Created By: Mozgwsloiku on May 19, 2011

Offensive In Context

A statement that would be neutral or even positive in other circumstances is used as an insult.

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Up for Grabs... Do We Have This One?? Probably needs a better description too. Sometimes context of the sentence is such that a normally neutral word becomes an insult. This can be because of Values Dissonance or because the word is used ironically (it doesn't count if the word simply has a double meaning)
  • In Terry Pratchett's Thief of Time, Susan calls Lobsang a "hero" when he fails to foil the villains' plan because he stops to help his teacher.
  • In Legend of the Five Rings the Scorpion clan sometimes uses those, though they are generally too smart to use them as straight insults. For example they value duty over honour (at least honor as defined by the other clans) so calling someone honorable is derogative.
  • In the 19th century Polish drama Dziady, the protagonist is a poet imprisoned in a fortress occupied by Russian forces (back then control over Poland was divided among its three neighbours) He speaks to God demanding that he is given power to free his people. With no answer coming, he becomes more and more bold, finally earning himself a Bolt of Divine Retribution, surviving only because the devil got impatient and finished his sentence for him. The smite-worthy blasphemy? Saying the God is not the king of the world but the tzar.

Community Feedback Replies: 18
  • May 19, 2011
    captainpat
    Compliment Backfire and Poor Communication Kills would probably cover this.
  • May 19, 2011
    Mozgwsloiku
    No, this trope is supposed to be intentional and those are accidental.
  • May 19, 2011
    ginsengaddict
    Don't know if this counts, but:

    Harry Potter: "Mudblood" is a pretty innocuous and neutral term without context. In context, it's basically calling someone an inbred infidel.
  • May 19, 2011
    dalek955
  • May 19, 2011
    ginsengaddict
    Come to think of it, this is possibly an Omnipresent Trope with regard to insults.

    Insults are only offensive, because people take offense to them. If nobody took offense, all "insults" would simply be innocuous statements.
  • May 19, 2011
    Irrisia
    ^No. Insults are insults because they are meant to be offensive. There is a difference between saying something clearly offensive and saying something that in any other situation would be a neutral statement or even a compliment.
  • May 19, 2011
    SKJAM
    Failing to recall exactly where I've seen it, but the compliment "that's mighty white of you" is now more often used as an insult because of changing connotations.
  • May 19, 2011
    Luc
    SKJAM: I've seen it in Dirty Harry, The Enforcer; he was saying it to some Black Panther clones. The tone was less direct insult, and more a return insult for being called "Pig", IIRC.
  • May 20, 2011
    kuyanJ
    Real life: a common tactic of school bullies is to arrange taunts which seem innocent without knowledge of things they did to the victim before, for example by being secretly an abbreviation of an insult they made earlier.
  • May 20, 2011
    Ardiente
    ^ For instance, Draco Malfoy from the Potterverse had a knack for being able to turn anything into an insult, even your own name, just with inflections and harmonics and intonation.
  • May 20, 2011
    Mozgwsloiku
    But calling someone a mudblood doesn't count - the word has been coined as an insult.
  • May 20, 2011
    Ardiente
    Yeah, mudblood is definitely an insult. Muggleborn isn't, unless "muggle", like "negro", is already an insult in and of itself.
  • May 20, 2011
    Masterweaver
    Stealth Insult... except... not. Huh. Going to have to think on this one.

    "Jabba, you're a wonderful human being."
  • May 20, 2011
    Rolf
    I remember something about Japanese bowing that seems very polite to outsiders but really are insults.
  • May 20, 2011
    Ardiente
    Politeness and insults can happen at the same time, without sarcasm.
  • May 20, 2011
    Specialist290
    Overly Narrow Superlative often overlaps with this; calling something the best out of an extremely narrow selection often shows that the "complimenter" doesn't think very highly of either that example in particular or the category in general.

    For that matter, saying that something is better than something egregiously bad can be this as well, since often the unstated implication is "...but that's not saying much."
  • May 21, 2011
    TBeholder
    Sarcastc Compliment?
  • May 22, 2011
    fulltimeD
    "Tank" in Space Above And Beyond. Subverted when a character angrily said, "Tank," after another character mistakenly called his vehicle an APC. The second character, however, happened to be an In Vitro (genetically engineered human), whom natural-borns in the series derisively refer to as "Tanks."

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

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