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Literal Metaphor

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Kate: That is... a really interesting painting.
White: Thank you. Yeah, that's me, taking the bull by the horns. It's how I handle business. It's a metaphor.
Kate: I get it.
White: But that actually happened, though.

Alice uses a figure of speech. Bob reiterates the usual metaphorical meaning. Alice says no, she meant it literally.

There's also a variation in which Bob questions the metaphor, and Alice responds sarcastically that she meant it literally. See also Visual Pun for when a play on words is given literal visualization. Related to Not Hyperbole, where what seems like an exaggeration isn't, and Made from Real Girl Scouts, where the literal meaning is true... and you really wish it wasn't.

A common way to lampshade the trope is "I've heard of [X], but this is ridiculous!".

Compare Double Meaning, Not Hyperbole, No Longer with Us, Exact Words.

The "everything but the kitchen sink" metaphor is so common, it has its own trope.



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  • Hey, how 'bout a nice Hawaiian Punch?
  • In The '80s, Granada TV Rental in the UK had a cartoon mascot of a leopard in a suit covered with multi-coloured polka dots, the point being that by offering a full guarantee and free delivery (unlike—it was implied but not exactly stated—their rivals) they were the leopard that had changed its spots.
  • As was his style, Leslie Nielsen did several in each commercial he appeared in, regardless of the product.
  • One Snickers campaign had characters that actually turned into different (often crabby) people when they got hungry.
  • A series of Santander Bank radio ads revolved around people going to competing banks and getting strange things there, such as a large metal pole ("the shaft"), a man named Jack who follows them around doing exercises ("Jack squat"), or a coat of wool growing on their body ("fleeced").
  • The cigarette Brand Silk Cut stopped formally doing advertisements in 2002. Their final promotional image was of an opera singer with a ripped seam (referencing their campaign motif of cut or ripped silk), a handy Visual Pun telling the viewers that their campaign is over (because the fat lady sung).

    Anime & Manga 
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena: These pop up everywhere in Ohtori Academy, often adding a Mind Screw to even the simplest conversations. Phantom baseball games, transforming statues, moving photographs, and invisible press conferences all appear and disappear in the background without comment by the characters, usually as Foreshadowing or to underscore Dramatic Irony. It's anyone's guess just how much of this is intended to be taken as literal fact, some kind of Imagine Spot, or both.
    • Word of God says that "Utena is the vehicle through which Anthy escapes from Ohtori." Which is one explanation for why she suddenly turns into a sports-car near the end of Adolescence of Utena.
    • In the show, Nanami thinks she's (literally) laid an egg and asks her brother how he feels about girls who lay eggs. "Do you know why we've been able to live together so happily? It's because you aren't the type of girl who lays eggs."
  • In Rocket Girls, Yukari is offered a job that's "so simple even a monkey could do it"—an astronaut.
  • A variation occurs in an episode of Azumanga Daioh, when Chiyo, overwhelmed at the preparations for the Culture Fest, begs someone to turn back the clock before it's too late. Osaka takes this as literal instruction.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, the last half of the episode is set to a backdrop of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy". When Kaworu enters Heaven's Door to merge with Adam (and destroy humanity), they sing a part with two of these metaphors:
    Freude trinken alle Wesen
    An dem Brüsten der Natur
    Alle Guten, alle Bösen
    Folgen ihrer Rosenspur
    Kusse gab sie uns und Reben
    Einen Freund geprüft im Tod
    Wollust ward dem Wurm gegeben
    Und der Cherub steht vor Gott
  • In Episode 10 of Space Patrol Luluco Nova breaks Luluco's heart and stomps on her feelings both figuratively and literally.
    • The finale has Luluco literally firing her heart right back at Nova to make him feel.
    • Also from the finale: Luluco pulls the trigger on a magic bullet filled with memories of her and Nova (some of which are crossovers with other series by the studio that animated it).
  • In One Piece, the country of Zou is ruled by the Minks, who are basically Petting Zoo People. Their leaders are Duke Dogstorm and Master Cat Viper, who are so antagonistic that they can't even be awake at the same time; They literally fight like cats and dogs.
  • In Inaba of the Moon & Inaba of the Earth, Reisen asks her mentor Eirin if she could be a bit nicer and adopt a "whip and candy" approach (the Japanese equivalent of "carrot and stick"). Eirin takes her suggestion...which, naturally, involves whipping Reisen, then pelting her with hard candy.


    Audio Plays 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who:
    • In "The Whispering Forest", Turlough and Nyssa are wandering through tunnels, and Turglough says the hairs on the back of his neck are sticking up. Nyssa assumes he means the caves are spooky, but he actually means they're filled with static electricity.
    • In "The Destroyer of Delights", Amy tells Nisrin, a slave in "Arabian Nights" Days, that she saw a blue man in a cave, and Nisrin seems remarkably unfazed by this. Later Amy tries to tell the Doctor, who misunderstands who saw what and explains to Amy that Nisrin is of Scandinavian origin and the medieval Norse used "blue men" to describe the people of Africa. He's still explaining this when the actual blue man shows up.

    Comic Books 
  • From Birds of Prey #93:
    Lady Blackhawk: You drive. I call shotgun.
    Gypsy: But Shiva's already in that seat...
    Lady Blackhawk: No. I mean — I call shotgun.
  • Scott Pilgrim:
    • Ramona says that her last ex-boyfriend Gideon has a way of getting inside her head. Scott agrees, prompting Ramona to tell him that she means Gideon has a way of literally invading her subconscious.
    • Todd (another evil ex) is called incorrigible, to which he replies that '[he] doesn't know the meaning of the word.' A caption then pops up telling the reader that Todd really doesn't know what it means.
  • A variant, making it part of the mystery, in a Mickey Mouse comics story that casts Mickey as a professional detective: A man accused of destroying evidence against the local mob boss is in a mentally unstable condition, and some of his ravings include the mention of "the monkey on my back". It turns out this refers to the actual pet monkey of the mob boss, who likes to jump down to the backs of intruders and tear them with his claws.
  • Watchmen: Night Owl comments that in the early years, Rorschach "...was quiet, he was grim, but he still had all the buttons on his overcoat". And in fact, in flashbacks to those early years, Rorschach's trench coat has all its buttons—in the 'present day' storyline, his coat is missing one.
  • Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog: During Sonic's trial after the Mecha Madness storyline, Antoine has Amy Rose on the stand and holding up a badger, demanding to know if she invited said badger to join her Sonic fan club. Sally promptly orders Antoine to "stop badgering the witness."
  • The Wicked + The Divine has the gods/artists that Ananke had more trouble controlling, Baphomet and the Morrigan, described as "underground" and given a more indie vibe... while also generally being located underground, with the Morrigan preferring subway tunnels and abandoned stations. Persephone takes it up a notch by being able to sink herself and her allies directly under the earth, while also having the same indie flavor of the other two.
  • Laff-A-Lympics: Yogi says his team "doesn't know the meaning of the word defeat... Several of them don't even know the meaning of the word cabbage! Boy, are they dumb!".
  • Iznogoud: In "Incognito", Iznogoud is said to be "cold and calculating". He mentally calculates that 5,763,257*312,418=1,800,545,225,426 .
  • In a four-page comic book story from The Smurfs regarding Smurfette's visit to the Smurf Village, when Smurfette tells her fellow Smurfs that she wants them to "bring her the moon," the Smurfs take to fulfilling this request rather literally — one Smurf tries to pole-vault up to the sky and grab the moon, another Smurf tries to scoop up the moon's reflection in the water with a net, a third Smurf tries with an arrow and gets another Smurf Shot in the Ass, a fourth Smurf tries to build a rocket, a fifth Smurf makes a cutout of a moon shape, and so on.
  • Used as a gag in The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck. One issues starts with Scrooges father and Uncle in Scotland reading a letter from Scrooge and reminising about all his adventures around the world then:
    Narrator: At this moment, young Scrooge is on the absolute opposite side of the planet from his Scottish home.
    (panel showing fish underwater)
    Narrator: Well, no, that would be in the Pacific Ocean, south of New Zealand, actually...
    (panel show Scrooge ridina a camel in full desert outfit, looking for diamonds in Australia)

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Several of Calvin's Imagine Spots involve this. Many other comics have since picked up on this and done it ad nauseum.
  • From The Wizard of Id, this one takes the term "hung jury" a little too far...
  • Garfield:
    • In an early strip, Garfield wakes up, and steps out of bed, not realizing it's at the edge of the table, which he falls off of. Jon frantically asks what happens, and Garfield replies, "I got up on the wrong side of bed."
    • Garfield wants to "put a smile on Jon's face". He draws a smile on it.
  • Beetle Bailey:
    • Pretty much any metaphor after processing through Zero.
    • Many of the other jokes as well:
      Frame One: "How does the Chaplin remain impervious to Miss Buxley?" "He just closes his eyes to that sort of thing."
      Frame Two: The Chaplin crashes into a streetlight.
  • Pearls Before Swine has a strip where somebody says that "if that guy doesn't stop talking, my ears are literally going to fall off." Rat chastises him for misusing the word 'literally,' at which point his ears literally fall off.

