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Meaningful Echo

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It's quite a popular device in fiction to reuse lines of dialogue. The Ironic Echo is a common trope built around this—when a prominent line of dialogue is repeated later, but with a flipped or surprising new meaning.

A Meaningful Echo is similar to an ironic echo, but without the irony. It occurs when characters, in their usual way, say things to one another. Normally, these things aren't all that notable or special—they're part of normal dialogue. However, later on in the story, one of these "ordinary" lines is repeated. But unlike the original line, it isn't in a normal, throwaway context. It's at a moment of emotional height, when the viewer or reader is deep into the work, making a callback to an earlier scene. Suddenly, the line isn't simple or meaningless anymore. It's heartwarming, tear-jerking, or awesome. If it had meaning before—however minor—it's now been expanded to a much greater context. It's gone from being something ordinary to something extraordinary.


Note that sometimes either of the people (the one saying it, or the one hearing it) may be completely unaware of its meaning, or even that it is an echo. Other times it is linked to Something Only They Would Say, when this results in The Reveal.

Compare Ironic Echo, Gag Echo, Flashback to Catchphrase, Dialogue Reversal, and Arc Words.


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    Comic Books 
  • Sin City: "She says her name is Goldie." The first time he's referring to Goldie. The second time he's referring to Wendy, Goldie's twin sister, giving him his final night of passion before he's slated to be executed for the events of the story, who has just told him "You can call me Goldie."
  • "The dump. A breeding ground for insects and rodents," from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, referring to the Mutants gang. When Batman returns to the dump to take charge of the Sons of the Batman:
    Some rodents fly.
  • In issue #1 of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a flashback shows Hamato Yoshi told that for the crime of killing his fellow Foot ninja Oroku Nagi, he must either live in shame or redeem himself via seppuku. After the turtles defeat Nagi's brother (and Yoshi's murderer) Saki, they offer him the same ultimatum.
  • During Jonathan Hickman's run on Fantastic Four, when everyone holds a birthday party for Franklin, his hyper-intelligent sister Valeria says, "Happy birthday, Retard." After the party, when mysterious stranger approaches Valeria to give her some cryptic warnings, Val recognizes him as an adult Franklin from the future and tells him, "Happy birthday, Retard."
  • In Astonishing X-Men, Kitty Pryde explains why she finally slept with Colossus in a You Only Live Once kind of speechnote . Three issues later, after Kitty is permanently phased in a shooting rocket lost in space and effectively dead, the same speech is used in narration showing the flip side of you only live once.
  • On their arrival in Copperhead Zeke complains about their new home; Clara justifies it by saying that these people need their help. Later Clara asks Zeke why he went into the Badlands and risked attack by the Natives; he justifies it by saying that Annie needed his help.

    Comic Strips 

  • In the Barenaked Ladies song, "Tonight is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel" we hear, "You're the last thing on my mind." After the accident, the singer lies dying in his car, saying as the last line of the song, "You're the last thing on my mind."
  • At the end of The Beatles' last ever live performance, John Lennon stepped up to the microphone and said something that he must have said dozens of times during the band's teenage years: "I'd like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we've passed the audition."
  • George Strait's "Love Without End Amen" - the first chorus is a father talking to his son, the second the son passing the same wisdom on to his son, and the third implying Jesus telling the same thing to the son in a dream when he thinks he isn't worthy of entering Heaven.
  • Tim McGraw:
    • "Don't Take the Girl" repeats the title three times with gradually increasing meaning.
    • His "Nothin' To Die For" is similar, but subtle - the chorus the first two times says the main character would "Lay your life down for your country, for your Jesus for your friends." The third time (as the man crashes through a guardrail), he hears a sweet voice saying "Lay your life down for your country, for me and all your friends."
  • The chorus from Two Little Boys by Rolf Harris. The first time Jack breaks his toy horse and Jack repeats it almost word-for-word years later under different-yet-similar circumstances:
    "Did you think I would leave you crying
    "When there's room on my horse for two?
    "Climb up here, Jack, and don't be crying
    "I can go just as fast with two."
    • Turns into:
    "Did you think I would leave you dying
    "When there's room on my horse for two?
    "Climb up here, Joe, and don't be crying
    "I can go just as fast with two."
  • From Vocaloid, "Rolling Girl" by Hatsune Miku is about a girl who is implied to be bullied and how her world kept spinning out of her control, as she is seen spinning by herself. Throughout the video when the guy asked her if she was okay now, she would never quite answer the question. At the end, as he is holding her, the guy tells her that it's going to be okay now and they both spin together.
  • In "Internet Killed the Video Star" by The Limousines, a Spiritual Successor to the famous song "Video Killed the Radio Star", they echo their predecessor's chorus by mourning "We can't rewind, we've gone too far. Internet killed the Video Star."

  • The Adventure Zone: Balance: Early in episode 68, Taako claims "I have magic powers." before doing a Suicidal "Gotcha!" off the edge of the Bureau headquarters, leaving his compatriots to wonder if it was meant to be some big reveal. At the end of the episode, Joaquin says the same, which qualifies as genuinely meaningful because he's the only person in his entire plane with access to magic.

  • When the Denver Broncos won Super Bowl XXXII in 1998, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen dedicated the victory to long-time quarterback John Elway,note  declaring, "This one's for John!" 18 years later, with Bowlen dying of Alzheimer's disease, when the Broncos won Super Bowl 50, now-team president Elway returned the favor, declaring, "This one's for Pat!"

    Visual Novels 
  • In the Amnesia: Memories fandisc Amnesia LATER, Ikki's After Story has him tell the heroine to not try and deal with her father on her own anymore because they are living together now, and that means to share their burdens. Later on, the heroine tells Ikki the same thing, after he tried to deal with his fangirls on his own. And even reminds him of having said that about her problems with her father. Ikki realizes that she's right and agrees that they'll be more honest and open with each other about their problems.
  • Fate/stay night: "You said an older brother protects his younger sister, right?... Yeah. I'm the older sister. So I have to protect my younger brother." This is the result of the True ending of Heaven's Feel.
  • In Little Busters!, when Kyousuke declares 'Mission start!' in the early routes, it's just a fun, overly dramatic way of announcing one of the many silly missions Kyousuke sets up for his friends, while establishing him as a fun Big Brother Mentor. When Riki says it in Refrain as part of trying to take over Kyousuke's role, it's a sign of how he's no longer living in his shadow and only being dragged along on these adventures, but is beginning to initiate things and take care of his friends on his own.
  • Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai!: Together, the Kazama family is invincible! Then, Yamato gets kidnapped, Momoyo is incapacitated, and this becomes "Weren't we supposed to be invincible when together?" But when all hope seems lost Yamato manages to escape, and during the Final Battle the original line is dropped once more.

    Web Animation 
  • Broken Saints: At the climax of the Grand Finale: "I BELIEVE!"
  • Red vs. Blue:
  • RWBY
    • "Burning the Candle", Pyrrha gives advice to Jaune on talking to Weiss about his feelings: "No ridiculous schemes, no pick-up lines. Just... be honest." The following episode, Jaune gives the exact same advice to Neptune, signifying that he's giving up his crush on Weiss in favour of helping Neptune to woo her instead.
    • "Fall". Pyrrha is invited up to Ozpin's office where she receives praise for her exemplary performance in the recent tournaments from both Ozpin and a more cynical Qrow. When Ozpin abruptly asks her "What's your favourite fairy tale?", the normally unflappable Pyrrha is momentarily speechless. That simple question reveals the existence of earth-shattering secrets that are being kept hidden from the world by a small group of very powerful and mysterious people. This line is later codified in-universe as a signal of major plot reveals through Qrow repeating Ozpin's question word-for-word when it's finally time to bring the main characters into the loop.
    • "My hero." Sun jokingly says this towards Blake in "Of Runaways and Stowaways" after Blake catches him during the fight against the sea dragon Grimm. At this point, Blake is not happy towards this, as she is surprised and shocked at the fact that Sun has been following her ever since she decided to leave unnoticed in fear of causing any more harm to her friends. Eight episodes later, after Sun finally calls her out on her attitude of not wanting her friends or family near her, Blake heartwarmingly says it, not only being simple acknowledgement of Sun truly helping her, but also, a sign that she has finally gotten over that fear of seeing her loved ones harmed.
    • In "End of the Beginning", Ruby tells Yang that she loves her, but Yang is far to emotionally drained from all of the trauma she's undergone in the past few days to even acknowledge her sisters words. When they finally reunite after several months in "Known By Its Song", the first words out of Yang's mouth are to tell Ruby that she loves her.
    • During the battle of Haven, Cinder mocks Raven as being nowhere near as clever or powerful as her reputation claims. This triggers her attack on Vernal, which leads to a fight with Raven. When both their Auras shatter, Raven tells Cinder that if she "were stronger or more clever" she would remember to watch her back; behind her, Vernal uses the last of her strength to fire her weapon and distract Cinder, allowing Raven to throw Cinder off the vault ledge.

