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Basic Trope: A punishment sounds harmless, but is revealed to be much worse than it sounded.

  • Straight: Alice's boss, Bob, tells her that she will be fired if she is late again. The next day, Alice shows up ten minutes late. Bob fires her out of a cannon, through a glass window.
  • Exaggerated:
    • Bob emails Alice to tell her that she will be "fried" if she steps out of line. Alice assumes it's a typo, but on Monday, she shows up dirty and Bob fries her in hot oil.
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    • Bob tells Alice that she will be "handsomely rewarded" for spilling her peanuts, and the "reward" turns out to be a slow and painful death.
  • Downplayed:
    • Bob threatens to give Alice "the boot" for the day if she causes any more conflicts among her co-workers. He makes her wear a huge, ugly boot over her left shoe for the rest of the day, which Alice considers a worse punishment than being suspended without pay for a day.
    • Bob threatens to make Alice clean his "private room", referring not to his office, but to his filthy restroom.
    • The punishment is mentioned, but not implemented, because Alice obeys Bob.
  • Justified: Bob was very mad at Alice.
  • Inverted:
    • Alice takes Bob's threats literally, though he did not mean them that way.
    • Bob tells Alice that if she disobeys him, she will be "made to dye". He makes her dye her hair green.
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    • Bob promises to reward Alice for her exceptional work with millions of dollars. He pays her in play money.
  • Subverted: Alice's punishment is a fight to the death with Charles, but Alice gets to choose the weapons. She chooses a sword for herself and a pillow for Charles.
  • Double Subverted: The pillow contains an anvil, while the sword is a toy made of foam rubber.
  • Parodied:
    • Alice and Diane both arrive one hour late for work. The selective Bob promises them "equal punishments", but docks Alice only half an hour's pay, and executes Diane.
    • Alice is "fired" gently onto a mattress, and suffers no injuries at all. She goes home and tells her family that she was fired again.
  • Zig Zagged: Bob "punishes" Alice for her tardiness by giving her a raise, and "rewards" Ethan for his hard work by firing him.
  • Averted: All punishments are just as bad (or trivial) as they sound.
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  • Enforced: Rule of Funny
  • Lampshaded: "This isn't what 'firing' means, Bob." "It is at my factory, and you're about to be fired. So long!"
  • Invoked:
  • Exploited: ???
  • Defied:
    • Bob believes that it's wrong to use misleading threats.
    • Alice always asks Bob was he means.
    • Rather than find out what punishments Bob has in store for her, Alice does everything in her power to keep him happy.
    • Alice quits her job and finds a nicer boss to work for.
  • Discussed: "Aren't you being a little hard on Alice?" "Nonsense, Fran! I didn't even sugar-coat the punishment to make it sound trivial."
  • Conversed: "Is Bob allowed to lie to Alice like that? I just know he's violating some labor law."
  • Implied: Bob's punishments always sound harmless, but all of his workers are afraid to break the rules.
  • Played For Laughs:
    • Alice survives being "fired". After she recovers from her injuries, she comes back to work. Bob sighs and tells her that she is dismissed.
    • Bob threatens to make Alice clean out the toilets. She pushes him over the line, and he ties the toilet brush to her head.
  • Untwisted: Bob sends Alice to Certain Death Island, but reassures her that it's "just a name". However, what he meant was that Certain Death Island is actually a peninsula.

Back to The Not-So-Harmless Punishment, which isn't a webpage at all; it's a cage full of venomous snakes.
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