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Virgil: I've been going through these... changes...

Doctor: That's normal for a boy your age.

Virgil: This isn't normal, believe me!

Doctor: Virgil, these changes you're talking about, do they involve... another person?

Virgil: A lot of 'em.

Doctor: Does your father know what you've been doing?

Virgil: No! And he can't! Hold on... whoa, doc, we are talking about two different things here!


Two characters are discussing something... but they're discussing two totally different things. Their actions and responses--vague enough to be applied to either topic--happen to match up so well, though, that neither notices for some time, if at all.

A common scenario in comedies. Expect one of the 'conversations' to be sex-related. Similar to Three Is Company, but with the overhearing party actually being a participant. Mistaken Confession is a possible outcome if the conversation is an interrogation. The technical term in real life is "double illusion of transparency". This can also happen when a question is answered with a seemingly unrelated answer until one thinks about interpertation. Some theorize that when this happens often, it's the result of two souls being housed in one body with very distinct personalities, thus natural misinterpertation compared to how the issue would normally be addressed.

See also Multitasked Conversation. Not to be confused with One Scene, Two Monologues, where no misunderstanding is possible because nobody listens anyway. Related to Digging Yourself Deeper.

Examples of One Dialogue, Two Conversations include:

  • In a Vonage VOIP commercial, a couple with a new child walk into the room where the father refers to their daughter as "their new bundle of joy". Hearing the word "Bundle" the wife remembers something and explicitly states that they are loosing a lot of money to his current phone bundle and they should drop it. The husband, seemingly unable to hear the word "Phone" in her sentence, thinks she is talking about their child. So when she states they should get rid of the bundle as it will just get harder to do the longer they don't, the husband has a look of utter horror on his face.

Anime and Manga

  • To Aru Majutsu no Index: Touma confronts his dad about getting involved with magic and casting the appearance-swapping Angel Fall spell... and his dad thinks he's just talking about collecting occult souvenirs.
  • The last episode of Kyou no Go no Ni ends with two of the characters talking about a childhood promise they made. The boy is talking about a Childhood Marriage Promise, and the girl is talking about her (broken) promise not to tell about the time the boy wet his bed.
  • Episode 7 of Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei opens with Itokishi talking to his student Harumi Fujiyoshi about producing "fan-made publications". He's talking about self-published poetry; she's talking about erotic Doujinshi.
  • Happened at least twice in Love Hina, at least in the OVA, with a newly-arrived girl claiming to be 'the promised girl', but actually talking about an entirely different (but nonetheless important) promise than the one that's been a central theme for the entire series.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima, Negi asks Asuna to accompany him on a trip to search for traces of his father, as his magic partner. Asuna misinterprets it as a love confession, as do Yue and Nodoka, who overhear it. Haruna doesn't, but she does enjoy the ensuing hilarity.
    • Happens in Chapter 25 of the Negima fanfic A Day Indoors between Negi & Yuuna, when Yuuna misinterprets just what is required to form a Pactio. (Negi: "We're supposed to kiss!" Yuuna (having just stripped nude): "Sounds like a great way to start!" (jumps him))
  • A staple of Mitsudomoe. Such as Shinya's fangirls mistaking a younger photo of the triplets' dad for their crush. Futaba being a Daddy's Girl leads to some awkward tension between them.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena. In episode 27, Nanami thinks she has laid an egg. The rest of the episode is full of this trope whenever she tries to talk to someone about it.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, The Elric's begin talking to Maria Ross when she mentions Hughes's death. However, due to Mustang telling them that he retired to the countryside, they think Ross is talking about his retirement. It's then subverted when she mentions that he received a double promotion. When the Elrics question the flawed logic of somebody retiring and receiving a Double Promotion, both parties realize what happened.
  • Expertly done in an episode of Irresponsible Captain Tylor, where the main character has a running conversation with himself which has little do with what several characters who come in one at a time have to say to him... but somehow manages to sound okay to them. Is easily the series' Crowning Moment of Funny.
  • Several times in School Rumble. A notable one is when Eri idly asks Tenma if she's seen a male body before. Tenma says yes, referring to a wrestling match she had recently gone to with Karasuma. The resulting conversation has Eri thinking Tenma is talking about sex while Tenma describes the various moves she saw at the match.
  • In Ichiban Ushiro no Dai Maou, when Akuto goes to visit Junko's father, he doesn't realize that the reason for the visit is a marriage interview, rather than just a typical meet and greet. Junko however, thought he knew, and their conversation is pretty ambiguous until she secretly meets with him in his room at night.

Comic Books

  • Happens in X-Factor #29, when Theresa tries to tell Jamie she's pregnant with his child, and Jamie thinks she's trying to quit the team. The situation is resolved and lampshaded by Monet, who apparently recognizes the situation from Three's Company.
  • Neil Gaiman loved to do this in his Sandman comic series, with at least three separate occurrences.

