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May I Borrow a Cup of Sugar?

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Flour is only the first thing he borrows...

"Lend me some sugar! I am your neighbor!"
Outkast, "Hey Ya"

A character comes over to borrow a cup of sugar, or something else like flour, a hedge trimmer, or whatever from their neighbor, and this is used to set up a plot thread of some sort:

  • As a Meet Cute;
  • When something is happening that really needs to be kept secret and the neighbor honestly needs to borrow something but has epically bad timing;
  • Like the above, but with the neighbor intentionally barging into their business because they suspect something odd is going on and they are a Nosy Neighbor;
  • A new character has arrived in the neighbourhood, and this is the means of introducing them to the rest of the cast;
  • The neighbor has just stumbled onto the home of a serial killer and this is the last we'll see of them alive;
  • To set up the plot in some other way.

Please note this is not just a list of instances of neighbors borrowing things in fiction as this has no meaning in itself; it has to at least set up a plot thread or joke of some sort.


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  • Before he was Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Anthony Head was best recognized from a series of Nestle Gold Blend (in the UK) / Nescafe Tasters Choice (in the US) commercials about a couple flirting while borrowing coffee from each other. Immaculately parodied on Comic Relief one year, where the guy kept trying to direct her to a nearby shop and turned the eventual request down. "Nafcafé Gold Bland. If you like it that much, get your own bloody jar!"
  • There's an ad for Just For Men hair color where a hot new neighbor chick knocks on our hero's door to borrow a cup of milk and the man says "just a minute," jumps out of his second story window, runs to the store and buys... some Just For Men hair color so he can look young and handsome when he opens the door. He almost forgets to also buy some milk so she can borrow it.
  • A commercial for Target starts out with a man frantically searching his apartment's kitchen and eventually reveals an attractive woman by his door, holding a measuring cup, saying she'll get the sugar from someone else.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Ojamajo Doremi, for a long time, Aiko was under the impression that her mother had remarried after seeing her with a baby. This gives her the push to convince her father to do the same when he gets set up on a date with his boss' daughter. Later, when Aiko spies on her mother again, she sees a neighbor of her mother visiting her to borrow MSG (sugar in the dub version) and finds out that the baby was actually the neighbor's.

    Comic Books 
  • Played with in one Winnie the Pooh comic, where Pooh accompanies Piglet around the Hundred Acre Wood in order to borrow a cup of sugar. They visit all their friends, and are invited in for breakfast, tea, lunch and snacks, but never actually get the sugar Piglet wants. At the end of the story it turns out that Pooh has sugar at home, but didn't mention it because he thought Piglet was just using the sugar as an excuse to go visit everyone.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: The usual order of events is inverted in the June 3, 1990 strip (with the joke coming first), in which Suzie Derkins goes over to Calvin's house and finds him caught up in one of his "Stupendous Man" fantasies, deciding to just leave after he runs off to continue it. It's not until the last panel shows her coming home that we find out it's this trope, when her mother asks "Did they have an egg you could borrow?", and Suzie claims nobody was home.

    Fan Works 
  • In Dragon Ball Z Abridged, after being cut in half by his own attack, Freeza asks Goku if he can borrow "a cup of energy".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Played for Laughs in Johnny Dangerously; Mrs. (Al) Capone comes over to the Dangerously house and asks to borrow a cup of bullets.
  • Played for laughs in Bad Boys (1995).
    Martin Lawrence: [in an exaggerated, nasally "Caucasian" voice] We were wondering if we could borrow a cup of brown sugar...?
  • This literally happened in The Room (2003). Like so many things in the movie, it contributes nothing to the plot and is never mentioned again
  • Lucky Number Slevin: Lindsay is introduced to the main character in this fashion. For a little twist, she borrows not only the sugar, but also the cup to carry it in. Lampshaded as being like a classic Meet Cute out of an old sitcom or movie.
  • In Funny Games, two guys come over to a family's lake house to borrow some eggs. Then they return them broken, and ask for more. It gets downhill from there.
  • In Freaky Friday (1976) Annabel calls the neighbor boy she has a crush on to borrow a cup of kibble as an excuse to get him to come over. She went with kibble because she figured that sugar was too corny.

