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Jim: Mr. President, where can I get a job?
President: Many busy executives ask me: what about the job displacement market program in the city of the future? Well, count on us to be there Jim, because, if we're lucky, tomorrow, we won't have to deal with questions like yours ever again.

The Non-Answer is a response to a question that is so generic or vague that it's not really an answer at all. Usually, not only is the answer very vague, it is very obvious as well. This may be because there is no better answer, or the askee simply doesn't want to answer the question. Other times, the askee is bluntly trying to redirect the questioner's attention to what they consider to be the more important consideration. For instance, "Because I Said So" may not be considered an answer by a junior officer, yet the senior officer may be trying to reinforce the importance of following orders.

Some seemingly Non-Answers can actually be quite profound in their simplicity, succinctly stripping away extraneous considerations. Often this overlaps with Double Meaning, where many people dismiss the apparent Non-Answer but miss the meaning hidden within.

A favored technique for the Sleazy Politician or Obstructive Bureaucrat.

Could lead to a "Yes"/"No" Answer Interpretation situation. Compare Mathematician's Answer and Cryptically Unhelpful Answer. For when it's the creator of a work that gives an answer like this, see Shrug of God.


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  • In one of Discover Card's "Peggy" ads, a customer tells Peggy that he got a letter saying that his card now has a $35 annual fee. "Yes?" replies Peggy. The customer continues, asking Peggy to tell him that it's a mistake. "Yes?" says Peggy again.
    Customer: Are you saying yes, or are you asking yes?
    Peggy: Yes?
    Customer: Peggy?
    Peggy: [hangs up]

    Alternate Reality Games 
  • Omega Mart: Invoked. Omega Mart employees are often encouraged to be as unhelpful as possible, often redirecting the customer's agitation to buy products or giving vague answers that don't solve anything. The first-anniversary video even proudly states that none of the questions they were asked were answered.
    Customer: What does "Nationally Localized" mean?... Was the product made here, or abroad?
    Employee-In-Training: Yes!

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Bleach: The following exchange is lampshaded by Souken when Uryuu asks if what Ryuuken said is true. Souken explains it's Metaphorically True but Uryuu's too young to understand that Ryuuken's only given an obvious and practical answer that completely side-steps the question of "hate" entirely.
    Uryuu: Father, why do you hate being a Quincy?
    Ryuuken: You can't make a living from it.
  • In Dragon Ball Z:
    Gotenks: Piccolo, tell me the truth. Do you think there's any way that I can beat this guy?
    Piccolo: I think there's a way to succeed in everything, you just have to be serious about it.
    Gotenks: That's no answer!
  • In the 3rd OVA to Fushigi Yuugi:
    Tamahome: "Is this all Mayo's fault?"
    Taiitsukun: "Perhaps it is, and perhaps it is not."
    Tasuki: "Could you be a little more vague, please?"
  • Maria no Danzai: When Kinugawa questions Maria on her last conversation with Shikimi before she started Skipping School, Maria realizes that she's in a bit of a pickle: she can't admit that she called Shikimi pitiful since Kinugawa might hold Maria responsible for Shikimi disappearing, she can't lie about what she said on the off chance that Shikimi shared it with Kinugawa before she died, and she can't refuse to answer without seeming suspicious. So what does she do? She tears up, expresses regret for being too harsh and not choosing better phrasing for her "warning" to Shikimi, and blames herself for her disappearance. Kinugawa buys her act and drops the subject without realizing Maria didn't really answer his question, leaving Maria to realize Kinugawa hadn't figured her out after all.
  • In Naruto:
    Naruto: Pervy sage, how did you know that I have two kinds of chakra?
    Jiraiya: Because I am a sage.
    Naruto: That didn't explain anything.
  • In Nichijou: When Sasahara is asked what the frilly thing is that he is wearing, he laughs and responds by saying how extraordinary life is.
  • In She's My Knight, when Miyoshi asks Ichinose if he's ever had a girlfriend:
    Miyoshi: Have you ever had a girlfriend? Or liked anyone?
    Ichinose: Charming men belong to everyone. No scandals for me.
    Miyoshi: Just be honest and say no.
  • In Sonic X, Eggman once sent his robots to pick up an impossible amount of supplies from the hardware store.
    Decoe: How are we supposed to carry all of this?
    Eggman: With a great degree of difficulty.

    Comic Books 
  • Robin: Despite his reputation as a great liar, Tim's really better at giving answers that are metaphorically true or just straight up not actually answering the questions posed to him when he doesn't want to give away the truth. For a blunt example:
    Green Arrow (Conner Hawke): I feel funny asking this...Is Batman your father?
    Robin (Tim Drake): I never know if I should answer questions like that.
  • Ultimate Marvel:
    • Ultimate X-Men: How can Wolverine, with an adamantium skeleton, pass in the airport without turning on all the metal detectors? "Three words, bub: I'm a professional".
    • Spider-Men II: Miles Morales saved Barbara using his powers. She asked if he's a mutant, an inhuman, something else, all of the above... and he replied that needs time to figure out how to answer.
  • Usagi Yojimbo: In Grasscutter, Usagi is carrying the titular swordnote , which is a symbol of Imperial power and a magical artifact of major importance to hide it from the Big Bad. He ends up in a monastery and asks the abbot for spiritual guidance on what he should do: should he give the sword to the rightful but weak Emperor, or set himself up as a kingmaker and give it to someone he thinks would make a better ruler? The abbot answers that he should start building barricades and filling buckets, because the Big Bad's mooks are on the way, and they need to do all the prepwork they can to keep the sword from falling into the hands of the Big Bad.

