to be present when politicking is happening, watching, learning—but not speaking. That will come when they're older. For a headstrong teenager like Rhaenyra—who has opinions and wants to voice them now, whose unsolicited opinion was just earlier dismissed—even that one caveat chafes.
  • How I Met Your Mother: Barney's "Platinum Rule" was based off his belief that the Golden Rule was "Love your neighbor." The other characters were quick to point out that it's actually "Treat others as you yourself would want to be treated."
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000:
    • Crow doing this trope is a Running Gag. Crow makes a documentary about The American Civil War. Titled Crow T. Robot's Bram Stoker's The Civil War, it opens with this line... which is actually pretty much the film's high point when it comes to historical accuracy:
      Crow: The Civil War was a war that took place during a certain period in our nation's history. When, exactly? No one can say.
    • He's also done reports about Rutherford B. Hayes ("Serving heroically in the Civil War, Hayes later admitted that it was in the army he first tasted human flesh.") and a PSA about how to treat women that mostly asserts that women are a cryptozoological phenomenon, like Bigfoot, except for the very, very end:
      Crow: Ah... Oh, um, yes. So anyway Mike, in conclusion, in the off-chance that you do run into a woman, uh, you know, treat her with respect and stuff.
      Mike: You know, Crow, you do know women. Now what about Pearl?
      Crow: ...OK, so one woman exists. That means all women exist?
    • Servo is also guilty, in the episode The Skydivers. During the prologue he puts on a planetarium show, giving us such gems as referring to the speed of light as "well over 500 miles an hour" (which is true, but in the same way it's true to say the Pacific Ocean is more than 500 gallons of water: the speed of light is well over 600 million miles per hour) and calling Mars "the brightest star in our galaxy."
  • In My Name Is Earl, Joy tries to disprove the theory of evolution by putting what she thinks are minnows in a tank with some food on a pile of sand. The "minnows" grow legs and walk out, blowing her mind. Darnell explains to her those were tadpoles, which grow into frogs, not fish.
  • NewsRadio: Bill, while trying to stage an office rebellion, shouts, "Do you think the Pilgrims really cared about all the tea they dumped into Baltimore Harbor?" It may well be a shout-out to Bluto's speech in Animal House.
  • When Power Rangers Ninja Storm's Rangers first enter the fray, the usually smart Lothor protests that nobody told him there were Power Rangers on Earth (he's referring to active Rangers, as his initial plan was based on attacking the Ninja Academies specifically to prevent the activation of any Power Ranger team he knew of, but still...).
  • On Scream Queens, Chad gives a speech against cancelling Halloween because of a serial killer, referring to John F. Kennedy. He somehow knows Kennedy wrote a book called Profiles in Courage, but everything else...
    Chad: As our great 60th president John Kennedy, Jr. said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
    Munsch: [after he's done] I have no idea how you got into this college.
  • One episode of Seinfeld has George try to join his girlfriend's book club who are reading Breakfast at Tiffany's at that time. He claims he's read it when he hasn't and tries to bone up on the story by watching the movie. At the book club, he makes some comments about a character's romantic relationship with a female character only to be informed that in the book, the character in question is gay.
  • Baroski correcting the Sons of Anarchy on the use of the term "Persian" is both intentional and unintentional. The country has officially been called Iran by the West since 1935 and by the East long before that. However, some of its people culturally self-identify as Persian. It would be acceptable to call the pornographers Persian if they identify as such, but it's never made clear if this is the case. If the Sons are also unaware, it would be better to refer to them as Iranian (while most Iranians are ethnically Persian, minorities of Arabs, Azeris and Kurds also exist). Baroski's claim that "Persia hasn't been a country since 637 AD" is incorrect; the Persian Empire fell that year, but that doesn't mean it ceased to exist as a country.
  • Star Trek: Played for Laughs with Chekov, who sometimes gets his Russian history wrong, claiming just about everything to be a Russian invention. That was probably what he was taught, as, in the 1960s, the USSR really did have this attitude in its education. According to Diane Duane's novels, he's joking, as when he claims that the rollercoaster is a Russian invention and is not believed he protests that this time it's true.note 
  • Supernatural: Dean loves cowboys (perhaps a bit too much), but he has no idea how they dressed.
    Castiel: Is it customary to wear a blanket?
    Dean: It's a serape. And yes.
    • He refers to a poncho as a "serape" (they're similar, sort of, but they're constructed differently, worn differently, and were invented by two different cultures), treats it as street clothes (it was cold-weather gear), and wears it in the Midwest (it was Southwestern). Naturally, when the brothers have to travel back in time to the days of the cowboy:
      Cowboy: Nice blanket.
  • Ultraman Z: The Voice Dramas reveal that the titular Ultra once failed a test of the Land of Light as a result of this, since he had to study the powers and abilities of monsters and requested help from his idol, Ultraman Zero who failed to give him good advice due to skipping school and not learning basic topics and facts such as Neronga's invisibility.
  • Characters on The West Wing are consistently getting called out for this; it's usually Played for Laughs. Perhaps the best example occurs in the pilot episode, where Sam Seaborn is asked to speak to Mallory's fourth-grade class about the history of the White House, on which subject he's clueless. Meeting them in the Roosevelt Room, he fakes it, saying the room is named after "our eighteenth president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt." After listening to Sam spew out factoids for a few moments, Mallory asks to speak to him outside the room:
    Mallory: I'm sorry to be rude, but are you a moron?
    Sam: In this particular area, yes.
    Mallory: The eighteenth president was Ulysses S. Grant and the Roosevelt Room was named for Theodore.
    Sam: Really?
    Mallory: There's like a six-foot painting on the wall of Teddy Roosevelt.note 
    Sam: I should have put two and two together.
    Mallory: Yes.
    Sam: The thing is, while there really are a great many things on which I can speak with authority, I'm not good at talking about the White House.
    Mallory: You're the White House Deputy Communications Director and you're not good at talking about the White House?
    Sam: Ironic, isn't it?
    • He has a point. He deals with political messaging. The person to ask for information about the White House as a building would be a tour guide, which means that whoever decided he needed to talk to the class about it had their own failure.
  • The Young Ones:
    • When Rick is trying desperately to recall his history lessons, he finishes the statement "Crop rotation in the 14th century was considerably more widespread after..." with a year that isn't even in the 14th century, 1172. Though thanks to the qualifier of "after", he is not technically wrong.
    • Neil never sleeps because he thinks sleep causes cancer.

  • At the end of Eminem's "Stan", Stan rattles off the urban legend about Phil Collins's "In The Air Of The Night" (sic) being written about a man who didn't save another man from drowning, who later turned up at a concert. It's intended to show that Stan doesn't have a great ability to interpret art, hence his conviction that Eminem's Slim Shady character is a real person.

  • The Red Panda Adventures episode "The World Next Door" uses this trope to lend credence to Baboon McSmoothie's claims that he's a time traveler from an Alternate Timeline's future. The Flying Squirrel notes that, when attempting to impersonate the Red Panda, he nailed the voice but got the costume wrong; yet between newspaper photos and the Red Panda's mysterious nature the opposite would have been more likely. He also expected the Flying Squirrel to be a teenage boy named Kent Baxter instead of an adult woman named Kit Baxter. Kit later reveals Kent would have been her name if she'd been a boy. The bizarre mix of possessing information he couldn't have known while getting the easy to learn details dead wrong convince the heroes McSmoothie is telling the truth.
  • In The Magnus Archives thirty-third episode, "Boatswain's Call", Carlita Sloane says she had trouble getting work in Brazil because her Spanish was poor. Apparently it was so bad she couldn't even tell when the people around around her were speaking a different language entirely. While many Brazilians can speak Spanish, Brazil's primary tongue is Portuguese.

