Easily mispronounced as an insult
In some strange foreign language, an inoffensive phrase is easily mispronounced as a grevious insult.
Bob is going to meet the high mucketymuck of some foreign land; he's been told that the proper way to greet the high mucketymuck is, "klapoot pirgamagoo" -- but he mispronounces it "kaploot pirmagamoo" -- and is quickly told by a native speaker that he has just insulted the high mucketymuck's mother. In most languages, mispronouncing words would be more likely to be gibberish than something comprehensible, and the chances that it would be both comprehensible and an especially insulting phrase are highly remote. Common greetings and salutations, especially, would be unlikely to be pronounced similarly to vulgar terms and phrases. This is the opposite of Calling Me a Logarithm, wherein the word really is innocent, and the person hearing it thinks it is insulting only because they don't know the actual meaning.
- Played with in Psych, where Sean introduces Gus as a veterinarian from Africa, arguing with Gus in a series of clicks and whistles. When the target of this phony introduction tries to pronounce the name Sean provided for Gus, Sean tells her that she has instead made an insulting comment.
- Inverted in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. The Twi'lek intentionally mispronounce Wedge Antilles' name, because if it's pronounced right, in means "you make a rancor sick" in their language.
- In Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, Arthur Dent's remark "I seem to be having tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle,", plunged a distant galaxy back into war for centuries. (In the Vl'hurg tongue this sounded just like the most dreadful insult imaginable, and each side thought the other had said it.)
- In one episode of The Big Bang Theory Sheldon learns Mandarin so that he can confront a Chinese restaurant owner about the quality of the food; at one point, while practicing, he tells Leonard that his mother has syphilis.
Hello, Unknown Troper. You'll need to get known to lend a hand here.