    Fan Works 
  • The fic summary of Beyond the Borders asks how one stays grounded in the Kudzu Plot that is Kingdom Hearts, to which protagonist Rachel's answer is apparently "With great difficulty."
  • Harry Is a Dragon, and That's OK:
    • As Harry is unable to Portkey to the Quidditch World Cup due to his draconic magic resistance, he has to fly there himself, but has trouble navigating. Unfortunately for Sirius, who is trying to help him via mirror, the officials don't exactly know where they are either.
      Sirius: If I walked ten miles... that way, where would I be?
      Official: Lost.
    • The time-telling charm Tempus can give this, since telling time is a human invention and is very dependent on the caster's interpretation, location and language. If you don't cast it right, it might give answers like "Now, in this galaxy".
  • LadyBugOut: When asked directly whether or not Ladybug and Chat Noir were affected by Oblivio's memory-wiping powers when they kissed, Alya replies that "I just left it up for people to decide on the post." Her efforts backfire, as her classmates quickly realize that her attempts to dodge around giving a straight answer effectively confirm what she's trying to hide: that they didn't have their memories, she knows they didn't, and is trying to conceal that information for the sake of pushing forward her own spin on the narrative.
  • Tattered Capes Under a Shattered Moon: After Lillie asks him if his weapon teleporting was his semblance at work, Colin replies "Not really. It's just a little technique I picked up along the way."

    Films — Animated 
  • Footrot Flats: The Dog's Tale:
    Cooch: You wouldn't happen to have seen my stag, would you?
    Irish Murphy: Ah, piss off!
    Cooch: Is that a yes or a no?
    Irish Murphy: That's a formal recommendation.
  • In an Inside Out bonus scene, Joy tries to get Riley out of being called on by the teacher by having her mumble an incomprehensible answer. When that fails, she tries the "answer a question with a question" trick, which stalls the teacher long enough for the bell to ring. Then, Joy uses the same trick on the other emotions.
  • In Lilo & Stitch, Lilo is rather suspicious of Cobra Bubbles — ostensibly a social worker, but looks far more intimidating than he should. Her immediate questioning doesn't exactly bolster confidence.
    Lilo: You don't look like a social worker.
    Cobra: I'm a special classification.
    Lilo: ...did you ever kill anyone?
    Cobra: (Beat) We're getting off the subject. Let's talk about you.
  • In Shrek the Third, the evil Prince Charming interrogates Pinocchio, trying to find out where Shrek is, only for Pinocchio to confuse Prince Charming with Confusing Multiple Negatives and ambiguous answers:
    Prince Charming: You! You can't lie! So tell me puppet: Where... is... Shrek?
    Pinocchio: Uh. Hmm, well, uh, I don't know where he's not.
    Prince Charming: You're telling me you don't know where Shrek is?
    Pinocchio: It wouldn't be inaccurate to assume that I couldn't exactly not say that it is or isn't almost partially incorrect.
    Prince Charming: So you do know where he is!
    Pinocchio: On the contrary. I'm possibly more or less not definitely rejecting the idea that in no way with any amount of uncertainty that I undeniably -
    Prince Charming: Stop it!
    Pinocchio: - do or do not know where he shouldn't probably be, if that indeed wasn't where he isn't. Even if he wasn't at where I knew he was.
    [Pigs and Gingerbread Man begin singing]
    Pinocchio: That'd mean I'd really have to know where he wasn't.
  • Zootopia: Judy is nervous about having to speak at a press conference, so Nick tells her that instead of answering the questions, she should respond by stating a different question and then answering that one.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Discussed in the Babylon 5 movie Thirdspace:
    Sheridan: I will take your proposal under consideration.
    IPX Agent: That's bureaucratese for F-off.
  • In the movie The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, the Governor's song, "Dance a Little Sidestep" spoofs politicians' tendency to give these.
  • This conversation between Colonel Mustard and Wadsworth in Clue:
    Colonel Mustard: Well, there is still some confusion as to whether or not there is anybody else in this house!
    Wadsworth: I told you, there isn't.
    Colonel Mustard: There isn't any confusion, or there isn't anybody else?
    Wadsworth: Either. Or both.
    Colonel Mustard: Just give me a clear answer!
    Wadsworth: Certainly! [clears throat] What was the question?
    Colonel Mustard: Is there anybody else in this house?
    All: [shouting] No!
  • In Dorm Life, Josh asks Danny B about his documentary:
    Josh: So, uh, what'd you think about my doc, Dan?
    Danny B: Uh, yeah, it was just the right length.
    Josh: Uh-huh. But, uh, what about the content?
    Danny B: Yes, it was there too.
  • In Fight Club, after the chemical burn scene, Marla asks what happened to the narrator's hand. Tyler has asked the narrator not to talk to Marla about him.
    Marla: Who did that to you?
    Narrator: A person.
  • In First Blood, when Rambo is asked what he hunts with his huge knife, he responds simply, "Game."
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1: During the Death Eater meeting where Voldemort and his followers are discussing where and how to dispose of Harry Potter, the Dark Lord asks Pius Thicknesse, a member of the Ministry of Magic who is collaborating with them, his opinion. Voldemort even lampshades it.
    Pius Thicknesse: One hears many things, my lord. Whether the truth is among them, is not clear.
    Voldemort: Spoken like a true politician! I think you'll prove most useful to us.
  • I, Robot: Every time Spooner asks the holographic projector of Dr. Lanning important questions, like why he killed himself and what is the ultimate logical outcome of the Three Laws of Robotics, the hologram simply replies with "That, detective, is the right question", inviting Spooner to find the answers himself. Justified in that if Lanning had tried to give Spooner a straight answer through more straightforward methods, V.I.K.I. would've put a stop to it.
  • In The Last Jedi, Vice Admiral Holdo is asked if the Resistance fleet has a plan to escape their pursuers. Rather than explaining the plan or even just saying there is one, Holdo gives what sounds like a canned speech about the power of hope. Poe interprets this as her deflecting the question to hide that there is no plan and responds as such.
  • Lampshaded in Lawrence of Arabia:
    Jackson Bentley: You gonna be a democracy in this country? You gonna have a parliament?
    Ali: I will tell you that when I have a country. (Beat) Did I answer well?
    Jackson Bentley: You answered without saying anything. That's politics.
  • Men in Black: During the recruitment test, J asks why they were there, and one of the military-trained recruits responds that Zed is looking for "the best of the best of the best, sir." J deduces, correctly, that none of the others knows why they're there either, and are following a "do what you're told" mentality. Given the results of the test, it's entirely possible that the recruitment process was just a going-through-the-motions act put on for the benefit of J and/or Zed.
  • Return of the Secaucus Seven: Lampshaded by Chip and Irene when they're talking about the the senator they work for. Chip pretends to be the senator, and Irene pretends to interview him and asks him about the tomato, to which Chip gives long-winded answers that try to avoid taking a position on it, and even bringing up his apparent friendship with John F. Kennedy. Chip and Irene then tell Irene's friends how they went through several drafts of a speech about marijuana legalization, and the senator only approved a speech where he was shown to take no position whatsoever.
  • In Spider-Man: No Way Home Peter has hired Matt Murdock as his lawyer; at one point a vandal throws a brick through Peter's window, and Matt (who the audience should be reminded is blind and has successfully kept his identity secret) catches it by reflex. Upon being asked how he could have possibly done that, Matt's explanation is, "I'm a really good lawyer."
  • The War Game:
    American Nuclear Strategist: After a nuclear attack on the United States would people live as they're accustomed too? With automobiles, ranch houses, freezers, and television and so on? No one can say.

