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Mathematician's Answer

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Well, hard to refute that...

Monty: Dad, is there a word to describe answers that are completely correct but entirely useless under the circumstances?
Prof. Jones: Yes, yes there is.

"Could you describe Mathematician's Answer here?"


"...Would you describe it here?"



Well, of course I'll describe it to you! First you asked me if I could describe it, then you asked if I would describe it, but you never actually asked me to describe the trope to you.

"All right, then. Describe Mathematician's Answer here."

If you ask someone a question, and they give you an entirely accurate answer that is of no practical use whatsoever, they have just given you a Mathematician's Answer. A common form of this trope is to fully evaluate the logic of the question and give a logically correct answer. Such a response may prove confusing for someone who interpreted what they said colloquially.

Examples include requests for favors being superficially interpreted as requests for information ("Can you do me a favor?" being interpreted as "Are you capable of doing me a favor?"). Such examples are often used in linguistics and philosophy of language to illustrate how context and convention determine implicit meaning: "Do you have any spare pillows?" "Yes. Thank you for asking." People do not usually ask for trivial information or information they already possess, which is how competent speakers know not to provide the Mathematician's Answer. This is also a favorite of English teachers and Grammar Nazis, frequently going through something similar to "Can I come in?" "I don't know, can you?" "Uh, may I come in?".

Another common form is when a character is asked "Is it A or B?" they will respond "Yes" as if it were a question of Boolean logic rather than clarifying which specific one is the case. This occurs because a question of the form "Is the capital of Australia Melbourne or Canberra?" is ambiguous between "The capital of Australia is either Melbourne or Canberra. Which one is it?" and "Is it the case that the capital of Australia is either Melbourne or Canberra?". A logician may mistake the former for the latter, to the questioner's frustration. Though, they may also answer affirmatively if they know that at least one of those answers is correct but don't know which, or consider all answers correct, or because the second answer is the correct one, and their lack of response to the first is self-explanatory. This crops up a lot in Real Life, especially in the world of computers. On the former interpretation it is also a loaded question, so the askee may legitimately answer "No" (meaning it's none of the stated options) even if the questioner didn't mean it to be a Yes-or-No question.

A third variant is when a "How?" question (as in "By what method?") is answered with an adverb or adverbial phrase, as if the question had been "In what manner?". For example: "How did you get past the guards?" "With difficulty."

Can be used by characters for reasons ranging from snarky humor to intentional obfuscation to being extremely Literal-Minded — AI and other Literal Genies by their nature are very likely to fall into the last category.

Can overlap with Shaped Like Itself when the question is seeking a description, and with Captain Obvious, as these answers tend to be self-evident for anyone with a brain. Usually doubles as a Cryptically Unhelpful Answer, when the "mathematician" is deliberately trying to confound the questioner. Compare Non-Answer, which is a vague "answer" which does not answer the question at all. Mildly related to What's a Henway? and Not Actually the Ultimate Question. Can also overlap with Comically Missing the Point if the speaker genuinely thinks he/she is giving an answer.

The trope name comes from a family of jokes about the supposed habit of mathematicians to make unhelpful answers. For example: a man in a hot-air balloon asked someone where he was. "You're in a balloon", he answered. The rider concluded that it was a mathematician that said that, because the answer was perfectly correct and completely useless. (The joke sometimes continues with the mathematician deducing that the man in the balloon is a manager, because he has risen to his position with a lot of hot air, has no idea where he is or where he is going, and yet claims this is the fault of the innocent person standing below him.)

A final variation is also common - when given two seemingly contradictory possibilities and asked which is the case, to answer 'yes.' It is a somewhat snarky way to say that both are true, and that it is not in fact a contradiction.

All of Them is a subtrope that's its own Stock Phrase, as an answer to a question of quantity. See also What's a Henway?. Contrast Implied Answer when the question isn't answered at all, and the meaning is quite clear. Often the answer is Trivially Obvious. Related to Rhetorical Question Blunder: the person who was asked gives a logical answer that ruins the spirit of the question. Compare and contrast No Wrong Answers Except That One. Compare to Lying by Omission, where the omission is more intentional and less a matter of a literal answer to a vague question.

May be a feature of Anti-Humor when given as the punchline to a joke. Compare Ask a Stupid Question... and Literalist Snarking. A well-known example is the Chicken Joke: "Why did the chicken cross the road?" "To get to the other side."


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  • A commercial for Lyrica begins with a voiceover along the lines of: "I was wondering why I had muscle pain, so I asked my doctor. It turns out, connected to muscles are nerves which send pain messages to the brain."
    • This may be a rare example of an unintentional Mathematician's Answer. The idea could be to inform the audience that pain doesn't just exist in the pained part of the body, and that not all treatment of pain actually has to directly affect the pained part (something which may seem obvious to most people — especially if you know about phantom pain — but not to everyone).
  • A beer commercial has a guy describe something as beautiful, refreshing, etc. as he grabs a beer near a woman. The woman asks him if he's describing the beer or her; his reply is, "Yes."
  • A commercial for Grey Poupon mustard has one Rolls-Royce pull up to another, and they both roll down their windows. One man asks, "Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?" The other replies, "But of course!" — then signals his chauffeur to drive away.
  • A Nike "Find Your Greatness" spot goes something like this: "Is it speed or endurance? Does it happen in two hours or four or six? Is it finishing strong or barely finishing? Yes." "It" is ostensibly greatness.
  • A series of ads for AT&T feature a man talking to young children in a kindergarten classroom. Here's one of the exchanges:
    Man: Are you competing for cutest kid right now?
    Girl: Yes.
    Man: What place are you in?
    Girl: Kindergarten?
    Man: That's adorable.
  • A board advertisement for McDonald's late-night menu has this gem: "Late dinner or breakfast? Yes."
    • In one of the Ronald & Me commercials, Ronald, teaching mathematics, puts a different number of potatoes in each of his pants pockets and asks the kids what he has now. His pants fall down, and one of the potatoes answers "Really heavy pants."

    Anime & Manga 
  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple example!
    Random guy on the beach: Hey, beautiful, where are you from?
    Shigure: My... home.
  • From the English dub of Lupin III:
    Lupin: Which direction do you think the helicopter will be coming from?
    Goemon: Up.
  • Rurouni Kenshin has one of these during the Jinchu Arc:
    Chou: So who are we goin' after? The Boss? Or Battousai?
    Saito: Yes.
  • Bleach: When a very young Uryuu asks his father why he hates being a Quincy, Ryuuken replies "because there's no money in it", leaving Uryuu so shocked and troubled that he runs to his grandfather in tears, asking if Ryuuken's answer is a truth or lie. Souken points out that, because Ryuuken has a family to raise, it can be viewed as truthful. In fact, Ryuuken is telling the truth from any angle - being Quincy never pays the bills regardless of whether or not there's a family to raise. However, Uryuu wants to know why Ryuuken hates being a Quincy, yet neither Ryuuken nor Souken actually answer that question. They both sidestep it completely.
  • Jonah in Jormungand is awful at math, so when he's basically asked 22 times 3 while the Logistics crew are at an airport, he answers "A bunch."
  • Fairy Tail: During Lucy's fight with Byro, her opponent uses a concoction that causes him to transform into a giant octopus.
    Lucy: What the heck is that!?
    Virgo: An octopus tentacle.
  • This exchange in Haruhi Suzumiya, when the group encounters a giant cricket in an alternate dimension:
    Kyon: What is that!?
    Koizumi: A camel cricket.
    Kyon: Got it. Thanks, Captain Obvious.
  • In My Hero Academia, Todoroki somehow manages to completely refurbish his dorm room, making it look like it was taken wholesale out of a traditional Japanese house, complete with tatami mat flooring and a shoji door replacing the sliding glass door out to the veranda. His classmates ask how he was able to do it all in under a day entirely by himself. Todoroki's response? "I worked really hard."
  • In Chobits, Hideki and Chi receive a mysterious file with a map attached. Hideki wonders out loud what it is, and Sumomo declares that she knows, announcing that it's a file attachment. Hideki gets annoyed but Shinbo explains that Sumomo is a less advanced persocom who has trouble grasping abstract concepts like that.
  • Kotaro of Zombie Land Saga uses these to handwave any big questions. How did he raise the seven girls from the dead? Well, just like in a zombie movie! Why are they alive after they died? Well they're zombies, duh! Does he know what the population of Saga is? Of course he does, it's small! Needless to say, the girls are very frustrated by this.
  • A typical line from Rotom Dex in Pokémon the Series: Sun & Moon does this whenever forced to choose between two or more equal probabilities. "I calculate a 50% chance that our friends went this way, and a 50% chance that they went this other way!" Other characters are quick to point out that he's not being very helpful, assuming they don't just ignore him entirely.
  • In Asteroid in Love, Mai gives one when Mira noticed she is holding two maps when they visit the shrine at new year's:
    Mira: Hey, Ino. Are those...?
    Mai: They're maps!
    Mira: Yeah, I know that! What I meant was... why do you have two?

    Audio Plays 
  • Bert and I...: A common element of the humor.
    • "You're in a balloon, you damned fool" is the punchline to "The Lighter Than Air Balloon".
    • From "Arthur Bunker Testifies": "You live there all your life?" "Not yet."
    • From "Not Just Yet": "Where is your wife?" "She's out t'the graveyard." (She died eight years ago.)
    • Pretty much all of "Directions". "Where does this road go?" "Don't go nowhere, Mister. Stays right here."
  • In I Think We're All Bozos on This Bus, when the Clem-clone asks "How are you, Doctor?" Dr. Memory replies in a flat monotone: "The Doctor is on."
  • In The Goon Show episode, "The Lost Emperor", young Neddie Seagoon is working in the Victoria and Albert Museum late at night when Moriarty and Grytpype come in and pull a gun on him.
    Grytpype: Draw the curtain Moriarty. Now then is there anyone else in the building apart from you?
    Seagoon: Yes, two others.
    Grytpype: What are they doing?
    Seagoon: Holding me up with a pistol.

    Comic Books 
  • From X-Statix: "He's... "connecting" in some way to what he's lost." "Is that a good or bad thing?" "Yes."
  • Lucky Luke's horse, Jolly Jumper, can speak but, seeing as he is still a horse, even Luke is baffled when he sees Jolly on the riverbank, fishing.
    Lucky Luke: How you took your saddle off, we won't discuss. But how did you put the worm on the hook?
    Jolly Jumper: With a shudder, like everyone else.
  • In one Big Bang Comics story, the Quizmaster is trying to get the Knight Watchman to reveal his secret identity — by having him play 20 questions while hooked up to a lie detector, and killing his sidekick Kid Galahad if he lies! For his first question, he asks the Watchman whom he would be if he weren't wearing his costume. The Watchman replies "I can truthfully say that I would still be myself!"
    • The Watchman tries to give a similar answer to the question "Who is Kid Galahad, in reality?"; he manages to avoid the answer the Quizmaster wanted, but is forced to give away some information: "In all earnestness I'll have to tell you that he's really my nephew!" He had a similar smartass answer for the question "What are your secret identities?", but Kid Galahad escaped and took the Quizmaster out of commission before he could give it.
  • From Deadpool Vol. 2 #34:
    Deadpool: I just figured out how to kill this "Id" thing.
    Kak: How?
    Deadpool: With my brain. Duh.
  • In the Civil War issues of Amazing Spider-Man, Iron Man gives Spider-Man a lecture about using this kind of answer when dealing with lawyers, government entities, and other officials.
    • Also invoked when Peter is presented with a scenario where his powers are the result of him being chosen by a mystical spider-totem rather than a spider that was mutated by radiation; a shaman who was helping Peter deal with the aftermath of his latest crisis offered one of these, comparing the situation to the idea that the sun will rise because of gravity and mathematics to the idea that it will come up because it's meant to come up, neither of which have to exclude the other.
  • Suicide Squad #16
    Vixen: Where's the Colonel?
    Bronze Tiger: With Shade.
    Vixen: Where's Shade?
    Bronze Tiger: With the Colonel.
    Vixen: How zen.
  • In Part 7 of Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man: Worlds Collide, Orbot informs Drs. Eggman and Wily that they've lost Shadow Man:
    Dr. Eggman: Wait, my Shadow Man [the roboticized version of Shadow the Hedgehog] or your Shadow Man [the Mega Man 3 boss]?
    Orbot: Yes.
    (Dr. Eggman slaps Orbot)
  • In The Avengers and The Infinity Gauntlet, after The Mighty Thor points out how Hawkeye's arrows would be nothing more than an annoying trifle to the android that copied his Asgardian strength, Hawkeye tells Scarlet Witch to prepare a hex attack. When Wanda asks if he wanted her to attack the android or Thor, Hawkeye simply says "Yes."
  • In an issue of the Animaniacs Comic-Book Adaptation, Yakko takes things in this direction when he and his sibs are being interviewed on a TV talk show.
    Reporter: Can I talk to you first, Yakko?
    Yakko: I don't know, can you?
    Reporter: Uh, tell us about some of your outrageous exploits.
    Yakko: I don't have any ex-ploits. All of my ploits are still ploits!
    Reporter: No, no! Tell us what you've been doing.
  • In issue 3 of Loki: Agent of Asgard, when the title character appears at a speed-date dressed like their usual self, the woman sitting across from them asks if they're dressed for a con(vention). Their response? "There's always a con going on somewhere."
    • Issue 5 has the Loki of a possible future answer this to a question regarding what happens to Midgard: "T'was governed most perfectly. By my reckoning." Later it turned out that they are ruling Earth in that timeline. They also happened to kill off every living being on the planet just to spite Thor. Well, no incarnation of Loki was ever humble.
    • This trope is pretty much Loki's most benign setting; at least he isn't in a manipulating mood (yet).
  • In The Sandman, when Gilbert is asked whether that is his first or last name, he replies "Indubitably. I could not have put it better myself." His full name is eventually revealed to be Fiddler's Green.
  • In issue #1 of Rick and Morty, Rick invents a device that guarantees them infinite amounts of money in the stock market. Morty is unsure of whether or not it's legal, to which Rick responds with: "I'm completely aware of how legal it is, Morty!"
  • The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers: While driving through Mexico, Franklin is asked where they are. He replies "Directly above the centre of the earth."
  • In Mighty Morphin Power Rangers/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Billy asks Splinter whether he's a rat who became a person or a person who became a rat. Splinter answers "Exactly".

    Comic Strips 
  • One Big Nate strip has Nate asking his science teacher, Mr. Galvin, how old he is. Mr. Galvin responds that he was born during the Holocene Epoch (basically the human era).
  • Bloom County has one in its first series about the Presidential election. Trying to find a local candidate, Milo asks the bum Limekiller "How do you stand on nuclear waste?" Limekiller immediately begins balancing awkwardly on one foot, earning Milo's approval.
  • Calvin and Hobbes featured this exchange in a Sunday strip:
    Miss Wormwood: Calvin, pay attention! We're studying geography! Now, what state do you live in?
    Calvin: Denial.
    Miss Wormwood: ...I don't suppose I can argue with THAT.
    • And in a weekday strip:
    [Calvin and Hobbes are sitting under a tree.]
    Calvin: Why are we here?
    Hobbes: Because we walked here.
    Calvin: No, I mean here on Earth.
    Hobbes: Because Earth can support life.
    Calvin: No, why are we anywhere? Why do we exist?
    Hobbes: Because we were born.
    Calvin (angry): Forget it.
    Hobbes (just as angry): I will, thank you.
  • Peanuts:
    • Schroeder is injured by a foul ball while playing baseball. When Charlie Brown asks him if he can still play, Schroeder runs home and pounds out a Beethoven sonata on his toy piano while still wearing his catcher's mask.
      Schroeder: It's all right. I can still play.
      Charlie Brown: That isn't exactly what I meant.
    • Peppermint Patty has to write a report on Hamlet. Her report begins "A hamlet is a small village with a population of maybe a few hundred and ..."
    • One story has Charlie Brown getting knocked unconscious, then waking up in an unfamiliar neighborhood with two small children he's never seen before staring at him. When Charlie Brown asks where he is, the girl points to where he's sitting and says, "Right there!"
  • Mafalda has Libertad unknowingly doing this to Susanita.
    Susanita: So, what does your dad do?
    Libertad: He doesn't know.
    Susanita: He doesn't know?
    Libertad: "I don't know what I do there" he always says.
    Susanita: "There" where?
    Libertad: "In that stall" he says.
    Susanita: What kind of stall?!
    Libertad: "Awful" he says.
  • Garfield: The June 8, 2011 strip has this.
    Nermal: I don't understand why you don't like me, Garfield. Is it because I'm cute? Or lovable? Or angelic? Or endearing? Or precious? Or young? Or personable? Or spunky? Or clever?
    Garfield: Yes.
    Garfield: Cats...Do we want to go out...or do we want to come in? The answer is yes.
  • In Phoebe and Her Unicorn, this is Phoebe's response when Marigold tells her that although Dakota is a goblin princess, the position is purely ceremonial.
    Phoebe: So Dakota is basically a glorified mascot? I have to tell her!
    Marigold: Out of kindness, or to see her pained, startled expression?
    Phoebe: Yes.