    Fan Works 
  • In Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality:
    "Yes," Hermione said, her voice might have been a little acerbic, "that was what I said to Professor Flitwick while I was apologizing to him, that I knew things had gotten out of hand, and he yelled: Really, Miss Granger? Do you think? in a squeak so loud that my ears caught on fire. I mean my ears actually caught on fire. Professor Flitwick had to put them out again."
    Harry had put his hand to his forehead. "Excuse me," Harry said. His face was perfectly straight. "Sometimes I still have a little trouble getting used to that sort of thing."
  • In The Legend of Zelda fanfic Tangled In Time, Fyrus recalls his mother calling him "a little prince" when he was younger. After being crowned King of the Gerudo, he realizes that she was dropping hints about his heritage.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness Act VI: In chapter 35, while explaining why they don't want Talon to free them from their servitude, Jovian and Jacqueline say that they'll die without him. Talon assumes that they're just being dramatic, until they explain that part of their summoning spell includes a curse that will eventually kill them unless they have a master to serve.
  • DeviantArt contributor Daniel-Remo-Art creates an odd interpretation of Deader Than Disco with this Deviation of an undead version of Dazzler. (Warning, slightly NSFW.)
  • In Laughing As I Pray, Thor attacks the X-Men under the false assumption they're out to destroy Midgard after hearing a bigot accuse the mutants from poisoning children's minds and ruining lives. It's justified by the Asgardians being not inclined to distort the facts, which means that when someone claims there is a monster destroying a town and eating children, there REALLY is a kid-eating monster to slay.
  • Over the course of the first several chapters of The Dragon King's Temple, Toph and Zuko repeatedly ask to be allowed to "see sunlight". SGC refuses the request, thinking that it's just a metaphor for feeling confined and wanting some fresh air. It isn't: As a firebender, Zuko will literally die if cut off from Sun for long enough.
  • Jim in Becoming the Mask never questioned Gunmar's plan to bring on Eternal Night, thinking it was a metaphor for trolls conquering human territory on the surface. He doesn't take it well when he finds out Gumnar really means it.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Chicken Run, Rocky and Ginger are trying to escape from the chicken-pie-making machine. When they get pushed into one chamber, Rocky exclaims, "Whew! It's like an oven in here..." A second later, gas flames shoot up on all sides and the door starts to close.
  • In Blue Harvest, Chris!Luke's fellow pilot Dack tells him "I feel like I can take on the whole Empire today!" Chris!Luke shouts to everyone in the hangar "Hey guys, Dack says he's got this one!" In The Empire Strikes Back the same conversation happened with Dack's statement being taken for the metaphor you'd expect. In Blue Harvest, we see Dack fly solo against a star destroyer and get nonchalantly one-shotted.
  • At the end of the Shrek 2 DVD version, Shrek and Fiona judge a sing-off with Simon Cowell. Donkey and Dragon decide to sing "Disco Inferno" ("burn, baby, burn!").
    Simon: You're on fire, Donkey!
    Donkey:Burn baby burn...
    Shrek: No, you're really on fire!
    Donkey:Burn baby burn, oh, yeah![sees that his tail's on fire] AAAAAAAH!!!!!!
    • In Shrek Forever After, after a demonstration of the Pied Piper's abilities, Rumplestiltskin ominously states that it's time to pay the piper. He then yells at his witches that he literally has to pay the Piper and to go get his checkbook.
  • At the end of Atlantis: The Lost Empire, while Whitmore is going over the gang's cover story:
    Whitmore: What happened to Helga?
    Cookie: Weeeeeell, we lost her after a flamin' zeppelin come down on her—[Mrs. Packard whacks him on the head with her umbrella] Uh, missin'.
    Whitmore: And Rourke?
    Dr. Sweet: Nervous breakdown. You could say he went all to pieces.
    Cookie: In fact, you could say he was trans-a-morgified, and then busted into a zillion[Packard threatens him with her umbrella again] Uh, he's missin', too.
  • Zootopia:
    • On Judy's first day in the police headquarters, Chief Bogo says he needs to address the elephant in the room... then looks at an elephant officer. "Francine? Happy birthday."
    • Tundratown crime-lord Mr. Big tries to "ice" Judy and Nick... in this case, it literally involves dropping them into a tank of ice water.
  • Hercules had one when Hades' coup on Mt. Olympus was foiled by Hercules.
    Hades: Thanks a ton, Wonderboy! But at least I've got one swell consolation prize! A friend of yours, who's dying to see me!
  • In Monsters vs. Aliens, The President defiantly fires at a huge alien robot that's Immune to Bullets, shouting "Eat lead, alien robut!" Then there's a gulping noise from offscreen.
    President: Evidently, they eat lead. Huh.
  • Isle of Dogs has Chief (a dog) calling Spots (another dogand his brother) a "son of a bitch" when the latter wants to leave his post as Atari's guard dog to lead his pack in peace.
  • In Rango, when they're exploring the tunnels, Rango has the idea of putting the torches out so they can see where daylight is coming from, snuffing his own one with his hat. Beans jokes that if he keeps having smart ideas, his head will catch fire, and it immediately does, because his hat was still smouldering from the torch.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Happens in the film My Favorite Year. Alan Swan is drunk, and hanging off a building by a fire hose.
    "I think Alan Swan is beneath us!"
    "Of course he's beneath us. He's an actor!"
    "No! I think Alan Swan is beneath us right now!"
  • This is how the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four (2005) film discovers his powers — he is skiing with a friend and he suddenly catches fire.
    Nurse: Johnny! You're on fire!
    Johnny: Thanks! You're pretty good too!
    Nurse: No, you're on fire!
  • A Hard Day's Night: When Ringo Starr decides to leave the group to have some time to himself.
    Paul: He can't just walk out on us like this!
    John: Can't he? He's done it, son!
  • In Aguirre, the Wrath of God, the expedition is descending the Andes, having already had some difficulties. One character says optimistically, "It can only go up from here!" Another looks at the slope they're on and corrects him literally, "No, down." Actually, the second character is also metaphorically right: things got worse drastically.
  • In Village of the Damned (1960), the protagonist focuses on the words "brick wall" to hide how he plans to kill the psychic children. We see their attempts to break through his Psychic Static as a literal brick wall, which slowly falls to pieces as they force their way in. By the time they finish breaking through, there isn't enough time left to stop the explosives from going off.
  • In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Kirk at first assumes Spock is speaking metaphorically when he says that Sybok is his brother.
    Kirk: Well, the man may be a fellow Vulcan, but that doesn't mean—
    Spock: No, no, no, you do not understand. Sybok also is a son of Sarek.
    Kirk: You mean he's your brother brother? [beat] You made that up.
    Spock: I did not.
    Kirk: You did too. Sybok couldn't possibly be your brother because I happen to know for a fact you don't have a brother.
    Spock: Technically, you are correct. I do not have a brother.
    Kirk: There, you see, you see?
    Spock: I have a half-brother.
    Kirk: I gotta sit down.
  • Played for Drama in Shutter Island. While venturing through the highest security ward of Ashecliffe mental hospital, US Marshall Teddy Daniels encounters George Noyce, a patient he's met before, but he has a massive scar across his face. When Teddy asks who did this to him, he replies "You did". Teddy is actually a dangerously insane patient, who's convinced he's a US Marshall, and he beat up Noyce two weeks ago.
  • A nice example in Keeping the Faith, when Bonnie Rose is boasting about daughter Rose's professional achievements to the hot new Rabbi: "My mum does all my PR," Rose explains. "I know what you mean. Mine too," says the Rabbi. "No, I mean really. My mum's firm does all my PR."
  • In Euro Trip, Scotty and Cooper are at the Vatican and have managed to sneak into a room with the Pope's clothes. Cooper puts on the Pope's hat and accidentally sets it on fire but doesn't notice. This little exchange takes place:
    Scott: Cooper, the hat! The hat! The hat is on fire!
    Cooper: We don't need no water let the motha..."
    Scott: I'm not kidding! Look!
    Cooper: Oh, holy shit!
  • The campy 1992 movie Highway To Hell has a scene where the old proverb "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions" very literally; in the scene, the souls of good-intentioned sinners are ground into pavement by a team of workers who look like Andy Warhol, from the Good Intentions Paving Company. "I was only sleeping with my husband's boss to advance his career", one of them says sadly.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:
    • While searching in a crypt under a library (which was an old converted church), Indy says, "Oh, rats.", and we pan to see hundreds of rats moving around in the tunnel.
    • Later, as Indy and Henry Sr. argue over traveling to Berlin to get the Grail diary or going to Iskenderun to save Marcus, they're at a literal crossroads, with the road sign shaped like a cross.
  • In Hocus Pocus, the witches sing "I Put a Spell on You" to a crowd of party-goers. It puts them into a trance.
  • Happens in Mrs. Doubtfire.
    Miranda: How did your husband die?
    Mrs. Doubtfire: He was quite fond of the drink. It was the drink that killed him.
    Miranda: How awful, he was an alcoholic?
    Mrs. Doubtfire: No, he was hit by a Guinness truck, so it was quite literally the drink that killed him.
  • Occurs in Bugsy Malone. One of Fat Sams workers says he can't stop Dandy Dan's gang because "he's all tied up" (he's actually tied up). Fat Sam replies "I don't care how busy you are."
  • In Time, with its premise of using the time of your life as currency, regularly features phrases such as "spending time", "out of time", and "give me a minute" used in a literal sense.
  • Airplane!: The series is fond of this trope in general.
    • As a visual gag, when someone is warned about the shit hitting the fan. Cut to a view of the fan.
    • There's also the lead character's "Drinking Problem"... cue him clumsily spilling his drink all over his face.
    • In the sequel, one character is told, "Don't come apart on me!" His limbs promptly begin to fall off. In a later scene, he literally turns to jelly.
  • In the first The Naked Gun, Jane is standing up on a ladder at a bookcase, with Lt. Drebin on the ground, the impression that he's looking up her skirt. Drebin cracks "Nice beaver!", after which Jane comes down with a taxidermy beaver ("Thanks, I just had it stuffed.").
  • In one scene of DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, we learn that the film's villain, sleazy fitness mogul White Goodman, has a painting of himself riding a wild bull hanging in his office. He helpfully states that it's a metaphor for how he runs his business ("Taking the bull by the horns,"). Then he adds that, even though it's a metaphor, the scene in the painting actually happened to him. (It probably didn't.)
  • In Being There, Chance the gardener's comments about plants are mistaken for profound metaphorical statements about the economy.
    Chance: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.... In the garden, growth has its seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again....
    Benjamin Rand: I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we're upset by the seasons of our economy....
    The President: Well, Mr. Gardner, I must admit that is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I've heard in a very, very long time. I admire your good, solid sense. That's precisely what we lack on Capitol Hill.
  • As Harpo Marx proves in Horse Feathers, you can indeed burn a candle at both ends.
  • Early in Trainspotting, the heroin-addicted protagonist goes to a friend in hopes of scoring one last hit before he goes clean, but finds that said friend only has opium anal suppositories. Disappointed, but realizing that they're the closest thing to heroin that he's going to get, he takes the suppositories, inserts them into his anus, and remarks "For all the good they've done me, I might as well have stuck 'em up my arse!"
  • In Mission: Impossible II, when Ethan and Luther meet again, Luther ends up stepping in sheep droppings. This conversation takes place:
    Luther Stickell: Shit.
    Ethan Hunt: Yes it is.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit:
    • R.K. Maroon claims that Dumbo "works for peanuts". Meaning Maroon literally pays Dumbo with peanuts, seeing as he's an elephant.
    • Eddie Valiant takes pictures of Jessica Rabbit and Marvin Acme literally "playing patty-cake".
    • Dolores catches Eddie with his pants down (he had just gotten out of the shower and was getting dressed) when Jessica Rabbit tries to seduce/sweet-talk him into helping Roger.
    • Near the end of the movie, Roger tells Judge Doom and his goons that the real meaning of justice "would probably hit you like a ton of bricks!" Then one of the weasels drops an actual ton of bricks on Roger's head.
  • In Addams Family Values, Gomez says that baby Pupert has his grandfather's eyes.
    Morticia: Gomez, take those out of his mouth.
  • Topper Harley says he has his father's eyes in Hot Shots!. He carries them in a glasses case.
  • At the beginning of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World when Jimmy Durante's character dies, his leg spasms - and kicks a bucket.
  • Spaceballs:
    • When Dark Helmet reports to President Skroob that they've lost Princess Vespa on the desert planet, he orders them to "Comb the desert!". In the next scene, the Mooks are "combing" it... With giant combs. (Colonel Sandurz does turn to Dark Helmet to ask if they're being too literal).
    • A twofer: Lone Starr manages to jam the radar... with raspberry jam. Dark Helmet immediately knows who's responsible because only Lone Starr would dare to give him the raspberry.
  • In Little Shop of Horrors, Mr. Mushnick sarcastically asks Audrey why she's late for work (he knows her boyfriend is abusive, but she's reluctant to admit it):
    Mushnick: Let me guess, you were all tied up.
    Audrey: No, just handcuffed a little.
  • Towards the beginning of The Jerk, Navin Johnson literally learns the difference between shit and Shinola from his adoptive father.
    Mr. Johnson: [points at pile of manure] You see that, son? That's shit. [takes out bottle of Shinola] And this is Shinola.
    Navin: [pointing] Shit... Shinola...
    Mr. Johnson: Son, you're gonna be alright.
  • Apollo 13: In both Real Life and the film, the carbon dioxide levels aboard the Lunar Module rose faster than anticipated, because the LM's air filters weren't designed to support all three crew members at once. (The LM was only designed to support the two crew who would land on the moon, while the third would have stayed in orbit in the Command Module.) The Command Module's filters were up to the task (after all, it was the crew's main living space), but the CM was deactivated and its air filters were not compatible with the LM's ports- because the CM's units were square and the LM's were round. Flight Director Gene Kranz promptly Facepalms and lampshades it (they manage it).
    Kranz: Well, I suggest you gentlemen invent a way to put a square peg in a round hole. Rapidly.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • This exchange in Batman Forever, meant to serve mainly as a reference to the campy '60s show:
    Robin: Holy rusted metal, Batman!
    Batman: Huh?
    Robin: The ground, it's all metal. It's full of holes. You know, hole-y.
    Batman: Oh.
  • In Liar Liar, Fletcher tells his ex-wife that he's too busy at the office to be with his son. His exact words are "The boss is really riding me"; he's actually having sex with his boss, who is literally grinding on top of him as he says it.
  • In allegorical film Hypocrites the character of the Naked Truth is portrayed by a nude woman.
  • In Witness for the Prosecution, Leonard recounts his first meeting with Christine by saying "the roof fell in on me." Meaning, Love at First Sight, right? Well, the flashback does show them being pretty into each other from the get-go... and then he knocks over a makeshift support in her half-ruined apartment, causing the roof to actually fall on him.
  • In Singin' in the Rain, Don Lockwood has escaped his adoring fans by jumping into Kathy Sheldon's car. After suggestive dialog, Don must tearfully depart. He inadvertently closes the car door on his (already-ruined) suit.
    Don: Farewell, Ethyl Barrymore. I must tear myself from your side. Exaggerated rip, followed by exasperated expression.
    Kathy: Uncontrollable laughter
  • H.M. Pulham, Esq.: Kay and Harry are going boating. She admits that she thought a man was going to sweep her away, only for him to dump her. Then she remembers Harry's breakup with his girlfriend Marvin and says "I guess we're both in the same boat." Harry looks down at the actual boat that they're actually in, chuckles, and says "Yes, well, we're in the same boat."
  • In the animated opening for George of the Jungle, we sees the plane going to the "Heart of Africa" on a map. Which happens to be next to the Sinus, Liver and Upper Colon of Africa.
    • At the very end of the film, Ape is performing "My Way" as part of a big Vegas stage show. When he gets to the line "I ate it up and spit it out", the showgirls' choreography has has them grab their throats and go "hurk!" as if spitting out choked-on food thanks to an invisible Heimlich.
  • In Hanna, Marissa does one unintentionally. When her superior wants her to stand down, she refuses, saying "No, I am inches...". Hanna is literally inches away from her, hiding under the bed.
  • The Cobbler revolves around a magical shoe-stitching machine that lets the main character turn into his customers by trying on their shoes, i.e. literally letting him walk a mile in their shoes.
  • In Hook, Tootles, a former Lost Boy and now elderly man, complains that he has “lost his marbles.” It turns out he actually had a bag of marbles, which were his “happy thought,” but he left them in Neverland. Once they are returned to him he is able to fly (with the help of pixie dust).
  • The Ring: Mabel has left her husband Jack, a boxer, for another man. At the end of the movie Mabel returns to Jack, saying "I'm in your corner"...and she's actually in his corner, in the boxing ring, between rounds of his championship fight.
  • At one point in Pulp Fiction, Mia Wallace goes off to "powder her nose" — by which she means snort cocaine in the bathroom.
  • In Dumb and Dumber, when Lloyd meets Mary at a party.
    Lloyd: Nice set of hooters you got there.
    Mary: [covers her chest] I-I beg your pardon?
    Lloyd: Your owls. [points to a birdcage with the owls] They're beautiful!
  • In The Gay Divorcee, the title of "Let's K-nock K-nees" appears to be a sexual innuendo, as the song is filled with them. In the ensuing dance number, Egbert, the singer, and the chorus members repeatedly tap their knees against their partners'.
  • Lady Bird: Discussed when Kyle, who comes from a rich family, visits Lady Bird's middle-class family and notes how she told him that she "lives on the wrong side of the tracks," and he actually did cross railroad tracks on the way to their house. Lady Bird's family are visibly pained by his Innocently Insensitive statements.
  • In Holmes & Watson, Klinger has an His Name Is... moment were he is about to tell Holmes the details of the conspiracy, but instead announces that he has a knife in his back. Holmes thinks this metaphorical, i.e. he his partners have betrayed him or 'stabbed him in the back'. But then Klinger keels over with a literal knife in his back.

  • What did the Sphinx say when Oedipus answered his riddle? "Motherfucker!"
  • I wondered why the Frisbee was getting bigger, and then it hit me.
  • Vampires suck. Werewolves bite.
  • What did Mark Hamill say after finishing reading the script to The Force Awakens? "J.J, may I have a Word?"
  • Walking into a bar...
  • "Literally" has been used figuratively so often that literal use of "literally" is now a humorous subversion:
    It takes literally hours for a commercial airplane to fly from New York to Colorado.
    Anything flying from New York to Colorado in five minutes is literally in orbit.