  • A Bob & Ray sketch has Bob interviewing the author of a History of the United States. It turns out that the 1,100-page tome contains numerous glaring errors, including Abraham Lincoln driving to his inauguration in an automobile, the Civil War breaking out in 1911, and the nation's original capital being located in Bailey's Mistake, Maine. The author readily admits it's "a shabby piece of work", but quickly adds that it's leather-bound.
  • In the episode The Big Big Big Ben Bungle of the British political satire The Men from the Ministry Mr. Lamb refers to the "Hunchback of Amsterdam".

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: The Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer is hilariously filled with these, presenting the enemies of man as easy to defeat by the common soldiery. Features gems such as "Ork tusks can easily be pulled out of their jaws", "the Tau are evolved from cattle and will spook at loud noises", and a magnificent illustration of a Guardsman looking around a corner like a guy who showed up early for a Scooby Stack. Those are actually partially true, though. Orks have shark-like teeth that are constantly being shed and could conceivably be pulled out fairly easily while the Tau are descended from grazing ruminants and display many vestiges of that past (spooking at loud noises NOT being one of them). It also includes a few nods to the series' Gameplay and Story Segregation; for instance, the entry on Orks mentions that despite being musclebound and much bigger the typical Ork is inexplicably no stronger than a typical human (hilariously false in the fiction, completely true on the tabletop until 8th Edition). Indeed, a common theory is that the Primer is lying to you on purpose ("Genestealers are slow and sluggish") in order to raise morale. Any company worth even half its salt has a few units of Veterans who know what fighting in a Cosmic Horror Story is really like.

  • In The Music Man, when Marian confronts Harold Hill about his credentials, he offers the following cover story: "I'm a Conservatory man myself. Gary Indiana Gold Medal Class of '05." Being a librarian, Marian researches this claim, and finds out that Gary wasn't even founded until 1906. However, since she's fallen in love with him, she decides not to go public with this.