    Fan Works 
  • Assassination Academia: After Izuku defends Irina/Bitch-sensei, Hitoshi remarks that Izuku is too kind for his own good. Izuku isn't sure how he means that, and Hitoshi refuses to clarify:
    Izuku: You shouldn’t call your teacher a bitch, even if she does act like one at times, you know. It's not very nice.
    Hitoshi: Sometimes, Midoriya, you can be too nice.
    Izuku: that supposed to be an insult or a compliment?
    Hitoshi: Yes.
  • Boldores And Boomsticks: Employed by Casey when she attempts to explain that Team Rocket's behavior isn't all that unusual for them:
    Casey: Yeah... Team Rocket just... does that. Like, all the time.
    Yang: Exploding for no reason, or the threatening poetry?
    Casey: ...Yes.
  • CSI: Death by Chocolate: A bouncer warns Greg that if he turns out to be a "just another one of those perverts" out to harass Violet Beauregard over her condition, he won't even have to worry about the bouncer turning him out, as she'll break his neck himself.
    Bouncer: I think she's a black belt or something.
    Greg: Karate? Judo, Jujitsu?
    Bouncer: Yes.
  • Colosseum of the Heart:
    • When Kairi asks a Ralts" whether that's her name or her species, the pokémon answers "Yes!", then translates that Riku's Larvitar says yes as well.
      Ralts: About being called Larvitar, that is. It'd be silly if he was called Ralts.
    • This exchange, regarding Ash's Shadow Metang:
    Bonnie: Ash, it's a battle junkie. Every fight you throw it into, it's like a rampaging Tauros.
    Ash: Hey, they're not that bad!
    Serena: Metang or Tauros?
    Ash: Yes.
  • Connecting the Dots: After being accidentally transported to another dimension, Kiba is unfortunate enough to encounter the Question first. When Huntress discovers them, well...
    Huntress: Just tell me why [Kiba] is in his boxers.
    Question: Because I took off his pants.
  • Exciting Opportunities: When asked whether she's from Ordos Xenos, Malleus, or Hereticus, Inquisitor Loghain simply replies "Yes."
  • When Professor McGonagall finds out that Slender Man (disguised as a human) is Older Than He Looks in Harry By Proxy, she wonders just how old he is.
    Slender Man: And what age do you think I am?
    Professor McGonagall: Perhaps 30. or 35.
    Slender Man: Quite flattering, madame.
    Professor McGonagall: You're older?!
    Slender Man: I'm as old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth.
  • How the Light Gets In: After Oliver learns that Edie arranged Laurel's murder, we get this exchange
    Oliver: How do we kill a witch?
    Castiel: (deadpan) With precision.
  • A minor Running Gag of Yuki Nagato in Kyon: Big Damn Hero (examples make much more sense in context):
    (Haruhi, Yuki and Kanae forcibly redress Kyon up into a costume)
    Kyon: Y... Yuki! Kanae-chan! Come on! H... help me- Waaah! Help me out!
    Yuki: I am helping.
    Kyon: (upon waking up to find Yuki waking up in his bed) Um... Good morning?
    Yuki: Yes.
    Haruhi: Now keep Kyon off me for a minute!
    (Yuki immobilizes Kyon out of sheer embarrassment by hugging him tightly)
    Haruhi: Done! (turns around, realization hits) Er, er, good work. Um, more emotion next time, Yuki, and then we'll have that sequel down solidly!
    Yuki: Good.
    Haruhi: That means you can let go!
    Yuki: Understood.
    Haruhi: That means let go!
  • In The Night Unfurls, a brute is in shocked disbelief after Kyril lobs one of his arms off, saying that he wasn't supposed to do that. Kyril replies, "Aye"note , before beheading him.
  • Superhero RPF has several, courtesy of Sassgardian aka Loki:
    Kate: It's the horns. You look like you're either going for an evil Satanic sorcerer thing, or you're trying to make a very terrible pun about your current mood.
    Sassgardian: Well. Yes.
    • Or in an anonymous forum where Anon 1 is also presumably him when talking about Asgardia:
      Anon 1: If they can figure out how to get into a city that sits twenty feet above the plain.
      Anon 2: alright. how do you get in then?
      Anon 1: Through the front door.
  • Turnabout Storm: After a ridiculously laconic testimony by one of the witnesses, Phoenix struggles to get any useful information out of her. When he asks her about what she was doing near the crime scene in the first place, the prosecution interrupts:
    Trixie: We already know what she was doing there. She was observing the crime.
  • Absolute Trust: In Chapter 21, after Avatar Kyoshi buries three of the Rough Rhinos beneath a boulder:
    Sokka: Did she bury them, or mush them into paste?
    Alec: Yes.
  • A Posse Ad Esse, after Secret Weapon Dub gets himself in the shit:
    Dolly: Oh god, that's e'en worse. Dub, dae ye e'en remember whit ye are?
    Dub: Yeah, I'm a turtle.
  • In the Skyhold Academy Yearbook installment Love is a Mystery, before the gender of a pregnant staff member's baby is revealed, Hawke informs the expectant parents what each of their colleagues bet would be the result. Four of them bet it would be a girl; five said it would be a boy; and Bull decided to hedge his bets and say it would be twins. She then adds that she herself should win the bet because...
    Hawke: I bet coin that you're having a baby.
  • Done nicely in this collection of comedic shorts:
    Murphy: Okay, first case. We have several murders to get to.
    Dresden: Solving or causing?
    Murphy: (growling) Yes.
  • In an untitled fic, Bunny and Alistair use this trope to flirt.
    Alistair: A kiss?
    Bunny: Was that an answer or a question?
    Alistair: Yes. Was that a riddle or an invitation?
    Bunny: Yes.
  • In A Collection of Harmonious OneShots Hermione downs an entire 32-ounce steak.
    Harry: How the hell did you eat that?
    Hermione: Well, I cut it into bite-sized pieces, then I put them, one at a time, into my mouth-
  • Mark Me:
    Madame Bones: Did you intentionally prevent Sirius Black from having a trial?
    Dumbledore: Yes.
    Madame Bones: Why?
    Dumbledore: The twenty-fifth letter of the alphabet.
  • Missing from Number Four:
    Remus: Where have you been?
    Harry: At school. Ask me another; I'm getting really good at answering these questions without giving any answers.
  • In Ninja Wizard Book 2 the Heads of House discover Harry and his friends' secret hideout.
    Snape: Potter, what is the meaning of this?
    Harry: It's a general term to indicate a thing near to you.
  • In The Spellmaker Harry asks about a loan at Gringotts while shopping for his first-year school supplies, only to be told he doesn't need one.
    Harry: If the school doesn't think I need a loan, then that means I have money, yes? How do I have money?
    Goblin teller: The bank stores all your valuables and assets, but you may remove and make use of them as you see fit, which makes them in essence your possessions.
  • In Chapter 16 of Yet Hope Still Remains, Cornelius Fudge tries to make Harry reveal the whereabouts of Sirius Black and Remus Lupin. Harry answers "Earth". Later in the chapter, Harry gives a more specific answer: Europe.
  • Kingdom Hearts Ψ: The Seeker of Darkness: In Land of Oblivion, when Kairi tells Aqua about how she, Sora and Riku started their relationship:
    Kairi: The hard part was getting Riku to admit he liked both of us. We actually had to pin him down so he wouldn't leave.
    Aqua: Literally or figuratively?
    Kairi: Yes.
    • The prequel story Equilateral reveals that she wasn't kidding.
  • Lincoln's Memories: One of Luan Loud's jokes in "Lincoln's Seventh Birthday" is "What do you call a flamingo at the North Pole? Lost!".
  • If I Only Had A Heart: After spending several days building several worker robots, Izuku responds to Mashi asking him when the last time he slept was by saying "I've slept... recently..."
  • Live a Hero has this exchange when Izuku and Kirishima are studying.
    Izuku: Your grades are terrible.
    Kirishima: I know that! (runs his hands through his hair) That's why I'm here!
    Izuku: ...Hey, Kirishima, I think I found out what your problem is.
    Kirishima: Really? (peers over Izuku's shoulder) What is it? What's wrong?
    Izuku: (flips the notebook around and points at it with a pencil) All these answers are wrong.
    Kirishima: DAGNABBIT MIDORIYA I KNOW THAT!! (buries his face in his hands) JUST TELL ME HOW TO FIX IT!!
  • In Chrysalis Visits The Hague, the defense attorney Estermann proposes the idea that the prosecutor is bluffing. His secretary Garibaldi asks if it means she's got an ace up her sleeve or if she's actually running on empty.
    Estermann frowned on the inside. His answer was as cryptic to him as it was to his aide and his client. "...Yes."
  • In Families, most of the answers the Keeper gives to Twilight are this. This is partially because she's not allowed to give straightforward answers, and partially because it's fun.
  • Tealove's Steamy Adventure uses this twice.
    • As Tealove wonders what her new traveling companion, Minty, is:
      Tealove: But what are you really? Are you a ticket that can turn into a pony, or a pony that can turn into a ticket?
      Minty: Yes, exactly!
    • In the cave troll's lair:
      White Pony: Oaf? Oh, you mean the cave troll? Big Jim isn't an oaf! He's a real sweetheart. You just have to try to understand him.
      Big Jim: GRUUUUUUUUUH. (scratches his armpit)
      Tealove: Okay. Help us understand him. What did he just say?
      White Pony: (considers for a moment) He said 'Gruh'.
  • White Eyes: When Team Seven encounters Orochimaru and his giant snake summon inside the Forest of Death:
    Naruto: Is it me or does it look hungry?
    Sasuke: The ninja or the snake?
    Naruto: Yes.
  • Doing It Right This Time: After Shinji, Asuka and Rei travel back in time, they gradually let others in on what's going on.
    Toji: Aw, hell, what part of this isn't weird?
    Asuka: The time travel, or me not being a bitch?
    Toji: Yes.
  • This Bites!: Abundant in the story, and perhaps even more abundant out of it; the three authors, Trolling Creators that they are, have a tendency to use this to answer fans' questions about what's going to happen.
  • In Weakness, Luz finds out Fanfiction Girl is writing a new food fanfiction about a vampire mint chocolate chip ice-cream cone that's in love with a garlic growing in a garden, but can't go outside without melting. When Luz asks if the ice-cream vampire will melt because she's a vampire or because she's ice-cream, Fanfiction Girl merely answers yes.
  • The Many Quirks of Phantom Thievery: After Makoto reluctantly confides in Akira about Haru's Arranged Marriage, Akira tells her that if the other Thieves agree, they'll reveal their secret to Haru and go after her wicked fiancé:
    Futaba: Sojiro Mona and me were listening in. It’s a unanimous yes on our end. Also, he says to watch your language.
    Akira: Sojiro, Mona, or you?
    Futaba: Yes.
  • The King Nobody Wanted: Garth Tyrell tells a visitor to the royal court that he knows her backstory is a lie, and asks who her mother really is.
    Uthera Ruari: The woman who bore my sister and I to my father.
  • It happens in The Silmarillion fanfic A Boy, a Girl and a Dog: The Leithian Script when a Feanor's partisan starts asking questions without explaining what he's talking about.
    Warden of Aglon: (impatient) Well?
    Captain: (shaking his head) This again! Well, what?
    Warden of Aglon: Aren't you going to say anything else?
    Captain: (bemused) Almost certainly. It's rather a habit, I'm afraid.

    Films — Animated 
  • The CGI film Bee Movie has a scene between a human woman and a talking bee:
    Vanessa: How did you learn to do that?
    Barry B. Benson: Do what?
    Vanessa: That, that... the talking thing?
    Barry B. Benson: Same way you did, I guess. Mama, dada, honey, you pick it up.
  • In Shrek the Third, Pinocchio has a very confusing one in order to not lie to Prince Charming about where Shrek is. It involves Confusing Multiple Negatives. Unfortunately, it gets so aggravatingly confusing that his allies crack and tell the truth.
  • In Mumfie's Quest, when the Secretary of Night asks for Mumfie's name, his answer is "Yes!". The Secretary asks what he means, and he says that he has a name, and gives the correct response.
  • During the scene in Meet the Robinsons where Bud and Lewis try to make their way back to the garage, they stumble upon a dog wearing spectacles.
    Lewis: Why is your dog wearing glasses?
    Bud: Oh, 'cause his insurance won't pay for contacts.
  • El Arca goes with the Airplane!-style gag.
    God: I am going to send a deluge.
    Noah: A deluge?!
    God: Yes. It's a powerful rain that drowns everything.
    Noah: I know what a deluge is! What I want to know is... why?
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: In The Stinger, Spider-Man 2099 and 60's Spider-Man get into a heated argument about who pointed at the other first. J. Jonah Jameson and a cop witness this, and the cop also wonders who pointed first. Jameson helpfully says "Spider-Man pointed first, obviously!"note .

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Airplane! does this a lot, mostly with "what is it?" questions.
    • "There's been a little problem in the cockpit." "The cockpit? What is it?" "It's a room at the front of the plane where the pilot sits. But that's not important right now."
    • "This woman has to be gotten to a hospital." "The hospital? What is it?" "It's a big building with patients. But that's not important right now."
    • "You got a letter from headquarters this morning." "What is it?" "It's a big building where generals meet. But that's not important right now."
    • Asked for his name and position, Ted answers, "Ted Stryker. I'm sitting down, facing forward, but that's not important right now."
  • The American President:
    • President Shepherd, concerned his daughter Lucy isn't doing as well in social studies as she should, gives her an old textbook of his:
      President Shepherd: Luce, take a look at this book. This is exciting stuff. It's about who we are and what we want. Read what it says on the first page.
      Lucy Shepherd: "Property of Gilmore Junior High School."
      President Shepherd: The next page, Luce.
    • A variation later in the movie, when Shepherd meets lobbyist Sydney Ellen Wade for the first time, and they're in his office:
      Sydney Ellen Wade: If you don't live up to the deal you just made, come New Hampshire, we're gonna go shopping for a new candidate. (walks toward the door)
      President Shepherd: You can't do that, Sydney.
      Sydney: With all due respect, Mr. President, who's gonna stop me?
      President Shepherd: Well, if you go through that door, the United States Secret Service. That's my private office. You need to go out that way.
  • From Annie (2014):
    Will Stacks: (after saving Annie from getting hit by a car) Why do you run like that?
    Annie: Gets me places faster.
  • Apocalypse Now:
    Willard: Do you know who's in command here?
    Roach: Yeah. [Walks off]
  • Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, when Vanessa finds out just how Austin got plans from one of Dr. Evil's Femme Fatales.
    Vanessa: Did you use protection?
    Austin: Of course, I have a 9 millimeter automatic.
  • The Avengers gives us this gem: Tony forgets to factor in Steve's Fish out of Temporal Water issues while trying to fix the Helicarrier's busted engine, resulting in some sarcasm from Cap:
    Tony: (from inside rotor) Okay, tell me what you see!
    Steve: (staring at a bewilderingly high-tech panel) It seems to run on some form of electricity.
    Tony: Well, you're not wrong...
  • In The Babe, a biopic about Babe Ruth, the title ballplayer arranges for an adoption because he and his first wife, Helen, have had no luck conceiving a child. He arrives at their home with a nanny holding an infant, and a dazed Helen inquires, "What is it?" She means to ask whether the child is a boy or a girl, but Babe replies incredulously, "A baby."
  • Big Trouble in Little China:
    Jack Burton: How did you get up there?
    Egg Shen: Wasn't easy!
  • In Broadway Melody of 1936, a theatrical producer, auditioning chorus girls, asks one how tall she is. She lifts a hand to the top of her head and says, "About up to here."
  • One of God's conditions in Bruce Almighty is "You can't mess with free will."
    Bruce: Uh-huh. (Beat) Can I ask why?
    God: (gleefully) Yes, you can! That's the beauty of it!
  • In Caddyshack, Ty Webb gives a good one to Judge Smails after explaining that he doesn't play golf competitively:
    Smails: Well, how do you measure yourself against the other golfers?
    Ty: By height.
  • Done twice in a row in The Cat in the Hat.
    Sally: Where did you come from?
    The Cat: Hmm, how do I put this... when a mommy cat and a daddy cat love each other very much, they decide that-
    Conrad: Oh no, no, no, no, no. Where did you come from?
    The Cat: My place, where do you think? *laughs*
  • Citizen Kane:
    Reporter: Mr. Kane, How did you find business conditions in Europe?
    Kane: With great difficulty!
  • From Clonus:
    George: I qualified, I'm going to America!
    Richard: That's great! When are you going?
    George: Later on.
    • Justified in that George is genetically conditioned to be not too bright.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo: A rather dark variation.
    Mondego: How...?
    Cristo: How did I escape? With difficulty. How did I plan this moment? With pleasure.
  • This exchange in Death Proof when Pam finds out Stuntman Mike's name:
    Pam: Stuntman Mike's your name?
    Stuntman Mike: You ask anybody.
    Pam: Hey, Warren, who is this guy?
    Warren: Stuntman Mike.
    Pam: And who the hell is Stuntman Mike?
    • Another example later on in the movie:
      Abernathy: Well, you see, we're making a Hollywood movie in town, and it's a cheerleader movie, and she's one of the cheerleaders.
      Car Salesman: What's a cheerleader movie?
      Abernathy: A movie about cheerleaders.
  • Dumb and Dumber has Lloyd ask the waitress "What is the 'Soup Du jour'?" And she answers "The soup of the day."
  • In Entrapment, some of the exchanges between Gin and Mac.
    Mac: (looking at watch) Three, two, one, your time's up. You said you'd tell me what the next job is in twenty-four hours.
    Gin: It's a bank.
    Mac: And?
    Gin: And? I didn't say I'd tell you any more.
  • In Eraser, after John Kruger falls out of a plane and lands in a junkyard, a kid who watched him fall comes up to him.
    Kruger: Where am I?
    Kid: Earth. Welcome.
  • From Dusk Till Dawn:
    Kate: Where are we going?
    Richie: Mexico.
    Kate: What's in Mexico?
    Richie: Mexicans.
  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: When Elliot and Michael are about take the car with E.T. in it.
    Government Agent: (knocks on window) Who are you?
    Michael: I'm driving.
  • Invoked in The Front. Howard Prince is eventually brought before HUAC. Not wanting to name names, he instead gives responses that allow him to appear cooperative without actually answering. Unfortunately, they threaten to indict him on his history as a bookie, forcing him into making his brave stand at the climax.
  • During a war crime scene in Full Metal Jacket:
    Joker: How can you shoot women and children?
    Door Gunner: Easy. You just don't lead 'em so much. (Laughing) Ain't war hell?
  • Ghostbusters (1984): "Where do these stairs go?"... "They go up."
  • In Go West (1940), when Joseph asks Quale where the train is, Quale tells him "the tracks."
  • While having dinner at The Grand Budapest Hotel, Mr. Moustafa lists what the requirements were for being Monsieur Gustave's "personal guest." They had to be: rich, old, insecure, vain, superficial, blonde, needy.
    Young Author: Why blonde?
    Mr. Moustafa: Because they all were.
  • When asked why he committed the eponymous crime in The Great Train Robbery, Sean Connery's character says "I wanted the money."
  • Grosse Pointe Blank: "I'm doin' a double shift, what's it look like?"
  • A Hard Day's Night: When The Beatles are being interviewed, many of their answers are like this:
    Reporter 1: Tell me, um, how did you find America?
    John Lennon: Turned left at Greenland.

    Reporter 2: Has success changed your life?
    Reporter 3: Do you think these haircuts have come to stay?
    Ringo Starr: Well this one has, y'know, stuck on good and proper now.

    Reporter 4: What do you call that hairstyle you're wearing?
    George: Arthur.

    Reporter 3: What do you call that collar?
    Ringo: Mmm... A collar.
  • The Highwaymen: After Hamer buys more than a dozen guns and ammunition to spare, the gun store owner asks him what he needs all the firepower he just purchased for, if he "don't mind him asking". Hamer just retorts "No, I don't mind you asking at all".
  • Hot Fuzz has an example of an underaged drinker being far too clever for his own good.
    Nick Angel: When's your birthday?
    Kid: 22nd of February.
    Angel: What year?
    Kid: Every year.
    Angel: Get out.
  • The Hunger Games:
    Caesar Flickerman: So, Peeta, how are you finding the Capitol? And don't say "with a map".
  • I Shot Andy Warhol: Creator/Warhol does this repeatedly to a journalist asking why he stopped painting and started making films. Every answer is yes/no even though the questions implicitly aren't.
  • In Iron Man 2, when Tony tries to ask Natalie where she's from:
    Tony: I gotta say it. It's hard to get a read on you. Where are you from?
    Natalie: Legal.
  • In It's a Wonderful Life, George asks the pregnant Mary, "Is it a boy or a girl?" Mary just nods enthusiastically.
  • Jaws: The Revenge invokes this trope as a Hand Wave:
    Michael: How did you get away from the shark?
    Hoagie: It wasn't easy!
  • Jurassic Park:
    Hammond: Our attractions will drive kids out of their minds.
    Grant: And what are those?
    Sattler: Small versions of adults, honey.
  • Loaded Weapon 1 takes this trope up to eleven.
    Sgt. Luger: Do you know a woman by the name of Billie York?
    Clerk: You got a picture? (Luger then pulls out a shirt with York's photo on it)
    Clerk: Is that her?
    Sgt. Luger: No, that's her picture.
    • Later in the film:
      Sgt. Jack Colt: So what are you doing here?
      Miss Destiny Demeanor: Waiting for you.
      Sgt. Jack Colt: I mean, what brought you here?
      Miss Destiny Demeanor: A taxi.
      Sgt. Jack Colt: Yeah, but why?
      Miss Destiny Demeanor: My car's in the shop.
      Sgt. Jack Colt: I mean... [Holds up a sign board] Why the hell did you come here?
      Miss Destiny Demeanor: The police station would have made me nervous.
  • A particularly egregious example from Lucky Number Slevin:
    Slevin: I'm gonna say the same thing any man with two penises says when his tailor asks him if he dresses to the right or left.
    Lindsey: What's that?
    [cuts to The Boss's penthouse]
    Slevin: Yes.
  • Marx Brothers:
    • Duck Soup:
      Prosecutor: Chicolini, when were you born?
      Chico: I don't remember. I was only a little baby.
    • Horse Feathers:
      Wagstaff: "In case I never see you again, which would add ten years to my life, what would you fellas want to play football?"
      Baravelli: "Well at first we'd want a football"
      Wagstaff: "Well I don't know if we've got a football, but if I could find one would you be interested? I don't want a hasty answer, just sleep on it."
      Baravelli: "I don't think I can sleep on a football."
  • Later in the movie, when Wagstaff is teaching a class, Harpo puts a picture of a beautiful woman over the blackboard while Wagstaff's back is turned:
    Wagstaff: "Baravelli, who's responsible for this? Is this your picture?"
    Baravelli: I don't think so. It doesn't look like me."
    • A Night at the Opera:
      Henderson: Say, what's that bed doing there?
      Driftwood: I don't see it doing anything.
  • In the original Miracle on 34th Street, Doris Walker takes a look at the employee card Kris Kringle had filled out when he was hired as Macy's Santa Claus. In response to "Age", he wrote, "Just as old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth".
  • In the second The Naked Gun film:
    Frank: I told Jane to meet us at the hotel's rear entrance.
    Ed: Where's that?
    Frank: In the back.
  • At the beginning of Ocean's Eleven, Danny Ocean is at his hearing to determine if he is fit to be released from prison.
    Male Examiner: You have a history of arrests, but you have never been successfully charged. Is there a particular reason you chose to commit this crime, or a reason you simply got caught this time?
    Danny: My wife left me. I fell into a self-destructive pattern.
    Female Examiner: If released, do you think you would fall into a similar pattern?
    Danny: She already left me once. I don't think she'd do it again just for kicks.
  • Red Rock West: When Lyle asks how Wayne, a wanted fugitive, got elected sheriff, Wayne replies "I was elected."
  • Rio Bravo: When Dude says Stumpy likes roses, Feathers asks Chance who Stumpy is. Chance wryly replies, "The fellow that likes roses," before giving a more accurate explanation.
  • The Our Gang short "School's Out" features several test answers taken from H.M. Walker's Vaudeville routine, many of which take this form.
    • "Donald Haines, where is Washington?" "First in war, first in peace, and third in the American League."
    • "Douglas Greer, what was Abraham Lincoln's mother's name?" "Mrs. Lincoln."
    • "Buddy O'Donald, on Paul Revere's night ride, what did he say as he stopped his horse in front of colonial homes?" "He said, 'Whoa!'"
    • "Bobby Malon, what was Nero doing while Rome burned?" "I don't know, but I think he should've been hauling water to the fire."
    • "Jackie Cooper, who was The Hunchback of Notre Dame?" "Lon Chaney."
  • The Pink Panther:
    • In the 2006 movie starring Steve Martin, a reporter asks Inspector Clouseau if they (the police) know if the killer is a man or a woman. Clouseau's answer is: "Well, of course I know that! What else is there, a kitten?"
      • Also, when he quotes someone about politics, Yvette asks him if he said it, meaning if he is the original author of the quote. Clouseau takes the question literally and, after bemusedly looking around for someone else, answers "Yes."
    • In The Return of the Pink Panther, Clouseau visits a town where he encounters this trope, twice. First he enters a taxi and says to the driver "Follow that car!" The cabbie promptly starts chasing the car... on foot! A minute or two later, Clouseau asks a passer-by for directions.
      Clouseau: Do you know the way to the Palace Hotel?
      Passer-by: Yes. (Continues on without giving an answer.)
    • In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Clouseau enters an inn, sees a dog, and asks the innkeeper if his dog bites. The answer he gets is technically correct...
      Clouseau: I thought you said he does not bite!
      Innkeeper: That is not my dog.
  • Rambo III:
    Hamid: What's that?
    Rambo: It's a blue light.
    Hamid: What does it do?
    Rambo: It turns blue.
  • In Sexy Beast, the powerful gayngster Teddy Bass attends an orgy and notices another man, Harry, giving him a certain look.
    Teddy: Men or women?
    Harry: Oh... definitely.
  • Sisu:
    Helldorf: "How many mines did you lay?"
    Nazi sapper: "All of them."
  • Sleepy Hollow (1999):
    Ichabod Crane: Katrina, why are you in my room?
    Katrina Van Tassel: Because it is yours.
  • Snatch. had this memorable exchange:
    Customs Agent: Anything to declare?
    Avi: Yeah. Don't go to England.
  • In Sons of the Desert, Stan and Ollie wouldn't get back home until they came up with a cover story for an escapade. When interrogated by cops about their places of residence, Ollie claimed to live at home and Stan said he was Ollie's next door neighbor. Stan, being Stan, told a really useful answer later.
  • Star Trek:
  • Star Wars:
  • When Barbara the Little Stowaway is caught hiding in a cabin in Stowaway (1936), the crewmember asks "What are you doing here?" and Barbara answers with "Hiding."
  • La Strada:
    Gelsomina: Where are you from?
    Zampanò: My home town.
    Gelsomina: You don't talk like us. Where were you born?
    Zampanò: My father's house.
  • To Be or Not to Be: When a suspicious Erhardt asks how long it has been since Siletski (really a disguised Bronski) saw his friend Hitler, Bronski evasively replies, "much too long."
  • The Three Stooges were quite fond of this:
    • From "Shivering Sherlocks":
      Police Captain: Have you any visible means of support?
      Larry: Sure. I've got suspenders!
    • From "Don't Throw That Knife", practicing taking census:
      Moe: Where were you born, madam?
      Shemp: In the hospital.
      Moe: Hospital?
      Shemp: Yes, I wanted to be near my mother!
    • From "Hold That Lion", when Shemp gets his head stuck in a fishbowl:
      Shemp: (tries to speak, but his voice is muffled, resulting in incomprehensible gibberish)
      Moe: (to Larry) What'd he say?
      Larry: (speaks incomprehensible gibberish to Moe)
  • Undercover Blues, when Jeff Blue and his super-spy wife, Kathleen Turner, are deliberately being obfuscating to the local police:
    Lt. Sawyer: Oh, cute baby! Boy or girl?
    Jeff Blue: Gosh, I hope so!
  • Wild: Given by a smart-ass snowboarder when hiker Cheryl Strayed, who is struggling through the snow-covered Sierras, is trying to figure out if she is still on the Pacific Coast Trail.
    Cheryl: Where am I?
    Snowboarder: California.

  • Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side. (Technically true, but what did it want on the other side of the road?)
  • Three logicians walk into a bar. The bartender asks them, "Do you all want drinks?" The first says "I don't know," the second says "I don't know," the third says "Yes, please."
  • There's a joke (with many subvariants) about a person who gets lost in a hot air balloon, asks someone on the ground where they are, and the person replies that they're in a balloon (perhaps with altitude and additional unhelpful details). The ballooner guesses that the person is a mathematician (or engineer, tech support worker, etc) because they've given an answer that's completely accurate but completely useless. There's often a second punchline that the ballooner must be in management, because he's in a fix of his own making, but is somehow making it someone else's fault.
  • The pilot of a light aircraft is lost in fog. He sees a skyscraper looming at 2 o'clock. He leans out the window and yells to someone in the offices, "Where am I?" "In an aeroplane!" comes the reply. The pilot then sets course for a perfect landing at a nearby airport. Later, the pilot and guy from the office run into each other in a bar. The pilot thanks the guy for letting him know exactly where he was, and tells him he pulled off a perfect landing because of it. "How?" asks the guy from the office. "Well," says the pilot, "the answer you gave was completely accurate yet totally useless, so I knew you must work for Microsoft Tech Support, and I know where that office is in relation to the airport."
  • Speaking of pilots:
    What do you call a (pick one)woman / black guy / gay man / trans person / etc flying a plane?
    A pilot, you asshole! Jesus!
  • There's a joke that goes like this:
    Person A: What does your dad do for a living?
    Person B: My dad's dead.
    Person B: He sorta clutched at his chest and fell over.
  • There's an old joke about asking for directions that goes along these lines:
    Driver: Excuse me sir, but does this road go to London? (Or the name of any place.)
    Pedestrian: This road, sir? No, sir. Tends to stay right where it is.
    or: No, they keep it here and drive cars on it.
  • Related joke
    Tourist: Excuse me, sir. If I go down the street and take a left, will the train station be there?
    Local: You know, the train station will be there even if you don't take a left.
  • There's another old joke, where a tourist lost in New York asks a street musician for directions:
    Tourist: Excuse me, sir. How do I get to Carnegie Hall?
    Musician: Practice, man! Practice!
  • A harsher version.
    Person A: Excuse me! What's the quickest way for me to get to the hospital?
    Person B: Cross the road with your eyes closed.
  • And another
    Person A: Have you lived here all your life?
    Person B: Not yet.
  • Yet another
    Fat lady math teacher: Jimmy, pay attention! How much consumption until I reach Buffalo?
    Jimmy: Let's say twenty pounds of feed.
  • One more
    Passenger: Does this bus go to Duluth?
    Bus driver: No, this bus goes beep beep.
  • And a more painful one:
    Hitchhiker: Is the city far?
    Driver: No.
    Hitchhiker: May I get in your car?
    Driver: Yes.
    Many hours pass by as they drive in silence.
    Hitchhiker: Is the city far?
    Driver: Yes, now it is.
  • A variation on the above:
    Hitchhiker: How long would it take to get to Miami?
    Driver: About two hours.
    Hitchhiker: Can you give me a lift?
    Driver: Sure, hop in.
    Four hours pass and they are still on the road.
    Hitchhiker: Didn't you say it took two hours to get to Miami?
    Driver: Yes.
    Hitchhiker: Well, then why's it taking twice that time?
    Driver: Because I'm not going to Miami.
  • An engineer, a physicist, and a mathematician are on a train in Scotland. They see a black sheep, and the following exchange ensues:
    Engineer: Look, sheep in Scotland are black.
    Physicist: Well, all we know for sure is that some sheep in Scotland are black.
    Mathematician: All we can be sure of is that, in Scotland, there is at least one sheep that is black on at least one side.
  • Or this joke (when sitting at the table): "Can I have the butter?" "Yes." "Can you pass it to me?" "Yes. (beat) What, now?"
  • Not as popular a joke now with personal cellphones, but it used to be a joke when calling a house line to respond to "Is [person] home?" by simply saying "Yes."
  • Some teachers are fond of using this when kids ask to go to the bathroom, especially when they say "can" (asking if they're physically capable) instead of "may" (asking for permission):
    Student: Mr. Smith, can I go to the bathroom?
    Teacher: I don't know, can ya? Sit down.
  • Russian variation of the balloon joke: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, being drifted away in a hot air balloon, finally spot a cowherd below and ask him where they are.
    You are in a hot air balloon.
    Watson, we're in Russia.
    But Holmes, how can you know that?
    See, that man below is a mathematician. His answer is both correct and totally useless.
    I see, but what has Russia to do with that?
    Because only in Russia do they use mathematicians to herd cows!
  • In another Holmes and Watson joke, they go camping. At three in the morning, Holmes wakes Watson.
    Watson, look up. What can you deduce from what you see?
    From the starry sky? Astronomically, there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, Saturn is in Leo. Theologically, God is great and we are small and insignificant. Horologically, it's about 3 AM. Meteorologically, we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What do you deduce, Holmes?
    I deduce that you're an idiot, Watson. If we can see the stars, then our tent has been stolen!
  • "When I got home from work last night, my wife demanded that I take her someplace expensive so I took her to a gas station."
  • Someone waved at me in the street the other day. Then they said "I'm sorry I thought you were somebody else." I said, "I am."
  • Then there's the one about a man in a motorboat, clearly lost, who comes alongside another man in a motorboat and yells "Which way is land?" The second man bends over his compass and map for a moment, calculating furiously, then calls to the first man "West by north by half a north!" The first man screams back "Don't get technical with me! Just point!"
  • Another old joke:
    Customer: Waiter, what is this fly doing in my soup?
    Waiter: I believe that's the backstroke, sir.
  • There's a joke with more of a logician's bent: an omniscient being comes to Earth and tells the world that it will answer one question completely truthfully before disappearing forever. The world's philosophers, logicians and thinkers get together and discuss for a while, and announce that they've come up with the perfect question. They go before the omniscient being and ask it this question: "What is the ordered pair of the best possible question we can ask you, and its answer?" It responds, "That, and this." then disappears in a puff of logic.
  • Another joke:
    Q Where was the Declaration of Independence signed?
    A At the bottom.
  • Yet another joke:
    Q What ended in 1896?
    A 1895
  • Yet another joke:
    Q: Do you know what time it is?
    A: Yes.
    Q: Well, could you tell me what time it is?
    A: Yes.
    Q: Will you tell me what time it is?
    A: Nope.
  • A variation:
    Person A: Do you know what time it is?
    Person B: Yes.
    Person A: Thank you. (walks away)
  • A woman asks her husband, a computer programmer, to go to the grocery store. She tells him to buy a gallon of milk, and if they have eggs, to buy a dozen. He returns home with twelve gallons of milk and says, "They had eggs."
    • She tries again the next week saying "Get a gallon of milk, and while you're there, get eggs." He never comes back.
  • A programmer is going to sleep, but first puts two glasses on the nightstand. One is filled with water, in case he wants a drink in the middle of the night. The other is empty, in case he doesn't.
  • Another one:
    Q: Hey, what's up?
    A: Birds, clouds, aircrafts, the sky...
    A: It's a preposition.
    A: The direction away from the center of gravity of a celestial object.[1]
  • What is the definition of a bore? A man whom you ask "how you doing", and he starts answering.
  • Still more jokes:
    Waiter: How did you find the steak?
    Diner: I pushed aside the potato and there it was.
  • There is an old joke in the mathematics community that says that a logician is a guy who, when asked about his newborn child "is it a boy or a girl?" answers "yes".
  • An expectant father is waiting in the hall outside a maternity ward, when a nurse appears and tells him his wife has finished giving birth, and he can see them now. The man says, “My wife and I have seven daughters and no sons, so I hope this one’s a boy so we can finally stop having all these kids.” The nurse says, “Your wife did not give birth to a daughter.” The man is relieved, and the nurse takes him inside, where he meets his newborn triplet daughters.
  • There is a joke about a guy who sits at a bar, and notices a girl nearby, wearing some very tight pants with no zipper nor buttons:
    Guy: Pardon me for the question, but... how does one get into those pants?
    Girl: Well, you can start by buying me a beer.
  • A Tiny Guy, Huge Girl joke:
    Tiny Guy: What would you say to a little fuck?
    Huge Girl: I'd say: "Hello, little fuck."
  • Another joke has someone mention getting a gift for a spouse, and receiving the response "Good trade."
  • A similar one involving auto parts:
    Customer: "Can I get a hubcap for a <notoriously bad car>?"
    Shop clerk: -Beat- "Yeah, that sounds like a fair trade."
  • A joke set in a mathematics class:
    Teacher: What would you get if you [insert complex equation here]?
    Student: The wrong answer.
  • One of the classics:
    I say, I say, I say, my dog has no nose.
    How does he smell?
  • Steven Wright once remarked that if he brought a chocolate cake to a party he would combine both white and regular chocolate mixes while making it, so if anyone asked if he wanted white or regular chocolate cake, he would simply say, "Yes."
  • In an Inversion of the "X or Y?" format, one joke involves an old woman who has arrived on an international flight and is being questioned by Customs. The Customs officer asks her, "Do you advocate the overthrow of the government by violence or subversion?". The old woman pauses for a while, before answering "Violence, I think."
  • "Your Mother's so fat, that when the waiter asks her what she is going to order, she looks at the menu and says 'Okay'."
  • While passing a doughnut shop:
    What would you say to a cup of coffee and a doughnut?
  • One joke asks how long it will take an average person to earn a black belt. The mathematician's answer is that an average person will never earn a black belt, the joke being that it's beyond an average person's capabilities.

    Let's Play 
  • Out of the Achievement Hunter crew, Ryan is incredibly likely to use this tactic as a way of invoking Exact Words or Loophole Abuse, though he also does it to be a Deadpan Snarker. For instance, this example after he shot Jeremy in their 5th Trouble in Terrorist Town Let's Play:
    Jeremy: Ryan! Why'd you shoot me?!
    Ryan: I was trying to kill you.
  • In one episode of Game Grumps, Danny recounts another memorable moment with his Israeli, ESL father Avi:
    Danny: So dad, should we get pizza or sushi for dinner?
    Avi Danny: Yes!
    Danny: Okay. Pizzushi it is.

  • Spike Milligan put plenty of these in his war memoirs, Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall:
    Waiter: Anything to drink?
    Spike: Yes, anything.
  • Iain Banks loved this trope. The most extensive example is in Against a Dark Background:
    Man: Hello?
    Zefla Hello. We're looking for a gentleman called Ivexton Travapeth.
    Man: Yes.
    Zefla (Beat) You're not him, then?
    Man: No.
    Zefla Right. Do you know where we can find him?
    Man: Yes.
    Zefla Could you tell us where he is?
    Man: Yes.
    Zefla Where is he?
    Man: Oh, here.
    Zefla May we see him?
    Man: Oh, yes.
    Sharrow (quietly) Keep going, the passports only last a year.
    Zefla (trying not to laugh) Good. Thank you. We'd have phoned or screened but Mister Travapeth seems to discourage that sort of contact.
    Man: Yes.
    Zefla Yes. Could you let us in?
    Man: Yes, yes.
    Zefla Please come down and let us in.
    Man: Very well.
    Sharrow Wake me when the door opens or the universe ends, whichever's sooner.
    Man (opens door)
    Zefla Good morning.
    Man: Yes.
  • This is, not surprisingly considering that the author was in fact a mathematician, one of the logical twists Lewis Carroll peppered throughout Alice's Adventures in Wonderland:
    "Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
    "That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
    "I don't much care where—" said Alice.
    "Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.
    "—so long as I get somewhere," Alice added as an explanation.
    "Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."
  • In the chapter book Amelia Bedelia & Friends Mind Their Manners, Amelia Bedelia's teacher Mrs. Shauk asks "Amelia Bedelia, can you come to the front of the room, please?" "Yes, I can," replies Amelia Bedelia, thinking that even though her desk in the last row, her legs work just fine. She then sits up straight in her chair, smiling. Mrs. Shauk, used to the workings of Amelia Bedelia's mind, smiles, shakes her head and sighs, then directs her "Amelia Bedelia, would you walk to the front of the room, and stand next to me?" and Amelia Bedelia does.
  • In American Gods, Shadow gets one from Whiskey Jack, and then promptly calls him on it.
    Shadow: Where are we? Am I on the tree? Am I dead? Am I here? I thought everything was finished. What's real?
    Whiskey Jack: Yes.
    Shadow: Yes? What kind of an answer is Yes?
    Whiskey Jack: It's a good answer. True answer, too.
    • Shadow gets one from Sweeney as well
      Sweeney: (performs an elaborate coin vanishing trick)
      Shadow: We have to talk about that. I need to know how you did it.
      Sweeney: I did it with panache and style.
  • Animorphs: After being told by the resident friendly alien member of the team that they have all been dragged through a fracture in space-time continuum
    Jake: Did we go forward or back? Are we in the past or the future?
    Ax: Yes. It's definitely one of those two choices.
  • In Isaac Asimov's Black Widowers story "Truth to Tell" the monthly guest, a man who never tells a lie, is suspected of a crime which it seems only he could have committed, but he continually denies it, saying: "I didn't take the cash or the bonds." However the waiter, Henry, asks him: "Did you take the cash and the bonds?" The guest declines to answer and leaves.
    • This is using the word or differently than usual, but inversely compared to how this trope is normally played out. In normal speech, or is used as an exclusive or, unless in a negative sentence, such as here, which is normally an inclusive or. He's using it as an exclusive or, and as that excludes the possibility of taking both, he's technically telling the truth.
  • Catch-22 has Yossarian being interrogated in hospital. He is slightly delirious at the time, though.
    "Where were you born?"
    "In a hospital."
    "In what state were you born?"
    "A state of innocence."
  • From The Catcher in the Rye:
    "What are you reading?"
    "Goddamn book."
  • From Choosers of the Slain:
    "Be careful what she teaches her," Adams said, without looking up. "You might get a very nasty surprise."
    "Are you talking about Anastasia teaching Katya or the other way around?" Nielson asked, grinning.
  • Discworld:
    • From the novel Hogfather:
      Susan: Are those mountains real or some sort of shadows?
      Death: YES.
    • Similarly, when the Senior Wrangler suggests that the mistletoe, while being genuinely symbolic, is only symbolic of mistletoe:
      Archchancellor: That statement is either so deep it would take a lifetime to fully comprehend every particle of its meaning, or it is a load of absolute tosh. Which is it, I wonder?
      Senior Wrangler: (desperately) It could be both.
      Archchancellor: And that comment is either very perceptive, or very trite.
      Senior Wrangler: It could be bo—
      Archchancellor: Don't push it, Senior Wrangler.
    • And earlier in Hogfather:
      Lord Downey: Can I offer you a drink?
      Auditor: Yes. [...] We judge you capable of performing that action.
    • Susan again, in Thief of Time:
      Susan: Are you Lobsang or are you Jeremy?
      Lobsang/Jeremy: Yes.
      Susan: Yes, I walked into that. Are you Lobsang and are you Jeremy?
      Lobsang/Jeremy: Much closer. Yes.
    • Rincewind and Eric, from Eric!
      Rincewind: There's a door.
      Eric: Where does it go?
      Rincewind: It stays where it is, I think.
    • Yet another one, sort of, from Carpe Jugulum (paraphrased, without spoiling too much):
      Granny Weatherwax: Am I dying?
      Death: YES.
      Granny Weatherwax: Will I die?
      Death: YES.
      Granny Weatherwax: But to you, everyone is dying, and everyone will die, right?
      Death: YES.
      Granny Weatherwax: So you aren't actually bein' a lot of help, strictly speakin'.
    • Death is fond of this. When Granny was presented a choice between the light and the darkness (long story) she asked him if he had any advice. He replied:
      Death: CHOOSE RIGHT.
    • And another in Wyrd Sisters...
      Demons were like genies or philosophy professors — if you didn't word things exactly right, they delighted in giving you absolutely accurate [...] answers.
    • As mentioned in Hogfather, when questioned about the origins of life, the philosopher Didactylos set forth this theory:
      Didactylos: Things just happen. What the hell?
    • Moist's wonderful use of this trope in a Bavarian Fire Drill during Making Money:
      Guard: Why's there only one of you?
      Moist: I don't know. You'd have to ask my mum and dad.
    • In Feet of Clay Vimes becomes very angry and hits a table in the Rats Chamber with an axe. The next morning, when Vetinari asks him what it is, he says "It's an axe, sir." Of course, Vetinari then proceeds to snark about how quickly he figured that out and ask the real question, which is why it was stuck in the table.
    • Earlier in the same book, Vetinari asks Vimes why he punched the leader of the Assassin's Guild in the face, to receive the reply: "Couldn't find a dagger, sir."
    • In Carpe Jugulum, Shawn Ogg checks if General Tacticus's famous book of tactics has any advice on what to do when one army is based in a well-fortified structure on superior ground and the other isn't. Tacticus's advice is to be the one that is. Though later in the series he turns out to have genuine advice on what to do if you aren't: If the enemy's got the fortress, you make sure they stay in the fortress.
  • In the Doctor Who novel "Forever Autumn", the 10th Doctor is asked how his sonic screwdriver works by a teenage boy. He responds that it works very well.
  • During Galaxy of Fear, the Arrandas and their uncle Hoole find a human where no humans should be. They ask him how he got there, he says "I walked."
  • In Doom Valley Prep School, Blood Wing asks her Succubus mother if she should stick close to the Petra or avoid her. Her mother, who has discovered that Petra is Fate's Chew Toy who will unintentionally alter luck in very strange and humorous ways, replies with, “Sweety, I'm going to answer you as best I can and with all sincerity. Yes.”
  • In the Dragaera series, this is one of the things Hawklords are known for. It's also why Vlad would have killed Daymar out of sheer annoyance if it wasn't for his invaluable psychic skills.
  • An example where this is not played for laughs occurs in The Dresden Files novel Small Favor, when Harry brings the injured Valkyrie Gard to Michael Carpenter's house for treatment. Michael's fellow Knight Sanya is there and is examining Gard, noting that she is more than human. He asks "The woman. What is she?" to which Harry responds "Injured." Sanya understands the implied rebuke immediately and apologizes.
  • In The Empty Grave, members of the smaller ghost-hunting agencies are required to carry papers saying who they are and explaining what case they're on, something which they all find odious and ridiculous, but have to put up with for the time being. At one point, the members of Lockwood and Co are cornered by Rupert Gale and his minions. Gale asks if they could show the papers to him and Holly Munro replies "I could. It would certainly be possible."
  • In Eragon (first book in the Inheritance Cycle), Brom and Eragon's first meeting with the witch Angela involves Mathematician answers as Brom successively asks her if she knows where the house of the person he is looking for is, and then would she tell him where it is, both her answers being in the affirmative. Brom and Eragon then stand there waiting until she looks up and tells them that, yes, she knows where the house is, and yes, she will tell them where it is, but they never directly asked her which house was the one they were looking for.
  • The "Experimental Epistemologist" in Smullyan's 5000BC is full of this. When the completely disoriented protagonist asks the epistemologist "What should I do?", the response is "I have no idea what you SHOULD do. However, I have a friend who is an excellent moralist."
  • Gaunt's Ghosts: Ghostmaker has a close variant when Colonel Corbec calls in an Orbital Bombardment against a daemon disrupting operations with a psychic storm. The captain of the frigate Navarre complains that this is against normal tacticsnote  and asks his XO for advice.
    Captain Wysmark: Your assessment, Kreff? You've spent more time with these footsloggers since they've been aboard than anyone. Is this man mad, or should I grant his request?
    Executive Officer Kreff: Yes... and yes, sir.
    Wysmark: (grins) Let's see those coordinates.
  • In Halo: The Fall of Reach, Master Chief is testing the MJOLNIR armor with shields. His superior instructs him to count to ten after he leaves the room before leaving himself. During that time, Chief's AI partner Cortana senses the presence of a squad of ODST Marines, and asks the Master Chief what his plan is for dealing with them. He responds, "I'm going to finish counting to ten".
  • Harry Potter:
    • Early in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry asks Hagrid what the difference is between a stalactite and a stalagmite. Hagrid replies, "Stalagmite's got an 'M' in it". Admittedly, they were hurtling through the Gringotts minecart system at the time, and Hagrid was busy trying not to throw up.
    • Dumbledore gets in a straighter example later on in Philosopher's Stone:
      Harry: Can I ask you a question, Professor?
      Dumbledore: You just did. You may, however, ask me one more question.
    • Harry has one in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince when Snape asks him about his copy of Advanced Potion-Making.
      Snape: Then why does it have the name ‘Roonil Wazlib’ written inside the front cover?
      Harry: That’s my nickname.
      Snape: Your nickname?
      Harry: Yeah... that’s what my friends call me.
    • After a particularly surreal portion of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry asks if the previous discussion was real, or just in his head. His companion simply responds that being in his head wouldn't make their conversation any less real.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
    • When Zaphod learns that Marvin is waiting for them in the car park at The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (and has been for several trillion years), he asks what he's doing there. Marvin's answer? Parking cars. What else would he be doing there?
    • "42". For those that don't know about this, an alien race constructs a massive supercomputer in order to learn "The answer to the question of Life, the Universe, and Everything". The computer, after seven and a half million years of computation, comes back with "42". When asked about this, the computer responds that it is able to figure out the answer, but they need another computer to calculate what the question is. When this second computer is destroyed 15 minutes before its four-and-a-half-billion-year run to find the question completes, the programmers, afraid of the mob's reaction to this nonsense, just make up the question: "How many roads must a man walk down?"
    • Arthur has one in the first book as well:
    Arthur Dent: You know, it's at times like this, when I'm stuck in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, about to die of asphyxiation in deep space, that I really wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was young.
    Ford Prefect: Why? What did she tell you?
    Arthur Dent: I don't know. I didn't listen.
    • In Life, the Universe and Everything, there is the character Prak. In a court case, he was injected with too much truth serum, and then he was instructed to tell "the Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth." He responds by telling them everything that is true about, well, Life, the Universe, and Everything. Everyone present had to flee, leaving him alone telling the Truth, however by the time the protagonists arrive he has finished, telling them that there's not as much to it as one might expect, that he has forgotten it all now, but some of the best bits involved frogs and Arthur Dent.
  • How Rude!, an etiquette book aimed at teenagers, contains an anecdote from the author. He attempted to call a friend of his and the friend's five-year-old son answered. When the author asked if his daddy was there, the boy replied, "Yes."
  • David Eddings' The Belgariad. One of the most memorable ones was when Durnik went to ask a fisherman about the situation on the other side of a river.
    Belgarath: Well?
    Durnik: The fish are biting.
    Belgarath: I meant on the other side.
    Durnik: I did not ask, but if the fish are biting on this side, it would only stand to reason they are biting over there too, doesn't it?
  • In The Last Watch, when Edgar uses a truth spell on Rustam, this exchange takes place:
    Edgar: How can I take the Crown of All Things?
    Rustam: With your hands.
    • Weirdly, this answer is wrong.
  • Jarlaxle the drow from R.A. Salvatore's series of Drizzt books is so fond of the Mathematician's Answer that "Yes" might as well be his catch phrase.
  • This is used to fight mind control in the Magic Kingdom of Landover, when someone is forced to answer questions.
    Ben: Where can I find the dragon?
    Nightshade: Everywhere.
  • In The Marvelous Land of Oz, Mombi tries this in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid Glinda's questions.
    Glinda: Why did the Wizard pay you three visits?
    Mombi: Because I would not come to him.
  • In Scott Meyer's Master of Formalities, the entire palace of House Jakabitus is coated with a layer of nanites which perform various functions. If someone is injured, all he has to do is to put the wound against a wall or the floor, as the nanites are programmed to eliminate germs and seal wounds as a first-aid measure until the medical staff arrives, which usually happens within minutes. Everyone notes that the nanites work well with the medical staff, but any questions on how they do it is always met with the answer "Seamlessly."
  • Momo is leaning hard into the direction of being a smart ass.
    "As far as I can remember... I've always been around."
  • From Phule's Paradise, Phule's butler pulls one of these on a hotel manager:
    Bombest: How do you do it?
    Beeker: Sir?
    Bombest: You're a fairly ordinary guy, not at all like Mr. Phule or the uniformed fanatics he's associating with. How do you do your job?
    Beeker: Very well, sir.
    Bombest: Excuse me?
  • In Psy Changeling, being emotionless and thus ruled by logic, most Silent Psys tend to give those.
  • In The Sack, the titular character is big on these when not asked specific questions:
    Committee Member: Where would you find an individual capable of conversing intelligently with so wise a creature as you?
    The Sack: Here.
  • In David Weber's Safehold series, Nimue/Merlin's AI assistant Owl persists in responding to her/his questions with literal answers, despite the manufacturer's assertion that it's supposed to learn to reply colloquially. It finally begins to show some improvements in the fourth book, A Mighty Fortress.
  • The Angel, a character in Mike Resnick's Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future does it several times:
    "How are you going to ...?"

    "What did you cut him with?"
    "Something sharp."
  • Skulduggery Pleasant has this exchange:
    Fletcher: How did you beat them?
    Skulduggery: With unimaginable skill.
    • This seems to be Skulduggery's preferred form of answer.
    Valkyrie: What is it?
    Skulduggery: It's a box.
    Valkyrie: What kind of box?
    Skulduggery: A wooden one.
    Valkyrie: OK, I'll try this. Why are we hiding from a box?
    Skulduggery: We're not. We're hiding from what's inside the box.
  • Raymond Smullyan collected these:
    • General asks computer a two-part question: "1. Will the rocket reach the moon? 2. Will the rocket return to Earth?" Computer answers "Yes." General asks, "Yes what?" Computer answers "Yes, sir."
    • "Where does this road go?" "It isn't going anywhere. It's just staying put."
    • One Vermont farmer approaches another. "My horse is sick. What did you give your horse when it was sick?" "Hay and molasses." Two weeks later: "I gave my horse hay and molasses, and it died." "Yep, so did mine."
  • Yet another of Peter David's favorite literature tricks to tweak the nose of higher-class people (especially Vulcans in his Star Trek novels): The high-class person asks, "May I ask where you're going?" The person answers, "Yes". It takes the Vulcan a second to comprehend.
    • Fridge Brilliance: if there's anyone you'd expect to understand the Mathematician's Answer trope, it would be a Vulcan. But the Vulcan is speaking what is, for him, a second language, and probably thinks of that particular construction as an idiom with only a loose connection to its literal meaning.
  • This exchange from A Storm of Swords:
    Bran: Maybe we shouldn't stay here.
    Meera: By the well? Or in the Nightfort?
    Bran: Yes.
    • Another example from the same book. Jamie Lannister, being interrogated by Catelyn Stark about the circumstances of an attempt made on Brann Stark's life after he witnessed something incriminating, uses this to avoid giving away any of his true reasons.
    Catelyn: You pushed my son out a window. Why?
    Jamie: I hoped the fall would kill him.
  • In Warlocks of the Sigil, Kole writes "yes" for age and gender in her extremely lack-luster information packet.
  • In the book The Westing Game, Jake Wexler lists his position as "standing or sitting when not lying down."
  • Forest Kingdom: In the Hawk & Fisher spinoff series' book 1, when Hawk and Fisher question suspects about the two murders under a truthspell, all the suspects can correctly answer "No" when asked if they murdered Victim #1 and Victim #2. They can honestly say this because the two deaths were the handiwork of different killers.
  • The Neverending Story: Referred to as dream words for the Childlike Empress' response:
    Bastian: Where are we, Moon Child?
    Moon Child: I am with you, and you are with me.
  • Sacred Ground by Mercedes Lackey has the smart-aleck David ask Mooncrow, "Are you a shaman or a showman?" Mooncrow responds with "Yes." In this case, Mooncrow's point is that you can't have one without the other; a shaman has to be a bit of a showman to get his lessons across, and a showman has to have a bit of the shaman in him if he's going to put on a good show.
  • Played straight in Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land with the concept of the Fair Witness. When a Fair Witness is asked what color a house is, she replies that "It's white on this side." A Fair Witness would not infer that the other side was white as well.
  • In Smith and Jones: Head to Head, a script book of the sketches from Alas Smith and Jones, the introduction answers some common questions about the routine. These include:
    Do the characters have names?
    Probably, yes.
    What are they?
    We don't know.
  • The Left Hand of Darkness:
    • A lord once asked the Foretellers, "On what day shall I die?"; they answered "on the nineteenth day", not specifying the month or year. The lord's lover Herbor then asked how long the lord would live and was told "Longer than Herbor". The lord snapped, killed Herbor, and soon committed suicide — on the nineteenth day of the month.
    • Having heard such stories, a very skeptical Genly asks the Foretellers whether the planet Gethen will join the Ekumene within the next five years, expecting some coy wordplay. Subverted when they answer "Yes" — and they're proven right.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Americans: When Claudia identifies a woman in the US as a Nazi collaborator who killed Soviet POWs based on them being the same age and height, Philip asks whether this means they're really the same person, or just share the characteristics. Claudia says "Yes".
  • Andromeda:
    Dylan Hunt: Are you dead or alive?
    Trance Gemini: Yes.
    Dylan Hunt: Crystal clear as usual.
    • Given that Trance is the avatar of a star, this makes some sense.
    • Another Trance Gemini moment (with a touch of Deadpan Snarker), when she locates an imprisoned Dylan Hunt and offers him water;
      Dylan Hunt: Water...How...
      Trance Gemini: Well, when two hydrogen atoms love each other very much, they bond with an oxygen atom...
  • On Angel, after Angel gets in a fight with Buffy and tells her to get out of LA.
    Wesley: Do you want to go after her?
    Angel: Yes. [He doesn't move.]
  • In The A-Team, an exchange between Hannibal and Murdock goes something like this:
    Hannibal: How does that sound?
    Murdock: Well, Colonel, it doesn't make much of a sound at all!
  • Babylon 5:
    • The Vorlons love this trope.
      Kosh: They are alone. They are a dying people. We should let them pass.
      Sinclair: Who? The Narns or the Centauri?
      Kosh: Yes.
    • Everything that Kosh says is not exactly helpful:
      Sheridan: Ambassador, I've been looking for you. Um, last week, after you saved my life, I didn't really get a chance to thank you properly. I've tried to reach you since then, but you haven't answered my calls. Is everything all right?
      Kosh: Being seen by so many at once was a great strain. I returned to my ship to rest. You have a question?
      Sheridan: Nobody knows it was you. Everyone saw something different, something from the — the legends of their own world. But it was still a terrible risk. After taking such care to hide what you really are, why take that chance?
      Kosh: It was necessary.
      Sheridan: (sighs) Well, as answers go, short, to the point, utterly useless, and totally consistent with what I've come to expect from a Vorlon.
      Kosh: Good.
      Sheridan: You know, I just had a thought. You've been back and forth to your homeworld so many times since you got here — how do I know you're the same Vorlon? Inside that encounter suit, you could be anyone.
      Kosh: I have always been here.
      Sheridan: Oh yeah? You said that about me, too.
      Kosh: Yes.
      Sheridan: I really hate it when you do that.
      Kosh: Good.
    • In one case, Sheridan had asked what was in the random access hatch Kosh had led him to. Kosh's answer was "One moment of perfect beauty." Sheridan lampshades this: "Well, as answers go, short, to the point, utterly useless and totally consistent with what I've come to expect from a Vorlon." It turns out, this is a completely factual statement, though it makes no sense until you can see the context. This gets lampshaded again in the same episode when Ivanova asks Sheridan what Kosh showed him. Sheridan responds "Beauty... in the dark." Ivanova remarks that Kosh's lessons must be working, because Sheridan is starting to talk like a Vorlon.
    • According to the RPG, the Vorlon don't usually do it on purpose: their language is fully telepathic, and most of the usually deep meaning is lost in translation due them not being used at voicing it. Then again, sometimes we get Vorlon like Kosh, who is capable of expressing himself (relatively) well with a voice but still leaves out details, either to have people think and realize what he mean by themselves, because what he was asked is meant to stay secret, or just for the hell of it.
    • The Drakh do the same in season 4: "Drakh? Is that your name or your species?" "Yes."
    • J. Michael Straczynski himself has used it on occasion. (warning: link contains spoilers) "Was Kosh's line about Sheridan going to Z'ha'dum a warning or a threat?" "Yes."
    • At the Year-End feast in "The Parliament of Dreams", Londo asks "Do you know what the last Xon said before he died? AAAAHHHHH!"
    • When G'Kar gets let out of jail for his Mind Rape of Londo in "Point of No Return", he tells Ta'Lon of a revelation he had. Ta'Lon asks what kind of revelation. G'Kar tries this trope on Ta'Lon, who is having none of it.
      G'Kar: A most profound and substantial one, Ta'Lon. The kind of revelation that transforms your mind, your soul, your heart-even your flesh-so that you are a new creature, reborn in the instant of understanding.
      Ta'Lon: That was a stirring reply, Citizen G'Kar. Unfortunately, while all answers are replies, not all replies are answers. You did not answer the question that I asked.
  • Better Off Ted: When the company gets sued for product negligence, Ted states that Veronica is an old pro at depositions by volunteering as little information as possible (Truth in Television, your lawyer always advises to give as little information as possible while answering questions):
    Lawyer: Could you describe your job?
    Veronica: Yes.
    Lawyer: How would you describe your job?
    Veronica: Cleverly.
  • Barney Miller: Wojo is questioning a prostitute he has just arrested:
    Wojo: Any prior convictions?
    Prostitute: I used to think that cleanliness was next to godliness.
  • In Rik Mayall's Believe Nothing (made when David Blunkett was Britain's Home Secretary):
    Receptionist: The Home Secretary is in the waiting room. He wants to know if he can see you.
    Adonis Cnut: Of course he can't see me. He's blind.
  • The Big Bang Theory had an instance when Raj (who usually has trouble talking to women) was getting a little too attached to Siri, to the point that his friends described it as "dating a phone". When Bernadette asked if it was cute or creepy, Howard simply said "uh-huh".
    • In the episode "The Engagement Reaction"
      Leonard: So, how is she?
      Howard: They’re running tests. I don’t know. It may have been a heart attack or heart-attack-like event.
      Penny: What’s the difference?
      Sheldon: A heart-attack-like event is an event that’s like a heart attack.
      Penny: Thanks for clearing that up.
    • Also this exchange from "The Apology Insufficiency" after someone knocks on the door:
      Leonard: Want to get that?
      Sheldon: Not particularly.
      Leonard: Could you get that?
      Sheldon: I suppose I could if I were asked.
      Leonard: Would you please get that?
      Sheldon: Of course. (beat) Why do you have to make things so complicated?
  • When Blackadder tries to teach Baldrick addition by adding four beans together, Baldrick gives the following answers:
    "Some beans."
    "Three beans." "And that one."
    "A very small casserole."
    • When Prince Edmund asks how the Archbishop of Canterbury died, he is told "Horribly."
  • In episode six of the first season of Boardwalk Empire, Margaret tells a friend in the Temperance League that a man has made her an offer. The friend asks, "Financial? Domestic? Sexual?", and Margaret replies, "Yes."
  • In Breaking Bad, Walt calls up Mike to find out where Jesse is.
    Walt: Where is Jesse?
    Mike: He's with me.
    Walt: Put Jesse on!
    Jesse: Yo.
    Walt: Where are you?
    Jesse: I'm with Mike.
  • Cheers:
    • In "What Is... Cliff Clavin?", Cliff attempted to use such an answer on Jeopardy! when asked to identify three actors by their original, non-stage names. His reply was "Who are three people who have never been in my kitchen?" Correct, but ...
    • One conversation:
      Frasier: O death in life, the days that are no more — who said that?
      Woody: Who said what?
      Frasier: "O death in life, the days that are no more."
      Woody: You did.
      Frasier: No, I mean, who said it first?
      Woody: You said it both times.
    • Another example had Cliff give a long and detailed explanation about why they drank ice cold beer in the middle of winter (which essentially centred around the need to equalise your internal and external temperatures). When he had finished, Carla then asked him why they also drank it summer. His response was "What else are we going to do with it?".
  • In Charlie Shakes It Up, Deuce says he "has the situation under control", which prompts this:
    Teddy: So when he says he has it under control, should we be relieved or worried?
    Cece & Rocky: Yes.
  • El Chavo del ocho:
    • In one episode, El Chavo is selling refreshments and agrees to reveal Don Ramon's location to Mr. Barriga if the landlord buys one. El Chavo then reveals that Don Ramon is still in the country.
    • Also, whenever Don Ramón tries to threaten La Chilindrina with his belt:
    Don Ramón: Do you know what happens if I take my belt off?
    Chilindrina: Yeah, you drop your pants.

  • Chicago Fire:
    Casey: Is there anything flammable in these boxes?
    Business owner: No, sir.
    [barrels burst into flame]

  • Community: "Basic Human Anatomy"
    Annie: So, I'm number two again, which is what it is. But you know, if I'm not going to be valedictorian, I'm glad it will be you.
    Shirley: Me too.
    Annie: You mean, you hope it's me if it's not you, or that you're glad it's you?
    Shirley: Yes.
  • The Daily Show:
    • In a parody of government officials avoiding giving direct answers, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell had this exchange:
      Stephen: There are things I don't tell you.
      Steve: Oh, you tell me everything.
      Stephen: No, I don't.
      Steve: Like what?
      Stephen: I can't tell you.
      Steve: Well, does it involve you or me?
      Stephen: Yes.
      Steve: Who? Me, or you?
      Stephen: Steve, we've exhausted this topic.
    • Another example: In 2003, when Prince Charles was alleged to have had a gay experience, Britain's strict libel and slander laws prevented anyone from commenting publicly on the charge. Colbert, doing a report on the scandal, was asked by Jon Stewart if he had learned any specifics. Colbert said, "Yes I have, Jon."
  • Deadly Class: Petra gives one after calling off her threesome with Lex and Billy because all the feelings are discomforting her, the former asks if it's theirs or feelings generally. She says "Yes".
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Wheel in Space":
      Zoe: This Doctor friend of yours. Is he a scientist?
      Jamie: He is in a way I suppose, yes.
      Zoe: What's his specialty?
      Jamie: His what?
      Zoe: Well, is he a physicist, biochemist, astronomer, biometrician?
      Jamie: Yes, he is.
    • "The Two Doctors":
      The Doctor: I closed my respiratory passages as soon as I detected any danger.
      Peri: Well, then how did you breathe?
      The Doctor: With difficulty.
    • "The Eleventh Hour":
      The Doctor: Twenty minutes. Run home to your loved ones and kiss them all goodbye, or stay and help me.
      Amy: No. [she traps his tie in a car door and demands an explanation]
    • "Flesh and Stone": River is working with a bunch of people who know nothing about the Doctor:
      Bishop Octavian: Doctor Song, do you trust [the Doctor]?
      River: I absolutely trust him.
      Bishop Octavian: He's not some kind of madman, is he?
      River: I absolutely trust him.
    • "The Big Bang":
      • An exchange between the Doctor and Rory:
        The Doctor: So, 2,000 years. How did you do?
        Rory: Kept out of trouble.
        The Doctor: Oh. How?
        Rory: Unsuccessfully.
      • Between the Doctor and River:
        The Doctor: Are you married, River?
        River: Are you asking?
        The Doctor: Yes.
        River: Yes.
        The Doctor: No, hang on. Did you think I was asking you to marry me, or asking if you were married?
        River: Yes.
        The Doctor: No, but was that yes, or yes?
        River: Yes.
    • "A Christmas Carol":
      Kazran Sardick: If you're my baby-sitter, why are you climbing in the window?
      The Doctor: Because if I was climbing out the window I'd be going in the wrong direction.
    • "The Doctor's Wife":
      Amy: How do you leave the universe?
      The Doctor: With enormous difficulty!
    • In "A Good Man Goes to War", we meet Madame Vastra, a female Silurian in the late 1800s:
      Madame Vastra: Jack the Ripper has taken his last victim.
      Jenny Flint: How did you find him?
      Madame Vastra: Stringy, but tasty all the same. I won't be needing dinner.
    • During the events of "The Name of the Doctor":
      Vastra: Professor. Help yourself to some tea.
      River: [she has a champagne bucket] Why, thank you.
      Jenny Flint: How did you do that?!
      River: [smiling] Disgracefully.
    • Played with in "The Day of the Doctor". The Doctor interprets Osgood's non-answer literally:
      The Doctor: Hey! You! Are you sciency?
      Osgood: Yes.
      The Doctor: Got a name?
      Osgood: Yes.
      The Doctor: Good. I've always wanted to meet someone called "Yes".
  • In Dollhouse, the newly composited Echo gives one to Alpha, after turning on him:
    Alpha: Something must have gone wrong with the composite.
    Echo: Nothing went wrong. Every imprint this Active has ever had is alive and awake in her head right now.
    Alpha: Then why did you hit me in the head with a pipe?
    Echo: It was handy!
  • On one episode of Dragons' Den, the investors tried to get more specifics from a Cloud Cuckoolander inventor:
    Theo Paphitis: What have you got a patent for?
    Derek Cozens: Because it's a good idea!
  • From the Even Stevens episode "Raiders of the Lost Sausage":
    Steve: Beans, why are you dumping dirt in my laundry room?
    Beans: Because there's a big scary bird in the backyard!
  • Sometimes pops up on Family Feud questions, mainly ones that require numerical answers.
    • On at least two instances, "Morning" was given for "Name a time that most people get up." On the first, the same contestant answered "Night" for "Name a time that most people go to bed." That got two points.
    • When the question was, "Name something Russia is famous for", one contestant said, "Russians".
    • On the Combs version, there was the question "What birthday do men dread the most?" Instead of giving a milestone such as fortieth or fiftieth, a contestant guessed "Their wife's" which got two points.
    • A Harvey-era question asked "How old do you think Joan Rivers is?" with a contestant answering "Old."
  • In Farscape, Scorpius is being interrogated:
    Interrogator: Why are you here?
    Scorpius: Because you caught me.
  • In The Flash (2014), after the disastrous encounter with the Reverse-Flash, Joe explained to the stunned Eddie about the existence of meta-humans. He appears to convince Eddie that the Flash is one of the good ones, despite Eddie having been attacked by the whammied Flash in an earlier episode. We then get this exchange:
    Eddie Thawne: And the Flash. Do you know who he is?
    Joe West: Yeah, I do. He's the guy that saved both of our lives tonight.
    • For reference, Joe really does know that Barry is the Flash, but it's not his secret to reveal.
  • From the opening scene of the later Mayall/Edmondson/Planer/Elton series, Filthy Rich & Catflap:
    Richie: What are you doing in my bed?
    Eddie: Well I was sleeping. But now I'm talking to a git.
  • The Following has this exchange in "Whips and Regrets":
    Parker: So, are you an alcoholic, or just a problem drinker?
    Hardy: Yes.
  • Friends:
    Joey: Hey Phoebes, do you think it would be okay if I asked out your sister?
    Phoebe: Why? Why would you want to do that?
    Joey: So that if we went out on a date, she'd be there.
  • Game of Thrones:
    Tyrion: What sort of accent is that?
    Shae: Foreign.
    • And again:
      Catelyn: Why did you push my son from the window?
      Jaime: I hoped the fall would kill him.
  • The French-Canadian sitcom Un gars, une fille (A Guy and a Girl), has the Guy in the title ask his girlfriend which of two wines she wants for supper. She answers "Yes." This prompts him to reply "When someone gives you a choice between two things, you can't answer with yes! If you're afraid of committing to a decision, do you want me to pick for you, or do you want me to leave choices up to you?" Her answer? "Yes! Yes Yes Yes!"
  • In Get Smart, one of Maxwell Smart's many catchphrases is a mathematician's answer. When asked how he did something, or how he planned to do something, he would respond: "With great difficulty."
    • ...and, loving it.
  • A guest of The Golden Girls tells the girls his wife has just had triplets. "What are they?" asks Dorothy. Rose answers, "That's when three babies are born at the same time."
  • During an end-of-term quiz at Grange Hill:
    Mr Baxter: "Transubstantiation" is a difficult word. Can anyone spell it?
    Hughes: Sir, you said spell "it". I, T!
    Mr Baxter: (grudgingly) A point to Grange Hill.
  • In Happy Endings Penny fakes being engaged in front of her safety Shershow, who's about to get married to a beautiful woman.
    Shershow: So Penny that's great, you got engaged. To who?
    Penny Uh... my fiancé.
  • In the Horatio Hornblower Courtroom Episode "Retribution", Dr. Clive is asked if Captain Sawyer "was or was not fit for duty" when the lieutenants removed him from command. Clive replies "yes." The court, naturally, demands that he elaborate, and it turns out this was a prelude for Clive to accuse the lieutenants of coercing him.
  • From House:
    Masters: House, how many prostitutes have you had?
    House: As in eaten? Ever? This year?
    Masters: Slept with. Since you've been here.
    House: All but one. She did my taxes.
  • In The IT Crowd, Roy runs into this trying to run tech support.
    Roy: Is it a PC, or a Mac?
    Judy: ...Yes!
    • From the same episode:
      Roy: What was that name, was it Julie or Judy?
      Moss: Yes. One of those.
  • How I Met Your Mother dipped into this when Barney tells Ted about a special type of bingo he invented, and Ted tries to figure out the endgame, and Barney answers with an intonation like Ted's the strange one.
    Ted: So, how many people are in on this Party School Bingo thing?
    Barney: Oh, it's just me.
    Ted: So what's the point, then?
    Barney: The point is to get five in a row.
    Ted: And what do you get when you get five in a row?
    Barney: ... I get Bingo.
    • Barney gets it done to him when he tries to surprise the group with tickets to "Robots versus Wrestlers".
      Barney: Guess what I've got behind my back!
      Lily: Oh, wait, wait, wait. I got this one: left.
      Barney: Wrong game, but correct.
  • While fictional Jeopardy! examples are based on the contestant's responses, the clues themselves can seem like this if you go along with the concept that they're the answers to the questions that the correct responses ask. Who, when asked "what are chairs?" would answer "George Hepplewhite was known for designing the backs of these in such shapes as hearts & shields"?!
  • On Just Shoot Me!, when Elliot asks Dennis if he's licking stamps, Dennis answers sarcastically "I was, now I'm answering obvious questions." When a pretty model asks the same question, Dennis cordially responds "Why, yes I am."
  • On Kitchen Nightmares, Gordon Ramsay usually starts evaluating the restaurant by asking the owner what he or she thinks is the main problem. One owner responded to this question by saying, "We don't have enough customers."
  • Lost provided a perfect example during the flight to return to the island:
    Jack: How can you read? [at a time like this]
    Ben: My mother taught me.
    • He's lying as usual. His mother died shortly after giving birth to him.
    • Another one from when Richard Alpert gives the Time Jumping Locke a compass.
      Locke: What's it do?
      Alpert: It points North, John.
  • Malcolm in the Middle has grizzled old coot Pete scrub up for a date, looking at himself in a mirror. When Francis walks in on him, we have the following gem:
    Francis: Pete, is that really you?
    Pete:! It's a reflection!
  • M*A*S*H: In one episode, as Hawkeye is forced to treat several Koreans who each successively give him the same ID card that says Kim Luck, this exchange happens.
    Hawkeye: Can you identify yourself?
    Kim Luck #2: This is me.
  • Mimpi Metropolitan: In episode 8, Prima sees Bambang menacingly sharpening a sickle. Bambang is too angry to give a straight explanation.
    Prima: Mbang, why are you sharpening that thing?
    Bambang: To make it sharp.
    Prima: What do you want to cut?
    Bambang: Whatever can be cut.
  • Mock the Week has a Jeopardy! parody called If This is the Answer, What is the Question?, which naturally wound up like the Jeopardy example above on occasion.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus had several.
    • One such example with a mathematician's riposte thrown in:
      Woman 1: What's on the television then?
      Woman 2: (looks over to see the TV turned off and a penguin standing atop it) Looks like a penguin. Funny that penguin being there, innit? What's it doing there?
      Woman 1: Standing.
    • Another example occurs at one point in the Secret Service Dentists sketch, where Arthur Lemming, a customer in a book store, is thrown in a Spy vs. Spy dental-related imbroglio, where he has no idea what's going on (or so we think...) except that it's something suspicious despite the repeated denials of the store owner, while the whole cast is repeatedly held at gunpoint by the next entering character:
      Brian: (holding a bazooka) Not so fast!
      All: Brian!
      Arthur: Ooh, what's that?
      Others: It's a bazooka!
    • The sketch "How to Do It" features instructions for how to play the flute: "You blow there and you move your fingers up and down here."
  • One bit of edutainment featured a musical sketch with the Ridiculously Human Robot "Mr. Computer Man" who boasts in his song that he can do anything we humans can. When asked how to spell a simple word, he spells it out. When asked "How do you spell supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?" however, he thinks a moment and then replies "With letters!"
  • The Muppet Show :
    • Some dancing rats were in Christopher Reeve's dressing room.
      Scooter: Christopher Reeve, fifteen seconds to curtain, Christopher!
      Christopher Reeve: Oh thanks a lot, Scooter. Hey listen, can you tell me what these rats are doing in my dressing room?
      Scooter: I think it's the Foxtrot.
    • Kermit's contribution to a string of "fly in the soup" jokes.
      "So I ask the waiter, 'What's this fly doing in my alphabet soup?', and the waiter answers, 'Standing in for an apostrophe'."
    • When Judy Prowse fades into nothing at the end of a sketch:
      Waldorf: Hey, she just vanished! How did she do that?
      Statler: Probably like this.
      (He also fades into nothing.)
      Waldorf: Yep. That's probably how she did it.
  • The Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nóg: In a Courtroom Episode, Angus was facing trial and, when it seemed he'd be convicted, the truth was revealed. In the end, Angus asked the judge if he'd be acquitted or convicted without the new evidence and the judge said he'd certainly be one of those.
  • MythBusters: When Adam is taken to Jamie's secret locationnote , this exchange ensues:
    Adam: Where are we?
    Jamie: We're right here.
  • David Tennant once hosted a Doctor Who-themed episode of comedy quiz show Never Mind the Buzzcocks, which featured the following question:
    Tennant: Knock knock.
    Panellist: Who's there?
    Tennant: Doctor.
    Panellist: Doctor who?
    Tennant: Correct!
  • The Newlywed Game: Bob Eubanks asked "If you don't win the game today, what would be the reason?" The husband answered "Because we didn't answer the questions right." (The answer on his wife's card read "(Because she) Laughs too much")
  • Night Court: Bull helps deliver a baby. Asks the exhausted mother, "What is it?", wanting to know the gender. Bull: "It's a baby!"
  • NUMB3RS: Although there are a few mathematicians in the group, it's actually physicist Larry who is most prone to these.
    Charlie: Larry, is everything all right?
    Larry: Everything? Well, I'm not sure that I can account for the state of all matter...
  • Famously in the Only Fools and Horses episode "If They Could See Us Now", in which Del Boy is on a quiz show hosted by Jonathan Ross:
    Jonathan Ross: In what state was President Kennedy in when he was shot?
    Del Boy: Well he was in a terrible state, he died!
  • In Party Down:
    Ron: What am I not hearing?
    Roman: I don't know... a squid? There are other options...
    • Roman is supposed to be DJ and is not at his post.
  • Person of Interest has this rather hilarious example after Root crashes a car to keep the Victim of the Week safe:
    Finch: Whose car was that?!
    Root: Someone who needs a good mechanic.
  • Police Squad!:
    • A Running Gag where Frank holds a cigarette out to a witness or suspect and asks "cigarette?" The implication is that he's asking if they want one, but they always answer "Yes, I know," or "Yes, it is."
    • Another example, which appeared both on the show and in one of the movies. When the squad raids a criminal hideout, a pretty gun moll asks "Is this some kind of bust?". While looking at her chest, Drebin replies "Yes, it is very impressive".
  • Porridge: The new prison officer Beale receives some of these when he tries to act tough with experienced inmates.
    Beale: What are you in for?
    Oakes: Two years.
    Beale: I didn't mean time, I meant offence.
    Oakes: None taken.
    (Later, when meeting Fletcher)
    Beale: Long to do?
    Fletcher: (cheerfully) Long enough.
    Beale: What are you in for?
    Fletcher: Got caught.
  • The Professionals. In "Rogue", Doyle does this to troll Cowley when Da Chief calls them on the car radio.
    Cowley: Where are you?
    Doyle: In the car.
  • QI: Given the show's habit of penalising obvious or boring answers to questions, it's often safer (and funnier) for contestants to give answers like this:
    • "Atoms":
      Stephen Fry: What's the difference between a hydrogen atom and a grand piano?
      Jeremy Hardy: Well, size... shape... and possibly Iraq did have the capability of splitting a grand piano.
    • "Fingers and Fumbs":
      Stephen: What do we measure feet in, in Britain?
      Dara Ó Briain: You measure them in a little slidey thing.note 
      Stephen: What is the unit?
      Dara: Er, a fraction of the slidey thing?note 
    • "International", when talking about pilots being brought their food:
      Stephen: Yes, it must be Deirdre with the lunch - the lunches. Why do I say "lunches?"
      Bill Bailey: Because there's more than one!
    • "Invertebrates":
      Stephen: What do bees do better than dogs?
      Jimmy Carr: Make honey?
  • Quantico: Simon notices that Nimah pins her hijab on the left sometimes, other times the right, and wonders whether this is because of her ambidexterity, or it has some cultural significance. Nimah answers "yes". This turns out to be because Simon actually saw her twin sister Raina, who'd pinned it on the left side, and Nimah tells her to always pin it on the right so no one notices this again. They're also opposite-handed.
  • Ripping Yarns:
    Man 1: What did your father say before he died?
    Man 2: EEEEUUUUURRRRRGGGGHHHHHH... *death rattle*
    Man 1: No, before that.
    Man 2: Oh.
  • In one episode of The Saddle Club TV series, Stevie spills bright red soda on a shirt she "borrowed" from her brother without his permission, leading to this exchange:
    Stevie: What do you do with soda?
    Carole: (deadpan) Most people drink it.
  • Scrubs:
    Dr. Kelso: Would someone explain what that bird is doing in my hospital?
    Janitor: Sanchez appears to be flying, sir. I've named him Sanchez.
  • Done as a Take That! to a telemarketer in an episode of Seinfeld. Jerry at one point answers the phone and is asked, "Would you be interested in a subscription to the New York Times?" He casually answers "Yes," before hanging up.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017): In "The Penultimate Peril" the Baudelaires are working at a Hotel run by a pair of identical twin brothers, Frank and Ernest who are actually triplets -Frank, Ernest, and Dewey. Frank is good, and Ernest is evil. However, the two make no attempts at distinguishing themselves, which causes problems for the protagonists.
    Klaus: Are you Frank or Ernest?
    Frank/Ernest: I am.
  • Shaun Micallef's Mad as Hell: Leo Hatred is a master at this, particularly in this discussion of a feasibility study into the Collinsville coal-fired power plant.
    Shaun: When do you expect the study to be completed?
    Leo: It'll be completed when it's finished.
    Shaun: But when do you expect to see it?
    Leo: When they give it to us.
    Shaun: And when do you expect them to give it to you?
    Leo: Just before we have it.
    Shaun: And when will you have it?
    Leo: Just after they've given it to us.
    Shaun: When will they give it to you?
    Leo: When it's ready.
    Shaun: When will it be ready?
    Leo: When it's completed.
    Shaun: When will you answer a question directly?
    Leo: I'll never answer a question directly. (Beat) Oh, fuck.
  • Irene Adler seeks refuge in Baker Street in Sherlock:
    Sherlock: So who's after you?
    Irene: People who want to kill me.
    Sherlock: Who's that?
    Irene: Killers.
  • In Smallville, when Clark wants to talk to Lois about their relationship:
    Clark: Lois, what are we doing?
    Lois: I'm eating a maple donut and you're kind of invading my personal space.
  • In Square One TV segment Mathnet, a musician plays Air Guitar complete with sound effects. This prompts the following exchange with George Frankly:
    George Frankly: How did you do that?
    Musician: Bloody Perfectly.
  • Star Trek:
    • The Heisenberg compensator allows the transporter to get around the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. When asked how it works, Mike Okuda's response is '[It] works just fine, thank you.'
    • Star Trek: The Original Series: In "Space Seed", a recently awakened Khan has Doctor McCoy by the throat:
      McCoy: Well, either choke me or cut my throat. Make up your mind.
      Khan: English. I thought I dreamed hearing it. Where am I?
      McCoy: You're in bed, holding a knife at your doctor's throat.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
      • In "When the Bough Breaks", Wesley talks to the Custodian (a computer), after having been told he's allowed to ask of it any question:
        Wesley: Custodian, can you show me where Harry is?
        The Custodian: Yes.
        Wesley: Custodian, show me Harry.
      • In "Parallels", the Enterprise crew throws Worf a surprise party for his birthday. Picard asks Worf how old he is, to which Worf simply says "Old enough."
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • In "The Forsaken", Odo is asked by Lwaxana Troi if Odo is his first or last name. Yes, it is.
      • In a later episode, "Heart of Stone", we get to know that Odo is his first name. His second is Ital. (The Cardassian word Odo'ital means "Unknown Sample", which is exactly what he was to the scientists who discovered him.) Well, he was named on Bajor, where the Eastern name order is accepted, so it's still Mathematician's.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise: In "Fortunate Son", while the crew is helping to repair a cargo ship:
      Boy playing hide-and-seek: Have you seen Nadine?
      T'Pol: I'm sorry. I don't know which child is named "Nadine".
  • The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: London Tipton gets bonus points for this gem:
    Cody: London! What's twelve times twelve?
    London: [beat] A math question?
  • Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad: In one episode, the heroes were playing with a game that told people's luck with basis on their dates of birth. Mrs. Starkey decided to try and asked Amp when he was born. Despite knowing about the game, he told the hour. When she explained she wanted to know the day, he said he was born on Wednesday.
  • Supernatural:
    • Castiel irritates Dean with a couple mathematician's answers when they first meet and Dean is trying to figure out who or what Castiel is. Played with somewhat in that Castiel might believe his answers to be legitimately helpful, while the audience is well aware that he's just telling Dean superficial things he already knows while avoiding the deeper explanation Dean wants.
      Dean: Who are you?
      Castiel: I'm the one who gripped you tight and raised you from perdition.
      Dean: Yeah.
      (a few moments later)
      Dean: Who are you?
      Castiel: Castiel.note 
      Dean: Yeah, I figured that much, I mean what are you?
    • And from the episode "Hunteri Heroici":
      Dean: Hey Cas, what's the word?
      Castiel: It's a shortened version of my name.
  • In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, this is sometimes how Cameron responds to questions.
  • From Terra Nova:
    Dr. Shannon: Do you know where you are?
    Leah: Under a table.
  • That '70s Show provides this example when 2 state troopers arrive at the Foreman house during a party:
    State Trooper: Ma'am, are you the owner of this house?
    Midge: No, I'm not.
    State Trooper: Do you know the owners?
    Midge: Yes, I do!
    State Trooper: Could you get them, please!?
    • Showing that the trooper is a bit slow, or he would've realized that Midge can answer, "Yes, I could."
  • In The Thundermans episode "Change of Art", Nora is trying to keep her mother from knowing where her siblings are:
    Barb: Where's Max?
    Nora: With Phoebe.
    Barb: Where's Phoebe?
    Nora: With Billy.
    Barb: Where's Billy?
    Nora: Hey look, they're starting.
  • On an episode of Two and a Half Men Jake had a test where he wrote that Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in... pen.
  • Under the Umbrella Tree devoted an episode to the characters telling jokes, including:
    Gloria: How did you find the weather on your vacation?
    Jacob: I just went outside, and there it was!
  • Given a serious purpose in an episode of The West Wing, when White House counsel Oliver Babish is preparing C.J. to testify before Congress:
    Babish: Do you know what time it is?
    C.J.: It's five past noon.
    Babish: I'd like you to get out of the habit of doing that.
    C.J.: Doing what?
    Babish: Answering more than was asked... Do you know what time it is?
    (C.J. stares at him silently for several moments)
    C.J.: Yes.
    • Though also played for laughs when Will is attempting to obfuscate an angry Assistant Secretary of State:
      Assistant Secretary of State: Are you rewriting the foreign policy section?
      Will: Yes.
      Assistant Secretary of State: Dramatically?
      Will: I like to think I have a certain flair...
    • Done twice in the pilot, both times played for laughs. First, when Leo is looking for Josh and goes to Donna, who's sitting at her desk:
      Leo: Is [Josh] there?
      Donna: Yes.
      Leo: Could you get him?
      Donna: (yelling towards Josh's office) Josh!
      Leo: Thanks.
    • And then a bit later, between Leo and Mrs. Landingham, when they're talking about the President's bike accident:
      Mrs. Landingham: Have they done an X-ray?
      Leo: Yep.
      Mrs. Landingham: Is anything broken?
      Leo: A $4000 Lynex Titanium touring bike that I swore I'd never lend anyone.
  • On What's My Line?, since contestants were supposed to answer only "yes" or "no", the correct response to a question like "Are you involved in television or movies?" would be "yes". More than one contestant over the course of the run forgot this, and answered the question the usual way, to the panel's benefit. And more than once, one of the more comedic-minded panelists would ask something like "Well, which is it?" when the contestant did answer in the correct manner.
  • Wolf Hall: Played for drama when Thomas Cromwell recalls serving Thomas More as a boy and asking him what he was reading. More only replied, "Words." More's casual dismissal of Cromwell was just one of many times More treated Cromwell as Beneath Notice, and Cromwell has never forgotten.
  • This tactic is occasionally used by contestants on Would I Lie to You? when they're trying to stall for time.
    Lee: I have hidden in a cupboard to escape Anthea Turner.
    David: Where were you when this happened?
    Lee: In the cupboard.
    David: Where was the cupboard?
    Lee: In the room I was hiding from Anthea Turner.
    David: Where was the room?
    Lee: Just away from Anthea Turner.
    David: What was the occasion? And do not define the occasion or the geographical space in relation to Anthea Turner. What else was it?
  • The X-Files: In the episode "One Breath", Melissa Scully comes to visit Mulder at his apartment, where he is sitting in the dark hoping to surprise an intruder.
    Melissa: Why is it so dark in here?
    Mulder: Because the lights aren't on.
  • From The Young Ones:
    Rick: Alright, what's the stair carpet doing on the fire?
    Vyvyan: Burning! What's it look like?!
    • Also:
      Neil: (answering the phone) Someone's asking if we know the name of a short fat comedian.
      Mike: Yes.
      Neil: (into the phone) Yes we do! (hangs up)
    • Another:
      Vyvyan: 11:05 and it's still raining. I wonder how hard it is.
      Rick: Not very hard, seeing as it's only made of water.
    • Mike walks in holding a fish. He asks "What is this!?" Everyone else replies, "A FISH!" He realizes they are right and leaves. Later in the episode he comes back with the fish, having figured out what he meant to ask. He asks, "What is this fish doing in my bed!?" Someone points out to him it is not in his bed, he is holding it in his hands. He realizes they are right and leaves. Still later, he comes back, sure he has figured it out for good, with NOTHING in his hands. He says, "What is this fish doing in my bed!?" Everyone says, "WHAT FISH?"
    • Still another:
      Girl: Oh, is that the time?
      Mike: No, that's a wristwatch. Time is abstract concept.

