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Noodle Implements / Literature

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Noodle Implements in literature.

  • An anecdote book tells about a great swashbuckling guy. The company longs to hear his adventures, but he refuses: "Ladies are present here, and these stories are not for ladies' ears!" So one guy proposes he should censor out the naughty bits. He's still squirming: "Well, in that case maybe ONE of the stories could be told, but probably the only thing what remains of it is: HA! A BOOT!"
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  • CGP, a company that writes school revision guides, are known among other things for making the books more interesting by interspersing the revision work with breezy language, original thought and naff jokes (so, a bit like us). One footnote in an English Literature guide says 'Always read the question carefully. If only I'd followed that particular advice myself - there might never have been that unfortunate incident with the policeman and the chocolate orange. Still, we live and learn.'

  • In Maximum Ride's Saving The World and Other Extreme Sports, Max and the others (minus Angel and Total) try to come up with a plan to escape The School to avoid being killed off. Bubbles, zebras, and beef jerky end up all on the list of another plan, even though Iggy takes them and morphs them into an insane plan.
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  • According to a Babylon 5 Expanded Universe novel, part of Ranger training involves telling a funny story to the other trainees. Catherine Sakai told a story about an incident from her time attending the EarthForce academy involving a hated drill instructor, a visiting senator, an exotic dancer, a keg of beer, the academy's goat mascot, and several mistaken identities. No further details are provided, except that her story was funnier than the teacher's.
  • Edward Gorey wrote what must be the apogee of this trope, an illustrated short story called The Curious Sofa: a pornographic work, in which, depending on your point of view, absolutely nothing out of the ordinary happens until the very end, or a group of people spend the most perverted week imaginable. "Colonel Gilbert and his wife, Louise, came in after dinner; both of them had wooden legs, with which they could do all sort of entertaining tricks." "They called up to Alice, who, having put on an ingeniously constructed bathing slip, met them in the pool." "Later, Reginald, another remarkably well-set-up young man from the village, provided everyone with the most astonishing little device." And the ending: As soon as everybody had crowded into the room, Sir Egbert fastened shut the door, and started up the machinery inside the sofa. When Alice saw what was about to happen, she began to scream uncontrollably.....
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  • In the second book of The Darksword Trilogy, Simkin whispers to the emperor of Merilon. The words "Contessa", "Chafing dish" and "Discovered naked" are audible to those around. The emperor surprises everyone by proving he can indeed laugh.
  • Dave Barry's Guide to Marriage and/or Sex:
    Q. Listen, I, ummm, I have this kind of weird sexual hangup, which is that I, ummmmm... this is very embarrassing...
    A. Go ahead! Say it! Don't be ashamed! That's what we're here for! To help!
    Q. Okay, but I want to whisper it. (whisper whisper whisper)
    A. My God! Really?
    Q. Um, yes.
    A. The Joint Chiefs of Staff?
    Q. Well, yes.
    A. How do you get the hamsters into the accordion?
    • Also from Dave's columns; "how to have some real "old-fashioned" Halloween fun! Start by gathering these materials: a commercial air compressor, an acetylene torch, a marine flare gun and 200 pounds of boiled pig brains. Next, select a neighbor who ..."
  • Discworld:
    • The Truth spoofs seven shades of green out of Pulp Fiction.
      ..."An' then... then I'm gonna get medieval on his arse."
      There were more pressing problems, but this one intrigued Mr Pin.
      "How, exactly?" he said.
      "I thought maybe a maypole," said Mr Tulip reflectively. "An' then a display of country dancing, land tillage under the three-field system, several plagues and, if my —ing hand ain't too tired, the invention of the —ing horse collar."
      "Sounds good," said Mr Pin.
    • Pratchett had a lot of fun with this one in The Science of Discworld II: The Globe (Although it's possible to figure out what they were going to do with the items). In order to make sure William Shakespeare gets born and can write his plays (long story), the wizards need (at different points): "a length of string, a leather ball of some kind, and a large bunch of flowers." (Problem: Shakespeare's parents failed to meet); "the probable date of conception, a stepladder, and a gallon of black paint." (This one is passable if obscure, as in Yorkshire, painting the ceiling black in the kitchen is a folk remedy to ensure a male child.); "some strong disinfectant"... "and a lot of carbolic soap." (Problem: Shakespeare died of a childhood illness); "some drab clothing, a dark lantern and a very large cosh." (Problem: Shakespeare is killed by a gameskeeper while poaching)
    • From Wyrd Sisters, is the terrible fate of King Murune of Lancre (709-745). Involving a red hot poker, ten pounds of live eels, a three mile stretch of frozen river, a butt of wine, a couple of tulip bulbs, a number of poisoned eardrops, an oyster and a large man with a mallet. King Murune didn't make friends easily.
    • And then we have The Ginger Beer Trick, a surprisingly minimalist example of this trope which nonetheless manages to squick characters and readers (in part) by never revealing the particular orifice involved. Word on is that it's your nostrils that get fizzed (true, and reportedly used in both Mexico and Colombia) but that's unnecessary knowledge for the gags.
    • Leonard of Quirm is described as having 'accidentally blown up the Alchemists' Guild using nothing more than a glass of water, a spoonful of acid, two lengths of wire, and a ping-pong ball.' (Jingo) Which sounds like he figured out a battery using acid and two different types of wire and electrolysised the water into hydrogen and oxygen. And then blew it up (old-style ping-pong balls were made with nitrocellulose, which, after ground, is a common component in modern explosives). Most of Pratchett's Noodle Implements are actually references to real things.
    • From Lords and Ladies: "There are no delusions for the dead. Dying is like waking up after a really good party, when you have one or two seconds of innocent freedom before you recollect all the things you did last night which seemed so logical and hilarious at the time, and then you remember the really amazing thing you did with a lampshade and two balloons, which had them in stitches, and now you realize you're going to have to look a lot of people in the eye today and you're sober now and so are they but you can both remember."
    • There's the joke in Carpe Jugulum about "the old woman, the priest and the rhinoceros", which even Nanny Ogg didn't understand until she was forty. Probably a reference to the joke about the priest, the nun, and the camel. Stranded in the desert.
      Punchline: Then stick it in the camel and let's get the hell out of here!
    • The Rite of Ashk'Ente. All we know is that it's a way to summon Death, involving three small sticks and 4ccs of mouse blood (or two sticks and a fresh egg). This one was actually shown in Discworld II: Missing, Presumed...?! PC adventure game. Let's just say it's... somewhat less epic than one could judge from the description. (It's a bit more so in the Animated Adaptation of Soul Music, but again the whole joke is that you can cast it without all the paraphernalia of an epic summoning spell.) While the purpose of the sticks is unclear, the mouse blood or fresh egg are most likely required because something living needs to perish if you want Death to come for a visit. The minimalistic amounts of the living substance just indicates what is the bare minimum that counts for "life".
    • Then there are those rumors about the manufacture of scumble, which is made mainly from apples, but is also alleged to make use of: rats, snake heads, lead shot, a dead sheep, and/or a trouser button. Subverted in that these Noodle Implements are a complete fabrication, although the rumor about the dead soldier isn't.
    • Played with in the Tiffany Aching sub-series, with the required components of making a shamble. String and something alive (an egg, a beetle, etc) are always required; beyond that, a witch should throw one together out of whatever odds and ends she's got in her pockets. It's remarkable how often witches find that, purely by coincidence, they happen to be carrying a small living thing and some string in their pockets when they need to build one. Oddly, the most powerful witches can't make them at all.
    • In Agatea, there's that thing they do with a wire waistcoat and a cheesegrater. You really don't want to know what they do with a bespoke wire waistcoat and a cheesegrater. (In China it was, maybe even still is, a serious form of torture.)
  • The second Doom novel ends with Arlene and Fly trapped in a building with the monsters, and Arlene asks Fly to get "some duct tape from the toolbox, an armload of computer switch wiring, and the biggest goddamned boot you can find!" Sort of subverted in that the next book opens with Fly and Arlene relaxing on the beach, giving their companions conflicting accounts of just how they used those objects to escape.