    Video Games 
  • In BioShock Infinite, Booker and Elizabeth manage to complete their deal with the Vox Populi to amass their arsenal for a full-scale slave revolt against the Founders of Columbia. Elizabeth — ever the optimist and romantic — assures to Booker that "There's going to be a revolution, just like in Les Misérables! They can have better lives!" Booker doesn't speak up to correct her, but the implication that she hadn't actually finished the book (or at least got to how said revolution ended) is instead punctuated by immediate sounds of horrible explosions outside the building as the Vox plunge the city into chaos.
  • Bravely Default: Ringabel gives a lengthy analysis to Agnès and Edea about the various sheep races after encountering one. Then Tiz explains that the animal they were looking at wasn't a sheep, but a goat.
  • Ricky, a minor character introduced in the Fallout: New Vegas add-on Honest Hearts is full of these. His Blatant Lies include claiming he’s from Vault 22, which if the player has been there you can call him out by saying the Vault is long since abandoned and overrun with hostile plant life, and that he’s killed a Brotherhood of Steel Paladin by shooting him through the visor with an 11mm SMG, which you can call him on either with the guns skill or power armor training perk by stating 11mm doesn’t exist and that power armor visors are bullet resistant, respectively.
  • In Drakengard 3, Cent doesn't have any weird fetishes like the other Disciples, his gimmick instead is that he eagerly shares what he insists are Little Known Facts with the rest of the party. This is not appreciated.
    Dito: Can I punch him? Like, in the face?
    Cent: Oh, yes! Speaking of punching... it's trivia time! You've heard the expression "turn the other cheek," yes? Weeell, it's not just an expression! Ohoho my, no. It actually comes from an ancient medical text concerning how to adjust jaw lines and bone structures!
    Dito: Uh, really?
    Zero: Of course not. He's full of shit.
    Dito: Come on, just one punch!
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: At one point, you can overhear Mankar Camoran giving a speech about the Daedra. Questionable lore interpretations (like Mundus being a plane of Oblivion and the Aedra stealing it from its true Daedric masters) aside, he mixes up multiple Daedric Princes and the realms they controlled; he says Meridia's plane is Coldharbor (She actually rules the Colored Rooms, and Coldharbor belongs to her enemy Molag Bal), Peryite's realm is Quagmire (that's Vaermina- Peryite's is The Pits), and that Mephala rules Moonshadow (Azura has Moonshadow, Mephala has the Spiral Skein).
  • Grand Theft Auto:
    • Grand Theft Auto IV has Playboy X, the leader of a drug crew who fancies himself an intellectual. Niko Bellic quickly realizes, however, that his professed knowledge is dubious at best. Some of his more egregious errors include thinking Dubai is in Africa and that Jesus killed John the Baptist.
    • Grand Theft Auto V has one of Trevor's Strangers and Freaks, an immigrant from Russia named Josef, mistakenly use British and French patriotic phrases instead of American ones.
  • The Marathon series has Tycho, who often tries to mimic Durandal's penchant for quoting from classic literature in order to appear to be his intellectual equal, but frequently makes mistakes. One of these which Durandal takes great pleasure in pointing out is Tycho's claim that Roland in The Song of Roland was able to break the sword Durandal (after which the character Durandal is named). He couldn't. No one can.
  • In Metal Gear Solid, Snake has a three-way conversation with Naomi and Master Miller where the former talks about her father, claiming that he was an Asian-American FBI Agent who helped perform some sting operations to bring down the Mob in New York during the 1950s. At first Miller rolls with it, but later on he contacts Snake and points out that J. Edgar Hoover would have been way too racist to hire Asians for the FBI, that the first sting operations against the mob began in 1960 instead of The '50s, and that they began in Chicago instead of New York. He uses this to lead into some information he found that suggests "Naomi" is an imposter and The Mole.
  • In Pokémon Legends: Arceus, one early game side quest requires you to capture a Wurmple and give it to Beauregard, where it promptly evolves into Cascoon. Unfortunately, he thinks it's evolved into Silcoon instead, resulting in Professor Laventon, and eventually both the player and his own Cascoon, pointing this error out to him by comparing it to an actual live Silcoon. Thankfully, Cascoon isn't really too upset by this mix up once Beauregard finally realizes his mistake.
  • Portal 2 has the Fact Sphere, a corrupted core created to distract GLaDOS, and ultimately used in the boss fight against Wheatley to corrupt him. It constantly spouts random facts, few of which are actually true. A whole list of all of them can be found here (Beware of endgame spoilers).
  • Saints Row 2: The leader of the gang called the Brotherhood, Maero, has a chance to commit this if the storyline is done in a certain way, namely by doing the Brotherhood chapter after taking out the other two gangs already. When he meets the Boss and offers the Saints' leader a paltry 20-80 split in the Brotherhood's favor to work together, he does so by being incredibly condescending towards the Saints' prospects. Problem is, this would have been more accurate if the Boss was coming to him right after the prologue when they escaped from prison. In the above scenario, the Boss will have already taken out both the Sons of Samedi as well as the Ronin, gangs that were arguably more well-established, and with their loss, the Saints control a much greater amount of territory than the Brotherhood outright, major events that Maero apparently did not know about prior to their meeting. In the ensuing events after the Boss leaves, Maero gets half his face scarred by tattoo ink tainted with radioactive waste, accidentally crushes his girlfriend locked in a car trunk, and finds out his guitarist best friend was crippled for life, followed later by having most of his gang wiped out by the Boss before being killed himself during a failed attempt to assassinate his rival. He really should have watched more Channel 6 News.
  • Sam & Max: In the Sam and Max Beyond Time and Space episode "Moai Better Blues", Sam can ask the Computer Obsolescence Prevention Society for facts about Easter Island.
    Curt: Accessing, ellipsis, Easter Island was founded in 1914 by former members of the 80s progressive rock band Asia.
    Bob: Located off the southwest coast of Your Mom, the island is considered by many to be the birthplace of television personality Ryan Seacrest, as well as American jazz music!
    Sam: I see you guys are still doing all your research on the Internet.
  • Team Fortress 2:
    • Played for laughs in Meet the Soldier. The Soldier starts with a (correct) quote from Sun Tzu and The Art of War (Sun Tzu), but then goes on to say that Sun Tzu invented fighting, perfected it, and used his fight money to herd two of every animal onto a boat and beat the crap out of them.
      Soldier: And from that day forward, anytime a bunch of animals are together in one place, it's called a TZU! ...Unless it's a farm!
    • In Meet the Director, it's shown that the Soldier went on even more about Sun Tzu. The director had to point out that Sun Tzu never wrote books on how to punch out someone's ribcage.
  • The various news bulletins in Tomodachi Life. For example, one claims that children attend kindergarten at age 0.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, many research failures were made by the mastermind in regards to the fake memory of the cast being Hope's Peak Academy students, such as Junko Enoshima being the only thing to be referred to as the Ultimate Despair, Junko trapping them all of the Class 78 students inside Hope's Peak Academy for their killing game as opposed to Class 78 actually trapping themselves inside Hope's Peak Academy, and Hope's Peak Academy actually accepting applications for the school (when in actuality, students could only get in by being scouted). These examples were part of the reason why the cast figures out the flashback lights only gave fake memories.
  • In Double Homework, Henry gives the nickname “Cloud Liver” to ”cirrhosis of the liver,” coming from his misconception that his liver will turn into a cloud if he keeps drinking.
  • Idol Hakkenden: Kuwashi at one point uses the "Reagan-is-the-Fiftieth-U.S.-President-Punch", which Erika corrects that he's actually the FORTIETH, since she's good at social studies. This destroys Kuwashi's pride as the most informed columnist.
  • Possible with every question in the music quizzes that the protagonist gives the title character in Melody. They are all multiple choice, giving the player the ability for an incorrect guess every time.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney:

