Drax: Nothing goes over my head. My reflexes are too fast. I would catch it.
Some of the ways this trope is played:
- Bothering by the Book and Exact Words, where somebody deliberately uses a literal interpretation in order to gain an advantage, make a point or "win" an argument, perhaps using Obfuscating Stupidity. Often used in Loophole Abuse. Compare Metaphorically True for similar manipulation tactics.
- Literal Genie, and its malicious counterpart, Jackass Genie.
- Mathematician's Answer
- A reactive form of Spock Speak, to emphasize a character's alienness.
- Literalist Snarking, when done deliberately to mock someone.
- To set up Entendre Failure.
- Someone who is Sarcasm-Blind.
Characters who have this as a primary characteristic will occasionally be The Comically Serious. Compare Literal Metaphor, Shaped Like Itself, and Double Meaning. Frequently results in Comically Missing the Point.
This trope does not mean tropes being taken literally, contrary to popular belief.
- During the Christmas Episode of Asteroid in Love, the cast agrees to make a slightly spicier hotpot to make up for the clubroom's lack of heating, so they purchased a bit of chili powder on top of some off-the-shelf kimchi broth base. When Mira asks Ao to "add all ingredients into the pot", she takes it to mean the entire bag of chili powder. Fortunately, the bag of chili powder was quite small, so while the result is spicier than what they plan to, it's still edible.
- One Astro Boy story has Astro succumb to this when Ochanomizu says he'll find the authorities who sent Astro to be scrapped and "grease their palms". He then uses a rapid-fire sequence of these to make a computer implode.
- One Azumanga Daioh episode had the main characters planning for an event and running behind schedule. Chiyo comments that she wishes they could turn back the clock. Cue Osaka standing on a chair trying to wind the clock backwards.
- Sumomo/Plum from Chobits can only take questions literally, according to Shinbo, due to her lack of processing power as a "laptop" Persocom.
- Goku from Dragon Ball was like this as a child, like thinking that Bulma really turned into a turtle because she was moving too slow. Once, when he challenged the demon Shula to a fight, Shula said he must be either brave or stupid. Goku thinks Shula got his name wrong and says his name is Goku.
- Tetsuma Joe from Eyeshield 21 always follows directions. Exactly. When his coach warned him not to overeat before a game, he didn't eat for three days. And at one point, The Kid tells Joe "wake me up in about three hours". Exactly three hours later, and despite the fact that Kid is nowhere nearby, Joe leaps out the window of a moving bus just to go find Kid and wake him up. On another occasion, Kid asks Tetsuma to get him up at eight AM. So Tetsuma actually counts down the seconds until 8 AM IN HIS SLEEP.
- Sagittarius from Fairy Tail. At one point, Lucy asks him to make a fire, but he replies that he doesn't have pyrokinesis. A few minutes later, he figures out what she really wanted and makes a fire by launching his arrows at some machines and making them explode.
- Sōsuke Sagara from Full Metal Panic!. His literal-mindedness provides a lot of humor in quite a few serious situations (as well as not-serious situations). One funny moment in the novels comes during the Behemoth arc. Sōsuke defeated Takuma, which is supposed to result in a Tear Jerker moment, where the dying Takuma moans, "I lost, sister. Why'd I lose?..." Sōsuke proceeds to take the question literally, and tactlessly attempts to explain to Takuma why he failed so miserably in an "I-told-you-so, but did you listen?" sort of way. Needless to say, Kaname tells him to shut up, and Tessa tries to repair the dramatic atmosphere.
- Used in Gunslinger Girl for their Creepy Child moments, as they've been brainwashed to obey their handlers without question. When one handler first starts instructing a girl, he's annoyed at her inability to hit the target (actually because she's not become used to her cyborg implants) and tells her not to leave the range until she can consistently hit the target. The next day it's pouring down rain and the handler grouches that he hasn't seen any sign of the girl he's supposed to be teaching. He's told to go to the firing range where he finds her cold and shivering, still trying to hit the target as instructed after practicing all night.
- Haruhi Suzumiya: During the group's beach vacation, Nagato follows a party game instruction to turn away, face back, and say "I love you," to the letter, with about as much emotion as she displays in general. Also, when Kyon and Haruhi go out to investigate a staged murder, she extends Haruhi's order not to open the door to anyone to include her when they come back; Haruhi actually calls her out on this trope after Kyon specifies said order revoked.
- Hetalia: Axis Powers:
France: Just shake your ass at them or something.
Italy: Oh, oh, Japan! Want to see my bum?
- Early in Kanon, Ayu comes charging at Yuichi, who tells her to move to the side, specifying the hand one holds their chopsticks in. She moves to the left, crashes into him, and specifies when asked why that she's left-handednote .
- Isshin Matoi, the deceased father of protagonist Ryuko from Kill la Kill, is said to be this as an explanation for his terrible naming sense as he founded an organization called Nudist Beach (made up of, guess what, nudists) and named an invention of his the "Rending Scissors" because they're a pair of scissors that... rend. This even applies to his daughter, where one potential meaning for her name of many is abandoned girl, which is distressingly spot on once we learn more about her history.
- Lucky Star: Yutaka is known to ramble to Minami about how she wishes she could grow as tall as her. In one such instance, after Minami assures her that she will grow taller, Hiyori imagines her suddenly growing, first just in height and then becoming an actual giantess, before freaking out at her own ideas.
- In an earlier episode, Miyuki describes her mother to Konata as an open book, in answer to her question about how she just answered her on the phone. Konata asks a few days later what that has to do with opening books, to which Miyuki explains that it means she is not good at containing her emotions.
- Mon Colle Knights: In one episode during the Utopian Eagle/Stove Dragon takeoff sequence, Mondo says "Let's get this popcorn-popper poppin'!" Ichirobei comments popcorn being a good idea, and Rockna tells him it's a figure of speech. (Dub only; usually, the sequence is completely silent, save for Mondo's one line that got translated as something else in each dub episode.)
- The Pet Girl of Sakurasou: When asked for the reasons behind her actions ("What are you thinking?!"), resident Idiot Savant Mashiro answers instead with exactly what is she thinking at the moment: ("Of the Earth").
- A popular form of joke in Pokémon, although some jokes get Lost in Translation in English. One that survived in episode 1 involved Satoshi asking Pikachu to "tell him his story", which Pikachu interprets as "showing him his teeth"; this survived as Ash asking him to open his mouth, which he does literally.
- In an episode of Suite Pretty Cure ♪, Kanade tells Ellen, who's getting ready for her first day of school (ever), to write her name on the board big so the others can see it. She writes her name on the board big, taking up the entire board.
- An equal parts hilarious and adorable example exists in Nia from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, who exhibits literal-mindedness in several situations: Once she rejects the prospect of marrying Simon because she doesn't get how two people could be physically merged after he says he wants to "become one" with her, and her voicemail has her saying "I can't use the phone right now" before feeling the need to clarify that she can physically use a phone, just that she's not near hers at the moment.
- Motu from Motu Patlu has a tendency to take metaphors too literally, such as in the episode "Fire Ball Aliens" when he literally tries to fly upon Patlu telling him they should "fly away" (that is, run away) from the incoming horde of fireball aliens.
- Various Characters in Chick Tracts are literal-minded, but we're supposed to agree with them on every single issue in The Bible. But then again, Jack Chick is a Fundamentalist IRL.
- The Flash: Bart Allen alias Impulse/Kid Flash is pretty literal-minded, though it could be justified in his case: not only is he from the future, but he grew up in virtual reality.
Superman: The Pope was very understanding — especially when you wondered if he was Catholic.