  • In the book Anansi Boys, Tiger is trapped in a cave with the thoroughly annoying Grahame Coats. Tiger warns him to not be irritating or he will bite Coats's head off.
    Grahame Coats: You keep using the phrase "bite my head off." Now when you say "bite my head off," I take it I can assume that it is actually some kind of metaphorical statement, implying that you'll shout at me, perhaps rather angrily?
    Tiger: Bite your head off. Then crunch it. Then swallow it.
  • In the final story in Angels of Music Irene Adler calls Olympia "a real doll", Kate Reed chides her for using Americanisms; Irene replies she wasn't.
  • Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency had a Language Equals Thought gag running into this, which doubles as a Brick Joke to a moment when Dirk's secretary rips a handful of pages out of a dictionary in order to make it fit in a desk drawer:
    The word "impossible" is not in my dictionary. In fact, everything between "herring" and "marmalade" appears to be missing.
  • Discworld:
    • The Truth, about the Discworld's first newspaper, begins with someone yelling "Stop the presses!"... because the cart carrying the printing press in question has come loose and is careening down the street.
    • The Colour of Magic has the world's first tourist attempting to convince a bunch of brawling heroes to pose for a picture. He barely speaks their language and none of them have ever seen a camera before. His guide tells them that the box the man is carrying has a little imp inside who will draw them really quickly, in an obvious attempt to keep them from getting confused or asking too many questions. The guide is as surprised as the reader when the imp turns out to be real.
    • In Guards! Guards!, Nobby Nobbs tries to kicked a downed troll "in the stones", and nearly breaks his foot when it turns out those parts are made of rock, as well.
      "Have trolls got stones?"
      "Stands to reason."
    • In Moving Pictures, characters affected by the magic of Holy Wood really do have stars in their eyes.
    • A variant in Feet of Clay, where the literal interpretation leads to the metaphorical one: Early in the book Chalky the Troll examines some clay and says it's crank (a coarse clay) with a lot of grog (pre-fired clay) in it. It's also been sort of heated, but not baked properly, leaving it crumbly. When the insane Golem King appears, he's cranky, groggy, half-baked and cracking up.
    • One of the possible results of dark-light photography, as seen in The Truth, is that the resulting photo will show a metaphor as if it were literal. For instance, someone whose father looms high in their life is pictured with their father standing behind them and looking down over their shoulder.
    • In Going Postal, Moist's reaction to seeing the once-proud Post Office is "Oh, shit!" Mr Pump reproves him for his language, but he explains it was a statement of fact: the place is filled with pigeon droppings. Then he finds out they're actually piles of dead letters covered in pigeon droppings. Near the end of the book, Reacher Gilt is forced to go on the run, but not before mailing his pet cockatoo Alphonse to Moist, which as Adora points out is Gilt literally giving Moist the bird on his way out.
    • It's a minor Running Gag that Corporal Nobbs has the body of a twenty-year-old, though "nobody's quite sure where he keeps it."
    • Igors are experts at organ transplants and don't believe in letting useful body parts go to waste. If an Igor says he has his grandfather's hands, he isn't being metaphorical.
  • The Dresden Files. Inverted in Death Masks: Dresden tells Molly she's sounding all grown up, and Molly snarks that "The breast fairy came to visit and everything." Quoth Dresden, to the reader, "Some might find it significant that it took me a second to realize she wasn't being literal about the faerie. Sometimes I hate my life."
  • Just before the Sun impales him with light, the narrator of The Great Divorce is reminded of the errors that could arise from assuming his vision of Heaven encompasses the entire unending super-nature of God and says "God forbid." The narrator's guide says, "He has forbidden it. That's what I'm telling ye."
  • In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Tom Riddle tells Wormtail he will get to "perform a task most [his] followers would give their right hand to perform" — little does Wormtail know that to perform the task you literally have to sacrifice your right hand as a flesh offering for Dark Magic.
  • In The Legacy of the Glorious, the part where the Spanish-American War begins is called "The Boiler Explodes", which is what literally happens to be what starts the war, as an American ship's boiler's explosion makes the Americans believe the Spanish are attacking them.
  • In Paper Towns, Margo leaves a clue by highlighting a line from Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself": "Unscrew the locks from the doors! Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!" The gang considers various metaphorical meanings, but the actual clue meant that there was another clue hidden inside one of Q's door hinges.
  • The Phantom Tollbooth is loaded with these types of jokes. It starts with Milo literally going beyond Expectations on his way to the Land of Wisdom, and includes moments like him and his companions jumping to Conclusions (a small Deserted Island off the coast) and having to swim back to the mainland.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Telling Tyrion his answer to the riddle of the sellsword and the three powerful men, Varys says political power is a "shadow on the wall . . . yet shadows can kill." Later in the same volume, both Ser Cortnay Penrose and self-styled King Renly Baratheon are literally killed by a shadow.
  • From Skulduggery Pleasant:
    • Skulduggery states in the first book that his skull was stolen several years ago by goblins - or, as Valkyrie puts it, he lost his head.
    • In the fifth book, Skulduggery gets an artificial, magic face to cover his skull. Unfortunately, it starts malfunctioning, and at one point his face starts drifting across the skin on his head, leading to Valkyrie saying "You've got eyes on the back of your head, and I don't mean that as a compliment."
    • When the title character's subconscious becomes a physical, evil being the main characters have to fight.
      Valkyrie: But if you can confront your inner demons—
      Skulduggery: I did confront my inner demon. I punched him in the face and he exploded.
    • In Dying of the Light, Clarabelle makes up a story about a mage who fought a warlock after losing all his limbs - making him a master of "unarmed combat".
  • Done in the narration in Star Carrier: Earth Strike during a Xenofiction moment.
    "Emphatic Blossom at Dawn, like all of the Turusch, was of three minds.
    "Literally." [book goes into an infodump about Turusch Bizarre Alien Psychology]
  • The young adult novel This Place Has No Atmosphere. The expression that a place "has no atmosphere" generally means that the place in question is especially dull and boring. However, the novel is set on the Moon, which literally has no atmosphere.
  • In The Invisible Library dragons have innate Elemental Powers. In the second book, The Masked City, when Irene says the wrong thing to a dragon king, the temperature in the room really does drop a couple of degrees. And when he gets really angry, the atmosphere does indeed start to thicken.
  • In The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign, a bored Aoi complains that Kyousuke isn't interested in her, and the fish aren't biting. That's not repetition- she's actually fishing in her spare time.
  • In the Doctor Who New Adventures novel Set Piece, the Doctor explains to Ace that he had to pull a Memory Gambit to stop the Big Bad discovering his plan, but not only has he forgotten the plan, he's also forgotten what the mnemonic trigger that would restore it was. He tells her "I've completely lost my marbles", and she remembers that earlier, he gave her a bag of marbles...