  • In the first of G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown stories, the priest explains how he knew master criminal Flambeau was a wrong-un: "It's that little bulge up the sleeve where you people have the spiked bracelet." The fact that none of us have ever heard of the spiked bracelet is intended to show that Father Brown's knowledge of the underworld is something special. He follows it up with what might be called Noodle Techniques: "I rather wonder you didn't stop it with the Donkey's Whistle... I couldn't have countered it even with the Spots myself; I'm not strong enough in the legs." This works because we know that criminals have picturesque names for classic scams like the Gypsy Switch (which Flambeau uses on Brown, though he doesn't call it that,) and since there really is one called the Badger Game, there might be one called the Donkey's Whistle. To make matters worse, by the time Father Brown gets to the Spots, Flambeau doesn't have a clue what he's talking about. Some things are too wicked even for him.
  • The thing they do with the cheesegrater and the wire waistcoat is graphically described in George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman and the Dragon, in which Flashman is given the second degree in a despotic mandarin's torture chamber.note 
  • From Forever by Robert Sheckley:
    "The ingenious way in which Dennison and his colleagues broke out of their seemingly impregnable prison, using only a steel belt buckle, a tungsten filament, three hens' eggs, and twelve chemicals that can be readily obtained from the human body, is too well known to be repeated here."
  • The Gallagher Girls: In Only the Good Spy Young, the girls consider ways of getting into an underground, highly booby-trapped vault, and the last item on the list is as follows: "That thing Bex's parents did in Dubai with liquid nitrogen, an earthquake simulator, and a ferret." They rule out this option because they don't have a ferret.
  • Heralds of Valdemar: The Silver Gryphon has one of the main characters suggesting that a monster threatening her partner can "do several highly improbable, athletically difficult, and possibly biologically impractical things involving its own mother, a few household implements, and a dead fish."
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
    • In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Zaphod Beeblebrox is the son of Zaphod Beeblebrox the Second, who is the son of Zaphod Beeblebrox the Third, and so on, due to an "accident with a prophylactic and a time machine." In Life, the Universe, and Everything, bored immortal Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged was granted his immortality in a Freak Office Accident involving "a liquid lunch, a particle accelerator, and a pair of rubber bands."
    • The latter is explained in And Another Thing.... He was working through lunch, and flicked a few rubber bands into an inactive particle accelerator. He tried to get them out, someone turned on the accelerator, whammo, instant immortality. Effectively the same thing that happened to Dr. Manhattan.
  • Horrible Histories example: "Yay! Our gallant navy has captured the nasty Spaniards with only one small leaking boat, two men, one cannon, a pistol, a sharp stick and a sponge!"
    • Another one (from the show), where a prehistoric human is explaining in a whisper how they built Stonehenge: "Woah! And what did you do with the jelly?"
  • The Hunting of the Snark features several examples; the method of hunting a Snark, for example, involves thimbles, care, forks, hope, a railway share, smiles and soap.
    • But at least what is used for what was explained once per fit from 3 to 8. Though not in details, sadly — like how exactly you charm a snark with soap.
  • In the comical Scifi novel Illegal Aliens by Nick Pollotta and Phil Foglio:
    "As Einda casually wandered towards the bar, she passed by a hairy blue male sitting alone at a four-person table and playing with a piece of string and a small fruit, which explained why he was sitting alone in a crowded bar. Nobody smart bothered an assassin."
  • Iron Druid Chronicles:
    • Atticus apparently knows how to use granny panties and a bag of marshmallows to inflict a horrible punishment.
    • In Hunted, Atticus and Granuaile briefly watch Japanese television, and have no idea what's going on even though the former knows Japanese. The show they were watching involved two fast-talking men wearing Muppet T-shirts and skinny jeans, a badger, shaving cream, and a baby.
  • The novelization of the Iron Man movie has Tony, held captive by the terrorists and required to build them a missile, demanding a long list of missile-building things that ends in a washing machine. He tells Yinsen that they'll be confused enough by the washing machine that they won't wonder too much about the other things.
  • Journey to Chaos: When discussing Tiza and Nolien's future wedding, Wiol advises Eric to bring a "a hang glider, forty hardcover books and a great deal of salt" to make sure the ceremony goes smoothly.
    What do any of those things have to do with a wedding?
  • In The Joy of Work, the author suggests a method of avoiding work by invoking this method. Simply carry a pair of unrelated objects (such as a flashlight and an oil funnel) with you and walk in a hurry through the office. If anyone asks what they're for, quickly say "You don't want to know" and walk off.
  • Another novel by Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, includes a reference to a horror writer who habitually orders a dozen live chickens to his hotel room, where they are never seen again. Towards the end of the book, however, one character reveals they know someone who had the job of smuggling them straight out again.
  • In The Lost Fleet, a plot-relevant computer virus is found in someone's... personal... files. The protagonists (some of whom are war veterans) are disgusted by the files' contents, and Geary mentions that similar files were distributed even a century ago. The tech guy who discovers the virus is ashamed to come forward, but insists that the files' owners are good people who shouldn't be punished. We never find out what the files were.
  • In The Lost World (1995), the character Jack Thorne is notorious for having pulled these on his students at the university as a form of engineering improvisation. Such assignments included constructing a chair to support a 200 pound man using only paper Q-tips and thread, pulling the answers to the final exam off the roof using only a shoebox containing licorice and toothpicks, and dropping an egg off the building and ensuring it doesn't break using only cardboard toilet paper rolls (that one famously didn't work). Eddie Carr later notes the irony when they face a similar situation making a cast for the baby Tyrannosaur, although eventually they figure it out.
  • Inverted in The Maggody Militia, when Arly grumbles about her mother's fondness for flea markets and how it's affected her past birthday presents. She's not sure how, but she snarkily muses how her survival might one day depend on her having a bicycle pump, a muffin tin, and a 1984 world almanac ready to hand.
  • A Man In Full by Tom Wolfe has a sex scene in which the characters do "that thing with the cup". Wolfe has admitted that he himself has no idea what they're doing.
  • In The Pale King, Toni is last seen hauling around a dozen bricks and ordering several feet of copper tubing. Given how mentally unbalanced she is, the results probably won't involve construction.
  • Paper Towns: "I'm not sure what you're supposed to say to the checkout woman at twelve-thirty in the morning when you put thirteen pounds of catfish, Veet, the fat-daddy-size tub of Vaseline, a six-pack of Mountain Dew, a can of blue spray paint, and a dozen tulips on the conveyor belt..." You do find out what they're for, though.
  • Salamandastron in the Redwall series; Samkim, Arula and Spriggat loudly discuss Arula's supposed talents of information extraction in front of a captured rat; "On me oath I 'opes never to see that done to a living creature again, 'specially the bit with the three squashed frogs an' those maggoty apples..." Especially funny since Arula is a prepubescent and harmless-seeming country bumpkin girl, yet the rat believes them.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events:
    • Violet is commonly stated as trying to invent things with specific noodle implements. Often, she does. For example, making a machine for making staples that uses: a potato, a fork, shoes with clappers on them, and several crabs that live in their room. The "machine" consisted of them using the shoes to herd the crabs, the potato, that looked kind of like a toe, which they snapped at a lot, to get them to snap at it, quickly switching it with the metal wire they're making the staples out of to cut them, and the fork to bend them.
    • In Lemony Snicket's autobiography it's established that VFD members are equipped with a standard Noodle Implement disguise kit. (One photograph purports to show a young woman convincingly disguised as a 1950s-model pickup truck.)
    • In place of a summary on the back of the book, any of these books will typically have a letter to the reader that explains the setting, provides a typical Snicket Warning Label, and lists many a few of the tragedies and horrors (read: random things) that will befall the characters, ending with a case of Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking. For instance: "Truth be told, within the chapters that make up this dreadful story, the children will face snapping crabs, strict punishments, dripping fungus, comprehensive exams, violin recitals, S.O.R.E., and the metric system." These things always eventually show up in the story, but at first reading, the blurb seems like nothing more than a list of Noodle Implements.
  • Arthur Conan Doyle played with this sometimes, making Dr. Watson (or Sherlock Holmes himself) mention in passing a few outlandish details of some "off-screen" case. Most memorable one is probably from The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger: "The source of these outrages is known, and if they are repeated I have Mr. Holmes' authority for saying that the whole story concerning the politician, the lighthouse, and the trained cormorant will be given to the public."
    • Or, from The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire:
      Holmes: Matilda Briggs was not the name of a young woman, was a ship which is associated with the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared.
      • Sophia Matilda Briggs was the daughter of Benjamin Briggs, captain of the famous Mary Celeste. Conan Doyle was deeply interested in that story and even wrote a fictional account of it, J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement.
      • The Firesign Theatre, a comedy troupe, did an album inspired by this, entitled The Tale of the Giant Rat of Sumatra starring Mr. Hemlock Stones, The Great Defective.
  • Played with in Robert Rankin's book Sprout Mask Replica: The protagonist narrator and the love interest are in a hotel room, and she says if he orders a bottle of Tabasco sauce and some ice cubes she'll show him something amazing. The narrator recognises this trope, and suggests leaving it there, before pointing out that he has no clue what sexy thing could be done with them. Then they put the sauce on their sandwiches and the ice in their drinks and she shows him something amazing: a mint-edition copy of # 1 of Starburst magazine, complete with free gift.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Happens in the X-Wing Series novel Starfighters of Adumar.
      Wedge: We'll need a wheeled transport, one of the flatcam units our pursuers are carrying, and four sets of women's clothing.
      Hobbie: Boss, please tell me you're not putting us in women's clothing.
      Wedge: Very well. I'm not putting us in women's clothing.
      The Next Chapter
      Hobbie: You lied to me.
      • Those are only temporarily Noodle Implements; Wedge has a plan, which we do see in enough detail to figure out his scheme: use the flatcam to film themselves "killing" an innocent cam-wielding civilian, i.e. a chunk of brick on Hobbie's other shoulder, so that the crowd leaves the four "women" alone.
    • There's also the notorious lanvarok. All the books mention is that it's a weapon, it's built by the Sith, and it's a distinct advantage to be left-handed when using it. Draw your own conclusions.
      • Other Expanded Universe sources did tell us what it is. It is... a wrist-mounted device that throws up to a dozen razor-edged metal disks in an unpredictable pattern. ... oh well.
    • Another novel has a list that is almost immediately explained, but definitely falls into this trope during the setup.
      Voort: We'll need... one smallish hydraulic metal press, not traceable to us, transportable in our speeder. Six to eight addresses of abandoned homes in low-rent districts. Six to eight comlinks with unregistered ownership, disposable, to make calls to the military police on. A second pseudo-safe house a lot like this one, again not traceable to us. Spray paints in assorted colors. Disguises for you and Trey. And, if we can, sound recordings of Kowakian monkey-lizards in a state of rage.
      Trey: I think I'm going to like this job.
  • Invoked in The Thief Lord, when an incident which the readers got to hear about in detail is only described as having involved "pasta and tomato paste".
  • The novel Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden has Elli ask for petrol, a cigarette lighter or matches, a chisel, and a hammer, without explaining to her friends that they are to turn a ride-on mower into a bomb. Later, she realises she doesn't need the chisel and hammer, and that they could have been dangerous.
  • Invoked in the Wheel of Time series. Juilin Sandar asks for a basket of figs and a pair of mice when questioning someone, squicking not only the subject but his allies. The subject quickly starts singing like a canary. When asked, Sandar admits he has no idea what he'd do with the items, either - he was simply counting on the subject's own imagination coming up with something horrible enough to get her talking. He does it again asking for salt and cooking oil.
    • A fair number of Elayne's curse words work like this. We're informed that they're particularly vile, but as Elayne doesn't know what they mean the reader is never informed. For example, "Mother's milk in a cup" and "bloody buttered onions".
  • In the short story "Wikihistory" by Desmond Warzel, a character helps maintain Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act by getting Hitler expelled from an Art Academy due to "an elaborate prank involving the Prefect, a goat, and a substantial quantity of olive oil."
    • May have something to do with the Urban Legend that Hitler lost one testicle trying to pee into a goat's mouth.


Example of: