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Edmund: Yes. It might be wise to appoint a new Lord, to make sure the old Lords vote the right way.
—Blackadder the Third
Whenever a woman wants something from the significant man in her life, she will usually tell him. Not directly, mind you; in true passive-aggressive spirit she will drop vague and subtle (or not-so-subtle) hints here and there (often in unrelated occasions), expecting he will put the pieces together himself.
Such Hint Dropping almost never works. The man won't take the hints (heck, he may not even notice the hints), and the woman will end up furious at him for it. And, more often than not, since she is often wiser and he is most likely a Bumbling Dad, the writer will expect the viewer to take her side, seeing him as insensitive and clueless and her as blameless.
This can be Truth in Television, but TV (especially Sit Coms, where the trope is quite popular) highly exaggerates the phenomenon. One would expect a man who's lived with a woman for umpteen years to be able to read her hints with at least some degree of accuracy; but this never carries over into fiction. Nor does said fictional woman ever just speak directly about what's on her mind.
Further, despite the gender slant of this entry, both women and men are subject to this trope. Fiction, however, tends to show us more women than men dropping such hints.
Naturally, with this trope nobody dropping hints ever thinks that the recipient got the hint and merely disagrees with it. Additionally, it is a little bit odd to blame the recipient of a piece of communication for not understanding the communicator's message; one shouldn't criticise a German, after all, for not understanding French. (Now, English, of course is spoken all over the universe!)
- A car insurance ad in Australia for a company called AAMI (pronounced 'Amy') features a woman called Amy in a jewelery store talking directly to the camera, giving a message to "my man Todd". She turns on a CD player that starts playing the bridal march. She talks about how much AAMI could save him on his car insurance and 'who knows what he could do with the money he saves'. She ostentatiously droops her hand forward to display an engagement ring (with the price tag still attached) and pointedly tells Todd to "give AAMI a ring" as the phone number flashes up.
- A follow-up ad had the now married Amy standing in a travel agency, complaining the cheapness of the honeymoon and waving a brochure for Paris.
- In the Fairy Tail fanfiction The Young And The Reckless, the kind and cheerfully helpful young man the protagonists meet up with drops dozens of hints that he is actually The Dragon, The Mole, a Bifauxnen, and in it all For the Lulz; the woman he was talking to when they met is married to another member of the Quirky Miniboss Squad; The Bartender who led them to him is another member of the Squad, and the Big Bad has planned ahead for ways to kill them all as efficiently as possible. Of course, no one gets the hints at the time, though they smack themselves upside the head for missing it once The Reveal happens.
- The Vince Vaughn/Jennifer Aniston movie The Breakup is all about this, though in this case neither one is favored by the audience; he seems to be dedicated to being incredibly insensitive, and she fancies herself a mistress of manipulation, though her many plans backfire. In the end, nobody wins; contrary to expectation, they actually break up, each wiser for the wear, apparently.
Live Action TV
- In Home Improvement, Jill has made plans for her and Tim to attend some formal event. She's marked the date on the calendar (apparently only marked it, not indicated what it was), ordered up his formal wear and all that. Tim, of course, doesn't take the hint.
- It should be noted, though, that this is a case where the trope is treated in a more balanced fashion. Jill and Tim are equally to blame for the misunderstanding: he for not noticing what she's up to (or at the least, asking), and she for not realizing he wasn't catching on and just straight up telling him.
- Compare and contrast with Father Dougal's idea of a subtle hint in Father Ted -- writing what he wants on a banner that covers most of the parochial house.
- 3rd Rock from the Sun subverted it: Officer Don thought Sally was dropping hints that she wanted him to propose; but Sally, being an alien and all, actually meant what she said literally.
- Everybody Loves Raymond uses this trope pretty regularly, but offered a realistic subversion in at least one episode. After Debra criticizes Raymond for not picking up on her hints, he responds by saying that, after being married to him for so long, she should've already known that he can't take hints, and thus should've just told him directly. She reconsiders, admits that he's right and apologizes as well.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: When Willow was unsatisfied that her and Oz's relationship wasn't progressing to smootchies:
Buffy: Have you dropped any hints?
- A Running Gag on Whose Line Is It Anyway?. in the game "Greatest Hits", Ryan would sometimes try to drop a hint about the next style of music. All too often, Colin would end up Comically Missing the Point.
Ryan: What comes to mind when I say "Ricky Ricardo" and "great cigars"?
- In 'Mike and Molly' Mike constantly misses hints, notable examples being when she objected to his gallon of combined shampoo/conditioner so he bought seperate gallon jugs of each. Also the time a week before Christmas she told him how much she loved the coffee from a certain shop that also sold the machine they used and he asked her if she liked birds.
- An example from the Zits comic strip:
Jeremy: Some people are going to a movie tonight... Wanna go?
- One Wapsi Square story arc included a segment where a sphinx repeatedly dropped hints that Shelly should cut open a sacred tree with a sword, but she repeatedly missed them.
Marge: Oh, Homey, look at that watch. I've always wanted a watch like that.
- In Family Guy, Stewie drops hints that Meg should become Bulimic.
- In another episode, Chris gives Lois smoker's toothpaste for her birthday, asking her to "take the hint."
- Subverted in Aladdin: The Series, in one episode Aladdin is shopping for a locket for Jasmine. When Genie asks why he sarcastically mentions she's been dropping "little hints" like pointing at them and shouting "I want one!"