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.
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- 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.
- At the beginning of the Chinese New Year issue of Li'l Gotham, Damian makes a disrespectful comment about Alfred being a "butt-ler". At the end, Damian again calls Alfred "the Butt-ler", but this time as a sign of respect after learning how much butt Alfred is capable of kicking.
- In issue #1 of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Mirage), 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.
- Wonder Woman
- Wonder Woman (2006): Donna gives an internal monologue, starting off panel, which makes it seem initially like she is Diana and which discusses the difficulty and responsibilities of being Wonder Woman while looking up to Diana. Later Diana makes a little speech which starts with the same first sentences but manages to be critical and bitter in the places Donna was inspiring and hopeful in the places where Donna was despairing just through context.
- The Legend of Wonder Woman (2016): Steve Trevor talks about the freedom of the sky while on Themyscira, which Diana doesn't really understand. Later Diana says the same short speech back to him to show that despite their differences they're kindred spirits, and to help Steve feel like he knows her despite his amnesia.
- 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."
"Did you think I would leave you dying
- Turns into:
"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!"
- 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.
- Broken Saints: At the climax of the Grand Finale: "I BELIEVE!"
- Red vs. Blue:
- "You ever wonder why we're here?" Originally a line exchanged over the pointlessness of the series, Sarge uses it to give an epically stirring Rousing Speech in chapter 18 of Revelation.
- "I don't know what's got into you, but you need to learn the difference between your friends and your enemies." First Carolina uses it to call out Texas on killing Connecticut, then Wash uses it on her when her obsessive quest for revenge alienates Wash and the Reds and Blues to the point they walk out.
- Church's final conversation with Tex in season 10 is a tragic repeat of her earlier conversation with a broken Alpha Church.
- Season 13:
- "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.
- 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.
- The Call of Warr: "Now I remember that being a soldier is the most important thing" is a line said early on by a caller, as just a cool line said in an action movie. Later, it's the line that snaps Gravesite out of his funk and convinces him to be the leader again.
- 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.