-> '''Atherton:''' I accept.\\
'''Mal:''' That's great! What?
-->-- ''Series/{{Firefly}}'', "Shindig"

In an [[FishOutOfWater unfamiliar social environment]], a character does something that he thinks is mostly innocuous, either intentionally or by accident. Unfortunately, in ''this'' society, said act constitutes ThrowingDownTheGauntlet, and will result in him engaging in a DuelToTheDeath, possibly on the spot. Oddly enough, the people from the local culture ''never'' seem to grasp the concept that [[ValuesDissonance different cultures do things differently]], so they never understand the poor foreigner's plight, and he does not get a free pass for not understanding the gravity of what he just did.

See also AccidentalMarriage for other results of innocuous gestures. For a less Life-or-Death version, see FeeFiFauxPas.


[[folder: Anime And Manga]]
* In ''Manga/RanmaOneHalf'', [[GenderBender Girl-Ranma]] does this in Shampoo's village by eating the prize that Shampoo was to win. Shampoo challenges 'her'; Ranma defeats Shampoo, and winds up earning a KissOfDeath. It eventually turns out that if Ranma had fought Shampoo in his true male form and won, [[AccidentalMarriage he would have successfully proposed marriage to her]] instead... a pity he didn't learn this until after he'd beaten her a second time.
* In ''LightNovel/KyouKaraMaou'', Yuri [[AccidentalMarriage accidentally proposes]] to Wolfram by striking him across the left cheek. Wolfram is so embarrassed and furious that he throws the tableware to the floor- resulting in Yuri accidentally accepting Wolfram's duel challenge by picking up a knife.

* In ''[[https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8429437/15/The-Perils-of-Innocence The Perils of Innocence]]'' Dr. Aymler tries to greet a goblin guard outside Gringotts by shaking hands. The guard comments that in goblin culture an outstretched hand would initiate a duel, while nodding is their preferred form of greeting.

* In Creator/TerryPratchett's ''Literature/JohnnyMaxwellTrilogy'', Johnny bumps into an alien. Trying to look harmless, he shows his empty hands and smiles. The alien returns the gesture... spreading her claws and showing off her teeth. Also, several of Pratchett's books contain a point of advice: Never grin at an orangutan.
* The same happens in a ''Literature/{{Xanth}}'' story, by Creator/PiersAnthony. Dor meets a giant spider, and tries a "hug" gesture to show friendship. The spider thinks he is readying his fangs.
* In the ''Literature/{{Starfire}}'' series by Creator/DavidWeber, the Orions consider a toothy smile a challenge. There is also an inversion where a person mistakes an Orion's toothy smile for a friendly gesture.
* In Creator/AnneMcCaffrey's ''[[Literature/AcornaSeries Acorna]]'' series, Acorna often unnerves her fellow Linyaari by smiling human-style (with teeth showing). Among her people (Acorna was raised by humans since she was a toddler), baring your teeth is a display of naked aggression, akin to walking around with your fists up.
* In Creator/RobertAHeinlein's ''Literature/TheMoonIsAHarshMistress'' a teenage girl flirts with Stu, a tourist from Earth. He takes the initiative and tries to kiss her, not realizing that this is a capital offense. Partially justified, as the Loonies invoked this as part of their justification for their planned independence war.
* One of the characters in ''Literature/{{Timeline}}'' does the opposite. An opponent throws down the gauntlet to show his contempt, but our hero apparently didn't know that picking it back up meant he accepted.
* The Final War of the ''Literature/{{Bolo}}'' continuum was begun in part due to standard Melconian FirstContact procedure: Enact a Non-Intercourse Edict until the governing body has come to a conclusion. The Concordiat saw this as a sign of aggression and the situation deteriorated from there.
* In the Consul's tale in ''Literature/{{Hyperion}}'', he recalls his friend having an altercation with a group of locals on a foreign planet. The locals interpret his behavior as grounds for a duel. They toss him a sword, and he simply watches it fall to the ground, not understanding. Not picking up the sword doesn't cancel out the challenge, unfortunately.
* In ''Literature/SixteenThirtyTwo'' high school JerkJock Chip Jenkins, angry at what he sees as someone moving in on his girl, punches Alex [=MacKay=] in the teeth[[note]]For bonus points, Alex had just endured dental work sans anesthetics that day[[/note]] at the Thuringan Gardens. [=MacKay=], being the product of [[UsefulNotes/ThirtyYearsWar his times]], views this act as the prelude to a duel and announces that his choice of weapon will be cavalry sabres.
* The war with the Formics in ''Literature/EndersGame'' started because of this. It is not uncommon for them to kill another queen's drones to send a message; as they are a HiveMind, the life of any one individual drone is meaningless to them. When they first made contact with a human spaceship, they killed everyone on board, under the same reasoning. Humans, of course, took this as an act of murder. [[spoiler:Once the Formics figured out that humanity were individuals and they had slaughtered intelligent, thinking people, they were [[MyGodWhatHaveIDone horrified to their cores]] and nearly gave up all hope of ever calming humanity's wrath toward them.]]

[[folder: Live Action TV]]
* ''Series/{{Firefly}}'' episode "Shindig": Mal hauls off and decks Atherton Wing after the latter hits the former's BerserkButton by implying that Inara is a whore (Mal may not respect her job, but Atherton disrespected ''her''). Turns out that punching someone in a social function on that planet is considered a formal challenge, and Mal ends up having to fight a sword duel over her honor. Use of a swhat?
* ''Series/BabylonFive'':
** "There All the Honor Lies" narrowly averts this when Sheridan accuses a Minbari of lying, but Delenn vehemently explains that the accusation would have called for an immediate and fatal response if the Minbari had been present.
** The Earth-Minbari War started because of this trope. The Minbari ships approached with gunports open but weapons powered off; to the Minbari warrior caste, this was a gesture of respect (and symbolic of "my hands are empty"), while to the humans it looked like the ship was about to fire, compounded by the mess Minbari electronic warfare was (unintentionally) making of [=EarthForce=] sensors, so they couldn't tell whether the weapons were armed or not. At least one Minbari realized it was a bad move; [[ReasonableAuthorityFigure Dukhat]] attempted to order the gunports closed once he realized it had been done, but too late.
*** On one occasion, a visiting Minbari battle cruiser greeted Babylon 5 in the same manner, and was almost fired upon. It didn't help that the commander in charge of the vessel, Alyt Neroon, [[PoorCommunicationKills refused to explain himself]]. It took the intervention of Ambassador Delenn to avoid hostilities.
* ''Series/StarTrekVoyager'': One episode has Janeway insult an alien race by putting her [[CharacterTic hands on her hips]], provoking a conflict due to the "obscene gesture". Things get smoothed out in the end, though; even as Neelix was defusing the immediate diplomatic situation before it could turn violent, the Emergency Medical Hologram had developed the cure for a serious plague.
* ''Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine'': In episode "Apocalypse Rising", Sisko is pretending to be a Klingon, and as part of the effort, strikes Worf with the back of his hand. Worf then asks if he meant to challenge him to a battle to the death and suggests to simply strike him with his fist instead. Thankfully, this was part of the rehearsal; it did not actually come up when it had to be done for real.
* ''Series/StarTrekEnterprise'' has a group of aliens storm out of a diplomatic meeting in rage, with the crew having no idea what pissed them off. Ultimately, they have to go track them down to figure out how to get rid of some AlienKudzu; it turns out that their offense was ''eating'' where the aliens could see it, something that is extremely private in their culture. Hoshi is able to gain their forgiveness and assistance in the end.
* ''Series/BlakesSeven''. In "Power", Avon is captured by the leader of a primitive society, and grabs his arm to stop him hitting his wife. As their society is based on AsskickingEqualsAuthority as well as misogyny, he naturally assumes that Avon is [[ThrowingDownTheGauntlet challenging him for leadership]].

[[folder: Video Games]]
* In ''VideoGame/ShadowKeep'', entering the titular fortress while wielding a weapon would cause the guards to treat you as hostile (i.e. kill you.)
* In ''VideoGame/{{Karateka}}'', ''don't'' [[spoiler:approach Princess Mariko in fighting stance]]. [[NonstandardGameOver Just don't]].

[[folder: Webcomics]]
* In ''Webcomic/DominicDeegan'', Serk Brakkis insults Lars Sturtz's son, Szark, to Lars' face, mocking his (by then in-the-past) penchant for loving duels to the death...and implying that Szark gets off to it. Donovan Deegan then slashes his initials into Serk's pants in response. As it turns out, slicing someone's clothes with a sword constitutes ThrowingDownTheGauntlet thanks to Serk's rule-lawyering.

[[folder: Web Original]]
* ''Creator/NoahAntwiler'' once recounted a tale of the one time he played TabletopGame/LegendOfTheFiveRings where his ignorance of the setting's customs (and the other players' unwillingness to explain them) led to him being challenged to a duel that he promptly lost.

[[folder: Western Animation]]
* Inverted in ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'', when Homer discovers that he can get his way in all sorts of situations simply by ThrowingDownTheGauntlet, and starts doing so left, right and centre not expecting it to be picked up. Then he tries it with a SouthernGentleman...
-->'''Homer:''' Why oh why did I slap a man who says '[[DeepSouth suh]]'?!
* ''WesternAnimation/StormHawks'' at one point takes the Sky Knights to Junko's home, where Piper accidentally bumps into someone. She raises her hands placatingly - and Junko hastens to intervene, because this is how his people challenge each other to a ''fight''.

[[folder: Real Life]]
* Japanese culture has a lot of non-verbal signs that can be easy to botch. But there was one even locals could fall for: in the era of the samurai, emphatically striking one's sheath, or ''saya'', with the sword's guard was a gesture of a challenge. Given that this is also the culture which invented [[SingleStrokeBattle Iaijutsu]], this little tradition probably kept the number of warriors with loose ''saya'' rather low.
* Chimpanzees and many other apes consider showing teeth a sign of aggression or fear. [[BerserkButton Do not smile at them toothily.]]
* Eye-contact is considered a challenge by primates, felines and canids.
** Wild canids that is. One of the things that notably separates domesticated dogs from wolves is that dogs will look a human in the eye.
* A lot of {{Flame War}}s start this way. The lack of facial cues can turn an innocuous statement into an insult.
* Touching hair was considered a grave insult in Fiji that merits mortal retaliation (and worse) before the encounter with the Europeans, especially the hair of a chief. Several early European visitors to the island found this out the hard way (especially Reverend Thomas Baker, an English missionary, in 1867).