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Suspiciously Specific Denial

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"My 'Not involved in human trafficking' T-shirt has people asking a lot of questions already answered by my shirt."
Mike Ginn

Certainly no one is describing Suspiciously Specific Denial here, so that people will understand what the trope is about. And this sure isn't an opening gag to preface it. And this surely isn't an unnecessary prolongation of the gag to make it, supposedly, funnier.

A False Reassurance works because the speaker is being vague and non-specific enough to pull the wool over someone's eyes. A Suspiciously Specific Denial, on the other hand, fails because the speaker is Saying Too Much. This may be unintentional, such as when the speaker is panicked, is a Bad Liar, or perhaps just a little stupid. Often used to establish that you're Most Definitely Not a Villain.

Sometimes, this is used more deliberately, such as when the speaker is definitely not trying to give out information that they shouldn't but doesn't want to be too obvious about it (...Or So I Heard may follow). The Trickster may also use it as the misdirecting component of a Batman Gambit, Infraction Distraction or Kansas City Shuffle; by making an oddly specific denial that is actually true, the mark may be led to believe that the denial is false. (For example: the mark is told that there aren't 2,300,009 invisible vampire ghosts — so the mark believes there are, when in fact there are no invisible vampire ghosts at all.) In rare cases, the speaker may be telling the truth and have no intent to deceive, but it just comes out wrong.


Oddly, it can happen in two opposite ways: the specific denial ("I won't kill you using a poisoned stiletto!") was a lie (he does, and the fact that the question and/or answer was so specific means that someone already had the answer in mind), or the specific denial was technically true, but it left so many doors open that it was suspect anyway (he kills the other guy with a non-poisoned stiletto, or a gun). Either way, the result is the same - when someone is more specific than they need to be, it's a good sign something's wrong. Bonus suspicion points if the statement was made apropos of nothing.

This is a favored tactic of a Tsundere who got caught being dere — in fact Memetic Mutation has made this the motto of the Tsundere ("Stupid [love interest]! I-it's not like I'm [doing something affectionate] because I like you or anything!")


It's also related to Compliment Fishing, where someone will make a suspiciously specific Self-Deprecation in the hopes that other people will spot the denial and contradict them.

When the speaker is assumed to be telling the truth, a listener might suspect this if the denial was expected to be more general.

When The Mafia uses it, it's the Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club. If you insist that you'd NEVER make a Suspiciously Specific Denial (while doing so), then it's I'll Never Tell You What I'm Telling You!. This is not comparable to Bad Liar; a character who invokes this trope could certainly be a bad liar, but when used alone it's not indicative of Bad Liar.

Characters who are Lawful Stupid (or Oblivious to Love in the case of the Tsundere) may take the statement at face value.

This is frequently seen on Police Procedurals when someone under a confidentiality requirement (lawyers and doctors, mostly) make a very specific inclusion or omission in an answer to the investigators that provides a clue where they should be looking.

It is also a device in mysteries. Someone makes a statement or denial including information that they could only know if they were the perp. "Well, I didn't shoot him!" "No one ever mentioned how he was killed." That may also be related to You Just Told Me. This is the reason why it is also Truth in Television, especially why lawyers frequently advise not to make any reply to any allegation.

A suspiciously specific denial can also be part of a Gilligan Cut (eg, "You'll never get me to wear a pink polka-dotted tutu with a blue sweater and purple high-heels"), Description Cut ("It's not a run-down house with holes in the roof, broken windows, and blood-stains on the kitchen walls"), et cetera.

See also: Could Say It, But....

Super Trope of Have I Mentioned I Am Sexually Active Today? and People's Republic of Tyranny.

Compare Asbestos-Free Cereal, I Never Said It Was Poison, It's for a Book, Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant, ...Or So I Heard, Overly Narrow Superlative, Saying Too Much.

Contrast False Reassurance, Blatant Lies, and Implausible Deniability.

Compare/contrast with Hesitation Equals Dishonesty.

Often accompanies Mock Surprise Reaction.

These are certainly not examples:

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    Card Games 
  • The card game Ninja Burger includes the "Not a Ninja" T-Shirt which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin and gives a bonus to the disguise skill.
  • Magic: The Gathering: House Dimir does not exist. Of course the Guildpact relies on ten guilds of all possible mana combinations, but the blue black one is just a myth. That tenth symbol on the wall showing all the guilds? Artist's license. Duskmantle, House of Secrets? Never built, don't know what you're talking about. Those mysterious spirits that the Boros legion fought last week? I don't remember that, and you don't either. Leading to The Unmasqued World when Szadek makes a banquet out of Selesnya.

    Oral Tradition 
  • This is not the origin of the non-Chinese proverb "no three-hundred taels [not even close to fifteen kilos] of silver beneath this ground":
    Some guy digs a hole behind his house and put all his life's savings in it. Not feeling particularly secure, he scribbles a message on the wall: "No three-hundred taels of silver beneath this ground". His neighbor Wang gets the message, harvests the ground — and then wrote: "This is not stolen by your neighbor Wang".
  • There is a Latin phrase that says "Excusatio non petita, accusatio manifesta". Which means "explanation non asked, guilt exposed".

  • Blank Check with Griffin & David: In the initial run of the podcast, in which the hosts discussed Star Wars films, the Running Gag was that they watch the films in chronological order and pretend not to realize that any more movies come after the one they're watching. Whenever the hosts would milk this bit for comedy, they would invariably proclaim, apropos of nothing, "I hate bits!" and assure each other that the podcast would contain "no bits."
  • The Hidden Almanac:
    • "This episode is sponsored by the Silent Nightclub, which is absolutely not a front for the underground Mime Cult."
    • From a sponsor spot for the Mantis Lounge nightclub: "Every Saturday night, the most delectable male among the dancers will be selected for special attentions by the staff. This is completely painless."
    • "Brought to you by the underground Mime Cult, which still does not exist."
  • In Sequinox, when Yuki asks Sid where she transferred from, she states she used to live "in a city in a state that exists". She's also never killed a person, like a normal person. Later in the Gemini Arc, Shannon explains that the sitcom world's opening titles say "Sequinox" in "a font". Because they're in a television show, with a budget and made by people.
  • When Lachlan from Jemjammer discusses his backstory with Jylliana, he tells her about how he definitely didn't try to dock too hard during his first stint as a Spelljammer crewman, and certainly didn't cause the ship to burn up on entry.
  • In episode 29 of Welcome to Night Vale, there is a disturbingly specific denial of rampant cannibalism. Neither the first nor the last instance of this trope in, by far.
    • Most of the time, these denials come on the behalf of the Mayor, the Council, or the Sheriff's Secret Police. Cecil, for his part, usually tries to be as honest as he's allowed. That said, in the episode 'Cookies', he gives perhaps the most obvious instance of this trope in the entire show, when he tries to reassure everyone that his comments about Girl Scouts needing to hide in the desert was just for hide-and-go-seek, and not about them having to survive an attack from the evil Strexcorp.
    You would never need to hide for those reasons. Why would I even say that? Why would I say anything? Words? No! These are just strange noises I'm making with my face. Strange noises!
    • Before one episode, Night Vale producer Joseph Fink invited fans to a party to celebrate a year of broadcasting the show, where they would certainly not be replaced by "exact duplicates created to do our bidding."
  • The first episode intro of Mission to Zyxx informs the audience that the rebels have successfully overthrown the evil monarchy to establish the Federated Alliance.
    Announcer: It's definitely an improvement. Totally not a lateral move.
  • Within the Wires: The pilot in the Black Box season when he's carrying one of the men with cigarettes and unpleasant dogs: "I'm not nervous, I know I have no reason to be nervous..."

    Print Media 
  • Issue 278 of Doctor Who Adventures is A5 size, rather than the usual A4. The Letter From The Doctor explains that this is totally intentional and nothing to do with him mucking about with the Teselecta's miniturisation ray. And on a totally unrelated note, he himself appears to be shrunk, so send help and a tiny fez.
  • "The Blogs of Doom" in Doctor Who Magazine #356 lampshades the example from "The Macra Terror". When Medok first tries to tell the Pilot about the strange crab-like giant insects, and the Pilot snaps "There is no such thing as the Macra!", a confused Medok replies "They're called the Macra!?"

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Alternative Title(s): Specifically Suspicious Denial


Suspicious bread

The waiter denies his bread having fallen on the floor in a very suspicious way...

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