Follow TV Tropes


[Popular Saying], But...

Go To

This is what happens when someone takes a well known phrase or saying, and then decides that it doesn't convey quite as much information as it needs to. So the speaker adds a little bit on the end, usually with the modifier "But", usually either missing the point or totally reversing the original meaning of the phrase.

Related to the Ice-Cream Koan, but differs in that while the first part of the phrase is valid, the second part is clearly tacked on by the speaker. Often said by a Seemingly Profound Fool in some of his more fauxlisophical moments. You Can't Make an Omelette... and When Life Gives You Lemons... are common victims of this trope.



    open/close all folders 

  • Steven Wright: If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.
  • Eddie Izzard: "Guns don't kill people, people do, and monkeys do too (if they've got a gun)"
  • Anonymous joke: Before judging a person, walk a mile in their shoes. That way, you'll be a mile away when you judge them, and you'll have their shoes.

     Comic Books  
  • In the very first issue of Paperinik New Adventures, when the titular hero is having a hard time defending a woman from the coolflames: "Don't worry! When the game gets tough... I wish I was somewhere else."

     Fan Works 
  • Paul in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World: “With great power comes a lot of people pestering you to use it on their behalf.”
  • In Alarm Clock, after Rainbow Dash breaks a cart by speeding, she says, “Ehhhhh, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few ... uh, carts.” A few chapters later, Ditzy Doo adapts the saying again: “It’s like they say: you can’t make an omelet without destroying Ponyville Town Hall once or twice.”

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990): Wise man say: Forgiveness is divine, but never pay full price for late pizza.
  • Hobo with a Shotgun: When life gives you razor blades, you make a baseball bat. Covered in razor-blades.
  • The Mummy (1999): Rick is fighting off Imhotep while Evy searches the Book of the Dead for the spell that will send him back to the underworld. Rick tries to get her to move a little faster.
    Evy: Patience is a virtue.
    Rick: Not right now, it isn't!
  • Joker in the The Dark Knight gives us this one-letter change from Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger
    I believe whatever doesn't kill you simply makes you... stranger.
  • Toward the end of Happy Gilmore, Happy's former boss is wearing a shirt which reads "Guns don't kill people, I kill people!"

  • Tom Holt has used many variants on the omelette saying, most notably Only Human's "It might be possible to make omelettes without shredding chickens, but it doesn't make for nearly as good television."
  • In Discworld, “Set a thief to catch a thief” is actually the version updated by the Thieves’ Guild of an older proverb that actually advocated a long and complicated trap to catch a thief.
    • There's also “Build a man a fire and he’s warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he’s warm for the rest of his life.”
    • William De Worde expands greatly on the “glass half full/half empty” dichotomy, noting that there are also people whose glasses have been knocked over, or people who can’t get the bartender’s attention, or how the people who run things tend to look at a half-empty glass and say “This isn’t my glass! My glass was full! Who’s been pinching my beer?”

     Live Action TV  

  • The Babyshambles song "Sticks and stones" has the following chorus: Sticks and stones may break my bones/Oh but your words, they really hurt.
  • About 90% of They Might Be Giants lyrics.
    • From the song "Rhythm Section Want Ad": "Speak softly and drive a Sherman tank / Laugh hard, it's a long way to the bank"
  • Tracy Lawrence also had a song called "Sticks and Stones," with the operative line being, "These sticks and stones may break me, but the words you said just tore my heart in two."
  • "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me." Na-na-na-na, come on.

     Memetic Mutation  

     Video Games  

     Web Comics  
  • Achewood: Eating an apple a day keeps the doctor away... but throwing it at him works better!
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Here: "You can't make an omelet without permanently deafening someone."
    • And later on: "You can't make an omelette without ruthlessly crushing dozens of eggs beneath your steel boot and then publicly disembowling the chickens that laid them as a warning to others."
  • xkcd offers two takes on a classic, one in this comic and one in its Alt Text.
    Father: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words—
    Child: —can make someone else feel happy or sad, which is literally the only thing that matters in this stupid world?
    Alt Text: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can make me think I deserved it.
  • Ozy and Millie has this take:
    Llewellyn: That which does not kill me, makes me stranger.
    Ozy: Are you sure you don't mean "stronger"?
    Llewellyn: Quite sure, yes.

     Web Original  
  • Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: CAPS LOCK IS CRUISE CONTROL FOR COOL, but don't forget to steer!
  • From Starship:
    Junior: We have a saying where I come from too; God save the Queen.
    Bug: Oh, good.
    Junior: Lucky for me, God Is Dead.
  • The Guild gives us this gem:
    Vork: Women. Can't live with them... they will not go out with me.
  • "Today's proverb", the Credits Gag at the end of each episode of Welcome to Night Vale are usually like this:
    What has four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three legs in the evening?note  I don't know, but I trapped it in my bedroom. Send help.

    If you love someone, set them free. Set them free now. This is the police, and we have you surrounded.
    • Also, a twist on a National Rifle Association motto: "Guns don't kill people,note  it's impossible to be killed by a gun, we are all invincible to bullets and it's a miracle".
    • One of their other spoofs goes, "Guns don't kill people, and if you say guns kill people one more time, I will shoot you with a gun and you will, coincidentally, die."
    • A staple for the Night Vale twitter feed. For example, "Home is where the heart is. You'll never guess where we hid it, though."

     Western Animation  
  • Rocket Power: Blood is thicker than water... But not nearly as refreshing.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Blood is thicker than water. But mango chutney is thicker than blood.
  • Fairly OddParents: "Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words leave emotional scars that never heal!"
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy:
    Ed: An elephant never forgets, but I forget what the elephant remembered.
  • Batman: Assault on Arkham: When Harley Quinn spots the Joker's cell and tries to shoot him:
    Joker: Women! Am I right, officer? Can't live with 'em... can't kick 'em out of a moving car.
  • Milo Murphy's Law: Milo does this fairly frequently, though frequently blames it on his dad
    Milo: Sticks and stones can damage your vital organs, so always wear body armor.
    Milo: It's like my dad always says, that which does not kill you, only makes you late for school.
  • Bojack Horseman: In the Show Within a Show Horsin' Around, the Horse's catchphrase is, "I've heard of [popular phrase], but this is ridiculous!" Due to Stylistic Suck, the "popular phrase" is sometimes just gibberish that no one has ever said before, like, "Lookie, lookie, who's got the cookie?" Even Bojack, who revers the show, will get confused when he revisits an episode.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: