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"I'd like to help you, but I can't. I'd like to tell you to take a copy of your policy to Norma Wilcox on [Hands his client notepad and pen] - Norma Wilcox, W-I-L-C-O-X - on the 3rd floor, but I can't. I also do not advise you to fill out and file a WS-2574 form with our legal department on the 2nd floor. I would not expect someone to get back to you quickly to resolve the matter. I'd like to help, but there's nothing I can do."

Bob Parr, The Incredibles
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Bob wants to say something, but for whatever reason can't. Maybe he'd risk his job if he spoke up, or maybe he just doesn't want to look crazy or malicious. Anyway, Bob gets around this by mentioning it but pretending he isn't, as in, "Well I could tell you that the shutoff switch to the doomsday machine is down the hall, first right, second left, behind the water cooler, but I won't do that because I'd lose my job." In other words, he Could Say It But... he won't. Except he just did.

Sometimes used as an insult, especially in politics. For example, "I refuse to stoop to the level of calling my opponent a corrupt, greedy Slime Ball."

Truth in Television. Technical terms for this include "paralipsis" and "praeteritio".

See also Suspiciously Specific Denial or I'll Never Tell You What I'm Telling You, for those bits when this is not intentional. Also related to I'll Pretend I Didn't Hear That. Do not confuse with I Would Say If I Could Say. May result from the asker using Politeness Judo.

I wish I was able to let you know the following examples...

Can't say this is Anime or Manga

  • SHUFFLE! has a version of this. Ama was/is a volunteer test subject used in an incredibly high risk magical experiment. (She volunteered because she felt she had no reason to live.) It failed, and she was, incidentally, thrown into the human world, where she fell in love, had a child, happy ending etc. One day, the Gods (and overseers of the experiment) happen to walk past her almost 2 decades later, and after staring at her for a while, continue walking, talking loudly enough for her to hear:
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Forbesii: "Someone you know, Eustoma?"
Eustoma: "No, just thinking she looked like someone I knew who passed away."
Forbesii: "What a coincidence, I was thinking the same."
Eustoma: "If she were alive, I would want to apologize at least once."
Forbesii: "Yeah, I feel terrible about what happened to her."

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  • Occurs in the Bleach manga, with Ganju teaching Ichigo how to make a sphere-like shield by essentially saying, "This is the way I do it; it's ridiculously easy when you do it like this. Of course, you suck at this so badly that I'm sure you won't be able to do it even if you follow my way. Have fun!"
  • Rerugen from Saga of Tanya the Evil advised Tanya to study Dacian (implying a possible war with Dacia), even though he made it clear to Tanya why he couldn't tell him why Tanya was being deployed in that region.

Can neither confirm nor deny the existence of a Comic Books folder

  • The comic book series of The X-Files had an example of this. Scully was doing an autopsy on a person who died under supposedly miraculous circumstances. A woman and her crippled child came to the hospital and asked to see the body of the "saint."
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Scully: I can't let you in. However, I am going for coffee in a few minutes, and, well, maybe I'll forget to lock the door.

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  • In the finale of the six-part Spider-Man story The Assassin Nation Plot, Captain America and Silver Sable try to get security clearance for Spidey on a mission they believed would lead them to the mastermind behind the plot, using plans obtained from a captured mook, but a general at the Pentagon wouldn't allow it, as Spidey's identity couldn't be confirmed. Partially through the story, Spidey finds them and told them he believed the plans given were a ruse to distract them; however, Cap isn't able to defy orders to check on that. He does, however, tell Spidey where the mook's cell is, saying "Maybe I'll re-question him later". Then he and Silver leave him alone. (In the Pentagon, no less.) Spidey doesn't know whether that was Cap's way of making an informal suggestion or not, but he take the opportunity, and it pays off.

I want to tell you that this is the Fan Works folder, but I can't, so I won't

  • In the Glee fic Story of Three Boys, when Casey is in the hospital following his suicide attempt, a nurse tells Dave, Kurt, Puck and Finn that she can't let them go to Casey or tell them anything specific about his condition because they aren't his parents or legal guardians. She can, however, tell them what would generally happen if some hypothetical patient tried to commit suicide in the way Casey did.
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Nurse: If this person weren't breathing, they may have to intubate, but that's hopefully not the case in this hypothetical situation, especially since he was breathing on his own in the ambulance. Hypothetically.

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I could lie and say I walked out of there, walked away from her and her crazy death fetish. I could lie and say the sex we did have wasn't fantastic. I could lie and say the next morning when I woke up and she was pressed up against me, that I wasn't as disgusted in myself as I was in her.

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  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic To Be A Better Stallion, Rainbow Dash has a run in with Amethyst, an old friend of Prince Blueblood who happens to be married to one of the Wonderbolts. Amethyst decides to quell Rainbow Dash's disappointment that she's just there on personal business and there's not going to be a Wonderbolts show by telling Rainbow "There's a non-disclosure agreement forbidding me from telling you that you're being considered for a Wonderbolts tryout. So I'm not going to tell you. Because that would be wrong.”

Would never say this is the folder for Films of the Animated variety

  • In The Incredibles, Bob circumvents his insurance company's obstructive attitude by using this method to help his customers, as demonstrated by the page quote. He even whispers "Pretend to be upset" to the old woman as she leaves.

Not allowed to say this is for Films of the Live Action variety

  • Adrian Cronauer (Robin Williams) does this in Good Morning Vietnam with a non-approved news report, and is yanked off the air for doing so.
  • Spock's response to the Enterprise being decommissioned in Star Trek VI: "If I were human, I believe my response would be 'go to hell'. If I were human."
  • In The Parent Trap (the original with Hayley Mills), the Evers' housekeeper, a flagrant busybody, would often conclude her gossip with "But I'm not saying a word, not one single word".
  • In Zodiac, Inspector Toschi shares privileged police information with Robert Graysmith in this way.
  • In Life Is Beautiful Guido declares his affection to Dora:
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Guido: You can't imagine how much I feel like making love to you. But I'll never tell anyone, especially not you. They'd have to torture me to make me say it.
Dora: Say what?
Guido: That I want to make love to you - not just once, but over and over again! But I'll never tell you that. I'd have to be crazy to tell you. I'd even make love to you now... right here for the rest of my life.

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  • In Iron Man 2, Tony's speech at Stark Expo amounts to "I'm not saying that I'M TOTALLY AWESOME."
  • In Outbreak, Morgan Freeman's character gets on the mike and tells Dustin Hoffman's character exactly how to interrupt a live bombing run, under the guise of telling him the dire consequences of doing so.
  • In 1941, Dan Aykroyd's character has to leave an anti-aircraft gun at a civilian location. He then proceeds to tell the family in ridiculously specific detail every single thing they should not do, and the specific order they should not do it in. This may be a subversion, given his character—he may have been genuinely telling them what not to do. In any event, Ned Beatty uses the steps in the warning later in the film on to fire on a Japanese sub.

I could say this is Literature, but I won't

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Magrat: "When's this play going to be, then?"
Fool: "Marry, I'm sure I'm not allowed to tell you. The duke said to me, he said, don't tell the witches that it's tomorrow night."
Magrat: "I shouldn't, then."
Fool: "At eight o'clock."
Magrat: "I see."
Fool: "But meet for sherry beforehand at seven-thirty, i'faith."

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    • Also Vimes 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."
    • Vimes thinks the dwarf and troll community leaders in Thud are doing this, by "appealing for calm."
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"Do not use the weapons in the antiques cabinet-- no, not that one, the other one."

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"We certainly would not be able to help you if you were to leave your coaches around the backside of the University at, say, eight o'clock?"

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    • And in The Truth William desperately needs more paper for the Ankh-Morpork Times, but the person selling it has already promised his entire stock to William's rivals and can't very well go back on his word. And speaking of words, he really needs to have one with his foreman, who seems to have left a loaded cart right by that wide-open gate over there where someone could just sneak in and drive off with it...
    • It's in The Science of Discworld, too. For various reasons, the wizards need books from the future. The Librarian can get them, but he isn't supposed to. Rincewind talks him into it and translates his answer as follows (paraphrased):
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"He says he's just going to get the books and pile them up here, ok? And then he's going to leave the room and you're not to look at them while he's gone, because he won't know you're doing it. And if he coughs before he comes back in it'll just be because he has a cough and not for any other reason, ok?"

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  • In one Animorphs book, Rachel helps Cassie retrieve a paper she doodled on with things like hearts, "Cassie + Jake," and cupids. The ensuing conversation:
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Cassie: Just get it. And don't say anything.
Rachel: Nothing?
Cassie: Nothing! Not. One. Word.
Rachel: (laughs) Okay, you're my best friend. So not one word. Especially not "Awww, isn't that sweet?" And definitely not "Cassie is in lo-ove, Cassie is in lo-ove." And no way I'd ever say--
Cassie: I knew I should have done this alone.

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  • Happens in Son of Spellsinger, with a local tradesman telling the heroes where the local evil baron has taken their companion. They agree that, as far as anyone knows, they beat it out of him. He pauses occasionally when telling them to say "Ow."
  • Trumpkin in C. S. Lewis's Prince Caspian, conceding defeat to Susan in the archery competition. "I know when I'm fairly beaten. I won't even say that the scar of my last wound catches me a bit when I get my arm well back..."
  • In John Hemry's Rule of Evidence, when Paul Sinclair suggests breaking into a computer in search of evidence, Sharpe, the master-at-arms, huffily declares that his position means that such evidence would be tainted—and elaborates at great length on how he couldn't help. (Such as, he can't tell Sinclair that the contact info for someone who can break in is on the system.)
  • This line from the Forgotten Realms novel Shadows of Doom, spoken by an unseen guard:
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"'Twould be the most foolish treason to tell you that it's through here, turn right, and behind the double doors at the end of the straight passage — so I won't tell you that."

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    • Sadly, precisely the wrong person also overhears him, is not amused, and kills him right in the next line before he can say anything else.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Lost, Theo gives them advice on an Ouiji board down to using it on Wednesday if they can't wait for a high holy day—not that he would know.
  • In one of the Xanth books, Gary the Gargoyle is looking for Magician Trent and needs to ask a harpy where to find him. In Xanth, harpies have a reputation for being unpleasant and unhelpful and this is seen as a good thing. Thus, the harpy can't simply tell him what he wants to know, even though he flatters her on her appearance. (i.e. calls her ugly, which is a compliment to harpies.) Therefore, in order to preserve her reputation of being unhelpful, this exchange occurs:
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Gary: I know you'd never tell me where to find Magician Trent.
Harpy: Right. I'd never tell you to look twenty paces to the left.

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"God bless me, gentle (or it may be plebeian) reader, how eagerly must thou be looking forward to this preface, expecting to find there retaliation, scolding, and abuse against the author of the second Don Quixote--I mean him who was, they say, begotten at Tordesillas and born at Tarragona! Well then, the truth is, I am not going to give thee that satisfaction; for, though injuries stir up anger in humbler breasts, in mine the rule must admit of an exception. Thou wouldst have me call him ass, fool, and malapert, but I have no such intention; let his offence be his punishment, with his bread let him eat it, and there's an end of it."

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"Look, Murph. I specifically agreed to confidentiality for this client. But … if I were going to talk to you, I'd tell you to check out the murder of a Frenchman named LaRouche with Interpol."
Murphy blinked and then looked up at me. "Interpol?"
I nodded. "If I were going to talk."
"Right," she said. "If you'd said anything. You tight-lipped bastard."

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  • In Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson's Hoka stories, at one point Alexander is called to explain something. He declares that since he is unwilling to accuse officials of having accepted a story produced by a drunken or possibly deranged individuals, he can't explain the story they are describing.
  • In P. G. Wodehouse's Jill the Reckless, Wally Mason pulls a memorable example on theater manager Groble:
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"... I'm rather sorry we agreed to keep clear of personalities, because I should have liked to say that, if ever they have a skunk-show at Madison Square Garden, you ought to enter — and win the blue ribbon. Still, of course, under our agreement my lips are sealed, and I can't even hint at it. ..."

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"And I thought, is the human brain a turtle just because it is armored in bone? A parasite just because it lives off blood from other places? Well, maybe some people I could name but won't, like Juan Harleman of the Venusian Tea and Coffee Growers, Inc., has parasite turtles for brains...."

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I'd never say it's Live Action TV

  • The Fourth Doctor in Doctor Who, while mocking a Bond One-Liner: "I suppose you could say the yolk's on him if you were the sort of person who said that sort of thing, which fortunately I'm not."
  • Monica in the Friends episode "The One With The Butt": "Oh, um, Chandler? Y'know, the old Monica would remind you to scrub that Teflon pan with a plastic brush... But I'm not gonna do that."
  • There was an episode of Malcolm in the Middle wherein Reese ran away from home and joined the army with the help of a fake ID. When Lois goes to fix the problem ( i.e. forcibly bring him back) she is basically informed that that's impossible. She is told this by Reese's drill sergeant who sympathizes with Lois's desire to protect her child (in her own trademark, sadistic way) and so he offers up this gem:
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Drill Sergeant: I wish I could help you. I wish I could just open this drawer up [opens drawer] and show you the information you need. But I can't. [gets up to go to the window] It's got me so frustrated that I just want to stare intently out this window for, oh, say, a hundred and twenty seconds.

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  • Played for drama in Boston Legal, Alan Shore mentions to a suspect that he "can't advise him to leave the country, even though it's his only way to freedom". He is later defended by Denny for saying that, as Denny claims he "covered his ass".
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus has a sketch in which the Pythons apologize for various implied insults they "didn't intend to imply" about politicians... going into extensive detail on just what insults they didn't mean to imply.
    • Also did this with another politics-related sketch, involving by-elections.
    • Monty Python did this sort of thing at least partly to send up BBC broadcast restrictions on what you weren't allowed to say about British politicians on the news, as a censorship protest.
  • The Daily Show obviously couldn't stoop so low as to cover Paris Hilton's imprisonment in 2007 - but mentioned that if anyone else wanted to, a good headline for them to use might be "Shawskank Redemption".
  • On Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson did this as a way of sneakily previewing a car (an Aston Martin V8 Vantage) he wasn't technically allowed to announce yet. The other two presenters played along with a chorus of "I would have really like to hear that" and "Oh, I wish you could have told us that."
  • Stargate Atlantis, in an episode where Ronon is considering leaving Atlantis, has Shepherd saying that he'd tell Ronon that he was a valuable member of the team and it would nigh-impossible to replace him and they'd miss him if he left... but he already knew that, so he wasn't going to tell him.
  • A skit by The Whitest Kids U' Know uses this trope with their skit in which they say, "It is very illegal to say 'I want to kill the president'. Totally illegal! I'm allowed to say it to tell you not to say it. On that topic, it is also illegal to say, 'I really want someone else to kill the president, and here are some spots where it would be easy to snipe him.' Also TOTALLY illegal! Completely!"
  • This happens a lot in Yes Minister. Mainly because the Obstructive Bureaucrats need to tell each other things that they shouldn't without actually telling them... 'Hypothetical' situations often feature as, on one memorable occasion, did the simple fact that the person Sir Humphrey wanted to know the PM was talking to was pretty much the only female in the building.
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Bernard: I absolutely could not tell you who she is, Sir Humphrey.
Humphrey: Thank you Bernard!

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  • Supernatural, "The Monster at the End of This Book": A prophet predicts that Sam and Lilith will hook up. Dean goes to Castiel for help, but Castiel says he can't interfere with divine prophecy and Dean is on his own. Just as Dean is storming off, Castiel stops him and adds that the reason he can't help is that prophets are sacred, and should anything, such as for example a demon, threaten harm to a prophet, an archangel will descend with the wrath of Heaven. Dean catches the hint and brings the prophet along to confront Lilith.
  • On NCIS, Abby occasionally resorts to this when the Director has told her to keep something from Gibbs. After all, sign language doesn't count as saying anything.
  • Francis Urquhart's catchphrase in House of Cards (British series) was "You might very well think that, I couldn't possibly comment ". This is later used by his political rival, eliciting an expletive from Urquhart. The only real expletive Urquhart uses in the entire show, no less.
  • The Unit: the lawyer played by Rebecca Pigeon tells Molly that "I cannot" advise Molly to secretly tape someone to use for blackmail, "as that would be illegal."
  • A ridiculous example from Neighbours, in which Toadie, a lawyer, has to get a message to a friend whose ex-girlfriend has told him not to tell him about her plan to regain custody of their son. He ends up revealing it explicitly with "I can't tell you that..." tacked on. Ridiculous because, a) he hadn't agreed to represent her yet (and made it clear that he wouldn't once he learned who she was) and b) had he actually needed to get around lawyer-client confidentiality, this wouldn't have been enough to get away with it.
  • Taylor Swift likes writing songs about douchebags who cheat on her and writing their names into songs so they're ashamed to go in public. But she's not gonna talk about that in her Saturday Night Live monologue. Oh no, not her.
  • On an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street, a hotel clerk tells the detectives everything they want to know about a guest in one of her rooms by explaining, at length and with not a hint of irony, exactly what it is she's not allowed to tell them.
    • On another episode, the police aren't allowed to speak to a cult member because his lawyer is in the employ of the cult leader. Gee, Danvers and a couple of detectives get around this by going to his cell and talking to each other about how screwed the poor kid is.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Giles uses this to deliver stinging reprimands several times, most notably in "Revelations": "I won't remind you that the fate of the world often lies with the Slayer. What would be the point? Nor shall I remind you that you've jeopardized the lives of all that you hold dear by harboring a known murderer."
    • Buffy and Willow also plan to steal books from Giles' office in this manner in "Halloween":
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Willow: It's too bad we can't sneak a look at the Watcher diaries and read up on Angel. I'm sure it's full of fun facts to know and tell.
Buffy: Yeah. It's too bad. That stuff is private.
Willow: Also Giles keeps them in his office. In his personal files.
Buffy: Most importantly, it would be wrong.

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  • Scoundrels: Cheryl asks Hope what her sister is up to. Hope indignantly protests that Wests don't rat each other out... then, when Cheryl gives in, adds, "Which is why I can't tell you to check her underwear drawer."
  • On the Sky One production of Terry Pratchett's Hogfather, there's this conversation between Albert and Death:
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"This is not Susan's affair. Which is why, you'll recall, that I expressly forbade her from interfering. Besides, it's against the rules."
"Yeah, but you know how she is for disobeying rules, Master."
" You might very well think that I'd already thought of that, but I couldn't possibly comment."

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    • The last line was an Actor Allusion: Ian Richardson (who played the voice of Death) used it frequently in his role as Francis Urquhart (see above).
  • On Peep Show, Mark is trying to drop his rival in it with the girl he likes; "Oh, oh no, I've said too much... Just talk to Jeff. Ask him about what happened. At the pub. By the fruit machine. With the girl. And the lips." He walks away wondering if he's been too subtle.
  • In Eureka, Allison does this to Carter, in the episode in which he gets fired:
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Allison: I can't tell you that Dr. Leonardo is the top G.D. dendrologist and that she's working in increasing xylonutrient transport. She has a lab over on South Goddard. I'd be breaking about 35 federal laws. If I told you that.

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  • In an episode of Covert Affairs, Annie's superiors are investigating someone she knows under the assumption that they're a spy. Annie disagrees with the approach, as she's sure they're innocent. Auggie's advice:
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Auggie: Okay, I know what I'm supposed to tell you in this situation. I'm supposed to tell you to let Joan run her op. I am not supposed to tell you to go down to the annex and investigate for yourself, and I'm definitely not supposed to tell you that the code for the door is 92762#.

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  • Panelists on QI sometimes try to escape forfeits this way - it works sometimes, mostly determined by Rule of Funny.

I'd say this has Music, but I'm not saying anything

  • "The Presidents" by Jonathan Coulton. Ends with "I don't like to make political statements..." and subverts it by remaining silent for the last few beats.
  • Roy Zimmerman's Impeachment Song. Consists of a long list of ways that corrupt rulers have been overthrown and killed throughout history, and the refrain is "All I'm saying is impeachment is too good". The last verse makes it clear what Roy isn't saying.
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I am not advocating
Any particular course of action
For to do so could be construed
As a felonious infraction
So impeach 'em all, I guess

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  • "The One" by Mary J. Blige. "I ain't saying that I'm the best, but I'm the best."
  • "Blasphemous Rumours" by Depeche Mode:
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I don't want to start any blasphemous rumours
But I think that God's got a sick sense of humoor

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Never said this is New Media

Those rumors that a Tabletop Games folder exists didn't come from me

Also didn't say this is Theater

  • Hamlet
    • Polonius has a few speeches where he goes on and on about the things he's not going to waste breath saying.
    • Even the Ghost has one of these; an incredibly long-winded monologue about how terrifying everything is in Purgatory or whatever, and then adding that he's not going to talk about them.
  • Also, in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Mark Antony incites a crowd to riot and kill Brutus and his conspirators by making a lengthy and eloquent speech about what an honorable man Brutus is, and claiming that he absolutely didn't want to "stir you up to such a sudden flood of mutiny" like Brutus would, using his superior rhetorical skills, were the situation reversed.
  • Shakespeare does it again in The Taming of the Shrew. Grumio spends a long monologue telling another servant how he could tell him all the mad things that happened on Petruchio and Kate's journey, but he's going to take it with him to his grave.
  • In Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado, Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum are in love, but cannot kiss because Yum-Yum is engaged to Ko-Ko. Instead, they sing "Were you not to Ko-Ko plighted", in which they demonstrate, physically, precisely what it is they won't do.

Video Games? How would you know?

  • There's an entire plot line in the BioWare RPG Jade Empire that's kicked off with a speech exactly like this. Minister Sheng is unable to act against the Lotus Assassins searching for part of the amulet, so he gives the Spirit Monk the key to the dam while pretending that it's an accident.
  • During one sequence in Knights of the Old Republic II, while controlling a protocol droid, you can (and eventually must) convince another droid that it has already violated its "ethics programming". The following ensues:
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B-4D4: "No, there is nothing stopping you from attacking the guards outside with your stun ray."
B-4D4: "Of course, I would be obligated to stop you. Therefore it would be best if I were distracted, say by that console behind you."
B-4D4: "Thank you, T1-N1. Please do not abuse my trust and attack the guards outside, thereby creating a diversion that will allow me to escape with the stolen files."

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  • From Planescape: Torment: You go to a wizard who put a spell on a person who now wants it taken off. You convince him to help and he tells you something like: "Alas, I am forbidden to help you. I can't show you this book, and I am most certainly not going to tell you to go to this page and figure out what to do." Then he turns around and hums to himself.
  • This is a key point in episode Patient Zero: 3 in Trauma Team: in the third phase of the mission, the government decides to stop the diagnosis of your patient, and he is ordered not to give any more information. To get around this, Gabriel and RONI decide to have a "chat" with their "bud", really getting the symptoms that they need. They even managed to get a visual exam of his chest after the patient integrates fever into his conversation.
  • In Baldur's Gate 2, Jan Jansen uses this trope to insult Anomen.
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Jan: Anomen, my friend, I realize I've been less than polite with you in the past and I wish to apologize.
Anomen: Verily, you have played me most false.
Jan: Indeed! All know you're an unrepentant ass. 'Tis not my place to say so.
Anomen: Shut up, gnome.
Jan: Your ugliness, both in body and soul, thought true, is inappropriate for discussion and rankly impolite. You're stupid, poorly educated, and always smell faintly of lilacs, but it was wrong of me to bring attention to it.
Anomen: Silence before I CRACK YOUR SKULL!
Jan: Arrogant, drunken, priggish, whiny, pompous are common adjectives used to describe you, but I was wrong to say so. You are completely incapable of independent thought and soil yourself with regularity seldom found outside the nursery. I shall no longer bring these things up in front of the others.

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  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker has the "nice girls who never spread rumors" who won't tell you anything even if you pay them rupees.
  • In Professor Layton and The Spectres Call/The Last Specter, the chief engineer tells Layton exactly what the bad guys are up to, and how to stop them, while claiming he won't say a single word. Luke suspects he's doing this, but it's not clear if it's intentional or not.
  • In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, TEC gives Peach a quiz. The first few questions are of things Peach and the player know already, but soon, he starts asking about Grodus' Evil Plan as a roundabout way of telling her about it without telling her.

Who told you this has Web Comics?

Did I say Western Animation? Nope.

  • The Simpsons, "Bart Star": Milhouse to Bart (paraphrased): "If I wasn't your friend, I'd say you suck."
    • Another Simpsons incident that could be argued as a subversion: "Legally, I can't officially promise you a big cash settlement... but off the record, I promise you a big cash settlement."
  • Bender did this in Futurama too, protesting against the sale of Popplers by telling people about the wide variety of tasty sauces you shouldn't eat them with.
    • Farnsworth also gets a variation in:
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Leela: Are you saying I'm going crazy?
Farnsworth: No, no, no, no one's saying that. But I'm certainly thinking it loudly.

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  • From the Tintin episode "Red Sea Sharks":
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Tintin: "But why are you asking about Alcazar? What's he done?"
Thompson: "What's he done? My dear friend, if you imagine we tell you that he's smuggling aircraft, you're much mistaken..."
Thomson: "... or that we'd tell you that General Alcazar is mounting a counter revolution after General Tapioca re-deposed him..."
*both at once*: "You can forget it!"

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I'm not telling you that this is the Other folder

  • There is a phenomenon (which may merit its own category) called "Kidding on the Square", in which you "jokingly" insult or attack someone in a manner which nonetheless makes it clear that you actually mean it. Popularized by Al Franken, among others.

Why would I say this contains Real Life examples?

  • The notoriously cheap president of the Florida Marlins baseball team, David Samson, savagely criticized the Seattle Mariners for signing their star outfielder, Ichiro Suzuki, to a five year, $90 million dollar contract extension, claiming that it would be the death of baseball's salary structure. (This despite the fact that Ichiro's contract was not the most expensive in the sport either in terms of yearly salary or lump sum; that Ichiro was by far the most talented, popular, and marketable player on Seattle's squad; and that Ichiro would have almost certainly received even more had he hit the open market with more bidders to drive up his price.) Bill Bavasi, the general manager of the Mariners, replied to Samson in the papers:
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"My mother always taught me that if the only thing you have to say is 'Fuck Dave Samson', then don't say anything at all. So I'm not going to say anything at all. Is my mother the greatest or what?"

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  • Football and basketball coaches have on numerous occasions criticized officiating by saying that they (or others) weren't allowed to do it. Two memorable quotes are "I'm not allowed to comment on lousy officiating" and "No matter how terrible the officials are, please don't throw things onto the court."
  • During the 2008 primaries, candidate Mike Huckabee showed a group of reporters a negative ad targeting one of his rivals, and announced that he had decided not to air it. The ad probably got much more attention than if he'd just run it normally.
    • This sort of thing is relatively common in politics, though this example is worse than most. Remember, buying ad time costs money, but if the news airs it for you, it's free.
  • This bash quote, with added False Reassurance.
  • Toughbook's ads saying "Legally, we can't say..." followed by some feature of their mil-spec laptops.
  • How Bruce Sterling proved his chops when he spoke at a conference of early computer game developers:
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So anyway, you're probably wondering why I'm here tonight, some hopeless dipshit literary author... and when am I going to get started on the virtues and merits of the prose medium and its goddamned wonderful storytelling. I mean, what else can I talk about? What the hell do I know about game design? I don't even know that the most lucrative target machine today is an IBM PC clone with a 16 bit 8088 running at 5 MHZ. If you start talking about depth of play versus presentation, I'm just gonna to stare at you with blank incomprehension...

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  • Charles Francis Adams, the diplomat representing the US to the UK during the Civil War, became a hero to his countrymen after writing a note to the British foreign minister, Earl Russell, in which he complained that a Confederate warship being built near Liverpool was about to put to sea without interference, and added: "It would be superfluous in me to point out to your Lordship that this is war." As his son and secretary Henry Adams later explained it:
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"It would be superfluous: 1st. Because Earl Russell not only knows it already, but has meant it [war] from the start. 2nd. Because it is the only logical and necessary consequence of his unvarying action. 3d. Because Mr. Adams is not pointing out to him that "this is war", but is pointing it out to the world, to complete the record."

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  • This trope is actually Older Than Feudalism: known as "evasio" to Roman rhetoricians like Cicero, it was used in law courts or speeches for the same purpose as every other example here.
  • One lawyer joke goes like this: After a lawyer's objection is overruled, he asks the judge, "Your Honor, what you do if I called you a senile old fool?" The judge replies that he would hold the lawyer in contempt. The lawyer then asks, "What if I only thought it?" The judge replies that, as long as he only thought it, there was nothing he could do. The lawyer nods, and says, "Alright, then. For the record, I think you are a senile old fool, Your Honor."
    • There's an old baseball story about a player who actually pulled this on an umpire after the umpire made a call he didn't like. Predictably, the umpire threw him out of the game.
  • During Prohibition, Vino Sano and Fruit Industries, Inc. sold compressed blocks of grapes bearing "warnings against dissolving the brick in a gallon of water, adding sugar, shaking daily and decanting after three weeks." The Feds stomped them anyway. (Article with photo.)
    • Similar warnings against beer making could be found on Pabst Blue Ribbon malt syrup.
  • The 1870 volume The Gentleman's Directory included this rationale for its extensive listing of New York City brothels:
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"Not that we imagine the reader will ever desire to visit these houses. Certainly not. We point out the location of these places in order that the reader may know how to avoid them."

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  • In his autobiography, Dutch missionary and Bible smuggler Andrew van der Bijl relates how, after obtaining an incriminating mark in his passport book that prevented him from passing through certain Communist controlled countries, he asked a foreign affairs clerk if there was any way he could manage to get a new, un-marked passport. Allegedly, the clerk replied that he could not give him any advice, not even that once his passport book was filled, he could just get a new one.
  • The British satirical magazine Private Eye is regularly sued for libel. On one occasion the initial letter from the opposing lawyers stated that the level of damages demanded would be based on their response. They replied by asking "What would the damages be if our response was 'Fuck Off'?.
  • "I never comment on referees and I’m not going to break the habit of a lifetime for that prat" – Ron Atkinson
  • There's no such thing as pure "reading" access in network or otherwise between systems supposed to be compartmentalized - you need to send a request for it. Which itself contains data. Obvious? But people often miss this.
    • Even security experts occasionally don't see this trap. E.g. an antivirus runs suspicious files in an emulator and its coders presumed that non-state changing requests can be safely passed to OS as is (it's faster). What Could Possibly Go Wrong? OS is Windows and APIs to which they pass humble read-only requests include both reading keyboard state, and reading attributes of files that aren't necessarily local, but may be URL somewhere on Internet. The result: malware only needs to change directory (which checks its attributes) to "http://www.WeHostHomePages.com/~Im_11_yrs_old_and_what_is_this/more-cat-pictures(your_key_presses_go_here)/", the remote server only needs to log request for a non-existent location as an error... and that's how a hacker got in an easily filtered text file all the passwords you typed while the file you have downloaded, but never started ran again and again.
    • Another exfiltration trick falling under this uses the fact that error messages are a debugging mechanism, thus designed for the developer's convenience and not always subjected to very strict security measures. After all, it would just report a failure to serve any useful data and echo the request that caused it (which the same user have sent in the first place), right? But in combination with certain other generic and excessively user-friendly functionality it may say too much. The target machine receives a request as XML which amounts to an overcomplicated form of something like "give me ./public/herp-derp#(contents of /etc/passwd)", and answers with "Error! We cannot give you ./public/herp-derp#[actual contents of /etc/passwd] (No such file or directory)" (see here and in references).
...but I'd get in trouble if I did.


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