  • When asked what his songs were about, Bob Dylan responded, "Some are about three minutes, some are about four minutes..."
  • Elvis Costello, Brutal Youth, "My Science Fiction Twin":
    "They ask, 'How in the world he does all these things,'/ and he answers, 'Superbly'"
  • Jez Lowe has an example in his song "High Part of the Town":
    They tried to teach geography, but I found it much too hard/When they asked me where does coal come from, I answered "next door's yard"
  • When asked whether she was a singer of country, pop, blues, or jazz, Crystal Gayle replied, "Yes."
  • "Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me a Bow Wow", a music hall number by Joseph Tabrar. The title is the singer's answer when her teacher asks her why she brings her cat to school.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Nomine: The Seraphim are masters of this, since they are angels of truth who are forbidden to lie. Technically true answers keep them from the edge — if sometimes just barely.

  • In 1776, when John Hancock asks about the absent New Jersey delegates:
    John Hancock: I'm concerned over the continued absence of 1/13th of this Congress. Where is New Jersey?
    John Dickinson: Somewhere between New York and Pennsylvania.
  • In Chicago:
    She'd say, "What's your sister like?" I'd say, "men."
  • In Hamlet: Polonius attempts to get some information on Hamlet to report back to the king, but not wanting to betray his regicidal scheme and not wasting an opportunity to bother his girlfriend's intrusive father, Hamlet gives the most obvious and unhelpful answers he can.
    Polonius: What are you reading?
    Hamlet: Words, words, words.
  • In The Pirates of Penzance, the Major-General wants to find out something about the men in piratical outfits who propose to marry his daughters:
    Major General: May I ask – this is a picturesque uniform, but I'm not familiar with it. What are you?
    Pirate King: We are all... single gentlemen.
    • This is also an ironic inversion of the trope, as the answer uses the ambiguities of language to provide the information he wants (that the pirates are in fact all eligible bachelors in good standing, being actually English gentlemen) while appearing not to.
  • In Iolanthe, when Strephon is required to prove that the title character is really his mother, he points out she gave birth to him and raised him from childhood, and therefore she must be his mother.
  • The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas: In one line that's in the musical but not the film, a reporter asks the governor what is behind rising unemployment numbers. The governor replies that the cause of unemployment is that so many people are out of work, then changes the subject.
  • Used multiple times in Twelfth Night.
    • When Malvolio tells Olivia that a man wants to see her and will not be turned away:
    Olivia: What kind of man is he?
    Malvolio: Why, of mankind.
    Olivia: What manner of man?
    Malvolio: Of very ill-manner.
    • Also, when Viola meets Feste:
      Viola: Save thee, friend, and thy music: dost thou live by thy tabour?
      Feste: No, sir, I live by the church.
      Viola: Art thou a churchman?
      Feste: No such matter, sir: I do live by the church; for I do live at my house, and my house doth stand by the church.
  • The Taming of the Shrew gives us this exchange concerning Petruchio:
    Babptista: When will he be here?
    Biondello: When he stands where I am and sees you there.
  • Boyet does this to mess with the lovestruck Longaville in Love's Labour's Lost. When Longaville asks for the name of the lady he's infatuated with, Boyet says that he can't have it because she's still using it. Longaville then asks whose daughter she is.
    Boyet: Her mother's, I hear.

    Video Games 
  • The Point-and-Click Game based on The Pagemaster featured a Riddling Sphinx in the Fantasy World that blocked Richard's entrance to the final part of the game. The riddle was "What is the beginning of eternity, the end of time, and the start of every ending?" Richard answers with "The letter 'E'."
  • Props up a few times in the Mass Effect trilogy
    • You have Alestia Iallis in the first game.
      Shepard: Do you know Matriarch Benezia?
      Alestia: Do you know President Huerta of Earth? I thought not.
      Shepard: But, she is here.
      Alestia: I have seen her. You asked if I knew her. I do not.note 
    • Mass Effect 2 has one character who gives these sort of answers almost by default:
      Shepard: You watch me or you watch organics?
      Legion: Yes.
      Shepard: Which?
      Legion: Both.
    • Said character also has a nasty habit of providing massively important information under the verbal heading of "Addendum:", which is kind of a mathematician's answer in its own right; yes, it is indeed an additional piece of information that you did not have a moment ago. It's also frequently something you would, ideally, have liked to have known before you did what you just did...
  • In Discworld Noir, when Lewton asks the butler if he can see Count von Uberwald, the Servile Snarker responds that he is in no position to judge how good Lewton's eyesight is.
  • The Dragon Age series:
    • Sten of Dragon Age: Origins loves to do this.
      Warden: What were you doing in that cage?
      Sten: Sitting.
    • In Dragon Age II, a sidequest has Hawke go fetch some pickaxes for a group of miners from a smith in town whose name they forgot.
      Hawke: Are you the smith?
      Smith: I'm a Smith.
      Hawke: Is "Smith" your name or your profession?
      Smith: Yep.
  • Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura: When you try to get the location of the Hidden Elf Village Quintarra from Myrth the Elf. He repeatedly answers "In the Glimmering Forest" (said forest covers a third of Arcanum) and "In the trees" while being delighted at your frustration. When you give up, you turn it back on him:
    Myrth: "Why do you want to know, if you don't mind me asking?"
    You: "No, I don't mind at all that you're asking."
    Myrth: Well?
    You: ...
    Myrth: Aren't you going to answer?
    You: ...
    Myrth: Out with it, man/woman!
    You: I said I didn't mind you asking, not that I'd answer.
  • The third generation Pokémon games will let you answer yes or no... to the question of where your character came from. If you answer "yes," he'll reply that he's never heard of Yes Town. If you say no, he'll say that you have to have come from somewhere.
  • Same deal in EarthBound (1994).
    • In the Japanese Mother 2, someone asks you if you can name a cartoon, "Alps no Shoujo OOji." Answering "hai" is technically correct. If you reply "iie," they'll say that "Iieji" is just wrong.
    • In the North American localization, this is translated into "a Beatles song - XXXterday. Can you fill in the blank?" Again, "yes" is correct, and you'll get scolded that "Noterday" is wrong if you answer "no."
  • Borderlands series: Mister Torgue:
    • In Borderlands 2: Mister Torgue's Campaign of Carnage:
      • Mister Torgue explains that the reason he's always disorganized and was unable to find a sponsor for the Vault Hunter was because he was "busy suplexing a shark wearing a bolo tie". He then notices that "You may ask, who was wearing the bolo tie, you or the shark?". Answer: YES.
      • Torgue poses something of a Mathematicians' Question in the introduction to this campaign. "I have one question, and one question only: EXPLOSIONS?!" Under the circumstances, one could be led to believe that the valid answer is "Yes".
    • A question asked on his Reddit: "WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE TYPE OF EXPLOSION?" Answer: YES.
  • The game Star Control 2 has a race with a game called Frungy. One of the creators was asked how Frungy is played. "With gusto!"
  • In Bayonetta, Bayonetta meets a little girl called Cereza. Bayonetta asks where she is from. She responds "I... I'm from my house".
  • In Legend of Mana, one specific sidequest involves you convincing dropout students to go back to school. One of them thinks that Adults Are Useless because they answer questions but never actually say anything useful. You have to convince him otherwise... except your character can only say yes or no.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, the Postman gives such responses to Anju when delivering a letter from her missing fiance Kafei (likely because the Postman is acting as a Secret-Keeper for Kafei, who wants to lay low for the time being):
    Anju: This letter, wh-where did you?!?
    Postman: From the postbox.
    Anju: Th-that's not what I mean! From the postbox where?!?
    Postman: From the postbox somewhere.
  • The gender of Mangle from Five Nights at Freddy's 2 is one hotly debated by the fandom for well over a year. Scott Cawthon's answer on if Mangle is male or female? Yes.
  • After an update, Undertale's Mad Dummy boss simply has its defense listed as "YES".
  • Tekken 7: In Eddie Gordo's story mode, he demands that Lucky Chloe tell him where Kazuya Mishima is. She hands him a piece of paper that has a drawing of the Earth on it and an arrow pointing at it that says "Here". Eddie isn't happy, even moreso when he sees Chloe running the hell away at top speed.
  • In Persona 5, Futaba Sakura has a habit of this.
    • When her father Sojiro is shocked to see her come into Leblanc and asks how she got there, Futaba says "I walked." Considering that the Sakura residence is in the same neighborhood as Leblanc and it would only take a few minutes to walk there, Futaba's answer isn't too misleading... until you consider that until recently, she was a shut-in who was largely unable to leave her room, let alone the housenote , which is why Sojiro is shocked to see her.
    • In the official artbook, the female Phantom Thieves decline to mention how much they weigh. Futaba creatively sidesteps the question by saying that her weight is X, which is more than 0 kilograms and less than 1,000 kilograms (about 2,200 pounds).
  • Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out!: When Larry asks Rose what brought her to America, she responds with "Airplane".
  • BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm: At the beginning of the game it asks "Are you a boy or a girl?" ' Yes/No''
    Yes: ...Er, which one?
    No: ...Gee, genders sure are hard. [Moves onto Hello, [Insert Name Here] for player and some party members]
  • In Return of the Obra Dinn, the boat puller asks the Inspector (the player) how he's supposed to hoist up a heavy box onto the ship. The Inspector's response? "Carefully."