Bart: A lot of people I know keep asking!
- Supergirl Kara Zor-El suffers from this at the beginning of Many Happy Returns. Justified because she is a very innocent kid who has just been stranded in another planet and can barely speak English. Sarcasm, jokes and idiomatic expressions tend to go over her head.
Linda: Oh, I get it now. You're cute. Reaaaally cute.
Kara: Do you think I am cute?
- Werner has lots and lots of examples of this, even whole stories based on being literal-minded. However, most of them are impossible to translate to English for demonstration purposes.
Hörni: Say something!
Hörni: You shall not say something, you shall say something!
- One Archie Comics story was about a new foreign transfer student attending Riverdale High. The concept was that every time a character used a figure of speech, she would confuse it for what it would mean in a literal sense.
- The Viz character Mr Logic takes everything said literally. For example when he is asked to boil the kettle he points out that the kettle is made out of stainless steel and he can't produce a temperature high enough to boil stainless steel.
- Also from Guardians of the Galaxy, Rocket Raccoon occasionally encounters this problem, especially when he tries to pun, as in his own miniseries:
Rocket: Nah, I'm not buying [your suggestion] this time.Sale: I'm afraid I don't understand. Have I tried to sell you something?
- Laff-A-Lympics: Upon reading from a cook book that he must add a "can of tomato paste", Huckleberry Hound literally throws an unopened can into the pot.
- Stunt Dawgs: As far as Badyear in concerned in the comics, to hog-tie someone means to tie a hog to someone.
- Mortadelo from Spanish comic book Mortadelo y Filemón has this trait, which often leads to funny accidents (usually at Filemón's expense).
- On several occasions in Sasmira, a character will take literally a figurative turn of phrase by another character.
- Batman: In his introductory storyline Henri Ducard is called back to Gotham to testify against Bruce Wayne. His hosts send a limo to pick him up and ask what name he'll go by. He tells them to pick one at random. The chauffeur stands at the airport holding a sign that reads "Random".
- Zero in Beetle Bailey lives this trope. Honorable mention:
Sarge: Zero, take this report to the General's office, and step on it!
- In this strip of Dilbert, the Pointed-Haired Boss ask Asok to throw Carl "under the bus" because he "choked the pooch", Asok angrily says he will take care of it. Then he says that he found a website that lists idioms and that he had done some bad things.
- In one strip, Roger sits in front of the family computer for a moment, then slowly pushes it away from himself until it falls off the desk. Because someone mentioned it "needed backing up."
- In a similar strip, Roger complained a program he installed isn't working. Jason pointed out the program is the Windows version and they don't have Windows. Roger immediately pointed to an actual window and said "Are you nuts? There's a window right there!" Cue Jason facepalming.
- One Sunday strip saw Paige (after something involving Britney Spears and Prince William) attempt to use a CD burner to literally torch a CD.
- Garfield :
Garfield: "That's about a seven on the creepy scale."
- Believing that "You can't know someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes", Jon's Uncle Forrest had three hundred pairs when they caught him.
- When Jon asks Irma what's new on the menu, she describes the new stains on it.
- Pearls Before Swine has a Running Gag that's sort of an inverse as this trope: Pig will use a figure of speech but he means it literally, and another character (usually Goat) will take it figuratively. There's an example here.
- Done sometimes by Wally Wood's Sally Forth whenever it's funny.
Dahl: Battle stations! Strip for action!
(Sally quickly undresses)
- In one Snuffy Smith comic, Snuffy landed a Precision F-Strike when asked to swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, then lampshades this trope after being reprimanded:
Snuffy: Consarn it, Judge, you're the one who told me to swear!
- U.S. Acres: Bo once went ice fishing and caught a block of ice.
- Big Nate: Head upstairs and hit the books.
- One Calvin and Hobbes strip sees Calvin take the box a bar of soap comes in and stand on it, his reasoning being that "when you harangue the multitudes, you stand on a soap box".
Hobbes: You'd probably be more impressive if you tried using the soap.
Calvin: Let me know if you see any multitudes.
- Several characters in Nancy. Taken to ridiculous lengths with Pee-Wee during Olivia Jaimes' run, where he's so literal-minded that Nancy has to be careful with how she words her statements whenever he's around.
- The Far Side: A witch realizes that when another witch says she "has one in the oven", she actually meant she was pregnant. Justified, given what stereotypical witches do.
- Get Fuzzy:
- Almost everything Satchel says.
- Another honorable mention is the zookeeper in this strip.
- In one 2006 strip of Opus, Opus is sitting with several stuffed animals while wearing chef's hats and carrying baking equipment, and says "I think we're 'The Baker Commission.'"
- Phoebe and Her Unicorn; Marigold Heavenly Nostrils is both a unicorn and very literal minded. She reacts with horror when Phoebe says she's going to rub Marigold in Dakota's snotty face, and when Phoebe's mom says she has to paint her, Marigold is game, but wants to know which color, first.
- Cheating Death: Those That Lived:
- Woof Casino has a learning disorder that makes him feel unable to act without receiving orders. Once he gets orders, though, he takes them to the extreme. He volunteers when his disabled younger brother is reaped, not so much out of love and affection, but because he interprets the pleas to "save me" as a command. When his mentor orders him to "learn everything", he goes to every training station in the gymnasium, picking up the skills to earn a training score of 11. This takes a darker turn when his last opponent in the arena mutters, "Aw, fuck me." Then, after his victory, Duke Saint-Rose tells Woof to "Stop obeying everybody's damn orders" and he does that without a second's pause.
- Blinded by greed, Hessian Leblanc, the Head Gamemaker for Snag's Games, responds to the President's orders for an "explosive" Hunger Games by only supplying hand grenades as weapons at the Cornucopia, which ends just as well as you'd expect. Deconstructed when Hessian ends up getting executed painfully over this blunder.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fic Twilight's List, Rainbow Dash shows some signs of this, believing that pruning apple trees is some sort of strange excuse for Applejack to not come watch her new stunt because apple trees don't grow prunes. She also is confused by metaphors, though that may also be an outgrowth of her lack of ability to construct proper metaphors herself.
- In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, Kyon starts chatting with Sasaki, who brings up that most of his events were most probably organized by someone else. His PDA, being able to learn and adapt, brings up his event planner immediately. He then tries to avoid meetings with her with lame excuses that Skynet (his PDA) obligingly fills his schedule with as it doesn't understand Kyon is lying.
- Inverted in Chapter 8 of Thousand Shinji, Rei is asked by Asuka, "Aren't you hot wearing all that??" To which Rei replied, "Yes. Very. Thank you." It took Asuka couple seconds to figure out what Rei had said, then she became more specific.
- From Calvin and Hobbes: The Series:
Tracer: [narrating] That night, when I got home, I received a call from Mimi Dejour. She said she wanted to meet me at the club right away. Since I had no idea where the Club Right Away was, I suggested the Club Flamingo. She agreed.
- In the A Certain Magical Index fic Clash of the unlikely lovers, Accelerator and Vento of the Front have sex, with Vento eventually screaming, "My pussy is on fire!" Last Order, who was outside, is traumatized, thinking Vento was talking about an actual cat that was on fire.
- In Equestria: A History Revealed, the Lemony Narrator certainly fits this well. She tends to analyze minute details behind word choice in an attempt to find some hidden meaning. However, this is not always the case, as sometimes she ignores the literal meaning for a more symbolic one. She really tends to go either way depending on what supports her way of thinking the best at the moment.
- In the Sherlock fanfic Baker School Blitz, Sherlock will answer all of John's hyperbolic questions literally, without fail. He'll also deliver nothing but facts when questioned, something John discovers is a mixed bag.
