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Suspiciously Specific Denial / Literature

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  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: When Captain Nemo asked from the Power Trio The Promise of not trying to see “something they must not see”, he could not phrase it without sounding sinister and exciting Aronnax's suspicions:
    It's possible that certain unforeseen events may force me to confine you to your cabins for some hours, or even for some days as the case may be. Since I prefer never to use violence, I expect from you in such a case, even more than in any other, your unquestioning obedience. By acting in this way, I shield you from complicity, I absolve you of all responsibility, since I myself make it impossible for you to see what you aren't meant to see. Do you accept this condition?"
    So things happened on board that were quite odd to say the least, things never to be seen by people not placing themselves beyond society's laws! Among all the surprises the future had in store for me, this would not be the mildest.
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  • "Anguished English" reports this courtroom gem, which somehow falls under this trope by inverting...averting...subverting...ah, judge for yourself.
    "Did you stay all night with this man in New York?"
    "I refuse to answer this question."
    "Did you stay all night with this man in Chicago?"
    "I refuse to answer this question."
    "Did you stay all night with this man in Miami?"
  • Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian:
    Myles/Gobdaw: This is my favorite drink. I know that because I am me again and not a fairy warrior.
  • In Atlas Shrugged, the controlled press runs stories like this; for example, "It is not true that the Miller Steel Company has gone out of business".
  • In A Bad Case of Stripes, Camilla doesn't want to admit that she likes lima beans and she says that nobody likes them especially her.
  • In Bad Kitty: Kitten Trouble, Kitty is tired of constantly being whacked by the newspaper delivered by the newspaper delivery kid. She sets up a trap for him, except she labels it with signs reading "Free baseball cards for horrible kids!", "Yes- free!" and most notably, "Not a trap." Unsurprisingly, it doesn't work.
  • Dave Barry loves this trope.
    • Dave Barry Slept Here describes the Puritans as very religious people who "did not believe in drinking or dancing or having sex with hooved animals." Discussion Question #1: "Why only hooved animals?"
    • He also frequently references it when referring to statements put out by the (U.S.) Government. If the government says "not X," then "obviously" X is the truth.
  • During a meeting under truce with Damodara, Belisarius asks for a few moments alone with Narses, the Byzantine traitor now working for the Malwa. When Damodara questions whether that would be something a sane man would allow, Belisarius makes an oath that what he wants to talk to Narses about will not threaten Damodara. After the meeting, Damodara realizes that Belisarius denied planning to harm him personally. He didn't mention anything about the Malwa Empire.
    • Damodara later uses this himself. When Narses discusses a course of action (based on his conversation with Belisarius), Damodara very specifically denies giving him any permission to do such a thing. As Narses notes later, there's a difference between not giving someone permission to do something and ordering them not to do something.
  • The Bible: Genesis 9:15: "And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there anymore be a flood to destroy the earth."
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  • Billy Bunter from the stories by Frank Richards (one of over two dozen pen names used by Charles Hamilton) lives and breathes this trope. "I never took the cake, and I didn't go up to the box room to hide while I ate it, and there were hardly any plums in it anyway."
  • In Bubble World, Freesia's mom profusely denies putting her in Bubble World because they couldn't deal with her. It was for her education. Really. Given that they later do the same to Angel, the former is likely correct.
  • In Catch-22, when Colonel Cathcart discusses holding prayer meetings in the officer's briefings with the chaplain, he's resistant to the idea of letting the enlisted men join in, but NOT because he regards them as dirty, common and inferior.
  • Invoked in one of The Destroyer novels where Remo sneaks past an annoying security guard by vandalizing a public bathroom and loudly insisting to a bunch of reporters that "The guard had nothing to do with it."
  • In Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, Dirk apparently managed to attract a following at university thanks to the bizarre rumours he was constantly denying—although no one ever heard these rumours in any other context. This eventually culminates in the universe running him over with his own karma: to finally 'disprove' the non-claims that he was psychic at all, he made up a set of mock test papers under 'autohypnosis' which students could study in preparation. They turned out to be exactly the questions which were on the exams, right down to the last comma.
  • Discworld
    • In Interesting Times, Rincewind invokes this trope by informing enemy soldiers that there were definitely no invisible blood-sucking ghosts, said ghosts had not been grown to twice their size by the Great Wizzard [sic], there certainly weren't 2,300,009 of them... He was quite proud of the "9".
    • In the same book, Vetinari certainly did not receive a missive, which was not delivered by Albatross from the mysterious Counterweight Continent: Indeed, he has no contact with that far-away mythical place whatsoever. The missive, which as we all know does not exist, does not contain a message requesting the help of a "Great Wizzard". Ridcully doesn't really grasp what Vetinari is driving at ("this is need-to-know information") until quite a bit later — luckily the people he'd already told about it did in fact need to know.
    • A certain copper in Night Watch: "And for close-up fighting, as your senior sergeant I explicitly forbid you to investigate the range of coshes, blackjacks, and brass knuckles sold by Mrs. Goodbody at No. 8 Easy Street at a range of prices to suit all pockets, and should any of you approach me privately I absolutely will not demonstrate a variety of specialist blows suitable for these useful yet tricky instruments."
    • The selfsame copper in Thud! cynically muses on whether "community leaders" are really the ones saying "do not use the shiny new axes in the cupboard... no, not that cupboard, this one right here."
      • Terry himself gives a suspiciously specific denial in Thud. Two troll thugs working for the troll crime boss Chrysophrase tell Commander Vimes that their boss wants to see him, and one of them makes the mistake of threatening Vimes and his family; later, when the two meet, Chrysophrase casually asks Vimes if he wants some gravel for his garden, and shows him a box that couldn't possibly hold an entire troll.
    • The Watch books have a recurring minor character called "Done-it Duncan", who will confess to anything if prompted (including stealing fire from the gods—of course, he was a bit younger back then). This actually makes him a useful informant, as most of his confessions are along the lines of "It wasn't X what done that, it was me."
    • Discworld features a couple of Suspiciously Specific Assurances too: Nobby Nobbs is definitely human. He has a little paper to prove it. (It's probably true, but the very fact that he carries the paper around makes people even more suspicious. Besides, his documentation only states that he's probably human.) Jeremy Clockson has one, too, to certify his sanity to anyone who asks.
    • In A Hat Full of Sky, Daft Wullie attempts to corroborate his brother Rob's tale of being thrown out of Fairyland for rebelling against the Queen by adding, "Aye, and it wasna because we wuz totally pished (i.e. wasted) at three in the afternoon, whatever any scunner might say!"
    • Sergeant Jackrum, one of the Discworld's great liars, makes full use of this trope in Monstrous Regiment. However, Sergeant Jackrum is telling the truth. Sergeant Jackrum is not a violent man, because she's a woman.
    • Averted by several trolls, who are specifically noted as having found that the general denial "I never done nothing" works better than specific refutation.
    • In Witches Abroad the witches are begging from house to house, and 'not coming directly here by any manner o’ means'.
    • Terry Pratchett himself has denied that Fourecks is based on Australia, although he admits it might appear a bit small-a-australian.
    • In the Discworld companion book The Turtle Moves! Discworld™'s Story unauthorized by American fantasy author Lawrence Watt-Evans, Watt-Evans at one point says the following:
      The Joye of Snacks provides for a good many double entendres and the like, and also served as the inspiration for Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook, one of the many spin-offs from the Discworld series. Many of these spin-offs aren’t sold in America, unfortunately, and I had to spend a great deal of money to have them shipped over from Britain while researching this book, and I’ll have you know (especially if you’re from the Internal Revenue Service) that I was forced to obtain them purely for purposes of research, and of course I didn’t enjoy reading them a bit, not one little bit, so those were entirely and completely business expenses, not at all for my own use. So there.
  • In Disgusting McGrossface, the boy says that the titular character "really [made the mess], for sure."
  • Doctor Who Expanded Universe
    • In the Past Doctor Adventures novel Grave Matter, the Doctor is trapped in a Big Scary House with a character who is slowly being taken over by microscopic aliens. Since she is possessed, she is unable to overtly help the Doctor, but she discovers that she is able to obviously mislead him. They are thus able to escape, due to her saying things like: "There is not, I repeat NOT, a secret passageway hidden behind that bookshelf."
    • In the Doctor Who New Adventures novel Transit, the Doctor gets the AI FLORENCE to wipe every mention of him from Earth's data records, in exchange giving it the valuable advice "The golden rule is those who have the gold, make the rules". In the much later NA Sky Pirates! the Encyclopedia Exposita quotes include FLORENCE's autobiography, which attributes the line to "Anon. And not some alien who never existed in the first place and even if he did I never met him".
    • Sky Pirates! also has an appendix detailing how you (yes, you!) can obtain the complete works of Professor Bernice Summerfield simply by creating a bank account in her name and placing enough money in it for a decent night out. It concludes "PractiBrantic Press. It isn't an entirely fraudulent scheme of Benny's to obtain extra free beer money wherever she goes at all."
    • This trope describes all but the first paragraph of the back cover blurb of Of the City of the Saved ... and extends into the "about the series" section:
      Of the City of the Saved ... is not a novel of violence and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of humanity's last resting-place. There is no evidence that it is the second in the series of original Faction Paradox novels.
  • Dragon Queen: The old man's denial of having ever been in the village when Trava's father recognizes him.
    Old Man: No! You couldn't have recognized me. I used a disguise that time.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Blood Rites opens with the words: "The building was on fire, and it wasn't my fault." Actually a subversion: it actually isn't his fault, and he's commenting because he's as surprised as anyone else.
    • Harry uses the trope extensively in relation to Molly. She's very attractive, something which he describes often. But he definitely does not like her that way. Because that would be weird. Yet none of this keeps him from ogling her again.
    • In Turn Coat, this trope crosses over with Could Say It, But... in that Morgan gives a knee-jerk denial to the notion of there being a traitor in the White Council. It sounds so rehearsed that Harry is immediately clued into the fact that the denier already knew but is keeping mum because of the potential backlash.
    • In Ghost Story, Dresden gives one to the readers:
      "Grenades!" I ordered, in a firm and manly tone that did not sound at all like a panicked fourteen-year-old.
    • In Cold Days, he has another one: "I didn't look at what that motion did to her chest, because that would have been grotesquely inappropriate, regardless of how fascinating the resulting contours may or may not have been."
  • Enforced in Gelsomino in Land of Liars. The backstory explains that when the current military junta took over the government, they forbade speaking the truth—completely. After a while, the citizens (at least the braver ones) adapted and now they are talking only in such denials—i.e. "I am not going to theatre" means exactly the opposite. The people now understand each other quite well, while the effect on a stranger is devastating.
  • The beginning of H. P. Lovecraft's "The Haunter in the Dark" consists of a couple paragraphs explaining that the general consensus is that Robert Blake was killed by lightning. Sure, the window was closed, but maybe lightning can do that. And the expression on his face was probably just because of a muscle spasm, not anything he saw. His diary entries were just based on local legends (sure, he also said he didn't know anything about them, but who believes that?), and the deserted church was obviously vandalized by pranksters with whom he was somehow connected. The well-respected doctor who read Blake's diaries and subsequently broke into the church, grabbed the stone and the metal box from out of the windowless black steeple and dumped them in the bay was just a crazy fanatic. Clearly.
  • The About the Author in Help! My Story Has the Mary-Sue Disease reads thus:
    "This has been left intentionally blank because an author sells their work, not themselves. Their history is unnecessary for speculation about a work’s meaning, although only they can definitively say what their work means. That’s definitely the reason. It’s not because the author is secretly a housecat who plays pool when the humans aren’t around. Definitely not. Where do you get these strange ideas?"
  • Subverted in the Hercule Poirot novel Dumb Witness. Because a suspect denies putting strychnine in the victim's soup, the detective knows that the man is specifically avoiding mention of arsenic. Despite this, the man is innocent and the victim was not killed using arsenic, the man is just trying to protect his sister, who he thought had killed their aunt with arsenic.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The Perfectly Normal Beasts from Mostly Harmless are an example of the denial actually being believed In-Universe. The Beasts appear out of nowhere, run past a village on a pre-industrial planet, and then disappear without a trace again. The village elder, not wanting the other villagers to start asking questions that he couldn't answer and thus put his wisdom into dispute, named them Perfectly Normal Beasts, thus ensuring that no one would think that the appearing and disappearing was odd or worth investigating - after all, it must be Perfectly Normal, or else the Beasts wouldn't be called that!
  • Honor Harrington: In On Basilisk Station, Honor asks her bosun to look for people who "would be intimately familiar with the best way to hide contraband". When she is asked about looking for smugglers to man customs flights, her response is ... telling.
    "Of course not, Major. This is a Queen's ship. What would we be doing with smugglers on board?"
  • The very title of I Am Not a Serial Killer.
  • In The Irregular at Magic High School: Dream Game, the narration abruptly breaks off to inform us that Tatsuya's analysis of the dream world was not "a means to turn his attention away from Miyuki's soft and supple limbs", though no one asked.
  • I Want My Hat Back: "Have you seen my hat?" "No. Why are you asking me. I haven't seen it. I haven't seen any hats anywhere. I would not steal a hat. Don't ask me any more questions."
  • The protagonist in the Jessica Christ series is very bad at giving interviews, to the point of it being a Running Gag. At one point, a reporter asks her what she plans to do with her new-found ability to raise the dead. Jessica, who isn't exactly sure herself yet, tries to joke that she's definitely not going to create an army of The Undead. Oddly enough, the public does not seem to find that soundbite reassuring.
  • Johnny and the Bomb by Terry Pratchett has:
    "Here," said Wobbler suspiciously. "This is time travel, right? Do you know something horrible?"
    "What, us? We don't know a thing," said Johnny miserably.
    "Especially about burgers," said Bigmac.
  • Journey to Chaos: When Eric prepares for the Mana Mutation Summit in Mana Mutation Menace, he's surprised to find that Tiza has dressed up as well. Before he can say a word, she makes a justification about how it was the outfit she was wearing when she suffered monsanity, and she's definitely not wearing it because Nolien told her that she looks good in it.
  • In the first The Kingdom Keepers book, Finn has to "borrow" something from the One Man's Dream museum in order to defeat Maleficent. When a cast member speaks to him, he quickly blurts out "I'm not doing anything wrong!" This, of course, makes her suspicious.
  • Known Space: The Puppeteer leader of one of the Ringworld missions takes pains to explain that his ship carries no weapons whatsoever, only tools. He then takes equal pains to explain the safety precautions that must be taken when using each of the tools, which could be incredibly lethal if used improperly. This prompts another character to nickname the ship the "Lying Bastard".
  • The Hercule Poirot story Lord Edgware Dies has Poirot speculate that Lord Edgeware was willing to give his wife a divorce due to a letter she sent him threatening to reveal some form of marital cruelty. He comes to this belief because Lord Edgeware stated to Poirot that his decision eas "not on account of anything in that letter", before Poirot even mentions the letter.
  • Diana Wynne Jones's short story "The Master" has many, many of these, all perpetrated by the character Eggs. Any question which he answers with "I don't not know" ... you probably want to re-phrase.
  • In More Information Than You Require, John Hodgman makes it very clear that he does not have an elephant's brain pickled in a jar.
  • The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones has this gem, when the main characters are going to a party faeries might be attending.
    Jace: Don't order any of the faerie food. It tends to make humans a little crazy. One minute you're munching a faerie plum, the next minute you're running naked down Madison Avenue with antlers on your head. Not that this has ever happened to me.
  • Newsflesh: Feed features the wonderfully true lines:
    David: I'm not going to question your journalistic integrity...
    Shaun: Hey, Rick, ever notice assholes only say that when they're about to question your journalistic integrity?
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief has this:
    Ares: I am the god of war! I take orders from no one! I don't have dreams!
    Percy: Who said anything about dreams?
  • In the Framing Story for The Princess Bride, to reassure a boy who is not Genre Savvy.
    "She does not get eaten by the sharks at this time," my father said.
    ... but I'll tell you the truth: I was getting a little too involved and I was glad he told me. I mean, when you're a kid you don't think, Well since the book's called The Princess Bride and since we're barely into it, obviously the author's not about to make shark kibble of his leading lady.
  • In Red Dwarf Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, when Lister says he's disliked Rimmer since they first met on Mimas, before Lister joined the crew, Rimmer replies "That wasn't me! That guy in the false moustache who went to an android brothel? That wasn't me!"
  • In The Red Vixen Adventures, Rolas' love interest who rescued him from a certain Space Pirate clearly states, "No. No, of course not. Lady Melanie Lovejoy has nothing to do with the Red Vixen."
  • In The Reeve's Tale by Margaret Frazer (set in 15th-century England), a teenage boy is explaining to the village reeve how he happened to be in a position to see a plot-critical event (note that the land belongs to a noble, and commoners aren't allowed to hunt there):
    Dickon: There's a place up on the wood edge. It ridges out some and you can see...
    Simon: I know the place. Every boy knows it. It's the best place along the woodshore for not catching rabbits. My grandfather used to not snare rabbits up there, too. And my father and me. None of us ever used to set snares there when we were your age, nor eat the rabbits we never caught neither.
  • Everyone in The Riftwar Cycle knows that there is no such organization as the Keshian Intelligence Service.
  • In the Rivers of London short story "King of the Rats", Peter asks Fleet and Tyburn if they're familiar with a certain address. Ty just gives a flat no, but Fleet explains she never goes to the Regent's Park area much, and if she wants a walk she goes to Hampstead Heath, even though it's a good view from the top of the hill... So when the river spirits show up while Peter's staking the place out, he is not unduly surprised.
  • In the Dale Brown book Rogue Forces, Jon Masters is insistent that the XC-57 Loser is not a bomber, that the Slingshot laser is not an offensive tool and that the belly hatch is not a bomb bay. Subverted in that while the Slingshot does get used offensively later on, the Loser does not get used in a bombing capacity.
  • The introduction to the Scarfolk Council Christmas Annual states that it has not been designed by disbarred psychologists to engender feelings of disassociation and paranoia. And also, the psychologists weren't disbarred.
  • In the YA novel Sprout we have the main character, Daniel, AKA Sprout, who becomes close friends with new student, Ty, in a Kansas high school. One afternoon they hang out in Ty's back yard where Ty shows Daniel the lake his twin brother drowned in when they were eight. Ty is about to cry and as a comforting gesture, Daniel places his hand on Ty's shoulder, at which point Ty shouts at him: "Dammit, Daniel. I'm not gay!" and proceeds to run into his house.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • When Tash Arranda meets Luke Skywalker in Galaxy of Fear: Eaten Alive, she feels strange in a good way. She's unusually comfortable around him, and yet feels shy at the same time. In the narration she quickly states that it is not a crush, she has outgrown crushes.
    • In Dark Lord—The Rise of Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine feels the need to spell out that the Empire leadership is entirely human while claiming that he has no Fantastic Racism against non-humans, honestly!
      Palpatine: When have I ever shown myself to be intolerant of species differences? Yes, our army is human, I am human, and most of my advisers and military officers are human. But that is merely the result of circumstance.
    • In Star Wars: Kenobi, when the Tuskens are attacking the general store, Ben grabs a fire extinguisher, ostensibly to hold them off with, but actually to give himself a smokescreen so he can use his lightsaber without being seen clearly. He gives old Wyle Ulbreck the credit for the resulting dead bodies, somewhat unconvincingly.
      Ulbreck: I don't rightly know how I got 'em all—
      Ben: [quickly] But you did. Every one. All on your own.
  • Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart has the narrator claim at the very beginning that he is not mad, murdering a man and putting him under the floorboards - but imagining that the heart is still beating, causes him to blow his cover. There's a reason the story is often used to introduce the concept of an unreliable narrator.
  • Three of the mothers of The Ultra Violets try and fail to disprove the existence of Helitropium.
  • The Unadulterated Cat: The Campaign for Real Cats has nothing against dogs, certainly, despite their being smelly, fawning, dribbling morons.
  • In The Va Dinci Cod, a parody of The Da Vinci Code, Robert Donglan is accused of the murder of Jacques Sauna-Lurker. The evidence: a three-foot codfish which has his fingerprints on every single scale. His defence:
    'I never so much as touched this fish. I certainly didn't – handle – it, certainly didn't paw it over and over,' he shuddered, 'like some disgusting fish-pervert, like somebody who couldn't help himself, who just had to press his fingers into the soggy, firm, cod-smelling flesh again and again, as if he were kneading bread, touching it, caressing it, forcing it through my fingers like a potter moulding clay, throttling its silvery-shiny wetness, its fishy firmness, pressing it again and again and again, slapping it, faster and faster shouting out "bad fish! bad fish!" at the top of my voice, until losing myself in a foul conniption fit of ecstasy.' He wiped a small quantity of spittle from the edge of his mouth with his sleeve. 'I didn't do anything like that. I hope you believe me?'
  • Warhammer 40,000: The Gaunt's Ghosts novel Blood Pact has a variant: Mabbon tries to hide the group from the Chaos witch by putting blood wards on Jaume's house so she cannot see that they are there. However, the witch casts her Blood Magic and zooms in on the curious spot that just so happens to be unreadable by her.
  • At one point in the Warrior Cats book Night Whispers, Tigerheart asks Dovewing how she always manages to get to their meeting place first. Dovewing (who, unbeknownst to Tigerheart, has Super Senses) mutters back that she doesn't listen for when he leaves his nest.


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