  • El Goonish Shive: Nanase has just come out to her ex-boyfriend and is terrified of how her mother will react. Elliot, not sure how to respond, pats her fairy avatar on the head and says "Normally I'd put my arm around you to comfort you, but I don't want to crush you." Later, after Ellen tells Nanase that she wants to be with her regardless of how hard it will be to keep it secret, she says "I'd give you a hug, but I don't want to crush-" before getting interrupted by a soapy mini-glomp.
  • Everyday Heroes: on the day Jane got out of prison, she told Mr. Mighty that even though she's broke, homeless, and unemployed, it's still the best day she's had in a long time. Years later, she repeats the line after telling her story to the neighbors ... and getting a hug from her daughter.
  • Goblins:
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, Chapter 6, Antimony jokingly says, "I'll save you, little girl!" as she jumps out of the tree after Kat. Two chapters later, Kat repeats that line when she swoops in on her hovercraft and saves Annie's bacon. And in the flashback chapter "Ties", Mr.Thorn gives a young Eglamore some advice that shows up in one of the earliest chapters.
  • Homestuck does this pretty much constantly. The author even states that he's building a storytelling vocabulary so that the readers will get the idea quickly when he uses the same phrase again in a different situation. He even does it with visual gags, deliberately putting two different characters in identical poses in different parts of the story to symbolize some emotion or other plot relevance. One of the characters even runs his own webcomic, which the other characters are privy to and quote constantly as an inside joke. And then when the story cuts to a bunch of aliens, they do it all over again, copying the echoes from the humans story into the aliens story, to get the point across even more efficiently despite the fact that there is virtually no way the two groups could have known all each other's references in such a short time.
  • The Order of the Stick had this in the form of what was once a gag line, that is, Belkar referring to himself as a "sexy, shoeless god of war" (after killing a pile of hobgoblins, naturally). Later, when a hallucination of Lord Shojo forces Belkar to "scream" what he IS, he actually mumbles the line in the real world, which just happened to have been misinterpreted as the response to a question by a cleric, who then healed Belkar of his sickness and, yeah, awesome ensues. "Only the honor of a paladin is unbreakable..." ...even by Death itself.
  • Punch an' Pie has a big one when Angela runs into a friend of her ex-boyfriend's. She makes with the Self-Deprecation in trying to explain why they broke up, but the friend corrects her: his reasons were exactly the same as those of the woman who more recently broke up with Angela.
  • Starslip: Vanderbeam's suit costs more than Mr. Jinx's carapace wax.
  • In Unsounded, Jivi has a bad dream where his mother, apparently a ship captain, tells him the most disappointing thing about the world is that there's nobody left who's brave enough to stand up to the evils of the world and tell them that ain't the way it should be. Later, when Jivi pilots Uaid and crashes into the Red Berry Boys' hideout in an attempt to rescue the gang's captives, he repeats this line.
    Jivi: Starfish! This ain't the way it should be!
  • In O Human Star, the first thing that Al says to Brendan when they reunite is "Are you just going to stand there?" It turns out that that's also what he said right before their first kiss.
  • In Modern Day Treasure Seekers, Sam uses the phrase "I'm awesome like that" to brag, but later when she's disconsolate and crying, Cade uses the phrase "We're awesome like that" to cheer her up.
  • Syr'Nj, in GuildedAge, tells Byron "You have a choice" when trying to calm his berserker rage to prevent him from killing any more of their team, though it doesn't work. Later, when Syr'Nj is possessed by the angry wood elf goddess, Byron repeats it back to her, and this time it works and enables Syr'Nj to toss away the magical artifact she's being possessed through.
  • Zebra Girl: When Sandra was attacking her friends right before her banishment, Crystal tried to calm down Sandra by appealing to their friendship. Sandra cruelly told her she knew what she was doing and that "It won't work" (and it indeed didn't). Years later, when the two of them met again, Crystal and her friends are setting up an ambush, with Crystal acting as a scout/bait. Sandra contacts Crystal telepathically, telling her once again that, whatever she is doing, "It won't work", but that she wants to make everything right again with her, as she is no longer looking for a fight, is truly repentant, and is carrying an injured Sam with her. Except this time, Crystal doesn't trust her.
  • Ask Frisk and Company has a rather heartwarming example in its first arc. Near the beginning, Frisk was too scared to ask Kid out after they uncharacteristically missed that he was flirting with them. Sans shows them an encouraging message from an asker and provided some encouraging words of his own: "there's a lot of people out there who believe in you kiddo. you've just gotta believe in you. ...ya know? i hope that made sense." Towards the end of the arc, after Sans had been possessed by Chara and forced to relive all his worst nightmares to the point of breaking, a large swarm of askers chimed in with plenty of pep talk and Frisk returned the earlier favor. "There's a lot of people out there who believe in you Sans. You've just gotta believe in you. ...ya know? I hope that made sense." Sans heard everything and tearfully mused, "...yeah kid. it's starting to."
  • At the start of Lucid Spring's prologue, Viktor, hallucinating vividly and panicking, calls Repa an "unforgiving hell forest." Toward the end of the prologue when we can see in detail what Pacem and Viktor are seeing and find that it's aptly named, Pacem shouts, "We are not DYING... IN THIS UNFORGIVING HELL FOREST!!"

    Web Original 
  • Don't Hug Me I'm Scared:
    • When Red Guy sings a song about what an animate file would be like, the response is "That sounds really boring", a line said by Red Guy back in the first episode. He also asks "I wonder what will happen?" (from Episode 3) before pulling the plug on the machine and resetting the timeline.
    • When Red Guy messes with Roy's machine to make new teachers in the sixth, Yellow Guy yells "MAKE IT STOP!", which is the same thing he yelled when Tony made them rot alive in the second.
  • I Am Not Infected has Amanda repeating the phrase "I can't hear you through the door" to Hartley, who had originally told this to Handcuff Guy. Who could hear him perfectly.
  • Nan Quest: Though the gap between the original and the echo isn't very long, there is the Pilgrim's "Now die, and release me," and "No more words. I have waited too long. Now, you die." Though it's not repeated verbatim, Henry's "No more talk. You have to die. You have to release me," later in the chapter is very similar — only he's just finished explaining exactly what he means and why he believes it will work, so it's no longer cryptic nonsense.
  • In Worm, at the beginning of Chapter 22.4, Alexandria makes a speech about the inevitability of her actions. Skitter echoes this speech after suffocating Alexandria by coating her lungs with a layer of insects and spider glue.

    Western Animation 
  • Lampshaded in an episode of American Dad!:
    Stan Smith: I forbid it!
    Judge: While I'm sure that's a meaningful callback to an earlier conversation...
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Iroh saying "A man needs his rest" Book-Ends the first season: the first use trying to calm down Zuko's Determinator nature, the second congratulating him for admitting he's "tired" of fruitlessly chasing the Avatar. The delivery makes it clear that Iroh thinks Zuko has become his own man. (He hasn't.)
    • Iroh's little song: "Leaves from the vine / falling so slow..." The first time, he uses it to comfort a crying toddler, and it's cute. The second...
    • In the episode "The Avatar and the Fire Lord", Prince Sozin gives his headdress to Roku as something to remember him by. Sozin is reluctant to take it, saying "This is a royal artifact. It's supposed to be worn by the Crown Prince." Later, at the end of the episode, Iroh says the same words while giving the once-lost headdress to Zuko.
  • In Batman: The Animated Series, we have Baby Doll's Catch-Phrase "I didn't mean to!" used as a Running Gag in her in-universe Sitcom, but then used devastatingly at the end of the episode.
  • In Bojack Horseman, Sarah Lynn's first line, off-script, as a 6y/o child is essentially "I want to be an architect" (*essentially due to her first conversation building up to it). She's immediately shot down by her mother. At 32ys/o, her final words are "I want to be an architect."
  • The CatDog episode "Meat Dog's Friends" had Cat say "You learn something new every day" twice. He first says it while showing cruel indifference to Dog being horrified that meat is made from animals. The second time is at the end of the episode, when he is surprised to learn that meat trees and Johnny Meatseed are real.
  • When she first arrives at her new high school, Daria is given a mandatory psychological test. She jokes that she sees the picture of two people talking as "a herd of beautiful wild ponies running free across the plains", and repeats the phrase when prompted to come up with a conversation the two people are having; she is then diagnosed as antisocial with low self-esteem. In the last episode, "Boxing Daria", a flashback reveals that Daria was given similar tests as a child for being antisocial, which put strain on her family. The therapist giving her a Rorschach test explained that people might see different things in the blots, including "a herd of beautiful wild ponies running free across the plains" - a Call-Back that transforms Daria's first sarcastic joke into a Tear Jerker.
  • In Ever After High, Cupid's diary recounts a time she tried to change herself to impress a guy. Raven noticed Cupid was unhappy and reassured her, saying "Follow your heart and everything else will fall into place."
    Cupid: That's good advice.
    Raven: I know. It was what you told me before Legacy Day.
  • In a Futurama episode, after God fixes the situation: "If you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all."
    • The reason this is particularly significant is that God just told Bender the same thing, only Bender interpreted it as "you can't count on God for crap". Which he then uses as justification to save some God-seeking monks that would have otherwise starved after Fry says that they can ask God to help them. So...yeah.
  • In The Legend of Korra the inventor/businessman character Varrick is constantly telling his assistant to "Do the thing!" as his way of ordering her around and having her do whatever he needs her to do. In the fourth season when he asks her to marry him he does so by asking "Will you do the thing forever?" It is also part of their wedding vows, instead of saying "You may kiss the bride" Bolin who is marrying them says "You may do the thing."
  • The Magic School Bus: At a few points throughout "For Lunch", Miss Frizzle tells her students to "never say never" as a means of reminding them that anything's possible. Towards the end, when she realizes they'll have a harder time leaving Arnold's digestive system the way they came, one of her students repeats those three words to her, in order to boost her morale and help her believe they might just make it yet.
  • Metalocalypse has "That's my bread and butter you're f* cking with." First said by Charles Foster Ofdensen when he comes to rescue Skwisgaar and Toki at the end of Season One, and simply cool. In Season Two, Nathan repeats it when he saves a beaten and bloody Charles from the masked assassin who had finally managed to get ahold of him.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In the season 4 premiere "Princess Twilight Sparkle", Twilight has a magical flashback to the first time Princess Celestia and Princess Luna defeated Discord, before which they discover the Tree of Harmony and decide to use its elements. Twilight later recalls what Princess Celestia had said in the flashback about the Tree to figure out how to save the Tree of Harmony and destroy the ravaging plants.
      Princess Celestia: Even without these elements, the Tree of Harmony will possess a powerful magic. As long as that magic remains, it will continue to control and contain all that grows here.
    • In "The Mane Attraction", Coloratura's song "The Magic Inside" has two echoes to her earlier song "The Spectacle". The latter song has the hook "Razzle dazzle, glitz and glam" and ends with the lyric "Not just a pony, I am the Countess!" The former song has the lyric "There's more to me than glitz and glam" and the chorus begins with the line "For I am just a pony".
  • In ReBoot, although the line is usually a Running Gag, when the mysterious stranger who called off the Webrunner attack reveals himself as Bob, he utters the line "You can't talk in these things".
  • Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles has the phrase "what you can't see (on radar) you still can hit". First time, it's just a warning not to get cocky. Second time it's a means of getting determination to fight against superior (and stealthy) enemy.
  • The Simpsons - in an early episode, Lisa finds a bright substitute teacher to be a better male role model than she ever found Homer to be. When he leaves she's devastated - as Homer awkwardly tries to console her, he talks about how she's going to grow up to be an exceptional, accomplished person. She looks surprised, as this is nearly verbatim what the substitute had told her, and she'd maybe judged her dad a bit harshly.