- Turnabout Storm: Every metaphor Phoenix uses inevitably flies over Pinkie's head. For example, she says she missed the part where Sonata was throwing daggers out of her eyes, and wishes she could do that.
- In Growing Up Kneazle Harry, thanks to being raised by a Kneazle pride, had a tough time with human idioms, to the point where Hermione commented "Harry, sometime we really need to discuss your literal interpretation of life."
- In Leftovers, when Kurenai wakes Naruto up at 6 AM, he mutters, "This better not be about that Jesus guy. I didn't even look for him the first time."
- Godzilla Junior in The Bridge only barely grasps figurative meaning in a lot of sayings. Hilarity ensues.
- Frederick the Deino in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Reflecting Balance occasionally has moments of this, such as responding to a comment about having difficulty "breaking the ice" with someone by recommending fire or fighting moves, or when he responds to Azure commenting that she has an itch for adventure by asking if said itch is in a spot she can't reach.
- In The Earth Adventures of MonStar!, when Star's parents told Star to go "hunting for a suitable prince", they didn't mean that she literally hunted one down, especially an Earth human who wound up there by accident.
- Mr and Mrs Gold: Belle decides not to use metaphor when planning to tell Mr. Gold that she is pregnant because of this (though it might be a side-effect of hundreds of years of bending the wording of his deals to his advantage).
- In Chapter 16 of the Totally Spies! fanfic Starlight Starbright, when Jerry is speaking to his AI GLADIS:
"Do you feel ill Jerry?" GLADIS asked.
"In a manner of speaking." Jerry replied.
"Should I summon a physician?"
"It's not that kind of illness, GLADIS." Jerry replied softly.
"I do not understand."
"That's not surprising." Jerry shrugged. "It's a feeling... a feeling of guilt. I drove the girls to leave... I could have simply lied to Sam, told her she was wrong about me, and let it stand at that. Why couldn't I?" He sighed. "I just couldn't lie to her... not to her. She's like the daughter I never had... and can never have."
"There are medications and procedures to allow you to procreate if you so desire, even at your advanced age." GLADIS said helpfully.
Jerry chuckled. "That's not why I won't have a child... it's because of my life."
- In the Pokémon fanfic Contrast, when N goes to a shopping mall with White, he is horrified when he finds a store selling stuffed Pokémon, because he thinks they're actually the bodies of dead Pokémon filled with soft stuffing.
- In Faded Blue, Greg notes this is a problem with Gems, and tries to avoid figures of speech with them. One instance being that when asked "What's up?", Blue Pearl refers to the branches above her.
- In What Tomorrow Brings, Gafinilan and Mertil are both unfamiliar with human terms. The former thinks that the "ladies" sign on a block of toilets is misleading because it may have one lady in it or none at all; and when Loren is disappointed that the neurobot mat can't cure her mental traumas and "save [her] some money on therapy", Mertil assures her that it doesn't run on money.
- White Sheep (RWBY):
- Jaune, due to being raised completely away from human civilization with only his family around. He does get better eventually, but it takes him a while to learn that "sleep with" is a euphemism for sex (since sex doesn't involve much sleeping), and mistakes Yang's joking "it's a date!" for an actual invitation to a date.
- Jaune's sisters are at least as bad. Though his eldest sister, Sapphire, does seem to have a bit more experience in human civilization, and correctly uses the phrase "there are plenty of fish in the sea" instead of "there are plenty of nevermore in the sky" that the rest of the family uses.
Coral: I can't fuck a fish.
Sapphire: It's an expression!
- EarthBound: The Perpetual Adventures: At one point, Ness tells Poo that he's free to "crash" at his house whenever he'd like. Poo asks why he'd want to do something like slam into his house, before Ness clears it up.
- Swordsaint: Cardinal has moments of this. For example, Kayaba tells it to give Kirito, Asuna, and Joan useful items after defeating the Gleam Eyes. It did so for Kirito and Joan, but because Asuna was spending more after she started dating Kirito, it gave her a shield, counter to her fighting style, so she could sell it for funds.
- Look the Devil in the Face is all about the Avengers believing the Devil of Hell's Kitchen is a genuine demon attached to the neighbourhood. It's actually kinda reasonable because the Marvel universe is completely crazy, but Matt still feels a mite vexed over it.
- The Bolt Chronicles: Bolt is often seen as being very literal-minded, which usually results in his Comically Missing the Point.
- In "The Makeover", he misunderstands what Mittens means when she refers to "doggy lipstick", resulting in Bolt giving himself a hideously garish makeover. His thinking is that if Mittens enjoys doggy lipstick, she'll like him even better if he's wearing several other kinds of makeup as well.
- In "The Wedding Reception", he misconstrues a joke by Mittens regarding "Pachelbel's Canon" and steps all over the punch line. He thinks Mittens's parodied title, "Taco Bell Canon", was the work's title all along after her quip.
- In "The Cameo", he misunderstands Blaze's The Empire Strikes Back I-am-your-father quote (wondering instead why he just called him Luke), as well as misconstruing his father's description of his girlfriend as a "two-bagger" by thinking this means she plays baseball. Earlier, Bolt is thoroughly confused by the suggestive teasing from Penny and her friend in connection with a smut fic featuring him and his master.
- In "The Gift", he misconstrues Mittens's question "How about sex?" as a come-on rather than an inquiry about whether beings in Nirvana have sex or not.
- In "The Seven", young Bolt misunderstands when one of his friends says that "even Citizen Kane is no Citizen Kane." His reaction is to ask "How can Citizen Kane not be Citizen Kane if that's what it is?"
- In "The Cakes" ,Bolt misconstrues Mittens's evasiveness regarding her having gone to use the litter box, taking her "making a cake" euphemism literally.
- At one point in the Sonic fic Caves of the Ancients, Bait the Jackal suffers some cuts to his hands when a rope he is holding rips out of his grip. Knuckles offers to treat his wounds, but he just says he'll lick them. Knux then insists, stating that only the Chaos Emeralds know where his tongue has been, to which he replies "in my head, where I normally keep it."
- Late two fics later, Bait demands a fight with Shadow for having killed Raker, whom he himself admitted had been nothing but abusive. Shadow states that if such a person were his own brother, he'd bust out the champagne and party hats, creating a really weird idea for Bait to visualize.
- During the endgame of Stars Above, Konata refers to everything that's gone on lately as bullshit. Kyubey asks what actually involves male cow feces.
- Heroic Myth:
- Archer hosts a cooking class. When he tells his students it is time to beat the eggs, Tiona and another student immediately start punching their eggs, which of course makes a big mess. They get embarrassed when they are told they were supposed to crack the eggs into a bowl and stir them with a whisk.
- According to Karen Morris, Dia tends to take sayings literally and does not grasp their true meanings. For example, she does not understand that "The early bird gets the worm." applies to people and not just birds.
- In the Madoka fanfic Seeing Clearly, Anzu Anzai is first introduced as this trope by answering "You may" when Kyoko asks for her name, along with being hypersensitive to being laughed at. Other examples include answering with a Witch's labyrinth when Homura asks where she came from, responding with "My butt has nothing to do with it" when Kyoko asks her if her butt's still sore from her laughing at her before, and telling a freshly contracted Hitomi to stop laughing "at her" and adding that she doesn't like jokes when Hitomi giggles nervously at something Anzu says and says "You must be joking."
- In a Lucky Star anthology titled Lucky Powers, Kagami's story involves her becoming a mage. A portal she opens grants her request to teleport Misao and Ayano's panties to her, followed by a cake when she says that it "takes the cake." Kagami makes note to be careful around it before sending all three items back.
- Taunt Fortress 2: The Winglet's SFM short based on Team Fortress 2 takes the mercs' various taunts and applies them literally in a series of comedic snippets. For example:
Sniper: "That helmet's gonna make a nice bowl for your brains!"
[Sniper eats the brains out of the Soldier's helmet with a spoon like it's cereal.]
- The Ready Jet Go! fanfic Nurse Jet has a moment where Jet is confused by the phrase "under the weather", thinking that everyone is under the weather all the time because weather comes from the sky.
- The Lion King: Pumbaa and Timon occasionally. In fact, this becomes a plot point in The Lion King 1½; Rafiki advises Timon to "go beyond what you see" in order to find "Hakuna Matata", and Timon interprets this to mean he should leave home to find a place where he'll be happy. Timon's mother is understandably annoyed when she finds out what happened:
Timon's Mother: You used a metaphor on Timon?! Don't you know he takes everything literally?
- The remake of the first film has Azizi taking Kamari's puns literally, at one point taking his "staying for dinner" line for "inviting the cubs to have dinner with them".
- The main character in There Lived Kozyavin who takes the order "go this way" literally and ends up walking quite a distance.
- Lightning McQueen in Cars, particularly during the part where Doc Hudson tells him some advice: turn right to go left. Lightning, after sarcastically thanking Doc, proceeds to turn right, leading to an Epic Fail. It later turns out this is literally true in the original context (racing on a dirt track).
- In Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, when Terrance is telling Silvermist about how Tink lost her temper at him, at first she thinks Tink literally exploded.
- In Hercules, when Hercules gets knocked around by Nessus, Phil tells him to use his head to fight back. Hercules then sends Nessus flying with a charging headbutt.
Phil: All right! Not bad, kid! Not exactly what I had in mind, but not bad.
- Max in Mary and Max has this, due to his Asperger's Syndrome, as detailed in the Real Life section.
- The LEGO Movie:
- Emmet, upon being told to act like a stool, barges into a saloon and loudly declares that the patrons should come sit on him.
- In the climactic scene, while Emmet is trying to make peace with Lord Business:
Emmet: My secret weapon... is this.
[Emmet extends his hand]
Lord Business: What is it? Is it really small? I don't see anything.
Emmet: It's my hand. I want you to take it.
Lord Business: You want me... to take your hand off?
Emmet: No. I want you to join me.
- In Frozen (2013), when Anna tells Kristoff and Olaf to give her a minute alone with Elsa, Olaf starts counting. Bonus Points: We next see Olaf exactly one minute after he starts counting too.
- Baymax from Big Hero 6 is a somewhat limited artificial intelligence. When he startles Hiro and Hiro snaps "You gave me a heart attack!", Baymax prepares to fire up his built-in defibrillator.
Hiro: It's just an expression!
- At one point in Penguins of Madagascar, Corporal the polar bear mistakes a part of Classified's ultimate plan as a knock-knock joke.
Classified: At 22:02, knock-knock.
Corporal: Who's there?
Classified: The North Wind.
Corporal: The North Wind who?
Classified: The North Wind who doesn't have time for knock-knock jokes because we're too busy taking down Dave!
- The Boov from Home (2015). In just one example, Oh finds a cookbook as he sets up his housewarming party. He cooks it.
- Missing Link: Mr. Link does this on occasion:
Sir Lionel: I give you my word.
Mr. Link: Okay, what is it?
Sir Lionel: What?
Mr. Link: The word.
Sir Lionel: No, it was a figure of speech.
Mr. Link: Sounds good, what is it?
Sir Lionel: ...The word is 'trust'.
- This kickstarts the entire plot of the 1994 version of Angels in the Outfield. Roger asks his Disappeared Dad when they'll be a family again, to which his dad replies "I'd say when the Angels win the pennant."note Roger takes this literally, praying to God for help. It turns into a Tear Jerker later when Roger finally figures out his dad was being sarcastic, which only happens when Roger's dad forfeits custody of him to the state.
- Freddy Got Fingered: "You must get inside the animal."
- Justified example in Heart of Dragon with Dodo, an autistic man in his thirties, who runs away from home after quarelling with his brother-slash-caretaker. Looking for a job, Dodo tried applying for a job application in a restaurant, and when the restaurant owner's wife asks Dodo if he knows how to wait at tables, Dodo did literally that by standing on a nearby table and waiting.
- In one of the more memetic scenes from the film, Mugatu shows Derek with a model of a projected construction project, and proclaims that it's a center to help child literacy dedicated to Derek (which has been his dream for much of the film). Derek fails to connect the dots that Mugatu doesn't mean the tiny model is the actual building, and destroys it before declaring that the center needs to be "at least three times bigger." Mugatu decides to just run with it rather than try to explain the issue to Derek.
- "The files are inside the computer..." Derek and Hansel physically steal Mugatu's computer. Later, trying to get the files, Hansel smashes the computer on the floor, destroying them.
- Spaceballs: President Skroob orders his minions to "comb the desert" to find the heroes; cut to the Mooks dragging a gigantic comb through the sand. Colonel Sandurz asks if they aren't being too literal, and Dark Helmet responds "He said comb the desert, so we're combing the desert!"
- In Temple Grandin we see the autistic Temple's interpretation of idioms (Temple's Aunt: "We wake up with the chickens around here!" Temple: (after imagining her relatives perched on a fence in their PJs) *laughing* "That's ridiculous!"). This gets her in a bit of trouble when she builds a hugbox and a psychiatrist asks her if she gets a release from it and she says yes (because if there wasn't a release lever she couldn't get out). Unfortunately, she doesn't clarify that part and her hugbox gets taken away.
- In a Swedish movie called In Space, There Are No Emotions, the (autistic) main character, Simon, states during a monologue that he dislikes people who speak in sayings and metaphor.
His Boss: Come on, get to work now, Simon! Time is money!
Simon: ... [yelling, as his boss walks away] No, it's not! Time is time! Money is money!
- Peter in Finding Neverland. At the very least, he can't (or won't) imagine that a dog is a bear, for instance.
- This memorable dialogue from Star Trek IV:
Interrogator: Okay, let's take it from the top.
Pavel Chekov: The top of what?
Chekov: My name?
Interrogator: [sarcastically] No, my name!
Chekov: I do not know your name.
Interrogator: You play games with me mister, and you're through!
Chekov: I am? May I go now?
- In What About Bob?, neurotic pantophobe Bob (Bill Murray) literally walks in small steps when his psychiatrist Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss) presents him with his published "Baby Steps" approach to life and seems to think it's helping.
- In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Eddie visits the Ink and Paint Club and orders a Scotch on the rocks, and one of the penguin waiters returns to him with a glass of Scotch... filled with rocks. Despite Genre Savvy Eddie having told the penguin that he meant ice.
- TRON: Legacy: Kevin Flynn orders Clu, a computer program, to create the perfect system. Living beings aren't perfect.
- Airplane! abuses this trope very frequently:
Dr. Rumack: Captain, how soon can we land?
Oveur: I can't tell.
Dr. Rumack: You can tell me. I'm a doctor.
Oveur: No. I mean I'm just not sure.
Dr. Rumack: Can't you take a guess?
Oveur: Well... not for another two hours.
Dr. Rumack: [Beat] You can't take a guess for another two hours?
- Guardians of the Galaxy (2014):
- As mentioned in the page quote, Drax's entire species is Literal-Minded and have difficulty understanding metaphors, which goes to show that while Drax is a big intimidating warrior, he's just as nuts as the other members of the team.