Fan Fiction

  • In the Haruhi Suzumiya fanfic Kyon: Big Damn Hero, Kyon and his father have a chat. Kyon thinks his father found out about his connections to a Yakuza family. His father is actually talking about an Arranged Marriage.
    • Earlier, Kyon and Mori had a conversation about protection. Kyon thought they were talking about bulletproof armour when actually...
      • Which started when Mori misunderstood a comment about people literally sleeping together.
  • A couple or few Lois and Clark fanfics have Lois thinking that her partner is gay, while Clark thinks that Lois has discovered he's superman. Cue hilarity, with such questions as "When did you realize you were...different?"
  • The Kingdom Hearts fanfic The Renegades features a chapter in which Axel and Larxene start a conversation in which tea is used as a euphemism for sex, and the other Nobodies start joining in on the wordplay. Eventually, Lexaeus enters the conversation, and completely misinterprets their meaning, remarking that there's probably enough tea to go around. The others burst into laughter while Lex blinks, confused.


  • The Bill Murray movie The Man Who Knew Too Little is ninety-four solid minutes of this trope. Bill Murray plays a naive American tourist in London who gets mixed up in a real-life espionage plot- all the while believing that everything going on around him is some kind of hip, experimental, audience-participation theater event.
  • Moulin Rouge: When Christian and Satine are talking in the Elephant, he's trying to read his poetry to her, but she thinks he's talking about sex.
  • In the second ~Charlie's Angels~ movie, the Alex's boyfriend starts complaining about Charlie, causing the distraught father to think that Charlie is some kind of pimp.
  • Happens twice in My Cousin Vinny - first case is a Mistaken Confession, second is a pure instance of this trope. Vinny is introducing himself to his cousin's friend and preparing to represent him in court, but he thinks Vinny is a prisoner preparing to rape him.
  • In the Get Smart movie, Max attempts to drop hints in the bakery that he is trying to find the secret base hidden underneath. The lady he's speaking to, however, believes she is being hit on and responds that she has a boyfriend, but could make an exception, and the flour sacks in the back are very comfortable.
  • A lot of Fight Club is like this (though it's impossible to tell without knowing the big plot twist near the end).
  • ~There's Something About Mary~: Ted thinks he's being questioned about picking up a hitchhiker when a detective asks about his "friend in the car"; it's actually the dead body said hitchhiker left in his trunk:

 Detective Krevoy: Well, uh, can you tell us his name?

Ted: Jeez, I didn't catch it.

Detective Stabler: So he was a stranger? It was totally random?

Ted: He was the first hitcher I saw, what can I tell you? Now cut to the chase, how much trouble am I in?

Detective Stabler: First tell us why you did it.

Ted: Why I did it? I don't know. Boredom? I thought I was doing the guy a favor.

Detective Krevoy: This wasn't your first time, was it, Ted? How many we talking?

Ted: Hitchhikers? I don't know - fifty... a hundred maybe - who keeps track? Hey, I know this is the Bible Belt, but where I come from this is not that big a deal.

  • Played straight in Fiddler On the Roof when Lazar Wolf wants to ask Tevye for permission to marry his daughter, but since Lasar is a butcher, Tevye assumes he wants to buy Tevye's milk cow. See the entry under Theater.
  • Done in a totally non-comedic fashion in Shutter Island when Teddy Daniels finds George Noyce. Noyce actually gives away the entire, cruel Twist Ending: that Teddy is actually Andrew Laeddis (who Teddy believes is responsible for his wife's death... and he's right), that he's an inmate of the asylum, and that the entire "investigation" is just a game for Teddy's benefit. Teddy, however, is so wrapped up in his delusions that he can't understand anything Noyce is saying (except for the bit about experiments in the lighthouse, which, ironically, are Noyce's delusions), and the audience is so trusting of Teddy's subjective point of view that they can't appreciate Noyce's words until the movie's over.
  • Applied liberally in Roberto Begnini's Johnny Stecchino, where many, many people converse with Dante on the actions of his Identical Stranger, the titular mob informant which he is unwittingly playing Body Double for, while Dante himself is talking about something much more innocent, like the banana he stole.
  • Les Grossman's infamous exchange with Flaming Dragon in Tropic Thunder. They're a group of warlords trying to ransom a hostage, and he thinks they're a rival talent agency trying to sign his biggest star. Possibly subverted in that I doubt Grossman's approach would have been any different had he known they were warlords.

 Grossman: "Take a step back and literally FUCK YOUR OWN FACE! I don't know what kind of Pan-Pacific bullshit power play you're trying to pull on me, but Asia, Jack, is my territory. So whatever you're thinking, you better think again! Otherwise I'm gonna have to head down there and I will rain down an ungodly fucking firestorm upon you! you're gonna have to call the fucking United Nations and get a fucking binding resolution to keep me from fucking destroying you. I'm talking about scorched earth motherfucker! I will massacre you! I WILL FUCK YOU UP!"

