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Fee Fi Faux Pas
Southerner: Looks like we need to teach y' all a little lesson about how to behave in polite society!
Jim West: Never drum on a white lady's boobies at a big redneck dance. Got it. Phew, I'm sure glad we got that cleared up.
Wild Wild West (1999)

A character says something inappropriate or embarrassing to the wrong person or within earshot of the wrong person. They wear fur in the presence of an overzealous animal lover. Or eat peas with their knife. And now the eyes of the world are upon them, sneering and/or laughing contemptuously at their little (or not so little) faux pas.

A faux pas can be defined as "a social blunder" or "a violation [intentional or not] of accepted social rules or norms". It can be a Freudian Slip, it can put The Fun in Funeral, it can result in someone saying "How Did That Get in There?" It could even be something as simple as tripping and falling ("faux pas" literally means "false step"). And it is, 99% of the time, played for comedy in fiction.

Funny Foreigners and Fish out of Water are particularly prone to this. You can only hope and pray that those around you will have the good grace to refrain from lining up and rubbing your face in it.

This trope has no connection whatsoever to the webcomic Faux Pas (which is actually pronounced "Fox Paws," unlike the French, which is more to the effect of "foe pa")

Subtropes may include one or more of the following:

See also Forgot About The Mind Reader, where the character doesn't even have to speak. I Meant to Do That is when the character pretends the blunder was in fact done on purpose in order to mitigate the embarrassment. Compare Protocol Peril, which is what happens when a particular faux pas is treated as a life or death matter and with Fumbling The Gauntlet, where the faux pas is an invitation to fight.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In the first season of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Admiral Lindy, wishing to make Nanoha more comfortable and show her appreciation for Nanoha's culture, invites the title character to a tea ceremony. She then proceeds to prepare her green tea by dropping lumps of sugar in it and adding milk, a Japanese no-no (Lindy's doing it British-style with Japanese aesthetics) that caused Nanoha to wince. This later turned onto a running gag.
    • In the fourth StrikerS sound stage, it is revealed that she introduced it to Mary. Ginga, who also drinks her tea this way, asks her father, who is suggested to be of Japanese descent, if he would like to try it, and he politely refuses.

    Comics 
  • MAD often makes reference to these in its humor. For example, one article lists a few things to say when you're otherwise headed into an inappropriate statement.
    Woman: Say, when are you expecting...
    Heavyset woman: I'm not pregnant!
    Woman: ...this stupid bus to arrive? It's been almost an hour!
  • In the first issue of the new Batgirl series, Barbara Gordon's new roommate sees the wheelchair lift on Barbara's van and makes a comment about how being "trapped in a chair" is her worst fear, since it would be "like prison." Barbara's internal narration says that she knows her roommate didn't mean anything by it, and she's not ready to correct her and that she has no way of knowing that Barbara herself used to need it, and when she was in the chair she was Oracle.

    Films 
  • In The Film of the Book of the first novel in the Earth's Children series, Clan Of The Cave Bear, lead character Ayla must, within sight of her tribe, save a child from a wolf using her advanced hunting skills, skills which it is not lawful for a woman in her society to have.
    • The book has the same situation but with a hyena instead. Clan of the Cave Bear is practically one long sequence of these, although the results are generally not all that funny.
  • Ladyhawke - Proud at escaping an inescapable prison, Phillipe offers to buy a drink to everyone in a tavern. Some of them are out looking for him.
  • In Disney's The Little Mermaid, literal Fish out of Water Ariel, at her first dinner with Eric, uses a dinglehopper (a fork) to comb her hair (based on faulty information provided by Scuttle the seagull). She also grabs Grimsby's pipe and blows into it believing that it is a snarfblatt, which Scuttle blows like a trumpet.
  • Ridicule by Patrice Leconte depicts the fearsome consequences of social blunders at the court of Louis XVI. People were Driven to Suicide for saying the wrong thing at the wrong moment, or at the very least their hopes for advancement at court were ruined.
  • Jason around Kelly in Mystery Team. He explains to the (orphaned) girl that life isn't fair because he didn't get a bike for Christmas, tells her to have fun at her parents' wake, and says her skin feels similar to what a dolphin's must feel like.
    • The whole Mystery Team is like this. For example, their most common suspect is Old Man McGinty, whom they suspect for murder when he is clearly very comatose. They break into his house. Twice.
  • In the second Shrek movie, Shrek eats dinner with Fiona's parents and mistakes a finger bowl for soup.
  • Pacific Rim: When Newt is introducing himself and his work, he shows off his kaiju tattoos and goes on about how cool kaiju are. In front of Raleigh. Who lost his brother to one.
    Newt: You know [Yamarashi] was one of the biggest Category 3s ever? It's 2,500 tons of awesome. (awkward silence from everyone else) Or awful, you know, whatever you wanna call it.

    Literature 
  • Piers Anthony's Xanth has a location called the "Faux Pass" (har de har; the entire series is essentially a Hurricane of Puns). Anyone crossing through this pass is fated to commit a faux pas in the near future.
    • The pass is also said to have been formed due to a misstep by a giant.
  • One of the many inconveniences that come from the double lives that the characters in Everworld live is that whenever they fall asleep or lose consciousness in Everworld, all of their stored memories instantly download into their Earth brains, no matter what their Earth selves are doing at the time. At one point, Christopher gets a particularly upsetting update (one that ends with him getting knocked out by enemies) right in the middle of dinner with his new girlfriend's parents. What he thought he was doing: tripping, falling, and swearing from the shock. What he was actually doing: leaping headfirst into his girlfriend's mother's cleavage while shouting, "Motherf***er!"
  • In Journey to the Center of the Earth, the narrator, having broken an ancient explorer's code, shows his uncle how the code is written. Unfortunately, he has his love for his uncle's ward on the brain, and the phrase he codes is that he loves her... Thankfully for everyone, his uncle's response amounts to, "Huh. Well, we'll talk about that later."
  • The main character in Ellen Raskin's Figgs and Phantoms unthinkingly requested a book by its title and (racist) subtitle while speaking to a black librarian.
  • In Soul Music, Imp y Celyn is sitting in a waiting room with a dwarf and a troll, and they casually mention that he looks a bit "druidish" (he is). Imp worries that a troll (a stone-based creature) would take offense at people who drag innocent boulders across the country and arrange them in circles, and vehemently denies it, adding "I hate rocks!" for emphasis. The troll, Cliff, patiently explains that "rock" is a derogatory term for troll. Fortunately he's willing to forgive Imp, seeing as he's a fellow musician and clearly didn't mean to offend, and the whole incident ends up breaking the ice for all three.
    Mr. Nutt: Have I made another faux pas?
    Glenda: Is this "faux pas" that looks like it should be pronounced "forks pass"?

    Live Action TV 
  • The embarrassing faux pas is the single driving narrative force in Curb Your Enthusiasm. Some fans even use the term "Larry David moment" to it.
  • Trope name comes from an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond which uses a whole slew of these to drive the plot.
    Raymond: [regarding a man Robert arrested who was "flashing gang signs"] He wasn't breaking the law, was he?
    Robert: ... No.
    Raymond: What was he doing?
    Robert: ... He was being deaf.
    Raymond: A-ha! Fee Fi Faux Pas!
  • Something similar to the above example happens in an episode of Round the Twist. The scenario: The Twists are trying to eat a meal while ignoring Bronson, who's playing them for all their worth by deliberately disregarding table manners. Then he pulls out a fly-swatter (specially prepared for the occasion) and licks it, causing the whole charade to go tits-up. It's later revealed that there are no actual flies on the swatter.
  • Red Dwarf - Rimmer claims he got passed up for a promotion because, at an important dinner with an admiral, his soup was cold. So he demanded it be heated up nice and hot. It was done so. Unfortunately, it was Gazpacho soup (which is meant to be served cold)... However, Rimmer claims he could have been an admiral by the time Red Dwarf had its disaster, even though he was the second lowest crewmember on the ship and the dinner was less than a year before he died.
    • This was very nearly Truth in Television. The creators went out to dinner in a fancy restaurant and were served gazpacho soup - they were about to send it back when one of the other diners explained.
  • On Top Gear, while in America filming a "factual documentary" which is getting dangerously close to becoming entertaining, the presenters are stopped by a patrolman. Jeremy Clarkson takes it upon himself to explain the situation, with helpful hand gestures.... and in the process flips the cop off three or four times.
  • On Castle, an actress visits Rick Castle at home, thanking him for their relationship and her part in Castle's new movie. She walks out the door:
    Ellie: Thanks Frank.
  • One episode of Seinfeld involves Jerry tiptoeing around these while dating a Native American woman, avoiding common phrases with Native roots ("scalping" for tickets, "Indian givers") to not offend her.
  • Matthew Crawley makes quite a few missteps early on in his tenure on Downton Abbey, including commenting that being a valet "seems rather a silly profession for a grown man." ... to his valet. The man flees the room in shame.
    • Another notable one shows up when Self-Made Man Sir Richard Carlisle runs into Lord Grantham's sister on the Abbey grounds:
    Carlisle: Ah, Lady Painswick.
    Rosamund: *smiling, stamping her walking stick into the ground with a grandiosity befitting her mother* Lady Rosamund.
  • In The West Wing episode "The Midterms", Doctor Jenna Jacobs, a conservative radio talkshow host, is publicly humiliated by the President of the United States (he draws her into clarifying that she is not an MD, but rather has a PhD in English, and then after she defends her stance that Homosexuality is a sin by quoting the Book of Leviticus, asks her a serious of rapid-fire questions about whether he could sell his daughter into slavery, have his chief of staff executed for working on the Sabbath Day, etc. all while citing different versus of Leviticus (President Bartlett being a very well-studied Catholic), before finally pointing out what drew his wrath upon her.
    President Bartlett: "One last thing: While you may be mistaking this for your monthly meeting of the Ignorant Tight-Ass Club, in this building, when the President stands, nobody sits."
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "The Best of Both Worlds: Part 1", Lt. Cmdr. Shelby reveals herself to be a little too ambitious for her own good while chatting with Cmdr. Riker.
    Shelby: Tell me, Commander, is serving aboard the Enterprise as extraordinary an experience as I've heard?
    Riker: Every bit of it.
    Shelby: (grinning) Good, Because I intend to convince Captain Picard that I'm the right choice for the job.
    Riker: Job? Which job?
    Shelby: Yours, of course...
    (Riker glares at her)
    Shelby: I'm sorry... I heard you were leaving.

    Theatre 
  • Eliza's trip to the races at Ascot in My Fair Lady, culminating in the famous "Move your bloomin' arse!" line.
    • Or the equivalent in Pygmalion, "Me? Walk? Not bloody likely!".

    Video Game 
  • Utawarerumono has Eruruw committing a whole SERIES of these with...pretty much every word she says, to the Imperial Princess. In a subversion, the princess brushes it off, while the assistant takes it the worst way possible. It's pretty much an Establishing Character Moment for the two.
  • Vaan in Final Fantasy XII puts his foot in it when the party visits Fran's village, which she left 50 years ago. Not knowing about the viera's longer life span, Vaan asks how old she is, since she looks much younger; he is not only breaking the woman's age taboo, but he's doing it during an emotionally trying time for Fran.

    Web Comics 
  • When Nick goes to meet Ki's parents in General Protection Fault, he takes great pains to impress her father with his knowledge of Japanese culture, but forgets to take off his shoes upon entering the house. To be fair to Nick, though, Mr. Oshiro is biased against him as a result of how Ki's relationship with Sam turned out, so even Nick's attempts to impress him come off as mocking Asian culture.
  • Andy, in Sticky Dilly Buns, is accidentally misled into confusing the naive and prudish Ruby with her sister, the ex-porn star Amber. Even so, giving Ruby a cock ring as a date gift, and then asking her in public when she discovered that she enjoyed taking her clothes off for the camera, is arguably crass by any standards. Fortunately for him, Ruby doesn't recognise the gift and suffers a total freeze-up at the question.
  • The Trenches: Q is a big fan of Lawstar. Isaac learns this a few minutes after calling it a "shitty cartoon from the 80's''.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Animated Adaptation of Soul Music, Imp y Celyn is prone to putting his foot in it.
  • Yogi Bear, in "A Bear Pair" wins a vacation to Paris, and while dining, asks for ketchup to put on his escargo, leading to a international scandal.

    Western Comics 
  • One Calvin and Hobbes story arc features Suzie getting into trouble for such things as passing notes and talking in class (all instigated by Calvin, of course).
  • Happens quite often in the Norwegian comic Pondus. The usual scenario is Pondus and his wife, Beate, chatting with a friend (mostly Beate's friends). Beate makes a Faux Pas, tries to correct it and makes matter worse. Pondus usually praises Beate for this.
  • In the comic strip Drabble, the title character is introduced to sushi, whereupon he announces, "I'll have mine well done, please!"

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television example: William Shatner was once berated for attending an environmentalist gathering in a seal skin jacket.
  • Jim Gaffigan joked about putting ketchup on Sushi. Whether this is intriguing or appalling, I'll leave it to you.
  • U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on a campaign rally to Missouri politican Chuck Graham: "Chuck, stand up, let the people see you!" Then he realized that Graham is in a wheelchair.
    • Then he changed it to "God love ya. You've got them standing up for you now, pal."
    • Biden's good at these. Such as calling the healthcare reform bill "a big fucking deal" right next to a live microphone.
    • "Clean and articulate."
    • His comments about being "unable to go to a 7-Eleven or Dunkin' Donuts without a slight Indian accent".
  • Boris Johnson, who so far has had to officially apologise to the entire populations of Liverpool, Portsmouth, and Papua New Guinea.
  • New Zealand TV host asking Star Trek XI actors Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and John Cho to bust out their best Scottish accents in honor of Scotty. Then she turns to John Cho and says, "I know you're Asian, but..." Holy Unfortunate Implications, Batman!
  • It doesn't stop with invididual politicians or countries, the frikkin' U.N. accidentally tweeted a support for 1-state solution ahead of the General Assembly's vote on Palestine. (For the record, the vote turned out to be 138 countries in favor of implicit recognition of Palestine, and the "1-state" thing was a typo.)
  • When Australian stand up comedian Fiona O'Loughlin met the queen with a few other residents of Alice Springs, she noticed that her husband went to shake Her Majesty's hand. Without looking to whom she was talking to, asked the person standing next to her "Did he just fuck up?" A voice replied "Not as much as you just did dear". She turned around to find that she just addressed the Duke of Edinburgh (although, given his track record of this sort of thing, this may count as praise from Caesar).
  • Ross Noble once borrowed sunglasses from a woman in the crowd and used them to hold a piece of ham to his face. The woman was Muslim; Islam teaches that contact with pig's flesh is very sinful. Ross promptly offered to buy her new sunglasses.
  • Half the fun of Basic Training for new military recruits is learning the entirely new (and often entirely arbitrary) rules and social standards that they must live by, including addressing some of their superiors as sir, but not others, standing at attention while speaking, learning specific required protocols (such as the correct way to report to an officer, the correct thing to do when the National Anthem plays, and what they should do differently if they are indoors versus outdoors), and countless other important rules big and small. For those who complete their training and go into the "real" military, it's still possible for them to end up in trouble for failing to salute officers, being disrespectful to superiors, wearing their uniforms incorrectly, etc.


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