  • The people of Taveye in DO NOT TAKE THE SHELLS give these to Harris.
    Harris: Say, I was wondering... what is up with that sign on the beach? The one that says not to take the shells?
    Woman: It's so that people won't take the shells with them.
    Harris: Why can't they?
    Woman: Well... it's better for the shells to stay on the beach, you see.
  • In The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo seems to imply this trope, possibly as a bit of snark toward Gildor (who, for his part, seems to find it Actually Pretty Funny):
    Frodo: And it is also said, "Go not to the elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes."
  • Prince Nikolai from The Grisha Trilogy is notorious for this. It is quite useful in dealing with court politics. He even gives a non-answer when someone asks him about giving non-answers.
    Alina: Do you ever answer a question directly?
    Nikolai: Hard to say. Ah, there, I've done it again.
  • Karlsson on the Roof, who's like some kind of a modern, urban fairy looking like a smallish man with a propeller on his back, but acting childishly, will only answer to questions about his age by saying he's "at his prime".
  • In Lest Darkness Fall, Padway dodges inquiries about his religion (a touchy subject in sixth-century Ostrogothic Italy) by saying that he's a "Congregationalist", which he describes as "the closest thing to (name of questioner's religion) in my country".
  • In the Principia Discordia:
    Greater Poop: Is Eris true?
    Malaclypse the Younger: All things are true.
    Greater Poop: Even false things?
    Malaclypse the Younger: Even false things are true.
    Greater Poop: How can that be?
    Malaclypse the Younger: I don't know man, I didn't do it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel, "Power Play":
    Wesley: The small stuff that you can't worry about, would that include Fred?
    Angel: I loved Fred.
    Wesley: That's not an answer.
    Angel: Then I guess you don't get one.
  • As Babylon 5 prominently featured interstellar politics and intrigue, not to mention multiple cryptic alien races, mystics, prophets, and various magnificent and manipulative bastards with competing agendas and gambits, this was often played straight, and frequently lampshaded. A few examples:
    • G'Kar tells Ta'lon that he has had a mind opening revelation. Ta'lon asks him what sort of revelation. The following conversation occurs:
      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, G'Kar. However, while all answers are replies, not all replies are answers. You did not answer the question I asked.
    • Kosh in particular did it so much that Sheridan sniped at him about it more than once.
      Sherdian: I really hate it when you do that.
      Kosh: Good.
    • Perhaps the greatest non-answer on the show happened when Sheridan met the man who was, essentially, the highest ranking Mouth of Sauron for the Shadows. Sheridan tries to ask a simple question, and gets a mind bending reply that actually succeeds in throwing Sheridan off and making him forget the question he originally asked.
      Sheridan: Who are you?
      Justin: Now, that's really not important...
      Sheridan: Who are you?
      Justin: Who decides that the workday is from 9 to 5 instead of 11 to 4? Who decides that the hemlines will be below the knee this year, and short again next year? Who draws up the borders, controls the currency, handles all of the decisions that happen transparently around us?
      Sheridan: [incredulous and confused] I don't know.
      Justin: Ah. I'm with them. Same group, different department. Think of me as a sort of middle man. And the name is Justin.
  • In the first episode of Bar Karma, when Dayna asks James where he thinks Doug is, James answers "Somewhere between the beginning and the end."
  • From Better Off Ted:
    Interviewer: Can you describe your job?
    Veronica: Yes.
    Interviewer: ...How would you describe your job?
    Veronica: Cleverly.
  • The Big Bang Theory: Leonard Hofstadter's mother:
    Beverly: Your uncle Floyd died.
    Leonard: Oh my God, what happened?
    Beverly: His heart stopped beating.
  • Breaking Bad: After Skyler reluctantly agrees to help Walt launder his drug money, she makes him promise complete honesty to her involving his criminal activities, leading to Walt giving a lot of interpretive and technically correct answers to avoid giving straight answers that he knows she wouldn't like. For example, at the end of the episode "Face Off", when Gus is killed in a cartel suicide bombing after he threatened the lives of Walt's family, Skyler asks if Walt had anything to do with it.
    Skyler: Was this you? What happened?
    Walt: I won.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • From "Killed By Death":
      Xander: You don't know how to kill this thing.
      Buffy: I thought I might try violence.
      Xander: Solid call.
    • And in "Him":
      Dawn: Last night, you said you weren't helping Spike out of pity. What is it [if not that]?
      Buffy: It's a good question. [sips her drink through a straw]
      Dawn: Is sitting there drinking soda some kind of a Zen non-answer?
  • Community: In "Introduction to Teaching", Jeff asks his "Fundamentals of Law" class if they have any questions.
    Student: Will there be a syllabus?
    Jeff: "Will there be a syllabus" is a good example of a question. Anything else?
  • Doctor Who
    • The Doctor often "explains" how the TARDIS can be Bigger on the Inside by saying it is "dimensionally transcendental". If asked what that means, he says it means "bigger on the inside".
    • River Song's response to whether the Doctor can be trusted? "I absolutely trust him." Her answer to the follow-up question of whether he's a madman who's going to get them all killed? "I absolutely trust him!"
    • When Bill Potts asks why, if he's an alien, the TARDIS acronym derives from English words (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space), the Doctor just says that people don't usually bring that up and doesn't answer.
  • Grange Hill: When Tucker and his mates sneak into the rival school Brookdale, and pretend to be pupils there, Tucker deflects the question asked by a teacher who confronts them.
    Teacher: What form are you in?
    Tucker: We're in the first year, sir.
    Teacher: I didn't ask that, I asked what form you are in.
  • In the second Horatio Hornblower telefilm, Captain Pellew (A Father to His Men) and Captain Foster (a Fearless Fool) have a terse exchange over Foster's battle of the popgun supply ship vs. Spanish frigate. After Pellew declines to answer Foster's inappropriate and offensive inquiry of whether Pellew would have surrendered, Foster tosses the question to Hornblower. Though Hornblower is in awe of Foster, he has great respect for his captain and tries "I am pleased the Spanish have been deprived of our supplies." It doesn't work—Foster takes it as vindication and Pellew quits the room.
  • On Lost, when Locke asks Ben how deep the Orchid station is, he simply says that it's "Deep."
  • In an early-season episode of M*A*S*H, Hawkeye and Trapper are trying to get an incubator for the hospital lab. After several failed attempts, they end up posing as journalists at a press conference, and we are treated to the following:
    Hawkeye: General, can you tell us why M.A.S.H. units never get any incubators?
    General: Our people have this question under scrutiny at the moment. If this scrutinization should yield negative, then I feel that we must maximize our efforts.
    • After Hawkeye presses (and is rebuffed), Trapper is recognized:
    General: You have a question?
    Trapper: Yes, I do. Why don't you answer his question?
    • In a later episode, a patient refers to Hawkeye and BJ's "wait and see" responses regarding his friend's condition as "no-answer answers". For their part, the doctors admit this, however, the doctors are not intentionally being vague or obfuscating; as they themselves admit, in these kinds of situations the vague answer is the only answer, as the situation is just too unpredictable for them to be able to make a more definitive statement with any certainty.
  • QI has an example given by host Stephen Fry that is immediately called out by a panellist, who asks how big a stalactite they're talking about is:
    Phill Jupitus: How big is it?
    Stephen Fry: Vast, is the answer.
    Phill Jupitus: Thanks for that. "How big is it?" [as Stephen] "Oh, very. If I was to quantify its bigness would be doing it a disservice! To say just how bigly big, the vastly big bigness of the dripping thing..." I want feet, meters, anything! Throw me a f***ing bone, Fry!
  • In the penultimate episode of Runaways (2017) season one, the members of PRIDE try to press Jonah for some details about the "energy source" he's supposedly drilling for.
    Jonah: Please, huh? Let's not get distracted from this joyous occasion. Everything we've worked for has finally come to fruition!
    Stacey: Y'know, he never really answers a question. You ever notice that?
  • Space: 1999. At the end of "Mission of the Darians", Carter asks Commander Koenig if he'd make the same amoral decisions that the Darians (living on a Generation Ship that suffered a catastrophe) did to ensure their race survived. Koenig can only say, "Remind me to tell you sometime."
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    Chakotay: Can I ask you a question, off the record? If things had happened differently, and we were on the Maquis ship now instead of Voyager, would you have served under me?
    Janeway: One of the nice things about being Captain is that you can keep some things to yourself.
  • In a Meta example, Star Trek technical adviser Michael Okuda was asked how the Heisenberg Compensator note  works. He replied, "It works very well, thank you."
  • Teal'c was a master of the non-answer in Stargate SG-1. For example:
    Jack O'Neill: So what's your impression of Alar?
    Teal'c: That he is concealing something.
    Jack O'Neill: Like what?
    Teal'c: I am unsure, he is concealing it.
  • In the Starsky & Hutch episode "Deckwatch," Hutch's ex-girlfriend Laura tells a man who is holding her and her grandmother hostage that Hutch is her brother. When the man asks what his eye color is, Laura answers, "Blue. With a greenish tint. Brown, sometimes. They get darker."
  • In the Supernatural episode "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part One" (S02, Ep21), the Yellow-Eyed Demon is very good at deflecting Sam's questions or only answering with an answer that he wants Sam to have.
    Sam: Where’s my brother?
    Yellow-Eyed Demon: Quit worrying about Dean. I’d worry more about yourself.
  • Titans (2018). A social worker who's a friend of Jason Todd but doesn't know he's Robin, points out a minion of the Joker and is puzzled when Jason is able to instantly identify him.
    Molly: How do you know that?
    Jason: Told you. I'm still me.
    Molly: Right. That's one of those things that sounds real cool, but doesn't actually mean anything.
  • Sir Humphrey in Yes, Minister is not fond of giving straight answers. When pressed for one, he exaggerates this trope instead, talking for thirty seconds without saying anything at all.
    "Well, minister, if you asked me for a straight answer, then I should say that, as far as we can see, looking at it by and large, taking one time with another, in terms of the average of departments, then in the final analysis, it is probably true to say, that at the end of the day in general terms, you would probably find, that, not to put too fine a point on it, there probably wasn't very much in it one way or the other. As far as one can see. At this stage."

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Zits: When Connie asks Jeremy whether he was at Pierce's house instead of going to a movie like he claimed, Jeremy says that he's not going to lie to her. When Connie says that's not an answer, Jeremy replies that it's also not a lie and she can't punish him. He's wrong on that last point.

  • Deep Trouble: HMS Goliath has just accidentally torpedoed the USS Nimitz, and reporters aboard the Goliath wonder what's going on.
    Commander Fairbanks: Right, any questions?
    Dunn: Yeah. Harry Dunn, Daily Mail. What it is, is about twenty-five minutes ago, me and Phil Baines of the Observer
    Baines: Hello.
    Dunn: — we were getting some coffee and we heard two very loud sounds, like rockets, followed by this explosion thing, and we were told this wasn't supposed to be a live-firing exercise, can you confirm that?
    Captain Wade: I can confirm that this wasn't supposed to be a live-firing exercise. Next!
  • The Ricky Gervais Show: When Karl is explaining his first film pitch.
    Karl: Why is that so weird when, that's what they do now. That's what they do now.
    Ricky: What is?
    Karl: That's what they do.
    Ricky: What?!
    Karl: They do that.
    Ricky & Steve: WHAT?!

    Religion and Mythology 
  • The Bible:
    • Karen Armstrong claims that the Biblical "I Am That I Am" is a Non-Answer. However, monotheists understand this as an expression of the idea that God exists by Himself for Himself, and is the uncreated Creator who is independent of any concept, force, or entity.
    • Similarly, some view "Thou sayest it," the answer Jesus gives to Pilate's question "Art thou king of the Jews?", as a Non-Answer. Does Jesus mean "Yep, you said it; you got that right," or "That's what you say; I never made that claim"? (Jesus Christ Superstar understands it in the latter sense.). However, this does have to be weighed against his other statements (that he existed before Abraham, that seeing him is the same as seeing God, that he could forgive sins, that he is the judge, that he can grant eternal life etc.).
    • "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's" (as an answer to whether the Jewish people should pay taxes to the Romans) is considered by some as a Non-Answer. The questioners were trying to trap Jesus into making a statement either way, at which point they would either declare him to be a Roman sympathizer to the Jews, or declare him to be a Judean revolutionary to the Romans. A more detailed examination reveals a deeper meaning (especially noting his question regarding whose image is on the coin that's used to pay the tax). Thus: It is fine to pay taxes (i.e. render the coin unto Caesar, since it has his image on it), but we should devote our whole lives to God (since we are made in God's image). Even Jesus' enemies were impressed at how he avoided that rhetorical trap.
      • And in yet another layer of meaning, can anything, even coins with Caesar's face on them, be said not to belong ultimately to God?
  • A classic Zen-Buddhist answer to the Confucian Armor-Piercing Questionnote  (since everyone, even the lowest peasants, seem to have 'aspects of the The Buddha's nature' as far as all these newfangled prayer-mongerers are concerned) "Do dogs have Buddha-nature too?" The Buddhist answer Wú or Mu, in Classical Chinese and Japanese respectively, is a cross between a Non-Answer and a Mathematician's Answer. In Classical Chinese 'wú' is a 'negator-of-existence', i.e. there is no or there is nothing of whatever noun comes after it in the sentence... but it's a one-word answer, and it's not clear whether 'wú' refers to the question or the answer (it does not refer to the possession of Buddha-nature because it's a noun-negator, not a verb-negator). The implication is that it doesn't matter because both the question and the answer are meaningless. Consequently the reply is often translated as "It's meaningless". A philosophical STFU to an Armor-Piercing Question. Wikipedia has a better discussion for those interested.

  • In The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, the governor sings the song "The Sidestep", about how he loves to evade the answers to reporter's questions.
  • In A Chorus Line, the director asks the cast what they will do when they can no longer dance. Will they have anything at all to fall back on? They respond with "What I Did For Love," a song about having no regrets living a dancer's life, which in no way answers the question (except perhaps to reveal that they don't know and they're trying not to think about it).
  • In Hamilton, Angelica's telling of the night she first met Alexander in "Satisfied" has her ask him about where his family is from, to which he brushes off as unimportant and immediately moves the conversation to his future ambitions. As the meeting takes place at a ball where Continental Army soldiers on leave and other upper-class young adults were mingling, Angelica quickly deduces that Alexander's sidestepping means that he doesn't want to draw attention to his current social status, i.e., he's broke and trying to marry upwards.
  • In Hamlet, Polonius asks Hamlet what he is reading. Hamlet's response: "Words, words, words."
  • In the Robin Hood play Nottingham, Robin Hood goes to Friar Tuck for advice on where he should be the following Sunday. The following exchange occurs:
    Friar Tuck: Listen to your heart. You know where you must be on Sunday.
    Robin Hood: Yes, I know where I must be. Indeed, I know where I must be.
    Friar Tuck: That's a cryptic non-answer! You can't put that past me, I'm a priest! I know cryptic non-answers!