  • Juno: when Mark and Vanessa are painting the baby room, the actual lines they have about the shades of yellow is neither here nor there.
  • Sideways: Paul Giamatti's poetic description of why he loves Pinot Noir probably isn't about wine.
  • In Touch Of Pink Alim and Giles discuss a man who's played an important role in their lives. Giles talks about the guy he's been sleeping with, Alim talks about his imaginary friend, and both are surprised that the other already knows.
  • In Being There (both movie and source novella), the vast majority of the conversations Chance the Gardener has with other characters turn out as this due to their preconceived notions about him — because he looks and sounds like a cultured businessman, that's what he's assumed to be, rather than the mentally-challenged gardener he actually is.
  • In Billy Wilder's The Emperor's Waltz, the Emperor is suggesting the breeding of two poodles. The general he is talking to believes they are discussing an Arranged Marriage for his daughter.
  • A very good one happens in the first Shrek movie when Shrek overhears Donkey's conversation with Fiona about her turning into an ogre at night. Because he hears only part of the conversation, when she says, "Who could love such a hideous, ugly beast?", he thinks she's referring to him. The confrontation he has with her the next day is very much two different conversations:

 Fiona: You heard what I said?

Shrek: Every word!

Fiona: But I thought you'd understand!

Shrek: Oh, I understand! Like you said, "who could love such an ugly beast"?

Fiona: [stricken] ...But I thought that wouldn't matter to you.

Shrek: Yeah, well, it does!

    • The subtext makes sense from either viewpoint, but Shrek's viewpoint makes Fiona's responses sound offensive, and vice versa. This results in a huge misunderstanding.
  • In Enemy of the State, Dean weaponizes this trope. Early in the movie some Chekhov's Gunmen Mafiosi confronted him about a tape being used as evidence in a legal case he was on. In the main plot of the movie an acquaintance had slipped Dean a tape with evidence of murder by an NSA agent. When Dean has finally figured out the plot but got captured by the NSA, he tells the NSA agents that the Mafiosi have the tape they want. A meeting is arranged and the NSA and Mafia play out this trope. They end up murdering each other rather thoroughly, never realizing that they were talking about two completely different tapes.
  • In The Rescuers Down Under, Bernard tries to propose to Bianca, but misplaces the ring. While he looks for it, Bianca receives word of the mission to Australia, and when Bernard returns and tries to propose again, she thinks he's talking about the mission and accepts. He is delighted, but is perplexed that she wants to do it now, and that she only needs to wear khaki shorts and hiking boots.
  • A very unusual musical version is done in the little-seen French film Les jolies choses (Pretty Things) (2001): towards the the end, Lucie who is really Marie pretending to be her famous sister, as Lucie committed suicide performs in a concert and sings the title song, the lyrics of which include her addressing someone named "Lucie" angrily ("tu peux partir, je ne t'aime pas"--you can leave, I don't love you) and then eventually saying "mais toi, c'est moi" (but you are me) and ending on a bittersweet loving note: "les jolies choses, c'est la mort...maintenant Lucie dort, maintenant, Lucie, dors" (the pretty things are death; now Lucie is sleeping, now, Lucie, sleep). The audience is cheering and singing along, thinking it's just a hypothetical song referring to herself and employing poetic license, entirely missing the Lyrical Dissonance and not realizing she's really talking about her twin's suicide, first expressing anger at her selfishness and then realizing her love for her and forgiving her and finally wishing her peace. It's actually really powerful.
  • Used repeatedly, between varying people, in Ruthless People, to glorious effect. A Gold Digger thinks she send her boyfriend a blackmail tape with him murdering his wife, but it's a man having loud sex with a prostitute. So the boyfriend calls the girlfriend thanking her for sending him the tape and promising to do the same thing to her. This makes the girlfriend fear for her safety and send the tape to a judge... who turns out be the exact man having sex, and while she thinks she's just helping him with his investigation, he thinks she's blackmailing him with the tape to arrest her boyfriend.


  • There's a Jewish folktale about a silent debate between a Jew and the Pope that works this way.
    • All four of the silent debates featured there are like that.


  • Carrot and Angua's discussion of affirmative action hiring practices in Men At Arms. Carrot admits Angua was probably accepted to the Watch, and Vimes probably isn't happy about this, because she's a w... and Angua interrupts in outrage. Carrot (and, at this point, the reader) thinks Angua was hired because she's a woman; Angua, thinking (correctly) that it's more likely she was hired because she's a werewolf, assumes Carrot knows this. The resulting conversation makes sense both ways.
  • In Sense and Sensibility, Mrs. Jennings watches a conversation between Colonel Brandon and Elinor and assumes he is proposing to her, and has a conversation with Elinor afterwards, congratulating her. The colonel had actually been offering a living to Edward. Elinor and Mrs. Jennings don't realise they're on different pages until their second conversation about it.
  • A short-lived one in Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince occurs when Ron accidentally eats a candy laced with love potion by Romilda Vane (originally meant for Harry, but Harry was wise enough not to eat it.) Ron then starts going on about how amazing "she" is, and Harry assumes he's talking about his current girlfriend, Lavender, until Ron lets slip that "she doesn't even know who I am".
    • Another one occurs in Goblet of Fire. Snape accuses Harry of stealing Polyjuice ingredients from his office, but words it in such a way that Harry thinks he's talking about the time Hermione stole those ingredients two years ago for the Polyjuice Potion in Chamber of Secrets. In fact, Snape is talking about a much more recent (and plot relevant) theft, but Harry (and therefore the reader) doesn't learn this until the end of the book.
  • A sinister example in the Ruth Rendell novel, The Lake of Darkness. One character is trying to do a good deed with a pool win and is offering to buy a house for another character and his mother in the country. The other character thinks he's being hired as a hitman.
  • Pritkin and Cassie have a brief one in Hunt the Moon. Cassie believes they're talking about how Mircea considers Pritkin a danger to her physical well-being, while Pritkin believes she's speaking of Mircea's distrust of Pritkin as a potential romantic rival.
  • The Monk: Don Christoval is just trying to be nice. Leonella swears he wants her.

Live Action Television

  • 3rd Rock from the Sun often uses this trope.
    • A memorable example occurred when Harry realized Tommy had grown taller than him. So they went to an enlargement clinic, not realizing, of course, that it was a penis enlargement clinic. Hilarity Ensues.

 Tommy: So he used to be bigger than me, but then my aunt realized that I'm the bigger one now. He can't stand it. He makes me measure him like five times a day.

    • In another episode, Harry's pet from the Home Planet came to Earth as a human and destroyed one of Sally's shoes. Meanwhile, Don thinks that Sally is pregnant.

 Dick: [on the phone about Sally's shoes] Well, it's my sister's problem, why don't you talk to her! [hangs up] So Don, what brings you here?

Don: Sally's... "problem".

Dick: Oh, it's no big deal. It's just going to cost me a lot of money, that's all.

Don: Do you know who's responsible?

Dick: Of course. Harry watched the whole thing happen. His best friend did it.

  • Frasier does the equivalent of moving from Newtonian Physics to Quantum Mechanics to this trope. About one-third of the episodes from later seasons are built on this.
  • The Green Green Grass: Boycie is talking to the local MP. Boycie thinks it's about him getting a knighthood for a charity donation. The MP thinks it's about gay sex...
  • This happened in an episode of Blossom in which Joey's dad has a (very indirect) talk with him about some drugs he found in his room. Joey knows nothing about the drugs and thinks his dad found condoms in his room. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In Friends, Chandler ends up thinking that Monica intends to get breast enlargement surgery, while Monica thinks Chandler is freaking out about her becoming pregnant. As a result, Chandler barges in and asks that Monica not change at all - she responds that not only her breasts will swell (as a result of pregnancy) but also her hands and feet as well. They talk for a bit, getting more and more confused, until eventually Rachel mentions the baby and they realize what the other was talking about.
  • On one episode of Just Shoot Me, Maya gets Elliot a game system for his birthday, while Recurring Character Persky got him sex toys as a gag. Unbeknownst to either of them, Dennis has switched the two gifts. Thus, Elliot interprets Maya's invitation to play a few games as her wanting to engage in S&M (saying that she's going to beat him and make him cry certainly doesn't clear things up any), while Persky thinks Elliot wants to do the same.
  • A staple of Arrested Development.
  • In Strangers with Candy, when Jerri and Noblet discuss Jellineck's car accident, which they both feel guilty about. Talking about "the person responsible", Jerri thinks Noblet knows she was the one driving the car and Noblet thinks Jerri knows he was there and ran off. They realize when Noblet refers to "the person" as "he".
  • One episode of Sister Sister had a genes/jeans confusion. They're Korean.
  • ICarly:In iEnrage Gibby, when Carly is talking to Mr. Klemish, She thinks they're talking about a bad review of Spencer's sculptures, while Mr. Klemish thinks they're talking about Spencer's fake death.
  • Dear God, all the time on Coupling. Notable examples include: Sally thinking Patrick's girlfriend is stepping out on him with Jeff, while Patrick's girlfriend (who's bisexual and in favor of an open relationship) thinks Sally is hitting on her; Patrick flirting with Jane's therapist, with each one believing the other is gay; and the telephone mess involving a phony bar full of Australians and "Giselle, the French bitch" that leads to Susan and Steve's break-up.
    • One favorite is when the guys are having a conversation with Sally's date. He's a butcher, but Sally told everyone he's a surgeon, so they are all shocked when he explains that she's one of his regulars and even more shocked when he states, "Well, you know how it goes. Just a few good cuts and you have the woman of your dreams."
  • In Desperate Housewives near the start of season 6, Carlos and Lynette have a conversation where Carlos is talking about Lynette having breast implants while Lynette thinks he is talking about her pregnancy that she is trying to keep a secret from him, no Mistaken Confession resulted though.
    • An earlier example (Season 5): Lynette thinks that Tom is using the warehouse where his group rehearse to have sex with another woman. It actually happens that one of his sons is using said warehouse for that. When Lynette confronts Tom, Tom thinks that he's speaking about their son, but after Tom tells her about it, Lynette realizes in horror that his son is having sex with an older woman(much to Tom's shock, as well).
  • Grounded for Life: Uncle Eddie is confronting the daughter's boyfriend because he thinks he got her pregnant. It turns out they just got tattoos together.
  • Family Matters: Carl thinks he is arguing with Harriet about their sex life; she is under the impression that the conversation is about barbecuing burgers.
  • This type of conversation happens between Charlie and Mac in an episode of ~It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia~. Charlie thinks they are talking about Mac's murderous activities and Mac thinks they are talking about the person he is dating.
  • The A Bit of Fry and Laurie sketch "My Dear Boy". It's actually a subversion; the punch line of the sketch is that they were talking about the same thing all along.
  • An episode of Leverage, Three Nights of the Hunter, has a very brief example. The mark for the episode, a journalist, has been steered towards a politician to ask about an alleged government project called "Destiny". The Destiny that he thinks she means is his favourite stripper.
  • My Wife and Kids: Michael listens to his daughter and her boyfriend talk about mini-golf. He thinks they're talking about sex, much to his horror.
  • Subverted between Brian and Justin in an episode of Queer as Folk. They are both aware of the fact that their discussion concerns two different things at once (namely, whether Brian should accept Justin back on his firm, and whether they should resume their relationship).
    • In another episode, Brian and Michael are very upset about the night before; Brian because Babylon was closed down and Michael because he found out that Melanie and Lindsey had broken up months ago without telling anyone. Hilarity Ensues:

 Brian: "How could you eat after what happened last night?"

Michael: "You're telling me! Steam's still coming out of my ears."

Brian: "My heart's broken. My soul - crushed."

Michael: "How do you think I feel?"

Brian: "The insensitivity. You know, it's amoral, that's what it is."

Michael: "You're telling me."

Brian: "How could they do this?"

Michael: "You were right. Never trust munchers."

Brian: "Munchers?"

Michael: "Mel and Linds!"

Brian: "What the hell have they got to do with it?"

Michael: "Who do you think's responsible?"

Brian: "For closing Babylon?"

  • In "Sorry, Bro" in How I Met Your Mother, Marshall needed a new pair of pants and Lily brought them to the workplace, only to run into Barney. Barney being Barney assumed she was there to give Marshall something else. Their conversation ends with Barney thinking that Lily wanted him to give Marshall that "something else."
  • The Scrubs episode "My Own Private Practice Guy". JD thinks Dr Cox is jealous of the time he's spending with Dr Fischer - he actually hates Fischer for having an affair with Jordan.

 Dr Fischer: But you've gotta know, I never made the first move.

JD: That's a lie! You bought me a latte!

  • 30 Rock, in an episode where Liz was having trouble with her boyfriend and Jenna was thinking of getting an Important Haircut. More a jab at Jenna's self-centeredness than anything:

 Jenna: Liz, you seem really stressed out. You want to talk about what's going on?

Liz: I just hope it's not a mistake.

Jenna: Well maybe it is, but you have to listen to your heart.

Liz: Why meddle with something that was great?

Jenna: Oh Liz, it'll grow back.

Liz: What?

Jenna: We're talking about my hair, right?

    • Jack prides himself on his ability to hold two conversations in his office, one with the person in the office and one with the person on the phone, by giving a response that answers both questions. In one episode, he does this with Liz.
  • On Modern Family, Claire tries to encourage Haley to break up with her dimbulb boyfriend Dylan, using an analogous couple in the soap opera they're watching. Haley thinks Claire's talking about her own marriage, which happened to start out the same way.
    • Also happened when Luke read Haley's diary on the computer, but Claire thought he had stumbled across pornographic pictures.
    • And again, when Gloria is trying to apologize to Claire for accidentally sending a rude email, and Claire is talking about the kids walking in on her and Phil having sex. By the end of it, they think Gloria is offering a threesome with them.
    • After Jay accidentally insults a pair of vacation acquaintances, Gloria tells them he's going senile. Then they try to talk to Manny about it, beginning with "We hear he's a little off his game," which gets Manny thinking they're talking about Jay's golf skills ("He does swear a lot. The worst is when he goes in the woods.").
  • The Spin City episode "The Great Pretender" has Mike being named sexiest man in New York City and finding himself unable to perform after a mistimed comment from the Mayor about not being able to get away from the public eye. He finally asks the Mayor if he had any "problems" when running for office, and he tells him about the time he took his wife on a romantic getaway... only to have his golf game run out the window. Mike ends up running with it and ends up getting great advice, though the Mayor remains oblivious throughout the conversation.

 MAYOR: You a golfer, Flaherty?

MIKE: Ah, used to be. Haven't, ah, played much in a while. I'm, ah, thinking of taking it up again.

MAYOR: Well, you should. Best six hours of your life.

MIKE: *beat* I think that might be a little optimistic, sir.

  • Spaced: Marsha has seen Tim kissing his girlfriend, believing him to already in a relationship with Daisy. When she confronts him about this, however, Tim --unaware of this — believes her to be talking about a birthday cake he's arranged for Daisy's birthday. Misunderstandings ensue:

 Marsha: If you don't tell her... I will.

Tim: But... you'll spoil the surprise.

Marsha: [Appalled] You bastard!

  • Thanks to Sir Humphrey's Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness and overall Obstructive Bureaucrat demeanour, a lot of the conversations he has with Jim Hacker in Yes Minister fall here, but one particularly notable example concerns the time he attempted to inform the Minister that he was leaving the department because he'd received a promotion, only to manage to convince Hacker through his pompous inability to clearly express himself that he was dying.
  • In Bottom, Eddie gives Richie his birthday present; a slip of paper with the words "Madame Swish, 3.30" written on it. It's a horse that Eddie's received a good tip on and is planning to put money on. Richie thinks it's referring to... something else. The conversation gets... confused.
  • This trope is the basis of the Whose Line Is It Anyway? game "Press Conference", where one of the players plays a certain person holding a press conference, but has no clue who he is or what he's done, whereas everyone else playing reporters does, and must try to clue him in on it.
  • Done for rare dramatic effect on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy and Xander go to talk to Spike, who seems distracted and occasionally says things that don't make sense. Since he's been a bit nuts since getting his soul back, we don't think anything of it. Then we see that Willow is also there, having unconsciously cast a spell that prevents her and the other Scoobies from sensing each other at all.
  • A dark, *dark* variant in the last episode of Blakes Seven, and a literal example of Poor Communication Kills. Blake assumes he's explaining the situation. His second in command, Avon, assumes he's confessing to a betrayal. It doesn't help that his behaviour towards Avon's fellow crewman Tarrant has been equally open to misinterpretation. The conversation goes something like this:

 Avon: Stand still! Have you betrayed us? Have you betrayed *me*?

Blake: Tarrant doesn't understand.

Avon: Neither do I!

Blake: I set all this up! (What he means is that he's set up an anti-Federation network and wants Avon to join. The paranoid Avon thinks it means that Blake has set him up.)

Avon: Yes...

Blake: Avon, I was waiting for you...Before he finishes, Avon shoots him.

  • One episode of Family Matters had Harriette complaining about her husband Carl's bland barbecue technique, so she left him a magazine article on barbecue recipes. Carl thought she wanted him to read the "Rate Your Mate" article a few pages over. The scenario climaxed in a hilarious conversation packed to the brim with double entendres where Harriette was talking about barbecue but Carl thought she was talking about their sex life:

 Carl: I read your magazine article. And if you had a problem, why didn't you just come to me?

Harriette: Oh, Carl. I'm sorry. I was just trying to be helpful. I thought it might be fun to try something different.

Carl: Oh, so you're saying that I'm boring.

Harriette: Not you, just your technique.

Carl: Harriette!

Harriette: Well, what's the big deal? I talked it over with Laura, and she agrees!

Carl: You talked it over with Laura?!

Harriette: Sure, she's part of the family! Carl, it's just that you do the same thing over and over, all summer long, every single Saturday.

Carl: Well, excuse me, but I think once a week is pretty darn good considering my back problem! And besides, you can help, you know.

Harriette: Well, I would, but you always want to be in control! I thought if you got your act together, we could invite the neighbors over!

Carl: Invite the neighbors over?!

Harriette: Well, why not? It's not like it's a big secret! They know what we're doing! They're doing the same thing, only better!

Carl: Just how do you know that?

Harriette: Because Marge gave Ted the article and he's cooking up a storm. You should taste his burgers!

Carl: What's that supposed to mean?

Harriette: What I said. You should taste his burgers when he barbecues.

Carl: (pause) Barbecue? We're talking about barbecue here?

Harriette: Yeah. What did you think we were talking about?

  • Played for drama between Dov and Chris in the second season of Rookie Blue where they open and honestly promise to compete for everything. Chris merely thinks the conversation is about promotions and so forth. Dov on the other hand, is in love with Chris's girlfriend.
  • On Boy Meets World Cory and Eric have one of these where Cory thinks Topanga told Eric that she is pregnant and Eric thinks that Cory is talking about Topanga's diet, which is what she actually told Eric about.
  • In the Angel episode Fredless, Fred runs to Lorne, The Empath, for help after panicking and running away from her parents, who have been looking for her for years. Lorne says something about "those monsters" being after her, and both she and the audience are led to think he means her parents... Nope, turns out she was being followed by literal monsters, in the form of demons from what appeared to be just a bit of b-plot - her parents have nothing but good intentions. Interestingly, given how Lorne's powers seem to work, it seems likely that he wasn't entirely sure what the specific threat was, just that something dangerous was after her.
    • Happens in a more comedic way in Carpe Noctem, in which a man pulls Grand Theft Me on Angel himself - Cordelia tells him to talk to Fred about her crush on him, and because of her gender blender nickname, he assumes Angel is gay, and later mistakes Wesley for the "Fred" she spoke of. He also initially gets the wrong idea when Cordelia says they're going to "the hotel" together.
  • In Walker, Texas Ranger Trevet and Syd wonder if Gage would like Salsa (the dance). After he comes in he claims he loves Salsa, especially on chips.
  • In an episode of Castle, Beckett asks the victim's therapist what problems he came to her for. She said he had battled depression, which led to an eating disorder: "His diet was horrible. Scraps from the garbage... dead birds, even his own feces." After a beat, Castle realizes she was actually talking about the victim's dog.
  • An early episode of Cheers has this conversation between Diane (talking about meditation) and Rick (talking about sex):

 Diane: Wait a minute. Don't say that it's not the answer until you've tried it.

Sam: Diane...

Diane: Excuse me. My name is Diane and I have done this for years. I'll tell you I would be happy to teach you how to do it.

Rick: Well, Diane, this is very kind of you but I don't think...

Diane: No, no no. Please do me the favor of trying it with me.

Rick: (To Sam) Is she serious?

Sam: Oh yes. She's serious. She does it all the time. She just said so.

Diane: That's right.

Rick: (pointing to Sam and Diane) Do you...?

Diane: Are you kidding? Him? He would just make jokes.

Rick: Well okay then. Okay! What time is good for you?

Diane: Well personally I like to get at least half an hour of it in before breakfast. But look anytime is alright with me.

Rick: Golly I like you.

Diane: You know there is something so beautiful about experiencing it outdoors.

Rick: Don't people stare at you?

Diane: Yes, sometimes but they end up learning something. Sometimes people even join in. You know all this talk had gotten me so excited. Hell let's do it now!

Rick: Outside?

Diane: Oh oh no, it's a little cold and I prefer to take my shoes off. Um, Sam could we use your office?

Sam: Wait a minute. I'm sorry I let this go too far.

Diane: (while walking with Rick to the office) No no, we don't need to hear from Mr. Skeptic. Rick here is after something and I can show him where it is.

(They enter Sam's office. Beat. Slap!)



  • "Pass the Pepper" by Lou and Peter Berryman.

Newspaper Comics

  • In one Zits comic strip, teenage Jeremy is explaining to his friend Hector how he's Googled everybody he knows. Hector is somewhat startled (perhaps at the fact that Jeremy now knows everything he'd need to know about everybody), as Jeremy goes on: "Friends, teachers, neighbors... you name 'em, I've Googled 'em." All the while, Jeremy's dad is standing behind them with an increasingly alarmed look on his face, until he runs over to Jeremy's mom to learn that Google is actually an internet search, and not, well...

Stand Up Comedy

  • Comedian Carl Barron tells of a conversation based around the two meaning of the word 'thongs' (either footwear or underpants).

 Carl: I always wear thongs.

Others: When?

Carl: When I feel hot. I don't see the big deal. My mum wears thongs. My dad wears thongs. When we get to the beach we take them off, put them on our hands and run down to the water.

Others: Are we talking about the same thing?

Carl: I don't think so.

  • Swedish comedian Adde Malmberg once talked about how he had been on a train and heard how two people who didn't appear to have ever met before were talking to each other. One of them told the other that he was a scientist who for the moment did research about "skator" (magpies, that is), but because of his peculiar dialect, the other thought he said he did research about "scouter" (scouts, as in members of the scout movement). Apparently, they had a very long conversation about it, until the scientist started talking about how they like to steal things, and the other person got a bit confused.
  • Dave Allen did a routine about two different meanings of the word 'shit'


  • Most of the Alan Ayckbourn play Relatively Speaking.
  • Fiddler On the Roof: Tevye and Lazar Wolf meet up in a bar in one scene. Lazar Wolf wants to talk about potentially marrying Tevye's daughter Tzeitel. However, Tevye doesn't know that, believing that Lazar Wolf wants to buy one of his cows. Cue an awkward conversation between the two with Double Entendres and innuendos abound.
  • In an relatively old Norwegian theater piece, Rett i Lomma ("Right in the Pocket", referring to money easily obtained through fraud), the Villain Protagonist (Erik) has spent the last two years making up fake personalities to cash in on their various "illnesses" and subsequent state support money. Then a tax inspector shows up and wants some signatures on a few papers in order to confirm the next payment to "Mr. Thomasen". Erik promptly says he is Thomasen and signs the paper. But the inspector also needs Erik's signature. He asks his friend Normann to do this, but the attempt is thwarted as Normann is forced to take on another role as the inspector mentions other people and Erik begins lying about them too. This leads to him and Normann having to play various fake roles in order to cover up the fraud as more and more oblivious people arrive at the scene and begin asking questions. Hilarity Ensues as they take on more and more ridiculous personality traits and come up with more and more complex excuses. Most conversations are then misunderstood as the roles become too complex to keep track of. Several scenes have not double, but multi-layered conversations.
  • In Moliere's play The Miser, Harpagon and his steward Valere are talking about the supposed thievery Valere has done. Harpagon is talking about his stolen money box, while Valere is talking of Harpagon's daughter whom he's in love with. Harpagon is so fixated on the stolen money that he takes unusually long to realize what's up, even when Valere begins talking of the "fair eyes", "modesy" and "purity" of the daughter.

Video Games

  • The infamous elevator scene from ~Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors~. The elevator seemingly can go down to a part of the ship that is flooded. Naturally, June is worried she might get wet "down there."

 June: Your body will force you to swallow some of it, eventually...

Junpei: Wh-What are you trying to do to me...?

June: Nothing... I'm not going to do anything to you. I'm just saying that that's what happens. It's a psychological reaction to what you're experiencing...

Was...was that really how it happened? It occurred to Junpei that perhaps that was how it worked... Perhaps he'd been mistaken all these years. Had he misunderstood life so gravely? The thought terrified him. June seemed to be entirely oblivious to Junpei's mounting confusion and terror.

  • Da Capo (Visual Novel): As Junichi and Nemu set off for school, they start talking about who should get married first, and Junichi decides that they should get married at the same time. Nemu immediately assumes he means to each other, and the practical-thinking Junichi doesn't understand why Nemu's getting so flustered. And just a moment later as Nemu threatens to deliver a Megaton Punch, Sakura suddenly admonishes them that they can't do "that", because they're brother and sister. Both siblings take it the wrong way and start realizing their feelings for each other, until Sakura finishes her sentence--that siblings shouldn't hit each other. Oops.
  • Clannad: Tomoya is an expert at arranging this kind of situation for his own amusement. In one case, Nagisa wants to ask for Ryou's help in establishing the theater club, so Tomoya has Sunohara tell Ryou that someone wants to ask her out on the rooftop. When they arrive, Tomoya introduces Nagisa as the girl who wanted to "talk to her", and a beautiful Schoolgirl Lesbians confession scene unfolds until Nagisa finally mentions the club itself. (As a bonus, Ryou said yes, before she realized what the question was.)
  • Larry's final conversation with Annette Boning in Leisure Suit Larry 7: Love for Sail! features Larry trying desperately to prevent Annette from thinking he's gay, while Annette is trying desperately to stop Larry from blackmailing her about her husband's assassination.
  • There are a few party banter conversations like this in Dragon Age. Most of them involve Oghren, who does it on purpose.
    • Notable examples include Oghren announcing that he caught Alistair practicing "pike-twirling" in the woods, and that he likes "polishing his weapon" in public to relieve tension. In both cases he's not being euphemistic, but makes it sound extremely dirty.
  • In Tales of Monkey Island, you have to do this deliberately. Guybrush has to exchange insults with a pirate, while simultaneously cheering up Morgan.

Web Comics

  • Out There has a rather subtle one. Keep in mind that Clayton's serious, and Sherry's just bantering:

 Clayton: I can't believe someone as unconfident as you won't at least consider giving someone as unchallenging as me a shot.

Sherry: Another in a series of life's paradoxes. [1]


Web Original

  • Loading Ready Run has a three-way version with cell phones, though it's not actually a "dialogue" as none of the three are actually talking to each other. Kathleen is breaking up with a boyfriend, Graham is making a business deal, and Matt is talking to a friend about returning a defective product to the store. It's just the 3 halves of the conversations that we hear match up perfectly.

Western Animation

  • Static Shock, as quoted above, involves Virgil's description of his superpowers being at first mistaken for referring to puberty, later mistaken for referring to sex.
  • In an episode of South Park, the boys think they're talking to rival talent agents when they were really talking to the mob. They managed to convince them to give up their life of crime despite the difference.
    • The main plot of "Jared has Aides", the joke being that Jared actually means "aides", as in a dietician and a personal trainer, and not "AIDS", the disease. Jared thinks that everyone is angry because he didn't actually lose his weight solely by eating Subway, when, well, why do you think people might be upset when Jared goes around saying that he "wants to give everyone in the world aides"?
  • Family Guy: Brian eats the hair in Meg's pie. But don't worry- Stewie had some too.
    • With Cool Hwip!
  • In an episode of American Dad, Francine sees Stan's body double making out with Hayley. When she confronts Stan, he thinks she's talking about his stealing cookie dough from the fridge. Video is here.
  • An episode of The Simpsons has Homer become a labor union boss, and eventually facing a bribe attempt from Mister Burns. The offer's made with a great deal of Accidental Innuendo, however, and Homer mistakenly assumes Burns is coming on to him, leading to the following refusal (which Burns simply takes as Homer being above bribery and getting righteously indignant at the attempt):

 Homer: Sorry, Mr. Burns, but I don't go in for these backdoor shenanigans! Sure, I'm flattered, and maybe even a little curious, but the answer is still no!