  • This episode of Closet Gamers contains a literal example, when a Dungeons & Dragons character informs the party that a "Purple Worm" is a tiny creature eaten by harmless, flightless birds, as opposed to the giant, nasty Sand Worm monster it actually is.
  • In 8-Bit Theater Red Mage is rife with this through the course of the comic. Black Mage or Thief usually call him on it.
  • Misfile: Rumisiel, a slacker angel, claims to be from Canada while on Earth. Normally it's not a big deal, but when he's ecstatic about seeing snow for the first time, Dr. Upton is understandably confused.
    Dr. Upton: This is the first snow you've ever seen? [...] Aren't you from Canada?
    Rumisiel: Yeah... but I'm from, like, the tropical part of Canada. The vast Canadian Empire ranges all far and wide, you know, eh?
    Dr. Upton: ...there's something desperately wrong with that sentence, but I'm too tired to care. Remind me in the future never to talk to you until after I've had my coffee.
    Rumisiel: The Emperor of Canada told me the same thing once.
  • From Loli Loves Venom #32 — why you should not ask Venom for homework help:
    "In nature, spiders have many natural enemies. There is one main predator they always have to watch out for. The mighty octopus. Their tentacles of sheer fury are fierce opponents. Only through agility, resolution, and quick banter can the amazing spider atone for the danger he faces."
  • Questionable Content: May attempts to create a special clique of spicy pigeons by feeding them nothing but habanero nachos, noting that one day they'll overrun the city and out-compete their normal cousins. She is later informed that, like all birds, pigeons cannot taste chili and her special pigeons are just regular pigeons.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Archer: In "The Archer Sanction", Archer, Lana and Ray are sent by the CIA to kill a Professional Killer thought to be hiding out in a Swiss ski lodge. The CIA provides them with a very detailed dossier on the target... which Archer simply "skimmed" and the only thing he remembered was the target was from a country that was an Axis power in World War II, and nothing more useful like a name or gender. Identifying the target is complicated because the other three members of their mountain climbing party are a German man, an Italian man and a Japanese woman. It turns out they're INTERPOL agents on a similar mission and the hitman is the climbing party leader, a Canadian of Scots-Irish descent. Archer confused Ireland—which was neutral in the war—with Romania. Somehow. He seemed to already know enough history about the latter to explain why he would think that as well.
  • Arthur:
    • In "Buster Makes the Grade", Buster is failing third grade, and if he doesn't get at least a B on the next test, he'll have to repeat the grade. Buster laments to his friends that he can't even name the thirty states of America, never mind get a B on a test. Muffy has to remind Buster that there are fifty states.
    • "Prove It" is about D.W. holding her own "explain-a-rorium" in her backyard. She shares a bunch of false facts, such as that wind is made from trees blowing and that the "H" in "H20" stands for "hose," which is where the water comes from. Arthur gets tired of hearing these ridiculous claims and begs his dad to take her to a real science museum. At the museum, D.W. reveals that she didn't actually believe anything she said and that she was just tricking Arthur so she could get to visit the museum.
    • One episode has Arthur, Francine and Buster be assigned a group project on Ancient Rome, which they decide to work on independently of each other. Francine decides to do her part on the Ancient Olympics... which as Brain points out, were held in Greece, not Rome.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Even accounting for the play's role as Fire Nation propaganda and the writers having no reasonable way of knowing certain things (such as the Blue Spirit's identity), the Ember Island Players production "The Boy in the Iceberg" gets a lot of facts wrong. For some example, Zuko's scar is on his right eye when the real Zuko's scar is on his left, Momo is referred to as a "flying monkey-rabbit" when he's a flying lemur, and Toph is portrayed as a muscular grown man who "sees" by using screams to echolocate while the real Toph is a petite twelve-year-old girl who "sees" by sensing vibrations in the ground with her feet.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold: Plastic Man at one point claims to be as patriotic as Benedict Arnold... a man who infamously betrayed his country. Talk about an Analogy Backfire.
  • In one episode of Ben 10: Omniverse, Pax unleashes a tiny alien called the Screegit around Bellwood. The Screegit turns into a rampaging monster when exposed to nitrogen, but Pax thinks it'll be okay, since humans breathe oxygen. Ben angrily points out that Earth's atmosphere has nitrogen in it as well.note 
  • In one episode of Camp Lazlo, Lazlo is trying to motivate the Bean Scouts to participate in a Pinecone-Sitting competition with the Squirrel Scouts over a mud puddle. He does this by asking if Napoleon gave up the moon to the Swiss.
  • Danny Phantom: Vortex says that asking him to stop a rainstorm he started is like asking Picasso to stop painting the Mona Lisa. Vlad points out that it was actually Da Vinci who pointed the Mona Lisa.
  • The "Find Out Why" short films from Disney's One Saturday Morning block had Timon & Pumbaa try to answer sceintific questions. Timon comes up with ludicrously inaccurate explanations (such as that lightning is caused by clouds taking pictures), forcing Pumbaa to correct him.
  • Futurama references The Matrix having robots use humans as batteries, with Bender saying "Doesn't that violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics? Wouldn't just about anything make a better battery than a human? Like a potato? Or a battery?" Leela explains that while everyone at the time it was made thought The Matrix was the worst movie ever because of this "mistake", it turns out the film actually got it right. Of course, this is a universe in which it's possible to travel between stars in hours or at most days because "scientists increased the speed of light in 2208", besides which, in the real world, the original movie is still roundly considered very good by most people who have seen it in spite of this scientific whopper.
  • In the Home Movies episode "History", Brendon makes a movie with George Washington, Annie Oakley, and Pablo Picasso as the primary villains, with very obvious inaccuracies for their backstories, such as Washington freeing the slaves, Picasso cutting off his ear, and he confused Annie Oakley with Little Orphan Annie (well, along with sharing the same name, they were both the subject of Broadway musicals). It's later revealed that he's been receiving tutoring from Coach McGuirk, and he's flunking history.
  • Kim Possible:
    • In "Attack of the Killer Bebes", Dr. Drakken has no idea that his old college classmate is related to his current nemesis, and responds to Ron pointing this out by insisting that "Possible" is actually a common surname. He tries to prove it by checking a phone book only to find that there is indeed only one Possible family in Middleton.
    • In "Stop Team Go", Shego is temporarily turned good and shows up to teach at Middleton High. Kim recognizes her immediately, but Ron simply accepts the name "Miss Go" she wrote on the blackboard. That isn't the only subject on which he's a bit credulous:
      Ron: Nah, it's not Shego, it's Miss Go — see, it says so on the board.
      Kim: Putting something on the board doesn't make it true!
      Ron: Oh, sure, y'know, when I said that in Twentieth Century History, I got sent to the office!
      Kim: The moon landing wasn't faked in the Arizona desert, Ron!
      Ron: New Mexico, Kim!
  • Recess: In a likely nod to Animal House, TJ once made a speech to convince Gretchen to not give up on the "space travel training" the gang was putting her through:
    TJ: Did Albert Edison give up when they stole his Theory of Regularity? Did Ben Franklin give up when the Germans shot down his kite?
  • Scooby-Doo: In the Imagine Spot short "The Wrath of Waitro", Shaggy and Scooby—er, Commander Cool and Mellow Mutt—escape the villains trap, a vat filled with chocolate pudding, by eating their way out of it. In real life, chocolate is harmful to dogs and all that rich, savory mousse would have killed A Pup Named Scooby-Doo. Fortunately (a) it was all in Shaggy's imagination (b) a young boy legitimately might not know this fact and (c) Scooby being verbal and partly bipedal may mean he can safely eat the stuff, who knows?
  • The Simpsons:
    • One "educational film" features Troy McClure giving an oversimplification of what DNA is. When he's asked what DNA actually stands for, he freezes up and the film abruptly ends.
      • The same film also mentions that DNA is the reason fat people have fat children. Weight is largely determined by environmental factors, not DNA. The video clip also shows a baby (presumably a newborn, given that the scene seems to take place in a hospital) eating a slice of pizza, which would be impossible for two reasons: 1. The baby wouldn't have any teeth with which to bite the pizza yet, and 2. Being a newborn, the baby's digestive system wouldn't be able to handle solid foods yet.
    • In the video example below, Homer confuses the isosceles triangle with the right triangle. Perhaps he's remembering the Scarecrow's infamous quote from The Wizard of Oz, who says the same thing (but isn't corrected in-universe).
  • South Park: Cartman tries to make it look like the girls jumped him and drew a vagina on his face. However, he failed to realize that vaginas don't have testicles, something any girl would have known. Kyle quickly calls him out on it.
  • Steven Universe
    • The episode "Chille Tid", an exhausted Pearl states that it feels like they've been on their mission for "light-years". An equally-exhausted Amethyst attempts to be the smart one, but the best retort she can come up with is "Light-years measures light, not time".
    • In "Buddy's Book", when asked why she prefers using the library rather than the Internet when researching for school work, Connie said that the last time she trusted the Internet "I ended up writing an egregious essay that claimed that raccoons have Heat Vision."
  • In the Teen Titans episode "Revolution," Beast Boy gets a ton of major details about the Revolutionary War wrong when trying to explain the 4th of July to Starfire, such as mixing up the year it started with the year of Columbus's first voyage and saying that the Boston Tea Party was a literal tea party. Raven responds by asking if Beast Boy learned history from a cereal box. Later, after they've been repeatedly beaten by Mad Mod's robots, Beast Boy says "Now I know how George Washington felt when Napoleon beat him at Pearl Harbor."
  • Total Drama World Tour:
    • The intern responsible for doing the research comes up with Rome, rather than Greece, as the birthplace of the Olympic Games. He is fired by Chris, the host of the show, when the mistake is pointed out... by being shoved out of the plane.
    • Courtney tried correcting Chris when the contestants were in China, and he told them the Great Wall was built eight million years ago. The kicker? Even though Courtney realized the Great Wall couldn't have been built until much more recently, she explained there were dinosaurs in 8,000,000 B.C. Maybe she was joking or exaggerating?
  • Under Grads: When Mump tries to give a Rousing Speech to Gimpy about not giving up, using Star Wars references, he asks "Did the Rebels abandon Hoth when the going got tough?"
    Gimpy: The Rebels did abandon Hoth when the going got tough.


Video Example(s):


Homer's Faulty Triangle Math

In-Universe, Homer gets a math equation wrong and is corrected by someone.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (16 votes)

Example of:

Main / InUniverseFactoidFailure

Media sources: