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Such bitchy selfishness is wisdom for the ages.


Cave Johnson: "I've been thinking. When life gives you lemons, don't make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! I don't want your damn lemons! What am I supposed to do with these?! Demand to see life's manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons! Do you know who I am? I'm the man who's gonna burn your house down! With the lemons! I'm gonna get my engineers to invent a combustible lemon that burns your house down!"


Any time something is mistaken for deep, intelligent, or artistic, but it's clearly not. This could be for many reasons. Sometimes it's about differing perspectives on the meaning of what is said/done. Sometimes people lack the full context of what they are mistaking. Sometimes there is no reason other than Rule of Funny.

What happens next can also vary. The mistaken person may never be found out (and he/she may just go with this). Sometimes it cause problems for the mistaken person. Sometimes the mistaken thing is revealed to be what it is almost immediately after being praised (often by a character who is The Ditz, so it's pretending to be Dumbass Has a Point and then subverting it).

A Super-Trope to Seemingly-Profound Fool (when The Fool or The Ditz is constantly mistaken for being profound).

Compare Ice Cream Koan.

No Real Life Examples, to avoid natter.

Examples of Mistaken for Profound include:

Comic Books

  • There was an issue of Green Lantern in which Hal Jordan, while living as a drifter, was working temporarily as a seasonal farmhand. One of the other farmhands was a hippie who told Hal that he mostly "follow[ed] the Dead," which Hal thought was poetic until the man explained that he followed The Grateful Dead on tour.

Films — Live-Action

  • Brian from Life of Brian, who gained devoted followers that saw anything he said or did as profound, even if they didn't agree on what he meant by them.
  • In Bill and Teds Excellent Adventure, Bill and Ted are trying to convince Socrates to help them. But the only thing they can think of that's "philosophical" is explaining the lyrics of "Dust in the Wind" in pantomime. By coincidence, the concept "All we are is dust in the wind." is similar to what Socrates was trying to explain to someone else a moment before, so he is convinced Bill and Ted are of interest to him.
    • Also spoofed again in the sequel, when they quote the band Poison when asked the meaning of life.
  • In Fear of a Black Hat Tone Def states, "Because when you take the bus, you get there." His fellow musicians think it's gibberish, but the producer is deeply impressed with this sage wisdom.
  • Being There revolves around the trope. The main character, a gardner with absolutely no experience with the outside world who may or may not have some sort of mental deficiency, is always thought of as a genius. Hell, the ending insinuates that some people want him to become the president. For example, when asked about the economy, he simply talks about the seasons in relation to his gardening experience. This is immediately infered as some sort of profound understanding of the global economy. The best part is that he has no idea why any of this is happening. He's just a polite man making small talk.


  • In Discworld, Witches Abroad mentions that wisdom from far off appears more profound, which explains why saffron-clad young men tend to pay visits to Ms. Marietta Cosmopolite, an Ankh-Morpork dressmaker. They take the cliches she spouts like "I wasn't born yesterday" and "When it rains, it pours" as koans, and end up inventing a martial art inspired by her that involves shouting at people and hitting them with brooms. Thief of Time reveals that Lu-Tze of the Time Monks is a follower of "The Way of Ms. Cosmopolite", but it's unclear whether Lu-Tze actually believes it to be profound or not. He seems to find a certain profundity to them, but unlike the other monks, he also knows what they actually mean; the other monks try to parse them as koans, which makes them look silly (not that they really need Lu-Tze's help at that).

Live Action TV

  • Cheers: when Woody is running for City Council his simple statements are taken as down home country expressions and powerful political messages by reporters.
  • How I Met Your Mother, "Definitions": Ted shows up to the wrong classroom on his first day as an architecture professor, and misinterprets his students' attempts to inform him of this as profound reflections on architecture.

Video Games

  • In Portal 2 when GLaDOS finds inspiration in the insane ramblings of Cave Johnson.
  • In Medabots, a man sitting on the street selling chicks (baby chickens) keeps trying to peddle his birds to protagonist Ikki. Ikki always interprets the man's sales pitches as words of wisdom pertaining to whatever problem he currently has. Occasionally, other characters pass him by when they have trouble and treat him and his speeches the same way Ikki does.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • In a Kids in The Hall skit, Mark, Bruce, and Dave are sitting on a roof. Mark and Bruce take turns saying some things about the moon, Mark says something about romance, and Bruce says something like an angry beatnik poem. But when it's Dave's turn, he doesn't know what to say and just blurts out, "Gee, I wonder who owns that moon". Bruce and Mark act as though it's deep. Dave just shrugs and the skit ends.
  • In The Powerpuff Girls, Mayor is running for reelection, spouting his usual, tired lines. Fuzzy Lumpkins gets tired of Mayor's shouting to the crowd interrupting his sleep, so he yells "SHUT UP!", and people act like it's the best campaign slogan ever.
  • This happens relatively often in Daria, usually only between the least intelligent members of the cast. For example, Kevin and Britney telling each other how smart they are, Sandy telling Quin that she's deep, and Mystic Spiral lyrics.
    • One episode, "Quinn the Brain," centered around most of the school deciding that Quinn was smart and deep, and her trying to act that way as a result (and thus annoying Daria to no end). There was a Reset Button at the end, though ironically Quinn would legitimately go on to gain a boost of intelligence in later seasons.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Bart's Inner Child", self-help guru Brad Goodman convinces the entire town of Springfield to copy Bart's mantra of "I do what I feel like".
  • On King of the Hill, Peggy's father is a senile Montana cowboy whose meaningless ramblings Hank takes as "cowboy wisdom".
  • Trash Heap from Fraggle Rock who gave out random bits of advice that usually worked out this way.