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Benny Hill Show:
    • A prison scene has a piano against a brick wall, and the narrator states, "During this dark time, music was his only escape", followed by Benny climbing on top of the piano to get over the wall.
    • In a sketch on the beach, Benny is reading a book titled How to Pick Up Girls. Then, he tries to physically lift a swimsuit-clad beauty, and gets slapped for it.
  • Frasier:
    • On several occasions, being a World of Snark:
      Frasier: Niles, is there a lightbulb over my head?
      Niles: You have an idea?
      Frasier: No, I'm literally asking if there's a lightbulb over my head! Of course I have an idea!
    • After Niles is caught out in a Closet Shuffle when he falls asleep over a breakfast trolley:
      Lilith: You have egg on your face.
      Niles: That's an understatement, I'm mortified! I—
      Lilith: No, actual egg! It's in your hair, too...
    • The station hired a tough negotiator, "The Hammer" to renegotiate everyone's contract. Gil's salary has been slashed, but Bebe comes in with Roz, cheering.
      Gil Chesterson: How on earth did you get all that?
      Bebe Glazer: Oh, we go way back, the Hammer and I. I know where the bodies are buried. [beat] Usually, that's just a metaphor...
  • Early episodes of The Office (US) had various examples.
    Toby: Oscar’s really gay.
    Michael: Exactly.
    Toby: I mean for real.
    Michael: Yeah, I know.
    Toby: No, he’s attracted to other men.
    Michael: Okay, little too far, crossed the line.
    Toby: Okay, I am telling you Oscar is an actual homosexual.
  • This is a regular gag for Sophia on The Golden Girls:
    Sophia: Then it happened, what every runner dreads. I hit the wall.
    Dorothy: Aww, you ran out of steam.
    Sophia: No, I actually hit a wall!
  • Used in the Wings episode "Plane Nine From Nantucket":
    Joe: Who won the arm-wrestling match?
    Helen: Fay licked me.
    Joe: She beat you, huh?
    Helen: No, she licked me. She literally licked my hand. I was so startled, she caught me off-guard, pinned me to the table.
  • Scrubs:
    • An episode put an interesting spin on this one:
      J.D.: We could have sex again.
      Elliot: Bite me.
      J.D.: Oh, come on, I was kidding! It's a joke!
      Elliot: No, I mean it. Like you did last night. [takes off her shirt and throws it at him] Come bite me.
    • In another, Elliot talks about how great her fiancee Keith is, saying he would walk through fire for her. A Gilligan Cut shows the Janitor trying to convince Keith to literally walk through fire to prove his love for Elliot. note 
  • Babylon 5: Lord Kiro mentions that his aunt once told him he would be "killed by shadows". He doesn't think it makes any sense. Pity no one told him about that ancient alien race who call themselves The Shadows...
  • "Put your foot in it" is a black Southern expression that means "do something well," usually cooking. When Darius from Atlanta says it, however, he means it literally, and proceeds to put his actual foot in his pasta while making it.
  • On Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, while Lillian is complaining about the new snobby direction of the neighborhood:
    Lillian: I don't want to beat a dead horse... but if I did, I couldn't! They're all gone now due to gentrification!
  • Pushing Daisies:
    • "Smell of Success":
      Emerson: Your book was a bomb.
      Napoleon: Who are you to criticize my life's work?!
      Emerson: [deadpan] Your book. Was a bomb. It exploded.
    • "Bad Habits":
      Emerson: That's bat crap.
      Olive: It's a frickin' convent. Show some respect.
      Emerson: [pointing at the white-streaked wall of the bell tower] I'm showing you bat crap.
  • In the How I Met Your Mother episode "Romeward Bound", the company Marshall works for is revealed to have descended to the point that everyone except Marshall and Bernard has been laid off or left for better prospects, and all they've done for the last few months is muck around. Marshall didn't want to want to reveal this to his wife, nor did he want to lie to her, so every time she called, he told the truth using a metaphor:
    Marshall: I can't talk right now; I got a lot on my plate.
    [Marshall puts down the phone and sits in front of a plate of burgers]
    Marshall: Well, let's dig in. If we start now, we can be done by lunch.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Inverted:
      Buffy: [My mom] saw these scores, and her head spun around and exploded.
      Giles: I've been living on the Hellmouth too long... that was metaphorical, wasn't it?
    • A somewhat different kind of inversion occurs in "A New Man", after Giles has been turned into a demon:
      Spike: Hey, picked up a tail...
      Giles: Yes, just a little, uh... Hurts when I sit.
      Spike I mean someone's following us.
    • Played straight by the Mayor:
      The Mayor: There's more than one way to skin a cat. And I happen to know that's factually true.
    • Also played straight in what Xander says in "Dead Man's Party" during the big What the Hell, Hero? moment against Buffy for running away at the end of season 2. Unbeknownst to the gang, a small-scale Zombie Apocalypse is going on at that very moment:
      Xander: You can't just bury stuff, Buffy! It'll come right back up to get you.
    • Part of the modus operandi of Vengeance Demons.
      Rachel: I wish you could all feel what's it like to have your hearts ripped out.
      Anyanka: Wish granted.
  • Angel: One of the prophecies that has Wolfram & Hart so worked up regarding a pregnant vampire states that on the foretold night, there will be no birth, only death. They do relax somewhat at that, concluding that the offspring will either be miscarried or stillborn or killed before it can be born. It turns out that this is actually a literal statement: The vampire is undead, her body isn't designed to give birth and magic protecting the baby from harm means a C-section cannot be performed either. Her solution is to stake herself. Her body disintegrates into dust, leaving the (very alive) baby lying on the ground where her body used to be. One of the lawyers immediately recognizes the similarity to a certain other prophesy...
    • In an earlier episode, Lilah mentions that in Wolfram and Hart's last seventy-five year review "nearly half of mid-management was sacked. And Lindsey, they used real sacks."
  • Arrested Development:
    • One doctor does this a few times, saying that "we lost him" when a patient escaped, "it looks like he's dead" to refer to a patient covered in blue paint, and "he's going to be all right" after Buster loses his left hand.
    • In another episode, Michael repeatedly asked his imprisoned father about finances, only to be told "There's money in the banana stand." Michael assumes that just meant that the sales from the banana stand would always be there but really the banana stand is lined with $250,000 in unmarked bills but Michael doesn't learn about it until after the stand burns to the ground.
  • In one episode of The Gruen Transfer, "The Pitch" had two advertising agencies competing to "sell ice to Eskimos".
  • In Jonas:
    Nick: She got a frog in her throat.
    Kevin: There is a bug going around.
    Nick: No, she was swimming in the swamp and got an actual frog in her throat. She's at the hospital right now getting a frog-ectomy.
  • In one episode of Spaced Mike walks off in the pub saying he has to "point the pink pistol at the porcelain firing range". When he gets back he is carrying an actual pink pistol.
  • In Supernatural:
    Dean: Where'd you serve?
    Guy: Fallujah — two tours. Got back a little over a year ago. Takes one to know one. Where'd you serve?
    Dean: Hell.
    Guy: No, seriously.
    Dean: Seriously. Hell.
    • Inverted in a season nine episode. The statement is the exact opposite of a common metaphoric phrase, but it's so bizarre that a character not in on the Masquerade asks if it is one.
      Kim: I am a prayerful woman who believes in miracles as much as the next, but I also know how to read an EEG. And unless you're telling me you have a direct line to those angels that you were looking for –
      Dean: Yeah, no, I, uh... Guess I don't. But I might have something better. I got the King of Hell in my trunk.
      Kim: Uh, is – is that... I'm sorry. Is that a metaphor?
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Sontaran Stratagem", when describing the ATMOS GPS system while driving:
      Russ: It drives me round the bend.
    • In "Flesh and Stone", the Doctor tells Amy and River to "get a grip"... because the Weeping Angels are about to drain the last of the Byzantium's energy and accidentally deactivate the artificial gravity.
    • In "The Doctor's Wife", the Doctor tells one of the two inhabitants of an asteroid in a bubble planet that he has the eyes of a twenty-year old. The man accepts the compliment before the Doctor clarifies that he's just worked out that these two people are made from recycled bits of people who were lured here and killed, resulting in parts of their bodies being older or younger than other parts. He then hits the trope again roundabout by asking about their ability to dance...due to one of them literally having two left feet.
    • In "The Girl Who Waited", Amy disarms a Handbot — though it's really more like "dehanding" it (she chops off the hands, since they administer anaesthetics and are how the robot "sees".
    • In "The God Complex":
      Doctor: Are there any more of you?
      Rita: Joe. But he's tied up right now.
      Doctor: Doing what?
      Rita: No, I mean he's tied up right now.
      [cut to a man who is tied to a chair]
    • In "Into The Dalek", Clara asks what to do with a moral Dalek. The Doctor says he needs to "get into its head." Cue the "Fantastic Voyage" Plot...
    • In "Time Heist", employees of the Bank of Karabraxos whose performances are deem substandard are fired... by means of an incinerator.
    • In "Dark Water" after Clara's boyfriend dies, she tries to force the Doctor to save him, threatening to throw all of his TARDIS keys into an active volcano if he declines. The Doctor can't fix it, so Clara appears to mercilessly go through with her threats, only for it to be revealed that the whole thing was a hallucination the Doctor set up once he saw what she was planning. When Clara asks what happens next, the Doctor understandably says "Go to Hell"....then reveals he intends to take her to the afterlife in an attempt to save Danny.
  • In the new Battlestar Galactica, Baltar asks the "imaginary" Head Six what she really is. Her response? An angel of God sent to guide humanity. And it turns out that she was being completely serious.
  • In an episode of I Dream of Jeannie, Major Healey has invited everyone to a party in his completely bare apartment. He tells Major Nelson that new furniture would be installed "in the blink of an eye. Um, where did you say Jeannie was?"
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • From the episode "1969":
      Maj. Thornberg: What was the weapon you used?
      Col. O'Neill: [innocently] Weapon?
      Maj. Thornberg: Our cameras saw some sort of weapon.
      Col. O'Neill: Oh. Well, it's hard to say.
      Maj. Thornberg: Some sort of state secret?
      Col. O'Neill: No, just difficult to pronounce.
    It was a Goa'uld Zat'nik'tel, for reference. And that's not even the least pronounceable term in Goa'uld language — that would be the Tacluchnatagamuntoron, which even the always proper Teal'c shortens to "tacs".
    • In season 9 episode "Off the Grid", when asked how he managed to have Big Eater Goa'uld Nerus leave the SGC while unknowingly carrying a subspace tracker, General Landry answers that "It was a piece of cake..." (of cupcake, to be precise).
  • Smallville:
    • One is lampshaded in the episode "Icarus". After Hawkman jumps from a window with his wings on fire, General Wilson points out that he had intended the name to be a metaphor for Clark's fall from grace. Or to use the paraphrasing given in a recap:
      Wilson: Look, when I named this project Icarus, I never expected an actual dude with flaming wings falling from the sky. This is totally awesome. I love life.
    • In an earlier episode, when Clark Kent catches a life-threatening fever, a doctor tries to give him a shot:
      Pa Kent: You can't do that! [the doctor is outraged] No, I mean you literally can't do that.
      [the doctor tells him off and sticks the needle in, which goes in fine because the fever neutralized Clark's invulnerability]
  • Being Human: Annie is talking to another ghost, who mentions that her death was "a terrible shock". Annie replies, "Well, I should think it would be!" The other ghost then explains that she meant it literally; she died by electrocution.
  • In one Charmed episode, the Seer says she sees nothing. Her master assumes she failed to see the future, but she means, "Nothing. No Life. No World."
  • 30 Rock:
    • In "Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightning":
      Pete: Tracy's phoning it in.
      Liz: So what else is new?
      [cut to show a phone where Tracy should be]
      Tracy: Line!
    • Liz's boyfriend Floyd, upset over being passed up for a promotion, complains that he's sick of the rat race. It turns out his neighbors race rats in his apartment hallway late at night. Sometimes he places bets.
    • Tracy makes reference to having a money pit in Connecticut.
      Jack: You have a house in Connecticut?
      Tracy: No.
    • Tracy also has a bucket list. It is a list of different buckets he wants to own.
    • When Liz says that she saved Tracy's career, Tracy counters, "Five years ago, I saved your show! I rode in here on my white horse, which you made me me leave in the lobby!"
    • Tracy on why he wants to have another child:
      Tracy: I got a hole in my heart, Liz Lemon. And not the one I got from eating batteries.
  • During a song at the 2006 Oscars, Jack Black bolsters Will Ferrell by telling him they may not win any awards, but they'll win "the ultimate fight".
    Jack: And I'm not speaking in a metaphor, I mean literally. I am going to fight the nominees.
  • In Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, reference to the manure Hercules cleared from the Augean Stables has someone say "Holy—" "Exactly."
  • In the pilot of Mr. Sunshine, after Crystal dumps Ben for Alonzo, they are just proceeding in opposite directions when the missing elephant turns up.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place:
    Alex: You've got to help me!
    Crumbs: I wish I could, but my hands are tied.
    Alex: You don't believe me either?
    Crumbs: No, I mean my hands are tied. (shows Alex he's handcuffed to the table)
  • Mark's discussion in Parks and Recreation of why he decided to turn his life around: "I hit rock bottom that night. I mean I literally fell to the bottom of a pit and hit a rock. I remember laying there thinking, there's probably a good reason why I'm down here. And then I remember thinking I need morphine."
  • Blackadder:
    • In the episode "Captain Cook", Baldrick paints a picture.
      Blackadder: What's it called Baldrick? "The Vomiting Cavalier"?
      George: That's not supposed to be vomit; it's dabs of light.
      Baldrick: No, it's vomit. You told me to paint what comes from within.
    • We also get his gem:
      Young Crone: Two things, my lord, must thee know of the Wisewoman. First, she is... a woman. And second, she is...
      Blackadder: Wise?
      Young Crone: You do know her then?
      Blackadder: No, just a wild stab in the dark which is, incidentally, what you'll be getting if you don't start being a bit more helpful. Do you know where she lives?
  • Horrible Histories:
    • The Viking song:
      We're tearing down this place tonight... literally!
      We're gonna set this sleepy town alight... literally!
    • Also, in the Dick Turpin song, Turpin describes his actions as a highwayman as "daylight robbery" — normally meaning an extortionate charge for something, but here meaning literally robbing people in broad daylight.
      • Not to mention the final lines of the song, when Turpin is caught and hanged:
        No more stand and deliver, you'll remember this, I hope:
        It's no fun hanging with highwaymen when you're hanging from a rope.
    • Some Crusaders decide to follow a goose that's "filled with the Holy Spirit." After it fails to get them any closer to the Holy Land, one of them says, "I never thought I'd say this, but that was literally a wild goose chase."
    • The Guy Fawkes Ocean's Eleven parody:
      Guard: You'll be hung, drawn, and quartered.
      Guy Fawkes: Gutted.note 
      Guard: You will be.
    • In the Cowboy Song, Mike the Cowboy does a fart solo, thanks to his diet of beans. He asks the other cowboys how it was, to which they reply, "IT STUNK!".
  • In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment of Space Mutiny, Crow pretends to be excited about watching the climactic battle, at first.
    Crow: Wow! I am on the edge of my seat! [beat] I should probably scoot back a little; I'd be more comfortable.
    Mike: Yeah, you've got a lot more room back there.
  • In "Bringing Up Baby", the fourth-season premiere of Modern Family, sitting on their sofa mulling their failed second adoption, Mitchell tells Cam that they have to talk about the elephant in the room. He agrees, and the camera pulls back to show a large stuffed elephant on one of the chairs, apparently received as a baby gift. For good measure, the gag repeats itself after one of them mentions the 800-pound gorilla.
  • Used in a particularly dark (still funny) instance in Community, about the head of a law firm losing his job.
    Lawyer: He got too old. Swam with the sharks and got eaten!
    Jeff: He created the firm! You can't lose your job when you're the boss.
    Lawyer: Not if you're dead. That shark thing was not a metaphor.
  • Married... with Children: Al once made a Deal with the Devil and ended up Dragged Off to Hell. There, he commented it was hot like in hell. He then realized why.
  • Moone Boy:
    Martin: "Playing with myself?" How'd they know I was playing with myself?
    [cut to Martin under the covers with a flashlight — playing foosball with himself]
  • A subtle example in Game of Thrones. When the character known up until that point only as The Boy is about to kill one of Theon's guards, the guard exclaims, "Bastard!" This should be a pretty big hint that The Boy is actually Roose Bolton's (literal and figurative) bastard son Ramsay, who has been mentioned once or twice.
    • Petyr Baelish counseled his ward Robyn Aryn that "“People die at their dinner tables. They die in their beds. They die squatting over their chamber pots." He meant it as common, but hypothetical occurrences that the boy should not focus on. At the time of his speech, the first example happened in a well-known recent massacre and at a murder Petyr facilitated. The second two would happen in the next episode unbeknownst to him.
  • In an episode of Becker:
    Becker: Sorry I'm late, I was tied up all morning.
    Linda: Hey, so was I!
    Becker: Linda, I wasn't actually tied up.
    Linda: Oh, uh, then neither was I.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The gang realizes they have too many unresolved issues with various people around town and decide to use Thanksgiving dinner as an opportunity to "squash their beefs." Dennis interprets this metaphorically, but the rest of the gang takes a more literal approach, deciding that they should serve squash and beef for dinner, literally bury a hatchet in the ground, and physically wipe a slate clean. Dennis immediately points out that this is all "very on the nose."
  • Master Minds has "...and make himself millions" as one of their catchphrases, but they added the word "literally" in the case of Wesley Weber, Canada's most notorious counterfeiter.
  • In the Sherlock episode "The Sign of Three", Sherlock is giving a speech as John's best man and reminisces about some of their more interesting cases (none of which were shown in past episodes). He mentions the "Elephant in the Room". Cut to the two of them staring at something big in a room and the sound of an elephant trumpet.
  • In the fourth episode of the fifth series of Misfits, one of the members of the superpower support group is a gay man who involuntarily teleports into the nearest closet whenever he denies his sexuality.
  • Downton Abbey: In Series 4, Charles Blake helps Lady Mary save the Crawley family's recently delivered pigs from dehydration:
    Mary: You've certainly saved our bacon. Literally!
  • As a show run on Double Entendre, 'Allo 'Allo! featured many of these. It was particularly common for men to tell the women they had 'something in their pants' for them (as this was a favorite smuggling tactic).
  • Black Jesus: On being told a bag of fertilizer costs $800, one of Jesus' crew says, "I don't even have $800 to my name, you know what that means? That means my life ain't worth a sack of shit!"
  • Detectorists drags this out for comedy as Sophie desperately searches for the deeper meaning behind Lance's admission, while Lance remains completely ignorant of how his words could be interpreted any other way;
    Lance: Listen, I've never admitted this to anyone, but I really won the lottery the day Maggie left me.
    Sophie: Right. You mean, what, you didn't realise at the time but actually it was the best thing that could have happened?
    Lance: Pardon?
    Sophie: What did you mean then, "I won the lottery"?
    Lance: ...I won the lottery the day Maggie left me.
    Sophie: Sorry, what do you mean?
    Lance: What part of "I won the lottery" do you not understand??
  • In Covert Affairs: Auggie gets slapped, somewhat deservedly, by a hot-headed ex-girlfriend as soon as she sees him after two years apart (which she spent in prison, by the way).
    Auggie: Didn't see that coming.
    Tash: You should have. Do you know what I've been through the last two years?
    Auggie: [waves folded white cane] I meant because I'm blind.
  • In Agent Carter episode "Bridge and Tunnel", a man being interrogated by the SSR is literally shown a carrot and a stick.
  • On House of Cards (US), Underwood asks to be alone in a cathedral, then spits contemptuously on a large clay statue of Jesus. When he goes to wipe the spit off, the statue falls down and shatters. He calls his Secret Service detail to come in and pick it up; as they arrive, he walks off with a bit of the statue, saying, "At least now I have God's ear."
  • The Sketch Show: Several sketches rely on this type of gag, including one where a famous "sex symbol" is interviewed (the male one), and one of a "sports extremists club" (members include Muslim terrorists, Nazis, and Klansmen).
  • The Electric Company (1971): In an animated short, an angry wife tells her husband, who's dozing in his armchair, that he "drives [her] up the wall". He wakes up, and thinking that was a request, grabs hold of her and pulls a ripcord on the chair, starting up an engine and driving the two of them up the wall of the room and back down.
  • In "Chapter 14" of Jane the Virgin, Luisa recounts how she and Rose got together. "And then she kissed me. And then there were fireworks." It was the 4th of July, and the fireworks show started right as Rose kissed her. And then they had sex in a pool, while the fireworks continued.
  • The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: While discussing the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013, they showed a clip of a CNN correspondent reporting during the lockdown, saying "It's as though a bomb had dropped". After a massive Facepalm, Jon Stewart said:
    Jon: That's not so much a metaphor as what actually happened.
  • Veep:
    • In the episode "Camp David", Dan calls up Selina to tell her that Jonah just shot himself in the foot. Selina assumes he means that Jonah had made another gaffe during his Congressional campaign, only for Dan to explain that Jonah, who was filming a hunting-themed commercial, literally shot himself in the foot by accident.
    • In "Running", Selina walks through a glass door. Several people have to have it clarified that it's not code for something, it's what literally happened.
  • Arrow: In the episode "Legacy", Oliver Queen has been captured to be used as bait to trap the Green Arrow, by someone unaware that Oliver Queen and the Arrow are one and the same. Oliver, tied to a chair, tells his kidnapper that the Arrow isn't coming.
    Oliver: I have it on pretty good authority that he's tied up right now.
  • In American Gods, Audrey has her cheating husband Robbie buried with his severed penis shoved up his ass.
  • On Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson describes Ivanov, the latest Arc Villain, as having "more than a few skeletons in his closet." At the time, he's standing in a closet in which Ivanov has literally left the skeletons of his former compatriots for Coulson to find.
  • In one episode of NUMB3RS, the agents find out that their suspect is looking for another fugitive, whose blood contains evidence of tainted medications that were illegally put on the market. Megan quips that their subject literally wanted the other guy's blood.
  • One episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has a utility worker drop a cable he is taking out of a truck after being startled. His supervisor asks him what's wrong.
    Man: Rats!
    Woman: Son of a bitch, can't even curse like a man!
    Man: No, I mean... [points to several large rats]
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: During a flashback to Odo's early days of working security under the Cardassian occupation and his first meeting with Quark:
    Quark: First drink on the house. An old and dreadful Cardassian tradition. What'll you have?
    Odo: I don't drink.
    Quark: A soft drink then...?
    Odo: I don't drink.
  • In The Wire, McNulty thinks he's caught a gangster on tape confessing to murder. Unfortunately, after the arrest, McNulty is extremely disappointed to learn that when the gangster talked about shooting his dog, he did not mean in the colloquial sense of "friend" or "close associate." He meant his actual dog.
  • In at least one episode of Bewitched, Endora wants to demonstrate that Darrin's advertising parlance is all meaningless cliches, so she casts a spell that forces him to act out every metaphor literally.
  • The Mythbusters have tested many Literal Metaphors over the years.
  • One episode of Murder, She Wrote has the usually not-too-bright deputy Floyd observe that the writing on a letter looks like Greek to him. When sheriff Mort responds that yes, they haven't been able to figure out what it is, Floyd clarifies that he meant that it looks like it is written in the Greek language — he recognised several of the letters from fraternities from his college days.

  • "At your command, before you here I stand, my heart is in my hand — yeucch!" from Tom Lehrer's "The Masochism Tango", on An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer.
  • Variation in Gorillaz's We Are the Dury:
    Murdoc: It can be very distracting when you've got six or seven decomposing zombies stuck up your chimney flue.
    2D: We've got a chimney flue?
    Murdoc: I'm speaking metaphorically, D. I'm using the analogy of the chimney flue to describe the, um, passageways of our flowing creativity. The zombies, in this case, are used as a metaphor for blockages to the airways, figuratively speaking.
    2D: Really?
    Murdoc: No. There really are about six undead carcasses stuck up the studio chimney.
    2D: Oh. Well, that'd explain the smell.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Albuquerque" does this in two places. Once, where a guy sarcastically says, "Noooo, I want you to cut off my arms and legs with chainsaws!", and another time, when another guy says "I haven't had a bite in days."
  • The Lonely Island song "Punch You In The Jeans" says in the chorus that "this is not a metaphor". The song is literally about violence against clothing.
  • "Knee Reconstruction" by Greg Champion, a parody of "Eve of Destruction":
    You may want to play football 'till your dying day,
    But if your knee has had the gong, there is no running away!


    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppets seem to love jokes like this:
    • The Muppet Movie features jokes about "starting off with a bang", "drinks on the house", and a "fork in the road".
      Fozzie: [as he and Kermit pass a literal fork in the road] Ker-MIT!
      Kermit: I don't believe it.
    • In The Muppets episode "Swine Song", Kermit remarks that he's got butterflies in his stomach... because he eats a lot of butterflies when he's stressed.
    • In "A Tale of Two Piggies", Big Mean Carl is revealed to have a sister who's in real estate.
      Rizzo: She got my brother a great place! There was a bidding war and she just ate the other buyer alive.
      Gonzo: Oh, she sounds like a great negotiator.
      Rizzo: No, no, I’m saying she ate him. While he was still alive. And then my brother got the place.

  • Welcome to Night Vale:
    • A recurring bit of weirdness when comments are made by a group. When Cecil says "The City Council said...", he probably doesn't mean that they released a statement, or used a spokesman, but that the whole Council spoke as one in hive-minded unison.
    • Also, metaphor in general. There's a really, really good chance that its meant 100% literally. (e.g. "Home is where the heart is. You'll never guess where we hid it, though.")
    • "And now, a word from our sponsors. That word... is carp."
    • At one point when Cecil says he will take a look at the traffic, he proceeds to do so... without particularly describing it to the listeners, but mutters a few observations to himself.
    • After StrexCorp takes over Night Vale, Tamika leads an attack (among other things) of the Book Club. They club people with books.
    • When Cecil was anxious to learn more about Carlos from the representative of the University of What It Is, he told her: "Tell me everything." She answered that would take an awfully long time, and would probably include lots of things Cecil already knows. Cecil then narrowed down his question to information about Carlos.
    • During the mayoral election, Marcus Vansted throws his hat in the ring by having a large boxing ring constructed and throwing one of his hats into it.
  • Whenever a metaphor is used in Hamish and Dougal there's a good chance that either someone will take it literally or it was meant literally. (Rarely both at once, for maximum miscommunication.)
  • In one John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme sketch, John plays a diplomat dealing with a very tough team of negotiators. The one in the middle is "slightly to the right of Genghis Khan", the one next to him is "far to the right of Genghis Khan", and the one on other side is, of course, Genghis Khan.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Nobilis:
    • One of the bits of flavor text:
      Humans do not understand the nature of crime on Nigerian campuses. They do not understand why it seems so hard to fight. I did not understand, until I became Noble; until I could see it. The gangs are not packs of rogues. They are not criminals. They are a hydra. Cut off one head and two more grow. This is not a metaphor. This is not a verbal device. They are a hydra. I have seen it rage with my own two eyes.
    • Being a game about Anthropomorphic Personifications in an animistic world, this comes up constantly. The corebook also discusses an infectious laugh (it spreads to anyone who hears it, and makes them keep laughing until they pass out from lack of oxygen), and one of the supplements contains this little gem:
      The stone was as heavy as my sins. That's not a metaphor, not exactly. That's how heavy my mistress had made it.
  • A meta example would be Aye Dark Overlord. This game is a Blame Game. Literally, as the gameplay consist of blaming someone else for failing a mission the Dark Overlord send your team (you and all the other players) on...
  • In the Paranoia adventure Orcbusters (a parody of Dungeons & Dragons), there is a wandering monster table - it's the table where the monsters sit around playing poker with each other when it's not their turn to wander...

    Video Games 
  • In Grim Fandango, Glottis complains that being fired is like they reached into his chest, tore out his heart, and tossed it into the woods, while doing exactly that to himself. This is rather too serious for Manny to bother questioning the odd choice of metaphor or why he's bothering to act it out literally at the same time.
  • Evil Genius has a brainwashing device for restoring a minion's smarts. How does it restore smarts, you ask? It sucks the patient's brain out through their ear, washes it with a special chemical concoction, then sticks it back in again.
  • Command & Conquer: Renegade had a cutscene where Havoc is escaping from a Nod compound with Sydney Mobius, who is driving the truck. They start arguing, and Havoc then calmly says "cow". She blows up, assuming he called her a cow. A little more urgently, he points forward, "No, cow!" They end up almost hitting an actual cow crossing the road.
    Havoc: Cow.
    Sydney: ... PIG!
    Havoc: No, cow. [points]
    Cow: MOO!
  • Fallout:
    • The "bloody mess" trait/perk from the series leaves a literal bloody mess of organs whenever you kill an enemy if you have it.
    • The Treeminders of Fallout 3 constantly mistake Harold's requests for a Mercy Kill for some sort of riddle.
    • The Lady Killer perk is a Zig-Zagging Trope. It is both taken as a metaphor (as several female characters can be seduced with it) and literally (as it gives bonus damage against female targets).
  • Borderlands 2:
    • After completing a quest given to you by Patricia Tannis, she states that she has "a pile of blood money with your name on it" with her. She soon assures you that wasn't a metaphor.
    • Inverted later, when Sir Hammerlock promises to pay you "a pretty penny" if you do a favor for him. He immediately clarifies that he's not talking about just giving you a literal penny, seemingly under the assumption that you're unfamiliar with the expression.
  • In Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse, Police Chief Masters threatens to dance on Stubbs' grave. When you finally confront him, Chief Masters prepares to take this literally by challenging Stubbs to a dance contest that takes the form of a "Simon Says" Mini-Game.
  • After clearing the Mysterious Island War quest in Kingdom of Loathing, either the Orcish Frat House or the Hippy Camp (or possibly both) will be bombed back to the Stone Age... as in, the monsters will be replaced by more powerful cave-man versions of the enemies normally found there.
  • In Tekken 6's Scenario Campaign mode, on Christie's stage. Her universal dialogue with whoever the player's character is, involves her asking for the whereabouts of Eddy, with the player's character telling her they honestly don't know. Christie believes they're lying, calls them a Mishima devil, and tells them not to play dumb with her. Possibly using the term devil in a number of ways: being an afro latina character and accusing the player of taking advantage of her as a minority (i.e. white devil), or maybe just accusing the player of being deceptive and evil. Either way, her irrationality to find Eddy automatically assumes the player to be working for the Mishimas, which leads to the metaphor she uses. However, you can actually play as Devil Jin, who is a literal devil transformed version of one of the Mishima characters.
  • The recipe for a Hideous Hangover Cure in The Curse of Monkey Island includes "Hair of the Dog that bit you". Literally. You need to take some hair from a dog that bit you.
  • Shows up in Far Cry 3:
    Willis: You have ten seconds to tell me who you are before I remotely detonate the C4 under the table and this whole place explodes like a pop bottle.
    Jason: JESUS!!!
    Willis: I doubt it. Five seconds.
  • Team Fortress 2:
    • The Spy's main attack is "backstabbing" his "teammates" by literally stabbing them in the back with a knife while disguised as someone on their team.
    • In the TF2 comic "A Cold Day in Hell", the Soldier, the Scout and the Pyro kill three Siberian bears, before the Heavy Weapons guy came along and told them those bears were babies. Heavy calls anyone or anything weaker than him a baby, but this time it's literally. He then proceeds to take on the much larger literal Mama Bear.
  • The Pokémon Farfetch'd is a duck carrying a leek, a literal version of a Japanese figure of speech used to indicate something absurdly convenient.
  • People unfamiliar with Portal may hear the song "Still Alive" and not realize that the lines "Even though you broke my heart and killed me/and tore me to pieces/and threw every piece into a fire" are not a metaphor.
  • Persona 5: In previous games, Personas were described as metaphorical "masks", as a tie to Jungian psychology. In Persona 5, the party's Personas literally transform into personalized masks when not in use.
  • Undertale occasionally features this as humorous Narrative Filigree:
    "Aaron is sweating bullets. Literally."
  • In West of Loathing, you'll occasionally be given a chance to say some form of "Metaphor" Is My Middle Name. If you check your character sheet afterward, you'll find that the word in question is, in fact, now your middle name.

    Web Animation 
  • In X-Ray & Vav, Flynt Coal is doing a Private Eye Monologue when we get this gem:
    It's a dog-eat-dog world out there. Looking at these streets I can't help but wonder... why are all these dogs eating other dogs? Don't they know that's cannibalism?
  • In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, Kitten accuses Magnus of inviting some daemons over for a party. Immediately afterward the camera shows 4 daemons who came for a literal party, with hats, a grill and everything.

    Web Comics 
  • In an early episode of Questionable Content, Marten describes his job as being "the office bitch". This is his official job title.
  • One patron in Unshelved runs into a problem like this when his girlfriend wants to close the book on their relationship.
  • In Finders Keepers, Death sends Cailyn Asher a knife after Card asks for her (Death's) help. When Cailyn, Card, and Lady Scarring examine the knife later, Scarring calls it "the cutting edge." Cailyn of course asks what it is the cutting edge of, only to be told that the knife is the Cutting Edge, and it literally cuts theory from reality.
  • One strip from Exterminatus Now:
    Eastwood: Oh, I assure you I'm pissing myself with fear.
    Virus: Well, I wouldn't go that far.
    Rogue: I would. Just noticed. Watch your step there.
    Virus: Oohh, right, NOT a metaphor.
  • Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures can be literal at times:
    Dan: [with ears on fire] Whoah... Hey Lexsi... my ears are burning!
    Alexsi: [not looking] I'm sure they are, Dan...
  • Everyday Heroes:
    • Jane confesses to her neighbor Joan that she used to be a villain. When Joan expresses doubt, Jane assures her it's true; "Been there, done that, got the T-shirt!" And to prove it, she shows Joan the T-shirt. (Also a Shout-Out to Narbonic.)
    • Also, it's not polite to say "don't get all bent out of shape" to a man with a spinal injury.
  • The Order of the Stick: A fairly common gag.
    • The author himself gets one when the "Comic is running late."
    • Celia's ex-boyfriend is caught "slipping the wood" to some dryad hussy. At least it was a potted wood.
    • When leaving Azure City, Roy states that they are on "the road to Adventure". And indeed, it's the name of Gate 6 (between Gate 5, the Road to Morocco, and Gate 7, the Road to Perdition).
    • "The Test of the Heart" is another blatant case. "The truths that are in your heart will be laid bare for all to know." Through a cardiac exam.
    • Sabine makes one in "Every Couple Has Their Quirks":
      Sabine: It's hard, but sometimes, I need to make a sacrifice in order to maintain our love.
      Roy: Like dressing up for him?
      Sabine: No, I meant a literal sacrifice. I have a desecrated altar waiting for your corpse in the next room.
    • "Their Concierge Service is Heavenly":
      Roy: Huh... I always thought the "revolving door afterlife" was just a metaphor...
    • And "Final Review":
      Bureaucratic Deva: Mr. Greenhilt, we do things "by the book" around here — and it just so happens that the book in question is 100 feet tall and alight with holy fire —
    • In "Something Blue", Tarquin mention that some of his previous wives got cold feet before the marriage. The flashback reveals that it is quite literal.
    • A delayed action one: In "Make It Three, Just to Be Safe", Haley asks Elan if he needs "200-foot-tall flaming letters" to see Tarquin is evil. In "Yes, Apparently", he's given some.
    • Sabine gets one turned on her in "We Recommend Tsukiko":
      Nale: Oh really? Why don't you chase after him, then?
      Sabine: Nale, you know I love you. I didn't—
      Nale: No, I mean literally. Go chase after him. He's escaping.
    • "Where Her Loyalties Lie": Saying "Go to Hell" to an Infernal being just doesn't have the same weight...
      Sabine: Go to Hell, imp.
      Qarr: Was just headed there now. I'll give your love to the Directors.
    • "The Soul of Discretion":
      Veldrina: Oh, don't mind the tiger. Little Whiskers wouldn't hurt a fly.
      Wrecan: On the plus side, that was more Giant Monstrous Fly experience points for the rest of us.
  • xkcd:
    • One comic features a scene where the political website PolitiFact is an actual person which goes around annoying people by rating their sentences as True or False. At one point, PolitiFact shouts their harshest rating, "PANTS ON FIRE," but not as a rating of truth; someone hit them with a smoke bomb and presumably ignited their pants.
    • In one instance, Black Hat instantly believes one of Megan's alternative scientific theories without even hearing the explanation, because he's "been looking for a weird hill to die on," then adds, "and all the real ones are too far from my house."
  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • Parodied:
      Riff: How did your blind date go?
      Torg: She got eaten by the alien.
      Riff: All right! Way to go man! ...Oh, you meant that literally.
      Torg: How the hell did you think I meant it?
      Riff: Not sure, didn't really think about it too much, but it sounded dirty!
    • What is either Bun-bun himself or Gwynn's internal representation of Bun-bun mocks her current problems (possessed by a demon, imprisoned in a sort of fantasy world within her mind) by playing the world's smallest violin. Then he drops it down his ear.
    • Elsewhere, the invention of the Chick Magnet. So yes, it pulls baby chickens to you.
    • In "Freelance Bums — Broke", Torg and Riff think they've accidentally ended up working for a criminal boss when Mr. Middleman orders them to give someone a "dirt nap" and fit someone else with "cement shoes". The dirt nap turns out to be for a vampire (who rejuvenates by sleeping in a grave in his native soil), and the cement shoes are for working out her calves.
    • In the Years of Yarncraft game, Torg was once handed his ass by the Forest Yetis of Black Rook Caverns. First literally, and then figuratively too in all likehood.
    • In "Wayang Kulit", Bun-bun and Torg are driving in a car together. Torg tries to open up about his problems and it interferes with his driving. Bun-bun says "Eyes on the road!" and clarifies it's a threat about what he'll do to Torg's eyes if he doesn't shut up.
  • A page of the webcomic Real Life Fiction, aptly titled "Too Literal", hasa cold medicine that "may cause drow-siness". And indeed, imbibing it immediately turns the protagonist into a "drow" — the D&D name for a dark elf.
  • Sinfest:
  • From Hark! A Vagrant: Cry "Havoc!" and let slip the dogs of war!
  • Skin Horse:
  • This is a commonly used punchline in Penny Arcade.
  • In Meat Shield, Leonid the pseudo-lich once did a bit of soul-searching. Since at the time he was a disembodied head that had been stuffed inside his Soul Jar, this didn't take very long. (For that matter, the fact that this particular phylactery is indeed a jar may fall into Literal Metaphor too.)
  • Gunnerkrigg Court has Coyote and Renard referring to Annie as "fire-headed girl" and telling her "there's a fire in you... fire that belonged to your mother!" — repeatedly. She takes all these mentions as cringe-worthy attempts at being poetic in regards to how much she is like her mother, Surma. It's not the case. This wasn't about her temper or anything, at least not directly. They said what they meant, as straightforward as possible. By her basic nature she is a fire creature, part-human part-fire-elemental, which means her mother's fire/soul was literally passed to her, resulting in Surma's death as Antimony matured.
  • Kevin & Kell:
    • Bruno's friends discovered he was trans-diet when they found him in a closet. Eating hay.
    • In a storyling in 2006, Aby was telling Kell about another in a series of terrible dates. She admitted that the big problem with her love life is the fact that she's Married to the Job. Kell asked if she had a ceremony for that. The last frame shows a wedding announcement, which is now the trope image for that trope.
    • In the strip's take on the Cambridge Analytica scandal, instead of (allegedly) using Facebook data to manipulate voters, "Carnage Analytica" manipulates "Snoutbook" users to make them easier for predators to catch. The user really is the product.
  • In Brawl in the Family, Kingsonnn Dededoo is here to clean your clock.
  • In Faux Pas, waiting all morning to say "A little birdie told me."
  • In Girl Genius,
    • When he was young, Gilgamesh Wulfenbach built a clank for "picking up girls".
      Gil: Well, when I was a kid, we heard some of the older guys talking, but we were kind of... um... unclear on the concept, and, well...
      Zoing: Itworkz! itworkz!
      Bang: That is so just like you... soooo pathetic.
    • When something is pounding on the gates of Mechanicsburg, a soldier reports that "It's a ram". Agatha is still surprised when she sees the ovine monstrosity butting the gate and realises "AAH! It's a ram!"
  • Free Fall:
  • Rusty and Co.:
  • Anti-Heroes: In "Ineffective Roadblock", Kaalinor proudly states "If you're trying to get inside this tower, you'll have to go through me first!" Brave of him, true, but since he's a ghost and his opponent a lich, Finx has absolutely no trouble just walking through Kaal's incorporeal body.
  • In Wilde Life, Barbara tells Oscar not to be late with the rent, as "I'm a real witch." He naturally assumes she means witch in the spelled with a B sense, but she's being entirely literal. The fact that her full name is Barbara Yaga is a bit of a hint.
  • In Plume, when clotheslined, Dom runs into an actual clothes line rather than the wrestling move.
  • Blade Bunny: Bunny proudly states to her latest employer that she isn't tripped up easily. Then a bystander points out that her bootlaces are untied (again). Bunny trips and faceplants.
    Bunny: That doesn't count. I was being metaphorical.
    Lady Kyoto: I am beginning to believe this plan was an horrible mistake.
  • In the Axe Cop story "The Songster", there's a two-part song sung by the Songster called "Tortured Past". In the first part, it's a Start of Darkness story for the Torture Master, detailing his numerous very minor Freudian Excuses, with the refrain "that's how a monster is made." In the second part, it turns out that the Songster is literally creating a monster out of the Torture Master's past. That's how a monster is made, apparently.
  • In Puck, Phoebe tries to tell Puck she's pregnant and says "You have a bun in the oven". Puck opens the oven and finds a cheese-onion bun.
    Phoebe: I was simply not expecting that.
  • In Sam & Fuzzy, Mr. Sin has Mr. X 'dealt with' and 'sent to a nice farm with lots of fields to run around in'.
    [Gilligan Cut to Mr. X in a field surrounded by fuzzy puppies]
    Mr. X: I sure wish there was something else to eat here other than dog treats.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

    Web Original 
  • TV Tropes: Sometimes a trope is played in a way that its title is taken literally.
    • Lethal Chef: When someone's cooking results in death.
      • Typhoid Mary was a cook who carried Typhoid, but showed no symptoms of it. She's said to have spread typhoid to several households, and is known to have killed at least 3 people.
      • Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! discussed a recipe from a British chef once called for "henbane". What he meant was fat hen, a pleasant herb. Henbane is poisonous.
    • Lethal Eatery: Health inspections exist for a reason. Poorly-cooked food, or making uncooked food like nachos right after handling something that SHOULD be cooked can lead to food poisoning, which can be deadly.
    • Oh, Crap!: Bring My Brown Pants (it's even lampshaded in the description).
      Bill Cosby: ... first you say it, then you do it
    • Backseat Driver: The driver's seat is in the back (see page image for a cartoon example). It also happened in real life (such as the Woods Spider).
    • Mama Bear: When this trope meets Bears Are Bad News.
    • Papa Wolf: When the father is indeed a wolf.
  • One scenario in What If? involves glasses literally half empty. As in, glasses with one half containing only vacuum like space.
  • Atop the Fourth Wall: "Welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn." This is usually a figure of speech referring to the comic being critically roasted, but on three occasions thus far he has literally set the comics on fire once he's finished reviewing them. It is important to note that he only used this AFTER setting a comic on fire....
  • In TomSka's video "Tell Me Something I Don't Know", Dan jokingly responds with an odd fact when Tom says "Tell Me Something I don't know" ... only for it to be revealed that Tom was serious, and he already knew that fact, so he still demands to be told something he doesn't know.
  • JesuOtaku often says metaphorical-sounding things in his anime reviews immediately before showing clips of those exact things happening — for instance, that one villain crushes the heroes' lives like marbles, or that another abandons the goals for which his sister sacrificed everything and screws her.
  • Transolar Galactica's first episode revolves around Captain Trigger ordering his helmsman to steer to "the second star to the right, straight on 'til morning."
    Captain Trigger: Let me tell you something: whether my orders are technical, dangerous or goddamned beautifully metaphorical, you better flogging well do 'em. So when I tell you, Ensign Yasaki, to take the second star to the right and drive straight on till morning, you better flogging well do it. You got that?
  • The Nostalgia Critic:
    • Top 11 Best Avatar: The Last Airbender episodes. After Dante Basco as Zuko punches down the Critic out of the video player and into the YouTube comments section below, the Nostalgia Critic retaliates by calling out a "Flame War". That is, he grabs negative comments and throw them at the firebender. And when low on ammunition, he yells "Joss Whedon is overrated!" to make more appears.
    • In his review of The Master of Disguise, the Critic repeatedly begs for someone to kill him in increasingly over-the-top ways to express how much he hates the movie, only to be disturbed when Rachel always happens to have just the tools on hand (and that she is willing to use them).
    • In his tribute to Siskel & Ebert, the Nostalgia Critic mentions that, for a time, Gene Siskel was "phoning it in". Thing was, Mr. Siskel was in the hospital and literally on the phone to do his part, making this an example of dedication rather than apathy.
  • 17776 has a lampshaded one:
    Thuy: And then... [Washington's football team] just fell off a cliff.
    Roger: That's really fun to say. Because you know, we're always figuratively saying, "oh, they fell off a cliff." Like, their offense stalled out or something. No, they fell off a cliff for real.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius episode "Crouching Jimmy, Hidden Sheen":
    Jimmy: It's Yoo Yee's temple, alright. And it's crawling with ninjas!
    [cut to the ninjas literally crawling on the ground]
  • Adventure Time:
    • From "It Came from the Nightosphere", just after Finn and Marceline have started going after her dad, Finn asks how he can kill her father.
      Marceline: Finn! You can't kill my dad!
      Finn: Oh, right, I'm sorry—
      Marceline: No. You literally can't kill my dad. He's deathless.
    • In "His Hero", when Finn and Jake convince Billy that fighting evil with violence isn't so pointless, Billy tells them "It's as if your words are filling a hole in my very being... Wanna watch?" He then parts his beard to show that a literal hole in his chest is being filled in again.
  • Aladdin: In "Shark Treatment", Genie does this accidentally when Aladdin is turning into a shark.
    Genie: Al, you look a little green around the gills. [Aladdin starts gasping and puts his hands around his throat] Since when does he have gills?!
  • Due to its absolute weirdness, The Amazing World of Gumball is chock-full of these. Here are few examples:
    • For Penny, a sentient peanut, the term "coming out of your shell" is quite literal.
    • In the episode "The Nest," in search of mysteriously missing people, the Elmore police literally "leave no stone unturned."
    • In the episode "The Night," the Moon says "When everything is tired and bleary, they spoon together snug but weary" as the cutlery literally spoons together.
  • American Dad!:
    • This exchange:
      Steve: We don't have an instrument for Jeff.
      Bob: He could play the skin flute!
      Steve: [bursts out laughing]
      Bob: [holds up a flute bound with animal skins]
    • On one occasion, Francine is completely fed-up with Roger's jerkishness, and screams at him "Would it kill you to be nice for a change?!" As it turns out, members of Roger's species have to let out their innate "bitchiness", or it will fester in their bodies, poisoning and eventually killing them. So, yes, it would kill him to be nice.
  • In the Animaniacs short "Video Revue", the Warner siblings are in a video store, fleeing from a T. rex that came out of a Jurassic Park video — so they decide to drop some "bombs" on it, including Heaven's Gate, Ishtar, and Howard the Duck.
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force, after the gang gets a dog:
    Master Shake: [annoyed] Oh great, our little canine friend left a "present" on my chair. Yyyyep... looks like someone delivered some baked goods.
    [Shake suddenly becomes happy and lifts a tray of muffins from the chair]
    Master Shake: How did he know I love baked goods?!
  • Archer:
    • Double Subverted and played straight in the same episode. Charles and Rudy are two gay guys trying to help Archer seduce a gay spy named Ramon:
      Rudy: I'd try The Cockfight.
      Archer: A cockfight?
      Charles: It's the name of a gay bar.
      Rudy: But they do have actual cockfights there.
      Charles: Latinos... you take the bad with the good.
      Rudy: Look at slut just getting home!
      Charles: Well, I guess our advice worked.
      Archer: No! It didn't! Ramon blew me off.
      Rudy: Then where were you all night?
      Archer: Way the Christ out in the Everglades, burying some Dominican guy's rooster!
      Charles: Fun!
      Archer: [beat] Wha...?
      Charles: Oh, you meant literally.
      Archer: Yes!
    • In the episode "Lo Scandalo", Kreiger is called in to dispose of a corpse in Malory's apartment.
      Malory: And is Krieger... hard at work?
      Archer: He literally might be, yes.
    • In "The Honeymooners", when Archer steals Malory's limitless credit card, and proceeds to waste money:
      Malory: [calmly] I am literally going to kill him.
      Gilette: Well figurati—
      Malory: LITERALLY. I'll lure him to my condo in Miami, drug his steak au poivre, drive him out to the middle of the Everglades, slather him with rancid chicken fat and then toss him to the gators!
      Gilette: [shocked] That's pretty specific for a hypothetical...
      Malory: Oh he is going to pay for this... literally.
  • From Avatar: The Last Airbender: "The Waterbending Scroll":
    Uncle Iroh: [stops Zuko and a pirate captain from fighting] Are you so busy fighting you cannot see your own ship has set sail?
    Prince Zuko: We have no time for your proverbs, Uncle!
    Uncle Iroh: It's no proverb!
    [cut to pirate ship being hijacked]
    • Later, Zuko's ship gets hijacked! "Maybe it should be a proverb..."
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold got a creepy example in "Deep Cover for Batman". While Batman is in a Mirror Universe where heroes are villains, the alternate version of Blue Beetle, Scarlet Scarab, comments that he has the heart of a hero. An eavesdropping Batman wonders if he's a possible ally... only for Scarab to add that he keeps it in a jar in his closet.
  • Done a fair number of times on the Beetlejuice cartoon, with its love of visual puns. In one episode, Beetlejuice is hosting a Show Within a Show and excuses himself for "a few words from our sponsors"... the words turn out to be "BUY!", "NEW!" and "FREE!"
  • Bob's Burgers:
    • In "The Deepening", the rampaging mechanical shark ends up in Bob's basement and comes up through the floor of the restaurant. As Bob desperately reaches for something to throw at the shark and slow it down, he tries to reach for the straw dispenser yelling "I am literally grasping at straws!"
    • In "The Gene and Courtney Show", Mr. Wheeler brings up the events of "The Unbearable Like-Likeness of Gene", when Gene dated Courtney and broke her heart... literally, since Courtney has a congenital heart defect and their messy break-up caused her to have a cardiac episode.
  • The Cleveland Show:
    • Mr. Waterman is trying to find the rest of his Santa costume:
      Mr. Waterman: Where's my beard?
      Mrs. Waterman: Right here. [beat, then holds up a Santa beard]
    • In "Hustle 'n' Bros", Cleveland realizes he's metaphorically on a Snipe Hunt:
      Cleveland: Chasing these wild geese is like some kind of wild goose ch— son of a bitch!
  • The main characters in Courage the Cowardly Dog live in the middle of Nowhere. It's an actual place called Nowhere which is located in Kansas, the actual middle of the country.
  • In Doug, Doug is unable to sell any chocolate bars door-to-door because everyone he asks says they taste like cement. When he goes to the candy factory to complain, they discover that a mis-parked cement mixer is pouring its contents into the chocolate mix.
  • In Ducktales 1987, when we first meet Fenton Crackshell, he's a literal "bean counter", as in, he actually works in a bean factory counting beans that get put in jars.
    • This happens in DuckTales (2017), during an argument between Scrooge and Donald in the first episode.
      Donald: Oh, here we go! Getting on us like he's the richest duck in the world!
      Scrooge: I am the richest duck in the world!
      • During the second half of the premiere, Donald has to let go and trust his nephew, Dewey. Except in this case, he literally has to let go of the holes in the wall he's plugging so that the room can fill with water, trusting that Dewey's right about a gem on the "ceiling" being the power source.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: In "Three Squares and an Ed" Edd and Eddy are trying to bust Ed out after he's been grounded. When Sarah discovers Ed's not in his room...
    Sarah: ED!!!!
    Eddy: Duh, Ed, we heard her! Just keep your shorts on! [Ed's shorts are around his ankles] No, seriously, keep your shorts on. [pulls them back up]
  • In the first episode of the obscure series The Fairy Tale Police Department, the female officer Chris gets a call from her male partner informing her that he's been attacked by the Three Little Pigs (very long story) and she responds "You're pulling my leg!" He remarks "Funny you should use that phrase." as one of the pigs pulls his leg.
  • Family Guy:
    • This one:
      Man: Wow, Lois Griffin. Hey, I love your act! Nice melons.
      Peter: Hey, listen pal!
      Lois: Peter, I'm holding melons.
      [she's holding two watermelons]
      Peter: Oh.
      Man: And her hooters ain't bad either.
      Peter: Now hang on a second there!
      Lois: Peter, I'm holding hooters!
      [she has two owls perched on her arm]
      Peter: Oh, sorry.
      Man: No problem. [beat] Your wife's hot!
      Peter: All right, that's it!
    • In another episode, Peter is trying to organize Stewie's first birthday party but one of the only things he could find was a "big-ass piñata"; pan over to show a large papier-mâché butt. Brian responds "I sure hope candy comes out of that."
    • After finding out that Cleveland's wife cheated on him, Peter and Brian agree that the last thing they want to do is tell Cleveland about it. Smash Cut to Peter and Brian, having now accomplished everything else on their agenda, telling Cleveland.
    • A Cutaway Gag from "Grumpy Old Man" depicts the way every pizza place ruins a salad. It turns out the restaurant is called Every Pizza Place.
  • The Flintstones: Done in the episode in which Barney Rubble and Fred Flintstone meet Dr. Sinister.
    Barney: Hey look, Fred. The volcano's flipping its lid!
  • Futurama:
    • An example from when the crew are floating in space collecting Chronotons:
      Leela: All right, cool your jets, hotshot.
      Fry: C'mon Leela, why won't you go out with me? We both know there's something there!
      Leela: No, I mean cool your jets. You're melting Bender's face.
    • And another when Zoidberg is trying to do standup:
      Zoidberg: Good evening ladies and germs.
      Zoidberg: That wasn't a joke! I was talking to Dean Streptococcus!
    • Bender's middle name is actually "Bending".
    • In "The Bots and the Bees", as Bender drinks at popular club The Hip Joint, he overhears the following from a robot bar patron:
      Robot: I need to loosen up, give me a screwdriver.
      [bartender lays a flathead screwdriver on the bar in front of her]
    • In "A Big Ball of Garbage":
      Talking Bart Simpson Doll: Eat my shorts!
      Bender: Okay!
      [literally eats doll's pants]
      Bender: Mmm, shorts...
    • In "Bender's Game", an ordinary outhouse is occupied by a wizardly version of Farnsworth.
      Farnsworth: Just a minute. [closes the door]
      Bender: [waving around his nose] Methinks he's casting a powerful spell indeed.
      [Farnsworth opens the door to reveal a large cozy room]
    • Wanting a subject for his experimental growth ray, Farnsworth announces that they'll need a guinea pig. Cut to an actual guinea pig, which Farnsworth uses as bait to trap Zoidberg so that they can experiment on him.
    • In "A Taste of Freedom", Zoidberg's prosecution for eating a flag leads to his Decapodian brethren enslaving the Earth, and Fry's ancient heat-seeking missile fails to demolish the Decapodian Mobile Oppression Palace because "All Decapodian technology is cold-blooded, like us!". Zoidberg saves the day by burning a flag "to preserve the freedom it represents" because he's not just expressing his free speech, but also using it as a beacon for the missile.
    • At the end of "The Late Phillip J. Fry", Fry finally makes it to his dinner date with Leela after going through two iterations of the universe in a one-way time machine and accidentally killing an alternate version of himself. When Leela expresses disbelief that Fry would make it on time, he casually remarks "That was the old Fry. He's dead now."
    • From "The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings":
      Bender: Sure, I can help you, but we might have to metaphorically make a Deal with the Devil. And by "devil," I mean "Robot Devil," and by "metaphorically", I mean "get your coat."
  • Garbage Pail Kids Cartoon:
    • "Green Dean Goes Out of His Bean" had Elliot Mess express his disbelief at Patty Putty's claims of a plant monster with a voracious appetite being on the loose by telling her to stop pulling his leg. Because Elliot's limbs are scrambled, Patty actually was pulling on his leg while dragging him along.
    • The "Garbage Pail Groaner" segment of the episode "Heartless Hal" had a boy attempt to swipe cookies from a cookie jar. When his mother catches him, she states that she caught him red-handed. The boy disagrees on the grounds that his hand isn't red, but finds to his shock that his hand actually has turned red, causing his mother to say "I told you so".
    • The final episode had a segment where a boy's mother scolds her son with common figures of speech and the boy then undergoes a transformation following his mother's words literally. For example, when he is warned that making a face will cause his face to freeze that way, his face literally becomes frozen solid.
  • Gravity Falls:
    • In "Headhunters", Dipper interrogates Manly Dan Corduroy trying to find out who vandalized a wax dummy of Dipper's Grunkle Stan. Dan's alibi is that he was punching the clock.
      Dipper: So you were at work, then?
      Manly Dan: No, I was punching that clock! [points out the window to a broken street clock]
    • In "Irrational Treasure" Quentin Trembly, the 8th and 1/2 President of the United States, is said to have won the election in a landslide. Said landslide buried everyone else running, leaving him the only suitable person for the role.
    • In the episode "Little Gift Shop of Horrors", Dipper advises Stan against taunting the fortune-telling Hand Witch, to which Stan loudly refers to Dipper as a wet blanket to everyone in earshot. Cut to Toby Determined selling actual wet blankets.
    • In the Grand Finale "Weirdmageddon 3: Take Back the Falls", Mabel finds Stanford, who's been turned into a gold statue by Bill Cipher, and calls out "I found Ford, and he's golden... but not in a good way."
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy:
    • "It's Hokey Mon!": Grim has created chaos after being badgered into bringing kids' Hokey-Monster cards to life, and Mandy puts a stop to things by making her own monster for Grim to bring to life, which she describes with the phrase "Makes toast out of all other monsters." In this case, Mandy's monster literally turns its enemies into slices of toast.
    • "Brown Evil": Billy accidentally makes a batch of brownies that taste terrible to humans, but are irresistible to monsters. Instead of throwing them out like Mandy ordered him to, Grim decides to stash the batch inside his skull. Unfortunately, the smell of the brownies attracts a horde of zombies to Billy's house, and Hoss Delgado ends up coming in to investigate. After determining that the zombies aren't interested in brains or human flesh, Hoss detects the smell of the brownies and finally figures out what's going on:
      Hoss: [points at Grim] It's all in his head!
      Mandy: You mean Grim's imagining all this?
      Hoss: No, I mean whatever's attracting those zombies, it's inside his head.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures:
    • Jade once used the Snake Talisman to sneak in during one of Jackie's missions. After he's complimented for defeating some bad guys "alone", she complained by asking if she was invisible. Duh, as she said once she realized she was indeed invisible because of the talisman's power.
    • In "The Jade Monkey", Jade uses the Monkey Talisman to turn the Dark Hand enforcer Ratso into a rat and herself into a monkey to avoid the other enforcers. When Jackie realizes this, we get this line:
      Jackie: Jade turned Ratso into a rat and herself into a monkey? I'm a monkey's uncle.
  • Justice League Unlimited:
    • Brainiac 5 and Green Arrow find the Fatal Five waiting for them.
      Brainiac 5: Shoot.
      Green Arrow: I know. I was hoping they'd be out looking for us.
      Brainiac 5: No, shoot!
    • Also, when the Leaguers went to New Genesis to seek the help of the New Gods, they meet someone who says that the Gods were above them. A few seconds later, they look over and see the floating city that the New Gods live on.
    • And when Green Lantern captures Firefly and Volcana in a giant green bell jar, and they try to burn their way out, he says "Sure, knock yourselves out!" A few seconds later, they've used up all the oxygen and fall unconscious.
  • On KaBlam!, Henry says the ending to one "Sniz and Fondue" cartoon was so sickeningly sweet that he lost his lunch. He then grabs the bag with his meal that he dropped.
  • Kim Possible: Drakken and Shego go "shopping":
    [salesman describes the features of a weather machine they're looking at]
    Drakken: We'll take it!
    Salesman: Great! Hey, why don't we step into the office.
    Drakken: No, I mean we'll take it. Shego!
    [they steal the weather machine]
  • In an episode to King of the Hill, Cotton puts Peggy through a miserable, abusive Training from Hell so she can learn to walk again after her skydiving accident. He also spends the episode fighting to secure a final resting place in a veterans' cemetery. When he finally succeeds, he goads and hectors Peggy to climb up the hill so that she can literally dance on his grave. She makes it, and she and Cotton dance in celebration.
  • In the Lite Sprites special, the sprites are lost in a cave, and Meadow begins to glow. The other girls try to tell her this, but she takes it as a compliment instead.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • Marvin the Martian's "Earth-shattering kaboom" in "Hare-Way to the Stars" was a literal metaphor. Then it became metaphorical again — the Trope name for the explosion of a whole planet or moon (or humongous spacecraft), not just the Earth.
    • Played straight in "Knighty Knight Bugs" where Yosemite Sam is the Black Knight, who owns a fire-breathing dragon who tends to sneeze a lot, breathing fire uncontrollably when it does. At the climax, Bug manages to lock Sam and the dragon in a tower full of explosives. Sam desperately tries to keep the dragon from sneezing, shouting, "No! No! Don't sneeze, you stupid dragon! Or you'll blow us to the moon!" Unfortunately for him, the dragon does sneeze, and the tower takes off like a rocket, towards the moon. (With Sam growling, "Dragons is so stupid!")
    • There was also the time Bugs dressed up as Rocky's boss and threatened that it was "coitins" for the mobster, just before gifting him with a set of actual curtains.
      Rocky: "...Aw, they're adorable!"
  • Ski-Nose, the Bob Hope caricature in the Bakshi Mighty Mouse episode "Bat With a Golden Tongue," greets the audience at an awards ceremony as "ladies and germs," and sure enough, the tables are populated by ladies and germs.
  • In an episode on My Gym Partner's a Monkey, Adam wants to try a game at a carnival where you have to knock over pins; the carnie tells him, "Sure kid, knock yourself out." When Adam tries, the ball ricochets back, and beans him in the forehead, knocking him to the ground. The carnie says, "You know, kid, usually that's a figure of speech..."
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In the episode "Dragonshy", Fluttershy is so nervous about facing a full-grown dragon she's literally scared of her own shadow.
    • In "Call of the Cutie", when Apple Bloom is upset about being the last pony in class to get her cutie mark, Rainbow Dash sees her and comments "Looks like somepony has a dark cloud hanging over her head." Fortunately, Rainbow Dash is a weatherpony, and can move the actual dark cloud elsewhere.
    • In "Twilight's Kingdom – Part 1", Discord's ears are burning. Yes, literally.
    • In "Make New Friends but Keep Discord", Discord gets green fire in his eyes when his rage over Fluttershy's new friendship with Tree Hugger reaches its peak, turning him into a literal Green-Eyed Monster.
    • In "Rarity Investigates!", one of Rarity's Private Eye Monologues involves this: "Rainbow Dash was obviously upset, but I had all my ducks in a row!" (An orderly trio of ducklings crosses the screen.) "...except one." (A fourth duckling rushes to catch up with the others, trips, and falls into a rain puddle.)
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • Used a couple of times in the episode "Comet Kermillian". While at the park, Candace's screams of "I have Squirrels in My Pants!" are misinterpreted by a couple of performers, who think she's referring to her crazy dance moves. After a musical sequence, the squirrels get out, and one of the guys comments, "We just got served." Later on, when steaks are falling from the sky, the same guy catches one and comments, "We keep getting served."
    • Parodied in "Let's Take a Quiz".
      Phineas: You're on fire, Candace!
      Candace: Woo hoo. [beat] I'm not actually on fire, am I?
      Buford: Nah, you're good.
    • In "Brain Drain", Dr. Doofenshmirtz ends up busting a rap about being controlled by Perry the Platypus turning his mind-control device against him. Vanessa's friends all think "There's a Platypus Controlling Me" is a metaphor for "whatever's keeping you down".
      Doofensmirtz: I'm not speaking metaphorically, the platypus controlling me is underneath the table!
    • In "Mind Share", Dr. Doofenshmirtz has Perry be his wingman for a date at a square dancing hoedown. When Perry is told to sit with a group of wingmen, they are not just there to help their friends get dates, but they are also dressed like fighter pilots, even with a fighter jet parked behind them. In military jargon, a wingman refers to a pilot who is responsible for supporting their flight leader.
    • In retaliation to people telling him not to make a mountain out of a molehill, Doofenshmirtz tried to do it literally in "At the Car Wash".
    • In "Picture This!", the boys literally turn the garage upside-down looking for Ferb's favorite skateboard.
    • When Doofenshmirtz is told he doesn't have a green thumb in "Moon Farm", he takes it literally and buys a can of green paint to make himself green. Ironically, because of how he held the can, his thumbs aren't painted. Only later, as he explains his plan to Perry, Doof finally understands the metaphor.
  • In The Pink Panther series where Pink isn't silent, there was one episode where a bad guy was illegally drilling for oil in an Alaskian village. A villager told Pink he was threading on thin ice. After Pink told the villager he agreed with the metaphor, the villager explained he meant it literally.
  • In The Powerpuff Girls episode "Beat Your Greens" the Broccoloids intend to hypnotize people through spores placed in broccoli. The girls inspect the field where the broccoli came from but hide in a scarecrow when they see an approaching spacecraft. They jump out to fight, with Blossom wearing the scarecrow's hat, Buttercup the shirt, and Bubbles the pants and shoes. The girls scream after seeing the aliens regenerate and Bubbles jumps out of her extra attire, saying that scared the pants off her.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show:
    • The episode "Sven Hoek" ends with Ren taking a whiz on Sven and Stimpy's copy of "Don't Whiz on the Electric Fence", generating a short circuit that blows the three of them straight to Hell... as in, they end up in a fiery pit, where a Big Red Devil admonishes them with "So, you whizzed on the electric fence, didn't ya?"
    • An inversion of the metaphor; In "Lumber Jerks" Ren and Stimpy's attempts to become lumberjacks is briefly foiled when they can't find any trees because of the giant forest in the way.
  • The Golden Girls is spoofed on Robot Chicken when Sophia describes her encounter with a high school basketball team: They run a (model) train on her and she gets their (basket)balls in her face.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "A Star Is Burns", When Lisa is talking about guest-star Jay Sherman:
      Lisa: I like him! He's smart, he's sensitive, he's clearly not obsessed with his physical appearance —
      Homer: My ears are burning.
      Lisa: Uh, I wasn't talking about you, Dad.
      Homer: No, my ears are really burning. I wanted to see inside so I lit a Q-Tip.
    • In "A Fish Called Selma", when members of the Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club catch sight of Troy McClure.
      Louie: Hey, I thought you said Troy McClure was dead.
      Tony: No, what I said was: "He sleeps with the fishes". You see...
      Louie: Uh, Tony, please, no. I just ate a whole plate of dingamagoo...
    • In "The Great Money Caper":
      Homer: How'd you get wise to us?
      Abe: Are you kidding? They used to call me Grifty McGrift. I Wrote the Book on flimflamming.
      [Bart looks at the back of the book he and Homer have been using and sees a picture of a young Abe]
      Bart: Wow, he did!
    • In "Make Room for Lisa", at a traveling Smithsonian exhibition, Homer sits down in Archie Bunker's chair to read the Bill of Rights. When the armed guards tell him to get out of Archie Bunker's chair, Homer used the Bill of Rights to shield himself against the guards, complete with the line, "I am so sick of people hiding behind the Bill of Rights!"
    • In "Insane Clown Poppy" Homer gives advice to Krusty about being a father. Krusty asks for more help after he alienates his daughter by losing her violin in a poker game. Homer asks Marge if he can play Devil's Advocate. After playing the pinball game with that name, Homer decides to talk to Krusty.
    • A major plot point in the two-part special "Who Shot Mr. Burns" is Burns literally trying to take candy from a baby.
    • In "And Maggie Makes Three", a Flashback shows Homer quitting his job at the power plant and burning his bridges both metaphorically (with a Take This Job and Shove It moment for the ages) and literally.
  • Used to the point of a Hurricane of Puns in the Tex Avery short "Symphony In Slang", where Noah Webster and St. Peter try to interpret the slang-filled life story of a new arrival at the Pearly Gates.
  • South Park:
    • During one of the show's many repeated running gags (in this case, the famous "Jared Has Aides" episode), the title character repeats the joke while literally beating a dead horse.
    • Stan's mom has an actual Aunt Flo who visits about once a month and stresses her out. In Stan's words, whenever her monthly visitor Aunt Flo arrives his mom turns into a real bitch.
    • The episode "Douche and Turd" had Puff Daddy's "Vote or Die" campaign taken to its literal extreme; if you don't vote, he'll hunt you down and kill you!
    • Tom Cruise is so upset that the reincarnated L. Ron Hubbard (Stan) doesn't like his acting that he locks himself in Stan's closet, refuses to come out, and denies that he's in the closet at all.
    • In "Bass to Mouth", some of South Park Elementary's faculty enlists Eric Cartman to help them, but then things quickly go wrong.
      Mr. Mackey: Maybe there is a way out of this, but we're gonna have to throw Eric Cartman under the bus.
      Mr. Adler: How do we do that?
      Mr. Mackey: We get a bus, and then we throw Eric Cartman under it.
    • In 'Sons a Witches'', we learn that all the dads in town like to dress up as witches for Halloween week. When one of the dads falls under a curse and starts kidnapping children, the other witches urge the town not to let it degenerate into a "witch pursuit-thing".
      When things are going bad and there's people you need to confront,
      Just be sure it doesn't turn into a witch-pursuit thing.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In "Missing Identity", Mr. Krabs threatens that whoever doesn't pass his inspection will get the boot, as in they'll have to wear a smelly boot all day.
    • In "Imitation Krabs" Mr. Krabs warns SpongeBob to keep a watchful eye on Plankton's tricks.
      SpongeBob: Don't worry, Mr. Krabs, as long as these pants are square, and this sponge is Bob... [lifts his arms up] I WILL NOT LET YOU DOWN!
      Mr. Krabs: Uh, SpongeBob? [camera zooms out to reveal SpongeBob holding Mr. Krabs above his head] Could ya let me down?
    • In "Something Smells", when SpongeBob thinks people are avoiding him because he's ugly, Patrick tells him "you're never gonna feel better 'til you get this thing off your chest"... and then the camera zooms out to show a strange, pulsating octopus-like creature stuck to SpongeBob's chest.
  • Used in Stroker and Hoop to turn protecting the sword of the fire lotus into a "Shaggy Dog" Story, when all it did was light up.
    Villain: The ancient scrolls said its power shone like a lantern... We always assumed it was a metaphor.
    Stroker: Yeah... I guess it must have seemed a lot cooler before they invented flashlights.
  • In Trollhunters, Claire reads the letter Jim leaves him when he thought we would die from his battle with Draal and thinks that the "monsters" and "world-ending" he mentions was all just elaborate metaphors. He goes along with it not to sound crazy. She eventually realizes that he meant it literally.
  • In the Uncle Grandpa episode "Bad Morning", it's eventually revealed that Uncle Grandpa's bad mood was caused by him literally getting up on the wrong side of the bed.
  • In the Whatever Happened to... Robot Jones? episode "Politics", Robot states that he is confident he'll win the election because he has nerves of steel, then states that he really does have nerves of steel.

    Real Life 
  • Linguistically, a once-metaphorical term which has become literal is a "dead metaphor" (not to be confused with a stale metaphor); for instance, "electric current".
  • Most people take the name of the restaurant "Hooters" to be a euphemism for breasts, whereas they assert, probably for legal reasons, that they are talking about owls and everyone just misunderstands.
  • Lampshaded by Grace Hopper with the "first actual case of [computer] bug being found"; the log entry from September 9, 1947 described a dead moth caught in the Harvard Mark II's circuitry, causing a short. The term "bug" was already being used to describe problems with telegraphs and other electrical equipment back in the 19th century.
  • In 2014, Hell froze over.. Well, Hell, Michigan, anyway. Mind you, it is Michigan, so this happens on a regular basis.
  • In an attempt to ruin the American millionaire Timothy Dexter (who is known for being, frankly, insane), at some point in the 1780s or 90s, a few of his business rivals somehow convinced him to spend most of his capital to send a ship-load of coal to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Newcastle is the major producer of coal in England, and "sending coals to Newcastle" is an idiom in the vein of "selling ice to a penguin" to suggest giving something to someone who already has too much of it. Coincidentally, when the coal arrived, the city was in the middle of a particularly hard frost and a coal miner's strike. Between the weather and the coal shortage, Dexter managed to make a killing.
  • The practice of "controlled burning", containing wildfires by setting smaller fires to use up the fuel and oxygen around the big fire, is a literal example of fighting fire with fire.
  • Inverted with certain metaphors that used to be literal:
    • Phrases such as "worth his/her salt" and "worth its weight in gold" stem from times when salt and gold were used as money.
    • The original "pig in a poke" was a suckling pig sold in a burlap bag. Unscrupulous merchants would substitute a dog or cat instead, so this is also where we got the phrase "let the cat out of the bag".
    • Being branded a coward, or being branded anything, came from the old tradition where soldiers caught fleeing from battle were punished by literally being branded a coward, with an actual red-hot brand being applied to the face.
    • The phrase "getting your goat" comes from the tradition of keeping goats as companions for racing horses, which for some reason helps keep the horses more even-tempered. Unscrupulous race horse owners would try to steal the goats of rival horse-owners to upset their horses and make them too agitated to win races.
    • There are at least two origins for the phrase "giving the cold shoulder" that are quite literal: it either involves turning your back on someone you don't want to talk to ("coldly" showing them your "shoulder"), or serving cold mutton shoulder to unwanted guests.
  • George Eastman's house has an elephant in a room.
  • During the 18th century Age of Liberty in Sweden, a series of events led to a name stamp (with the king's signature) in the hands of the parliament legally filling in for the king when he didn't want to co-operate. The only thing hindering it being called a literal rubber stamp monarchy is that it isn't entirely certain the stamp was actually made of rubber.
  • The makers of the infamously bad adaptations of the Left Behind series of books were actually sued by original series authors because of the film's poor quality. And the original authors won. That's right we have a literally criminally bad movie.
  • When playing a normal game of baseball, it is impossible to steal first base since you can't advance to first from home without either hitting the ball or drawing a walk, and it is illegal to run the bases backwards "for the purpose of confusing the defense or making a travesty of the game" (thanks to Germany Schaefer, who was infamous for trying to do just that in the 1910's). The saying "You can't steal first (base)" is used as criticism for a player who is good at baserunning and base-stealing but has trouble getting on base in the first place (i.e., can't hit or draw walks). However, there was that one time (June 26, 2001) that Pittsburgh Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon, having been ejected from the game for arguing with the umpire, was so furious he physically ripped first base out of the dirt and walked off the field with it and causing a game delay while a replacement base was installed.
  • Steven Gerrard's now infamous "This does not fucking slip now!" Rousing Speech after a win over fellow title contenders Manchester City, sending Liverpool top of the 2013/14 Premier League table. Two weeks later, he literally slipped in a match against Chelsea to ultimately gift City the league title.
  • It's a common insult to claim someone is so unpopular that they couldn't get elected dogcatcher, which is virtually never an elected position, save for Duxbury, Vermont, home to the only elected dogcatcher in the US. It's never been contested, so there has yet to be a documented case of someone losing an election for dogcatcher.
  • There actually is a Guinness World Record for "World's Smallest Violin". The violin in question is only an inch and a half long. And it can indeed be used to play a sad song.

Alternative Title(s): Not A Metaphor


Example of: