Unstoppable force/Immovable object
August 10, 2014 5:23 PM   Subscribe

I am trying to identify the source of the quote: "Unstoppable force, meet immovable object." It's kinda driving me crazy.

I feel like it's a quip from an action movie but have been unsuccessful in my Googling. It is NOT the line from Joker's speech in The Dark Knight. I feel like it must've been from some kind of visual medium, but I guess it could be from a book. I just don't even know!
posted by oh really to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
irresistible force paradox
posted by pullayup at 5:34 PM on August 10

Might it have come from the song "Something's Got to Give" (1954)? It begins "When an irresistible force such as you, Meets an old immovable object like me, You can bet just as sure as you live..."
posted by Carol Anne at 5:34 PM on August 10 [3 favorites]

TV Tropes
posted by pineappleheart at 5:35 PM on August 10

That exact quote is ringing crazy bells for me. I've been finishing up Dexter lately... could that be it?
I feel like I recognize it from a voiceover, specifically... Ahhh!
posted by thirdletter at 5:41 PM on August 10

I don't think you're going to find a single source; it's an old idea and has doubtless been "invented" many times. Some samples:

Talbot C. Hatch in American Insurance Digest and Insurance Monitor, Vol. 69 (1921): "One of the oldest problems of the ages is encompassed in the question: What will happen if an immovable object is struck by an irresistible force?"

J. G. Hume in Philosophical Essays Presented to John Watson (1922), p. 314: "I am reminded of what used to be an old debating subject among the Canadian Scottish pioneers: 'What would happen if an irresistible force met an immovable object?'"

Howard Lindsay, Life With Mother (1950): "FATHER: [...] With us it was just a case of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object."
posted by languagehat at 5:42 PM on August 10 [3 favorites]

I'm familiar with it from a high school drama festival play, Scapino. Is it possible you knew it from then? It's a punch line to a physical comedy bit.
posted by jessamyn at 5:46 PM on August 10

I want to think that Tony Stark used it just that way when introducing Thor to Hulk in the lab, but can't prove it.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:48 PM on August 10

It's a classic brain teaser, like 'what came first, the chicken or the egg?'.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:14 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]

Don't forget the Chinese word for "contradiction", "mao2 dun4", which is about a spear that claimed to penetrate all shields and a shield that claimed to stop all spears.
posted by batter_my_heart at 6:20 PM on August 10

languagehat: It's the specific wording of "unstoppable force, meet immovable object." It's definitely a common idea, which is why my searching has been kinda hamstrung! I'd totally buy that it's Avengers-related, but I can't confirm it online anywhere.

I did also search TV tropes and IMDB. Ugh!
posted by oh really at 7:28 PM on August 10

I remember reading that line in relation to The Juggernaut, actually. So maybe an x-men reference rather than avengers.
posted by novelgazer at 7:39 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]

No idea if this is it (it's definitely a common trope), but if the comics thing is ringing a bell: it's part of a climax in one of the issues from All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely.

Specifically, it's a riddle posed to Superman by Ultra-Sphinx:

Ultra-Sphinx: Question: What happens when the irresistible force meets the immovable object?

Superman: They surrender.

The scene also made it into the animated version of that comic.
posted by Hadroed at 8:13 PM on August 10

The exact phrase was used in Burn Notice but its probably not the only one.
posted by missmagenta at 5:38 AM on August 11

Might you be thinking of lyrics from the song "Something's Got to Give" by Johnny Mercer?

...When an irresistible force such as you
Meets an old immovable object like me
You can bet just as sure as you live
Somethin's gotta give
Somethin's gotta give
Somethin's gotta give

posted by jasper411 at 10:02 AM on August 11

Iain Banks used it as a literary device in the book Walking on Glass, which was the first time I'd heard of it.
posted by symphonicknot at 10:13 AM on August 11

"I remember reading that line in relation to The Juggernaut, actually."

I was thinking it was a Juggernaut vs. The Blob situation but couldn't find a specific reference from any comics I might ever have read.
posted by komara at 10:44 AM on August 11

Here is the dilemma posed in 1874 in Oliver's Optic's Magazine out of Boston, in two separate issues, first as a question, then as an answer.
posted by Mo Nickels at 11:29 AM on August 11

Sorry, missed that you want that one exact wording of "unstoppable force, meet immovable object." However, the "irresistible force, meet immovable object" construction is far more common by two or three times.

The earliest I could find of your version is from 1998. The oldest citation for the "irresistible" version is earlier:

1992 Mar 22 Cleveland Plain Dealer p. 2C: "Irresistible force, meet immovable object : The Republican White House has pledged to veto the middle-class tax giveaway, and the Democratic Congress has refused to approve more tax breaks for upper-income groups."

I doubt very much that's the source of the phrase. I find it a couple more times in 1992 and then sporadically thereafter. More than likely this has been coined and recoined many times. It comes up in forceful contexts, usually in a snarky, sarcastic, or (attempted) witty way.
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:51 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]

Well, it seems likely that whatever it is, I'm probably botching the exact phrasing (i.e., "irresistible force" instead of "unstoppable force"). I'm gonna look into the Juggernaut stuff, though!
posted by oh really at 5:26 PM on August 11

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