Sometimes when a show is trying to come up with a title for an episode, they have to take short-cuts, such as Rule of Funny, settling for a stock title, or just generally using an old pop-culture reference to create some sort of pun. This trope is what happens when a show, usually a Long Runner, ends up later coming up with a High Concept that actually works much better with the earlier title of a previous episode.
This is very common in shows that use, or gradually adapt to, a World of Weirdness setting. While in the earlier episode the title may have been a metaphor for what was actually going on, say, "Shoot the Moon" being about a character trying to win a game via Springtime for Hitler, the later episode will involve the characters actually building a ray gun and trying to shoot the Moon with it.
Use of this trope is almost always accidental, and as is such, it functions mainly as an oddity while the viewers wonder why, in retrospect, the writers used the naming conventions they did.
Those curious about inner wiki working like renames will find that a lot of them are motivated by this trope. A well-meaning troper will name a trope after an abstract concept, and several months later there will be inaccurate Pot Holes everywhere assuming that the trope means something completely different. This is a large part of the reason why wiki policy encourages new tropes to have more easily understood names.
- Prolific fanfic writer Stefan Gagne first wrote Pulp Fanfiction, a fanfic which borrowed a single scene from Pulp Fiction and then goes on to parody Ranma 1/2 Fan Fiction in general. Then he had the brilliant idea for Pulp Fiction using the Ranma 1/2 characters and had to title this one Quentin Tarantino's Ranma 1/2 to avoid confusion with his earlier fanfic.
Film - Live Action
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day is the film where the protagonists stop Judgment Day from happening. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is the one where it happens anyway.
- Doctor Who: Series 1 does this deliberately. Episode 7 is entitled "The Long Game", which only vaguely describes the events of the episode. The Doctor finally confronts the villain playing a "long game" in episode 12, "Bad Wolf", and the events of episode 7 turn out to have been part of the plan.
- On Sports Night:
- The episode entitled "Kafelnikov" is the episode before the one where Dan can't pronounce Yevgeny Kafelnikov's name. This could be considered Fridge Brilliance, since "Kafelnikov" is the episode in which we get the reason why Dan can't say Yevgeny Kafelnikov's name in the following episode.
- Also notable is "How Are Things in Glocca Morra", which was an episode a whole season before the song was a B-plot. However, that B-plot was originally intended to be a part of "How Are Things in Glocca Morra" before Real Life Rewrote the Plot.
- "Point of No Return" would have made a better title for the Stargate SG-1 episode "Failsafe", but they already used it. And "Failsafe" is what "Tangent" should have been called.
- The original-series Star Trek episode "The Children Shall Lead" makes repeated thematic reference to the "enemy within". Too bad "The Enemy Within" was already the title of an episode two seasons earlier...
- Smallville does this several times.
- The episode "Mercy" from Season 5, roughly two-and-a-half years before character Tess Mercer was introduced. She both occasionally goes by the nickname "Mercy" and is based in part on Mercy Graves.
- Clark meets at least three separate people who either have immortality, or some form of longevity, including The Ageless, Born-Again Immortality, and Complete Immortality. By the time the last two appeared, the episode title "Ageless" had already been used, ironically because the guest character suffered from Rapid Aging.
- Clark, Lex, and Lana all have near death experiences during the shows time, and all of them come following the episode "Hereafter".
- The third album by The Doors bore the title Waiting for the Sun, but the song by that name wasn't released until two albums later, on Morrison Hotel.
- Ditto Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy, whose title track had to be held until their next release, Physical Graffiti.
- Ditto Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Brain Salad Surgery, recorded for the album of the same name in 1973, but was only released as part of an album in 1977, in Works Volume 2.
- Also the Burzum album Det som engang var: the song by that name didn't appear until the next album Hvis lyset tar oss.
- Flogging Molly. Their first album was the live compilation Alive Behind the Green Door, which featured a song named "Swagger". Their next release was the studio album named Swagger... which for some reason did not include the song "Swagger". Their next studio album was Drunken Lullabies, which did include the song "Swagger". It's like they were trying to be confusing.
- Queen's Sheer Heart Attack was released in 1974, but the song by that name wasn't released until 1977, on News of the World.
- Two Captain Beefheart albums fell prey to this problem:
- "Safe As Milk", was written in 1966 though never considered for the album of the same name, instead eing recorded for "Strictly Personal" the following year.
- Shiny Beast takes its title from a line on "Dirty Blue Gene", which was held over for the next release "Doc At The Radar Station".
- Meat Puppets' Golden Lies was originally going to have a Title Track, but it was ultimately left off the album... Five years later, Curt Kirkwood recorded a version of the song for his solo album Snow.
- Camper Van Beethoven's box set Cigarettes And Carrot Juice was actually named for a lyric from "Big Dipper" by David Lowery's other band, Cracker... But years later the Camper Van Beethoven song "Long Plastic Hallway" would also mention "cigarettes and carrot juice" in its lyrics.
- The first album by Jets To Brazil was titled Orange Rhyming Dictionary. The song the album was named for appeared two years later on the followup album, Four Cornered Night
- White Zombie's self-released debut was called Soul-Crusher. Four years and a shift in genre from Noise Rock to Groove Metal later, their major label debut La Sexorcisto included a song called "Soul-Crusher".
- Beck has an album titled Midnite Vultures, but the song of that name appeared as a B-Side a year later. Interestingly, "Midnite Vultures" wasn't even written until after the album of the same name was finished - Beck wrote it specifically to be a b-side and named it after the album just because he couldn't think of a title.
- Former guitarist/vocalist for Jellyfish and later The Grays, Jason Falkner's debut solo album was 1996's Jason Falkner Presents Author Unknown. The song "Author Unknown" was released on his next album, 1999's Can You Still Feel?.
- In 2001, punk rock cover band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes put out a compilation EP called Turn Japanese. Many of their other albums have titles with thematic references to the content (for instance Love Their Country has them doing covers of country songs), but this time the title was chosen simply because it was released by Japan-based record label Pizza Of Death. Ten years later, they actually did put out an EP featuring covers of songs written in Japanese, and called it Sing In Japanese.
- The second album by Concrete Blonde was 1989's Free. Their song of that title was not released until their 1994 rarities collection Still in Hollywood.
- Marcy Playground's Shapeshifter was released in 1999, but the title track was left off the album... It wasn't released until 2012, when it appeared on the B-Side/rarity compilation Lunch, Recess & Detention.
- All, who are basically Descendents without usual lead vocalist Milo Aukerman, released an album called Mass Nerder in 1998. In 2004, the Descendents album Cool to Be You included a song of that name. Unlike a lot of such cases, "Mass Nerder" was apparently a new song, not an outtake left off of the album of the same name: The songwriting is credited entirely to Milo Aukerman, who didn't have any involvement in writing the All album.
- The title track of Blind Melon's Soup was left off the album: A live version was released a year before the album came out (on the Woodstock 94 compilation), but the studio version was on Nico the year after.
- The title track for The Mars Volta's second album, Frances the Mute, was left off the album due to time constraints, only to later be released as a B-side on the single release of "The Widow", a track from Frances. Fans nonetheless group it with the album, often listening to it as an opener before the rest of the album.
- Jimmy Urine released a solo album titled Mindless Self Indulgence, a few years before starting the band Mindless Self Indulgence.
- Sean O'Hagan, formerly of Microdisney, put out a solo album named High Llamas (featuring cover art of llamas in a hot air balloon). Shortly after, he started a band named The High Llamas.
- Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition introduced a background called Secret Identity for playing non-human Player Characters in disguise as humans in an early Adventurers League supplement. The later adventure Descent Into Avernus added a background for playing a more traditional masked superhero/supervillain with a Secret Identity, but because that title had already been used, it was called Faceless instead.
- Looking at the title of Good Is Dumb, most people would probably assume it's something like the quote from Spaceballs — a character decides to trust a villain, not for any particular reason, but because they're a good guy who's holding the Idiot Ball. For an extremely long time, this trope was the primary title of Redemption Demotion, which had nothing to do with that idea. Regrettably, we still don't have a proper Good Is Dumb article — it's an index.
- Female Gaze sounds like the Distaff Counterpart of Male Gaze. Actually, for some time it was the trope now known as Eating the Eye Candy, which didn't deal with Gaze theory at all, instead relating to character reactions.
- The Simpsons had a season 1 episode named "Homer's Odyssey" where he crusaded for more stringent safety regulation. It would still be several more seasons before they made the episode "Lemon Of Troy" that actually mirrored the plot of The Odyssey (well, The Iliad)... and another stretch of years before they did it again with a literal re-enactment with Simpsons characters acting parts from the story of the Odyssey. Lampshaded at one point. When he reads the title "Homer's Odyssey", he wonders if its about one of his previous adventures (wrong one, but still). Specifically, he wonders if it is about that time he rented a Honda Odyssey minivan.
- The South Park episode "How To Eat With Your Butt" revolves around a couple who have butts where their faces should be; at one point we do see them eating, but it's a rather minor gag. The later episode "Red Hot Catholic Love", though, has its whole B-plot about people eating through their butts (and subsequently defecating from their mouths).