    Video Games 
  • One scene in Dissidia Final Fantasy: Opera Omnia sees Selphie succeed in her quest to turn "booyaka" into a catchphrase among the group. This confuses Lightning, who thinks it's some kind of code she wasn't told about and treats it as a security matter. When she finally gets a chance to ask Selphie what the heck it means, Selphie just says "use it as much as you want!" and runs off.
  • Disco Elysium: Outside of talking about the lynching (where his testimony is limited by his perspective and somewhat verbose, but still direct and to the point), The Sunday Friend speaks entirely in non-committal technobabble and getting straight answers out of him about himself, the nature of EPIS, and the Mortalintern is impossible.
  • Doom Protip: To kill the cyberdemon shoot at it until it dies.
  • In God of War III, Kratos seeks the Flame of Olympus, a power that will allow him to kill the gods. When he asks Hephaestus where it is Hephaestus asks him what purpose he seeks it for. Kratos responds with "For the purpose I have chosen."
  • One panelist on a segment of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City's VCPR is Florida's current state congressman and whenever he is fielded a serious question he, like any good caricature of a slimy 80's politician, refocuses the topic until it helps his reply, along with reassuring platitudes and campaign slogans, some Insane Troll Logic and a liberal dose of Ad Hominem against host Maurice Chavez's career. He even outright says that he's going to do this when Chavez brings up a strong point against him near the end:
    Congressman: Well, I'm afraid that's apparently quite a difficult question, but my solution is easy: I'm going to talk for a long time about a subject not in any way related and pretty soon people will forget all about it.
  • Half-Life 2: One of Dr. Breen's broadcasts mentions a "concerned citizen" asking why the Combine have seen fit to suppress humanity's reproductive cycle. Rather than give any kind of meaningful answer, Breen goes on a long-winded speech about unspoken questions and how instinct is the greatest enemy of humanity, never once addressing the why.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, this is how the postman responds to Anju's questions if you listen to their conversation about Kafei's letter (though if you listen to them again, the postman says it's a secret):
    Anju: Ah! Wait! 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.
    Anju: That's not what I mean!
  • Mass Effect 3:
    • Used for comedy if you have both Padok Wiks and Eve on the ship.
      Padok Wiks: ...In the interests of science, how do Krogan mate?
      Eve: Very clumsily.
      Padok Wiks: And there we have it. Could be worth writing a paper someday.
    • If you decide to boot Diana Allers off of the Normandy, Shepard doesn't even bother to give her a reason when asked; s/he merely replies, "What do you think?"
    • Legion gives a few of these, indicating that he is not Just a Machine. When asked why he wears part of Shepard's armor, he'll "think" about it for a few seconds (keep in mind, this is a machine and his thought processes are much faster) before answering "No data available". In the third game, Shepard can view records of the original Geth-Quarian War and witnesses the first time a geth (a "simple farming Geth") picked up a weapon and used it on attacking quarians. Shepard will note it picked up a Widow rifle, the same gun Legion uses. Legion will evade, "... It's an efficient weapon." Then, when Shepard asks if Legion thinks there's any chance the quarians and geth can stop trying to kill each other, Legion merely responds "hope sustains organics. We admire the concept."
  • In Poker Night 2, Ash may sometimes ask Sam why he doesn't wear shoes, and Sam deflects from this with a response that doesn't really address matters. Max gives the game away after the fact anyway, though.
    Ash: How do you get through all your crazy adventures without any shoes?
    Sam: The same way you get through yours without a hat.
    Ash: But I don't need a hat.
    Sam: Exactly.
    Ash: That's not really an answer.
    Sam: Isn't it?
    Ash: No. It's not.
    Sam: And that's why I don't wear shoes.
    Max: And also because shoes make him look like a big brown clown.
  • Saints Row: The Third: STAG commander Cyrus Temple is absolutely terrible when it comes to public speaking or handling the media, being incapable of answering even the most basic questions without trying to dodge around the semantics of the question or reeling off some unrelated slogan or rhetoric. When pressed for a straight answer, Cyrus breaks down at the podium and flies into a hot-blooded rant before abruptly concluding the press conference.
    Reporter: How long will STAG be occupying Steelport?
    Cyrus Temple: There is no "occupation". We have the full support of Mayor Reynolds.
    Jane Valderamma: How will STAG impact our daily lives?
    Cyrus Temple: When we win the war on urban terror, you and your families will be safe again.
    Jane Valderamma: That's not what I-
  • The Shivah enables you to respond to almost every question with a "Rabbinic Answer", which is essentially just answering the question with another question. To be fair, the point of these questions seems to be to make your interrogator realize the answer on his/her own... It only works sometimes though, as most of the time people react with impatience when you try it.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All when Phoenix asks an assassin to explain his meeting with his client in detail, he divulges into a speech about the reasons for meeting and the importance of trust, and Phoenix must point out that he hasn't truly answered the question.
  • Doki Doki Literature Club!: Monika's second poem, "Save Me", is pretty much impossible to understand when first encountering it. When the Player Character implicitly asks what it's about, she just ends up explaining how not every poem is "about" something. It's possible to figure out what it was about with knowledge gained later on in the game — and the answer is a really weird one and explains why Monika didn't want to explain it.
  • In A Little Lily Princess, when Sara asks Lavinia what the difference between "old-fashioned" and "traditional" is, Lavinia says, "One is better than the other."

    Web Animation 
  • DEATH BATTLE!: In "Saitama VS. Popeye", Saitama asks the rather apposite question "Who the hell are you?" and gets the answer "I am what I am, and that's all what I am."
  • Red vs. Blue, when Lopez's disembodied head is somehow operating a mounted machine gun.
    Sarge: was he pulling the triggers?
    Grif: He was very determined.

  • Dumbing of Age: In two separate instances, Joyce asks a member of family whether they think her mother is truly a good person. In both cases, the person being asked gives a long, uncomfortable pause before avoiding the question or giving a vague statement. Significantly, the people being asked are Joyce's father and one of her older siblings, so the fact even they couldn't immediately say Joyce's mom is good with a straight face spoke volumes already.
  • 8-Bit Theater: When Ranger dual wields his dual wield to wield four bows at once, Sarda asks the obvious question of how he's holding them in only two hands. Ranger's response?
    Ranger: It's not easy. Really hurts the neck.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Tom Siddell does this when he doesn't want to answer a fan's question.
  • The Trenches:
    Credenza: Ever been arrested?
    Isaac: Once.
    Credenza: What for?
    Isaac: Breaking the law.