- Gamora has a moment herself when she thinks people having sticks up their butts meant somebody had literally inserted said sticks, rather than them being uptight. Of course, in this case, she has no choice but to be literal-minded because she has no familiarity with Earth's specific idioms.
- In The Apple Dumpling Gang, dim-witted crooks Theodore and Amos are scouting out the bank, making plans to steal the gold. This exchange ensues:
Theodore: It's a piece of cake.
Amos: You mean it ain't gold?
- In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indy and his father Henry Sr. are flying in a biplane when they see some Nazi fighter planes approaching.
Indy: [shouting] Eleven o'clock! Dad, eleven o'clock!
Henry: [checks his watch] What happens at eleven o'clock?
Indy: [gesturing] Twelve, eleven, ten! Eleven o'clock, fire!
- In the short film Falling Leaves, a woman is dying of consumption. The doctor mentions that she will die "when the last leaf falls". Her kid sister misunderstands this and decides to tie up the leaves in their backyard so that her older sister doesn't die. The young woman ends up saved by a new vaccine.
- In Superman: The Movie, when Eve is fawning over Lois Lane's description of Superman.
Éve Teschmacher: He's too good to be true! He's 6'4'', has black hair, blue eyes, doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, and tells the truth!Lex Luthor: Miss Teschmacher, some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it's a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe.Eve Teschmacher: Lex, what has chewing gum got to do with the secrets of the universe?
- In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, when the T-850 needs to take the clothes of a male stripper.
T-850: Your clothes.
Stripper: Talk to the hand!
T-850: [grabs the stripper's hand and nearly breaks it as he speaks into it] Now.
- Men in Black:
Bug: Place projectile weapon on the ground.
Edgar: You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers!
Bug: Your proposal is acceptable. [kills Edgar, takes projectile weapon]
- Bicentennial Man: Andrew doesn't quite understand certain behaviours. Mix that in with occasionally getting words wrong and you have a person who objects "chickens don't have lips" when they're told that their dinner sucks. It causes him trouble when learning humour, especially with knock-knock jokes, leading to deadpan delivery.
- In The Trip (1967), this is a side effect of the LSD Paul takes.
Waitress: What can I get for you?
Waitress: No, not you, that guy over there.
Waitress: Okay, wise guy, what do you want to drink?
- In Red Heat, when Ridzik tells Danko about the Miranda Act, and tells Danko that he "can't touch [Rosta's] ass". Danko responds that he does not want to touch his ass, but make him talk.
- Miss Congeniality: During the pageant, the M.C. (William Shatner) asks a contestant "Please describe your idea of a perfect date.", to which the contestant responds "I'd have to say April 25th. Because it's not too hot, not too cold. All you need is a light jacket!".
- In Space Jam: A New Legacy, while trying to see if the Tunes remember how to play basketball, Daffy passes a ball to Yosemite Sam and tells him to "shoot the ball". Sam proceeds to unload his revolvers into the basketball... and Daffy's face.
- Amanda Palmer in "Vegemite (The Black Death)":
As though it wasn't bad enough, you also eat this shit for lunch, which means we can't spend any time together.
What kind of relationship is that?
The choice is yours. My heart is in your hands.
Please wash your hands, you just had vegemite for lunch.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Albuquerque":
Okay, like, one time I was out in the parking lot trying to remove my excess earwax with a golf pencil, when I see this guy Marty trying to carry a big ol' sofa up the stairs all by himself. So I say to him, I say, "Hey, you want me to help you with that?"
And Marty, he just rolls his eyes and goes "Nnnnoooo, I want you to cut off my arms and legs with a chainsaw!"
...So I did.
And then he gets all indignant on me! He's like, "Hey man, I was just being sarcastic!"
Well, that's just great. How was I supposed to know that? I'm not a mind reader for cryin' out loud! Besides, now he's got a really cute nickname: Torso Boy! So what's he complaining about?!
- Followed immediately by this:
Say, that reminds me of another amusing anecdote.
This guy comes up to me on the street and tells me he hasn't had a bite in three days.
Well, I knew what he meant, but just to be funny, I took a big bite out of his jugular vein!
And he's yelling, and screaming, and bleeding all over, and I'm like "Hey, c'mon! Don't ya get it?"
But he just kept rolling around on the sidewalk bleeding and screaming, "AAHHHHH!! AAHHHHH!! AAHHHHH!!", y'know, completely missing the irony of the whole situation.
Man, some people just can't take a joke, y'know...
- Followed immediately by this:
- The Lonely Island's Threw it on the Ground has this gem:
I was at the farmer's market with my so-called "girlfriend."
She hands me her cell phone, says it's my dad.
Maaaan, this ain't my dad. This is a cell phone!
I threw it on the GROOOOOOOOOOOUND!!!
- Knorkator's Wie weit ist es bis zum Horizont (How Far Is It To The Horizon): Turns out the solution to this problem is the Pythagorean theorem, which results in an average distance of 4650m for a person whose eye level is 1,70m above the ground.
- They Might Be Giants, "Hey Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had a Deal":
I could never sleep my way to the top
'Cause my alarm clock always wakes me right up
- In "Changeling Tale" by Heather Dale The Fair Folk are portrayed this way. Either due to ignorance of human language or pure malice, the fairies give an infertile woman a child when she asks for one. The child however cannot age as her Exact Words were for an infant.
A babe was all she'd asked for, and their promises they'd kept
- "Lizzie Borden" from New Faces of 1952:
Now, it wasn't done for pleasure and it wasn't done for spite,
And it wasn't done because the lady wasn't very bright.
She had always done the slightest thing that mom and poppa bid.
They said, "Lizzie, cut it out," and that's exactly what she did.
- According to Jessica of Fat, French and Fabulous, the poor are not unlike horseshoe crabs and the purpose of a robust social safety net is to flip them over and thereby put them back on their feet.
Janel: I'm going to block out some time and I'm going to tell you what idioms are.
- After Jim Cornette prevented Christopher Daniels and AJ Styles from taking physical retribution against Gail Kim for repeatedly attacking them to preserve the NWA Tag Team Title reign of America's Most Wanted, Styles and Daniels decided they'd just hire a very large woman to take out Kim instead. Sirelda took this job literally by forcibly carrying a protesting Kim out of the Impact Zone.
- When Delirious debuted for Elite Wrestling, he tried to eat Cheeseburger his opponent, for the night (who had been nicknamed such by Charlie Haas on the grounds he needed to eat one).
- The Muppet Show:
- The Swedish Chef is often this way, such as when he makes chocolate mousse by rubbing chocolate on a moose, and his "chicken in a basket" involves him bouncing a chicken and then throwing it through a basketball net.
- In addition, Gonzo. Once, when asked by Joel Grey if he wanted to go for a spin, he began spinning.
- Statler can be like this. When Waldorf decided it was time for a tea break, Statler knocked the teacup off the edge of the theater box, breaking it.
- Animal. In the Zero Mostel episode, there's a knock and Kermit asks him to "get the door". Animal responds by ripping it off its hinges and bringing it over to Kermit.
- Played with but averted on Sesame Street, during a "News Flash" segment involving Old King Cole:
King Cole: Bring me my royal pipe, and step on it!
Kermit: At this point, you probably think we're going to make a cheap joke. But we're not.
- Derryn the dog from The Ferals.
Modi: We've got to use our brains.
Derryn: But how do we get them out of our heads?
Modi & Mixy: DERRYN!
- Bear in the Big Blue House:
- In "Worth the Wait," Tutter the mouse is making some ice cheese pops and is tired of waiting for them to freeze. Bear sets him up with a timer, telling him that "When the timer dings, the pops will be done." Tutter manually resets the timer to zero. Bear is forced to explain to him that it doesn't work this way.
- In "Let's Hit the Road," Tutter tells the other kids of the Big Blue House that he's going on a school field trip, but that he doesn't know where, that it's a surprise. Pip and Pop figure that if he's going on a field trip, he must be going to a field. Amusingly enough, it turns out that they're right. Tutter and the other kids at Mouse School are going to a field to observe nature.
- Our Miss Brooks: Mr. Jensen, the school custodian, makes a few radio appearances. He insists on interpreting figures of speech and phrases literally. Thus, to Miss Brooks' consternation (i.e. School Safety Advisor) any attempt at conversation with him quickly becomes a chore.
- Denis Norden did a piece on My Word! about "Literalism", a condition he suffered from, and which could lead to embarrassment, for example upon seeing a sign reading "Urinal out of order. Please use floor below."
- Mr. Lamb in The Men from the Ministry is prone to these.
Mr. Youngblood: These accident figures. Have you noticed that in greater London a man breaks his leg every fifteen minutes?
Lamb: He must be getting sick of it by now.
- Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
- Ziz is a drone with limited artificial intelligence, and so can struggle with common turns of phrases. While at her high school, Ivy sends it a text telling it to "go to the school's roof and don't move", then tells it again to "come here", which leaves it confused as to whether she wants it to move or stay still.
- Jemimah is somewhat of a ditz, so can have issues with missing the obvious. Ivy needs a bucket of water to put out a fire, sees an empty one right next to a tap, and points it out to Jemimah. Jem then retrieves the bucket and only the bucket.
- Warhammer 40,000: Due to their Undying Loyalty and near religious belief in the chain of command, ogryns will follow any order given without question; due to their less-than-stellar intelligence, they will also do so in the most literal manner possible, because it honestly doesn't occur to them that their order could have anything more than their immediate surface meaning. In the background book Liber Xenologica, the narrator recounts two incidents where this led to serious issues for order-givers; one where a rogue commissar order his ogryn troops to cover him, leading to a fatal dog-piling, and another where an officer ordered a group of ogryns watching over some prisoners to present arms, with... unfortunate results for the prisoners.
- Sheridan's The Critic. The Lieutenant responds to Tilburina's impassioned "I see...) (in her mind's eye) speech with "The Spanish fleet thou can'st not see/Because... it is not yet in sight!"
- Die Anstalt: When told that he is an eagle by a motivational tape, Kroko really attempts to fly. The help guide even lampshades this: "The patient's infra-logical-predicative thinking hinders him to decipher metaphors."
- Eternal Sonata: Polka, judging by the first two cutscenes with her in it. Good job, Solfege.
- In Week 1 of Friday Night Funkin' HD, when Daddy Dearest tells Boyfriend he'll have to go through him in order to date Girlfriend (as in, participate in a rap battle), Boyfriend takes this to mean he has to actually fight Daddy Dearest, which he has no problems with.
- Kingdom Hearts II: Auron (in the Underworld of the Colosseum), final plot-mandated interaction, assuming he's not just messing with Sora to prove a point.
Auron: I suppose I should thank you.
Sora: Not at all.
Sora: I mean, sure, you could thank us a little...
Auron: You should say what you mean.
- In LEGO Island, when Mama Brikolini is asked what it was that brought her to the island, she replies "The boat, silly."
- Played for Laughs in RuneScape with Farli, a dwarf who seems to have little to no understanding of sarcasm, leading questions and the like.
- Tales of the Abyss: Tear Grants. She at one point takes Luke telling her she "hasn't changed" in reference to her still donning her uniform after the time skip.
- Tales of Vesperia: Estelle tends to take a lot of sayings quite literally, to the confusion of her teammates. This is the result of her living in a castle her entire life. She does eventually get a bit better about this.
Yuri: It'll be a hundred years before you can beat me.
Estelle: Because you've lived a lot longer, right?
Yuri: Not excatly.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable : The Gears of Destiny has Levi the Slasher, the Material of Power who prefers to leave the thinking to Stern and Lord Dearche. When Fate explains to her that the dead Alicia is now "beyond the skies", she interprets this to mean that she's currently abroad in another world.
- Youmu Konpaku from Touhou Project has some shades of this going for her. Considering that her mistress is Saigyouji Yuyuko, Cryptic Conversationalist and Obfuscating Cloudcuckoolander extraordinaire, taking things at face value is likely an adaption/resignation to the fact that poor Youmu has seldom, if ever, been able to understand what she is told anyway and, as such, has given up on even bothering to read into what's being said.
- In a scene from Tears to Tiara 2, after a heartwarming You Are Not Alone moment with Hamil, Tart tells him that eventually he has to be able to shoulder her weight as well. Hamil smiles and says that's quite a burden. Tart replies saying how can Hamil be so weak when the little girl Charis can do it, surprising Hamil who was just wondering a moment ago where Tart and Charis were. Cuts to Charis shaking and limping up the rest of the mountain. She said she could, and in a moment of Literal Minded Tart has Charis carry her up the mountain. And The Plucky Girl actually tried, and evidently got quite far. And she remained as cheerful as ever, determined to get stronger so next time she could do it all the way, leaving Hamil to facepalm and explain to the Goddess the actual physical limitations of a human girl.
- Dekar from Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals and the remake Curse of the Sinistrals completely fails to understand Idura's taunts, and in both versions takes Idura's "nameless master" comment to mean that Idura's master literally has no name.
- Strong from Fallout 4 is a mutant who has heard about the "Milk of Human Kindness" and believes it to be an actual beverage.
- Early in Shin Megami Tensei IV, you go visit a baker with companions Jonathan and Walter, and Walter asks the baker for loaves that are "still kicking", i.e. fresh. The baker responds by saying that he doesn't know of any "bread that kicks".
- The Boss in the Saints Row series occasionally shows signs of this. Take this instance in Saints Row, for example:
Jack: Hey, kid, how'd you like to make some quick cash?
(The Playa approaches Jack's table and reaches for the money Jack had just been counting)
Jack: Evidently, you aren't familiar with the no-touching rule...
- This trope is lampshaded in a cutscene from Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell
Jezebel: I want to punch my father in the face!
Johnny: We're going to get along just fine.
Narrator: Of course, Jezebel was speaking metaphorically, but Johnny didn't notice.
- This trope is lampshaded in a cutscene from Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell
- In Yakuza 0, Naoya Kawahashi, one of the two "Mr. Shakedowns" of Sotenbori, claims the reason he goes around shaking people down for cash is that his dad always told him to be self-sufficient and never rely on anyone else, therefore he can't get a real job, because having a boss give him a paycheck would be relying on someone else. Probably not what his dad meant by that.
- In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Petra is a Foreign Exchange Student from/princess of Brigid, an island nation that speaks a different language than in Fodlan. As such, many idioms and slang terms tend to go over her head, since her mastery of Fodlan's language is a work in progress.
- Sten from Dragon Age: Origins is a partial example. Sometimes, he's genuinely literal-minded because he doesn't get the local culture and its metaphors. Often, however, he feigns being literal-minded because he finds it funny.
Warden: Do you have to be so literal?
Sten: No, it's a choice, not a necessity.
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: Cesar has some difficulty with the rhetorical question "Does the Pope shit in the woods?"
I already told you, I don't know! Where His Holiness does his business is his business!
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations, this results in Pearl Fey pouring a roast's gravy on a picture, as she was ordered to "gravely roast" (i.e., in Hell) the person it depicted — and she was too young to understand. This is a Woolseyism — in the original Japanese, the order is something along the lines of "Give Misty Fey magnificent burial rites" — in kanji. Pearl can't read kanji very well, because she's only eight, so she reads "magnificent" as "curry" (they're pronounced the same) and covers the picture in it.
- The Fruit of Grisaia: Sachi has a way of reading everything in a very direct way. Considering she also has an unrelated issue with following every order shes told to follow, she can end up doing some pretty strange things that no one intended. She refuses to call Michiru anything but her name with a -sama on it much to her horror since she hadnt been serious when she made the request but phrased it too strongly.
- If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device:
Kitten: "Don't worry, my Lord! I can just use this lingua-technis mouthpiece instead so I can talk in binary!"Emperor: What the shit?Kitten: 01001001001111110001000101...
- Kitten has such a literal-minded moment in the "Ask Questions!" video that it counts as an Idiot Ball unless he's being secretly sarcastic, which would be even more out of character. When the Emperor tells him in so many words to stop using his mouth to say stupid works, he says:
- Rogal Dorn is so literal it hurts, and completely oblivious to the fact, driving the Emperor crazy. Apparently justified even while it's exaggerated: When the Emperor asks whether it's because of brain damage, he says yes.
Emperor: You could fortify me from all the stupid shit that's happening in the galaxy and threatens to spill into my throne room.
Rogal Dorn: Fecal matter does not have mental capacity. You do not require fortifications.
- The Skitarii on Mars also have issues with figurative speech.
Kitten: ...but it just turns out I'm banging my head on a brick wall!
Skitarii: We. Are. Not. A. Brick. Wall. We. Are. Skitarii.
- And in Brawl of the Objects, Boat is known to take breaking the fourth wall literally, as she doesn't talk to the viewers, she breaks a wall with the number four on it. Yes, really.
- Egoraptor's short Mr. Literal is about this type of character.
- The rule of funny in several Eddie at The LMV musical cover videos. A particular one is in the Need You Now video, in which the lyric "Another shot of whiskey" has a visual of Eddie pointing a pistol at a man (presumably called Whiskey).
- In Red vs. Blue, O'Malley had Lopez build a robot army to destroy the Reds and Blues. When he activates them and sends them off, they're moving incredibly slow. As it turns out, O'Malley had told Lopez to build the robots so he would have a "day of victory", Lopez took this to build them so that they could only move no faster than one mile an hour, thus achieve victory in 24 hours.
- In The Spy Fights Godzilla ᶠᵒʳ ˢᵒᵐᵉ ʳᵉᵃˢᵒⁿ, the Spy orders his troops to "fire broadside BATTERIES!" at Godzilla. The Soldier interprets it as firing actual batteries (as in, cell batteries) from cannons at Godzilla, who ends up laughing at BLU team's stupidity, much to the Spy's frustration.
- 1/0: An early strip has Manny ask Tailsteak to create a running gag for the comic. The gag, however, turns out to be literal — it's a character that looks like the word "gag" and runs around. Tailsteak usually doesn't take everything literally, but he acts this way just to be a smartass. And then attempts to catch the running gag became... take a wild guess.
- Dr. Wright in Captain SNES: The Game Masta is quite literal-minded, much to the chagrin of the other characters who must deal with him.
Mega Man: Are you dense?!?
Dr. Wright: What does my mass-to-volume ratio have to do with anything?
Mega Man: WHAT ARE YOU? CAPTAIN LITERAL?!?
Dr. Wright: No, I'm Doctor—
Mega Man: DON'T ANSWER THAT!!
- In Edmund Finney's Quest to Find the Meaning of Life, we have Literal Lord Werriam.
- Pupster: Pupster tells Danny to "look at the bright side" and Danny looks into the sun in the sixth page of Pup, Pup, And Away. Danny continues to be like that for the rest of the comic.
- The Sphynx from Subnormality also seems to suffer from this. But let's be fair, who wouldn't go looking for the Fire Department when they want to heat their house?
- Cyanide & Happiness does it all the time. Also, furries.
- In Girl Genius, Gil is revealed to have invented a robot for picking up girls. As in grabbing them and lifting them up into the air.
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...
DuPree: That is so just like you... soooo pathetic.
- In Bob and George, Megaman interprets a comment about his being an idiot to mean that is his function.
- In Lovelyss Johnny Teflon isn't really familiar with idioms.
Johnny: It's as if I'm looking for a very small thing amidst a large amount of identical, equally small things.
Marcy: Like a needle in a haystack.
Johnny: What's a haystack?
- Parodied Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: "In this part of Manhattan, 'Kill my mom' was slang for 'Kill my dad.'" (This was what someone took too literally.)
- TheOdd1sOut made the comic "Head Over Heels", which features a co-worker that doesn't understand his peer's figurative speech.
- The Order of the Stick:
- Veldrina the elven priestess has trouble with metaphors. When Roy asks her to "just put a good word" for the Order with her fellow priests, she starts searching for the best word, saying at first she was going to use several.
- Thrym, the Frost Giants demigod, takes a metaphor Hel makes about "pulling their own weight" literally.
Hel: Well at least somebody is pulling their own weight around here.
Thrym: Not fair! He's very tiny, his weight is a lot less than mine!
- A Running Gag since the introduction of Minrah has been her stepping on her own lines like this.
Minrah: Did everybody I know tell me "Oh, I don't think you're the type to be a cleric? Yes! Did I listen? No! I mean, I listened or else I wouldn't have know they'd said it, but it didn't stop me!
- In Pebble and Wren, Pebble occasionally takes things literally, such as thinking You Are Grounded! meant nailed to the ground.
- Picpak Dog: The title character, a pink dog, falls into this trope. A specific example occurs when he is told to clean his cache; that meant the website but he interprets that as "cash" and is shown burning his money.
- When Steven instructs White Pearl on doing something in Ask White Pearl and Steven (almost!) anything, she always takes it literally. For instance, when he said that she had to eat (not knowing that gems do not need to eat), she responds by trying to eat the box (this including the box itself) of crackers she was holding.
- Tower of God: When the dwarvish Evan complains about the Big Guy Kurdan looking down on him, he literally gets down on his belly (and still reaches to Evan's hips).
- No Future: Aeon is relearning everything from scratch after his memories were wiped. As a result, while he has a good grasp on language, metaphors tend to escape him. For example, after being told he sent someone running "with their tail between their legs", he'll exclaim that he didn't notice his opponent had one. He also has trouble with double meanings.
Andrew: You're shitting me.
Aeon: What does it mean when it's not literal?
- The Android.
- An attempted rebuttal of the FATAL review, painfully so.
- TV Tropes: Most trope names are confusing for many reasons and might get different interpretations (usually literal ones) from readers. This is partly why the I Thought It Meant page exist.
- Hector's World:
- In one episode, Tama thinks Constable Solosolave will inspect Ranjeet's foot when he says that something is "afoot".
- Sprat the fish thinks "strong passwords" have big muscles and "viruses" make computers sick.
- The Shortest Story: "The Literally Spell" - "The wizard's spell made it so anyone who said 'literally' had their words come true."
- A feature of Cake Wrecks is "Literal LO Ls," when the cake decorators took their instructions too literally, with absurd results. One of the most infamous such is when a customer left a USB thumb drive, thinking the decorator would know to plug it into their computer and download the image for a reference. Instead they created a very detailed cake version of said thumb drive.
- Atop the Fourth Wall:
- Linkara has an... interesting definition of "alcohol abuse". Cue 30 seconds of insulting a beer bottle.
- In a later episode, told to "deck yourselves with boughs of holly" by a Christmas comic, he hits himself in the face with a wreath.
- Tobuscus has a series on YouTube about adding lyrics to trailers. The lyrics themselves are about what's happening in the trailer.
- The Angry Video Game Nerd:
- When reviewing Winter Games, he wonders about what "Hot Dog Aerials" could be, and imagines a flying hot dog (as in, food) as well as a flying hot dog (as in, animal on fire).
- In the Bible Games 3 episode, when he decides to "give his heart to Jesus". You can guess what happens.
- When Peter tries to question Roy and Karen in Return of the Cartoon Man, they take expressions like "the elephant in the room" and "cut to the chase" literally. Visual Puns ensue.
- Sparadrap from Noob. A guildmate mentioning a Pick-Up Group will conjure the image of a pick-up truck to his mind. In addition, he has trouble understanding that the same word can have a very different meaning in MMORPG and real life.
- The Cry of Mann: Jouglat asked a caller what to say to make someone like them:
Caller: I would say... be yourself.
Jouglat: Okay, thank you. [hangs up phone]
[Jouglat and Agent Martinez stand in silence]
Jouglat: ...Be yourself!
- Vision of Escaflowne Abridged: Van Fanel, to the point that when his older brother Folken tries to invoke That Man Is Dead, Van takes several tries to get it.
Van: Hey, how come you're with Zaibach, anyway? YOU were supposed to be the king of Fanelia, not me!
Folken: The man YOU knew as "Folken of Fanelia" is dead!
Van: OHHH! (Beat) Wait, who are you then?
Folken: NOT. Literally.
Folken: I died during the dragon-slaying ritual!
Van: Are you a ghost?
Folken: I. SYMBOLICALLY. died, during the dragon-slaying ritual. When the dragon took this arm from me!
Van: Wow, the dragon took your mechanical arm? How did you get it back?
Folken: [sighs] No, the dragon took my real arm, and Dornkirk replaced it with this one. THAT'S how I turned to the Dark Side.
- Sanders Sides: This is one of Logan's defining traits, especially in later episodes. This makes sense, considering he is a metaphyisical manifestation of logic.
- In the Jreg video "A Neo-Nazi With They/Them Pronouns," the titular character goes by they/them pronouns not because they reject the gender binary, but because they have five entities poessessing their body.
- In the SuperMarioLogan video "Bowser's Salad Wrap", Bowser and Bowser Junior says they are so hungry they could eat a horse. Chef Pee Pee, their personal chef, incorporates horse into the salad wrap. note
- If speaking on a very general level, autistic people. Even after being taught to distinguish metaphors and idioms from normal conversation, they will still tend to think of the literal meaning before interpreting it, just as one would with a foreign language. Many autistic people have been fascinated/obsessed with learning the meanings of different idioms at some point in their lives.
- For someone who is autistic, "I was being polite" will eventually come to mean "I Lied"
- It can also be frustrating to ask rhetorical questions to an autistic person because they will think you were asking a normal question. They just don't know when a question is rhetorical or not.
- Another thing that trips Autistic people up is when a person keeps saying "It's ok" or something in that vein just to be nice, and the autistic person thinks that the allistic person really means it. It makes the eventual blowup seem to come out of nowhere and come off as a form of Kick the Dog.
- On the other hand, this can also be subverted: not all autistic people are overly literal-minded, and if they are, not all are so to the same degree.
- Inverted when autistics are being sarcastic and an allistic person assumes they're being literal. It's not uncommon for adult autistics to overemphasize sarcasm to avoid misunderstandings, not unlike a child that has just started to learn the concept.
- Schizophrenics have been noted in making errors with the meanings of metaphors and irony — typically that they do tend to take things literally.
- Religious fundamentalism is defined by strict adherence to literal readings of their holy texts and orthodox theology.
- Young children, particularly preschoolers, are extremely literal-minded. They lack both the life experience and the reasoning skills to understand figurative speech. It's one of the reasons why you have to be careful about how you word things in order not to confuse or terrify your child. Example: When Aunt Maude passes away, you shouldn't tell your 4-year-old she's just "sleeping." You end up with a child who is terrified to go to bed, for fear it could happen to them. Also part of the reason why Disney is able to get so many innuendos in their movies without compromising the minds of young children. Parents get the figurative speech, the kids don't.
- Work to Rule. In totalitarian societies like the old Soviet Union, literal interpretation of laws may be one of very few ways people can express discontent with them since following poorly-chosen laws and thus becoming an inefficient worker will make the case that the laws have to be changed; this can also be seen on a smaller scale with workers in private firms.
In communist/totalitarian economies, minimizing one's workload is often the only functional incentive, and Work-to-rule can be a way of achieving it. PJ O'Rourke's humorous example involving a Soviet shoe factory: "If they tell you to make 5,000 shoes, you make 5,000 left-footed baby shoes. If they tell you to produce 2,000 pounds of shoes, you make one giant concrete overshoe."
- A computer will do exactly what you told it to do, whether you want it to or not.
- This can happen to confused foreigners with limited understanding of a language, thus lacking knowledge of proverbs, slang and such. For example, one may respond to "tell me about it" by explaining the subject at hand.
- Likewise, you'll probably get this reaction when trying to translate directly into a foreign language an expression or idiomatic with no equivalent in said language, and thus that can only be interpreted literally.
- For example, a Canadian paper about bilingual traps in business mentions you shouldn't translate the expression "at the end of the day" to francophones, as they are likely to understand the task at hand is to be finished before nightfall.
- Similarly, when in a French TV series a character tells another "you missed an episode," they're not breaking the fourth wall. It's just a common French expression to say someone is out of the loop. Though the double meaning of the literal meaning and the expression can be used deliberately as a Pun.
- Also still on the Foreign Language track, even when people perfectly understand what was said, the sentence can be an idiom in one language but not in another. For example, "How are you?" does exist in a wide range of languages. But while the British recognize it as a polite idiom and will reply with "Fine, thank you", a German doesn't and will think you're actually interested in their current situation and mood, thus telling you in every detail about how things are currently going. Equally, a lot of empty phrases that Japanese use are often misinterpreted because of this by foreigners (such as the infamous cases of Japanese using "Yes" when being asked a question).
- For fun, go ask Troy Baker for a Shout-Out next time you see him at a convention.
- Text in its purest form can easily fool people when taken at face value. Sarcasm or other types of figurative speech can easily be lost when there's no voice behind it or any punctuation that indicates that the phrase is not literal. Many people within online forums tend to end their posts with a "/s" to indicate they were being sarcastic, though most do it just out of jest rather than being Captain Obvious about it. This was incidentally the source of the original version of Poe's Law; if you don't make it clear there's no way to tell if you're parodying a position with a more extreme version or just actually more extreme. That being said, many trolls will respond with literal-minded replies just to rile people up.
- Ben Shapiro is semi-notorious for his bizarrely literal interpretations of song lyrics, such as an infamous video where he criticizes "Imagine" by John Lennon, such as saying that "all the people living for today" means no one bothers to plan for the future, rather than the general idea that living in the present moment is a good thing. Or that saying "nothing to kill or die for" means no one would care about stopping bad people, rather than the intended message (rejecting the Humans Are Warriors mindset). He followed it up by complaining about Cardi B's song "WAP" where, near the end, he talks about the line "Bring a bucket and mop" and assumes there is literally that much fluid, and she must have some kind of disease, unintentionally making the song seem way squickier than before.
- In one interview where he answered fan questions, Keanu Reeves was asked what his secret to staying so down-to-earth was. His immediate response was "gravity".