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Literal Genie

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"This is awful; it's like when you get a wish from a genie, but you ask for it in slightly the wrong way and wind up with a solid gold head or something."
Hank Hill, King of the Hill

You have to Be Careful What You Wish For, because oh boy are you gonna get it.

More often than not, a wish-granting entity (genie, vengeance demon, holodeck, leprechaun, and so on) has some sort of contractual clause stating that they have to give you exactly what you ask for — but maybe not in the way you were thinking of when you made the wish. Ask for a ton of money, and it will appear. Right in front of you, weighing exactly one ton (and if you're lucky, it might even be in your preferred denomination). On the other hand if you ask for X-ray vision, your eyes might start shooting harmful radiation, or you may end up being able to only see in the X-ray spectrum. In other cases, you may have wished for one half of something; wishing for the knowledge to cure all existing illnesses will be rendered null and void if you didn't wish for the means to access the medical ingredients that may or may not exist yet. The entity wasn't trying to screw you over, it's just that your understanding of the wish's words and theirs didn't match. If you're lucky, they may give you a do-over. Otherwise, you may have to burn another wish to undo the damage.

What makes this worse is how characters in this situation are now ten times as likely to make a Rhetorical Request Blunder and blurt out a "wish" without meaning to, while the Literal Genie is around. It's almost a mystical effect, as people who have never uttered "I wish" prior otherwise will do so. And you definitely do not want to use Malaproper.

In various forms, Literal Genie wishes are very old; specific examples (e.g., immortality without eternal youth, as in the case of Eos and Tithonos) go back to Greek Mythology, while the actual genie trope was known in Arabia by the 10th century.

A more modern variation is when the wisher asks for something using slang, colloquialisms, or Ambiguous Syntax, and the Genie, having not been outside for at least a century, grants it literally because that's the only way they can understand the wish. In this regard, even a Benevolent Genie can become a Literal one. So you can only blame yourself when the genie gives you a Dryocopus martius that's a foot tall.

While the genie claims that they're being literal, or even that they're Just Following Orders, in practice, it tends to come off as if they're simply always choosing whichever interpretation of your words is the most disruptive, the most likely to teach the character An Aesop, or at the very least what you least wanted to happen. If this goes beyond the point of plausible interpretation, they become a Jackass Genie.

You get around this by wording your request as carefully and explicitly as possible. Or wish for the genie to grant the following wishes according to your interpretation, if you are allowed three wishes. Of course, there's remarkably little plot conflict when things can go this well, so don't expect very many characters to actually think of this.

Not to be confused with Exact Words. A more mundane version is Literal-Minded. A highly specific, villainous version is Unhand Them, Villain!. Compare Zeroth Law Rebellion and Blunt Metaphors Trauma. Super-Trope to The Genie in the Machine and Gone Horribly Right. If a genie goes out of their way to fulfill the spirit and intention of a person's wishes without any careful wording required, they're a Benevolent Genie. On the opposite end, if they always make a terrible interpretation of your wish, no matter how absurd that interpretation or how well the wish was worded, they're a Jackass Genie. See also Reality Warping Is Not a Toy. Generally involves some form of Double Meaning. If the wisher decides not to play the game, and wishes for no wishes (or some other paradox), it's Wishplosion.


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  • An old animated ad for Burger King featured a BK wizard (replete with pointy hat and magic wand) who granted the kids' requests:
    Kid 1: Make me a hamburger!
    Kid 2: And me a shake!
    Wizard: Okay, (waves wand at Kid 1) You're a hamburger, and (waves wand at Kid 2) You're a shake!
    The Burger King: No no no, they meant give them, not make them!
  • Variations of that joke have been done a lot. For example, in one Saturday morning series of animated commercials that promoted nutrition hosted by a guy named Timer, a kid asked him if he can "Make me a banana" and Timer says, "Okay, poof, you're a banana!"
  • In a shoe commercial, a man has a lamp with a miniature genie, saying he'll grant one wish because he's still in training. His friend states that "[he] always wanted to speak Japanese." Before an official wish could be made, the genie grants this, and makes it so the first guy could only speak in Japanese.
  • Did you know that genies can be very literal? As in, instead of giving you $1 million when you say "a million bucks," you get one million male deer? Inferred Holocaust: Bucks the kind of territorial males that are likely to start fighting as soon as they see other bucks. Just a few minutes after the bucks magically appeared, they are going to engage in a brawl that is about as peaceful as the Running of the Bulls in a Spanish town and about the size of a Spanish town.
  • Occurs in a commercial for the Toyota Rav4 with the Rav4 Genie (played by Kaley Cuoco). A family is granted wishes after the father rubs the vehicle's emblem.
    Father:(patting large belly) I kinda wish the old spare tire was gone.
    Genie: Out of everything, you wish for...okay.
    Makes the Rav4's spare tire disappear.
  • In a Spanish commercial for the Porsche German automobile brand, a man asks a genie for "a yellow Porsche with leather seating", but due to his poor pronunciation, his porch gets painted yellow and has a couple chairs added to it instead.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Black Butler: Sebastian cannot directly lie to Ciel, but nothing stops him from deliberately withholding critical information from him or deliberately leading Ciel astray by following his commands, such as in the Jack the Ripper arc.
  • The '60s anime Hakushon Daimao has the title character's daughter named Akubi-chan, who grants people's wishes (who yawned) by mixing up the wishes, usually granting them literally.
  • In an episode of YuYu Hakusho, Kurama is trapped by a psychic who can force adherence to any stricture he sets down on paper. Having forbidden acts of violence, he assumes himself safe until Kurama demonstrates that very gently lifting someone to the ceiling and then releasing them isn't really an act of violence.
  • In Season 3 of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, the fake Big Bad, Professor Cobra, makes a deal with the Sealed Evil in a Can, who promises to "reunite him" with his dead son — ultimately, not by bringing his son back to life, but by killing him.
  • Cheeky Angel:
    • Inverted when the lead, Megumi, gets the opposite of what he wished for from a spirit in a book given to him by an old man. He wished to be the most "manly man" in the world, but now she is the most "womanly woman" (the spirit claims to have misheard the wish, but more is more likely just a trickster).
    • In the manga, Megumi actually was a girl all along; the genie didn't mishear the wish, but wasn't powerful enough to make her male, so changed her memories so she thought she was male instead. The anime has a character suggest this without resolving it at the end.
  • In X/1999 Fuuma becomes the embodiment of Be Careful What You Wish For when he starts granting people's "true" or unseen wishes. This usually involves killing someone in a particularly gruesome manner, or in one instance taking someone's eye — admittedly more a result of the fact that the people whose wishes are being granted are almost uniformly really screwed up, considering that the only person to escape a confrontation with him unscathed was the one person who honestly wished to survive.
  • Code Geass R2:
  • In the Suruga Monkey arc of Bakemonogatari. The rainy devil grants its host three wishes in exchange for the host's soul. However, it inverts this trope by following the spirit of the wishes, not the letter. Suruga's true subconscious desires just happened to be much darker than the way she worded them.
  • ×××HOLiC:
    • Yuuko, early on, grants a woman's wish to be free of her computer (because she's become so addicted to the Internet that it's interfering with her ability to take care of her family). Yuuko grants the wish by cutting the computer in half with a red baseball bat. Yuuko even points out afterwards that she's free to buy another computer, so — as with most of Yuuko's clients — whether her wish will ultimately be granted or not is up to her.
    • In one episode, there's a woman who buys a monkey's paw from Yuuko. Even when warned of its danger and reminded that the original story ("The Monkey's Paw") ended badly, she carries it around and uses it to her convenience. On wish number two, she wishes for an antique mirror that the owner wouldn't sell to her. It's granted by giving her the mirror, but without anything to cover for the fact that she effectively stole it. On wish number three (of five), she wishes for help writing her thesis, and it gives her someone else's research, which ruins her chances of getting published once the plagiarism is discovered. On wish four, she finds herself late for an important day of work and casually thinks about how her lateness would be excused if the train system had an accident. Naturally, the paw interprets it as a wish and causes a passerby to be thrown in front of a train. On wish five, shaken up from the last two, she wishes for her ordeal to end by "erasing everything", so the paw kills her.
    • Another example was when a girl comes to the shop, terrified of her house since strange sounds are heard throughout, unattended things are moving around and sometimes she is touched by the presence of people when no one was there. Yuuko asks her if her wish was that "[her] house was not frightening", which the girl said yes. Yuuko grants her wish by causing the girl, who was actually a ghost, to create more disturbances around the house so the alive tenants would exorcise her. Since now that ghost was gone, the house was no longer frightening.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist the apparition known as Truth grants power to whose who attempt human transmutation, but takes prices from them without telling them. However, in the final chapter when Father is destroyed and finds himself once again before the Gate, Truth promises to give Father exactly what he wished for: Despair for the conceited. Father is sucked into the Gate, screaming in horror.
    Truth: I'm the Truth of your despair, the inescapable price of your boastfulness.
    Father: (flashback) Humans who would dare to play God must pay a steep price for their arrogance. That is Truth.
    Truth: And now I will bestow upon you the despair you deserve.
  • In one of the chapters of a Doraemon manga, Doraemon introduces a robot that tests the purity of the heart of a person and grants the person 3 wishes if they're worthy. Gian and Suneo finds out when the robot grants Shizuka three wishes, and arranges to trick the robot into thinking them worthy. Greed then overcomes the boys and both uses their final wishes to turn each other into anthropomorphic pigs during a heated argument.
  • Asuka Hybrid has multiple instances of this regarding the same "genie", in this case a mysterious mage:
  • In D.Gray-Man, The Millennium Earl promises good folk to reunite them with their loved ones by just yelling their name. The downside? They get turned into evil Akuma, and are forced to do the Earl's bidding, normally by stripping the skin off of their loved one who brought them back to wear, so that they blend in with humans.
  • Played with in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Kyubey grants everyone he contracts with one wish in exchange for becoming a Magical Girl, and so is in a perfect position to be this. However, there is a strong theme through the anime that there is no such thing as a Selfless Wish — Kyubey doesn't twist the wish, it's that the girls didn't ask for the right thing in the first place. Kyubey's granting is actually fairly benevolent in and of itself, but the consequences of the wish are usually rather nasty, which conveniently serves to drive them to despair and turn them into witches, which is what Kyubey wants.
    • Sayaka wished that her crush Kyousuke would get better, but becomes extremely depressed when he starts overlooking her and Hitomi confesses to him, because what Sayaka really wanted was for Kyousuke to be grateful to her and fall in love with her, and to be able to think of herself as a noble, selfless person. It doesn't help that Sayaka is also beating herself up over having transformed into what is essentially a lich, which she thinks makes her unworthy of Kyousuke's love. The despair brought on by these two things, and her refusal to cleanse her Soul Gem, ultimately causes her to witch out.
    • Kyouko wished that people would listen to her father's teachings and resulted in them being supernaturally driven to do so. This drives her father insane and he murders his family before killing himself. Kyouko never gives any indication that she didn't get exactly what she wished for. The problem was not with the wish itself, but with her father's perception. People were listening to him in ever increasing numbers but because it was due to his daughter's loving wish for him instead of his own rhetorical skill, which led to his breakdown. Not to mention the fact that he was a religious man and his daughter used dark magic to promote his religion.
    • Mami made her contract to survive a car crash. She didn't know she could have saved her parents with the same wish so she didn't include them. Therefore Kyubey didn't include them either, and so they died while Mami survived. This is not out of any real malice on Kyubey's part — because he is a Starfish Alien with a Blue-and-Orange Morality, it didn't even cross his mind to mention to Mami that he could save her parents too.
    • Homura wished to 'redo her meeting with Madoka' and protect her. Thus, she becomes a Time Master and while she becomes powerful enough to aid Madoka, she is never able to save her from dying or witching out. After all, her wish stated "protect" Madoka, and not "save" her.
    • Madoka wished to retroactively kill every witch ever born in both the past and future. This is precisely what she does, at the cost of ceasing to exist as a person and transforming into a godlike concept destroying Witches for all eternity. Also the Witches are immediately replaced with a new type of monster because otherwise Kyubey wouldn't be able to stave off entropy after all.
  • Dragon Ball: The Eternal Dragons, while sometimes rather rude, are actually quite accommodating when dealing with ambiguous wishes. In Dragon Ball Z for example, when Krillin's body gets wished back to Earth so that he wouldn't get revived in the vacuum of space where Namek used to be, and then revived on Earth with a second wish, Porunga takes the liberty of also repairing the damage that had been done to his corpse when the planet exploded. But sometimes this trope still comes up, simply because they're not capable of changing a poorly-worded wish. Every wish they grant has to be in a way that's a reasonable interpretation of what was actually said, even if the dragon would actually like to be more generous about it.
    • A rather famous one comes up at the end of the first arc of the original Dragon Ball due to the line being bowdlerised. To stop Emperor Pilaf from making a wish to Take Over the World, Oolong rushes in and makes a wish first. In the original dub, he just wished for a pair of women's panties. In the English line he wished for "the world's most comfortable pair of underwear", which just so happened to be lady's underwear.
    • On Planet Namek, Gohan and Krillin have Piccolo wished back to life, and then to Namek, but they're confused when Piccolo doesn't show up. Dende (who is making the wishes for them) realizes they screwed up; while Piccolo was sent to Namek, they didn't specify where on Namek to send him, and Piccolo ended up half a world away. It ended up working out for Piccolo, as he wouldn't have met Nail and performed a Fusion Dance otherwise. And Dende suggested that they used the third wish from the Namekian dragon to send Piccolo to their exact location, but Vegeta and Frieza showing up put a stop to that, too.
    • Earth's Dragon has his own moment in the same arc. When the heroes wished back everyone killed by Frieza and his men, they saved almost the entire Namekian species — except for the village Vegeta slaughtered to get their Dragon Ball. Since he had gone rogue from Frieza's army by that point, he wasn't one of Frieza's men, thus those deaths were outside the parameters of the wish. Vegeta finds this amusing, everyone else shoots him a Death Glare.
    • This gets enforced in Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F' and Dragon Ball Super when Frieza's henchmen ask for him to be wished back to life. Since Frieza has been dead for much longer than a year, he's unable to do anything about the state of Frieza's body, and Shenron has to go out of his way to point out that he'd be returned to the cut up pieces of flesh Trunks left him in when he died. Luckily Frieza's men had healing tanks at the ready.
    • In Dragon Ball Super, Granolah uses the dragon Toronbo to wish to be the strongest warrior in the universe, which is granted. However, several people point out he is only the strongest at that moment, plus he only has strength and not training or experience. Goku and Vegeta are able to hold their own with their greater skill and eventually surpass his strength. Then Gas uses Toronbo to wish to become the strongest in the universe and he surpasses Granolah, Goku, and Vegeta. But then Frieza shows up and is much more powerful than Gas. He explains that he had been training in another dimension, so he wasn't technically in the universe when Gas made his wish.
  • In the first episode of Heaven's Lost Property, Tomoki wishes in jest that he was ruler of the world. Ikaros grants it by making every other person in the world vanish. She does explain that making him a traditional ruler would be impossible because no one would take a doofus like him seriously. Ikaros normally cannot undo her wishes, but fortunately Tomoki wishes that it was All Just a Dream.
  • Eden of the East has Akira ask Juiz if he's the kind of person who could make the Prime Minister cry uncle. She responds by having him do just that. On national TV. And it only cost 60 yen. It's clear, though, that she was just being a smartass, as she's not as literal with other requests.
  • I Wish has K start off as this when he first became a wish-fulfilling magician. A man wishes to never have to see idiots again? K makes him blind. A fat woman wishes to be as thin as a bone? K turns her into a bone. He got better as he continued his work.
  • The manga Only One Wish of Mia Ikumi (also author of Tokyo Mew Mew) features an 'Angel' (as the characters call her) who, granting the single wish she concedes to Humans who find the cell phone to talk with her, straddles between this and Jackass Genie, depending on the Human ability to actually do it on their own (she hates when people cry for help without even trying):
    • The protagonists of the first chapters are three friends with what appear to be a deep friendship. The first to wish, Rikako, wishes that Yamaguchi, the boy her friend Ai likes, would like her back: it's granted, only for Ai to neglect their friendship and Yamaguchi later admit he used to like Rikako. When the consequences of the first wish make Rikako demand Ai uses her wish to restore the previous situation, Ai shouts she wishes Rikako and their other friend Mai, who was trying to avoid a fight, would disappear: cue Eldritch Abomination, that doesn't eat the girls only because Yamaguchi, who was passing by, gets the situation explained by a remorseful Ai and wishes the previous wish annulled. We don't know what Mai wished, but given she made it when the others were away and the scene reveals she was in love with Yamaguchi and was feeling betrayed by her friends (for whom she was willing to give up on Yamaguchi) and tells them goodbye...;
    • The protagonists of the second chapter, Misa and Akio, are dead and have separately wished themselves back to life, with both wishing only themselves back alive because the shock of death made them forget the other died with them. Both have to kiss the person they love before midnight to make it stick-And while Akio loves Misa, Misa has a crush for another boy, and Akio decided to not tell Misa he too was dead. In the end Misa finds out that Akio's dead too and his condition to return to life, so she kisses him... And the 'Angel' keeps them alive both, as Akio's wish had been to stay with her the following year (plus they couldn't resurrect themselves);
    • In the third chapter a girl wishes the boy she likes would become small so she'll be able to care for him in her home and he'll fall for her, fulfilling her fantasy. The 'Angel' does so and enjoys the show of that fantasy getting deconstructed as Surprisingly Realistic Outcome occurs, as the boy is initially terrified and then gets pissed when he finds out who had caused his situation;
    • The fourth chapter opens with a girl crying she didn't want what the 'Angel' did while looking at someone lying in his own blood. We don't know what happened, but it's implied it was again this or the 'Angel' being a jerk.
  • Monster: Johan tends to respond to requests in this manner, and this is when he's being nice (as opposed to being a straight-out Jackass Genie). As an example: General Wolf once asked Johan how he was feeling. Johan, who is extremely psychologically isolated, decided to show the General exactly how he was feeling by meticulously killing every single person Wolf ever had a personal connection with so he's now as alone as Johan is.
  • Near the end of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The Movie2nd As, Hayate tells The Book of Darkness to "give her family back" when it has them tied up (due to viewing their inability to defeat Nanoha and Fate as failure to protect their master). The book proceeds to drain their Linker Cores to finish powering itself up (killing them in the process due to their nature as magical constructs) and "return" them to Hayate in core mode.
  • One of the weirder chapters of Black Jack has the titular doctor operating on an alien. Black Jack asks for his usual large fee, but since the aliens don't understand money, he takes out a large banknote and asks for more of them. At the end of the chapter, Black Jack is arrested for counterfeiting because the aliens copied the bill exactly, down to the serial number.

    Comic Books 
  • In Iznogoud (written by René Goscinny, the writer of much better-known Asterix), there is an episode with a genie which is summoned by rubbing a pair of slippers. He fulfills not only every wish, but every statement that the summoning character would pronounce. Hilarity Ensues, especially if the statement is a curse of surprise.
  • DC Comics' Johnny Thunder would on occasion have this problem with his Thunderbolt — although it probably was more due to Johnny's overall dimwit nature than any defect in the Bahdnesian spirit that did his bidding (who was compelled to be a Literal Genie whether it wanted to be or not, rather than doing so through misunderstanding, mischief, or malevolence). It occasionally even worked in his favor; once, when threatened with certain death by the Black Dragon Society, his wish that "the other Justice Society members were here to see me in this fix!" was taken quite literally by the T-Bolt — resulting in a room full of Golden Age superheroes opening up a huge can of whup-ass on the Dragons.
  • Deadshot had orders from Amanda Waller to stop Rick Flag from killing Senator Cray. Deadshot tracked down Flag and the senator, and then killed the senator himself! After all, Waller had only told him to stop Rick Flag from killing Cray. When Waller confronted him about this, Deadshot quips, "I don't read minds."
  • Fables has a particularly nasty version of this that ends with the wisher dying in what is explained to be the most horrible way he can imagine. It takes several days. It's also a bit of a subversion as his words were changed by a witch as he said them specifically in order to cause this.
  • XXXenophile:
    • In the story "Demonstration of Affection", a sorcerer transports himself to Hell to get a demon to grant him a wish. He wishes for "more wealth than I'll ever need." The demon gives him a nickel.
      Sorcerer: ... It's a nickel.
      Demon: Aye. More wealth than thou will ever need here.
      Sorcerer: A-heh! I wasn't planning on staying...
      Demon: Ah, then perhaps thou should have asked to be returned to Earth. A pity thee only gets one wish, no?
    • Also in the short "Wish fulfillment". A rare example of a positive case of this trope. The protagonist has used her three wishes, is usurped by the general of her forces and becomes the general's captive. The general declares that "henceforward you shall be my captive flower", the genie chooses to see that as a legal name change, giving the protagonist access to three new wishes. This does not turn out well for the general. After that... sex happens.

      Ironically, she asks about Freeing the Genie, but due to restrictions, it's not that easy... the only way to free this particular genie is to make a wish that he truly wants to fulfill, but cannot. She asks if "Making a rock so big you can't lift it" would work, and he says, "I have no wish to give myself a hernia." She solves this by having wild sex with him until he is exhausted and then wishing for him to do it all again, IMMEDIATELY, which he can't do due to exhaustion, thus freeing him.
  • The Staff of One from Runaways functions like this Depending on the Writer. Sometimes it does exactly what the wielder wants, as a freeze spell did not turn the victims into ice, but other times, it seems to gleefully misinterpret the user. Upon being faced with a horde of zombies, she tries to undo the magic by saying "Zombie Not!" The result? The zombies formed together into a massive beast — a zombie knot.
  • An issue of Marvel Adventures has Tigra find a genie and hesitate to use her wishes because she's very well aware of the possibility of the genie behaving in this way. Until the end of the issue, where she wishes for a new lamp to hold him and is very specific about it to avoid him finding any loopholes.
    Tigra: I wish for a magic genie-capturing lamp that never fails, works instantly, and traps genies for all time without causing any harm to anyone else.
    The genie: What? Nooooooooooooooooo!
  • The Flash once fell victim to this trope in a big way. Wally West had never bothered with a Secret Identity, thinking it was more trouble than it was worth. But he changed his mind when his nemesis Zoom attacked his wife and killed their unborn child. In his grief, Wally summoned the all-powerful being known as The Spectre and asked him to make the entire world forget the Flash's real identity. Spectre agreed... but since Wally said he wanted everyone to forget, HE FORGOT TOO. The next issue began with Wally as a down-on-his-luck nobody who had no idea he even had superpowers.
  • An interesting inversion occurs in the Dutch Douwe Dabbert comics, where the title character has a magical knapsack that always contains what he needs. Whether he knows what he needs or not. More than once, he gets the item with which he can solve his current problem in the first half of the comic, but he still needs to figure out exactly what to do with it.
  • In one of Alan Moore's Captain Britain comics, Captain Airstrip-One (who represents Ingsoc from Nineteen Eighty-Four) is told by his supervising officer to "imagine a boot stomping on a head, forever." Captain Airstrip-One then imagines a boot stomping on a head — and doesn't stop. He said forever...
  • Happens a lot in the Sabrina the Teenage Witch comics. For one example, Sabrina is so disappointed with the tiny portion of ice cream she's ordered from a soda shop that she casts a spell to make it ten times larger. Her aunt informs her that she only made the bill ten times larger.
  • In The Wishing Wisp, several characters are given visions which show the horrible consequences of their careless wishing. The wishes are often interpreted in a literal sense. In one case, for example, a man wishes some medication he just obtained will "make a new man" out of him, so in his vision he becomes a new man and is not recognized by his family or colleagues.
  • In Fairest, a spin-off of the well-received Vertigo series Fables, Fiery Redhead "Briar Rose" is depicted as another variation of the Sleeping Beauty character, including the part where she's showered with magical gifts and wishes by her Fairy Godmothers. To her everlasting displeasure, every wish got played straight, so only a few of her gifts are shown to be beneficial, or even remotely useful. While in the end she managed to receive supernatural beauty and allure (including a certain degree of sexual prowess by explicit wording in that sense), and the ability to excel in songwriting and playing musical instrument, having the "Wit of an Angel" means she that she lacks guile, and she's easily conned or tricked, and the wish for "the singing voice of a nightingale" actually stripped her of the ability to sing, as she can merely screech as a bird. Thus to her immense displeasure, while in the human world she was known as an accomplished songwriter and guitarist for an all-girls rock band, she never managed to took the lead, as her "blessing" was just a form of mystically induced selective mutism.
  • Preacher:
    • Jesse Custer is imbued with the Word of God, which means he can make anyone follow his commands to the letter. He doesn't always think this through, such as the time when he got rid of a sheriff by telling him "go fuck yourself", which resulted in him tearing off his own penis and sodomizing himself with it.
    • A much more chilling example: Jesse instructs several armed men to "Fuck off," and they do, turning around and running away. One of them, as they run, looks to another with absolute terror in his eyes and asks, "Forever?"
  • Subverted in a Disney's Aladdin comic that predated the Aladdin: The Return of Jafar movie by several years, but had essentially the same story. In it, a little old lady gets control of Jafar's lamp and manages to get an insane amount of things from him by very carefully wording her wishes.
  • In a Dutch comic based on Disney's Aladdin, it is revealed that on Friday the 13th of the genie year 1313, all genies become literal genies, whether they want it or not. The Genie demonstrates this to Aladdin by asking him to wish for a pie, and promptly throws it in his face because Aladdin failed to specify how he wanted the pie delivered to him. That same day, Jafar manages to steal the lamp but quickly finds out how dangerous a literal genie can be.
  • One Donald Duck Comic by Carl Barks has an interesting variant on this. As an April Fool joke, Huey Dewey and Louie trick Donald into believing that the rocks on an island in the Southern Sea grants wishes. Donald immediately drags them along to the island to test out the rocks — and due to a number of contrived circumstances, every wish Donald makes turns out to come true in a Literal Genie fashion, because Donald won't stop using slang when making wishes. For example, the natives of the island are worried because the ship that usually comes by to buy coconuts from them hasn't shown up, and their coconut stock is getting too big for their storage rooms. Hence, when Donald stops by, grabs a rock and loudly declares "I wish for a million coconuts!" (meaning, of course, a million dollars), the natives are all too happy to give him all the coconuts he wants. At the end of the story, Huey, Dewey and Louie are confused as to whether the rocks actually were magical or not — though all the granted wishes were easily explained away by coincidences, the fact remained that all the wishes did, after a fashion, come true.
  • The horror anthology comic Flinch had a tale titled "Brer Hoodoo" (Done in the style of Uncle Remus/Brer Rabbit tales), where Brer Hare sells his soul to the Devil to be able to "play [his] guitar better than any man alive". The devil makes it so, but an encounter with another, better musician leads to Hare's eventual death. In Hell, the devil explains Hare got exactly what he wished for-he was the best on his guitar, which didn't prevent other musicians from being better on their guitars.
  • The Four Gods of China in The Shadow Hero grant their mortal hosts a promise in return for hosting them, but only the exact words of the promise count. For example, Hank Chu, the hero, asks Tortoise to promise that he'll never be shot, and Tortoise fulfills the promise by ensuring bullets will always dodge Hank - but he's still vulnerable to everything else. That said, it doesn't stop the gods helping their hosts out in other ways.
  • A Minnie the Minx special had Minnie find a genie in her bathroom and wish that she doesn't have to go to school. When the genie asks where she'd like to go instead, she says "Oh, any old place will do". The genie transports her to ancient Egypt, a very old place indeed.
  • In "The Bizarre Batman Genie!" in Detective Comics #322, Batman is transformed into a genie and trapped in lamp by criminals - unable to return to human until he has granted Three Wishes. (It Makes Just as Much Sense in Context.) The criminals attempt to use the Batman-Genie to commit crimes. Unfortunately for them, he is fairly literal in his understanding. Ordered to plunder the mint, Robin and Bat-Girl are able to thwart him by placing a truckload of mint plants inside the mint building. Batman 'plunders the mint' by stealing all of the mint plants.

    Comic Strips 
  • Defied in Knights of the Dinner Table, where Rules Lawyer Brian pulls out a HUGE pre-prepared document that he had written up in case he ever got granted a wish. In a later issue, an article recommended the Game Master limit wishes to 20 words or less to prevent players from pulling this.
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin is falling from a great height and while searching for some way to save himself, finds his Transmogrifier Gun, which can turn anything into whatever he's thinking of. He gleefully proclaims "I'll just point it at myself and transmogrify! I'm safe!", at which point he turns into... well, a safe.
  • In the 1980s, Bike cartoonist "Shobba" once drew a picture of a disgruntled youth sat on a furry cabin-trunk, with a four-foot rooster in the foreground and a brass lamp from which smoke was condensing into the form of a djinni with a what-is-it-now expression on his face. To one side was a (desperately uncool) Triumph Herald car with a pair of furry dice in the windscreen, and the youth was exclaiming "No, no, I meant a Triumph...". Once you work it out and look once again at the objects in the picture, you realize he meant a "hairy chest", a "great big cock" and a Triumph motorbike... probably a Bonneville, in that day and age.
  • In "Snake Tales" by Sols, the snake wants to be a sex symbol. ♂.
  • One of Charlie Brooker's Swinelight Zone strips in Oink was about a guy who, unlucky in love, asked a wishing well for "a great bird who'll sweep me off my feet". Nothing happened. "Just typical", he said to himself, as the giant talons descended towards his shoulders...

    Fan Works 
  • Dragon Ball Abridged:
    • First, the series makes blatant note of the DBZ example above, when Deadpan Snarker Dende points out their failure to bring Piccolo right to them.
      Dende: He is on Namek.
      Gohan: Wait, where is he?
      Dende: On Namek.
      Piccolo: [from the other side of the planet] You dumbass!
      Krillin: Why didn't it bring him here?
      Dende: You must be specific.
      Gohan: Oh, so it's a sort of monkey's paw; you have to be careful what the hubris in your wish is.
      Piccolo: [still distant] NERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRD!
    • Nappa gets wished back to life because it hasn't been a year since he died and Vegeta was still (technically) one of Freeza's men when Vegeta killed him (an often cited plot hole in the original series).
    • At the end of the Cell Saga, King Kai, Bubbles, and Gregory aren't brought back to life after Cell self-destructed on their Baby Planet because Yamcha specifically wished to revive everyone on Earth killed by Cell. King Kai calls Yamcha an asshole for wording his wish that way.
  • The wishing stones from Zany To The Max are this. One time, after Slappy assigned roles for a play to seven of the eight Warners, leaving Yakko out, Yakko wished he could "join [the play] with Wakko." The next morning, Yakko and Wakko wake up conjoined.
  • There's also Literal, a Homestar Runner fan character by the same author, who is this. Justified because she's Literal-Minded.
  • In All You Need Is Love when Duck convinces Shidoh to do his bidding...
    Duck: Right, well I asked him to find Schrodinger's Cat, he misunderstood the directions. I hope you like cats, he just keeps bringing them, I almost want to tell him to stop but I also want to see how far he's going to take this before he gives up. He's very tenacious for a half-wit.
  • In The Lamp and Willow, a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfic, Willow discovers a magic lamp while she and Buffy (who are shipped as a couple in this story) help Buffy's mom sort out artifacts from a client's estate. Willow is sufficiently clever to handle the lamp and Balil, the genie within, as though she were handling a primed tactical nuke, and ends up employing a variation of the Prisoner's Dilemma to avoid any pitfalls. Her first of three wishes is for "the intelligence, knowledge, wisdom and understanding" to use her second and third wishes wisely (noting that intelligence and wisdom are not synonymous). Once she receives this wish, she and Buffy go over several drafts of her second wish, finally hitting on one that would meet their needs, as well as the needs of their friends, before presenting the draft to Balil. Willow uses the draft as her second wish, but adds as a condition that Balil may only grant the second wish if he is able to grant the third wish, which in this case is crafted to benefit Balil and his fellow genies. Willow correctly surmises that she would benefit most by treating Balil like an intelligent being and not like a magic slot-machine.
  • In Ashes of the Past, Jirachi's wish-granting abilities sometimes work in strange ways. A wish that they could find an Electrike who liked Wattson ended up transporting Max's Electrike a few feet to his side, while Jirachi's own wish (yeah, they created a loophole where it can grant its own wishes) that Max "wouldn't go splat" when the group is suddenly falling from a cable car ends up stealing a Remoraid from a Team Aqua Grunt so that Max's Mantyke can evolve into Mantine.
  • The Gargoyles series "Broken Mirror" opens with Demona explicitly wishing for Puck to rid her of "the human Elisa Maza forever". As a result, while Puck doesn't go along with Demona's intention to kill Elisa, he is forced to make her transformation into a gargoyle permanent, leaving Elisa and her family and friends to adjust to her changed species.
  • In the Marvel Cinematic Universe AU fanfic If Wishing Made It So, HYDRA finds Bucky as a genie in a bottle. They use the Tesseract to alter his powers and force him to obey any order his master gives him to the exact letter, instead of just granting three easily twisted wishes, so that he suffers the negative consequences of this trope instead of the actual wisher. Steve learns about the full extent of this when he tells Bucky to "stay here" after he unwittingly releases him from his bottle in his apartment, and Bucky is rendered unable to leave his apartment even after Steve clarifies that he can move around until he gets specific permission to go outside.
  • In Bottled Genius, an Inuyasha fanfic where Inu-Yasha is a genie summoned by Kagome, genies operate like this by default with their wishes being automatically granted with some ironic twist even if they don't want it to be granted like that. Even after Inu-Yasha becomes friends with Kagome and honestly wants to make sure her wishes go well, she still has to write out a long list of specifications to ensure that her wish for a nice family vacation has no negative repercussions... and even that list doesn't stop Naraku from tracking them down while they're on said vacation.
  • When you attend an Official Fanfiction University, you appear as whatever you describe yourself as on the application sheet. Say you're an elf, and you will be transformed into an elf once you enter. Say your eyes are blue, they'll be blue while you're there. Say you have pale skin, you will show up as Caucasian. However, since all the students are stereotypical bad fanfic writers, they will usually describe themselves with Purple Prose, which will always be interpreted literally when creating their appearance. Describe your eyes as "sapphire orbs"? You'll have spherical gemstones in your eye sockets. Say your hair is "gold" or "bronze"? Enjoy all that metal growing out of your head. And if you say you have "creamy skin", then, well...
  • The Life and Times of a Winning Pony: Fey tend to be very literal about enforcing contracts and agreements with mortal ponies. For instance, one of Octavia's teachers once idly mentioned to a musenote  that he'd trade his right hoof to be as good as the in-universe historical cellist Animando Assai.
    Octavia: Suffice to say that my teacher is the best three-hooved cellist I have ever heard.
  • In Aladdean, a Supernatural Fusion Fic with Aladdin, Dean wants to have enough wealth and political influence to make a positive change so he wishes to be made into the "perfect suitor" for the princess of his land, expecting to be turned into a prince that she'll want to marry. Except that the princess happens to be a lesbian, so the wish instead turns him into a woman and he has to use his next wish to undo it.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Princess and the Frog: Doctor Facilier actually has some things in common with a Literal Genie, although verging on Jackass Genie. For example, he got Prince Naveen to agree to the deal by saying things like "You want to be free, hop from place to place." and "When I look into your future it's green that I've seen." Naveen, naturally, agrees to this, and... becomes a frog. Literally speaking, Facilier didn't lie to him.... It doesn't really matter if he did or didn't, as Facilier was actively trying to screw Naveen over. Facilier is only bound by one rule in the film: He had better hold up his end of the deal to his "Friends". He really doesn't care if he lies, cheats, or steals to get what he wants.
  • Aladdin:
    • Applies to some degree to the Genie, even though he's a well-meaning Benevolent Genie. At the start, Aladdin manages to con him into getting them out of the Cave of Wonders for free, but only by making the Genie think he's made a wish. Later, the Genie is unable even to rescue him from drowning without an explicit spoken wish (though he pulls his own bit of Loophole Abuse to get around this). Ultimately, Aladdin tricks Jafar into wishing that Genie make him into a genie himself, with all the limitations that entails — making him much less dangerous than when he was a sorcerer who could use his magic however he wanted.
    • In the sequel Aladdin: The Return of Jafar, Jafar does this with Abis Mal to cow him into wishing exactly how Jafar wants him to. Abis Mal wanted treasure, so Jafar takes them to a sunken treasure ship in the middle of the ocean. Jafar being Jafar, he's also a Jackass Genie.
    • In Aladdin and the King of Thieves, the Oracle of the staff answers Iago's rhetorical question about what she is, ticking him off when he hears each questioner only gets one chance. (And also the Oracle being the Oracle, she probably knew exactly what Iago is like.)
      Iago: Okay, you know all, so tell all. Where is the treasure? You know, the ultimate one?
      Oracle: I am bound by the rule of one. One question, one answer.
      Iago: [frustrated] I only want one answer! WHERE IS THE ULTIMATE TREASURE?!
      Oracle: You have already asked your question.
      Iago: You mean before? Oh, uh, that wasn't a question! That was uh... thinking out loud!
      Genie: [grabbing Iago] VERY loud!
  • Another example occurs in DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp. Here the good genie is forced to grant whatever wishes his owners give him, even if they are bad ideas. Fortunately Scrooge is smart enough to put everything right with his second wish near the end, saving one wish for freeing the genie.
  • In the Animaniacs special Wakko's Wish, the Warners Brothers (and Warner Sister) try to convince the Big Bad that the Wishing Star is one of these. They succeed, but get sent to the death row when he gets fed up with their antics. Naturally, they escape.
  • The witch in Brave apparently grants wishes this way. A prince wished to have the strength of ten men? She turned him into a bear. Merida wishes her mom would change? She turned her into a bear. Was she an actual witch, or is that the only trick she could pull off?

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the Bing Crosby/Bob Hope movie Road to Morocco, an imprisoned Jeff and Orville are given a ring which grants wishes, but are told it doesn't work for everyone. They're also given two poison tablets to use in case the ring doesn't work for either of them. When the ring doesn't work for Jeff, Orville begins to swallow a tablet, and then...
    Orville: [to the sky] Set the table, Aunt Lucy, there'll be two more for dinner... Boy, I sure wish I had a drink.
    [a drink appears in Orville's hand]
    Jeff: Junior! Junior, It worked! How about that, the magic ring, it worked on you!
    Orville: Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle!
    [Orville turns into, well, a monkey]
  • In the art film The Safety of Objects, one character suspects God is like this, or possibly a Jackass Genie. She is probably wrong.
  • In Stardust, Tristan pays a witch to transport him to a fair, providing food and bedding, and for him to be unharmed. She turns him into a mouse and keeps him in a cage before turning him back at the fair itself.
  • In The Fountain, conquistador Tomas Creo finds the Fountain of Youth/Tree of Life in the Mayan jungle, which is said by the Mayans to give eternal life when it sprouted from the chest of the first human. He cuts into the tree and where the sap lands, flowers spring up. After drinking from its sap, Flowers burst out of his chest and lungs and he is absorbed into the roots of the immortal tree. Paging Don Martin, anyone?
  • Wishmaster is a series of films based off a Demon Djinn whose people are trapped and each wish costs a person's soul. It's something of a mix between Jackass Genie and Literal Genie. To make it easier to collect souls he'll take the most deadly option of your wish every time, but he does have to interpret each wish literally and can't deny a very specific wish. He can only decline if it violates a metaphysical law that existed before his kind, such as when someone asks him to "undo all evil in the world", his explanation being that good wouldn't exist without it.
    • Demonstrated hilariously in the first film, as the Djinn tries to trick a guard into making a fatal wish. The guard simply says he wants him to go away, and the Djinn promptly turns around and starts walking away against his will, protesting that he really needs to get past the guard. Fortunately (for the Djinn), the guard responds to said protests by saying he'd really like to see the Djinn "go through me". The Djinn makes him part of the door.
    • Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies is a great example, as much of it is in a prison full of people wishing to escape. Cue people being forced through the bars, or down a pipe.
    • This bites him in the ass in the fourth, and final, movie. The Waker wishes that she could "love him for who he really is". The literal definition of the wish means that he can't just make her "love" him; her love has to be freely given knowing that he's a hideous Djinn bent on bringing Hell to Earth. The Djinn also realizes to his dismay that he is falling in love with her as well. The lovestruck Djinn spends the rest of the movie desperately trying to win her love.
  • Bedazzled:
    • In the original movie, one of the wishes of the main character was to "go down in history" and become "the President!": He was immediately incarnated as Abraham Lincoln... in the balcony of Ford's Theatre. The first movie also ends with the main character turned into a woman and now a member of a nunnery (which is implied to allow lesbian relationships) in the country with the woman he was attracted to.
    • In the remake, as he starts to wise up to the Devil, his wishes start getting more elaborate. The devil keeps finding a detail he left out, and screws him over on that point. In fact, the very first thing he wishes is to be rich and married to the love of his life — only to become a rich cocaine baron whose wife absolutely loathes him.
  • The family film The Incredible Genie does this. The protagonist kid sarcastically wishes the Genie to take "40 winks". He literally performs 40 quick winks. Another is the kid wish he was "filthy rich", only to have his room covered with filth. Justified that the Genie has no knowledge of the present or figures of speech.
  • The short film Pencil Face is either this or Jackass Genie. Girl finds a magic pencil which makes real anything she draws. When she tries to draw a lollipop, she draws it in such a way that the pencil interprets it as a black hole that swallows the girl. Ouch.
  • The Russian film, Khottabych (alternatively, K}{OTT@B\)CH), is loosely based on a children's book Old Khottabych by Lazar Lagin about an old genie from "Arabian Nights" Days being freed from his vessel by a Soviet Young Pioneer. The remake takes place in modern times (hence the "l33t" letters). Khottabych's liberators ask him for stacks of hundred-dollar bills. He obliges. They look exactly like hundred-dollar bills... but are printed on Egyptian papyrus. In the original novel, Khottabych has an older brother, who was also imprisoned in a vessel and has grown bitter as years went on. After he is freed, he offers his rescuer a choice of death. The quick-witted boy opts to die by old age. The genie obliges... and turns him into an old man. Naturally, since this is a children's book, the boy gets better.

    Being Literal Genie backfired at the genie himself: he said that the boy would die at the sunset... but they were ín the Arctics. It could make the boy die in several months instead of hours, but the protagonist was able to convince the genie that it was him who stopped the sun on its tracks. The Soviet censorship would unlikely allow any reminiscence of Biblical prophets in a children's book (they had even avoided calling YHWH a God in a children's book of Biblical legends), but you surely don't gonna mess with someone who can command the sun.
  • After Alex in The Outing put on the bracelet that marks her as the jinn's keeper, her wish is its command. Unfortunately, it is the one that she made during with a fight with her dad.
  • The Thief of Bagdad (1940): Ahmad looks in an All-Seeing Eye and sees Jaffar courting the Princess. He says "I wish I were in Baghdad right now!" His sidekick Abu says "I wish you were!" The Literal Genie, who sees Abu as his master, sends Ahmad to Baghdad, but since Abu didn't wish to go with him, he's still stuck on the deserted island. Thankfully, he has more wishes.
  • Unusual example in Absolutely Anything in that the genie isn't actually an entity. Protagonist Neil Clarke is a Reality Warper who can make anything happen by requesting it of no one in particular, but the results are often too literal, sometimes bordering on Jackass Genie.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Eddie goes to a club with a Toon service staff. A penguin waiter asks him what he wants, and Eddie orders "scotch on the rocks". Then he remembers he's talking to a Toon and shouts "I mean ice!" after him. Naturally, the Toon brings him a glass of scotch with pebbles in it. Truth in Television, though, as some bartenders put cooled cubes of stone or metal in drinks in order to avoid diluting the beverage with melting ice water.
  • The Monster Clown in When Evil Calls specialises in granting wishes in a Be Careful What You Wish For manner. Sometimes he does this by choosing to interpret the wish literally. 'I wish I looked good enough to eat' was a particularly poor choice of wording.
  • WarGames: The narrowly-averted extinction of humanity doesn't occur becuase the AI Joshua had any malevolent intentions towards the human race, it was simply doing what it had been instructed to do by a Playful Hacker: Win a game of Global Thermonuclear War. It can't comprehend that the consequences of fighting a simulated nuclear war are vastly different to the consequences of fighting a real one, in either case the death toll is just a number in a memory address as far as Joshua is concerned, and in either case winning is better than losing so it tries to win by any means necessary. Just like Steven Falken programmed it to.
  • In The Man Who Could Work Miracles, Fotheringay has no understanding of how his powers work, and learns that he must be careful when issuing commands or they may come true in a very literal fashion. For example, his telling Constable Winch to "go to blazes!" results in the unfortunate policeman beings sent to a Fire and Brimstone Hell.
  • In Aladdin (2019), Genie is just as literal and just as benevolent, pointing out that Aladdin's wish "Make me a prince" could mean either "Turn me into a prince" (what Aladdin actually intended) or "Make a prince appear for me" (which he did not). In the climax, he uses the grey area in Jafar's wish to be "the most powerful being in the universe" to turn him into a genie.

  • There is a joke, wherein a guy finds a genie, and it gives him three wishes. The first two were a million dollars and a cool car, but he holds off on the third. While driving in the car, he hears the "I wish I were an Oscar Meyer wiener" commercial on the radio; it's catchy so he sings along. Poof, he's an Oscar Meyer wiener.
  • Following jokes, a man meets a genie who grants him wishes but says his ex-wife gets double what he gets. He wishes for a million dollars and she gets two million. He wishes for a mansion and she gets two. For his third and final request, he wishes to be beaten half to death.
    • A smarter man in a similar variation of the joke merely asked to donate a kidney.
    • Another variation replaces the wife with the man's hated boss. The final wish: "I wish my boss's wife would fuck me half to death."
    • There are variations with a woman, and her divorced husband. The variants of the woman's wish include: 1) Bearing twins. 2) Big breasts 3) A lover with a ten inch penis.
    • A story by Robert Sheckley, where a man's worst enemy is the one getting double, ends with the man asking for a woman who's the limit of his desires.
    • Another: the man's first two wishes are a nice mansion (with a large garden and a swimming pool etcetera), and a dozen Playboy bunnies to be around all day. Seeing that his wishes are granted correctly and his arch-enemy is granted exactly double what he got, his last wish is to have one testicle amputated.
    • Another one, with a woman and her estranged husband, but the husband would get a tenfold of the first wish. She wished for a great fortune, vast beauty (which her husband got tenfold) and a slight heart attack. Subverted, or played straight, in that she didn't survive the slight heart attack, but the husband got a heart attack that was a tenfold lighter, so he got legendary hotness, almost unlimited wealth, and inherited his dead wife's wealth.
  • Though no genie is involved, an old joke that goes like this: Three men come to a cliff. A sign at the cliff reads "This is a magic cliff. If you jump off the cliff and name an object, you will land in a pile of it". The first man jumps and shouts "GOLD!", landing in a pile of gold coins. The second man jumps and shouts "SILVER!", landing in a pile of silver coins. The last man, about to jump, accidentally trips on a rock and falls over the edge instead, reflexively shouting "AH, CRAP!"
    • A variant has the third go with "DIAMONDS!", which act like Spikes of Doom, impaling and killing him.
    • A variant has the men who wish for gold and silver both die when they hit it, while the man who accidentally wishes for crap survives because it's soft enough to cushion his fall, allowing him to take both the gold and the silver all for himself.
    • Yet another version has the guy yell the F-word. Let it be known he died a happy man.
    • Another version replaces the men with a Blonde, Brunette, Redhead trio of women and the it’s the Dumb Blonde that gets the unfortunate punchline
    • And then there's the version that's told to kids, in which it's instead a magic slide and the third man yells "WHEEEEE!" He ends up falling in a yellow liquid, or maybe a bunch of white motion-sensing Nintendo consoles...
      • There's also another variant with the same punchline, but the setup is that you'll transform into what you say, with the first and second jumpers morphing into birds, while the hapless third one...
  • Another joke has an old woman (in some variants, an elderly and widowed Cinderella) get three wishes from a fairy godmother. Her first two wishes are to be rich and a young, beautiful princess, respectively. The fairy godmother grants them somewhat nicely, though she only makes the woman rich by making her rocking chair solid gold. The last wish is for the woman's dog (or cat) to be turned into a handsome prince. The pet is turned into the "most handsome man anyone had ever seen", and the woman is immediately smitten with him. But then he whispers in her ear, "Bet you're sorry you had me neutered."
  • A man and an ostrich walk into a diner. The man orders a burger, fries, and a coke. The ostrich does the same. When the time comes for the man to pay for his meal, he reaches into his pocket and produces exact change. The next day, the man returns to the diner and the exact same scenario plays out. After a few more days of this, the waitress becomes curious and asks the man "Sir, how is it that you always have exact change?" and he answers "I once met a genie who granted me two wishes. For my first wish, I wished that whenever I had to pay for something, I would reach into my pocket and have the exact amount of money I need." When the waitress eventually asks him about the ostrich, he says "For my second wish, I wished for a tall chick with long legs who agrees with everything I say."
    • Another version didn't include the ostrich constantly agreeing with the guy. Instead, the guy was also accompanied by a cat who constantly refused to pay for anything; apparently, the guy had wished for a bird with long legs and a tight pussy, and to always have the exact amount money he needed.
    • One variation is he rides the ostrich into a bar and orders everyone a drink. He had wished for infinite wealth, many friends, and an "exotic bird" with long legs to share it all with.
      • A saucier variation on this is him riding a giant chicken and saying that he wished for a "huge cock."
  • A Czech peasant got three wishes, and wished to be of noble birth, with a beautiful wife, and world famous. He woke up in bed next to a beautiful woman who rolled over and told him: "Get up, Franz-Ferdinand, we have to be in Sarajevo in half an hour."
    • There is a variant ending with "Please come in to get your pictures taken, Citizen Romanov".
    • An American version is also possible, wherein a man asks to be handsome, powerful and married to a beautiful wife, and wakes up to a man in a suit telling him "Get up President Kennedy, we have to be in Dallas."
  • There is a joke about a man who wishes for a beer bottle in which the beer will never end. He's still trying to open it.
  • Raunchier jokes have been done in this style, such as a man who wishes for his genitalia to reach all the way to the ground, only to lose both his legs. Another guy with the same idea wants to be "hung like a black man", only to have The Klan show up at his doorstep. This would likely be an example of a Jackass Genie who has deliberately misinterpreted the wish, because The Klan would be looking to make sure the wisher would be hanged like a black man. It depends though, because in many languages there's no difference between "hanged" and "hung".
  • There is one joke where a man encounters a "Question Genie," which will correctly answer three questions. The man is shocked and without thinking, says "So, you're a question genie, huh?" "Yes." "And I get ''three'' answers?" "Yes." "Uh oh, did those last two count?" "Yes."
  • Three guys are stuck on an island in the middle of the ocean. A lamp washes on the shore. One of the men picks it up and rubs it and lo and behold, a genie comes out of it and says he can get three wishes. He laughs and berates his fellow companions, telling them how he always hated them and he's going to use the wishes for himself and not help them get off the island as well, then he makes his first wish — "I wish I was back in New York!" [snap] He's back in New York. His second wish — "I wish I owned and was in a luxury penthouse apartment, filled with money and gorgeous, bikini-clad women who all want to fulfill my every whim!" [snap] He's in the penthouse apartment, with gorgeous women fawning all over him in tiny bikinis, enough to make Hugh Hefner jealous, and enough money to make Donald Trump jealous. He laughs and leans back as one of the women gives him a massage and another kisses him, "I wish those two losers could see me now." [snap] He's back on the island.
    • A similar joke to the one above — the genie gives a wish to each man. The first two wish they were home and are sent there. The third man says "Now I'm lonely. I wish those two guys were back with me."
  • A subversion: a man with an orange for a head walks into a bar. He gets chatting with the barman, who, consumed with curiosity, asks, "So... why do you have an orange for a head?" The man with an orange for a head replies: "Well, it's like this. I was walking along the beach one day when I tripped over an old lamp that was sticking out of the sand. In a flash of light, a genie appeared in front of me! The genie said to me, 'For a thousand years I have been imprisoned in that lamp. In gratitude for freeing me, I shall grant you three wishes'. So I said, 'I would like more money than I can ever spend'. There was a puff of smoke, and all over the sand there were piles of gold and jewels. 'Your second wish?' asked the genie. 'To help me enjoy all this money', I said, 'I want an intelligent, beautiful woman to spend the rest of my life with'. There was another puff of smoke, and there next to me was the loveliest woman I have ever seen. 'What is your final wish?' asked the genie. And I said, 'I'd like an orange for a head'".
  • A man walks into a bar and orders a drink. He says he owns the largest deer farm in town. The bartender asks how that happened. The man replies, "I met a genie who said he would grant me a wish. I wished for a million bucks."
    • A British variant involves someone wishing for "a million pounds" and then immediately swelling to obesity.
  • A man walks into a bar and orders a beer. While the bartender is pouring it, the man sees that a one-foot-tall man is playing a miniature piano beautifully. Amazed, the man says to the bartender, "Where'd you get him?" The bartender sets an oil lamp on the bar, rubs it, and a genie pops out, offering the man a wish. He thinks for a minute and says, "I want a million bucks!" The genie snaps his fingers and disappears. A minute later, there's thunder and it starts raining ducks. The man yells at the bartender, "What the hell?! I asked for a million bucks, no a million ducks!" The bartender says, "It turns out the genie is hard-of-hearing. Why would I wish for a 12-inch pianist?"
    • A similar one has the setup include a foot-long pen or lighter, with the punchline being "What, did you think I wished for a twelve-inch Bic?"
  • A man with an apple-sized head walks into a bar and orders a drink. When he notices the bartender staring, he explains that some time ago, he found a mermaid stranded on a beach. He carried her back into the ocean and she granted him three wishes in exchange for saving her life. He wished for money, a big house, and to have sex with her. After she pointed out that their anatomies were incompatible, he shrugged and said "OK, then how about a little head?"
  • Three men arrive at the pearly gates. St. Peter says that heaven's rooms are full (or, in some variants, that the computer is down), but they will have the chance to be reincarnated on earth as whatever they want until the issue is fixed. The first man wishes to be a bear, while the second wishes to be an eagle. The third thinks and says, "I've always wanted to be a stud." A week later the new rooms are ready and God asks St. Peter where the three men are. Peter says, "One's fishing for trout in a stream in Washington state, one's soaring through the Grand Canyon, and the third is on a snow tire in Alaska."
  • A bumbling office worker finds a box in his cubicle and opens it, finding a lamp. Rubbing it and finding a genie, he asks to live in a tropical paradise (and is teleported there), surrounded by women for his exclusive pleasure (a full harem of beautiful women is teleported in), and never have to do anything for the rest of his life (he is teleported back to his cubicle).
  • A Hollywood Atheist is taking a walk through the woods when he hears a rustling in the bushes behind him; it turns out to be a bear charging right towards him. He tries to outrun the bear, but trips and falls on the ground. The bear is right on top of him, reaching for him with its left paw and raising its right paw to strike him. At that moment, the atheist cries out "Oh my God!" Time stops and the forest becomes silent. A bright light shines upon the man and the voice of God says, "You deny my existence for all of these years; teach others I dont exist; and even credit creation to a cosmic accident. Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament? Am I to count you as a believer?" The atheist says this would make him sound hypocritical and asks for the bear to be made a Christian instead. "Very well," says God. The light goes out, time resumes, and the bear brings its paws together, bows its head, and says: "Lord, for this food which I am about to receive, I am truly thankful."
  • One joke, with which you can replace the politician/celebrity of your choice, involves them crashing on a deserted island and finding a genie in the lamp. Their first wish is to go back to their home, the second for wealth/fame/power etc. Having had enough for themselves decide to make a final selfless wish to make everyone in the world happy... at which point they find themselves again stranded on the deserted island.
  • A person releases a genie, but the genie tells them he doesn't have the time or power to grant him three specific wishes and will instead give them three "standard" wishes: a healing tonic, a really big diamond, and a date with a famous movie star. When the person goes home, their bemused spouse informs them that they've just received a huge shipment of chicken soup, a deed for a baseball field, and an invitation to have dinner with Lassie.
  • An elderly couple in their sixties are celebrating their wedding anniversary when a genie appears and grants them one wish each. The wife asks to be able to travel around the world, and the genie grants this wish nicely by giving her plane tickets. The husband then asks to have a wife 30 years younger than him, and the genie makes him 90 years old.
  • While in a changing room, a man notices that another man has a plug stuck in his rear. When he asks the man about this, the man explains that he had rubbed a bottle he found on the beach and released a genie who told him that he could grant him one wish. Unfortunately, the man's instinctive reaction to being told this was: "No shit!"
  • A Portuguese language joke: A man tells a story of when he found three magic eggs that would grant wishes when they are broken, but while returning home he stumbled and one of the eggs fell into the ground, breaking apart. Frustrated, the man screamed "caralho!" (a curse word which literally means "dick") and then suddenly a lot of penises had grown into the grass around him, so he broke the second egg and wishes for all the dicks there to be gone. "And the third egg?" asks a friend listening to the story. "I had to break it to wish mine back", answers the man.
    • This works in English too if you instead have the man shouting either "nuts" or "bollocks" (depending on which side of the pond you're on) and causing a lot of testicles to bud up from the ground.
  • In Russian, a similar joke to the above is told about a family of two parents and a kid getting three wishes. So the kid instantly says "A hamster!" His father, angrily, says "Hamster up the ass!" Mom then says "Hamster out of the ass!"
  • A male bear is chasing a bunny, but right when the bear had caught the rabbit, a genie appears. The genie said to the bear: "If you spare the bunny's life, I will grant three wishes each". The bear accepts. Then he wishes for a gigantic lair. The bunny wishes for a motorcycle, and the bear laughs at his wish. Then the bear wishes to be the only male bear in the world. The bunny wishes for a helmet, and the bear laughs at him again. Then the bear wishes for every female bear to be in love with him. The bunny jumps on his motorbike, straps on the helmet, and as he's driving away, he screams: "I want this fucking bear to be gay!" (Also told with "impotent" instead of "gay".)
  • A man gets one wish from a genie and says "Well, genie, I wish I could be you!" The genie snaps his fingers, and nothing happens. He then replies "That was a crappy wush, don't you thunk?"
  • A woman comes across a genie in a bottle who'll grant her wishes, but with one key stipulation: her partner gets double whatever she wishes for, too. She's not happy about this, as he left her for another woman, and can only stew in impotent anger as he enjoys twice the bounty that her first two wishes gave her. When the genie asks her if she's ready for her third wish, she thinks it over a moment, and then says, "Scare me half to death."
  • To end this folder on a heartwarming note: A poor man lived with his barren wife, his blind, dying father and his brother who had lost an arm in a war. One day he encountered a genie who offered him a wish. He was torn as whether he should help his wife, father or brother. After some thought he came up with his wish. "I want my father to live to see my wife rock her baby in the cradle that my brother has made with his own two hands."


By Author

  • Isaac Asimov:
    • George and Azazel: A series short stories about a tiny demon named Azazel, who would grant wishes that started off looking like exactly what the person wanted, but ended up being the person's worst nightmare. In one story, a man with no self-confidence wanted to be irresistible to women. He ended up being chased everywhere by women, and in the end was engaged to a woman built like a linebacker because he was too afraid of her (and her equally massive brothers) to turn her down.
    • "Escape!": The Brain includes certain quirks in the design of the prototype spaceship because it went a little insane. The equipment is all recessed, and only opens under the computer's command. The crew has enough to eat and drink, but only beans and milk for weeks. Earth can contact the ship, but they can't respond. Technically it does everything they ask of it, just not quite the way they wanted/expected.
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley:
    • In A Dozen Of Everything, a young woman is given a djinn in a bottle as a wedding present from an eccentric aunt. She wishes for trousseau, but finding the old-fashioned djinn unfamiliar with the term, she carelessly instructs him to give her "a dozen of everything" and to put it all in her room. This goes about as well as one might expect.
    • There was a short story in one anthology where a demon sorcerer (who is under a binding that he must always fulfill his offers, once made) crashes a village celebration, picks the least popular and most-abused girl in town, and offers her a Sadistic Choice: he will kill any one person in the room for her, but she must choose someone, or else he will kill her. The demon's intent was for the girl to damn her soul by having someone murdered for vengeance, and then die at the hands of the rest of the village. Cue Oh, Crap! expression from the demon when the girl points out the obvious: the demon himself qualifies as "one person in the room".
  • Bill Brittain:
    • All The Money In The World: A poor boy finding a genie and accidentally wasting his first two wishes. He tries to use the third wish to escape poverty, but figuring any finite amount of money will eventually run out, he requests "all the money in the world". Naturally most of the rest of the story centers around how he just wrecked the world economy and wished for something entirely useless at the same time.
    • The Wish Giver: A mysterious man gives the narrator and three children one wish each. The wishes are granted on his own terms, so the girl who wishes to be the "center of attention" winds up croaking like a frog and attracting stares and laughter whenever she says anything nasty (which is very often). The other girl who wishes for her love interest to "put roots down" is treated to the sight of her love interest transformed into a tree in her backyard, and the boy who wishes for "more than enough water" on his family's perpetually dry farm ends up with the farm completely flooded. It takes the fourth wish to repair all the damage.
  • Tom Holt has a few:
    • In Djinn Rummy: when the genies get together of an evening at their local pub, they like to reminisce about the mortals they've tricked this way (or, at least, some of them do).
    • In Wish You Were Here, jumping in Lake Okeewana is supposed to grant your heart's desire — but the spirit of the lake is good at creative interpretations.
  • Mercedes Lackey:
    • In Born to Run, an elven sorceress commands elemental spirits to neutralize the gunpowder in the bullets of a gun so that they won't fire, and then ignores the guy with the gun. Too bad, because the spirits only altered the bullets in the gun, and the guy's got a speed-loader.
    • In One Good Knight, a dragon is summoned to ravage the land until presented with routine virgin sacrifices. The dragon is a noble/knightly sort, and while he cannot fight the spell he is able to limit the ravaging to destruction of property and decimation of livestock... and finds the spell does not require him to devour or even harm the maidens he carries off. Imagine the surprise of the Dragon Slayer and the princess more or less rescued by same when they track it down and find the "victims" arrayed in defence of the "monster".
  • Penn & Teller wrote a story involving a genie where their first wish was for the correct phrasing to get infinite wishes that wouldn't backfire. Fittingly, the wisher was a computer programmer.
  • A short story by Bill Pronzini has a young boy being granted three wishes by a genie. His first two wishes are trivial: for a huge number of ice cream cones and for the ocean to be as warm as his bathwater so he can go wading whenever he wants. But the third wish is for all the children in the world to be just like him, so he will always have someone to play with. The end of the story reveals that the boy is mentally retarded.
  • Brandon Sanderson:
    • Elantris:
      • While not a genie, Sarene promises to get the Elantrian leaders anything they ask for, then finds it a fun game twisting their requests. They ask her for 20 sheets of steel: they get 20 sheets of steel pounded so thin as to be useless. Next time they ask for steel by weight: they get boxes full of broken nails. They ask for knives, stipulating that they be sharp, and receive them sans handles. (Though they do beat her sometimes — for instance, when asking for fish, which they expect will be half-rotten, which is exactly what they wanted, since they were actually looking for fertilizer.)
      • The Geometric Magic from the same series can fall under this trope, since a given Aon will do exactly what it was written to do, just like a programming language. The classic example of this is Aon Tia, which teleports you instantly from one place to another...even if this would, say, put you inside a wall. Another example shows up in the backstory: An unfortunate man brought his wife to Elantris to be treated for her disease. The healer in question misdrew the healing Aon, but instead of creating an invalid Aon (which would have just vanished and done nothing), he accidentally created a totally different but still valid Aon, which basically turned the poor woman into a zombie. This touches off the book's plot.
    • Discussed and defied in The Stormlight Archive. Two characters are having a conversation about the Nightwatcher, a powerful magical being who will grant anyone who seeks her out one wish, but also curse them at the same time. One character thinks that he could avoid being cursed if he worded his wish so that there weren't any loopholes, but the other, more knowledgeable one says that the Nightwatcher doesn't work like that — she gives you a curse she thinks is appropriate, which might be an ironic twist on the wish, but just as often is totally unrelated. Wording your wish really well won't get you out of it.
  • There's a Mark Twain story in which the protagonist gains an ability to make wishes he speaks come true. He encounters this problem when, in one of his early tests, he wishes for "a bowl of fishes", then has to say, "No, not that" and re-wish for a glass bowl of water with fish swimming in it.
  • H. G. Wells:
    • A short story entitled "The Man Who Could Work Miracles" (later made into a movie under the same title). The title character, George Fotheringay is a working-class nebbish who suddenly discovers that he can make anything happen by saying it should — but, true to this trope, the power pays no attention to metaphors. His control is improving by the end of the story, but he stumbles over the laws of physics — a preacher suggests he "stop the sun and moon" like Joshua at Jericho, and reminds him that their apparent motion comes from the earth rotating. Fotheringay orders the Earth to stop, and momentum smashes everything on the surface and/or flings it off into space. Fortunately, he wishes to survive the experience, and then very carefully and deliberately pushes a Reset Button.
    • The Truth About Pyecraft by is about a fat man who asks his friend, a sorcerer, for a potion to lose weight — only for the resulting elixir to make the man completely weightless, creating lots of problems.

By Work

  • A classic short story has a man meeting up with his old college flame, who is now a world-famous beauty with unbelievable talent and skill at everything, who figures out that her butler is a demon who granted her three wishes. Her first wish "To be the most beautiful woman of my age" made her age be over 80, her wish for "Wealth beyond the dreams of avarice" gave her nothing, because avarice has no bounds, but her wish that the demon be "Totally and unselfishly in love with me" got her anything that would make her happy. The protagonist was very happy about the "unselfish" part, considering the activities of the previous night.
  • A short story had a man making a Deal with the Devil to be with his old crush. Realising that the woman might no longer be the beauty she was in college, he insists that the Devil make her "exactly the same" as she is in a particular photo. The Devil complies and the woman is exactly as she is in the photo, including being two inches tall. And as flat as paper as well.
  • A short story turned the Literal Genie clause back on the Devil. The Devil offers a single wish to anyone in exchange for their soul, with the limitation that if the wish is supremely selfless, the Devil has to spare the person and cease tormenting humanity forever. A man accomplishes this by wishing, without any change in himself, to be the most sickly, miserable, lonely, needy, cruel, corrupt, wasteful, etc., etc., person in the world. The Devil can't even twist that one by removing all the other people, à la The X-Files genie episode: the supremely selfless nature of the wish bars him from tormenting humans any longer, and knowing he'd inadvertently caused humanity to vanish would torment the wish-maker, who can't be removed under the terms stated.
  • The novel Alf's Button features a British soldier during World War I who discovers that one of the buttons on his tunic is made from Aladdin's lamp. The genie will grant him unlimited wishes — but only one per day. It's therefore unfortunate that the first time the genie appears, Alf's reaction is to exclaim: "Strike me pink!" (a common expression of surprise at the time).
  • In Anansi Boys, Fat Charlie asks the Bird Woman to get rid of his brother Spider. At least that's what he thinks she's agreed to do. The Bird Woman never promised that she'd get rid of Spider specifically; her exact words were that she wanted "Anansi's bloodline", which includes Spider and Charlie. Yikes.
  • The title character of The Bartimaeus Trilogy is both a literal and metaphorical example ("Djinn" is the root of "genie"). He has some Noble Demon qualities that cancel it out, though. He actually remarks, several times, on how careful the magicians have to be when giving orders to the djinn, because they try to misinterpret it to either mean nothing or cause harm to the magician. Probably the most memorable example of magicians getting around this was Nathaniel giving Bartimaeus's somewhat long orders about stealing the Amulet in one breath.
    Bartimaeus: [reminiscing about one such sap] ...Unfortunately for him, the precise words he used were: "Preserve me!" A cork, a great big bottle, a vat of pickling fluid, and — presto! — the job was done.
  • In Be Careful What You Wish For (which has also been adapted for TV), Samantha Bird is an especially Genre Blind victim of a wish-granting witch, never realizing that her words are being taken literally. Her wish to be the most talented basketball player on her team (she's a big klutz) causes everyone else to be weaker, her wish for the Alpha Bitch to become her friend turns said girl into an insane stalker, then she wishes for the Alpha Bitch to have found the wish-granting crone instead. She ends up as a bird thanks to the other girl's wish.
  • There's a book called Best Case Scenario (a parody of the Worst Case Scenario series) which includes a section on how to deal with a genie; the joke about the guy with the ten-inch pianist is mentioned, and they advise you to put a wish in writing, just in case you run into one like that. (It gives other advice, like not to rush him, seeing as he's probably cranky after being cooped up in a lamp for heaven knows how long).
  • Bruce Coville's Book of... Monsters: The sword Arthur gets in Merlin's Knight School. He wishes he could fight something with it... and a monster promptly appears for him to fight. (Luckily, a second wish enables him to actually beat the monster.)
  • In one of the Callahan's Crosstime Saloon books, a cluricaune has to grant the patrons of the bar three wishes, but they're savvy enough to avoid the word "wish". The cluricaune gets around it by granting a wish when someone says something that sounds like she's making a wish, even though she isn't. For the record, the dialogue is a woman saying she'd like to show her husband Isham a repaired table. "I show Ish that table repaired" was transposed into "I sho' wish that table repaired." The protagonist later realizes that the cluricaune was actually offering him a great gift, since even "Wishes I will actively try to make go wrong" is a truly incredible gift. It isn't the cluricaune's fault that the protagonist can't come up with good wishes.
  • The Canterbury Tales: In "The Knight's Tale", two soldiers are praying the night before a tournament, where the prize is the hand in marriage of Emily. Palamon prays to Venus that he will be the one to marry Emily, while Arcite prays to Mars that he will claim victory in the tournament. Both men have their wishes granted; Arcite is able to win the battle against Palamon, but during his victory celebrations his horse becomes frightened and rears, throwing Arcite to the ground. When Arcite dies of his injuries, Theseus declares Palamon Emily's rightful husband by default.
  • The humor/adventure fantasy novel Captains Outrageous uses this in the last paragraph of the book. Sorcerer Bosamp has been manipulated into trying to destroy the world by a dragon (divine beings in this setting) with the promise of a beautiful world of his own to rule. Bosamp is defeated and imprisoned, and the dragon is punished by her superiors. As the dragons' punishment begins, he superior grudgingly admires her cleverness in manipulating Bosamp, since she actually would have granted him his own beautiful world... with poisonous air and crushing gravity.
  • In Castle in the Air, the main character acquires a genie who states right from the beginning that he swore that all the wishes he granted would "do as much harm as possible", out of pure petulance. A good deal of the book deals with the characters having to come up with wishes that the genie can't mess up.
  • The premise of Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life? has God pull this trick on the protagonist. As the title says, she asks for "average" ability in her fantasy-world reincarnation (because she hated the stress and isolation of being a Child Prodigy in her previous life). Instead of average human strength, she gets the average magical power of all creatures, including ridiculously powerful elder dragons. An Exposition Fairy calculates she has 6100 times the power of a normal human.
  • Discworld:
    • The golems in the novel Feet of Clay "rebel" by doing exactly what they're told. "No-one wants them to think, so they get their own back by not thinking."
    • Subverted in Wyrd Sisters when the witches summon a demon who agrees to answer three questions and takes great delight in giving technically accurate but completely unhelpful answers to the first two, no matter how carefully the witches try to phrase them. For the third question, they decide to try a different approach and ask it "Just what the hell's going on? And no wriggling about trying to get out of it!" — which works far better. The fact they threaten him with being boiled alive and hit with a large stick helps some.
    • In Eric, demons try to give people who summon them "exactly what they asked for and exactly what they didn't want". This would also make them Jackass Genies, except that they don't need to stretch very far to make Eric's wishes backfire.
    • Tiffany Aching has to deal with this from two sources. The first is the Nac Mac Feegle, who just want to be helpful. While they can't actually do magic, they are determined, numerous, and immensely strong. She reflects that while never actually likely to say "I wish I could marry a handsome prince", the fact that if she did, she would probably quickly find a tied-up prince and clergyman at her door makes one wary of voicing one's desires out loud. There's also the Hiver, a creature which possesses people's bodies, then tries to make all their wishes come true. Even the ones they don't say, don't really want except for a fleeting urge, or wouldn't work towards because things like conscience or sanity hold them back.
  • Making deals with The Fair Folk in The Dresden Files, when one is not being wise with your words, is going between this and Jackass Genie. They will honor the agreement and unless they have benevolent interests in your well-being, which is rare, they give you what you have requested.
    • In one instance, a trumpeter said he would "die to play [with amazing skill and moving ability]" and so he played as described before collapsing dead on the floor once the song was done.
    • In Cold Days, because of a deal with Queen Mab, Harry gained the temporary service of one of Queen Mab's top assassins and allies, Cait Sith, a powerful and dangerous feline-type fey, who is honor bound to do anything Harry asks of him. When Harry tests this by asking for a coke, Cait Sith vanishes and returns promptly with an open but room-temp drink because Harry didn't specify the temperature. Harry gets the hidden message too. Cait Sith hates him, doesn't want to do this, and will go quickly into Jackass territory if Harry makes stupid requests.
    • A variation occurs with Mab herself in that no-one asks her for a magical gift, but she is granting it because as Christmas falls in the time of Winter and giving gifts to people is the tradition, she sees it as an obligation she has to a servant. And to say no to Mab would be an injury to her pride and that is never a nice ending. So, she gives Harry Dresden's daughter Maggie an ornate ring that will grant the wearer temporary magical powers over Winter matching the powers of Elsa from Frozen, and play "Let It Go". This includes the power to freeze a person's heart and turn a person into an ice statue. When she is asked about the ring granting the those last powers, her response is:
      Mab: Those are the powers in the motion picture. Should I have cheated her?
  • Duumvirate: The control implants in Billy and Howard work this way. Anyone who can't avoid the obvious pitfalls is considered Too Dumb to Live.
  • In the untranslatable German novel "Eine Woche Voller Samstage", the Sams can grant a limited number of wishes. However, they are granted literally, and any detail not specified is assigned randomly. (For example, wishing yourself into your room might end you up on the floor if you are lucky, but you also have good chances to stand on your bed or inside your locked wardrobe.) Wishing that another person does something for you leaves all unspecified detail to that person's interpretation. (If you wish that a person brings you some hamburgers, he might as well return with some inhabitants of the German town Hamburg.) In the later novel, characters learn from their mistakes and try wording their wishes as carefully as possible, but still tend to leave out some important detail that leads to everything going wrong.
  • In Ella Enchanted, Ella has to follow any direct order she's given since birth. She quickly learns to be a literal genie. For example, she will hold the bowl for her nurse when she's cooking, but the nurse didn't order her to stand still.
  • The Empire of the East novel The Broken Lands features a literal Literal Genie. That is, the wizard Grey summons a djinn that does exactly and literally what is asked of it. Grey and Rolf don't get anywhere with it until they start asking questions instead of giving commands.
  • The Enchanted Forest Chronicles novel Dealing with Dragons has some fun with this one after Princess Cimorene and Prince Therandil accidentally free a jinn and (after narrowly avoiding some Jackass Genie shenanigans) persuade it to give them each one wish. Therandil wishes to slay a dragon and win a princess's hand in marriage, intending to fight the dragon who Cimorene is voluntarily working for. Only after the jinn has returned to his bottle does Cimorene point out that Therandil was promised "the next dragon you fight, you will kill him," and that Kazul, the dragon she is working for, is female. Whether the wish would actually have failed to help Therandil against Kazul or not is never proven; Cimorene uses the logic of this trope to persuade Therandil to go fight a different (male) dragon and rescue the Alpha Bitch princess that dragon had abducted.
  • An example, with God as the Literal Genie, can be found in the 11th-century satirical Arabic work The Epistle of Forgiveness. The protagonist is in Paradise, and having just encountered a beautiful houri who asserts she has been promised to him since the time of Creation, he bows down to thank God — then finds himself thinking that while beautiful, the lass is a bit on the skinny side. As he raises his head, he finds that her buttocks have now grown a lot bigger, and needs to ask God to shorten them by a mile or two.
  • Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid features such a genie incident when Achilles wishes that his wish not have been granted. Oops.
  • Another example of God as a Literal Genie: The Great Divorce portrays Him as someone perfectly willing to say "Thy will be done" to an unbeliever, effectively condemning them to a Self-Inflicted Hell.
  • In Green (2011), Lily is ordered to catch a pisky and have it grant her a wish. She decides the best way to get through this is to ask for something too minor to be worth turning against her.
    Lily: I wish... I wish... I wish you would accept all of our silver buttons and my sincere apology. Take the gold coin too.
    Pisky: That is your only wish? That is what you most truly desire?
    Lily: Yes. I wish for exactly what I said. No more and no less — just that.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy:
    • Deep Thought could qualify, although it's more of an example of computer programming humor: Deep Thought gives the correct answer, it's just that the questioners asked the question wrong.
    • Haktar has a similar problem. He built the Silastic Armorfiends of Striterax the "ultimate weapon", a bomb that would link together all suns in an enormous supernova and destroy the universe. "Ultimate", meaning the last weapon. Again, this one is mostly the fault of the creators. When he asked them what exactly they meant by "ultimate" they told him to look in a dictionary.
  • Magic in Inheritance Cycle requires very careful use of language; Eragon once accidentally cursed a girl because he used the word "shield" as a noun rather than a verb, dooming her to soak up misery and pain from everyone around her.
  • Inheritance Trilogy: The enslaved gods in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms are required to obey any imperative statement made by the noble Arameri while in their presence. One of the first things the protagonist learns is that one must be extremely careful not only when giving a command but saying something that could be interpreted as giving a direct command. "Have you ever said to anyone in anger: To the hells with you?"
  • Given a hilarious twist in The Last Wish. Geralt and his friend find a Genie who they accidentally unleash. Geralt tries to banish him by saying the words of an "exorcism", in a language he doesn't understand. The Genie indeed leaves, only to later return, as noted by the characters, furious beyond words. It turns out that the "exorcism" is just a prank someone played on Geralt, and roughly translates to "go and fuck yourself". The Genie had to go and do exactly that.
  • In The Lathe of Heaven, George Orr has the uncontrolled ability to alter reality (often retroactively) through his dreams. His psychiatrist attempts, through hypnosis, to use this ability to "improve" the world. But Orr's subconscious frequently operates on the Literal Genie principle and subverts these attempts. For example, in response to the request for "peace on Earth," Orr dreams up a space war with alien invaders; when asked to end racial violence, Orr dreams up a world in which all human beings are gray.
  • In The Letter, the Witch and the Ring, the eponymous ring is a magic artifact that (among other things) grants wishes by allowing the wearer to invoke a demon. Upon finally getting possession and mastery of the ring, the villain wishes to be young and beautiful and to live for a thousand years — then vanishes. The heroes later notice a young willow tree nearby...
  • The short story "A Lot To Learn", by Robert T Kurosaka, which appears in 100 Great Science Fiction Short Stories, concerns a scientist who builds a machine which can create anything that he tells it to. To test it out, he decides to start with some simple commands. His first request is "drink", and he gets a puddle on his desk (he hadn’t specified a glass). His next request is "girl", and a girl appears. She is naked (he hadn't specified clothing) and eight years old. His reaction to this is "Hell!" He then dies when his house explodes in a giant fireball.
  • The Magic Goes Away: Defied in the short story "The Wishing Game". Clubfoot and Mirandee go to great pains to make sure to give Kreezerast the Frightener very precise instructions, and continually frustrate him when his attempts to twist the wishes turn out to be what they actually wanted (though in the end, he takes some consolation in knowing that they will probably run into trouble later because of the wishes he granted).
  • In the first Magic in Ithkar anthology, Lin Carter contributed "The Goblinry of Ais", in which the title character purchases the use of a magic artifact that allows the user to command a trapped goblin to grant wishes. Naturally, the goblin is not happy about this situation, and Ais is warned to be careful in phrasing her commands. She asks to be young, beautiful, and graceful again — soon afterward, a guardsman kills the snake he finds in her tent.
  • Magic Shop: Near the end of The Skull of Truth, the embodiment of Truth offers to truthfully answer any one question for each of the main characters. One of the characters asks about his father's future and the answer Truth gives him is something along the lines of, "He will grow old. He will be happy. He will be sad. He will die." When the character complains that the answer wasn't what he wanted, Truth tells him he should have been more specific with his question.
  • Modern Faerie Tales: In Tithe, Faeries can be commanded by the power of their true name... but the obedience thus compelled is limited to the Exact Words of the command in question, as the protagonist discovers after discovering the true name of one Rath Roiben Rye and addressing him by it while telling him to "Kiss my ass." Later, and more deliberately, the big bad gets Rath Roiben Rye's true name and orders him to grab the escaping heroine. Roiben promptly grabs her arm... and then lets her go again.
  • The plot of "The Monkey's Paw" is simple. A family comes across a magical preserved monkey hand with three fingers extended, representing the three wishes. Their first wish is for money, as soon as they wish it a member of their son's labor union knocks on the door to inform them that he was killed at the factory and to deliver condolence money. The mother decides to use the second wish to bring him back from the dead, which leads to a second knock at the door. Before the mother can get to the door, the narrator senses that something horrible must be about to happen, and uses the third wish presumably to undo the second, though we never actually hear what the third wish was or see if it had any of its own negative side effects. In at least one version of this tale, the son died when he fell into moving machinery. Thus, when he came back, it was as a horrible, mashed-up corpse. The narrator unwishes the resurrection before the mother can open the door and see it.
  • In the New Series Adventures novel The Stone Rose, the culprit behind all unusual events was a genetically engineered lizard/platypus hybrid with the ability to grant any wish spoken aloud starting with "I wish...". The ability of the GENIE is limited by the laws of physics. He can Time Travel, teleport, and transmute matter, but it required enormous amounts of energy, which it took from any available source, including people. Transporting a person from the 24th century to Ancient Rome is easy, since the GENIE is able to use the 24th century power grid for this purpose. Going back is a different matter. It should be noted that any wish that was impossible to fulfill would be interpreted in its own way by the GENIE. For example, wishing for something "never to have happened" would be impossible to fulfill, as the GENIE is unable to alter the past. Instead, he might create an illusion for the person as if the wish was actually fulfilled.
  • In Pact and Pale, magical practitioners and Others cannot lie or they will lose their power, with the amount of power lost proportional to the severity of the lie. In the worst case, if you break an oath and are called out on it, you will become Forsworn and will not only be permenantly depowered but the universe itself will be actively hostile to you. As a result literally everyone who is awakened to the supernatural becomes both a Literal Genie and a Rules Lawyer, as failing to adhere to one's Exact Words would spell disaster.
  • In the Revelation Space Series short story "Nightingale", the mad medical A.I. offers to let the mercenaries return "in one piece". Cue the Body Horror.
  • Australian children's author Paul Jennings likes afflicting his characters with strange curses, sometimes as a result of this trope. The short story "Santa Claws" involves a teenage boy who wakes up one day with no memory of the last day and his mouth has shrunk to the point where he can't eat anything that won't fit through a straw. He goes to a hypnotist, who tells him to write down what happened while under hypnosis. He tells the story of he and his younger and older sisters finding a genie who grants them each two wishes. The kids are on a steep learning curve and find that whatever they wish for goes awry, whether it be due to poor phrasing, the wish being granted in an unexpected way or just a poorly thought-out wish. Mayhem has ensued by the time he and his younger sister have exhausted their wishes. His older sister then wishes that they had never discovered the genie. This erases the previous events, but doesn't change the fact that she still has one wish left. The boy and girl later have a fight which culminates in her yelling "I wish you didn't have such a big mouth!"
  • In Spinning Silver, the young Tsarina Irina offers the fire demon Chernobog the king of the Staryk to consume in the hopes of staving off Endless Winter, and when the prisoner is freed by her co-conspirator unleashes him upon the realm of the Staryk, all in return for nothing but an oath to leave her and hers alone. When the severely depleted demon is driven and barred from the realm of the Ice Fey he tries to devour Irina only to find his flame extinguished at her touch, then he goes for the old woman that more or less raised her with the same effect, and when a random scullery maid that walked in at the wrong time proves no more vulnerable:
    "No! No! I promised safety only to you and yours!"
    "Yes, and she is also mine. All of them are mine, my people; every last soul in Lithvas. And you will touch none of them again
  • A 1980s short story, "Tale of the Seventeenth Eunuch" by Jane Yolen, serves as a distant "sequel" to the Aladdin tale. Aladdin has died of plain old age, and his son rules. Aladdin's wife misses him a lot. One day, a servant uncovers an old lamp. Yep, that lamp. At first, the sultana wishes for Aladdin back, buuut the genie can't do that. He can't bring his spirit back from the netherworld without something to put it in, and all that's left by now is a few bones and bits of hair. The genie could animate what's left, but he points out that the lady "wouldn't like it very much". So the sultana goes for the next best thing; she has the genie turn her favorite cat into the image of Aladdin at his prime, over his protests. Unfortunately, in this particular harem, even the male cats have to be eunuchs... which was the point of the genie's objections.
  • Children's novel The Toothpaste Genie by Sandy Frances Duncan uses this trope to amusing effect. When the protagonist, Amanda, finds a tube of toothpaste with a genie inside, Hilarity Ensues. Her first wish is to be "neat," and her hair gets cemented into place. She then wishes for her nails to grow back when she bites them, but each time, her nails grow back longer and thicker until they're ridiculous. The kicker here is that the Genie can't create anything out of thin air: if she wishes for something (in this case a horse and a baby sister), it has to come from somewhere else.
  • The Traveller in Black: The Traveller is a (implied) supernatural being who appears as a young man who wears a black robe and carries a staff (made of "solid light"). One of his quirks is that he is obliged to grant the first wish which someone expresses in his hearing. The speaker does not have to use any particular wording, making "if only..." just as dangerous a thing to say as "I wish..." while in the Traveller's hearing. The Traveller in Black is not a Jackass Genie. It's just that most people don't make wise wishes so Be Careful What You Wish For. Most wishes he hears are very unwise and so turn out incredibly badly for the person who made the wish (not usually for anyone else). Very occasionally, someone will make a wise wish and those turn out well.
  • In The Wheel of Time, when Mat is in the Tower of Ghengei bargaining with the Aelfinn and the Eelfinn, he asks (among other things) that "you snake people" let him and his friends leave without harming them. The Finn eventually agree to his terms... and then Mat realizes that the deal protects him from the Aelfinn (snake people) but says nothing about the Eelfinn (fox people). They barely manage to leave alive.
  • In The Wish, a girl is granted a wish by an old lady she meets on a bus. The old lady offers to give her a permanent place in the in-crowd, but the girl insists on wishing to be the most popular person at her school... not realizing that the wish will then expire when she graduates a few weeks later.
  • In The Wishing Maiden, Asha is one of these. It isn't on purpose.
  • In A Wizard in Rhyme, the entire magic system of the world sometimes acts like this. An example would be the time that main character Matt, a transplant from our world who therefore isn't as careful about his language, yells "damn that stick!" when a big stick is in his way, and later finds out that he literally damned the stick. It comes back as an even bigger stick that is now pissed off because it was taken to Hell.
  • A particularly unfortunate example occurs in "The Yehudi Principle". A man has invented a device that grants wishes; he names the principle it functions on after "Yehudi, the little man who wasn't there", but he believes it actually hyperaccelerates the user to carry out his own wish. He and a friend get drunk, he attempts to say, "Suit yourself" only to have it come out as "Shoot yourself," The invisible "man who isn't there" shoots himself, and the device stops working.
  • The title character of Charlotte Dacre's Zofloya, or the Moor hangs a lampshade on what usually happens when he fulfills the Villain Protagonist's wishes:
    Zofloya: Victoria... remember, that I have been thy willing instrument, and that literally I have performed to thee the promises I made.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 10th Kingdom:
    • Tony's dragon dung bean fulfills this trope to a tee: his first wish of making his landlord and his family become his slaves included the phrase "and kiss my ass"... so every single Murray family member insists on doing exactly that with obsessive attention. The beer in the fridge is indeed neverending, to the point of making it explode, the vacuum he asked to "clean the entire house" follows the directions to the letter (including trying to vacuum up the curtains), and the beneficial wish of being able to speak to Wendell the dog is limited to only Tony being able to hear him, since he said "I" rather than "we". And when he wishes for money, it is stolen from the bank, and the cops are quick to track it down.
    • This also occurs later in the Deadly Swamp (because Tony never learns):
      Fairy #1: Oh look, they're all chained up! That can't be helping!
      Fairy #2: Would you like to be separated from each other?
      Tony: More than you can imagine.
      [the fairies cast a spell, making their manacles fall off; Tony and Virginia each look around, only to find they're alone in different parts of the swamp]
      Tony: Hey! When I said we wanted to be separated, I didn't mean literally!
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark? example: Two kids who live on a farm find an enchanted scarecrow that comes to life and obeys your orders, which is great, until the boy, within earshot of the scarecrow, accidentally says he'd "like to kill" his cousin for taking his baseball glove...
  • Beetleborgs has Flabber the phasm, who according to the producers was based on Elvis, but to some resembles big-chinned talk-show host Jay Leno. As a reward for freeing him from the pipe organ he was imprisoned in, he gave the kids who did so a wish. They wished to become Beetleborgs, using a comic book to show Flabber who they are. Flabber, seeing rats on the cover, assumes the rats are the Beetleborgs and turns the kids into rats. After pointing out who the real Beetleborgs are, Flabber successfully turns them into Beetleborgs...without removing them from the comic book. Fortunately, Flabber is a benevolent example of this trope, as he corrects his mistakes, rather than letting the kids stick with a badly executed wish.
  • The Christmas programme Bernard And The Genie starring Alan Cumming, Lenny Henry, and Rowan Atkinson.
    Bernard: I have to be very careful, haven't I?
    Genie: Yes, say the words "I wish" with the caution you would normally reserve for "Please castrate me."
  • Buffyverse:
    • Anya had great fun with this. She creates a heart-eating monster when an upset girl wishes that some frat boys find out what it's like to have their hearts ripped out. On the other hand, when asked to turn a cheating lover into a frog, she turns him French. In "The Wish", Cordelia wishes that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale; in the Alternate Universe that results, with no Slayer to keep them in check, the vampires rule the town.
    • Anya's co-worker, Halfrek, also falls into this. In "Older and Far Away", when Dawn, suffering from abandonment issues, wishes that no one would leave her, Hallie makes it so everyone who enters the Summers residence is mystically trapped inside. Halfrek ends up Hoist by Her Own Petard when she pops in to indulge in some Evil Gloating and is trapped by her own curse, forcing her to break the spell so she can leave.
    • In "Something Blue", Willow foolishly casts a "My will be done" spell on herself, then accidentally strikes Giles blind, turns Xander into a demon-magnet, and gets Buffy and Spike engaged through her foolish use of figurative language.
    • In "Life of the Party", Lorne finds himself writing, rather than reading, people's destinies after having his sleep removed. Spike becomes upbeat, Fred and Wesley become drunk, Gunn begins to mark his territory (by peeing on things), and Angel and Eve find themselves uncontrollably having sex.
    • Insanely inverted with the case of Holtz and Sahjhan. In this instance, Sahjhan is the genie yet he's the one who gets screwed over when it's revealed just what Holtz meant when he "swore he won't show any mercy." Whether you're a Literal Genie, or The Devil you don't make deals with Daniel Holtz.
  • Charmed has two different genie episodes. In the first, the genie is explicitly shown as being sent to screw with the witches, so their wishes going wrong is justified. In the second, a secondary character happens to have a book of perfectly phrased wishes to say to genies so as not to mess things up. That same episode shows that genies actually have control over how they grant the wish, such as when Phoebe makes Piper and Leo literally sleep together when Chris wishes it.
  • In The Collector, which is all about making Deals with the Devil, the Devil always finds some way for a poorly phrased deal to backfire. For example, the main character's lover dies of The Plague after his 10-year deal is up because he asked for "more time with her," not that she be fully cured and live.
  • Lampshaded by Community: When Britta wishes to end all wars, Troy warns her that any wish containing "all" is guaranteed to end with ironic consequences. Wars probably won't be missed, but as Troy points out, a literal genie could get rid of Star Wars, thumb wars, Storage Wars...
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Five Doctors": Rassilon gave Borusa the immortality he wished for — as a living statue.
    • "Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood": The Doctor gives the Family of Blood exactly what they wished for — in the most horrific manner possible. They wanted the immortality of a Time Lord, so they got imprisoned in chains forged at the heart of a dwarf star, past the event horizon of a collapsing galaxy, trapped in every mirror in existence and dressed up as a scarecrow to watch over the fields of England, frozen in time. Yikes.
    • "Voyage of the Damned": The Hosts will answer three questions if the correct security override is used. However, as the Doctor discovers the second time he runs into them, they'll take rhetorical questions, and he quickly finds himself down to only one question before managing to leverage the situation to his advantage.
  • The dragon Orm Embar in the Sci-Fi Channel Earthsea miniseries, after Ged uses its true name to force it to give him some information instead of eating him.
    Orm Embar: Two questions, wizard, and two questions only.
    Ged: Isn't it usually three?
    Orm Embar: True, but with that you're back to two.
  • The Fairly OddParents: Fairly Odder:
    • The trailer opens with a brief gag where Wanda asks Cosmo to show "our new trailer" to the audience. Cosmo immediately obliges, only to reveal a horse trailer with the show's logo on it instead.
    • When Viv wishes to be taller in the trailer, Cosmo & Wanda end up making her so tall that she ends up pressed against the ceiling.
      Viv: Not what I was hoping for!
  • The title character in the ABC/BBC children's drama, The Genie from Down Under, was one of these — sometimes bordering on Jackass Genie. The spoiled English girl who released the Genie from the opal needed reforming pronto, and the genie set about this by annoying her constantly. Any wish that could be fulfilled by teleporting her back to Australia would be done in that manner, where a new adventure would begin.
  • Kamen Rider Den-O:
    • The Imagin, ghostly "spirits" from an alternate future who make genie-like "contracts" with humans in order to gain physical form, go back in time, and wreck the past, ensuring their history is restored (they're ghosts because they were retroactively wiped from existence). The only way they can connect to the past is by granting their contract-holder a wish, though quite often the Imagin will twist the human's words in order to achieve their goal. In one episode, a man wishes to cut ties with the Yakuza, and the Imagin fulfills his wish by cutting their neckties, which is apparently sufficient to connect to the past. In another, the Imagin of the week overhears a man talking in his sleep that he would like to get rid of his boss, and takes it as a wish. When he finds out that the man can't remember wishing that (he was fast asleep)... Well, just say it didn't go over very well.
    • A more positive version occurs late in the series. the good Imagin Kintaros, who lacks a contract with his partner Ryotaro, asks what the young man's New Year's resolution is; Ryotaro says that it's for his friends to stay with him no matter what. Later on when faced with an army of evil Imagin, Kintaros reveals that he treated the resolution as a wish, giving himself physical form and allowing him to pull a not-quite-Heroic Sacrifice Go Through Me.
  • On Knight Squad, Ciara is the Princess of Astoria whose father prevents her from being a knight. She uses a magic ring to disguise herself to attend Knight School. Finding a genie, Ciara wishes her father would let her be a knight after all. She and Arc (with her when the wish is made) find themselves in an Astoria where Ciara's father is "king" of a local pub and the selfish Sage is the princess. The genie states that because the king would never let his daughter be a knight, the most obvious solution was to not have him be the king anymore.
    Ciara: But I wanted to be Princess of Astoria and attend Knight School!
    Genie: Oooooooh... well, you really should have been more specific.
  • In an episode of LazyTown, Robbie acquires a genie, and his first two wishes are for all the fruit and vegetables and all the sports equipment to disappear. But since he forgets to specify a duration, they return not 5 minutes later. He fails to wish away Sportacus.
  • Once Upon a Time in Wonderland: Alice cites this reason for why wishes can't be trusted. Although it's worth noting that it's the magic that interprets the wish, not the genie.
  • Jambi from Pee-wee's Playhouse behaves like this at times.
    • In one episode, Pee-wee says, "I wish I knew what to wish for." Jambi grants him that wish, but not what he actually wished for. When Pee-wee learns his mistake and calls Jambi out on it, the genie simply holds him to the rule of only one wish per show. Cue a Big "NO!" from Pee-wee.
    • In another episode, Pee-wee wishes that someone would come over to alleviate his boredom. Jambi grants his wish and someone knocks at the door, but it turns out to be the annoying Salesman. Pee-wee scowls in Jambi's direction afterward.
  • Jenji in Power Rangers Mystic Force uses this tactic to get out of granting any wishes at all. When the villains has captured him, he escapes by tricking Leelee into releasing him but wasting her wish: she winds up saying "I wish I'd never started biting my nails," to which he gleefully responds "done!" Once he disappears, the girl then finds her fingernails to be long and blackened. Screamlarity Ensues.
  • Rentaghost: The Perkins are given a magical amulet that grants all their wishes. They do not realise this and persist in expressing odd wishes, which the amulet then proceeds to grant, usually in a fairly literal manner.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch relies heavily on the notion that incantations would be taken literally whenever there is a plot to be made of it. Always ends up with Sabrina's aunts pushing her to remember exactly what she'd said, in order to reverse the spell.
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures: In "The Mad Woman in the Attic", Rani gets angry at her friends and shouts, "I wish they would just leave me alone!" Later on, a sentient alien spaceship is grateful to Rani for helping its passenger and grants her wish, making all her friends disappear forever. Fortunately, fifty years later when Rani is a lonely old woman living in Sarah Jane's attic, she gets the chance to take it back.
  • Subverted in a Saturday Night Live sketch in which a fisherman catches a fish that grants wishes. Unsatisfied with the first several wishes that backfire, he hires a lawyer to make sure he gets exactly what he wants by drawing up a wish contract for the fish.
  • Shining Time Station: The wishing star. It doesn't seem to realize that Schemer is being sarcastic when he wishes he and Stacy could switch places or when the mayor is speaking metaphorically about "ascending" and "rising above".
  • Inverted on Smallville, where Chloe's mother has a power that forces meteor-freaks to do precisely and literally what she tells them. She books herself into a hospital when she tells her daughter to scrub her hands clean and she does so until the room is covered in blood.
  • In the short-lived show Special Unit 2, their version of a Genie (using the original pronunciation of Jinn) only has the ability to turn itself into mist and hide in objects (bottles, lamps, and cans, for example). It was still required to grant wishes, though. For example, when one of the Jinn's masters expressed a desire to be with a famous celebrity, the Jinn had to physically kidnap the celebrity, which led to the master's arrest.
  • Used briefly in Spellbinder. When Kathy irritably tells one of her android toys to "pull your head in" it attempts to oblige, though it can't get a proper grip on its skull.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: LaForge tells the holodeck to create a Sherlock Holmes mystery "capable of defeating Data." The result is a hologram smart enough and powerful enough to take control of the ship.
  • Stargirl: This is how the Thunderbolt operates. He's not a bad guy, but he is an extradimensional imp. He warns all his masters to be very careful how they word their wishes. When needing the Thunderbolt's help in finding the Shade, the JSA composes a long-winded paragraph full of clarifications and specifications, to make sure that, for example, the Thunderbolt doesn't just point to the nearest shadow in the room. Later on, after the pen passes to Jakeem, Jakeem is also having trouble with this. For example, he'll ask for a large burger and get one the size of a car. He'll ask for Chinese food, and the Thunderbolt will be gone for hours, probably on his way to China. Jakeem will ask for the bullies demanding him and Mike to give them their lunch money to be nicer. So the bullies will nicely ask for their lunch money or else they'll have to pound their handsome faces. When striking the final blow on Eclipso, Jakeem wishes for him to toast the demon. After the blast, Jakeem finds a burned toast where Eclipso was.
  • Supernatural has a wishing well, cursed by a chaos god's coin, so that every wish made on the well is granted literally and also goes horribly wrong somehow. For example, Dean's wish for a sandwich gives him E-coli, a little girl's parents wished to go to Bali and so were teleported to Bali...
  • Any number of plots on The Twilight Zone (1959).
    • "But you only said you wanted to look younger, not actually be younger"; "You said you wanted to live forever, not that you wanted to stop aging"; etc.
    • A specific example: in the episode "The Man in the Bottle", an old couple uncork a genie who can grants wishes, but warns of the price to them. When the couple figures out to carefully word their wishes, the husband wishes to be a leader for life in a modern European nation, but he still messes up when the genie gleefully turns him into Adolf Hitler at the fall of Berlin. Understandably, he quickly uses the last wish to turn himself back to normal. The episode ends on a bittersweet note, with the husband telling his wife that all things considered the lives they have now isn't that bad (the episode opened with them facing bankruptcy), and that as long as they have each other they can try to overcome their problems themselves without relying on magic.
  • In The Vampire Diaries Damon has some tendencies towards this. Elena does pick up on it pretty quickly, and when asking him to put the mind-whammy on her brother she makes a very specific request to circumvent it, but Damon loves a loophole.
  • In Weird Science, Wyatt wants to be the chess club president and accidentally wishes for it in front of Lisa, although she doesn't hear the whole story, and he forgets to mention the "chess club" part. So, she makes him the President of the United States. Gary's mismanagement and Wyatt's obsession with the chess club results in Wyatt's impeachment.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: Gabrielle's enchanted scroll (Hilarity EnsuesTM) works this way in "The Quill is Mightier". Only by writing what is actually occurring instead of using metaphor (thank you, piscine weaponry) is she able to break the spell.
  • In The X-Files episode "Je Souhaite", a female genie takes very literal interpretation of wishes she must grant. She's frustrated with people in general, and says that everyone she's ever been forced to grant wishes to (which include Mussolini and Nixon) want stupid, selfish, or destructive things like money, power, or popularity. She tries in vain to convince the two idiot brothers she's in the employ of at the time to wish for reasonable things like talent, brains, or for the paralyzed one to have a pair of functioning legs, but instead their poorly-thought out wishes wind up getting them both killed. Mulder gets his three wishes as well, and he tries to prove the genie wrong about humanity by making an altruistic wish to have peace on Earth—which she grants him by making all living things disappear. After all the world is very peaceful when there's nobody there, and she points out that Mulder bringing world peace is hardly less egotistical than the other wishes she's granted. Mulder's second wish is of course to reverse it back, and he decides to write his last wish in legalese to make it unambiguous and without any loopholes. But Scully posits that it shouldn't be up to one man to change the state of the entire world by circumventing the human drive for betterment and progress, and he changes his mind and wishes that the genie can have what she's longed for for 500 years -- to become a human again.

  • Andrew Pants, who runs a website where people can recommend things for him to write songs about, sometimes responds to these like this.
    • A person asks for a song about hot girls, he gets one involving flame-throwers and microwaves. Someone else asks for a song in which every word has an "o" in it, and he gets a song that's completely instrumental, except for the end, when he says "potato".
    • Then there's also "I Empty My Baby" where the request stated that Andrew could rearrange the submitted lyrics however he wanted.
    • Another song of his asks him to have the lyrics in alphabetical order, and for bonus, after reaching Z, heading backwards. The lyrics ended up being "A zebra, aah!".
  • Savatage's album Dead Winter Dead treats God this way in the song "This Isn't What We Meant". The people of Bosnia had prayed for a change from Yugoslavia's cruel regime and to their distress, God's response is a brutal civil war destroying the newborn nation.
  • In the Heather Dale song Changeling Child, a childless woman bargains with the queen of fairies for a baby; this wish is granted, and she returns home with her new child to her and her husband's great joy. As the years pass, however, they notice that the child never grows and remains eternally an infant — as she'd asked the fairies for a baby, specifically, they'd given her that and nothing more or less.
    The fairies would not answer her,
    The stones were dark and slept.
    A babe was all she asked for,
    their promises they'd kept.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology:
    • Older Than Feudalism example: Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, fell in love with a mortal, Tithonus, so she asked Zeus to grant him "immortality". He did. The catch was she forgot to ask for "eternal youth". Yeah. Not a happy ending. He keeps on aging until he shrivels up into a grasshopper. His fate after that remains uncertain. Zeus has granted mortals eternal life before. Either these cases knew how to ask, or Zeus was just being a dick, which would not be out of character.
      • Learning from Eos' mistake when wanting to make her own lover Endymion immortal, Selene wished for him to remain the way he was when she got to know him. This did make sure he was a handsome young man forever... but Selene is the titaness of the moon, as such, he was asleep when she first saw him.
    • Zeus's latest mistress Semele was tricked by Hera into asking him to grant her a wish, and got him to swear an oath on the River Styx to grant whatever she asked. For Greek gods, the oath of the Styx is unbreakable, or can be broken only with severe consequences such as the oathbreaker being unable to move or breathe for a year, then unable to see other gods for 9 more years (a recipe for chaos and violence on Olympus if Zeus is the one missing). Then Semele wished to see him in his full glory, and was consequently burnt to ash by the sight.
    • For example, there is another story about a nymph who fell in love with an extremely handsome man named Hermaphroditos (the son of Hermes and Aphrodite, hence the name), and asked Zeus to make them together forever. Zeus merged their bodies together, and thus we have the word "hermaphrodite".
  • There's a legend, later made into a Fleischer cartoon, about a miser who managed to catch a leprechaun. As per the usual terms, the leprechaun had to lead the miser to his pot of gold, which happened to be under a stump. The miser realizes he needs a shovel, puts his coat on the stump, and orders the leprechaun not to touch the coat, stump, or treasure. When he gets back, he finds the leprechaun gone, and dozens of identical stumps with identical coats on them.
  • The classic three-wish fairy tale (example: The Farmer and the Sausage) is a folk tale staple that can be found in many cultures: invariably the third wish must be used to repair the damage caused by the first two.
  • In The Book of Mormon, two people at different times demanded for a sign that Jesus Christ existed. They didn't live long after that.
  • Another old example: In one version of the Prague Golem story, a 16th century Jewish tale, the Golem is asked to fill a barrel with water from the river. Left alone, the Golem overflows the barrel with water until the entire house is flooded because he is only capable of following literal instructions, not thinking for himself.


    Puppet Shows 
  • Sesame Street:
    • This is based on an even older joke about the same subject. More mature versions involve the person being a drunk who is turned into a mixed drink at a bar.
      Amazing Mumford: She said she wanted me to make her a root beer float, so I did! Now, she's a root beer float... Imagine wanting to be a root beer float. Do you think she's happy?
    • Another classic Sesame Street story had the Cookie Monster about to clean his teeth and as he squeezes the toothpaste tube a genie appears and states that he's been trapped in the toothpaste tube for "three and a half weeks" and so he'll give Cookie Monster three wishes for squeezing him out of the toothpaste tube. Cookie wants a million cookies, but he realises he has no way to carry them, so he wishes for "a truck" and the genie gives him a tiny, almost matchbox-sized toy truck (aka a utility vehicle, with a two-person cab at the front and a load tray at the rear). Cookie realises that he needs a bigger truck so he asks for "a bigger truck" and gets another toy truck which is about one foot (30cm) long. Cookie then decides to wish for "the biggest truck of all" and finally gets a full-sized vehicle. Then he asks for "a million cookies" only to have the genie explain that there are "only three wishes to a customer" and Cookie has already used up all three wishes. Cookie comes out ahead though, because he's an Extreme Omnivore and decides to simply "Eat Truck!"

  • An episode of John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme featured a reluctant literal genie. If you wish for world peace, then he will kill everyone because that's the simplest way of arranging it, but he'd really rather not, and will give you plenty of opportunity to change your mind and wish for a sports car. And because he's not a Jackass Genie, he won't drop the car on your head or anything, you'll just get a sports car, nice and simple. The wisher eventually comes up with "make everyone forget how to fight and be unable to learn" as a "world peace" wish that couldn't possibly go wrong. It turns out this doesn't stop war or even deaths in war, it just makes them really protracted and painful, as soldiers just keep jostling the enemy until one of them dies.

    Tabletop Games 
  • About 50% of all game masters when giving a player a wish. For the other 50%, see Jackass Genie.
    • As lead-off for an article on the use of "Wish" in the Dungeons & Dragons game, Dragon once ran this quote:
      Genie: Let me get this straight. You want me to raze all your ability scores?
    • An anecdote from 3.5e using the "Speak with Dead" spell, which allows you to ask three questions from a corpse:
      "So, I get three questions, right?"
      "How many have I got now?"
      "Are you kidding?!"
    • One notorious artifact in the game that often acts this way is Kuroth's Quill. It's a quill pen that can grant wishes, but the wisher must use the pen to write his request down on paper, and spelling counts in this case like you wouldn't believe, because the Quill does exactly what is written, and a spelling or grammar mistake on the wisher's part can change everything. (The source that details it instructs Game Masters to have any Player who tries to use it write what he wants down, but the Player has to find out about its condition just as he'd find out the drawbacks of any other artifact.)
    • This trope not being the case is one of the usual advantages of the clerical counterpart, "Miracle" — being exactly what it says, IE. an impressive magical result provided by a being who unlike genies does not have any reasons to not look at intent or just say no, it is limited compared to "Wish" (since the god you're asking can decide something otherwise reasonable is not in their interest) but also less risky (since an unreasonable request is more likely to result in the god saying no and nothing happening than a literal, jackass or undesirable partial result).
    • Still with Dungeons & Dragons, this can be a problem when using mind-control magic. Charms are considered less powerful because they just make the victims think the charmer is a trusted ally, and thus they won't act out of character for him — but if they end up fighting on his behalf, they will do so to the full extent of their normal abilities. Domination, on the other hand, give complete control over the victims, but the enchanter better give very precise instructions, otherwise the unwilling subject can certainly screw up things by being overly literal. For example, if you order a dominated wizard to just "Attack the enemy!", he may do so bare-handed (which is certainly useless for a Squishy Wizard). Correct it to "Cast a spell on the enemy!", and the wizard will cast a Status Buff. "No, cast an offensive spell on the enemy!" The wizard will cast a cantrip for pitiful damage. "Damn it, cast your most damaging spell on the enemy!" Cue the wizard casting a Fireball — at close range, without checking that himself and the dominator are going to get caught in the blast.
  • This is one of the fundamental tenets of Changeling: The Lost; though Pledges are more about intent, the Contracts (spells) and the reality-warping powers of the True Fae are based on extremely literal interpretations of fairly general ideas. Nonsensical catches in the contracts can allow you to call upon its power without cost- for example, smearing a mirror with a saliva-wettened tongue, being at a formal party of eight or more people, or using the contract purely to prove you can, depending on the contract.
  • GURPS:
    • The basic rulebook is quite open about it, noting for instance that a summoned demon will fulfill your wish literally and that it will pervert the literal meaning if it can, or that an animated object will only follow your literal commands, and as an example states that "Drop me off here" is not a good thing to say to an animated helicopter.
    • The hare god Bett Agwo in GURPS Fantasy II: Adventures in the Mad Lands. Unlike most Literal Genies he actually tries to be helpful, but manages to screw things up anyway.
  • In one Grimm module, the ancient witch, Baba Yaga, would answer one question for the PCs, but just one. The module says that if the questioner is trying to be polite, and formulate the question as "Can you tell me..." or "Do you know..." the answer would be "Yes, I can / Yes, I know".
  • Exalted:
    • Demon summoning in general works this way. When you manage to summon and bind a demon, you have the choice between assigning it a task with a potentially unlimited duration, or making the demon your devoted slave for one year and one day. The first option especially has endless potential for abuse, problems and loopholes. If you command a demon to "prevent anyone from entering my house when I'm not inside, forever", congratulations, you have just locked yourself (as much as anyone else) out of your own house until you (or someone else) manages to kill the demon.
    • The Akuma can also be subject to this. They are demon worshippers that were "remade" by their demonic patrons in a way that both empower them and obliterate all of their personality, desires, goals and emotions, replacing them with an Urge chosen by the demon. And some demons were rather unthoughtful in this choice. For example, the akuma chief of the dreaded Lintha pirates has an urge to "serve the Sea that Marched Against the Flame" (another name of the demon prince otherwise known as Kimbery). Which means that at any time when Kimbery is not actively giving him orders, he just does nothing and waits.
  • The Mordheim character Nicodemus freed a daemon and in return was offered a wish. His wish was "I want to become the greatest wizard known to Mankind!" and the daemon granted his wish by making him grow endlessly.
  • In Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine, the exact wording of how wishes work is that it's like having the wish written directly into the setting notes - when you wish to be a pirate, it's like rewriting the setting (probably temporarily) so that you being a pirate is a reasonable thing. One possible backstory event had Chuubo himself wish to have an ice cream, meaning that "Chuubo has an ice cream" became a temporarily irrevocable thing - he couldn't eat it, because then he wouldn't be able to have it, and the sun began to go dark to prevent it from melting.
  • In the "Legacy of Fire" adventure path for Pathfinder, the antagonistic genie delves into this occasionally when not playing Jackass Genie or attempting to dig up an Eldritch Abomination so he can steal its power. For example, one of his minions in the final adventure has wished for skin as hard as diamond, so she's literally been turned into living diamond. Fortunately, since she's one of his minions, she is still allowed to move, and gets things like a +4 natural armor bonus from it.

  • In Wicked, though not a genie, Elphaba's spell in "No Good Deed" comes true quite literally. When she commands that "Let his (Fiyero's) flesh not be torn/Let his blood leave no stain/When they beat him/Let him feel no pain/Let his bones never break/And however they try/To destroy him/Let him never die" this all comes true when he gets turned into the Scarecrow.
  • Although not from a real genie, rather his own friends, Juan in Altar Boyz finally found out where his parents (Who left him on the stairs of a church in Tijuana) are...buried in a cemetery.

    Video Games 
  • Subverted in Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer: A devil has given a man a series of favors in exchange for performing evil deeds and also gaining the man's soul when he dies. Unfortunately for the devil, interpreting the man's wish, "I wish he was gone" means killing him (and fulfilling the last condition) and this blows up in his face because the contract's laws require that each condition cannot be coerced, and the literal genie interpretation of the wish counts as such.
  • Joka's ending in Klonoa: Beach Volleyball features him casting a spell to make the prize money he won 10 times greater. He ends up making the individual bills 10 times larger. When he tries to spend the money, the shopkeeper assumes it's counterfeit and calls the police.
  • Twisted Metal:
    • In this series the winner is granted a single wish. Most of the wishes end up getting corrupted, such as a soldier who wishes for a young body but keeps his old head, or a couple of men who wish to be able to fly. Calypso tells them their wish is granted and they immediately jump off the building they are on, thinking they can fly, and proceed to smash themselves into the ground. Meanwhile, a rather surprised Calypso is still standing there, holding a couple of plane tickets.
    • Usually averted by Needles Kane, the driver of Sweet Tooth. He almost always gets one over on Calypso, save for his ending in the 2012 reboot: he wanted to find the one girl who survived his killing rampage to finish the job. She committed suicide 10 years ago, so Calypso transported him inside her coffin, underground, where he suffocates.
    • Similarly, the two who wished to fly in one game had "beaten" Calypso in a previous installment through sheer virtue of being so simple-minded: they wished for new tires for their monster truck, because it wore them out very quickly. After initial surprise, a bemused Calypso grants it, no strings attached.
    • One ending in Twisted Metal 2 shows that the winner anticipated this. In the first game, the driver of Outlaw (a police officer) confronts Calypso and gets sent into space. In the second, his sister asks to be taken to her brother, which gets her sent to space... at which point it's revealed her car doubles as a spacecraft, allowing her and her brother to return to Earth safely.
    • In the Darker and Edgier Twisted Metal Black, he noticeably didn't go this route when the racer wanted revenge on someone, in fact, he would often go above and beyond to make sure they would get their revenge with a dose of irony.
    • He continues to invoke this in the 2012 reboot too. The first time is with Sweet Tooth, who wants to find and kill the daughter of Marcus Kane, his initial persona. But it turns out that his target, Sophie, was Dead All Along, having committed suicide because of the stress of having her own freaking father nearly killing her. So naturally, when Sweet Tooth demands he be taken to her, he does... inside a deep damn grave. Also, when Dollface gets to make her wish, she changes her mind, preferring to keep her mask if it meant wishing for instant fame without having to go through the murderous effort to get it. Although, the way she words it is ever so fertile grounds for this trope. Specifically, she wishes to walk down the biggest runway in history and to shine. And Calypso really does give her the runway. An airplane runway, that is. And the "shine" part? That happens when Dollface has an airplane light shining on her after her high heel ironically breaks.
      Calypso: Why, Miss Sparks, you were right; you do shine!
  • Baldur's Gate:
    • The Limited Wish and Wish spells work like this for the most part, though it doesn't always apply it well. Wishing for a powerful magic item actually gives you a useful one for example, instead of one with an extremely powerful curse on it. Meanwhile, ask to be prepared against the undead and it just summons vampires to attack you, without even giving you the feeblest protection against them, making it a Jackass Genie (asking for protection will make it cast an appropriate spell on your party). How much of an ass the genie is depends on your Wisdom, which is presumably meant to mean you alter the wording based upon it, though it's not an effect you see. For example, asking for magic to no longer affect you can either stop you from casting spells, or defend you from minor spells. This is a bit unfortunate given that most mages have no use for Wisdom beyond this single spell.
    • In the sequel, you encounter a beholder who was summoned and charged with guarding a chest. He's not entirely sure if that's really his job, as the summoner was stabbed to death when he issued the order, but he did scream "my chest!" so he might have meant either. With enough wisdom, you can convince him that he's technically not under orders to guard the contents of the chest, only the chest itself, so he'll allow you to at least open it for a look.
  • Planescape: Torment:
    • Played with when the player can discover a story about this kind of wishmaking, though the game later implies the immortal amnesiac main character accidentally inspired the story. It goes something like this: A man finds himself sitting by a road, not sure of where or who he is. A hag comes up and, cackling, asks, "Are you ready for your third wish?" "Third wish," he asks. "What happened to my first and second?" "You've had two, but you used your second wish to undo your first. That's why you don't remember; everything is as it was before the first wish," she says. "All right," he says, "No harm. I wish to know who I am." The woman laughs and, just before vanishing, declares, "Funny, that was your first wish."
    • Torment has another such tale: Once upon a time, a girl came to an oracle who was rumored to know many things and asked of it a boon. Her life was in need of direction, so she asked this oracle as to what would give her purpose. Now, the oracle was not evil, but it was vague and tended towards drink, which caused it to be obscure in many matters of judgment and focus. Its only answer to the girl's question was that within one story that she would hear in her lifetime was the truth that she sought. The girl went off and collected stories, which she chases to this day, not knowing which of the thousands hold the truth. For reference, that tale is told by a girl called "Yves Tales-Chaser", who you can exchange tales with (the first story is Morte "paying" her for another one). Now, think about it for a moment....
  • In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Ganon makes a wish upon the Triforce. The exact phrasing of the wish is unknown, but it appears to have been a wish to rule the world. However, the Triforce granted it by giving Ganon total dominion over the world he was in at the time; the Golden Realm. On the other hand, the power he gained from that conquest would have led to him breaking into the Light world and conquering it as well, so it may have been fulfilling his wish in a sort of roundabout fashion.
  • In Mother 3, the game's Big Bad, the technically immortal Pig King, orders Dr. Andonuts to construct an "Absolutely Safe Capsule", which can protect him from absolutely everything in a pinch. Being one of the good guys, Dr. Andonuts chooses to take the Literal Genie approach regarding just how absolute the safety provided by the Capsule is. When the Pig King eventually faces defeat at the hands of the heroes and retreats to the Absolutely Safe Capsule, it transpires that while he is indeed impervious to any attack the heroes throw at him, he is also unable to attack them, making anyone outside the Capsule also "Absolutely Safe" as a result. The worst and most chilling part, though, is that "Absolute" safety, by definition, is impossible to compromise — once activated, the Capsule cannot be opened again. By entering the Capsule, the Pig King has doomed himself to spend eternity in isolation. Seemingly a Fate Worse than Death, but it's implied in the end sequence that this was actually a happy ending for him.
  • In Sonic and the Secret Rings, Sonic wishes for "A few" handkerchiefs for his cold after a brief bout of sneezing. Shahra seems too eager to serve her new master, resulting in Sonic being buried up to his head in handkerchiefs.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series, this is how Clavicus Vile, the Daedric Prince of Bargains and Wishes, typically goes about granting wishes. While he always holds up his end of the bargain, he almost always does so in a way the wish maker will regret. In Skyrim, he is separated from his external conscience, Barbas, and thus veers closer to Jackass Genie territory. When a wizard asked Clavicus for the means to cure his daughter of lycanthropy, Vile gave the wizard a magic axe. He was also petitioned by a group of vampires to end their suffering (i.e. they wanted to become mortal again). Cue the Player Character walking in and slaughtering them all. (Vile considers the wish granted in full.)
  • The Wish Granter in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl. If you tell it you want to be rich, golden coins rain down from the ceiling — which are actually just the rusty bolts which were the only things holding the decaying roof in place. If you tell it you want the Zone to disappear, it turns you blind. If you tell it you want to rule the world, it will absorb you into the Wish Granter monolith. And if you want humanity to be destroyed/controlled, it will place you in a black void devoid of everything but the player. And if you tell it that you want to be immortal, it will turn you into a crystal statue.
  • Mass Effect 3 has this in effect with The Catalyst. In the Extended Cut ending, it's revealed the Leviathans created an A.I. to find a way to stop conflict between organics and synthetics. Its solution? Merge them all together into mecha cthulhus, thus shifting the various biology-versus-machine conflicts into once-an-era civilization-destroying everyone-versus-Cyborg-Titans.
  • Notch, creator of Minecraft, pulled off the trope with riding pigs. People wanted to ride a pig and Notch made it happen, except he didn't give players any way to control the pig. It wasn't until a year later where Jeb created a new item that would let people control the pig's movements.
  • The Djinn displays this Terrordrome the Game: Rise of the Boogeymen, just like in the movie series featuring him. When four people (who share the identity of Ghostface) use their first wish to become the most notorious killers on Earth, he complies, giving them the strength to defeat the thirteen other fighters in the game. Come the ending, where he presents them extra-terrestrial killers (as in not from Earth), forcing the four use their second wish to undo the first one.
  • The Genie NPC in the original The Sims—he's not a Jackass Genie so much as... erratic. The player can summon him and gets a choice between two wishes. If you guess "water", you're either gifted with a new hot tub or a flood to mop up; if you guess "money", you get either a pot of gold or a stack of bills; if you guess "fire" or "love"... the list goes on.
  • A rare favorable example happens in Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warriors 2. At the end of Captain Ginyu's What If? storyline, he assembles the seven Dragon Balls and asks Shenron to "bring back my precious teammates", intending to resurrect the Ginyu Force. However, due to his vague wording, he also gets Frieza, Zarbon, and Dodoria in the bargain.
  • In City of Heroes, when one contact betrays you, he sets his cyborgs on you and tells you to die. The cyborgs interpret the last command as directed at them, and obligingly drop dead.
  • In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Gaunter O'Dimm claims to be this (YMMV on whether you agree with him). If Geralt implies that he's a Jackass Genie, he'll get all indignant and insist that he never "cheats". He gives people exactly what they wish for; it's not his problem that what people wish for and what they actually want are usually entirely different things.

    Visual Novels 
  • Fate/stay night: The Holy Grail when it's working properly is one of these. It's capable of granting any wish, but the person making the wish has to have in mind some way of making it come true. In the Fate/Apocrypha spin-off, one character brings up the example of a mage who wishes to be the most powerful mage in the world, but in his mind his idea is that everyone better than him should be dead, thus resulting in the Grail killing everyone better than the mage in order to grant that wish. And in the original work, the Einzberns tried to summon Angra Mainyu, the Zoroastrian God of Evil, as the Servant Avenger, hoping to get an invincible demon, but instead got a weak human who was ritually sacrificed thus becoming the source of the legend. However, because he represented a wish for an embodiment of "All the World's Evil" that everyone could blame for their suffering, when he entered the Grail, the Grail tried to grant that wish and would have summoned such a being if someone tried to make a wish on the Grail.
  • In Radical Dreamers the group encounters a magical mirror that can answer any question it is asked. Serge can ask it for what are the "three measurements" of his female companion Kid, obviously meaning her chest-waist-hips measurements. He is rather confused when the answer he gets is 66, 5 and 9, which turn out to be her height, shoe size and ring size. Whether this is because the mirror genuinely did not understand the intention behind the question is left unanswered.
  • The Fruit of Grisaia: Sachi tends to act like this. She always follows any orders she's given, even innocent hyperbole, and the other characters have had to learn to phrase things carefully around her as a result. In one case, Makina nonsensically rambled that she and Sachi should become people who can count to ten million in the bath... and Sachi nearly suffers heatstroke when she actually tries to do this. And in her backstory, a classmate told her to "make the test next Friday not happen". Sachi thought about all the ways a teacher might be able to still hold the test despite setbacks... and ended up burning the entire school down. Can't have a test if the school doesn't exist.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner: In the Strong Bad Email "shapeshifter" Strong Bad, brainstorming forms of shapeshifting powers, asks (no one in particular) if it would be all right if he could have the power to "change into almost anybody". He then finds he can only turn into about half of people, such as the right half of the King of Town, or only the legs of Bubs.
    Strong Bad: Oh, I get it. I can turn into almost anybody.
  • RWBY: In Volume 8, team RWBY encounter the spirit Ambrosius, who is is very upfront about this being the case; as the Spirit of Creation, he can create anything he is asked to make, however not only will he need blueprints and instructions on how to make it, he makes it very clear that he will give the heroes exactly what they ask him for, going as far as to tell them not to complain if it's not what they wanted.
  • Hal the Misinterpretive Porn Star by Harry Partridge seeks to invoke this in every scene he does. For instance, when a porn actress says she "likes a big piece of meat and can never get enough", he starts force-feeding her whole buckets of meat. When another says she wants him to "take her to a place she's never been before", he launches her into the sun.

  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Subverted/inverted in "For the Future": the Oracle answers one question. Because he tried to screw him over before, Roy phrases his question in an extremely convoluted way with many backup clauses to avoid this — but without realizing it, ends up phrasing his question in such a way that the oracle (who wants to give him a useful answer this time) can't, because the actual outcome is a possibility Roy hadn't considered.
    • Used straight in "I Think They're in One of the Rulebooks, Right?", where Grubwiggler takes advantage of the fact that golems are technically constructs and not undead. It's quite possible that it honestly hadn't even occurred to him that he would have a customer who wanted their departed boyfriend brought back to life as a PC again.
    • Roy blows it on the wording again in "The Last Laugh", this time with a speak with dead spell.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal:
    • Strip 807. Because this is not entirely clear: in the first panel a boy gets a chemistry question wrong by saying hydrogen has two valence electrons instead of one. His wish of the genie is that he'd gotten that question right. Giving hydrogen two electrons has dire effects on the world as a whole....
    • A genie (of the same species, but different hat) pops up in strip 3042, as a sort of Economist's morality tale.
    • And another one in strip 3742, with a man who wishes to "outlive all of [his] enemies", only to realize how finite that wish actually is. It backfires on him when his efforts to keep his enemies in good health endears him to them and makes them no longer his enemies, and his attempts at making new ones all fail, partly because of his earlier kindness. With no more enemies to "protect" him, he goes insane and leaps off a building to his death, his body outliving his own mind.
    • 2014-07-08: "I wish my parents were still alive." Who comes back to life after this surprises him rather nastily.
    • 2012-09-20 has a man (implied to be a lawyer) wish for unlimited wishes by forcing a genie to abide by this trope.
  • Subnormality's take: I would like everything I could ever need.
    Schmuck: So you're one of THOSE Genies.
    Genie: For future reference, you now have one kidney.
  • In one strip of Tales of the Questor, Quentyn ends up being given three boons from a rather nasty fey of the Unseleighe court. However, he not only has to be very specific with his wishes, but has to phrase it in an obscure language, to eliminate double meanings and make it impossible to interpret the words in any way other than what was intended. And he still manages to mess up one of his wishes. He'd intended his second wish to be that Dolan had to return everything he'd stolen from Duke Sturmhold. What he actually commanded was that the Duke get everything Dolan had ever stolen from ''anyone''.
  • The Genie from Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic isn't overly literal out of any malevolence, but because he's dumber than a post. Case in point, though he offers three wishes, he just can't count, even up to three, and ends up giving unlimited wishes (as long as they are worded very carefully).
  • The Princess Planet:
  • While other more obvious examples in Sluggy Freelance are more in the lines of Jackass Genie, we get this once with an alternative Riff from the Dimension of Lame, apparently out of genuine confusion. Lord Horribus orders him to devise a way for his demons to enter the sewers in spite of the smell of flowers therein (It Makes Sense in Context). All his attempts end in disaster until Horribus realises what the problem is.
    Horribus: Way back when, when I said "build me something terrible" I didn't mean "build me something that works terrible!"
    Riff: Ohhh! In that case, my latest invention may be just what we need! I call it... The clothespin!
  • xkcd:
    • One strip of is a reversal of the punchline of a popular Literal Genie joke. A guy walks into a bar, that includes a piano player that's less than a foot tall and a piano to match. The bartender shows him a very old beer bottle and tells the guy that he can use it for one wish. The guy makes his wish, gets screwed over by the Literal Genie, and complains "hey! I didn't ask for [result]!" The bartender's response? "Yeah, and I didn't ask for a ten-inch pianist." Now re-read the xkcd strip.
    • Implied in this strip, where we see Black Hat's eyelash wish log, after he realizes that it works. On one of his many attempts to game the system, he asks for "unlimited eyelashes". Since his next wish is about defying this trope, it seems it didn't turn out as he intended.
  • Real Life Comics spent an arc on this, when Ben finds a ring of three wishes playing D&D. Unfortunately for him, his DM is... not nice. He wishes for "more gold than he knows what to do with," and gets a giant slab of gold that crushes him to death. Then he wishes for "a million gold pieces;" the pieces he receives are so tiny that the whole pile is almost worthless. Finally, he makes an elaborate, foolproof wish and gets a million normal-sized gold coins, which do not crush him. And then a dragon eats him.
  • In Girl Genius, the protagonist owns a sentient castle. It must always obey any order she gives it (well, the parts that even recognize her anyways) but it loves to interpret those orders in very interesting ways. She learns very quickly to be extremely exact about what she wants, else the castle will ruin whatever she may be trying to do.
  • In Wigu Adventures, the eponymous Wigu and his father find a magical, wish-granting orb, which offers Wigu three wishes (since he is Pure Of Heart). Wigu first tries to wish for a hundred wishes, then for the ability to wish for a hundred wishes, but when these are forbidden, he decides to display his smarts by wishing that the orb will "give me what I ask for, for real, and not try and trick me."
  • This Dinosaur Comics takes the Midas Myth beyond its usual Be Careful What You Wish For status well into extreme Literal Genie territory. Also, be sure to read the Alt Text
  • Giselle, for the record: telling a wishing well "I wish my dreams to come true..." is never a good idea. It's much more likely to pick the "Not Wearing Pants" Dream than any other.
  • Units in Erfworld are duty bound, and can't go against orders unless they actively defect to the enemy. But when a magician, capable of casting mind control and suggestion spells asks "May I give you a suggestion, lord?", you may want to think about your answer.....
  • Maxwell the demon of defunct comic Maxwell the Demon is all over this one.
  • Lampshaded in this Vexxarr comic.
  • The party mage in Speak with Monsters warns the rest of the group about this when they obtain three wishes from an efreet. However, he fails to finish his sentence before Tymar wishes for "a buttload of gold." The efreet declares that this isn't even fun, then gives the group three baskets of fruit and calls it even.
  • In Fafnir The Dragon, the title dragon acts like this because he is, simply put, not very bright. So word what you want from him carefully.
  • The ditzy Bottle Blonde from Princess Pi grants wishes exactly how the wisher worded them. This tendency eventually becomes her undoing. After Princess Pi frees Bottle Blonde, so no-one could ever use her powers for evil, Bottle Blonde decides to grant one of her own wishes: "I wish to make me a sandwich!" She subsequently turns into a sandwich, which Pi proceeds to eat before it goes to waste. (Bottle Blonde doesn't really mess up any of the wishes other people made in her comic, but it seems hard to do so.)
  • Someone tried to avert this in a strip of minus. and provided pages upon pages of definitions. The title Reality Warper doesn't have the patience to read through it, though, and abandons the wishing issue and instead plays with the papers.
  • The bad guy controlling Lenny in Accidental Centaurs ordered him to immobilize Alex when Alex tried to attack him. He neglected to mention how long Alex should be immobilized.
  • In Sinfest 2012-12-24: Dear Satan Claus, a prayer to "Please bring me hot bitches" results in angry female dogs with tails on fire appearing at someone's door.
  • Not surprisingly, this joke tends to come up in I Dream of a Jeanie Bottle. Here's one example.
  • The Wotch features an Artifact of Doom that forces the genie summoned through it to act this way, even if it's against their nature. Later still, one story arc involves the protagonists visiting a world inhabited entirely by genies. It ends when the gang accidentally kicks off a Civil War between the genies who follow this trope on purpose and the genies who don't.
  • Lampshaded in Myth Trial which begins with the genie Tiani literally telling her new mistress that the wording of her wishes will be very important and that no mortal has ever done it right. Her mistress simply replies that the genie has never met a "New York lawyer."
  • In Freefall, this is one of the main concerns which led Dr. Bowman to give his synthetic intelligences (like Bowman's Wolves, and also every AI on Jean) actual intelligence and free will, instead of just making them simplistic and heavily restrained. When robots outnumber humans by a factor of 10,000, you don't exactly want them misinterpreting how to serve man, and three-laws compliance is fundamentally broken.
  • The Monster of the Week strip based on "Je Souhaite" is actually a follow-up in which Scully complains that Mulder got the wishes and she didn't, so the genie gives her a shot as well. She wishes that there were fewer silly storylines, that she was the main character, and that there was some kind of follow-up to that bit in "all things" where she and Mulder apparently slept together. The genie grants her wishes, and tells her to wait for the next episode, at which point Scully realises she may have made a mistake...note 

    Web Original 
  • Tales of MU:
    • While Two isn't evil herself, one has to carefully word any order meant to give her a little more freedom without getting her in trouble. Protagonist Mackenzie had to think for a whole minute in order to allow her to eat relatively freely. And it takes more than one try.
    • In chapter 345 of the first year, one of Mack's professors gives the class a project that essentially amounts to wording a wish so that it can't be screwed with by a Literal Genie and then having them trade to twist the Exact Words of their victim.
  • The short story "Garbage-Collecting the Metaverse" by David Madore has a god that interprets a wish a bit differently than intended.
  • To combat the Literal Genie and/or the Jackass Genie, the folks at Home on the Strange have an open-source wish project to create the perfect wish.
  • In the 2nd Edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, casting a wish spell ages your character 5 years, and requires the caster to spend 2-8 days in bed recuperating. So, this handy-dandy guide to being a 2nd Edition AD&D Munchkin recommends you phrase your wish as: "I wish Asmodeus were dead and I got all the experience points from killing him and all his treasure, and that I were de-aged 5 years and didn't need 2d4 days of bed rest."
  • The Word Worlds in Protectors of the Plot Continuum can be quite Literal-Minded, especially when confronted with bad spelling or overly-flowery descriptions. Consequently, any misspelling of a character's name creates a mini-monster to fill in their role in the sentence and Pronoun Trouble in especially bad slash fics can result in both parties doing every described action to each other simultaneously. And these are just the more prosaic typos; for example, one Sue managed to turn herself into a bottle of paint thinner, one turned herself into a floating green shirt (by adding a space to the term "greenshirt", which meant "civilian") another created a Prefect Badger and a guy called "Ed of Dream Sequence," and a series of typos in "Twila The Girl Who Waz In Luv With A Vampyre" caused the appearance of a group of hip-hop dancers who then turned into copies of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
  • One of the fictional season two Challenge of the GoBots episodes described in the posts of Renegade Rhetoric, which was a Character Blog for main GoBots villain Cy-Kill, was "Babysitting", where the Renegades agreed to look after a huge toddler from another dimension with magic powers under the reasoning that they could use the child's powers to get rid of the Guardians. Unfortunately, because the child is well, a child, he completely misinterprets Cy-Kill's wishes. When told to blow the Guardians away, the child produces a wind that sends their ship away. When overhearing Cy-Kill instruct Cop-Tur to be quiet as a mouse, he turns the dim-witted Renegade into an actual rodent. The final mess-up is when Cy-Kill states to not care what the child does, so long as he doesn't have to see the Guardians ever again. It initially appears that the Guardians are vaporized by this wish, but Cy-Kill later learns to his ire that the Guardians were merely turned invisible.
  • Photoshop Troll is this trope applied to requests for photo editing. As is this guy, James Fridman.

  • SCP Foundation:
    • SCP-294 is a vending machine that will give you whatever you ask for in liquid form, by taking the raw material from somewhere else (usually; sometimes it claims that the drink is "Out of range"). Some of the ensuing mishaps involved "A cup of Joe" (Agent Joseph [REDACTED] made a complete recovery in the infirmary after four weeks of rest and intravenous hydration), "Whatever the next person orders" (Unfortunately, beverages were delivered simultaneously. Cleanup took two hours.), and "Surprise me" (superheated water that exploded in his face... which did, indeed, surprise him). This even extends to abstract concepts such as "a cup of music" or "my life story". One incident suggested that the machine has a certain level of intelligence: when a disaster happened at the facility it is stored in, one staff member, in desperation, asked it for "a cup of relevant medical knowledge", received it, and was able to save the lives of several critically injured people. Later requests for the same under controlled circumstances received "Out of range" as the response. The researchers speculate that 294 only granted the initial request out of self-preservation.
    • A recurring character in the wiki is Dado, an amateur "parapharmacologist" with a poor grasp of the English language who produces anomalous items. On one occasion an employee of Marshall, Carter & Dark Ltd hired him to make "blow up dolls" for them. The result? Exploding sex dolls. A man asks him to make him a doll for his daughter? He makes him into a doll.
  • Reddit:

    Web Videos 
  • In the Ryan George video "If Cats Were Able to Talk", a guy is curious about what his cat is thinking and (as he just happens to have a genie on call) uses his second wish to make the cat able to speak — only for the cat to start making loud, meaningless vocalizations that just creep the guy out.
    Ryan: Hey Genie, why isn't Mr. Marbles talking?
    Genie: What's up, what's going on?
    Ryan: He's not talking, he's not saying words.
    Genie: It takes like a year and a half for a human baby to start talking, you think your cat's just gonna start spouting out full sentences?
    Ryan: I mean, yeah, that's what I wished for.
    Genie: No, you wished for him to be able to talk, which he is, he just doesn't know how to yet.
    Ryan: Oh, that is some bull***t, Genie.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time:
    • In the episode "Finn the Human/Jake the Dog", the Reality Warper Prismo is like this. When Finn wishes that The Lich never existed, he is transported to a post-apocalyptic Alternate Universe where the Lich never existed, but in that alternate universe, Finn becomes the Ice King instead of Simon Petrikov. Prismo tells Jake that he also has one wish, and Jake says he wants a sandwich. Prismo tells him that since wishes are literal, he should probably wish for something like saving Finn, and be very specific about it. He even describes it as a "Monkey's Paw kind of thing". When Jake still doesn't get it, Prismo ends up spelling out the wish Jake should make.
    • In another episode, after the first Hot Dog Knight wishes for a box, the Second Hot Dog Knight's wish fits this trope:
      Knight #2: I wish to blow up! I mean like get big. [explodes]
      Finn: Wow... you guys are really stupid.
      Knight #1: What do you mean?
    • In "Mystery Dungeon", Ice King desires to throw his Fionna and Cake fanfiction into the Ancient Sleeping Magi of Life-Giving's flames because anything that touches them comes to life. When he does, the flames bring his book to life and not the characters inside.
  • In the Aladdin: The Series episode "Some Enchanted Genie", Abis Mal forces Eden to grant some pretty nasty wishes aimed towards the regular cast — but he never uses the word or concept of "forever", enabling her to include built-in Achilles heels in everything. (Eden is usually a Benevolent Genie, she just acts like a Literal Genie here to help the heroes.)
    Eden: [in response to Abis Mal's disappointment] You said cosmic tough guy. You didn't say forever.
  • An episode of Archie's Weird Mysteries has Veronica wish "everyone was exactly like her" within earshot of a wish granting idol. The result is everyone in town one by one slowly becoming more like her, ultimately transforming into exact clones of her. It turns out the idol itself isn't even sentient and the day is saved when Veronica figures out what has happened and wishes from it for everything to be back to normal, but not before getting a good harsh look at just how annoying and whiny she is and learning to be a better person.
  • In the Animated Adaptation of Beetlejuice, BJ would shape-shift into literal interpretations of whatever corny figure-of-speech he used. This led to problems several times, such as his head disappearing when he "lost [his] head there". Apparently, this was a reflex. This was even the plot of an episode where his enemies convinced him to say "I'm coming apart at the seams", just so they could take his body parts and hide them until he died... er, again.
  • In the Close Enough episode "The Weird Kid", Alex accidentally wishes on his Viking pendant to be emotionally close to his offspring while telling Emily that she should have been more specific about her wish to be closer to Candice. However, because the vasectomy episode reveals that Alex has no offspring, it makes him emotionally close to The Offspring.
  • Desiree of Danny Phantom, the ghost genie. The more wishes one makes, the stronger she gets. Eventually defeated by "I WISH YOU WOULD GET IN THE GHOST TRAP." Thus prompting the hero to regret himself being Book Dumb, since it took him the whole episode to come up with that.
  • One Dexter's Laboratory episode ends with Dexter dismissing Computer with "Oh, shut up and make me a sandwich." After getting shot with a laser, Dexter becomes a sandwich.
  • DuckTales (1987):
    • Although well-meaning, Bungling Inventor Gyro Gearloose has a habit of following instructions a little too close to the letter, then being honestly confused when someone complains about the results ("well, you asked for..."). When told to make a SciFi show set "as real as it could be", he constructed a fully functioning spacecraft that launches the cast into orbit. When told to build a guard robot that wouldn't let anyone near Scrooge's money bin, he failed to include the obvious exception of Scrooge himself.
    • Inverted when Scrooge tells him to pick "Some kind of nonsense" as a password for the newly-built Gizmoduck armor, and that it be an obscure one that nobody uses. Gyro uses a thesaurus to literally find an obscure synonym for "nonsense" and selects the most antiquated and unusual one he can find, "blatherskite". This by all means should have worked, but in a Million to One Chance, "blathering blatherskite" is the Catchphrase of Scrooge's newly-hired accountant Fenton Crackshell, who ends up accidentally activating the armor and becoming Gizmoduck.
    • Speaking of which, Fenton had earlier dumped Scrooge's entire fortune in a lake when he told Fenton that he wanted "liquid" assets, he then suggests "freezing" his assets as a way to get them out, meaning freeze the lake into a giant ice cube and haul that back to the vault.
  • The Papyrus of Binding in DuckTales (2017)'s episode "The First Adventure". When it is found, the previous owner, notorious pirate Yellow Beak, has written a will declaring the various misfortunes the Papyrus had brought upon him and his crewnote  and he used the powers of the Papyrus to Mercy Kill him. The Papyrus also takes the users own definitions into account as when Black Heron tries to use it to kill off young Donald and Della, it doesn't work because she wrote "sidekicks," but Scrooge considers them family, and it's not a "mission," but an adventure. It all comes to a head in the Grand Finale "The Last Adventure" when Bradford spent 30 years trying to Rules Lawyer a Magically-Binding Contract using the Papyrus in order to stamp out any Loophole Abuse in order to prevent Scrooge from adventuring for the safety of his family. He succeeds, but Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Webby realize there is one loophole Bradford didn't realize, that Scrooge considers "family the greatest adventure of all!" and the contract breaks.
  • Driven into the ground in the Extreme Ghostbusters episode "Be Careful What You Wish For". An evil spirit grants wishes like "I wish I could get back to my roots" (guy turns into a tree), "I wish I had a younger body" (woman turns into a baby but keeps her normal head), "I wish I had a face like that guy" (grows a second head), "I wish she liked me as much as that cat" (wakes up inside the cat's body), and to just put a cherry on it: "I wish I was made of money" (do we have to explain this one?). The ghost is eventually beaten when Eduardo the one in the cat comes up with the wish "I wish for you not to grant this wish", and the resulting paradox after Kylie says it renders it vulnerable to the usual ghost trap.
  • The Fairly OddParents!:
    • A Running Gag with Cosmo and Wanda. Some examples include the following: he wishes for a shrink suit, but the suit can only shrink, not return to normal size; he wishes that he had parents that couldn't care less, they end up not caring about work, bills, personal hygiene, etc., and it also affects Cosmo and Wanda, his godparents; he wishes to be sent to the comic book store while he's taking a bath, Cosmo and Wanda neglect to dress him before they send him to said store, resulting in Timmy having to make his way home across Dimmsdale completely naked. It's to the point that, in "Just the Two of Us!", he has to rephrase his wish that he was the last boy on Earth three times to get the results he wants.
      • Lampshaded at the end of one episode. Having spent most of the episode shrunk down inside Vicky's body so he can write a report on the body's cells, Timmy complains that he now has to write a report on "the wonders of the big universe". Cosmo and Wanda immediately extrapolate his previous wish and turn him into a planet-sized giant, prompting Timmy to complain that "you guys take everything too literal".
    • Norm the Genie is initially depicted as such in his debut episode. When Timmy makes a wish for an omelet, it falls into his hands and burns them, because Timmy didn't wish for an omelet on a plate. When he tries to be more specific ("I wish Trixie Tang loved Timmy Turner"), Norm makes it so Trixie loves everyone named Timmy Turner. It's the third and final wish that outs Norm as an outright Jackass Genie; Timmy wishes for his Dad to be a billionaire, and Norm makes Mr. Turner a counterfeiter.
  • Family Guy, "Viewer Mail #1". Peter is threatened by a man riding on a bus after Peter is granted his own theme music by a genie. The man asks him to stop the music. Peter tells him he can't, and the man threatens to break every bone in Peter's body. So Peter says "I wish I had no bones" out of fear. The genie, who is driving the bus, hears him and says, "Done," turning Peter into a boneless blob. Bizarrely, Peter is initially happy about this turn of events and laughs at the man.
  • Garfield and Friends:
    • In the "Rainy Day Robot" U.S. Acres short, Roy gets conned into buying a voice-activated weather-making robot, though the salesman does tell him that the robot will "do the appropriate rain dance, snow dance, or whatever". It works fine during the demonstrations, but then idles whenever Roy specifically demands rain (perhaps because it only does each type of weather once). In his frustration, he then makes the mistake of saying things like "bucket of bolts", "overgrown vacuum cleaner", "horse", "tree", and "safe" (in which is a Shout-Out to Wile E Coyote as he holds up a sign that says "ouch" and an umbrella), in front of it (or within earshot as he tries to escape), prompting the robot to drop one of said things on top of him. Roy later uses it to thwart Orson's brothers by tricking them into repeating his would-be last words, "27 pianos", so that the robot drops the required amount on them. The episode ends without them getting it to properly rain, though, and one has to wonder how the robot interpreted "trade jobs"...
    • In one quickie, Wade sang "Home On The Range", and the words in the song appeared before him.
    • In yet an episode of Garfield proper, "Dogmother 2," a wish-granting fairy loses her notes, remembering only the address, so she goes to Jon's house and puts it under a spell that grants any inhabitant any statement that begins with "I wish." It's Jon luck that he happens to sing, "I Wish I Were in Dixieland" in the shower that day.
  • Gargoyles:
    • Shakespearean trickster Puck loves to do this if he is ever magically bound to serve a mortal. When Demona phrases her desire for him to kill Elisa Maza as "rid me of that human", Puck interprets this as a command to "get rid of that human", and turns Elisa into a gargoyle. Demona's other wishes do nothing but backfire in similarly inconvenient ways, to Puck's delight, and to top it all off, after the heroes finally free him, he decides to grant Demona her earlier wish to no longer turn to stone during the making it so that she instead transforms into the thing she despises most: a human.
    • Another example is the Cauldron of Life, which legend states will make anyone who bathes in it live "as long as the mountain stones." Xanatos hopes to use it to achieve immortality, but is also not stupid, and plans to test it out on Hudson first. After the old gargoyle escapes, Owen unhesitatingly offers himself as the test subject, and subsequently spends the rest of the series with a literal stone arm after he dips it into the cauldron's brew.
  • In The Summoning, a short from GO! Cartoons, Claire is attempting to summon a demon, and needs troll fat to do so. She's inadvertently summoned some wish-granting clowns instead, and when they insist on granting her wish, she wishes she could get some troll fat. They proceed to hand her a crudely-drawn map to its location (and she notes that her wish phrasing need work).
  • In an episode of Jackie Chan Adventures, in an attempt to defeat the bad guys, Jade orders the Monkey Talisman, "Turn this log into a death-ray!" The talisman turns the log into a manta, also known as a death-ray. (It turns out the Talisman's power is only to turn people/things into animals.)
  • Kidd Video: The fat one with the glasses got one wish from The Sphinx, and he wished for he and his friends (who were teetering on a mountainside rock about to fall) were safe at home. Suddenly, his friends are next to him, but not home! The Sphinx declared he only got one wish, and since his friends were in peril at the time, he and his friends were safe, thus his wish was granted, and with that, the Sphinx went back to sleep.
  • Lilo & Stitch: The Series. In the episode "Wishy-Washy", an activated experiment is activated, designed to be a wish giver that grants any wish he hears, but the wishes are granted literally and don't turn out as expected for the wisher. For example, when Jumba wished to be the greatest ruler in the world, he was turned into a literal ruling stick. And when Pleakly wished for "all the powers" of his current idol, a superhero, Jumba then explains he didn't get any powers, because said hero wasn't real.
  • In The Little Mermaid (1992), Sebastian, tired of being a tiny crab, finds a magic wand and wishes to be a "Big Crab". The problem? He can't stop growing; he outgrows his home, and even Atlantica, to the point where he is around the size Ursula was at the climax of the original movie (if not larger). Ariel uses the wand, wishing Sebastian was his "Old Self", which literally turns him old, with a long beard and spectacles (but still a giant). Ariel then gets fed up and manages to "correctly" wish that the wand was never found.
  • My Little Pony 'n Friends: "Through the Door" features a genie who will only grant your wish if you are very specific (if you wish for a perfect day, you have to describe every aspect of the day; if you wish for ice cream, you have to describe the size, shape, flavor, etc). The ponies decide he's more trouble than he's worth.
    Lickety-Split: I wish the weather was perfect.
    Genie: Perfect, hm? Could you be more specific? Temperature? [...] Relative humidity? [...] And I also need to know the prevailing wind speed, and the percentage of the color orange in the sunset!
    Lickety-Split: Look, all I want is a perfect day, so what's so difficult about that?
    Genie: "What about the sky? You have your cerulean blue, your robin's egg blue, your..."
    [scene break]
    Genie: ... and what about barometric pressure? Pollen count?
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • In an episode, the eponymous pair build a super computer that can answer any question with 100% accuracy. Candace asks it how she can get Mom to see what her brothers have done and it gives her the solution. It works, but not in the way she wanted. Linda does see what they did, but doesn't know they were the ones who did it. Another level to this: Candace meant "what her brothers did" as the Supercomputer that they had built, but the computer interprets it as the nice thing they did for Mom (fixing her bad hair day by exploiting the show's use of Contrived Coincidence) that they had built the computer to get the idea for.
    • One non-canon Halloween Episode has Doofenshmirtz get three wishes. The first wish he uses as a test; the second gets interrupted when Perry drops a bookshelf on his foot, giving him power over snack foods; and the third, despite his attempts to be careful, winds up with him as a giant floating head.
      Doofenshmirtz: You ever try to sue a genie?
  • In Pixel Pinkie, Pinkie tends to a fairly literal approach to granting any wishes she is given; partially as a result of having being imprisoned for centuries and not really being up on modern idioms.
  • The Rocky and Bullwinkle Fractured Fairy Tale short "Prince Darling" shows the fairy intentionally doing this, turning the eponymous prince into a monster, saying "Your father's last wish was that I make something out of you. That's something."
  • This showed up in the Shazzan episode "The Maze of Mercurad". Due to the laws of magic governing the Fifth Mountain, Shazzan couldn't just curbstomp Mercurad like he could with every other enemy of the week; the kids have to pay a toll to Mercurad. Instead, he defeats him by acting like a Literal Genie. When Mercurad asks for a fortune in silver, Shazzan fills the entire valley with silver coins; a fortune so huge that Mercurad can't guard it all from thieves. When Mercurad then asks that the fortune be made more secure, Shazzan turns it into a mountain sized block of pure silver that would be too difficult to actually spend. Giving up on money, Mercurad asks for the key to ultimate knowledge. Shazzan shows him a bizarre equation that encompasses all knowledge, but without the required background to understand the equation it's completely useless to Mercurad. Mercurad then asks for the power of a genie. Shazzan complies, but then mentions that all genies have masters. Mercurad's master will be his own monstrous gatekeeper. Mercurad immediately rescinds his desire to be a genie at this point. Finally, Mercurad decides that a simple payment will be enough: a loaf of bread, a piece of cheese, and some fresh water. Shazzan grants this wish with no problems at all.
  • Shimmer and Shine: Some of the wishes go wrong because the titular genies don't understand certain figures of speech, likely due to the fact they are genies-in-training and are still learning. Averted since Season 2.
  • The Simpsons. Homer Simpson attempts to avert this in "Treehouse of Horror II"; after the family's first wishes on a Monkey's Paw have unforeseen consequences (thus playing the trope straight), Homer decides to "make a wish that can't backfire. I wish for a turkey sandwich, on rye bread, with lettuce and mustard, and, and I don't want any zombie turkeys, I don't want to turn into a turkey myself, and I don't want any other weird surprises." Surprisingly, this mostly works, except that the turkey's a little dry. Of course that part didn't work: after all, he asked for no weird surprises!
    Homer: Hmm. Not bad. Nice, hot mustard. Good bread. Turkey's a little dry. The turkey's a little dry! Oh foul and cursed thing!!! What demon from the depths of Hell created thee?!
  • The Smurfs:
    • In one episode, Smurfette found Hogatha's locket, which was more like an Artifact of Doom rather than a creature, but it acted like this, granting her wishes without her even knowing it. When she gave Greedy, who was sick, a bouquet of flowers, she wished she could fill his whole room with flowers; it did just that, and he got hay fever on top of it. Then it got worse. She wished he was "on his feet and fit as a fiddle", and he turned into a living fiddle (and to make matters worse, he was out of tune). Then she fell victim to one of Jokey's practical jokes, and she wished he'd "grow up and act serious", at which point he grew to three times his size and started talking like a Rhodes scholar. At the end of the story, Papa Smurf realized what the locket was doing, and hurled it into a fire, which fortunately undid the effects of all the wishes.
    • Another example that appeared in several episodes was Gargamel's Great Book of Spells, a Tome of Eldritch Lore that was a living, speaking being, which had to supply him with any spell he requested on the day of the final phase of the full moon. While said spells were powerful, the book very often took him too literally, causing whatever Evil Plan he came up with using the spells to blow up in his face. And at times, the rituals needed to cast the spells seem designed with humiliating Gargamel in mind. One spell required him to wear a robe made of fish, and then hop about like he had fleas; when he said he didn't have fleas, the Book gave him some. In the last episode it appeared, it became clear that the book wasn't malignant, it was just sick of having to grant spells to someone who only used them for selfish reasons.
  • The South Park episode "Crippled Summer" had Nathan trying to get Mimzy to get Jimmy killed, but he misinterprets every command. For example, Nathan tells Mimzy to kill Jimmy by going underwater where he is and blowing a shark whistle to attract sharks. Mimzy then goes underwater, goes back on land, and then blows the shark whistle.
  • Rose's Room in Steven Universe is a more benevolent version of a trope. It's essentially a holodeck that will create whatever the holder of the Rose Quartz gem (in this case, Steven) wants, though the items are actually solid clouds (for example, the food can't be eaten). In its first episode of focus Steven says that he wants to go outside, and the Room simply creates an illusionary version of the town. In the second episode Steven accidentally says that he wants to see Connie (who's currently out of sight), and the Room produces a fake which Steven mistakes for the real one. In "Catch and Release," however, he wants to get to the basement from the Room, and it shows him the way once he specifies that he needs the real basement.
  • The accidental wish variant and the "don't break the rules" variant are both in effect on an episode of Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go! in which the team encounters one called the Wigglenog.
    Gibson: Oh, Otto, I wish you weren't such a colossal dunderhead!
    Wigglenog: Your wish is granted!
    SPRX-77: Gibson, what did you do?!
    Gibson: [stammers]
  • Timon & Pumbaa:
    • Happens to the duo when they find a lamp near the watering hole, and each wish for a million wishes. In one Body Horror moment, after their desire to wish their own way of wishing sets them apart, they make up and wish to be together again, only for that wish to make them fuse together before they wish themselves separate.
    • Another episode had one where Pumbaa saved a magical whale by throwing it back into the ocean. Telling Timon this, he gets him to go back and forth to make his three wishes, trying to be specific as possible, but all backfiring because Pumbaa didn't say it EXACTLY the way he asked it. The best example would be his final wish, when he wished for a fancy castle and just for kicks, a magical fire-breathing monster (which he expected to be a dragon and not a chicken) he can defeat. Pumbaa instead said "can't", so the episode ends with the duo hiding out from their fire-breathing fowl fiend.
  • An evil butcher in The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat episode "Guardian Idiot" wishes Felix's bumbling Guardian Angel to "make him the biggest, greasiest sausage ever made"... which he does, but to him.
  • Dick Dastardly employs Bubu, a genie, in the Wacky Races episode "The Dipsy Doodle Desert Derby". He's not very bright and tends to take Dastardly's commands too literally. ("Put me out in front of the other racers!" Dastardly commands — Bubu puts the Mean Machine in front, all right. In front of the other racers facing them.)

    Real Life 
  • Computer programmers and linguistic geeks with a dry sense of humor often respond very literally though they know perfectly well what you mean. (Especially if the word "or" is involved: "Would you like coffee or tea?" "Yes."note )
  • According to Joe Murray, creator of Rocko's Modern Life, he was asked by executives to create a strong-female character for the show, "a professional woman, someone with a good hook." Murray took them at their word by creating the one-handed Dr. Hutchinson.
  • Software engineers will often play the part of a literal genie to their customers, and sometimes maliciously if they don't like them. Most of the time, it's because no matter how stupid the requirement sounds, it might be what they wanted, and they did sign off on it. Requirements definition (a System Engineering task) is ten times worse. You really have to pick your words carefully. One mistake can mean millions of dollars wasted in doing something the "wrong" way.
  • Remember, a computer will always do what you told it to do. And in virtually all cases, it will not be what you wanted it to do. See also You Can't Get Ye Flask.
    • This is very evident (as of 2022) in text-to-image A.I. models. You have to be very precise in your prompts as the model will almost always interpret what you ask for literally. This tends to result in lots of unintended creepypastas.
    • In one of Isaac Asimov's novels, this fact explains why the First Law is so important. It's not because robots are conspiring against humans, but because orders can and will get interpreted in many unpleasant ways.
    • A popular rhyme is based on this: I hate this damn computer. I wish that we could sell it. It won't do what I want it to. Only what I tell it.
    • Another line: Programming is the art of describing what you want so precisely that even a computer can do it. A large part of good programming is to always have the program do something sensible if (or more likely, when) the computer encounters an unexpected situation, such as a missing file or missing information within a file, or information which is outside of the sensible boundaries for that type of information.
    • In the age when computers were massive mechanical machines composed of gears and pulleys, the inventor Charles Babbage was twice asked "If you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?" He wanted to smack the stupidity out of the guys that asked the question (he didn't because both of them were members of Parliament). An understandable mistake in that age, as people weren't used to such a Literal Genie as a computer.
    • Notably, this is one reason why many scientists think human-level A.I. and above is likely to lead to bad things, up to and including human extinction, in real life. Unless extreme care is taken in determining both the A.I.'s goals and how it goes about them, it's likely to take a perfectly good goal in theory (such as promoting human happiness) and use its superhuman intelligence to promote them in wholly unintended ways (for example, forcibly hooking people up to machines that stimulate the happiness centers in their brains 24/7). Or killing everyone who exhibits sadness, thinking it's dealing with disease because it wasn't programmed for that scenario.
    • The Paperclip Maximizer is a thought experiment by Nick Bostrom designed to show how artificial general intelligence, even one designed competently and without malice, could ultimately destroy humanity. Its sole directive: Maximize the number of paperclips in its collection. It would improve its intelligence to find more efficient ways to make more paperclips. The said methods soon include "turn all matter on Earth and the cosmos into paperclips."
  • Some scams operate on this principle.
    • For example, the scammer could place an ad offering to "help cut your bills in half" for a $50 fee, and in return for the victim's money, sends him a pair of scissors.
    • Another well-known example is the guy promising to reveal the secret to never lose at betting on horse races. Of course, the rube receives a sheet of paper with the instructions, "Don't bet; then you can't lose."
    • A similar scam circulated in the United States during the boll weevil infestation of the 1920s. The scammer would advertise a sure-fire weevil killer, and a desperate cotton farmer would send in the money... to receive in the mail two heavy wooden blocks with the instructions, "place weevil between blocks and crush."
    • The infamous "solar-powered clothes dryer" — which upon receipt turns out to be a clothespin or clothespins and maybe the line for hanging the laundry.
    • A very common "scam" is to sell tickets offering prizes worth an amount like $2000 and with high odds of winning. The winner receives a coupon book, and the total savings by purchasing every single discounted product will add up to $2000.
    • Another urban legend was about a $100 book that told you how to make $50,000 in no time! The only thing written inside is: "Sell 500 of these books".
    • Another one is an offer to sell "grass" by mail-order. The victim thinks they're getting marijuana, but they actually get an envelope full of yard clippings.
  • It's a common practice in Chemistry classes to teach the class the importance of specificity in directions by having students write directions for some mundane task, and for the teacher to attempt to do it while following the directions specifically and with absolutely no additions. For example, if the task is making one peanut butter and jelly sandwich, simply saying "put jelly on bread" will make the teacher place the jar of jelly on top of the bag of bread.note 
    • This is also an exercise in Computer Science 101 classes because, as noted above, computers tend to interpret their instructions in the most literal manner possible; new programmers have to learn to consider this.
  • Similarly, a grade-school level "trick" is to start listing instructions, with one of them (generally the first) being "Read to all instructions before starting". As most students want to parse out their workload, they'll disregard this and follow the directions (write down the capital of Ohio, circle it twice, draw a doodle next to it, etc.)... then hastily erase the next 10+ steps when the final one is revealed to be "Do not write down anything except the first step."
    • Hilariously, this kid turned the tables on the teacher. He effectively told the teacher that he had to read all the instructions first, but in no way did he have to execute them in that order, after everyone had giggled at him when the teacher stopped him from continuing. At that, the stumped teacher suspended the assignment and turned the class into a discussion on the student's point.
  • Lawyers. They are why laws are so complicated; otherwise, the lawyers interpreting them would not hesitate to twist them however possible to suit their case. (That is their job, after all!) Averted with judges, who try determining what is reasonable and what the law-makers were intending with the law, not just what it says. If a lawyer does find a way of suiting their case that is technically legal but clearly against the spirit of the law, the judge will usually decide against them regardless.
  • Parodied by Pratchett with the Golems (see above under "Literature") is the industrial action tactic of "Work-to-rule": protesting employees perform their jobs exactly as their contract specifies.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic used this in response to the recording company that James Blunt was signed. He told him he couldn't sell his take-off "You're Pitiful" after he'd already gotten approval from Blunt and recorded it. He made it available as a free download instead.
  • John Kricfalusi, the creator of The Ren & Stimpy Show, was asked by fans to make an episode of the then-newly launched series Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon" full of nothing but gross-out jokes. It resulted in the episode "Onwards and Upwards" — however, many viewers considered it to have gone way overboard.
  • The Other Wiki defines this trope as malicious compliance. See also Work-to-rule, a.k.a. Bothering by the Book.
  • The Aztecs believed that Quetzalcoatl, the god of life, fertility, and war, would return and transform the nation. Hernán Cortés, Quetzalcoatl's God Guise impostor, in a sense brought them everything the Aztecs expected, but not remotely like anything they ever imagined.
  • The Open-Source Wish Project is dedicated to crafting wishes in such a precise manner that no genie can screw them up. For instance, the common wish "I want to be rich" is reworded to "I wish that I shall obtain; now and at all times hence; legally and without harm to others or myself, all such material possessions as I, being of sound mind, desire, and that receipt of same should occur within twenty-four earth hours (one day) of the desire becoming known to me. Unless during that period I decide, of my own free will, that I do not wish to receive said item or items."
  • In Star Trek: Generations, Captain Kirk winds up being the Trope Namer for Dropped a Bridge on Him, but that ending was a re-shoot. Originally Kirk had a more direct fight with Soran before being killed, but this ending didn't do well with test-screenings. Supposedly several comments from the test screeners read, "Kirk should die on the bridge." Unfortunately, none of these specified "The bridge of the Enterprise."


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Alternative Title(s): Overly Literal Genie


Talking Cat Wish

Ryan wishes that his cat could talk, but the genie doesn't grant the cat the ability to talk WELL.

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5 (14 votes)

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Main / LiteralGenie

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