    Web Original 
  • asktheendermen explains how Minecraft Endermen teleport.
    Enderman: it is quite simple
  • Camdrome: When Camdrome was asked over Twitter if he was at PAX 2014, he simply said "i am everywhere". He later responded to a question about where answers could be found with "in your heart".
  • Not Always Right is full of these.
  • When Monty Oum was asked in an interview if he planned to kill off characters in RWBY, this was his answer:
    Monty: Well, I'm a big fan of Game of Thrones.
  • In Shadow of the Templar Jeremy is a master of this, as is Ethan.
  • Tumblr: In the 2016 April Fools' Day site event, when Deborah is asked about her species, she dodges the question.
    polteaageist: Deborah, are you a salamander or a newt?
    Deborah: I am a 100% tried and true, experienced candidate with the right skills for the job.

    Web Video 
  • Don't Hug Me I'm Scared:
    • In "Don't Hug Me I'm Scared 2":
      Robin: But when did [time] start?
      Manny: And when will it stop?
      Tony: Time is important and I am a clock.
    • In the fourth installment, the computer comes to life because the puppets want to figure out the answer to the question "What is the biggest thing in the world?". He never actually answers the question.
  • Kitboga is a scambaiter popular on Twitch and YouTube. In "Scammers Expected $5,000 But Grandma Buys a Scooter," the scammer tells Kitboga's Granny Edna character that she is "with the Amazon server." Granny Edna tells him that he she has a question: "What is a server?" He tells her that this is the secure server by which she is getting the application form that is not available to anyone apart from her. "But what is a server?" she asks him. "The server is an Amazon server, ma'am. Amazon server," he tells her. She asks if he's talking about the people who give you food at restaurants. She says that she doesn't know what he means by "server," that he just keeps saying "server." She tells him that she's asking him for the fifth time, for $500, "What is a server?"note 
    Scammer: The server is Amazon secure server.
    Granny Edna: Okay.
  • Screen Rant Pitch Meetings: Whenever the Producer asks why something happens in the story, the Screenwriter usually just says "Because!" with no further elaboration.

    Western Animation 
  • In Adventure Time we have Magic Man who gives us this gem.
    Finn: So, how long have you had this house for?
    Magic Man: Yes, that is true!
  • Batman: The Animated Series used it in "Night of the Ninja." When Batman tells Robin that Kyodai is "good" at the martial arts, Robin asks how good he is. Batman reiterates, "Good." What Batman means by this is "Possibly better than me", since a young Bruce Wayne and Kyodai trained at the same school and Kyodai used to regularly kick Bruce's butt.
  • Jeremie Belpois of Code Lyoko answered with a noise when Odd asked him if losing power is supposed to happen.
    Odd: That's what I thought. You're using your "I hate to say it, but you bombed the exam" voice.
  • Family Guy:
    • Meg comes downstairs with a dress on, in preparation for a prom. She asks Brian, "How do I look Brian?" Brian says, not wanting to either lie to her or insult her, "Ahhhhh... You sure do, Meg."
    • The episode "It Takes a Village Idiot, and I Married One" has Lois get into a mayoral debate with Adam West. When Lois attempts to give an actual detailed answer explaining her plans to deal with sex offenders, she gets interrupted for time and receives a negative response from the audience, while Adam West, upon being asked about garbage disposal, gives an incredibly long-winded answer about the very nature of questions and answers themselves, which leaves the people stoked. Lois, in response, starts dumbing down her answers, until they consist of nothing but "9/11 was bad!", which gets increasingly huge cheers.
  • In Futurama, Bender and Zoidberg try to get Calculon as a backer for their film.
    Bender: And I guarantee it'll win you an Oscar!
    Calculon: An Oscar, you say? That would get me out of this festering rat's nest called "television" once and for all! ... ...And you say you can guarantee me the Oscar?
    Bender: I can guarantee you anything you want.
    • Another episode had Planet Express taken over by a nameless Corrupt Corporate Executive who made Fry his partner. One scene has him teaching Fry "execu-speak."
      Executive: "I'm worried about blank."
      Fry: Don't you worry about blank, let me worry about blank.
      Executive: Good. I also would have accepted "Blank? Blank!? You're not looking at the big picture!"
  • Hey Arnold!: Arnold's bus pass is essentially this.
    Name: Ar(obscured by thumb)ld
    Born: Yes
  • Garfield and Friends: In one episode of the U.S. Acres segment, Roy tries to be elected farm leader. Bo asks about his position about the building of a new barn and Roy gives a long rant about how important the matter is, without actually answering the question. Bo sees this as what makes Roy a great politician.
  • In the Invader Zim episode "Germs", Zim becomes a germaphobe and begins carrying around a can of aerosol spray. GIR ends up taking it and running into a fast food joint. When Zim catches up with him and asks him where it is, GIR says "Where I left it. Want a bite?"
  • Pasila has an example of a ridiculously loaded question being deflated with a simple answer that's... well...
    Juhani Kontiovaara: What the hell are you blaming the media for? Are you menstruating or do you simply want to live in Albania?
    The male interviewee: Yes.
  • Not in-universe, but if you browse through the Phineas and Ferb wiki you can find the following 'information' about Ferb:
    Age: Less than 15.
    Height: Taller than Buford.
    • How Phineas tells Candace that the Nose Lake Monster is real... she figures it out pretty quickly.
  • The Simpsons: In "Homer vs. the 18th Amendment", Homer is using hollow bowling balls to smuggle illicit beer. When Marge asks why he has so many bowling balls, he admits that he can't lie to her — and then simply leaves without answering at all.
    Marge: Why do you have so many bowling balls?
    Homer: I'm not gonna lie to you, Marge. So long! [proceeds to get in his car and drive off]
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: In "No Small Parts", with the holodeck safeties on, Badgey is as cheerful as a clown, but Rutherford isn't sure if he remembers the murderous rampage he went on the last time he was turned on — and, when he asks if he's going to kill him when the safeties go off, Badgey just replies "Ha ha, I'm Badgey!". It's possible that the safety protocols prevent Badgey from lying, which might explain why his reply is suspiciously tautological and in no way answers the question.
    Rutherford: Badgey! I need you to code a virus for me.
    Badgey: Hmm, to do that, I would need you to disable safety protocols.
    Rutherford: (Chuckles nervously) Wait, you're not gonna try to kill me again, are you?
    Badgey: Ha ha, I'm Badgey!
  • The Venture Bros.: Used every time someone asks why the Monarch hates Dr. Venture so much.
  • In the WordGirl episode "Mr. Big", WordGirl demands an explanation for what Mr. Big's product "The Thing", a plain white cube, does. Mr. Big keeps giving non-answers in an effort to not have to explain that the Thing doesn't do anything.
    Mr. Big: This little Thing is made from a mixture of space-age polymers. It's unbreakable! It's scientifically designed by scientists to do all the stuff you've always dreamed of doing! In fact, this Thing can do so much stuff that the sheer amount of stuff it can do cannot be listed! It's just too much stuff! The Thing is, quite simply, amazing!

  • Jack Handey played it for laughs: "When my little nephew asked if the equator was a real line around the Earth or an imaginary one, I just laughed. Laughed and laughed. I laughed because I didn't know the answer, and I hoped if I laughed long enough, he'd forget the question."
  • Probably happened to you at some point: "Why can't I do X?" "Because I said so.". Of course, whether this is a non-answer depends on your point of view
    • Or;
    Q: "How do I do [task]?"
    A: "Very [adjective]ly."
  • Question: "What's For Dinner/What do you want for dinner?" Answer: "Food"
  • Rule 34 variant:
    Q: "How do(es) he/she/they [squicky or improbable sex act]?"
    A: "Very carefully."
    • Or the clean version - same answer, but the Question is "How do porcupines kiss?"

    Real Life 
  • When asked in one of the interviews what happened with Russian military submarine Kursk, Vladimir Putin answered "It sank."
  • Urban Legend: When Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he reportedly replied "Because that's where the money is."
  • When famous mountaineer George Mallory was asked why he wants to climb Mount Everest he replied "Because it is there." (Mallory died on Everest in 1924. It's unknown whether he reached the summit)
    • xkcd hid a joke about this in the gigantic scrolling strip with a character saying that the phrase sounds better than "because I'm rich enough for my goals to be arbitrary".
  • Parents can also make use of this trope when their kids ask them questions about sex, death, or for things the parent doesn't know the answer to. A common one of these non-responses is "you'll understand when you're older."
  • One of the great non-answers in the history of the trope was in Casey Stengel's testimony before Congress on major-league baseball's anti-trust exemption. There is no summary that does it justice, and it's about twenty minutes of non-answer, so read it here.
    • Note also the Coda, when Mickey Mantle was asked to give his own testimony, which he clearly didn't want to do:
      Senator Kefauver: Mr. Mantle, do you have any observations with reference to the applicability of the antitrust laws to baseball?
      Mr. Mantle: My views are about the same as Casey's.
  • Emergency personnel and medical staff are often forced to do this when someone is critically (or fatally) injured, they're asked how the patient is, but they're not at liberty to provide the information. It's typically a variation on "Everything possible is being done."
  • Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman once interviewed Home Secretary Michael Howard and when faced with an evasive answer, proceeded to repeat the same question 12 times. The government had carried out an inquiry into a series of prison escapes, and in advance of publication Howard had been very critical of the prison service and blamed it for the escapes (rather than, say, admit that the prison service was underfunded.) The result was the political interview as Overly Long Gag. See the Quotes page for a transcript.
  • Among medical types: "Cause of death?" "He stopped breathing / His heart stopped / etc."
    • "Heart failure" is a legitimate answer to (almost) any cause of death. Of course, the real question is why the heart stopped.
  • The answer "Later" or "In a while" is an especially egregious Non-Answer when responding to a question asking "When?" about something, especially when the question is being asked in order to weigh whether to stand and wait or to go and do something more productive while waiting which might only be a good idea if the "while" is a specific (and long) timespan, which a vague Non-Answer of "a while" does less than nothing to clarify.
  • In the 2014-2015 American Football season, the Seattle Seahawks went to the Superbowl, and over the course of their successful season several players were instructed to take part in promotional interviews. Star player Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch, however, notoriously refused to give any interviews, apparently just due to a deep-seated personal dislike of giving interviews in general. However, it was then pointed out to Lynch that his contract actually contained a clause requiring that he had to give interviews upon request of the team owners, or else he would be severely fined thousands of dollars. Lynch's response was to at least sit down for the interviews, but he did a Take That! at being forced into the situation by answering every question in a row for 30 minutes by restating "I'm just here so I don't get fined" over and over again. At other interviews he restated over and over again variations of "Thank you for asking that", "That's an interesting question", etc.
  • These are often a rather intense Berserk Button for people on the autistic spectrum, especially if given when an autistic person asks how long they should be prepared to wait.
  • Criticism was leveled at USA Gymnastics' CEO Kerry Perry for giving a statement full of these at the 2018 US National Championships in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal. Perry would ultimately resign a few months later.


Tony the Clock's non-answer

Duck Guy and Yellow Guy ask Tony questions about time, but Tony won't give them a meaningful answer.

How well does it match the trope?

4.88 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / NonAnswer

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