    Web Animation 
  • Isabelle Ruins Everything: During the protest, the Mayor asks, "Now, do you wanna tell me why everyone's acting like a bunch of animals?" Isabelle's answer is, "They are animals, sir."

    Web Comics 
  • In this Ozy and Millie strip, Millie gets one of these from her own subconscious.
  • Invoked by Word of God in response to this Drowtales page. When a reader asked if Kiel was referring to the flying daggers, or fire wielding dude when she said 'I want one of those', Drowtales writer Kern stated the correct answer was "Yes"
  • Edmund Finneys Quest To Find The Meaning Of Life has this comic.
  • In The Order of the Stick, the Oracle's first answer to Roy's question "Where is Xykon?" was "In his throne room." Roy persuaded him to follow up with a more useful answer.
    • When Belkar asked the oracle whether he would kill "Miko, Miko's stupid horse, Roy, Vaarsuvius, or you [the oracle]," the oracle replied "Yes." It ended up being the Oracle himself, despite his best attempts to invoke Prophecy Twist by way of Metaphorically True.
    • Vaarsuvius does this to Haley in another strip
    • This is generally the sort of answer given when a question is asked about V's gender.
    • When asked where Girard's Gate (the Artifact sealing Girard's Rift) is, a deliberately unhelpful (but compelled to tell the truth) mummy does this. It first answers "in the Desert", then, when asked for ulterior clarification, it says "around Girard's Rift" (which the protagonists and readers know already, since it's sealing it), and finally, when asked where Girard's Rift is, it goes: "Between Girard's Buttcheeks."
    Elan: The tragic loss to the field of ass comedy diminishes us all.
  • On the Gunnerkrigg Court forum, Tom Siddell gives this type of answer to the few questions he doesn't want to answer.
    Fan: What did the Court do with Sivo's body? ... Was Sivo laid to rest somewhere near the Court, or were his remains sent to an Orjak burial ground in the Bovec Mountains or elsewhere?
    Tom Siddell: Eglamore dealt with the matter in the way agreed on between he and his friend.
    Fan: I like how most characters have slightly different skin colors. But because they do, I'm not sure what to make of Zimmy's ashen color. Do you consider it to be in the expected range of variation for Gunnerkrigg characters (it does seem like the Headmaster's is quite similar), or is it intended to suggest something like unhealthiness or unnaturalness or even just griminess?
    Tom Siddell: Yup.
  • This Irregular Webcomic! strip.
  • Yeah, Something*Positive did it, too.
    "Davan, I'm going to force self-worth into you if I have to do it with a suppository."
    "Be gentle, it'll be my first time."
    "First time to be rectally violated or first time to feel good about yourself?"
    "I honestly, truly hate you."
    "Because I did that to your character, or because I thought to put it in a game before you?"
    • In the "Life according to S*P" comic in which Davan is horrified to realise he's been arguing about Star Trek (2009) on the internet and used a LOLCat, Randy's comment at the bottom of the strip is "If you're wondering if the argument or the LOLCat was stupid, the answer is yes."
  • The Flaky Pastry 100th strip spectacular showed Nitrine giving a slightly more helpful Mathematician's Answer.
  • Sluggy Freelance: Kusari answers with one here.
    Kusari: Dr. Shankraft, you are in trouble. In a permanent sense. We can help.
    Dr. Shankraft: Help me get "into" my permanent trouble, or "out" of it?
    Kusari: Yes.
  • Able And Baker gives one of these here.
    "What's your honest opinion?"
    "The one thing I can never be wrong about."
  • This strip from the "spelling bee" arc in Terror Island:
    York: Stephen, your word is "Camelopard."
    Stephen: Can you use it in a sentence?
    York: Almost certainly.
    Stephen: Sorry, will you use it in a sentence?
    York: Probably not. It isn't a very common word.
  • xkcd gets one early on here:
    What time is it?
    That's a pretty boring answer.
    Is not. It's the least boring answer imaginable.
  • From Wapsi Square, Shelly gives one when asked where she got her tattoo.
  • In 8-Bit Theater, we have two examples:
    • Having been jumped on multiple times by both Red Mage and Dragoon, Black Mage gives us this exchange:
      Thief: Since when do you care about quests?
      Black Mage: Since it's a convenient excuse to butcher Sir Hopsalot for revenge.
      Dragoon: You mean Red Mage or me?
      Black Mage: YES.
    • Then, we have Red Mage's character sheet. Religion: Okay.
  • The Trenches:
    Manager: Ever been arrested?
    Isaac: Once.
    Manager: What for?
    Isaac: Breaking the law.
  • In Tales of the Questor Quentyn stumbles into his parent's kitchen to find Squidge, the bogey, sitting in the middle of a pie, snarfing it down doublehanded.
    Quentyn: Squidge, what are you doing here?
    Squidge: (looking around) Eatin' pie.
    Quentyn: No, I mean — why are you in my mother's kitchen?
    Squidge: 'Cause that where pie is.
  • Cyanide and Happiness loves these:
    Alien: Thank you for repairing my ship, human. You may ask me one question.
    Man: Can it be about anything?
    Alien: Yes. (disappears)
    • and a variation
    Yellow Shirt What's wrong?
    Green Shirt My Uncle died of a heart attack.
    Yellow Shirt Jeez, I'm sorry, my heart goes out to your family.
    Green Shirt Really could've used that yesterday.
    • and another one
    Cyan Shirt What are you reading?
    Green Shirt A book.
  • Guilded Age:
    Gravedust: How did you sleep last night?
    Frigg: By puttin my head down on a pillow.
  • Subverted in one of the extra strips of Paranatural.
    Max: Mr. Starchman, can I go to the bathroom?
    Mr. Starchman: CAN you go to the bathroom?
    Max: Uh... may I go to the bathroom?
    Mr. Starchman: MAY you go to the bathroom?
    [Cut to the classroom turned into a mess, the teacher screaming while ripping his shirt open and the kids kneeling on the floor with their hands on their heads.]
  • In Dumbing of Age, when Walky gives Dorothy flowers:
    Walky: Do you like them or is this just kinda cheesy?
    Dorothy: Yes.
  • Full Frontal Nerdity has this exchange:
    Frank: Lewis's character [will] become the random misfortune death-god.
    Shawn: Do you pray to him to get that kind of death or to avoid it?
    Lewis: Yes.
  • This Dinosaur Comics strip has the following exchange:
    Dromiceiomimus: What's 11 divided by 34.1?
    T-Rex: Um... a number?
    Utahraptor: Ah, the "not wrong but also not meaningfully correct" route!
    T-Rex: It's technically correct!
    Utahraptor: I believe you'll find someone who takes the risk of being wrong is preferred to someone who is never wrong but never says anything worth saying.
  • JL8:
    Diana: Wait, why are you giving Bruce flirty faces?
    Karen Starr: Um, because I LIKE him. DUH.
    Diana: Because you like him, or you like the fact that he owns horses?
    Karen: Yes.
  • Homestuck:
    DAVE: you might want to get your ass in gear
    DAVE: shits going down on lofaf
    ROSE: Could you elaborate?
    (closeup on Dave's mouth)
    DAVE: theres problems
    ROSE: Then let us bounce.
  • Children of Eldair: An exchange seen here.
    Indri: I like a man who's good at what he does.
    Kian: Being a cad? Or using my muscles for dubious purposes?
    Indri: Yes.
  • From (x, why?), the math teachers employ a little Coffee Logic.
  • Becomes the cause of an attack that causes the death of four people in a Stand Still, Stay Silent flashback.
    "It's the most recent scout report for the site of the attack. It's improperly filled out. And quite vague. The section for area details merely says 'Yes'".
  • Nineteen-Ninety-Something: It was heavily implied that the Duquesnes moved from California to Eden Prairie to keep the police from looking too hard at Kevin for the rape and murder of one of his sister Lindsay's high school rivals. Lindsay (privately) cops to sending Kevin after said rival, but just to scare her, maybe to rough her up a bit. When Lindsay asks Kevin directly if he responsible for the rape/murder, Kevin would simply say "I did what you asked me to."
  • Carry On:
    Kathy: Are these armor or corsets?
    Jade: Yes.
  • In Strong Female Protagonist, Alison, having just entered Patrick's mind, encounters and rescues an aspect of his personality, and demands further information from it as to where exactly they are:
    Alison: I'm not going anywhere until I get some answers. First off, what is this place?
    "Patrick": A colonnade.
    Alison: You know what I mean.
    "Patrick": Patrick's mind.
    Alison: See, an explanation somewhere right in the middle of those two would really help me out, and I think you know that.

    Web Original 
  • The Frequently Given Answers page makes a serious attempt to inform unsuspecting answer-seekers how to avoid this trope, when asking questions of places frequented mainly by the overly literal.
  • Spoony's take on the changes to Yuna between Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2.
    Spoony: Quite a long way from the traditional kimono she wore before, and her previous characterization as a kind, demure, religious care-giver with a tragic fate. But is this huge change in outfit and characterization because of the radical cultural shift in Spira because of the exposure of Yevon as a maniacal, genocidal cult run by the undead bent on world domination... or just because Japanese perverts want to see some cleavage and her cute ass in boyshorts? Good question... The answer is "Yes".
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
    Butarega: King Vegeta, I have urgent news!
    King Vegeta: Speak, Butarega.
    Butarega: Bardock has gone absolutely mad, Sire!
    Bardock: (off in the distance) FREEZA!!
    King Vegeta: What's all the commotion about?
    Butarega: He's been telling everyone that Freeza plans to destroy Vegeta!
    King Vegeta: Wait, my son, the planet, or me?
    Butarega: ...Yes.
    (Butarega is blasted by King Vegeta)
    King Vegeta: Freakin' smartass.
    • King Vegeta does it again in Broly - The Legendary Super Saiyan Abridged when Paragus begs him to try to spare Broly's life and he falls into the same trap Butarega did.
  • The main character of Ask a Ninja loves to do this, especially during the "Omnibus" episodes.
    Question: What is integral theory?
    Ninja: Complicated.
    Question: Of all the ninja skills in the world, which is the deadliest?
    Ninja: The one that kills you.
  • In Episode 9 of RedLetterMedia's Best of the Worst, the group's initial enjoyment of The Amazing Bulk, as Mike explains, is quickly extinguished by the question of whether the movie is a sincere attempt to make a visually stylized film in the vein of Sin City, an intentionally So Bad, It's Good movie in an effort to rival the popularity of Birdemic or The Room (2003), or the straight mockbuster it appears to be.
    Jay: The answer is yes.
    Mike: Which one?
    Jay: Mmhmm.
  • Geoff from Achievement Hunter is fond of these, from time to time. For instance, in a heated game of Halo 4:
    Ray: (after Geoff kills him) "What?!"
    Geoff: "Uh, that was me killing you."
    Ray: "Yeah, thanks, but with what?"
    Geoff: "With a gun."
    Ray: "Thanks man."
  • Not Always Right:
    • This exchange:
      Customer: I need a tire for a 2010 Honda Accord.
      Me: What do you have on there now?
      Customer: A flat tire.
    • This customer.
    • This one too. What does your camera take? Pictures!
  • Ask That Guy with the Glasses sometimes gives these answers.
    Q: Are there any "dead" celebrities that you think are actually still alive?
    A: Yes.
  • During Linkara's "That Guy With The Hat" sketch (parodying Ask That Guy with the Glasses (mentioned above), "Can you tell me how to get back onto the freeway?" is answered "NO."
  • Skippy's List offers the following.
    Skippy's Roommate: Is that a squid in our shower?
    Skippy: Yep.
    Skippy's Roommate: What's it doing in there?
    Skippy: Thawing.
    Skippy's Roommate: Goodnight.
  • Ultra Fast Pony. "Sister Angst" opens with Rarity's parents paying her house an unscheduled visit. At the episode's end, she finds they're still in her kitchen:
    Rarity: What are you two still doing here?
    Magnum: Sitting down?
    Rarity: Get out of my house.
  • In Q&A With Matt #3 by Matt Santoro, Matt is asked by a fan where he gets his fancy shirts from, and he says the store.
  • Terry Pratchett, explaining the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy on
    So: is what happens in the books real? Yes. Does it all happen in Johnny's head? Yes. Are the Dead a metaphor? Yes. Are they real? Yes. Not just waving, but particalling."
  • Don't Hug Me I'm Scared has one of these in the fourth episode. When Collin asks the puppets where they live, Duck Guy answers "My house".
  • Rogal Dorn from If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device runs on this trope.
    Emperor: You carry knowledge about the history of your sons, the Imperial Fists, yes?
    Dorn: Yes.
    Emperor: Can you bring unto me this knowledge?
    Dorn: Yes.
    Emperor: ...Can you do it now?
    Dorn: Yes.
    Emperor: ...Fucking do it then.
  • The Most Popular Girls in School: In Episode 3:
    Shay: I heard that you're going around calling me a fucking liar!
    Mackenzie: Where did you hear that?
    Shay: Uh, I don't know, like... thirty-five seconds ago?
    Mackenzie: I said "where", not "when", you idiot!
    Shay: Shut up! You know I'm partially deaf in my right ear after Matthew Derringer hit me in the head with that fucking hacky sack in the third grade!
  • Game Grumps: While playing Kirby's Epic Yarn, Dan claims his dad is the king of these.
    Danny: So do you want pizza or sushi for dinner?
    Avi: YES!
    Danny: Okay. Piz-sushi it is.
  • From Scott The Woz:
    • He brought up the debate of whether Mario Kart 64 had controls that stood the test of time or have aged poorly, then answered with a gavel hit and a "Yes".
    • You're Not an RPG Guy has Jerry pulling out Scott's biodata written on a piece of paper. Said bio lists Scott's sex as "no."
    • In Borderline Forever, he responds to someone greeting "Morning!" to him by checking his watch, and exclaiming, "Correct."
  • This trope is sometimes featured in Dumb Lawyer Quotes IRL but in Ace Attorney. For example, one witness, when asked about the condition a body was in at the time of the autopsy, says, "He was dead."
  • Hazbin Hotel has Angel Dust being chewed out by Vaggie for making a mockery of the message of Charlies' hotel when they were on live broadcast, leading to Angel Dust to tell Vaggie to calm down and promising to take the situation with the Happy Hotel seriously from that moment onwards.
    Angel Dust: Alright, I'll try. Just don't get your taco in a twist, baby.
    Vaggie: Was that you trying to be racist or sexist?
    Angel Dust: Whatever pisses you off more.
  • JonTron
    • He gives us this gem when he's watching VR Troopers and the main characters are lamenting the Big Bad tearing down a historical landmark to build a power plant:
      Ryan: We can't just let Karl Ziktor destroy our old neighborhood, you guys!
      Kaitlyn: I know! I mean, what gives him the right to do this anyway?!
      JonTron Land ownership? Deed? There's gotta be some paperwork in there somewhere.
    • And during The Devil and Father Amorth we get this:
      Friedkin: He would allow me to film Christina's ninth exorcism on May 1st. But, with no crew, no lights, and only a small video camera, alone. I didn't know what to expect.
      Jon: Probably an exorcism. (Beat) But I'm just fucking riffing, though.
  • A query on an NBA final once asked what the teams needed to do to win. A guy replied "baskets".
  • The Champions: In the 2021 knockout stage draw short, Erling Haaland is asked about said knockout stage:
    Producer: Are you excited for the next round?
    Haaland: Yes.
    Producer: What are you most excited about?
    Haaland: The next round.
    Producer: Can you just do one full sentence, please?
    Haaland: I'm excited for the next.
    Producer: You know what? F[bleep]k it. Thank you.
  • Kitboga is a scambaiter popular on Twitch and YouTube. When the scammers ask a question such as "Are you using a desktop or a laptop?"," Kitboga likes to tick them off by replying with "yes."
  • In the Supermarioglitchy4's Super Mario 64 Bloopers episode Mario Has a BBQ But He's Not Invited, after having to replace the fruit at the BBQ with imitation fruit (due to the sentient watermelon Melony... taking issue), Bob poses the question:
    Bob: If- if this isn't made of fruit, what is it made of then?
    SMG4: ...Yes.
    SMG4 looks around with an "Oh, Crap!" Smile while the camera zooms in on his face with the imposter sting from Among Us playing

    Western Animation 
  • In the 3-2-1 Penguins! episode "Trouble on Planet Wait-Your-Turn", when Jason asks where they're going, Kevin ponders briefly before answering "Up."
  • The Amazing World of Gumball gives a subjective mathematician's answer.
    Street Sign: You are now approaching Elmore
    Population: Weird
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: In the Grand Finale, a conflicted Aang calls upon the spirits of his four most recent incarnation, Avatars Roku, Kyoshi, Kuruk and Yangchen, to advise him on whether he should kill Ozai. All of the Avatar spirits gave a Mathematician's Answer of one sort or another; Roku's advice is to "be decisive", Kyoshi said "only justice will bring peace", Kuruk said to "actively shape the fate of the world", and Yangchen said "do whatever it takes to protect the world". All of these apply equally accurately to either killing Ozai or any number of other options that might have been attempted, though Aang regards them as being implicit endorsements of killing. In the end, a Lion Turtle taught him Energybending, which Aang used to strip Ozai of his Firebending and render him powerless, instead of killing him.
  • Batman Beyond: In "Golem", Terry is battling the Golem when he sees it's being controlled by Willie Watt, who has developed technopathic abilities.
    Terry: How are you doing this?
    Willie: With supreme satisfaction.
  • The Beavis and Butt-Head episode "Customers Suck" has a customer in Burger World ask if the shakes are made from real milk and ice cream or shake mix. Beavis just says "Yeah."
  • In Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends’ episode Dinner Is Swerved, Mac and Bloo are lost in the Fosters mansion and bumps into resident Jerkass Duchess. They ask her if she could help them get downstairs, to which she answers “Yes”… and then proceeds to do nothing. When they call her out on it, she maliciously rubs the logic in.
    Duchess: You asked me if I could, and I can. You didn’t ask me if I would, and I won’t.”
  • Big Hero 6: The Series: In "Hardlight":
    Fred: So, are you just like, super pro-gravity or just anti-my idea?
    Roddy: Yes. [leaves]
    Fred: Wait - yes to what?
  • In one episode of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show, Charlie Brown regains consciousness on a sidewalk as two little kids watch. Charlie gets up and asks one of the kids, "Where am I?" One of the kids points to him and says, "Right there!"
  • Danger Mouse gives us:
    Penfold: You mean, we're lost?!
    Danger Mouse: Nonsense, Penfold. If we were lost, we wouldn't know where we are. And we know we're here! Therefore, we can't be lost.
    Penfold: Oh! Thank goodness for that!
  • The titular Dilbert gives us this when he, Alice, and Wally are crawling through the air ducts and inexplicably find a dry-erase marker in the shaft:
    Alice: Why would someone leave a dry-erase marker here?
    Dilbert: Maybe it's empty.
    Alice: That answer is like... so stupid.
  • Family Guy:
    • An example by the mayor of Quahog, Adam West:
      Adam West: Will you answer one question for me?
      Medium: Yes.
      Adam West: Thank you so much.
    • West himself loves doing this:
      Tricia Takanawa: Mr. West, do you have any words for our viewers?
      Adam West: Box, toaster, aluminum, maple syrup... no, I take that one back. I'm gonna hold onto that one.
    • He has it done to him in "E Peterbus Unum'':
      [Peter is dancing in the park and generally causing a commotion.]
      Adam West: What in God's name is he doing?!
      Cleveland: I believe it's called the Worm.
    • In one episode, when filling out a hospital form, upon reaching "Sex", Peter wrote "No, thank you, I'm dead".
  • On an episode of Garfield and Friends in a U.S. Acres segment, Wade is being his usual cowardly self, this time about seeing a doctor. Orson tries to reassure him, but Roy can't miss an opportunity to have a laugh at his expense.
    Orson: What a minute. You're not a surgeon Roy.
    (Doctor) Roy: I operated on a man just yesterday.
    Orson: For what?
    Roy: For 900 dollars.
    Orson: No, no. What did the man have?
    Roy: 900 dollars.
    Orson: No, I mean what did you remove?!
    Roy: [playing with a ball and paddle] The 900 dollars.
    Orson: No! What was his complaint?!
    Orson and Roy: The 900 dollars.
    Orson: OK Roy, you carve.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy:
  • In Infinity Train, after Tulip sees she's on the inside of a lengthy train filled with numerous rooms containing fascinating features along with One-One.
    Tulip: How does this door work? Are you like a real robot? Are there other people on here? Is this what trains are like?
    One-One: Yes!
    Tulip: Yes to what? Which?
    One-One: I dunno.
  • In The Legend of Korra, Korra's cousin Eska has this exchange with Bolin shortly after they meet.
    Eska: You amuse me. I will make you mine.
    Bolin: You mean like a boyfriend or a slave?
    Eska: Yes. Now win me prizes.
  • Used to answer an actual math question in an episode of Little Bear when Little Bear and Emily rope the 4 local Playful Otters into playing school with them. After trying to teach them how to count, Emily asks the otters how many of them there are. They each answer "1" — because "each of us is 1 otter!" There's a beat before Little Bear admits, "That's true..."
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: In "Maud Pie", after Maud throws a rock miles away with enough force to make a tidal wave.
    Rainbow Dash: Woah! How'd you do that?
    Maud: I threw it.
  • Fred the squirrel from The Penguins of Madagascar, being Literal-Minded incarnate, has a bit of a problem with this. If he's asked if he can read something, he'll say "yes". If someone asks him to show them the town, he'll just point to the nearest buildings.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • Co-creator Dan Povenmire was asked by a fan on Twitter "What is Ferb short for?" He responded, "Brevity's sake."
    • Another episode has Candace giving this kind of answer when Irving stops by:
      [Irving knocks on the door]
      Irving: Can I see [Phineas and Ferb]?
      Candace: Probably not from there. [closes the door]
    • "Crack That Whip":
      Phineas: [as an announcer] Hello, everyone, and welcome to today's main event. The "anything goes" grudge race of the century between Grandma Betty Jo and Grandma Hildegard. I'm Phineas Flynn, and I'll be your announcer for today's action, along with our color commentator, Grandpa Clyde!
      Clyde: Yellow, green, blue!
      Phineas: Excellent color, Grandpa.
  • From The Real Ghostbusters, the episode No One Comes To Lupusville:
    Lita: [offering Egon a turnip] Turnip?
    Egon: Yes, it is.
  • In one episode of Recess, there is the following exchange:
    T.J.: Mr. Mayor, can I say something?
    Mayor Fitzhugh: I don't know, can you?
    T.J.: [looking annoyed] Sorry, sir. May I say something?
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle provides us with another example. Boris, in one of his Paper Thin Disguises, needs Bullwinkle to go to a particular location. His scheme is to have Bullwinkle win a trip in a contest. The trick, then, is to get the exceedingly dense Bullwinkle to actually give the correct answer to a question, which he finally accomplishes with this exchange.
    Boris: Do you know who is buried in Grant's tomb?
    Bullwinkle: No.
    Boris: That's right, you don't!
  • The Simpsons:
    • A variation on the theme, but still very much holds the original idea: In "Homer's Enemy", when Bart and Milhouse get their own warehouse, Milhouse is left behind as a night watchman. Bart comes back the next day to find the place destroyed.
      Bart: Milhouse, how could you let this happen? You were supposed to be the night watchman!
      Milhouse: I was watching. I saw the whole thing. First it started falling over, then it fell over.
    • Homer managed one of these accidentally in "Burns Verkaufen Der Kraftwerk":
      Horst: You've been safety inspector for three years. What initiatives have you spearheaded in that time?
      Homer: Uh... all of them?
      Fritz: You must have lots of ideas for the future?
      Homer: I sure do!
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Culture Shock", SpongeBob asks Squidward which brand of soap he should use: Mr. Cleanser or Dr. Clean? Squidward's response: "Yes."
  • In Total Drama World Tour while lost in a desert in Egypt:
    Heather: Does anyone know where we are?
    Izzy: Planet Earth, silly.
  • Twice Upon a Time: Ralph asks the Garbagerie computer how far to take the garbage. It replies, "Far away", then "Far, far away" then "You'll know when you get there."
  • During the Q&A episode of Villainous, Flug gets the question of how did he and Demencia arrive at the Black Hat Organization.
    Dr. Flug: Easy. I arrived by plane, and Dementia arrived barefoot.
  • X-Men: The Animated Series makes its very first exposure to Gambit, right after he throws one of his exploding cards:
    Jubilee: How did you DO that?
    Gambit: With style, petite, with style.

  • Dictionaries and encyclopedias tend to do this if you look up the wrong form of the word you're hoping to define.
    Disappropriation: n. The act of disappropriating.
  • Once when somebody asked James Randi how he had pulled off a trick, he answered "Very well, I think".
  • From an old Marvel Comics trading card:
    Spider-Man: So your name is Logan. Is that your first or last name?
    Wolverine: Yup.
    • At the time, Wolverine's real name had yet to be revealed. He sometimes went by "Logan L. Logan", with the "L." being yet another Logan.
  • Zen Buddhism has a koan like this. A monk asked Zhàozhōu, "Does a dog have Buddha nature or not?" Zhàozhōu said, "Wú." This is a rare example in which the mathematician's answer is actually the most useful one. Wú essentially means "null" or "not applicable" (or in troper speak, saying that the question is like asking When Is Purple) The point is that the monk asking the question is wrong to assume that the two dichotomous categories have any meaning. Wú is also the sound a dog makes.
  • The Eddie Izzard example so beloved of this page:
    Paris: Dad, found this woman!
    Priam: Whoa, where's she from?
    Paris: She's from Sparta!
    Priam: ...Agh, you twit. Nip upstairs, see if there are any ships on the horizon.
    Paris: Right. [he does] Uhh... Ships. Yeah, yeah, there's ships.
    Priam: Well, how many?
    Paris: *thinking noises* ...All of Them.
  • The proper way to choose a cantaloupe has been described as: smell it, and if it smells like a cantaloupe, it is ripe enough. But it is a cantaloupe, so by definition, whatever it smells like, is what a cantaloupe smells like. Therefore, the only logical answer to "Does it smell like a cantaloupe?" is "Yes".
  • Robin Williams in his stand-up act when talking about calling tech support. When finally reaching a real person (who is Indian), this exchange takes place:
    Caller: (overjoyed) Where are you!?
    Tech support assistant: (heavy Indian accent) I am on the phone with you.
  • Back in about 2003, when Mark & Lard were still doing an afternoon show on BBC Radio 1, they used to run a phone-in quiz vaguely about music. Once, one of the questions was, "Can you name a member of Boyzone?" One of the callers jumped in with, "No." Technically, it was a correct answer...
  • Dara Ó Briain did a bit about this in one of his stand-up shows, when the audience response to the question "Do you know what Moore's Law is?" was 'yes'.
  • There is a story about actress Mae West, who was famous for playing The Vamp.
    Interviewer: Do you like your men short, tall, fat, or thin?
    Mae West: Yes.
  • Then there's the old retort to "Can I ask you a question?" "You just did."
    • If someone is fond of being a smartass with this one, try asking them "May I ask you another question after this one?"
    • During the trial arc of Schlock Mercenary, the company lawyer manages, through convoluted wordplay, to ask if he can ask a question without, in fact, asking a question. Petey, duly impressed with this feat, allows it:
      Massey: Our defense in this case depends, therefore, entirely on Fleetmind law, of which we are all completely ignorant. Your Honor, before I can proceed, I need to ask you a question.
    • Some people ask if they can ask a question by stating 'question'. A smartass (or literalist) will then respond 'answer'.
  • The "A or B? Yes" joke works in most languages because it's rather typical that only one word is used for both meanings of "or". It doesn't work in languages where there are separate words for them, for example Finnish ("tai" / "vai". The former means "or" as in "is it either A or B?" and the latter as in "which one is it: A or B?") In fact, Finnish also has a third word for "or": "eli" meaning specifically "also known as" or "in other words". One wonders if the early Finns just really hated the "or" jokes.
    • It's also difficult in Mandarin, but for a completely different reason: Chinese does not have all-purpose words for "yes" and "no" (although 是 "is" and 不是 "is not" are now used to serve the purpose), instead attaching positive or negative modifiers to the verb in question. If someone asks you even a single-mode question, like "Have you eaten" (吃 饭 了 "chī fàn le?"), you have to say, 还 没 吃 "Méi chī le" (have not eaten) or "chī le" (already ate). ...Okay, people will still throw around 不 "bù" without an attached verb, same as how English speakers will say "Went to the store" with only an implied subject, but it's still a bit harder to be ambiguous.
    • This also applies to Irish. Continuing the example, one would answer the question "Ar ith tú?" (did you eat?) with "D'ith mé" (I ate) or "Níor ith mé" (I did not eat). Though, for practical purposes, the positive and negative modifiers in the continuous present tense of the verb to be ("bí") often serve the role of yes and no ("tá" or "sea" and "níl" or "ní hea" respectively). Pronunciation Note .
    • The Indonesian language makes the standard mathematician's answer to "A or B?" a valid answer: If asked between A or B, saying yes implies agreeing to the latter, since it is said last. Most people will attempt to reconfirm afterwards, but those particularly mean-spirited/in the mood for pranks wouldn't, and will stick to their guns when asked about it.
    • In Japanese, as in English, the word for "yes" (はい "hai") can mean either "Yes." as in "Affirmative" or "Yes?" as in "Go on, I'm listening...". People doing business in Japan are regularly alerted to pay close attention to the context to avoid misunderstandings, since they won't always get a direct "no" to a proposition.
      • Further, most requests made in Japanese are asked in the negative to avoid there ever being a "no" response. A person is more likely to ask by suggesting "You're probably too busy to do this..." in which case a "yes" would be a clear, concise response, and what would be a "no" generally prompts elaboration. That said, replying just with "no" could produce the results of this trope as the speaker hasn't actually agreed to anything...
  • This is the reason some computer languages have the XOR keyword. "OR" evaluates to "true" if at least one of a set of options is true; "XOR" requires that exactly one be true.
    • In formal logic this is generally referred to as having an or (exclusive) and or (inclusive) operator. Most forms of symbolic logic shorthand have both, written longhand the former is usually constructed as "either... or..." and the latter as "... and/or ...". If the phrase is just written "or" the assumption is usually inclusive, though in less formal English obviously it's more context-sensitive.
    • Interestingly enough, this can still lead to a Mathematician's Answer. Q: "Is it black XOR white?" Yes: it's either one or the other. No: it's either both or neither.
    • Nick Hudson, in Modern Australian Usage under "or" reports: the early days of flying between Melbourne and Sydney, passengers were asked "Tea or coffee?" twice. (1) The first time, the correct answer was "Yes" (which got you the cup) or "No." (2) The second time, the answer was "Coffee" or "Tea" (which got the cup filled). (3) If you were then asked whether you wanted to visit the "flight deck or cockpit" the answer was again yes or no, because no other choice was being offered; they were simply two terms for the same part of the aircraft.
  • In most computer languages the truth value of each proposition is evaluated one at time, left to right. As soon as a true result is found the processor jumps to the next instruction in the true branch without testing any of the subsequent terms, a process known as "lazy evaluation". A common programming pattern is to put the computationally cheap evaluations first in the chain. For example, given A or B when A is a cached value and B is a value the CPU will have to fetch over the Internet to determine if it is true or false. Checking A first makes a lot of sense here since if it's true a lot of time can be saved waiting for the check on B.
  • You've probably met the occasional smartass who thought they were funny by using these. "What's for lunch?" "Food."
  • Teachers see a lot of these, from students who can't come up with a relevant answer to a test question and opt to try for a laugh instead. Another common classroom example is "How did you find the exam?" "It was on the desk when I got there."
  • One that gets used a bit in direction-giving customer service roles:
    "Where's the men's room?"
    "Right next to the women's room."
  • Several Burt And I routines took this form.
    • "Why you so head-up, Tom?" "Oh, I had to shoot my dog." "Oh, was he mad?" "Guess he weren't too damn pleased."
    • "I'm going up to Portland." "Go ahead. I won't stop you." "Where does this road go?" "Don't go nowhere, mister. Stays right here." "Can I take this road up to Portland?" "Well, sure...but they've got all the roads up to Portland that they need."
    • "Sorry to hear they're burying your pa." "Got to. He's dead."
  • According to an urban legend, when the notorious bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he replied "Because that's where the money is." He denied ever saying this.
  • The footballer Mario Balotelli crashed his car in August 2010, with ~$8000 in the glove compartment. Asked why, he answered "Because I am rich."
  • René Magritte painting The Treachery of Images, which shows a pipe with the phrase, "Ceci n'est pas une pipe," (translation: this is not a pipe) under it. It isn't a pipe; it is an image of a pipe. Later in life, Magritte made it clear that this was a Mathematician's Answer:
    The famous pipe. How people reproached me for it! And yet, could you stuff my pipe? No, it's just a representation, is it not? So if I had written on my picture "This is a pipe," I'd have been lying!
  • When asked why Mitt Romney failed to win the Presidency in 2012, Chris Christie said that the reason was simple: "He didn't get enough votes."
  • Likewise, P.J. O'Rourke's riposte to Jimmy Carter's stating in a memoir that "We needed a lot more volunteers in 1980!" was "Pal, what you needed was votes."
  • This conversation from Clients from Hell:
    Client: I want to print my logo on a t-shirt
    Me: Will the t-shirt be white or coloured?
    Client: Yes.
    Me: ...Is it white or coloured?
    Client: Oh! White!
    Me: Do you want the print to last long or is it just for an event?
    Client: OK.
  • Many times when a magician is asked how a trick is done, they will answer "Very carefully" or something similar.
  • Parents of small children might find the Mathematician's Answer handy when the kids ask questions about "the birds and the bees" before they are deemed ready to know (or if the parents are just too embarrassed to answer).
    Small Child: Mommy, where did I come from?
    Mom: I already told you, dear. From Kansas City.
    Older Child: Mom, if a man and a woman want to have a baby, what do they need to do?
    Mom: Well, first they need to go out and buy a crib, a high chair, maybe a rattle, etc.
  • When George Pickett was asked why Pickett's Charge (the most famous Confederate attack during The American Civil War) had failed, his answer was simple: "I've always thought the Yankees had something to do with it."note 
  • A letter published in the January 2014 issue of Car and Driver magazine was from a reader asking, "Can anyone tell me what Skyactiv technology actually does?" The editor's response? "Yes."
  • This post collects "38 Test Answers That Are 100% Wrong But Totally Genius At The Same Time."
  • If you ask a true Scotsman what he is wearing under his kilt, he may answer, "Shoes."
  • Hans Asperger, from whom we get Asperger Syndrome, once asked one of his subjects, a little girl who was playing with her toys, whether she could count to ten. She answered "Yes." Then she went back to playing with her toys.
    • This is common in many young children. They either don't recognize the implied expectation for them to perform the task/provide a more detailed explanation or they simply don't feel like complying with it. Another example is a little girl who liked cold weather wasn't wearing a jacket outside. Her teacher asked if she had a jacket, and she answered yes and went back to playing.
    • Autistic and Asperger's people of all ages often use this, due to a combination of being extremely Literal-Minded and taking the "logical" process to its limits. Often they genuinely don't realize that the other person was expecting any other kind of answer.
  • Tom Scott put out a video that goes into detail about Grice's Maxims and The Cooperative Principle (of language). A Mathematician's Answer is usually breaking The Cooperative Principle, usually the Maxim of Quantity by giving too little information.
  • Teachers in technical writing classes will sometimes use this to demonstrate just how hard it is to write with sufficient detail. They'll ask the class to instruct them to perform some mundane task, such as making a PB&J sandwich, and interpret the instructions as literally (and incorrectly) as possible. For example, if someone says simply "put the jelly on the bread", the teacher might place the jar of jelly on top of the bag of bread. This is also common in classes on logic, formal language and programming.
  • A gossip columnist sent a telegram to Cary Grant's studio asking "How Old Cary Grant?" Grant sent a reply telegram saying "Old Cary Grant Fine. How You?"
  • During the 1896 Olympic Games, the Hungarian swimmer Alfréd Hajós won two gold medals. During a dinner honoring the winners, the Crown Prince of Greece asked Hajós where he had learned to swim so well. Hajós answered "In the water".
  • One clever response to an online pickup: a guy asks a girl to send him a picture of her in a bikini. So she gets a photograph of herself, places it in a bunched-up swimsuit, and sends a picture of it all.
  • Retail employees may recognize this;
    Sales Associate: Can I help you?
    Customer: (grinning) Only if you have any free money.
    Sales Associate: [strained smile]
  • At a Battlestar Galactica (2003) conference, someone asked star Jamie Bamber, "How many people would you kill so that you could be on Doctor Who?"
    "None. Because that would be murder. And then I'd go to prison and I wouldn't be able to be on Doctor Who. (Beat). Duh."
  • This can come up in Monster of the Week. The rules for the investigate a mystery move specify that the GM has to answer honestly, within the limitations of the source the hunter is using to investigate. If the monster is something that doesn't appear in the chosen source - a technological abomination or alien being being looked up in a medieval grimoire, for example - the answers are likely to be deeply unhelpful but technically accurate.
  • Many Cakewrecks came to be when the cake decorator misread the instructions this way and simply wrote "HAPPY BIRTHDAY AND THEN IN BLUE BRIAN", "HAPPY VALENTINES DAY OVER A BIG HEART", or "(OLYMPIC RINGS)" on the top of the cake.
  • In French, one of the way of asking "what time is it?" is literally translated by "do you know what time is it?". Sometimes there's a smartass who answers "yes'.
  • The subreddit /r/InclusiveOr lists many examples.
  • The Jolly Roger Telephone Company is an online company that offers bots which are designed to waste the time of telemarketers by using pre-written routines and otherwise responding with stuff like "Sure," "Mm-hmm," and "right." As such, any direct question, such as "Can you give me your credit card number?" (bank account number, etc.) will generally be answered in such a way, driving the telemarketers nuts, as the bots will say essentially that yes, they can give the number, but they never do.
  • Any time a heel in Professional Wrestling claims they won a match fair and square completely by themselves when they obviously took advantage of interference from a friend or from their face opponent's enemy to weaken the opponent for either their Finishing Move or directly for the pin cover. After all, the 3-count pin itself was entirely done by the heel in the match themselves, right?
  • When conducting a job interview, it's generally considered bad practice to ask questions that lend themselves to a simple yes/no answer, because such questions don't really do much to evaluate the candidate. So instead of asking "Have you ever done X?", a better question would be "Tell me about a time when you did X."

It's a third person singular neuter pronoun, but that's not important right now.


Video Example(s):


Yes, Great Liberator is you.

Tribore and Quatronostro meet with Tim to learn which of them is The Great Liberator. They only get an answer of "Yes" when asking for clarification for who is Tim referring to.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / MathematiciansAnswer

Media sources: