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Rhetorical Request Blunder

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"Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?"
King Henry II of England, referring to Archbishop Thomas Becket. note 

People routinely say things they do not mean. Swearing to kill someone or wishing some horrible fate would befall them is usually a harmless way of venting steam.

Sometimes a character may think he is speaking to himself, but unbeknownst to him someone is listening, and ready to act on his wishes. Alternatively, a character in company may speak in hyperbole, thinking no sane person would actually do it. He could be fatally wrong on that point. Or there might be someone insane around. Either way, their careless statement has Gone Horribly Right.

Subtrope of Be Careful What You Wish For and Poor Communication Kills. Remember that asking for things you do not want to happen is Tempting Fate. See Literal Genie and Jackass Genie for deliberately misinterpreted requests. See I Was Just Joking for cases where someone else takes a hyperbolic statement seriously but doesn't act on it (usually because the speaker explains that he didn't really mean what he'd said).

Particularly moral characters may say It's All My Fault after the deed is done. Compare I Wished You Were Dead. May be carried out by a Psycho Supporter or Overzealous Underling. Blunt Metaphors Trauma or being Sarcasm-Blind might lead to this. See also Irrevocable Order. Not to be confused with Rhetorical Question Blunder.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Ah! My Goddess, there's a non-death related example in the beginning. Keiichi makes a wish that he didn't think would really be granted—to have a Goddess like Belldandy, whom he just met, stay with him forever.
  • Near the beginning of Monster, Dr. Tenma says in front of the apparently unconscious Johan that his corrupt superiors at the hospital "would be better off dead!" So Johan kills them.
    • In a later flashback, Wolf asks Johan "how he feels" after saving his life. Johan responds "you'll see" and spends the next 15 years methodically hunting down and killing every single person who knows who Wolf is, so he knows how Johan 'feels' about being isolated from the rest of humanity.
  • In Code Geass, after agreeing to make peace, Lelouch jokingly says that with his powers, he could tell Euphemia something like "Kill all the Japanese." Bit of bad timing on that one, as Lelouch lost control over his mind control powers at that exact moment.
  • Throughout the Haruhi Suzumiya series, Kyon continually wishes that he were living a normal life. In the fourth book (and in The Movie), Yuki provides just that. At least she's smart enough to give him an 'out' in case he doesn't like it.
  • In Heaven's Lost Property, the protagonist ends a bout of gratuitious wish fulfillment with the statement "Now all that's left is to take over the world!" in front of the Literal Genie Ikaros. The next morning, she has concluded that since no one would recognize him as sovereign, the most efficient way of granting his wish is to make everyone disappear. As in, every human in the world. And so she does. This is the first episode. (They get better.)
    • In the second episode, Tomoki starts shenanigans that leads to Sohara being unable to wear underwear. She beats him silly for it. When Ikaros shows up, Tomoki manages to croak "Panties..." She concludes that he wants panties, and makes every pair in the rear area fly off their owners and converge on Tomoki. This does not help at all.
  • In Dragon Ball GT, when Goku gatecrashes Pilaf's latest attempt to wish for world domination he inadvertantly wishes that Goku was still a little kid. ... While the wish granting dragon was listening.
  • Shizuo does this to some extent in Durarara!! when he jokingly promises to introduce Kururi and Mairu to his younger brother, a famous actor, if they ever manage to kill their older brother Izaya.
  • In Re:Zero, after Subaru and Emilia have a falling out for the former disobeying her orders, Subaru wishes something would happen for a chance to prove himself. Unfortunately for Subaru, the Witches Cult just happen to be near the vicinity, adding more to his Trauma Conga Line.
  • In One Piece, Sai suggests Baby 5 "go die" during their fight. As Baby 5 has a psychological need to please others, she promptly turns her arm into a gun and tries to blow her brains out. Fortunately, Sai stops her.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Ed Brubaker comic Sleeper (WildStorm), undercover agent Carver tells his comrades in the organization he's infiltrating that he'd love to have his ex-wife's new husband helpless in front of him...and to Carver's horror, helpful new guy "Pit Bull" makes this happen.
  • During the "Velocity 9" arc of The Flash, Vandal Savage explains the addictive effect of the Velocity 9 drug, saying that he just has to suggest one of the addicts kill another and he would do so. Then, an addict kills another and Savage coldly explains that he was being rhetorical.
    • Later, during the "Presidential Race" arc, when the mayor of Keystone hears that Pied Piper is planning on assassinating a presidential candidate, he orders the Flash to take the straightest way there to stop him. Since Wally is currently not very happy with the mayor, he interprets that by running straight through the mayor's office window.
  • In an example that's borderline subversion, an issue of Deadpool features the eponymous nut-case kidnapped by the X-Men after he attempted to kill an anti-mutant crusader on national television. Domino hears Cyclops wishing that someone would take Deadpool "out of the picture." Fearing that Wolverine will kill him, she releases Deadpool from captivity. Cue Wolverine telling her that he was just going to take Deadpool with him on a secret mission to China till things cool down... but now that he's on the loose, he might now have to kill him.
  • Suicide Squad had a shellshocked Rick Flag discover a Congressman was trying to blackmail the Squad into ensuring his re-election with the risk of exposure, so he set out to kill him. Amanda Waller gave Deadshot (who was not exactly stable at this point) the order to stop Flag from killing the Congressman by any means necessary. Deadshot did so — by killing the Congressman himself.
    • What Waller had never bothered mentioning that at the time, she was also in charge of Checkmate and had used that agency's resources to blackmail the Congressman in return.
  • This exchange from Ms. Marvel (2014) issue #12, because poor Kamala really didn't know who she was dealing with:
    Ms. Marvel: Okay. You really wanna help? Use your sparkly green power to keep this school from getting trashed by robots again.
    Loki: Ward the school? That isn't a terrible idea, actually... *he promptly does it*
    Ms. Marvel: Whoa. And I thought I was totally kidding...
  • PS238: Faced with a class president election between two Captain Patriotic-wannabees trying to out-patriotic each other in front of a (largely apathetic) student body, Evil Genius Zodon makes the sarcastic observation that the election has become a microcosm of US politics in that neither party is running someone people actually want to vote for. He then suggests that the only thing missing is a third-party write-in candidate with no chance of winning, which leads to Suzie taking him seriously and suggesting Tyler. Tyler ends up winning by a landslide once everyone else realizes he's on the ticket, to Zodon's annoyance.

    Comic Strips 
  • In this strip from Barney & Clyde, Pillsbury Pharmaceuticals' Sarcasm-Blind R&D team makes pill bottles more difficult to open in response to Barney's "Could we make it more difficult to open?"
  • In this strip from Doonesbury (a deliberate parody of the page quote), while he is serving as aide to Jesse Ventura during the latter's governorship of Minnesota, Uncle Duke interprets one of Ventura's rants about Garrison Keillor as an instruction to assassinate him:
    Duke: The governor wants me to take care of the problem.
    Honey: Um... are you sure, sir? What did he say exactly?
    Duke: He said, "Will no one rid me of this human hemorrhoid?"
    Honey: There're a lot of ways to interpret that, sir.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In the Brothers Grimm fairy tale "Hans My Hedgehog", a childless man says: "I wish I had a son, even if it was a hedgehog!" And in "Tom Thumb" a childless woman says "If there were just one, and even if it were terribly small, only the size of a thumb, I'd be satisfied."
  • Invoked in most tales about Till Eulenspiegel.

    Fan Works 
  • In chapter 15 of Make a Wish Harry asks for either something to kill his hangover headache or something to kill himself, he doesn't care which. A few minutes later, when the professor brings a drink that 'would kill a herd of elephants':
    "You do know I was being sarcastic about the whole killing myself thing right?" Harry asked.
    "Yes," the Professor nodded nervously. "Of course I did, I'll be right back with the potion. I just need to . . . take it out of the room for a few minutes before I give it to you."
  • Lilly the Genie in Three Wishes interprets "I wish I was the fastest pegasus in Equestria! Wait, wait! Scratch that!" as two wishes.
  • In one Touhou yonkoma by Finnish doujin artist setz, Shinmyoumaru Sukuna muses to Seija Kijin as they're lying down in the grass, looking at clouds, that it would be interesting to see an upside down tree. Cue Beat panel followed by this line:
  • In Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, after they realize that Quidditch points are added directly onto the House score, Harry and Hermione happily discuss (after a brief ...And That Would Be Wrong moment) killing the players. Along comes Snape... who blithely and sarcastically mentions what a surprise it is to hear two students discussing murder.
  • In Why Am I Crying?, Apple Bloom wishes on a shooting star for something bad to happen to her enemy Diamond Tiara. However, instead of something like a prank or bad luck, Diamond gets killed in a carriage accident, leading Apple Bloom to go on a massive guilt trip. Subverted when she finds out that Diamond died before the time she made the wish.
  • In Harry Potter and the Daft Morons Augusta uses this to try to excuse not stopping or reporting Algernon's attempts to scare Neville into using accidental magic.
    Frank: And did you give permission for that man, your brother, to do that?
    Augusta: N-no, but I think he may have thought I did when I expressed to him my disappointment Neville had not, at that time, expressed any accidental magic, at all.
  • Fate/Gamers Only: Jeanne Alter rhetorically asks someone to pour water on her while laughing at all of the destruction she's caused, only to get irate once Rikku actually picks up a bucket and dumps water onto her.
    Jeanne Alter: WHAT THE HELL?!
    Rikku: Hey, you were the one who asked someone to pour water on you.
  • The Miraculous Ladybug fic Mishaps and Misunderstandings has Adrien blow up at Nathalie over the amount of pressure his father is putting on him, which isn't helped by the fact that he keeps being woken up by akumas. "So if father is displeased by my work, well — tell him to make the nighttime akuma attacks stop, and maybe I'll actually be able to get enough sleep to do a decent job during photoshoots!" When talking to Plagg later, Adrien assumes that this outburst is likely just going to get him in more trouble: "They're going to get mad at me for being 'emotional' and blowing things out of proportion, I just know it. Emotional and also being unreasonable at the end there. Like, out of everything in the city that my father can actually control, making the night attacks stop isn't exactly one of them." But as it happens, his father is Hawkmoth, and Nathalie assumes that Adrien must have found this out and chosen to keep quiet, so when she tells Gabriel this, he does stop akumatizing people at night. Several weeks later, Nathalie discusses Adrien's schedule with him and unwittingly blows Gabriel's secret to him, getting them both arrested in a matter of hours.
  • In Vows III: Honour after Harry's encounter with Voldemort in the graveyard, he tells Draco he can burn the clothes Harry was wearing for all he cares. Draco promptly does so.
    Harry: Those were my favourite jeans! I didn't think you'd take me seriously!
  • The Snorkackic Trio:
    Umbridge: Two weeks ago, there was a meeting in Cornelius's office. Me, Cornelius and Amelia Bones were there. Cornelius ordered Amelia to arrest Harry Potter on some made-up charge, but she refused. 'Harry Potter has broken no laws, so I'll not arrest him,' she said, then she walked out. Cornelius looked up at the ceiling and said, 'Will no one rid me of this troublesome boy?' I decided right then to do what nobody else was willing to do, and kill that halfblood liar.
    Minister Fudge: I was speaking figuratively, you ugly bint. I didn't tell you to kill him!

    Films — Animation 
  • Trolls: When Poppy and Branch are camping out for the night and about to get some rest when this exchange occurs.
    Branch: Seriously, more singing?
    Poppy: Yes, seriously. Singing helps me relax. Maybe you ought to try it.
    Branch: I don't sing and I don't relax. This is the way I am and I like it. I also like a little silence!
    [The surrounding trolls and other woodland creatures start to sing Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence"]
  • Mulan has the main character saying "I never want to see a naked man again." Cue a stampede of naked men.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Carefree (1938), Tony Flagg hypnotizes Amanda Cooper to cure her of her (he thinks) mistaken infatuation for him. One of the suggestions he implants is "Dr. Flagg is a horrible monster. Men like him should be shot down like dogs." Later, a still-hypnotized Amanda gets hold of a skeet-shooting rifle and tries to act on that idea when she sees Tony. It's Played for Laughs.
  • Labyrinth: When Sarah mutters to her colicky infant brother, "I wish the goblins would come and take you away. Right now," she has no idea they are listening.
  • In National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Clark reacts to the news that he received a subscription to a Jelly-of-the-Month Club in lieu of a Christmas Bonus from his boss by ranting that he wished the boss was right there so he could chew him out. His cousin-in-law promptly jumps into his RV and kidnaps said boss.
  • In Throw Momma from the Train, Owen overhears Larry saying he wished his ex-wife were dead. He tries to kill said ex-wife so Larry will "owe" him the murder of Owen's mother. Turns out the wife survives, and Larry is not very good at murdering people.
  • In The 51st State, an unfortunate miscommunication occurs when DeSousa asks one of his assistants to "take care" of a nervous chemist. The assistant then goes into henchman mode, kills the chemist and stuffs him into the car boot, instead of following the intended meaning which was "look after him."
  • Lampshaded in Pulp Fiction as Vincent and Jules discuss Marsellus' instructions regarding his wife: "Take her out like..." [mimes shooting Mia in the head]. Beat. "No, man, take her out like, show her a good time..."
  • Subverted in the opening to American Beauty: it's actually just a Red Herring.
  • Hudson Hawk: Darwin Mayflower gives a pair of mooks a You Have Failed Me speech that ends with "We'll just have to kill you." His wife Minerva promptly shoots both of them, causing Darwin to protest, "God, Minerva, I was only joking!" Since they're the villains, though, he's not particularly upset about it.
  • In Oh God! You Devil, failed musician Bobby Sheldon, at the end of his rope following yet another boring, low-paying, dead-end gig, says aloud to himself, "I'd sell my soul to make it in this business." Unfortunately for him, the Devil has a habit of noticing when people say things like that.
  • In The Thief of Bagdad (1940), Prince Ahmad sees the princess in an All-Seeing Eye and discovers that she is being courted by the villain. Understandably upset by this, he says "Oh, I wish I were in Bagdad right now!" His sidekick, the eponymous thief Abu, is annoyed by Ahmad's angsting over the princess by this point, so he says "I wish you were!" Unfortunately, a Literal Genie is standing nearby, and whisks the prince away to Bagdad. Without Abu.
  • In the short film PMO, Canadian Prime Minister Marc Brancois, sick of an NDP backbencher speaking against the government's strip mining policy, says that someone should stab her in the neck. Junior minister Cathy Freeman promptly follows her to her car and does exactly that.
  • Absolutely Anything: Neil accidentally uses his powers several times before he realises he has them:
    • "Screw you!" Cue the guy in question feeling himself having sex with an invisible person.
    • "Oh that's easy, I'd have aliens wipe out class 10C." Cue the sound of an explosion.
  • A plot point in 12 Angry Men: The defendant was overheard yelling "I'll Kill You!!" to the victim, who later ended up stabbed to death. Rogue Juror #8 points out that this doesn't necessarily prove the defendant was the murderer, as anyone might say something like that in a fit of anger. To prove the point, Juror 3 later becomes so angry at 8 that he yells "I'll kill you!", to which 8 retorts, "You don’t really mean you’ll kill me, do you?"
  • In the live action Scooby-Doo: Shaggy and Scooby come across a buffet of hot dogs in a forbodding castle (ignoring the suspiciousness of that, of course).
    Shaggy: Wow! Look at this, Scoob! It's like a medieval Sizzler! Pinch me, I'm in heaven—OW! It's just an expression, Scoob!
    Scooby: Roh, right. Sorry.

  • Blue Moon: Anita angrily says she wants a woman's "head in basket." She is shocked and horrified when it is delivered. In this case, the woman was going to be executed regardless; Anita just... got the head.
  • Merry Gentry: Gentry is more Genre Savvy, and subverts this by always phrasing herself carefully around the Fey. Unfortunately, the Sithen appears to read and obey her thoughts.
  • In the TED Klein story Nadelman's God, Nadelman, a guy who once wrote a poem about a vengeful, evil god gets an obsessive fan who tries to make a trash golem as in the poem. On receiving one stalking call too many, Nadelman yells "I wish you and your mother were out of my life!" down the phone. Unfortunately, it's the golem who's on the line and it puts the creepy fan and his mother out of everyone's life.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • It is eventually revealed that the assassination attempt on Bran is this. King Robert mentioned how it would be better if Bran were simply put out of his misery after his injury. Prince Joffrey, having heard this, steals one of his father's knives and commissions a killer to do the deed.
  • In the Discworld novel A Hat Full of Sky, Tiffany says that the Nac Mac Feegle can be like this.
    She had learned to be careful not to wish for anything that might be achievable by some small, determined, strong, fearless, and fast men who were also not above giving someone a good kicking if they felt like it.
  • The Bible:
    • As recorded in 2nd Samuel chapter 23 (and also in 1st Chronicles chapter 11), David was in the stronghold in the cave of Adullam while the Philistine garrison was in Bethlehem, and remarks apparently to himself that he misses drinking water from his hometown well. In this case the desire is genuine but he doesn't expect it to actually happen. But one of his best warriors overheard, gathered a few other mighty men together, and broke through enemy lines to bring back Bethlehem well water, and the King was appalled that anyone would actually risk his life for that.
    • God would occasionally invoke this when He wanted to teach His people a lesson. Such as the time the Israelites were too frightened to conquer Canaan, even with God on their side, and declared that they wished they'd died in the desert rather than face this battle. So God led them in circles in the desert until every man who had said that had actually died in the desert.
  • Invoked in Sailor Nothing. The Alpha Bitch Ami has been a thorn in the side for the heroes for all of the story, with pretty much all of them having some sort of grudge against her. Thus, in order to show the heroes just what it means to hate somebody, Argon decides to give them what they want, or thought they want until they actually saw what it entailed.
    Argon: You never liked this one, am I correct? I bet you even wished something horrible would happen to her. Something horrible has happened to her. Do you feel happy now? Has justice been served? I'd call it a fitting punishment... but it's not. Nobody deserves this, no matter how 'bad' they are. That's what makes the act evil. But I bet you wished this evil upon her, a fellow human being.
  • In The Eyes of Kid Midas, the protagonist, Kevin Midas, snaps at a bully, telling him to "Go to Hell!" Unfortunately, Kevin forgets that he's wearing his Reality Warping sunglasses, and...oops.
  • Dillon in the Star Shards Chronicles, has gathered a small army of followers/worshippers. While in the midst of a Heroic BSoD, he is asked if there is anything he wants. Lost in memories of his childhood, he offhandedly asks for Roller Blades. To his horror, his followers later return with several pairs, as they were unaware of his shoe size.
  • In Mad Ship, after being constantly mistreated by Kyle, his rather terrible father, for a book and a half, Wintrow cries out in anguish to the pirate Kennit that he wished someone would make his father just disappear. He's smart enough to make it clear that he specifically does not want his father dead, just gone. Still, he didn't actually want Kennit to drag Kyle out of bed in the middle of the night a few days later and grant his wish, imprisoning Kyle in a secret dungeon few people even know exists, nor is he pleased to discover his father missing.
  • Faking one of these and then killing the underling "responsible" is suggested as a way of eliminating political enemies in The Prince. It's one of the few strategies in the book with a "seriously, don't really do this" disclaimer.
  • In one The Saint story, Simon tells Heroic Comedic Sociopath "Hoppy" Uniatz to "get rid of" a couple of defeated villains, meaning just "take them away from here and drop them somewhere." Hoppy interprets "get rid of" euphemistically, shoots them, and dumps their corpses in the English Channel. When Simon finds out about this, he isn't particularly bothered.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of Blackadder, Richard IV was telling the story of Henry II and Thomas Becket to his wife to contrast the situation there with how happy he is with the current Archbishop, and a couple of Mooks overheard and decided to "help." The two of them sitting at opposite ends of a very long table contributed to the misunderstanding. He initially said "Never again will I have to say "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest" (he had in fact had several of the previous archbishops murdered), but had to repeat the last bit. Naturally, the priest they thought he wanted dead was none other than the eponymous character.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, vengeance demons thrive around this sort of thing, taking it as literally and gorily as possible. For example: a girl, humiliated by her boyfriend in front of his fraternity brothers, yells, "I wish you would all know what it's like to have your heart ripped out!" Anya, trying to get back in her boss's good graces, pops in and relieves everyone but the girl of their hearts. Messily.
  • In True Blood, when Tara tells Maryanne to leave her and Eggs out of the shenanigans, she retorts that Tara was the one who summoned her. The exorcism that Tara thought was a fake turned out to be a real...maenad-summoning spell? Something along those lines, anyway.
  • In Lost, Juliet is being recruited by the Others, but says she couldn't possibly join unless her ex-husband "gets hit by a bus." She meant it rhetorically. They, on the other hand, hit him with a bus.
  • Inverted with the That Mitchell and Webb Look sketch that has a villain insisting on using Deadly Euphemisms in a way that his staff finds "needlessly ambiguous."
    Webb: We spent nine months hoping that Professor Rickson would "meet with an accident" before Leslie made it clear it was an accident we were supposed to make happen!
  • Frasier:
    • Frasier once makes an offhand reference to Bebe that a part of him hopes that Roz won't get a radio show slot she's going for so that she can still be his producer. Bebe takes this as a request for her to sabotage Roz's audition (maintaining the belief that he had asked for it even while he insists he didn't). Roz doesn't take his slip-up well.
      Frasier: How was I to know how she'd react?
      Roz: She's Bebe! If you had said you liked my eyes, they would have been on your desk tomorrow in a Tiffany box!
    • Another episode has Frasier and Niles attempt to run a restaurant. After the kitchen staff flees, they attempt to do the cooking themselves. The night's special is eels and Niles is unsure how to kill them. Frasier sarcastically suggests throwing a toaster into the tank. He then goes out to talk to their guests. Just after one asks how the eels are coming, the lights flicker. Frasier replies "He's frying them now."
  • One episode of Deadly Women on Investigation Discovery focused on Penny Boudreau, who was constantly fighting with her daughter. Her live-in boyfriend was aggravated by the constant conflict, and told her, "Either she goes, or I go." She interpreted this as a demand to kill her daughter, and subsequently strangled her to death. Needless to say, her boyfriend was horrified when he learned what she'd done.
  • The X-Files: In the Cold Open of "Je Souhaite", Anson Stokes, quite unaware that he's rolled up a Literal Genie, wishes that his boss Mr Gilmore shut up. Indeed, he does, and ends up with no lips and a sealed up mouth. Poor Mr Gilmore!
  • Horrible Histories had a sketch involving Henry II explaining what had happened to Thomas Beckett (see Real Life section below), while still being followed by the two "idiot knights" responsible for the death. When the interviewer keeps asking questions, he rhetorically asks if no one will rid him of this troublesome interviewer. The two idiot knights immediately start trying to kill the interviewer.
  • An episode of History Bites was based around the investigation into the murder of Thomas Beckett, done in the style of Law & Order. The investigators learn from Henry II that he had asked that rhetorical question and some nearby knights interpreted it as a royal command.
  • In the 2014 Cosmos there is a non-murderous version in "The Electric Boy." After fooling around with electromagnetism but not able to make it do anything useful, Sir Humphry Davy jokingly tells his assistant Michael Faraday to see if he can make anything of it, once he's done tidying up. Michael Faraday ends up making an electric motor of it. He takes Davy's place as the toast of the scientific community; Davy is not happy.
  • Bones: This usually happens when the literal-to-a-T Temperance Brennan interprets rhetoric as requests. But one memorable time it happens to her:
    Avalon: I'm sensin' a great struggle in this room.
    Brennan: Yes, the blood evidence told us that, without having to "sense" anything.
    Avalon: It was a man who wanted to do her harm!
    Brennan: If you can tell us that man's name I'll be impressed.
    Avalon: Anthony Taylor.
    Brennan: [impressed]
  • In one episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Mike is placed on trial for intergalactic genocide. He is offered his choice of prosecutors: King Solomon, Hildegard of Bingen, Thomas Jefferson, or Pearl Forrester. Mike rolls his eyes and says, "Oh yeah, I'm gonna choose Pearl Forrester--" Unfortunately for Mike, the judge is Sarcasm-Blind, and Pearl is only too happy to be appointed his prosecutor.
  • In an episode of Michael Hayes, a radical right-wing radio talk show host (who rails on the airwaves about government corruption) tries to use this as a defense when one of his listeners murders an ATF agent, and U.S. Attorney Hayes brings the host up on charges for soliciting the murder. His defense is destroyed when Hayes proves not only that he knew the murderer, but met with him personally just a day before the deed was done.
  • In Preacher (2016), Jesse runs afoul of this several times after receiving the Voice, which compels people to obey him. For example, he tells a parishioner to "be brave and open his heart" when talking to his overbearing mother. Cue the parishioner taking a knife to his chest in the middle of a nursing home. He also accidentally sends Eugene to Hell in a moment of anger.
  • Played for laughs in The Amanda Show's skit Meet the Literals, which has the visiting family saying "you Literals kill us!" after watching all the shenanigans that ensue from them taking things literally. The Literals then pick up weapons and move towards the other family, and the skit ends.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place: Justin, upon meeting Rosie.
    Justin: I feeling like this is all a dream like someone should pinch me...AWWWW NELVIS!!!!

  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's song "Albuquerque":
    OK, like, one time, I was out in the parking lot tryin' to remove my excess earwax with a golf pencil, when I see this guy Marty tryin' to carry a big ol' sofa up the stairs all by himself! So I, I say to him, I say "Hey, you want me to help you with that?" And Marty, he just rolls his eyes and goes "Noooo, I want you to cut off my arms and legs with a chainsaw!"

    So I did.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Forgotten Realms has a village called Maskyr's Eye. Back when humans were new in that part of the world, a human mage wanted a quiet place for his tower and liked one vale. The territory did belong to a dwarven kingdom, so he got audience and asked Tuir "Stonebeard" (called so for grim stoicism — for a dwarf). The king didn't trust humans or powerful mages at all, and thus said "on one condition only: pluck thy right eye and give it to me here and now." He intended it as a somewhat poetical refusal and didn't expect anyone would really do such a thing.

  • Played with in the play Fortinbras, a faux-sequel to Hamlet. The title character, when questioned on the legitimacy of him being in charge, orders two very stupid guards to bring him "the head of the Electors" meaning "chief." One of the more Genre Savvy characters is understandably nervous, especially when the guards bring Fortinbras a round object in a sack, which he interprets as an unsolicited melon. Turns out "it really is a melon!"
  • In William Shakespeare's King John the title character tries to claim he's in this situation when the peers react badly to the (supposed) death of Arthur note  on John's orders — although when he gives those orders he is obviously worried his hints aren't blatant enough.
  • In Richard II, Bolingbroke (a.k.a. Henry IV) says, "Have I no friend will rid me of this living fear?" and Exton interprets this as an order to kill the already defeated King Richard. Henry develops a serious Guilt Complex about this and tries to atone by launching a crusade.
  • In The Norman Conquests by Alan Ayckbourn, Ruth is amazed at the monumental emotional denseness of Tom, a veterinarian with No Social Skills. She tells him she would like to strip off all her clothes, dance naked on the grass, and then hurl him down and make love to him, just to see his reaction. Tom takes this quite literally and later solemnly informs his girlfriend Annie that Ruth has been harboring a secret passion for him.
  • In The Gift, by T.J. Silverio, the human who is lucky enough to find the Genie in the Green Soda bottle agonizes over his one wish to the point where he prompts the increasingly impatient Genie into yelling at him and inadvertently wastes his one wish on the utterance "I wish you'd stop yelling at me!"

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 
  • Schlock Mercenary has this example.
    Tailor Bot: If you had a big bag rolled up inside you, how quickly could you climb inside it?
  • Nerf NOW!! warns us about dangers of overusing metaphorical arguments.
  • This Darths & Droids strip narrowly avoids this one. (The comments note that, as a player, one should be very careful when giving orders to NPC underlings, as a DM might enjoy invoking this trope on your orders.)
  • Sequential Art got a strange case. It's not like Pip didn't mean it, but bet he didn't mean that. Sometimes it's hard to remember crazy squirrels are also parts of a Mad Scientist hivemind.
  • In Homestuck, after Retconjuration happens, Vriska is heading up a tactical briefing. After everyone but Karkat is given their mission, Karkat sarcastically suggests that she should first give a task to Jaspersprite, a talking cat-sprite without a huge amount going on upstairs. Vriska immediately does so, tasking Jaspersprite with eating a lot of tuna.

    Web Videos 
  • Rabbit
    Rabbit: Alright… Well… This was traumatizing. Let me know if you want me to come back and cut your ears off.
  • Honest Trailers did this in their Dark Souls trailer, poking fun at the Challenge Gamers the series tends to attract.
    Epic Voice Guy: [You beat the game?] Well, good for you! Let's see you beat it with a Rock Band controller, then we'll talk!
    [cut to a video clip of a player doing exactly that]
    Epic Voice Guy: Okay, um... wow.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Bet", Bobert has to do whatever Gumball says after losing a bet. Unfortunately, every comment Gumball makes about anyone who slights him gets interpreted by Bobert as an order to attack.
  • In the American Dad! episode "Moon Over Isla Island", Roger has been duped into disguising himself and standing in for the dictator of an island nation, mistakenly thinking he's simply in costume and the Presidental palace he is staying in is simply a 5-star hotel. When he is served dinner he doesn't like, he describes in detail how the chef should be mutilated and killed, and unbeknownst to him his "order" is carried out.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Painted Lady", the Gaang travel to a floating village in a bog polluted by the nearby Fire Nation factory. The Gaang are trying to keep a low profile and can't focus too much on time on helping the locals either due to having their own problems to deal with, much to Katara's chagrin. When Katara complains about it, Sokka sarcastically says that they could just blow up the factory and everything would be better. Later, when Aang discovers that Katara has been helping the locals as the Painted Lady, Aang decides to help her and suggests they do Sokka's idea. It works, but the soldiers decide to attack the village in retaliation. When Sokka finds out they took him seriously, he's exasperated by their inability to take his sarcasm as it is.
  • In the Bob's Burgers episode "Sacred Couch", Bob and Louise want to get rid of a smelly old sofa Linda loves, while the other two Belcher children support their mother. Bob casually tells Louise that he's sure something will happen to the couch because accidents happen. Louise, of course, takes this as an invitation to sabotage the couch.
  • On Danny Phantom, a wish-granting ghost often invokes this trope.
  • One episode of The Fairly OddParents! had Gary and Betty almost being eaten by alligators. Upon escaping, Gary asked for a song (Gary and Betty like singing) about not being eaten by alligators. Betty started playing one at her guitar until he explained he was being sarcastic.
  • On an episode of Family Guy, Peter becomes friends with a mobster, who later misinterprets a joke about killing his wife. He then promptly calls a hit on Lois.
  • In Justice League, this is the downfall of the ancient Thanagarians of whom Hawkgirl and Hawkman are supposed to be the reincarnations of: upon discovering his wife's infidelity with John Stewart's counterpart, Katar Hol hyperbolizes that he wishes they were dead. When the vizier takes this as a literal order and carries it out, Katar commits suicide in despair.
  • Played for Laughs in an episode of King of the Hill. Dale has his friend Octavio waylay Bloomers, a magician at the Strickland Family Fun Days so that John Redcorn can perform instead. Dale tells Octavio to "make him disappear": Octavio reacts in horror, thinking Dale wants him to kill Bloomers. Dale clarifies, then briefly considers the idea himself.
  • Ready Jet Go!:
    • In "Space Junk", Sean is flying outside the saucer, collecting garbage, with a guy named Zucchini. He then asks Sunspot to pinch him, which he does.
    • This also happens in "Whole Lotta Shakin'", "Zerk Visits Earth", and in "Astronaut Ellen Ochoa".
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Homerpalooza", Homer becomes a carnival freak who withstands cannonballs. But he gets urged by a veterinarian to stop, otherwise it will kill him.
      Homer: Die? Well, dying doesn't scare me, because dying would be a stone groove! Got any messages for Jimi Hendrix?
      Veternarian: Yes: "Pick up your puppy."
      (pan down to an ancient dog called Rover Hendrix)
    • A downplayed version is seen in the episode "Itchy and Scratchy Land," when Marge goes to pick up Bart and Homer who are being detained for harassing a guy in an Itchy costume:
      Marge: I'm so embarrassed, I wish there was a hole I could just crawl into and die.
      Guard 1: Okay, throw her in the hole.
      Marge: Please, it was just a figure of speech!
      (They let her go)
    • In "Hurricane Neddy", Ned Flanders is amazed when he sees that Springfielders rebuilt his home, which had been destroyed during a hurricane.
      Ned: I don't know how I can possibly repay you! But if any of you ever need a favor, just look for the happiest man in Springfield!
      (everybody turns to a happy-looking man)
      Happiest Man In Springfield: No, no! Not me, friends, he's talking about himself! But thanks for looking!
  • Spongebob Squarepants:
    • Played straight in the episode "Squilliam Returns".
      Squidward: Pinch me, I must be dreaming... ow!
      Spongebob: If you need anything else, just ask.
    • Subverted in "Krusty Dogs":
      Spongebob: I must be dreaming! Pinch me, Squidward!
      Squidward: Pinch yourself, you ninny.
  • In Wander over Yonder, an interdimensional being who appears only once every thousand years is about to grant Lord Hater one wish. Just as Hater is about to wish to be ruler of the whole universe, Wander comes along and starts taking photos, yammering to Hater and generally being a nuisance. Hater finally has enough and blurts out "I wish you would leave me alone for five seconds!" And of course, the interdimensional being takes that as his one wish.
  • The Warner Bros. cartoon "The Hardships of Miles Standish" has an elderly gentleman telling the story of Miles' courtship of Priscilla in pilgrim days to his grandson. He tops it with "If that ain't the truth, I hope I get struck by lightning!" He does, and as he's singed, clinging to a beam from the roof, he turns to us and says "Well, anyway, that's the way I heard it!" (which in turn is a Shout-Out to the then-popular radio sitcom Fibber McGee and Molly where, Once per Episode, a character called the "Old Timer" would show up, with his Catchphrase being "That's not the way I heard it!")

    Real Life 
  • The apocryphal story of Napoléon Bonaparte sneezing as he was reviewing some prisoners and saying "tuez les tous" (kill them all) which is somewhat close to the sound one actually makes when sneezing (atchoo) and was possibly interrupted mid-sentence giving something like "tu es...atchoo!" (you are atchoo!). The more well-known story (albeit also totally apocryphal) goes like this: some zealous soldier heard a flu-ridden Napoleon saying "Ma sacrée toux!" (My bloody cough!) and interpreted it as the homophone "Massacrez tout!" (Slaughter everything!).note 
  • The Trope Codifier is, of course, a certain notorious incident in the history of English Church-State relations in the twelfth century. A raging-drunk Henry II was frustrated with Archbishop Thomas Becket, his former friend, and said something like (according to popular tradition) "Will no one rid me of this troublesome [or turbulent] priest?" or (according to a contemporary biographer) "What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?" A couple of mooks decided to take care of it themselves, by killing Becket. Henry II took it badly, as did many in England. The reason for Henry's frustration, namely Becket defying the wishes of the king who had nominated him, note  had alienated many who already regarded Henry as an outsider (neither an Englishman or even a Norman, but an Angevin) who was subverting local custom and concentrating too much power in the central government. Becket's personal popularity and the fact that he was discovered to be wearing a hairshirt under his clothing (a rather serious act of asceticism, as hairshirts are about as comfortable as a shirt made of sandpaper; moreover, while many holy men who wore hairshirts used them as a point of pride, Becket had never mentioned this to anyone) only added to the outrage that the national leader of the Church had been savagely and shamelessly hacked to death in front of a church altar; Henry had to perform public penance over the issue and Becket rapidly became St. Thomas.
  • It's a common claim of Adolf Hitler apologists that The Holocaust was this. As in, his subordinates, having read Mein Kampf and knowing how he felt about Jews, decided it would be a nice favor to him if they rounded up and killed all the Jews in Europe, while he was none the wiser. The idea comes from the book Hitler's War, which not only had its own counter-book, but after a libel suit in court, said counter-book was proven true in a court of law. While Hitler was hardly oblivious, the Holocaust being intended as a favor to him was real enough, which gives the lie to so very many of the lower-level Nazis' later claims that they were Just Following Orders. Hitler didn't give his underlings a lot of specific orders, and he didn't have to. His officers mostly just instructed their minions to "work toward Hitler", i.e., do whatever they thought he would want them to do for him. That the Holocaust proved to be their very accurate assessment of what he wanted absolves neither him nor them of their atrocities.
  • Dictators who were also charismatic and well-remembered by the people frequently get this treatment; this is particularly true of Third-World post-independence leaders regarded as "Father of the Nation." For instance, many Egyptians believe that the well-documented torture of political prisoners in Gamal Abdel Nasser's regime must have been the result of a misinterpreted order or some such, rather than being led and organized by Abdel Nasser himself. Many other Egyptians point out that if that were true, he would still be to blame—not for being a cruel tyrant, but for being an idiot.
  • This has been invoked in several unsolved assassinations in ex-USSR. In each case some high-ranking official later testified that he had said that something should be done about this journalist to make him shut up, but he didn't mean murder.
    • Dmitry Kholodov in Russia in 1995. Either killed by orders of the defence minister of Russia or to frame the defence minister.
    • Georgiy Gongadze in Ukraine in 2000. The president of Ukraine wanted him silenced.
  • In the December 2004 issue of Hammer magazine, Phil Anselmo ranted against former bandmate Dimebag Darrell, saying he should be "beaten severely." A week after the issue came out, a fan took matters into his own hands — shooting Dime four times in the head at point-blank range, and killing three other people who tried to stop him.
  • A relatively benign (and likely invoked on Al's part) example happened in The '80s around the time Madonna and "Weird Al" Yankovic rose to fame. During an interview with the former, she jokingly asked when Al was going to do "Like a Surgeon" (a parody of her song "Like a Virgin"). Guess what appeared on Al's next album.

Alternative Title(s): That Wasnt An Order


Five times fast

Helen says, "Try saying *that* five times fast!" ... so Martha gives it a go.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

Main / RhetoricalRequestBlunder

Media sources: