->'''Ollendorf:''' I acknowledge freely that I have had hard feelings against Mr. Ballou for abusing me and [[TropeNamer calling me a logarithm]], which is a thing I do not know what, but no doubt a thing considered disgraceful and unbecoming in America...
-->--'''Creator/MarkTwain''''s ''Roughing It''

A {{Comedy Trope|s}} about people being offended by words they don't know.

Alice is speaking to Bob about something. In the course of the dialogue, Alice calls Bob eloquent, or valiant, or perhaps "a {{badass}}". Not knowing what a badass is, Bob demands to know if she thinks he has hemorrhoids. This is often, but not always, a case of ComplimentBackfire. See also YouKeepUsingThatWord for another way to take an unfamiliar word, invent a meaning, and assume it's the one everybody uses.

Pretty much the inverse of InsultBackfire. Contrast {{Malaproper}}. Particularly unfortunate choices of words can be MistakenForRacist.

[[DontExplainTheJoke By the way, a logarithm of a number refers to the value a given base number must be raised to the power of to produce the original number. As in the logarithm of 16 to base 4 is 2, because 4 to the power of 2 is 16.]]

----
!!Examples

[[foldercontrol]]


[[folder:Comics]]
* In a RunningGag, ''GrooTheWanderer'' becomes violently enraged whenever someone calls him a "mendicant," even though he has no idea what the word means.[[note]]For those who share Groo's lack of knowledge -- at least in this one isolated situation -- a mendicant is essentially a beggar, especially one of an itinerant religious order (such as some of the Franciscan orders or many Buddhist monks in Southeast Asia).[[/note]]
** In issue #100, Groo learns to read (having been illiterate all his life). Someone with the issue will have to confirm, but he does learn what "mendicant" means.
* ''PaperinikNewAdventures'': in a bonus comic, Angus, needing to create a distraction, walks to the biggest and dumbest-looking guy in a crowded room and has a few words with him.
--> '''Angus:''' Really you don't mind that guy ''[points in a random direction]'' calling you a dim-witted, brutish and overly ignorant ape?
--> '''Big guy:''' ''Did he call me overly?!''
* ''{{Viz}}'':
--> '''Sid the Sexist:''' "Well, I must admit..."
--> '''Big Dave:''' "DIVVUN CAAL ME ''MUSTARD MITT!''" >''*punch*''<
* In ''ComicBook/{{PS238}}'', Zodon's [[RestrainingBolt "Barry Ween"]] chip causes him to insult Ed and Dom by referring to Ed as a "[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geranium Geranium]]" (note that he was trying to insult him either way, but whatever profanity he was supposed to be saying changed due to the chip). Ed is more confused than insulted.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* In Chapter 1 of ''Fanfic/{{Luminosity}}'', Bella talks about how she wants to take notes on people's names and appearances, but doesn't because of an incident in eighth grade when someone she described as "wee" in her notebook retaliated by throwing it into a puddle in the lavatory.
* The Roommates chapter of ''[[http://www.fimfiction.net/story/114049/this-is-the-life-a-tale-of-a-human-in-equestria This is the life: A tale of a human in Equestria]]'' has this exchange:
-->'''Octavia:''' You're a perverted swayback ass!
-->'''SelfInsert main character:''' A perverted ''what?!''
** In defense of the SelfInsert, perverted ''is'' frequently an insult among humans.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
* In the French film ''LesChoristes'', one of the teachers in a boarding school for delinquents wants to start a boys' chorus so he tests out each boy's voice. To the most feared delinquent of them all, he says, "You're a very good baritone." The kid tries to kick his ass.
* The ''Film/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles'' movie has one "insult" (actually a description) traded for another. Casey Jones reveals that he's uncomfortable spending the night in the Turtles sewer lair.
-->'''Donatello:''' You're a claustrophobic.\\
'''Casey Jones:''' Hey, you want a fist in the mouth? I've never even LOOKED at another guy!
* One of the students in ''Film/RenaissanceMan'' misunderstands the word "oxymoron" and asserts that he "ain't no ox-moron".
* In ''Film/HomewardBoundTheIncredibleJourney'':
-->'''Shadow:''' Chance, you're a genius!\\
'''Chance:''' I am not! What's a genius?
* In the film of ''ASeriesOfUnfortunateEvents'', the orphans make pasta puttanesca for [[BigBad Count Olaf]] and his fellow actors. When Klaus announces that they've made "puttanesca," Olaf responds "''What'' did you call me?" (This was likely intended as a BilingualBonus GettingCrapPastTheRadar, since the name "puttanesca" actually ''is'' derived from the Italian word for 'prostitute'.)
* The character of Raymonde in the French film ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%B4tel_du_Nord Hôtel du Nord]]'' is mainly famous for indignantly asking her interlocutor « Atmosphère ? Atmosphère ? Est-ce que j'ai une gueule d'atmosphère ? » (''Atmosphere? Atmosphere? Do I look like an atmosphere to you?'')
* ''Theatre/{{Oscar}}''
** Two examples can be found in the American version:
--->'''Dr. Poole:''' She seems to have such nicely rounded diphthongs!\\
'''Snaps:''' That's what got her into this jam!
** and...
--->'''Connie:''' Even in the old days he was known as an honest crook.\\
'''Dr. Poole:''' That's an oxymoron.\\
'''Connie:''' Gee, you shouldn't oughta said that, Doc.\\
'''Snaps:''' Yeah, leave Connie alone. He does the best he can.
* In ''Che: Part One'', Camilo Cienfuegos nicknames a Cuban revolutionary "Ventrílocuo" (ventriloquist), but said revolutionaire mistakes the word for a made-up insult: ''ventre-culo'' (''culo'' means "ass"). UsefulNotes/CheGuevara quickly corrects him.
* In ''Film/JumpingTheBroom'', the maid of honor tells Malcolm (who is blatantly hitting on her) that he wouldn't like her because she's a hermaphrodite. His response is that he doesn't care what religion she is.
* In the classic Australian comedy ''TheCastle'', the main character's lawyer is presenting his case in the High Court and the opposing lawyer tells the judge that the precedent just quoted was merely an example of ''obiter dictum''. The main character, highly offended, yells "Was not!" [[GeniusBonus For non-lawyers:]] judges decide cases based on the reasoning used in past decisions. If a reasoning was used to decide a case, judges are much more willing to follow it than if the past judge was imagining what-if scenarios and deciding how things would be decided in that situation. Those what-ifs are obiter dicta. Of course, even if you don't know your law, the reactions of the judge and lawyers are enough for watchers to realise this trope is in play.
* Comes up in the movie version of ''Film/RichieRich'' when the butler explains to Richie that "crib" is an idiom for "home" in the slang used by Richie's newfound friends. One of the kids misunderstands and asks "Who are you callin' an 'idiom'?"
* When Det. Thorne in ''Film/HellraiserInferno'' notes to Nenonen that his name is [[FunWithPalindromes a palindrome]], he angrily retorts with "What did you call me?"
* In the second [[TheThinMan Thin Man]] film, one clue is that a note was written with hard words spelled correctly and easy words spelled wrong, in bad imitation of an illiterate person.
-->'''Polly:''' Whadaya mean ''illiterate''? My father and mother were married right here in the city hall!
* Drax in ''Film/GuardiansOfTheGalaxy'' has a problem with metaphors.
-->"Do not call me a thesaurus!"
* KevinHart's cameo in The40YearOldVirgin spells out the epitome of this trope:
-->'''Customer:''' "Okay, well check this out though. First of all you're throwing too many big words at me. Okay now, because I don't understand them I'm gonna take 'em as disrespect."
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* As quoted above, Creator/MarkTwain's ''Roughing It'' is the TropeNamer.
* ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'':
** ''Discworld/InterestingTimes'': "He called me venerable!"
** In ''Discworld/FeetOfClay'', Vimes is told that Nobby is entitled to a coat of arms. He goes back to the Watch House and says "Nobby, you're armigerous!" This is taken by Nobby to mean, while not quite an insult, ''something'' for which he might need "a special shampoo." When one barman is informed that Nobby is a Peer, he assumes it is used in the verb sense rather than the '-of the realm' sense.
** In ''Discworld/UnseenAcademicals'', Glenda is offended when [[RaisedByWolves Mr. Nutt]] tries to flatter her by calling her "fecund"[[note]]Producing or capable of producing an abundance of offspring or new growth; fertile [[/note]] After hastily looking the word up she's merely embarrassed, and Glenda gently explains to Nutt why that might not be a good word with which to compliment women.
* In ''Literature/TheMysteriousBenedictSociety and the Perilous Journey'', [[BookWorm Sticky's]] girlfriend dumps him for remarking on her "pulchritude." It means beauty.
* ''Literature/DaisyMiller'', when the AnnoyingYoungerSibling is talking about how he hates Rome:
-->"I hate it worse and worse every day!" cried Randolph.\\
"You are like the infant Hannibal," said Winterbourne.\\
"No, I ain't!" Randolph declared, at a venture.
* In ''Literature/{{Neverwhere}}'', Mr. Vandemar at one point confuses the word "circumlocution" for something else, and indignanty responds that he hasn't got one. He is quickly corrected by Mr. Croup.
* In a ''SonicTheHedgehog'' children's novel, ''Literature/SonicTheHedgehogInTheFourthDimension'', an [[ItMakesSenseInContext imaginary dragon creature]] threatens to redo the universe with his allies (the Mythos creatures) and remake it InTheirOwnImage. In the process, he claims he would erase "you [Sonic] and your ''ilk''". Tails responds indignantly with "I'm a ''fox'', not an ''ilk''!" "Ilk" means "kind", as in things of a similar type, and he was threatening to remove all life forms the universe considers normal, or real. This book was made in 1993, [[EarlyInstallmentWeirdness before Tails was established to be a genius]].
* The short story ''[[http://portuguesonline.no.sapo.pt/palavramagica.htm A Palavra Mágica]]'' (the Magic World) by Portuguese author Vergílio Ferreira is centered around the chaos sown in a rural village after a heated dispute in which one of the participants calls the other "innocuous", with neither of them knowing what the word really means. The word, corrupted to "inoque" then "noque", then becomes known as a horrifically vile swear.
* In ''Literature/{{Dodger}}'' by TerryPratchett, Mrs Mayhew describes Dodger as an astute young man. He apologises and says his best trousers are in the wash.
* In ''Literature/HarryPotter'', when Vernon Dursley is called a {{Muggle}}, he gets angry and automatically assumes he's being insulted, even though he doesn't know what that means.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* On ''TheSuiteLifeOfZackAndCody'' episode "The First Day of High School", Cody says "kudos" to the school bully, who answers, "What did you just call me?"
* On ''Series/GetSmart'', during a HuntingTheMostDangerousGame episode the bad guy called Max a "Homo sapien. " Max replied: "Hey, I'm as normal as the next guy."
** Another ''Get Smart'' example deals with Hymie the Robot, and why he shouldn't date the Chief's niece.
--->'''Chief:''' Max, Hymie is a cybernaut.\\
'''Max:''' What's his religion got to do with it?\\
[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfXK0d7YHsc 4:00-4:05]]
** Later on, after Max learns that the Chief's niece has fallen for Hymie:
--->'''Max:''' Hymie is a cybernaut.\\
'''Phoebe:''' Uncle Max, I'm ashamed of you. [[StrangeMindsThinkAlike A person's religion doesn't make any difference.]]\\
[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbinrA9i6bY 1:50-2:00]]
* A sketch on ''Series/TheTraceyUllmanShow'' had a girl asking her friend what 'satiated' meant, and then phoning her boyfriend to apologise for [[NoodleIncident what she had done]] after he had said he was satiated following sex.
* The ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'' episode "Bad Eggs":
-->'''Giles:''' I suppose there is a sort of...Machiavellian ingenuity to your transgression.\\
'''Xander:''' I resent that! Or possibly thank you.
** In this case he may have known what the word meant; he was just genuinely unsure if that was a compliment or insult.
* And over on ''Series/{{Angel}}'', after everyone loses their memories:
-->'''Wesley:''' The cross obviously doesn't affect me or our friend, (points to Gunn) the pugilist.\\
'''Gunn:''' Oh, yo' ass better ''pray'' I don't look that word up.
* In an episode of ''That70sShow'', Hyde is trying to teach Fez to pick up girls by being cool and aloof. Fez hears it as Hyde calling him a "loof", which is apparently an insult in his native language ([[FunnyForeigner whatever the heck it is]]).
* A recurring sketch from the series ''Series/BallsOfSteel'' features [[ScaryBlackMan the "Militant Black Guy"]], who always takes [[BerserkButton great offense]] to what he thinks are racial slurs, but are obviously totally innocent terms in context. For instance, when he enters a bakers and is shocked to hear the cake he asked for is called a ''black forest'' gateaux.
* On an episode of ''Series/{{Castle}}'', a safe deposit box belonging to a mob figure is broken into. The mobster claims it contained his stamp collection. One of the cops asks him how long he has been a philatelist. His response is "Hey! I don't roll that way!"
* ''{{Cheers}}'':
-->"Billiards, darts, these are things you're adroit at, Sam."\\
"Listen, nobody calls me a 'droit'."
* On ''{{Psych}}'' season four, Juliet calls Shawn "prophetic," who childishly retorts that she's the one who's [[NoYou prophetic]].
* ''Series/TheWire''. Brother Mouzone says to his associate Lamar about finding a guy in a gay bar, "You're the perfect bait. They'll see you as conflicted; your homophobia is so visceral." Lamar replies, "You see that? I ain't even stepped inside the joint yet, and you callin' me a cocksucker."
* A variant on ''{{Home Improvement}}'': Randy actually does mean to insult Tim, but not in the way he thinks.
-->'''Randy:''' You're acting like some tyrannical fascist!\\
'''Tim:''' (to Jill) Did he just call me a dinosaur?
* On ''HowIMetYourMother'', when he tries breaking up with Natalie by saying she's "not the one":
-->'''Ted''': I can't explain it. ... It's ineffable.\\
'''Natalie''': ''(livid)'' ...I'm not [[UnusualEuphemism F-able]]?
* Inverted in ''TheSingOff'', where Music/BenFolds joked "Are you calling me a {{sesquipedalian|loquaciousness}}?" The joke is that he ''is'' and knows exactly what that word means, [[HypocriticalHumor and his use of it is proof]].
* A first-season episode of ''Series/NightCourt'' involved a woman who remarried after her husband was declared dead, only to have him return to her life. Hubby #1 is a career soldier, and #2 is a nerd. #2 criticizes #1 for his use of violence as "typical homo-sapien behavior". #1 responded by saying "I never even hugged my father."
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Stand-Up Comedy]]
* George Carlin had one where he talks about how he doesn't like some foods because of the way they sound. In this case, succotash. "What did you call me, you fuck?" "Hey, cool out, cool out. It's lima beans and corn. Cool out."
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Theatre]]
* In ''ThePiratesOfPenzance'', Major-General Stanley asks the pirates "You're not thespians, are you?" Depending on the production, the pirates' reaction to this can be priceless.
* In ''You're a Good Man, [[ComicStrip/{{Peanuts}} Charlie Brown]]'', one number has a bunch of the kids getting in an argument in the middle of singing "Home on the Range". Lucy tells Sally that "[Linus] said - he said you were - an ''enigma''!" This shocks the rest of the kids, and Sally spends the rest of the song alternating between being mad and asking "What's an enigma?"
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Video Games]]
* TheNamelessMod has this quote from a Board Guest: "I can't believe the moderators won't do anything! Every time I ask something, people call me a faq!"
* In the DS translation of ''VideoGame/ChronoTrigger'', after [[spoiler:making him generous through his ancestors]], one of the Porre Mayor's daughters in 1000 AD says "Everybody says Daddy's magnanimous, but he says he's just big-boned."
* In a ''FinalFantasy'' related example, [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9U8NZOAy7m4 this video]] involves asking [[VoxPops random passersby]] what a [[http://finalfantasy.wikia.com/wiki/Chocobo Chocobo]] is. At least one person interprets the word as a slur.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* The ''WesternAnimation/CowAndChicken'' episode "Black Sheep of the Family" features the... well, black sheep of the family (a literal black sheep). Everyone would mistake his SesquipedalianLoquaciousness for insults or swearing.
* A RunningGag on ''WesternAnimation/PinkyElmyraAndTheBrain'' is Elmyra scolding Brain for being a "naughty-waughty potty mouth" whenever he uses a big word she doesn't understand.
* On ''WesternAnimation/{{Animaniacs}}'', Pesto from the "Goodfeathers" cartoons uses something similar to this trope. From their first episode:
-->'''Squit:''' I wanna be a tough bird, like you, Pesto.\\
'''Pesto:''' Whaddaya mean by that?\\
'''Squit:''' I just mean you're tough, that's all.\\
'''Pesto:''' Are you sayin' I'm an overdone piece of meat? Is that what you're sayin'?
** Also happens with "Rita and Runt". Rita describes Runt's actions as 'chivalric'. Runt apologises.
* This is probably how the word "nimrod", originally the name of a great hunter from the Bible (and thus a nickname for a hunter), became to mean "a fool, a klutz." In a popular ''WesternAnimation/LooneyTunes'' short, Bugs Bunny called Elmer Fudd a "poor little Nimrod," and the kids watching it thought it was some fancy insult they never heard before.
* ''WesternAnimation/SpongeBobSquarePants'': After Squidward finds himself accidentally stuck down a deep well with Spongebob and Patrick:
-->'''Squidward''' Could you not stand so close? You're making me claustrophobic.\\
'''Patrick:''' What does claustrophobic mean?\\
'''Spongebob:''' It means he's afraid of Santa Claus.\\
'''Squidward:''' No, it doesn't.\\
'''Patrick:''' Ho, ho, ho! (giggles)\\
'''Spongebob:''' Stop it, Patrick; you're scaring him!\\
'''Patrick:''' Ho, ho, ho!\\
'''Squidward:''' It's not working, Patrick.\\
'''Patrick:''' Darn.
** In "Frozen Face-Off" [=SpongeBob=] takes to Sandy using the word "simulacrum" to describe [[ActuallyADoombot Plankton's robotic double]] that they just destroyed.
* Inversion: In Disney's ''Disney/BeautyAndTheBeast'', Belle chuckles and tells Gaston that he is "positively primeval". Gaston, having no idea what she meant, takes it as a compliment, and thanks her for it.
** Though being who and what he is, Gaston would probably consider it a compliment either way.
* Done a few times in ''WesternAnimation/EdEddNEddy'', such as Edd's reaction to [[RashomonStyle Eddy's side of the story]] in "Once Upon An Ed"
-->'''Edd:''' Pure fiction, Eddy. Your exaggerated tale can only be described as cockamamie!\\
'''Ed:''' Tsk, tsk, tsk, I have never heard such language.
* In one episode of ''WesternAnimation/TimeSquad'', after arriving in Sweden, a guy approaches Tuddrussel and says "Guten Morgen!"[[note]]which is German, not Swedish, but whatever[[/note]]. Tuddrussel automatically assumes he's being insulted and decks the guy. Larry 3000 scolds him and says the guy said, "Good morning."
* A rather serious, if brief example on ''WesternAnimation/DaveyAndGoliath'', a French cobbler says to Davey's little sister Sally, "Dulce, dulce," or "sweet." The children not only take it as an insult, but tell their father, which leads to problems when Sally is missing and the father confronts the cobbler over where she is.
* In ''WesternAnimation/ThePowerpuffGirls'':
--> '''Roach Coach:''' I am the future ruler of this planet, you stupid biped!\\
'''Bubbles:''' [[ITakeOffenseToThatLastOne Who you calling biped]]?
* ''WesternAnimation/TheLooneyTunesShow'': In "Bugs & Daffy Get A Job", Dr. Wiseberg tells Daffy he has a deviated septum. Daffy slaps him in the face and declares "There's nothing wrong with my septum! ''(beat)'' What's a septum?".
* ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'': In "[[Recap/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicS2E1TheReturnOfHarmonyPart1 The Return of Harmony, Part 1]]", Sweetie Belle calls Scootaloo a dodo. Scootaloo's response? "Don't call me things I don't know the meaning of!" (Though in this particular case, it actually was clearly intended as an insult).
* On ''WesternAnimation/KingOfTheHill'', Peggy asks the wrestling coach to let Connie on the team, and brings up [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Title_IX Title IX]], which is the American law that bans gender discrimination in sports, among other things. He replies, "Roe v. Wade has nothing to do with this."
* In ''WesternAnimation/LittlestPetShop2012'', after Blythe trounces Whittany and Brittany Biskit in a debate.
--> '''Blythe''' ''(to Whittany and Brittany)'': Your rebuttal, ladies?
--> '''Brittany''': Ugh! ''You're'' a butthole, Blythe Baxter!
* In ''Disney/OliverAndCompany'', after Georgette moans about [[IBrokeANail breaking a nail]], Francis mutters "Balderdash!", to which Tito defensively replies "What'd you call my woman, man?!"
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Other]]
* [[http://community.livejournal.com/fanficrants/10239164.html "I'm not a homophone!]] I write SlashFic!"
* There is an anecdote with frequently changing dramatis personae, where a professor or someone gets caught in an exchange of abuse with a fishwife or female pedlar, and finally reduces her to tears by calling her things like "a hypotenause" or "an isoceles triangle!"
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Real Life]]
* There've been a number of highly publicized cases where people used the word "niggardly" and were accused of racism by people who assumed it was a racial slur. It really means "cheap" or "stingy", and is, in fact, completely unrelated to the n-word, having been borrowed from the Norse language. On the other hand, there's '''really''' no reason to use a word so similar ''to'' the n-word in today's society, nor is there any reason not to use the word "stingy" in these cases.
* Dallas County, Texas Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield (white) had to explain what a ''black hole'' is when fellow Commissioner John Wiley Price (black) took it as a racial slur, prompting Judge Thomas Jones (also black) to demand that Mayfield apologize for his 'racist' comment.
* Similarly, a University of Pennsylvania student in 1993 got charged with racial harassment when he shouted at a crowd of mostly black sorority sisters creating a ruckus outside his dorm, calling them "water buffalo". While under prosecution he explained the term comes from Hebrew slang, "Behema", used by Jews to refer to a loud, rowdy person.
* [[http://notalwaysright.com/a-real-oxymoron/4055 This]] story on Website/NotAlwaysRight, where a cashier uses the word "oxymoron" and a customer thinks the cashier insulted him.
* The president of the Lake County, Ohio, NAACP [[http://thegrio.com/2011/09/06/sign-ignites-controversy-after-high-school-football-game/ misconstrued]] a "You mad, bro?" sign at a football game as "racial intimidation" against a losing team.
* Creationist Ray Comfort [[http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unreasonablefaith/2013/04/ray-comfort-is-still-an-idiot/ once took umbrage at being called a "bibliophile" on Facebook.]] Ironically the other person's response ("It means a lover of books. I never meant to cast that aspersion upon you.") could be interpreted as a StealthInsult, calling Ray Comfort BookDumb.
[[/folder]]

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