  • A man goes to his neighbor, because he wants to borrow a hammer. But on the way there, he gets some doubt whether the neighbor would do that. He becomes angry thinking over it, and when the neighbor opens the door, he shouts: "Stick your hammer up your...!"
    • Another variation has the protagonist out to borrow a car jack, with the punchline being "Keep your damn jack!" In Finland, this expression (or technically the Finnish translation, "Pitäkää tunkkinne!") is still sometimes used as a colloquialism for a frustrated "forget it!", due to it being made popular by television shows in the sixties.
  • A new tenant moves into an apartment building and runs out of sugar. He goes next door to get some and is greeted by a beautiful woman. Flustered, he asks "Can I borrow a cup of neighbor, sugar?"
  • A man is under arrest for the brutal murder of his wife and mother-in-law. The judge says, "You stand accused of killing your wife and disposing of the body with a lawnmower." Someone in the audience yells, "You bastard!" The judge calls for quiet and continues, "You also stand accused of the same to your mother-in-law." The same voice in the audience yells, "You asshole!"
    The judge looks for the heckler and says "Sir, I understand your anger, but I must have order. You were a relative of the victims, I take it?"
    The man in the audience answers, "No, your Honor. But twelve years now I've been this piece of shit's neighbor, and every time I asked if I could borrow his lawn mower, he told me he didn't have one!"

  • The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, a retelling of the classic fairy tale features this. The wolf was only trying to borrow sugar from the three pigs but as he had a bad cold and the pigs had poorly constructed houses he kept sneezing the houses down - and the dead pigs? He's still a wolf, waste not want not.
  • In Paper Towns, Margo says she asked a neighbor to borrow a cup of sugar so she could find out more about a man who committed suicide.
  • There's a Hans Christian Andersen story called "Big Claus and Little Claus" in which Little Claus, having just come into a lot of money, asks his neighbor Big Claus for a bushel to measure it with. Big Claus, curious about what Little Claus is measuring, smears tar on the bottom so that some of it will stick, and is astonished to find three silver coins sticking to the measure when he gets it back.
  • Arabian Nights: Almost the same thing happens in the story of Ali Baba, when his wife borrows a scale, also for coins.
  • In Albert the Muffin-Maker, a book from a children's educational picture book series called Mouse Math, Albert is making muffins. However, he quickly finds that he doesn't have the ingredients he needs, so he borrows pretty much everything from neighbors because he's been told that "it's nice to share," his bemused sister Wanda forcing him to stop borrowing from one particular neighbor, Mrs. Nibble, after he borrows no less than four different ingredients from her. Once the muffins are done, she has him take a muffin to each of the ten individuals he borrowed stuff from, leaving them with two to each have one.
  • In Oscar Wilde's "The Devoted Friend" short story, little Hans' neighbor Hugh Miller starts off picking some flowers, herbs, and cherries or plums, and frequently gives Hans advice while living in a comfortable, well-to-do household. One day, when Hans is about to redeem his wheelbarrow and other personal articles from the pawn shop, as soon as Hans mentions saving a plank of wood, Hugh Miller notes that a plank is exactly what he needs to fix his barn roof, so Hugh offers Hans his old wheelbarrow in exchange for the plank. Hugh proceeds to come up with such tasks for Hans as carrying a sack of flour to market, fixing the barn roof, taking Hugh's sheep to the mountainside, and going out on a rainy night to get a doctor for Hugh's son. Unfortunately, Hans drowns in a nearby pool, and never received the wheelbarrow which Hugh Miller had promised, but never gave to Hans.
  • In The First Four Years, one of the last books in the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, newlyweds Laura and Almanzo have a neighbor who is constantly borrowing things and neglecting to return them. When butchering time comes, the neighbor inevitably asks to borrow the various tools needed to do the job, one by one. Laura lends them, and grimly remarks to herself that "if he came next to borrow their fat hog to kill she would let him have it." Thankfully he didn't take it that far.
  • In one Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark collection (Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill your Bones), the story "Such Things Happen" has this as a plot point. A witch tries to borrow a cup of sugar from the protagonist in an attempt to break the power of a ritual he is performing that causes her agony as long as she is hexing him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Gladys Kravitz uses the Nosy Neighbor excuse version fairly frequently in Bewitched.
  • In Not Going Out this appears to be a Meet Cute, but turns out to be the excuse version of sorts when a girl who thinks she is Lee's daughter appears (of course she isn't; it's a sitcom). When a guy shows up at the end of the episode asking to borrow some milk Lee tells him there's a Tesco nearby and shuts the door on him.
  • The Young Ones :
    • On one episode, when they are freezing in their unheated house in winter, Vivien keeps borrowing cups of sugar from the neighbour, who comments that she would like her cups back at some point. It turns out Vivien is burning the cups to keep warm.
    • In a complete Big-Lipped Alligator Moment (even by Young Ones standards), some random bloke appears and tell us that he's just been round his neighbour's house to borrow a drill. But the neighbour wasn't in, so the bloke broke in and ate the neighbour's fish tank, and he wasn't even hungry.
  • This would often be a way for Lucy and Ethel to meet on I Love Lucy.
  • Parodied in the Gilmore Girls episode "Luke Can See Her Face"
    Luke: The guys next door just ran out of crack to sell so they sent me over to borrow a cup.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "When It Rains..."
    Dr. Julian Bashir: I need to borrow... a cup... of goo.
    Odo: Excuse me?
    Dr. Julian Bashir: Please? I'll give it back.
  • Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future episode "The Intruder"
    Andy Jackson: Hi. Just, eh, dropped in to borrow a cup of sugar.
  • On The Dick Van Dyke Show Millie would often pop over to borrow a cup of sugar from Laura. Laura was more likely to call Millie to ask if she had some sugar that she could borrow, making Millie come to her.
  • In To the Manor Born, Mrs. Polouvicka uses borrowing a cup of sugar as an excuse to meet her new neighbor — who, unknown to her, is none other than Audrey Forbes-Hamilton. At the end of their encounter, she confesses that she didn't need the sugar, and tips it back into Audrey's bowl with a grandiloquent "Keep it — with the compliments of Cavendish Foods!"
  • The Chifladitos Sketch in Chespirito had a neighbor of Lucas and Chaparron who was constantly asking them for a cup of sugar.
    • In El Chavo del ocho, shortly after moving to the vecindad, Gloria knocks on Don Ramón's door for a cup of sugar. Doña Cleotile was not pleased about that.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: Pod People. Little Tommy walks into a cave that's glowing bright red, while holding the cup he normally uses to collect specimens. Crow jumps to conclusions:
    Crow: What is it about the gate of Hell that always compels people to wander into them? ... What's he going to do, borrow a cup of sugar from Satan?
  • In the pilot of Desperate Housewives, Susan uses this as an excuse to break into Edie's house to spy on her and Mike. She ends up (accidentally) burning the house down, and leaving the cup behind.
  • BBC's Walk On The Wild Side.
  • On Friends, Ross once borrowed an egg from a neighbor. Later the guys convince him to start a conversation with her by giving her an egg back.
  • Inverted by Danny's neighbor on CSI: NY. After they had a brief Sex For Solace fling following the death of her 10-yr old son, she brings him a dish of sugar as a thank-you for being "a sweet man" and tells him she's moving from their building in order to avoid the memories.

     Puppet Shows 
  • The scenario described under "Jokes" appears in an early Sesame Street skit, when Ernie is outside Herbert Birdsfoot's door, hoping to borrow his vacuum cleaner. Just before he knocks, he wonders if Herbert is in the bath, and if he'll be annoyed that he had to get out of the bath, and will not only not lend him the vacuum cleaner but will tell everyone to never lend Ernie anything. He finally does knock, but just to say "Oh, yeah? Well, if that's the way you feel about it, you can just keep your rotten old vacuum cleaner! So there!" and storms off. Herbert, who shows no signs of even having been in the bath in the first place, is bewildered.


    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner: In a now-hidden toon from when Strong Bad's laptop was Lappynapped, he receives a few strange messages on his answering machine.
    Marzipan?: Hi, Strong Bad. This is your next-door neighbor the crocodile. Can I borrow a cup of sugar? I'm going to make some puppy-dough cookies tonight— (Cough cough)
    Homestar:—Ooh! Got a spit bubble stuck in my throat. Anyway, Strong Bad, I was serious about the sugar. And... the crocodile thing.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Ready Jet Go! episode "Solar-System Bake Off!", Mitchell goes to Jet's house and asks for a cup of sugar, but really, he wants to gather information about his (speculated) crush Mindy's baking contest entry.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • Bugs Bunny short "Shishkabugs".
      Yosemite Sam: [interrupted by a knock on the door] Ooh, what do you want?
      Bugs Bunny: Good afternoon. Let me introduce myself as one of the woodland creatures residing in the King's forest, and being that there is such a close relationship, I assume it would not be too improper to borrow a cup of diced carrots, huh? [he holds an empty cup]
    • In Duck, Rabbit, Duck!, Daffy asks Bugs for a cup of blackstrap molasses as an excuse for Bugs to come out and get shot by Elmer. The shot punctures the cup instead, and Bugs comments that "I didn't think molasses would flow in January."
  • On one Donald Duck cartoon, Donald's new neighbor Pete asks to borrow some ice cubes... and while he's at it, he also borrows a cube of butter, some cucumbers, and on and on until he empties Don's fridge.
  • The Simpsons: Homer Simpson tends to permanently borrow or outright steal things from Ned Flanders.
  • And in Family Guy, Mort has borrowed so many things from the Griffins without returning them that Peter once put an Adolf Hitler scarecrow in the yard.
  • On an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, SpongeBob wants Squidward to come visit, but Squidward doesn't want to. So SpongeBob borrows his vacuum to give Squidward an excuse to go over to SpongeBob's house.
  • In Earthworm Jim episode Day of the Fish, Jim decides to visit the nearest planet to get a cup of sugar for the Galactic Hero League's coffee. Unfortunately, the nearest planet is ruled by Bob the Killer Goldfish.