Nonsense Classification

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
A chocolate ice cream with fudge and whipped cream would fit in all five categories...

A classification is made that doesn't make any sense at all. The categories overlap, are on different levels of abstraction, or something along those lines.

Usually Played for Laughs or as Sarcasm Mode, but it can also be Played for Drama as a tool for showing that a character is high, a Cloudcuckoolander, or has gone insane.

Note that for a classification to be this trope, the division must be nonsense in itself. A valid division presented in a humorous way is something else, for example Altum Videtur.

Likewise, a classification with heavy Unfortunate Implications of Fantastic Racism or similar (such as All Gays Are Pedophiles or Aliens Are Bastards) is another kind of nonsense - not this trope. Same goes for sets of food groups that are merely unhealthy or alien. While a nonsense classification of food groups is likely to also be unhealthy or alien, the thing that makes it this trope is that the categories overlap, mix levels, or similar.

Examples of Nonsense Classification include:

Films -- Animation

  • On Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Cookie also has his own take on the four basic food groups: grease, bacon, whiskey and lard. A deleted scene has him name the only three spices he uses: salt, salt, and sodium chloride.


  • Jorge Luis Borges' fake Chinese encyclopedia Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge, with its classification of animals: (a) those that belong to the emperor; (b) embalmed ones; (c) those that are trained; (d) suckling pigs; (e) mermaids; (f) fabulous ones; (g) stray dogs; (h) those that are included in this classification; (i) those that tremble as if they were mad; (j) innumerable ones; (k) those drawn with a very fine camel's-hair brush; (l) etcetera; (m) those that have just broken the flower vase; (n) those that at a distance resemble flies.
  • Discworld
    • The Discworld food groups: sugar, starch, grease, and burnt crunchy bits.
    • Ponder Stibbons' attempts at cladistics (really closer to phenetics) lead to conclusions such as "the banana is actually a fish", because there are fish which are yellow and travel in "bunches".
  • The Areas of My Expertise plays this card a few times. For example the column on "food, drink, and cheese", where there are "only so many kinds of foods to write about", namely "abs, polar bear steaks, chili, chili, and polar bear steaks."

Tabletop Games

  • Mutant UA: Pyrisamfundet doesn't like to have a forbidden zone in the middle of their nation. They feel it's embarrassing. So they decided that it isn't a real forbidden zone. Sure, it's an ash-desert full of monsters and mysterious phenomena - but hey, this area is geographically shaped like a square. Real forbidden zones are round!

Video Games

  • Plants vs. Zombies has an "suburban almanac" that describe all the different plants and zombies in the game. This encyclopedia, not taking itself very seriously, keep mixing up the concept of "individual" with the concept of "species". We also have the zomboni who is not a zombie but an alien who likes to hang out with zombies and the zombie yeti, who we don't know anything about... except for his name, birth date, social security number, educational history, past work experience and sandwich preference (roast beef and Swiss).

Web Original

Western Animation

  • The Simpsons
    • Dr. Nick's recommendation, when Homer wants to gain weight: "You'll want to focus on the neglected food groups such as the whipped group, the congealed group and the chocotastic!" See page illustration above.
    • Also, an early commercial featuring Bart Simpson has him explaining the basic four food groups: bread group, fruit group, cow group, and Butterfinger group.

Real Life

  • The oldest Polish encyclopedia, most famous for its definition of a horse: "Everyone can see what a horse is like" also contained this sentence "Goat: A goat is an animal of the stinky type."
    • The Mohawk word for goat actually translates to 'one-who-stinks-habitually'. Or so I was told.
  • Conrad Gesner's classification of minerals. Includes "Those whose forms are based upon, have some relation to, or suggest the geometrical conception of points, lines or angles", "Those which bear a resemblance to certain artificial things" and "Stones which derive their names from birds".