Insult Backfire / Literature


  • In the beginning of Dragon Bones, Ward pretends to be very dumb, so every time someone calls him stupid, he's rather relieved that his plan is still working. Later, when he thinks about the king, he notes what a blood-thirsty, sadistic and overall nasty coward king Jakoven is, and then adds that his own father (who was similar) would probably have liked the king if he wasn't such a coward.
  • In the Discworld,
    • Mistress Weatherwax regularly tries to become more of a vile old crone, despite her natural good looks.
    • She's surprisingly hygienic in spite of the fact that she doesn't bathe, she "just washes. As and when parts become available."
    • Granny Weatherwax simply does this because she's trying to fit the role. She is a master of psychology ("headology") and knows people expect a stereotypical witch of her. It's simply better all around for her.
    • In Jingo, Lord Rust calls Sir Samuel Vimes "a thief-taker — nothing more". This is what finally makes Vimes sail for Klatch instead of remaining in Ankh: once a thief-taker, always a thief-taker, and Vetinari's terrier is, after all, supposed to chase things. And Rust's war gets a Vimes in the works.
    • In Feet of Clay, Vetinari says, "What a nasty suspicious mind you have, Vimes," and Vimes thanks him. It was probably intended as a bit of a compliment in the first place anyway. Played with when Vetinari tells Vimes he has "the mind of a true policeman" when Vimes continues being Properly Paranoid, Vimes thanks him, and Vetinari asks if that's even a compliment.
    • In Monstrous Regiment, Borogravian propaganda has attempted to tarbrush Vimes as "Vimes The Butcher". However, the Borogravian people, spotting that Ankh-Morpork and her allies are getting closer to curb-stomping Borogravia by the day, take the epithet to mean that Vimes is a skilled and ruthless commander rather than a slavering psychopath (which was the intent). Vimes himself just finds the whole thing morbidly hilarious, though a bit peeved that they haven't actually made up any war crimes to accuse him of.
  • In Good Omens, the horseman of the apocalypse Famine is killing time by running an Expy of the Burger King, and buys a meal to check that it indeed has no nutritional value and throws it away uneaten. Though it doesn't happen, it's mentioned that if anyone who saw that reminded him that children were starving in Africa, he'd be pleased you noticed.
  • In the Prince Roger series, one of the supporting characters is a Satanist. Her (originally Catholic) planet got this way during a religious civil war, in which one side demonized the other as Satanists. The other side accepted and maintained the term, having decided that given the evil of their opponents, Satan must actually be good.
  • Calderon's Life is a Dream:
    Clotaldo: Why, this is madness!
    Rosaura: Yes it is.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird applies this when Atticus is called a "n-word-lover."
  • In Warrior Cats, Blackstar at one point starts going on and on about how generous ThunderClan was to give up a piece of territory, and how much good use ShadowClan has been getting out of it as a hunting ground, using the concession as an opportunity to mock ThunderClan for weakness. Firestar, who had simply not thought the piece of territory important enough to fight for, responds: "I'm glad to hear that you are getting so much out of a piece of land prey-poor by ThunderClan standards." Blackstar is not amused.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Hermione reappropriates the Fantastic Slur for wizards of impure blood, declaring herself to be "Mudblood and proud of it!"
    • In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, The new Minister Scrimgeour accused Harry of being "Dumbledore's man through and through". Harry, of course, happily admits it.
    • From Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, there's the "Weasley is Our King" song. At first it's used by the Slytherins to mock Ron's sub-par quidditch playing, but is later used by the Gryffindors to praise his quidditch playing once he proves himself to be quite good at it. Doubles as a Triumphant Reprise.
    • Also in Order Of The Phoenix, when Alpha Bitch Pansy Parkinson sneers at Harry that Montague was going to knock him off his broom, Harry calmly retorts that Montague's aim was so poor he'd be more worried if Montague wasn't aiming for him. Parkinson shuts up after that.
  • Invoked in The Lost Library of Cormanthyr, Forgotten Realms novel by Mel Odom:
    Zyzll: I don't trust her.
    Tweent: She's a drow. Don't trust her. She won't be offended. In fact, she may feel quite honored.
  • From The Lord of the Rings:
    (Frodo's aunt Lobelia:) "You don't belong here; you're no Baggins - you - you're a Brandybuck!"
    "Did you hear that Merry? That was an insult, if you like," said Frodo as he shut the door on her.
    "It was a compliment," said Merry Brandybuck, "and so, of course, not true."
  • Gerald Tarrant of the Coldfire Trilogy strives hard to be an absolute depraved monster (with good reason). Calling him any variant on 'evil' only tells him its working.
  • The Truax was written as a response to The Lorax by people who thought the message was anti-logging. But the real message of The Lorax was pro-sustainability; or, to put it another way, they responded to the book by rewriting it so that it sucked.
  • In Roger Zelazny's Creatures of Light and Darkness, Wakim is showing a distressingly cavalier attitude towards the plague-killed corpse (on a world with no disease and very little death) that he and a woman have discovered.
    Megra: "You are a deviant from the social norm!"
    Wakim: "Is that an insult or a diagnosis?"
  • In Lemonade Mouth after the bully delivers the eponymous insult the main band of True Companions decides it's A Good Name for a Rock Band.
  • In David Eddings' Domes of Fire, Stragen takes the Styric Council to task for not being more proactive in the emerging crisis in Daresia. When one of the Councillors calls him a bastard, he glibly confirms that he is the illegitimate son of a nobleman. He then proceeds to point out he is also a swindler, murderer, and thief... and that someone like him is still doing more good for Daresia than the Council has deigned to.
  • Invoked in The Fountainhead by Dominique. She writes what looks like savage criticism of Howard Roark, but she intends that Roark get the hidden meaning that his buildings are too good for the city.
  • In Excession, a particularly nasty race gets referred to as "an affront to civilization" after eating an group of foreign diplomats. They're absolutely delighted and officially change the name of their species to the Affront.note 
  • 1636 The Baltic war gives us an example with a self-insult:
    Jeff: Just explaining how it happens that at the tender age of twenty-one I'm more suspicious than your average retired cop.
    Gretchen: I said, stop bragging.
  • In Jon Berkely's The Hidden Boy, the main characters practice "Mumbo Jumbo," a sort of listening-to-the-land that allows them to know many things. The term was actually created by the Gummint (government) to try to de-value the practice, but the practitioners embraced the term and it lost all its sting.
  • The Alex Rider series' final book, "Scorpia Rising", has this: a captured french agent calls Razim insane, and he calmly replies that a little bit of madness is important for scientific research.
  • Early in Cursor's Fury, third book of the Codex Alera, Tavi dubs the incompetent Knights in the legion, "Knights Pisces," after the joke that an untrained soldier flops around like a landed fish. The Knights adopt the name in earnest after Tavi pulls a trick with some sharks, explaining that you'll be surprised just how much damage a fish can do.
  • In a meta example, when The Wasp Factory first came out, The Irish Times' review of it called it "a work of unparalleled depravity." The paperback edition gleefully used this as a cover blurb.
  • In Atlas Shrugged, a liberal reporter calls banker Michael Mulligan by the supposed slur of "Midas Mulligan" because of Mulligan's ability to make money on his bank's investments — as opposed to making investments for socially worthy purposes which might not be profitable — and the nickname sticks to him. Mulligan likes it so much he has his name legally changed to Midas Mulligan.
  • In the Drenai novel Waylander II:
    "The man asked [Angel] how it felt to have a face that looked like a cow had trampled on it. He said "Like this!". Then he broke the man's nose."
  • His Dark Materials: Invoked by Sir Charles Latrom, a minor villain. When Lyra explains the concept of daemons (animal-shaped embodiments of a soul) to him, she tells him that his daemon would be a dung beetle. He responds that if the Ancient Egyptians were content to be represented by such a creature, then he has no problem with it. It turns out that he actually is from Lyra's world, and therefore does have a daemon: a snake.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/InsultBackfire/Literature