  • Early in the first season of The Spectacular Spiderman, Harry Osborn tells his father about his problems at school. Norman, coldhearted as he is, harshly tells Harry to "cowboy up" and deal with his problems. At the end of the second season, Harry repeats the phrase to his father (or rather, the Chameleon disguised as him) as he pilots a helicopter and destroys an apartment in pursuit of the Green Goblin.
  • Steven Universe:
    • In "Space Race", an early conversation has Pearl bemoan that she's stuck on Earth, and when Steven cheerfully points out "With me!" her response, "Yes. With you," indicates that she knows he's trying but she still doesn't feel better. At the end of the episode, after Pearl makes a serious attempt to get back to space and fails, the same exchange happens, but this time Pearl is speaking in Sincerity Mode.
    • In "Log Date 7 15 2", Steven tells Peridot that a polite way to express gratitude is saying, "Wow, thanks!" She repeats it flatly at the end when Steven gives back her tape recorder. Then in "Gem Drill", she says it when Steven gives her a Cooldown Hug as The Cluster starts to take form.
      Peridot: Do you have any last words?!
      Steven: I love you, Peridot.
      Peridot: (teary-eyed) Wow, thanks.
  • This happens at least twice in Transformers Animated. Sari and Bumblebee have one in the three-episode-pilot ('You can trust this face, can't you?') and then there's Ratchet and Omega in the season three premiere ('We do what we must, even if, sometimes, it doesn't make sense.')
  • The first season of Transformers: Beast Wars, and Optimus Primal's "Sometimes, crazy works." Said the first time after a borderline-insane escape, and the second time before heading of on an apparent suicide mission.
  • Transformers Prime:
    • Ratchet's Running Gag / Catch-Phrase "I needed that!" is tragically played in the season 2 finale when it is revealed to Ratchet that Optimus Prime has destroyed the Omega Lock, which was the only hope of restoring Cybertron. "Optimus... we needed that."
    • Earlier, when Smokescreen joins the Autobot team, Bulkhead, who is suffering from a crippling injury, believes he will be replaced.
    Bulkhead: When what? When all of you will need an assist? Isn't that what the new guy's for?!
    Smokescreen: Assist—what the new guy's for!
  • The X-Men episode "A Rogue's Tale" did this. A flashback to Rogue's father discovering she was a mutant has him coldly tell her "You're not my daughter. Not anymore." At the end of the episode, Rogue says to Mystique "I'm not your daughter. Not anymore" to show that she resents Mystique for everything she made her do when she adopted her.

    Real Life 
  • The Code of Conduct for the Armed Forces of the United States makes use of this. The Code begins with "I am an American," and Article 6 begins with "I will never forget that I am an American." Somewhat intentional, given that the Code was established largely in an effort to allow soldiers to "return with honor" in the face of brutal conditions during imprisonment, particularly in Vietnam, which resulted in many individuals breaking under the stress.
  • In 1970, as the Canadian government was facing the French Canadian separatist terrorists, the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ), Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was asked how far he would go in ending their attacks, to which, he responded, "Just watch me!", and invoked the War Measures Act, which helped end the attacks. Decades later, in 2013, his eldest son Justin, an MP at the time, was asked whether he believed he could defeat then-PM Stephen Harper, he echoed his father by answering "Just watch me.". In 2015, he defeated Harper and became Canada's next PM.

Alternative Title(s): You Are With Me