A verbal equivalent of Attack Backfire, this is for when character A comments on a trait of character B's in a way that's intended to sound negative — but instead of being insulted, character B feels flattered.
Usually, this is because character B invokes the "insulting" quality intentionally. Less commonly, they're The Ditz or have a poor grasp of the word or concept being insulted and take it to be a positive comment. Other times, it's simply a case of character B having the attitude of pretending that it's not an insult, or even turning it back on character A: "Coming from you, I'll take that as a compliment."
A variant is for the character to be insulted, not because they dislike what was said, but because they're obviouslyso much worse than that.
Occasionally, the insult backfires because A's remarks were insulting on the surface, but B carries them to their logical, ultimately complimentary conclusion. These cases typically only work when the original insult was mild and/or non-malicious to begin with.
Related to Stealth Insult, but different in that an Insult Backfire is accidental and a Stealth Insult is sent over the target's head on purpose. Sometimes, it seems the only sure way to insult someones is to give them a compliment.
Not to be confused with Insult Misfire, where the target obliviously doesn't realize the insult was directed at them. Compare Threat Backfire. Compare and contrast I Take Offense to That Last One, where there are multiple insults, but the character may only object to one of them. See also Blunt Yes, which is often based on a similar theme. Contrast Compliment Backfire (and Calling Me a Logarithm, when someone thinks a word that's not an insult or even not directed at a person is an insult). See also Insult Friendly Fire.
Villains: Calling them evil, vile, or psycho is likely to make them act Affably Evil and unusually demure from the flattery. Especially if they're of the card-carrying variety.
Sluttiness: Many a Vamp finds her lasciviousness high praise.
Alternative Lifestyles: Take your pick, but the person in question is happy with it.
A Trickster: Acting shocked at their underhandedness.
Madmen: Anyone who tells them "You're Insane!!" will be met with a response such as "Thanks for noticing!"
In Crest of the Stars, Admiral Spoor's chief of staff is rather appalled at her attitude during combat and calls her Lady of Chaos - a title which she immediately adopts.
Zelgadis from Slayers is always pleased when someone calls him a heartless magic-using swordsman. He's trying to cultivate the image.
In Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, the eponymous character snaps at Gargoyle by shouting "You're inhuman!!" (literally, in Japanese, "You're not human"). Of course, since he considers himself superior to humanity by virtue of being a Sufficiently Advanced Alien, he thanks her affably for the compliment. The funny thing is, it eventually turns out that he's a human after all. It's doubly ironic that Nadia herself is the one who is literally not human, though she isn't aware of it.
A similar but less affable example occurs in Trigun: right after the Big Fall, Vash yells at his brother Knives that he's inhuman / not human. The latter proceeds to beat him up for daring suggest that he might be similar in any way to such inferior beings.
The same character presents a similar reaction when Vash calls him a calamity at the end of the first manga. While he is peeved at the fact that Vash is insulting him, he is proud of being a calamity to humans and proceeds to prove it.
In Gundam 00, Lockon is told that Setsuna was once part of the terrorist organization that killed his family in a suicide bombing. When he later holds Setsuna at gunpoint for this, Setsuna goes on his "I am Gundam" rant and Lockon backs off.
Lockon:(lowers his gun) That's so crazy, I don't want to shoot you anymore. You really are an impossible Gundam nut!
Setsuna:(smiles) Thank you. That's a great compliment.
Syrus: Jaden! And who's the evil psycho from outer space?
Syrus and Hassleberry: Sartorius!
Sartorius: Thank you.
In Princess Princess, when Mitaka learns that his rival in the presidential elections, the glorious Sakamoto-sama who he's been hearing so much about, is a plain-looking, soft-spoken average Joe with no charisma, he publicly insults Sakamoto and speculates that he's merely riding on his older brother's reputation. While everyone else is outraged, Sakamoto is impressed (and possibly turned on) by his honesty.
Sakamoto: "So for me, whether the person has a bad attitude or not, if they're upfront about how they feel it really puts me at ease. Ever since I came here I've never known what it was like to be attacked like that, so it was actually kind of refreshing." (cue blushing and floral background) "It was exciting..." Shihoudani: "That's just wrong..."
In an episode of Pokémon, a character of the week attempted to insult Misty by claiming that she was as beautiful as a Tentacruel. Tentacruel just so happens to be one of Misty's most desired Pokemon.
Girl: You are the worst kind of human being in this world.
Izaya: And isn't that just splendid?
In Code Geass Orange-Kun... Jeremiah is given the nickname when he allowed Suzaku to escape thanks to being geassed by Lelouch and almost everyone with the exception of Villeta called him Orange and of course, he took it to be a grave offense. But after he turned to Lelouch side, he gladly accepted the name Orange; in fact, that was his codename given by Lelouch. He then refers to Orange as "the color of my loyalty".
Bible Black: Imari gives one to Kitami and backfires twice:
Imari: You're the worst human.
Kitami: I'll take that as a complement.
Imari: You're the Devil!
Kitami: The highest complement!
In Future GPX Cyber Formula, Asuka says to Randoll about his arrogance and him putting down on Cyber Formula and Hayato when she first meets him, but Randoll, unfazed by this, instead falls in love with her because of that.
Asuka: You might be a genius, but you're the most disgusting person in the world!
Fate: I'm starting to feel that you're more fitting as a leader of evil nowadays
Negi: I take that as a compliment
In an episode of Wandering Son a boy calls the protagonist and their friend "little girls" as an insult. Instead of invoking a negative reaction, all it did was make the protagonist blush and smile.
One Piece uses it scarcely for the most part, but the Straw Hat's shipwright, Franky, who usually dresses in only an aloha shirt and speedo, takes "pervert" as a compliment.
In Sailor Moon, one Monster of the Week uses people's insecurities against them, leading Sailor Mercury to despair and almost making her attack her friends. Sailor Moon, though? Not only does she completely dismiss all the insults the monster hurls at her, no, when the monster says that she's weird, she grins happily and takes it as a praise.
Monster: This kid's actually proud to be a flake?! Sailor Moon: Yes, I like being unique.
Hellsing gives us Alucard, whose reaction to being called a monster is usually something to the effect of, "Yes, I get that a lot."
She doesn't take it as a compliment, but in Puella Magi Madoka Magica, after Homura unemotionally explains to Kyoko about magical girls turning into witches, the following exchange occurs:
Kyoko: And you call yourself human?
Homura: Of course not. And neither are you.
In Shin Koihime†Musou, Keifa says that all Enjutsu is good for is eating honey and singing, like a cricket. Rather than feel insulted by this, Enjutsu goes on to say that everyone should keep talking about how great she is.
The Future: You say fascist like it's some kind of insult, but people love fascists, man. You ever meet a woman who fantasized about being tied up and raped by a liberal?
Probably a paraphrase of P.J. O'Rourke who was once called a Nazi by an offended listener. "I have often been called a Nazi... I don't let it bother me for one simple reason. No one has ever had a fantasy about being tied to a bed and sexually ravished by someone dressed as a liberal."
Don't forget Mr. Rictus reply to Wesley calling him a "goatfucker."
"I do not fuck goats, Mr. Gibson. I make love to them."
In Enki Bilal's Nikopol-trilogy the eponymous characters once calls the Egyptian god Horus an inhuman bastard. Horus doesn't take this as compliment per se, but still explains Nikopol that he is inheritly inhuman, that is, far above the pathetic human concerns, like morality.
In the British comic book anthology, 2000 AD, Judge Dredd at one point confronted the evil Call-Me-Kenneth, a robot leading all the other machines into a rebellion against the humans. Seeing the horrors of what's in front of him, Dredd proceeded to insulting Kenneth:
Dredd: We had a human like you in the 20th century, his name was Hitler!
Call-Me-Kenneth: Oh yes, I'm a very big fan of Adolf Hitler!
From a recent issue of Uncanny X-Men that ties in with Avengers Vs X Men, when Colossus learns that his sister had manipulated him into becoming the new Juggernaut so he could be as much a monster as she had become;
Colossus: You're insane!
Magik(overjoyed): Oh thank you, thank you! I knew you'd eventually understand!
From the series Anarky the eponymous character confronts Physical GodDarkseid and begins to lecture Darkseid on why everything he does is wrong. Just when he's about to use the E-word Darkseid cuts him off and proudly finishes the "insult" for him.
Morrow: Letting you think you still had half an hour to assemble the troops was just my way of hanging onto a little criminal integrity, my dear. No hard feelings, I hope.
Oracle: You sick freak!
Morrow: One tries one's best.
From the Metal Men strip in Wednesday Comics, #5 - Dr. Pretorius, the villain of the strip, has just revealed that he is wearing a bomb vest, and that his motivation for his attack is that Dr. Magnus, creator of the Metal Men, "stole" the grant he felt he deserved by designing the Responsometers that power the Metal Men.
Dr. Pretorius: To hell with the committee! And to hell with you and your damn amusement park attractions!
Hank: Good idea (Hank enlarges three ants to waist-level). Get him, boys.
An odd exchange happened in one arc between Norman Osborn and his then-henchman Mad Jack. In one issue, Norman tried to pay Jack for completing a job, but Jack refused it, flying out Norman's office window:
Jack: Go to Hades.
Norman: Hades? Why Jack... I've been there...
Many issues later, Norman gave Jack another payment for another job, and this time, Jack accepted it. The previous incident was mentioned:
Norman: I think it's very generous, Jack, considering that you once told me to go to Hades.
Jack: I thought you'd take it as a compliment!
Norman (smirks): Now that you mention it... I guess I did! (Cue Evil Laugh from both villains.)
In the comic where Spider-Man faces Tombstone after the villain gains superhuman strength and rock-hard skin, there's this exchange after Spidey finds out about it.
Spider-Man: Tombstone... I hate to be the one to tell you this, but... I don't think you're human anymore...
Tombstone: I know...
(Spidey punches him, but only gets a Slasher Smile from the villain.)
Tombstone: I'm better.
To make it worse, Spidey comments that Tombston's grip is "Cold as ice... Hard as marble!" Tombstone actually thinks that sounds kind of catchy, and thanks the hero for thinking of it. ("How else would you describe a tombstone?" he laughs.)
The Tick is The Ditz, so frequently he'll interpret insults as compliments or simply not understand that they were insults.
Professor: No insult intended.
Tick: None comprehended! (goofy grin)
Scrooge McDuck is quite happy whenever someone calls him a "tightwad" or a "cheapskate" or a "skinflint" — the sooner everyone knows that, the sooner they'll know there's no point asking him for money!
At one point Bigby of Fables gets called a "son-of-a-bitch". Since this is literally true, his response is essentially, "Yep, and she was a pretty great mother, too."
Garfield employs this from time to time. One notable variation has Jon flatly saying "I don't think you could get any fatter."- which causes Garfield's eyes to widen as he dashes to the refrigerator. "That wasn't a challenge!"
One exchange between Jon and Garfield goes like this:
Jon: "You have many flaws, Garfield."
Garfield: "Thank you!"
Jon: "One of which is thinking that insults are compliments."
Rainbow Dash: You know what? I’ve met many psychos and weirdos in my life, but you... You are downright insane! Red Cyclone: That’s your opinion.
At one point in Dragon Ball Z Abridged, an angry Vegeta tells Ginyu to go back to polishing Freeza's boots. Naturally the sycophantic captain replies that Freeza doesn't actually wear boots, and then says that even if Freeza DID, Ginyu would have already polished them.
Raito stormed off, and four hours after that, all the detectives gather around the television, torn between laughter and louder laughter when a gang known for kidnapping, gang-raping, and trafficking young girls and boys into prostitution all die of what appears to be autoerotic asphyxiation—bodies falling conveniently in a public square. The chief squints. "Does that—?" L narrows his eyes and drinks more coffee. "Yeah," one of the others says. "It totally does," another detective chimes in. "L SUCKS DICK," the Chief reads. Just under his breath, L mutters, "Not anymore, that's for damn sure."
Calvin: You absolutely SICKEN me. You killed one of your own men because he was too hurt to fight. But the part that sickens me MOST…is knowing that in my present state; I can't do ANYTHING about it. Evil Calvin: Thanks for the compliment.
Turnabout Storm has one between antagonists, with Trixie responding with satisfaction to Sonata's expression of distaste for her.
In The Simpsons Movie, after the Simpson family escapes from the dome enclosing Springfield:
EPA Official: I'm afraid we lost them, sir.
Russ Cargill: Damn it! Well, then you find 'em, and you get 'em back in the dome! And to make sure nobody else gets out, I want roving death squads around the perimeter 24-7! I want 10,000 tough guys, and I want 10,000 soft guys to make the tough guys look tougher! And here's how I want them arranged:tough, tough, soft, tough, soft, soft, tough, tough, soft, soft, tough, soft!
Gabriel: Son of Perdition! Little Horn! Most Unclean!
Lucifer: I do miss the old names.
At the end of Funny People, after Ira has deconstructed all of George's personality flaws, George lamely says that Ira isn't funny. Unfortunately, Ira has a comeback for this, too: "You're right, George, I'm not funny. If it means I'm even less like you, fine, I'm not funny."
This is a carry-over from the original animated series.
Narrator: The lowest of the low, the vilest of the vile!
Boris: Please! You are embarassink me!
In the restaurant scene in Big Trouble, the hitman breaks a smoker's finger. The diner then says I hope you realize you just committed assault. The hitman then responds gleefully by saying: I know, I know. You know I remember time was you actually had to hit somebody. Then he pats him on the back.
The 1992 film Juice has this:
Q: You're crazy, man.
Bishop: You know what? Last time you said that, I was kinda trippin', right? But now, you're right. I am crazy. And you know what else? I don't give a fuck. I don't give a fuck about you. I don't give a fuck about Steel. I don't give a *fuck* about Raheem, either. I don't give a fuck about myself. Look, I ain't shit. And you less of a man than me, so as soon as I figure you ain't gon be shit, *pow*! So be it. You remember that, motherfucker. 'Cause I'm the one you need to be looking out for... *partner*!
Arthur: Are all men from the future loud-mouthed braggarts?
Ash: Nope. Just me baby... Just me.
While it's not realized in the film itself, there is a straight example in the first Spider-Man.
Harry Osborn: [After Flash Thompson and his friend bully Peter Parker] Leave him alone!
Flash Thompson: Or what?
Thompson's Friend: Or his father will fire your father. [both laugh and high-five each other]
(In fact, they are mocking him by saying that that was the only thing Harry could do, that he is powerless to stop them doing whatever they like, and is less of a man than they are because he has no option but to try and wield his father's reputation as a weapon.
Near the end of Back to School, Jerk Jock Chas tries to antagonize Jason by telling him "You're gonna be just like your father!" to which Jason replies "God, I hope so - 'cause I love the guy." Also counts as a CMOH.
Hudson: Hey Vasquez, you ever been mistaken for a man?
Vasquez: No, have you?
Burke: I thought you'd be smarter than this.
Ripley: I'm happy to disappoint you.
In The Prophecy, Lucifer at one point taunts Thomas by saying that he did hide under Thomas' bed when he was a little boy. When Thomas later defies Lucifer during their final confrontation, he ends up getting the last word.
Thomas: I have my soul, and I have my faith. What do you have...angel?
In Looney Tunes: Back in Action, when Damien Drake is turned into a monkey, and then turned back into a human, Daffy Duck remarks, "I liked you better as a monkey...", and then Drake replies, "Thank you!"
Mason: "Your best? Losers whine about their best, winners go home and fuck the prom queen!"
Goodspeed: "Carla was the prom queen."
Observe and Report, in the mall when Ronnie rejects Brandi when she thanks him after saving her from the flasher (due to catching her having an affair with Harrison priorly). He insults and humilates her in front of nearly everyone claiming her to be the sort of girl "who dates and has sex with you, and then stabs you in the back by screwing your enemy". Brandi's reaction appeared to be a mixture of being humilated and slightly flattered...
Linda Seton doesn't mind a bit if her father thinks Johnny's dream of taking a Holiday to discover himself — rather than settling down and making lots of money — is childish.
Edward Seton: I still must confess that the talk of the two of you seems to me of the seventeen-year-old variety.
Linda: I'm glad if it is! We're grand at seventeen; it's after that, that sickness sets in!
Lincoln: The Ethan Allen anecdote during the Revolutionary War about an American invited to a British home, the latter hanging a portrait of George Washington in his restroom. The American considers it a compliment because, well...
Men in Black: After Agent Kay explains the history of MIB to James Edwards, Edwards asks "When was the last time you had a CAT scan?", and Kay answers "About six months ago, company policy."
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 answers by calling him a bastard, he bears it no mind...because he literally is the illegitimate son of a nobleman. He then proceeds to point out he is also a swindler, murderer, and thief (since he is also the head of a thieves' guild): glibly implying that anything they could call him would not be insulting in the least.
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 Truth in Television: this is one theory of how the Apache got their name, though there's no real consensus on whether the theory is accurate.
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.
McCoy: You are the most cold-blooded person I've ever met.
Spock: Why thank you, Doctor.
McCoy has just walked in on Spock playing 3D chess against the computer while Kirk is facing some serious criminal charges. It is revealed that Spock was testing a hypothesis that the computer he was playing against had been tampered with, producing some false evidence framing Kirk. He was correct.
In "The Return of the Archons":
Spock: I prefer the concrete, the graspable, the provable. Kirk: You would make a splendid computer, Mr. Spock. Spock: That is very kind of you, Captain.
Spock: As you are so fond of pointing out, Doctor, I am half human. McCoy: Well, it certainly doesn't show. Spock: Thank you. McCoy: How do you like that? This guy never changes. I insult him and he takes it as a compliment.
About a century later, in Star Trek: The Next Generation and especially Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, calling a Ferengi pretty much anything involving scheming, treachery, greed, deceit, back-stabbing or other weaselry is virtually guaranteed to get you a warm if toothy smile and a "Thank you".
In the serial The Time Monster, the Master completely annihilates the Doctor (Jon Pertwee). Companion Jo Grant remarks that it was the most brutal, inhuman, monstrous thing she had ever seen. The Master gives a nod and says "Thank You" as if he were accepting a compliment on his new suit. On the other hand, after it turns out the Doctor isn't dead the Master is somewhat lost for words (see God Guise).
In "The Five Doctors" The Time Lord President himself informs him "You are one of the most evil and corrupt beings our Time Lord race has ever produced. Your crimes are without number and your villainy without end." The Master just sits there, with the most colossal smirk on his face imaginable.
In The Movie, a hospital receptionist who believes the Master is an ambulance driver named Bruce responds to his odd choice of words by commenting, "Bruce, you are sick." The Master responds, "Thank you."
"You speak treason!" "FLUENTLY!"
In "The Lazarus Experiment", Tish calls the Doctor a "science geek," and when Martha explains that it means he's "obsessively enthusiastic about it," the Doctor's flattered.
In The Ultimate Foe, Mel calls the Master "utterly evil" after learning his plot. His response? What else? "Thank you." Simple, but cute.
There's another one in the deleted scenes, when she calls him "despicable".
Sarah Jane: I should have known. You're as bad as they are.
Slitheen-Blathereen: For that remark, we won't kill you.
And in the same episode:
Sarah Jane: Isn't destroying a planet for profit more on the Slitheen side?
Slitheen-Blathereen: How dare you! We're nothing like the Slitheen! We're much, much worse!
For reference, neither Slitheen nor Blathereen are races. In fact, they're family names. The race itself is called Raxacoricofallapatorians. For obvious reasons (and the fact that anyone Genre Savvy enough might use that information to kill them), they prefer to stick with their family name.
May: [after reviewing a Rolls Royce Drophead Coupe] I believe deep in my heart that I look good in it and it suits me... 'cause it's stylish and it's contemporary.
Clarkson: [sarcastically] Every time I see you, those are the words that pop into my head: stylish and contemporary.
May: Thank you.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 used this trope as one of Dr. Forrester and Dr. Erhardt's catchphrases in the first and "zeroth" season, before it petered out later on. Joel would call them mad, or tell them that they were tampering in God's domain, or some such, and they would reply, in unison, "Thank you!"
Earth vs. The Spider, largely considered an early years Shout Out by the fans, shows Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank using this phrase, only to look confused at the occurrence immediately after. (This episode also contained an explicit reference to Dr. Erhardt, who was Put on a Bus between seasons one and two, and a sketch of the 'Bots being given RAM chips as rewards for complimenting the film—a Running Gag that had been long since phased out.)
Also has a Real Life example. After Kevin Murphy took over as the voice of Tom Servo, he was sent a massive print-out banner bearing the words "I HATE TOM SERVO'S NEW VOICE!" Kevin found it both highly amusing and incredibly sad that a fan would be so angry at a puppet on a TV show, and he proudly hung the banner in his workspace at Best Brains.
Power Rangers: In an early episode, Bulk tells Skull he's driving like a maniac (escaping from a giant Goldar) and Skull thanks him.
Another episode, "Reign of the Jellyfish":
Jellyfish Warrior: I was hoping I'd catch you, little power fishies. (evil laugh)
Zack: Oh, yeah? Well, you're the one who's caught, slime!
Jellyfish Warrior: Flattery will get you nowhere, little mastodon!
Power Rangers S.P.D.: Piggy, the bottom-feeder informant-on-the-streets type, finds a winning lottery ticket that lets him pay off all his debts to Arms Dealer Broodwing and open his own bar, much to Broodwing's annoyance.
Broodwing: You may be a millionaire, but you're still the same disgusting, filthy, wretched piece of worthless garbage to me!
Dr. Wilson: That smugness of yours really is an attractive quality.
Dr. House: Thank you. It was either that or get my hair highlighted. Smugness is easier to maintain.
Dr. Wilson: Be yourself: cold, uncaring, distant.
Dr. House: Please, don't put me on a pedestal.
In Whose Line Is It Anyway? an exchange like this will happen during one of the games where they have to play as someone; it's usually not an insult, but one time Greg Proops was to play as a "nerdy white guy desperately trying to act street". Greg's response was "Yes, but what's my character?"
One golden moment from the "Let's Make a Date" game, where one player invariably plays some kind of ditz when trying to guess what the bachelors are acting like:
Wayne: Bachelor no. 1? Brad: (as a puritan witch hunter) Yes, harlot? Wayne: (beat) Now how'd you know my middle name?
From a game of "Scenes from a Hat," the scene was "Secret Lives of 'Whose Line' Stars"
Brad Sherwood: (doing a strip-tease) Hi, I'm Colin Mochrie. Colin Mochrie: (as the guy watching the strip-tease) Hi, I'm Brad Sherwood!
Gene Hunt: I think you've forgotten who you're talking to!
Sam Tyler: An overweight, over-the-hill, nicotine-stained, borderline-alcoholic homophobe with a superiority complex and an unhealthy obsession with male bonding?
Gene Hunt: You make that sound like a bad thing.
This example from Angel is somewhere between this trope and a Stealth Insult depending on how mean it was meant to be (probably not very given the person speaking). When HarmonyKendall goes to see Lorne for help she gives a rather painful rendition of "Memories" so that he can read her future from the song. Lorne comes to talk to her afterwards and says "I can't help you, my little Cacophony". She's disappointed, then a second later says "Cacophony... that's pretty... what's it mean?"
Natalie: (to Stottlemeyer) He gets hooked on everything. He's the most compulsive person I've ever met!
Monk: Thank you.
The opposite happens in 'Mr. Monk And His Biggest Fan':
Natalie: Mr. Monk, you're not flustered - you're flattered! Who wouldn't be? She adores you; she knows everything about you. After all, you're only human.
Monk: There's no need for name-calling.
One episode (can't remember the title) had someone pointing out how lonely Monk must be. His response? "Yes, I am, thank you." It's the one where he visits Mexico, and it's not meant that way - Monk is appreciative someone understands how lonely he is due to all his neuroses.
A milder variation from NUMB3RS, when Don Epps confronted his senior supervisor McGowan in order to reinstate Charlie Epps' security clearance.
McGowan: You and your brother have the same way of looking at things, you know that?
Don: (laughs) I haven't heard that but... I'll take it!
...and after Malcolm wins the job that Nick Hanway wanted, via numerous plans
Nick Hanway: "Fuck you very much, you unscrupulous bastard!"
Malcolm Tucker: "Scruples? What are they? Those low-fat Kettle Chips?"
Most insults aimed at Malcolm backfire as he is already fully aware of his bastardry. The tables are turned however when he finds himself in a meeting at the BBC, trying to offend two TV producers with inappropriate comments. One tells him "that's exactly the sort of banter we're looking for!": Unused to such butt-kissing, he responds by looking absolutely terrified.
From The Persuasionists episode 4:
Billy: Emma, you are weight obsessed! This is why the other girls call you Skeletor!
Emma: The other girls call me Skeletor?
Emma: Oh, that is so nice! I do have quite high cheekbones, don't I?
Cold Case episode "Ravaged" pretty much had one of these as the reason why the killer, a sleazy Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor who took advantage of women, killed the victim, a woman on rock bottom who rejected him:
Sponsor: Lower than you! You're nothing!
Victim: ... And even I won't have you.
On several occasions, Simon Cowell has referred to contestants' singing in Idol tryouts as horrific. Not knowing the word, some of them took this as a compliment until they were very quickly corrected.
Another example in "The One With The Dirty Girl", the eponymous girl (who is SMOKING hot) agrees to go on a date with 'nerdy' guy Ross, leading to this exchange with ex-girlfriend Rachel:
Rachel: Well maybe she and her friends are just having a contest to see who can bring home the biggest geek.
Ross: Fine by me, hope she wins.
On Sonny With A Chance, the annoyed cast of So Random draws a mustache on Chad's picture on the billboard he puts up to help him win Sonny back. While Nico, Tawni, and Grady laugh about how Chad really looks like a fool now, Zora points out, "Isn't that the whole point of this sign?" Her three costars stare at her while, offscreen, Chad yells, "Hey guys! Thanks for making it better!"
Amoral Attorney Maurice Levy attempts to undermine the prosecutions witness, Omar, by reminding everyone what a terrible person he is. It seems to be working really well until Omar points out that they aren't so different. Throwing his insult right back in his face.
Levy: You are amoral. Are you not? You are feeding off the violence and the despair of the drug trade. You stealing from those who themselves are stealing from the lifeblood of this city. You are a parasite who leaches off....
Omar: Just like you.
When Herc gets annoyed that all the local hoppers wear their hats backwards, he leans out his window and sarcastically asks a passing kid where he bought his hat, with the bill on the back of the head. The kid doesn't get it, and explains that it's a normal hat, just turned around. Herc is left speechless.
In the Japanese drama Shokojo Sera, after purposely spilling soup over Seira and making her clean it on her knees, the Alpha Bitch scathingly remarks how she looks like a mouse. Seira calmly thanks her and replies that she likes mice.
Degrassi had a few between Mia and Holly J., the former would say something along the lines of Holly J being evil or the devil, Holly J would smile and say she 'liked the sound of that.'
In an episode of Farscape. The villain of the episode is a crazy, amoral Mad Scientist and the hero disgustedly compares him to Mengele. This backfires, as after hearing a bit about Mengele, the villain declares him a visionary.
At this point, Michael is wearing a particularly natty black suit and red shirt-and-tie combo, has introduced himself (once) as "Louis", and keeps blowing stuff up with a click of his fingers. The target isn't entirely sure that Michael isn't the Devil.
In one episode of Castle, FBI agent (and jealous ex-boyfriend) Sorenson tries to mock Castle's amateur sleuthing skills, by calling him Nancy Drew, but it backfires:
Castle: Is that supposed to be an insult? Because Nancy Drew solved every case...
Then there's T.J. Taylor; an only child and wizard on neutral-bad terms with the Russo Family, he always says "I'll show you [insert whatever the other person just said here]!" The best and worst instances of this are shown in the episode "Art Teacher". Alex did a good deed which resulted in her art teacher losing her job, and the successor is not up to Alex's standards.
Mr. Laritate: Well, if you think you have a better interpretation of what art class should be, why don't you share it with us?
Alex: Right. Everyone, grab your brushes and paint whatever you want. Be creative, spontaneous, passionate.
T.J.: I'll show you passion!
After which he begins a paint fight between the two wizards, marking the first time he backs up his words; any other time it was just an empty threat, if a threat at all, which is why it belongs under this page. The end result of the aforementioned fight is all of the deflected paint being splattered on Mr. Laritate, who subsequently praises Alex for her passion and promises to find a new art teacher, and promotes her to Teacher's Deputy. She then walks over to T.J.
Alex: My first job as deputy is this: T.J., why don't you take out your sketchpad and draw yourself a detention slip.
When the tutor for Max turns out to be a really pretty girl, Alex disdainfully tells Justin that guys are so easy falling for a pretty face. Justin just gives her a grin and agrees.
Also, when Justin snarkily suggested "A Night To Dismember" as a name for Alex's zombie prom, she decided that sounded cool.
In VR Troopers, JB is battling Spikebot who mentions transforming into a more uncomfortable form and being dressed for the occasion. JB tells him that he's just as ugly either way, Spikebot replies "flattery will get you nowhere". The battle afterwards is brief and anticlimactic (although Spikebot did not die as easily as most bots).
In an episode of Muppets Tonight, Clifford is headhunted to host The Mario Nuts Show. He calls it "the most disgusting, depraved, irresponsible, and immoral excuse for a television program I've ever seen", and the producers think this means he's accepted the offer.
Chef Ramsey in Hells Kitchen insults contestants on a regular basis every time they screw up. One contestant wrote an order on a ticket that looked like a child wrote on it. Ramsey insulted the chef for the screw up and questioned the guy's education by saying "You never went to school!?" and the chef simply responded that he did not go to school. This actually stunned Ramsey and even more so when the chef confessed that he did not get an education because he spent his life working to support his family overseas after he came to the United States. Ramsey begrudgingly apologized and told the chef to keep working.
A Variation appears in The West Wing in that President Bartlet practically asks Josh to insult him like this:
Bartlet: "I'm just as big a cotton candy ass as they are,"
Josh: "Yes, sir."
Bartlet: "You just going to let that hang in the air?"
Josh: "Of course not, sir. You're a much bigger cotton candy ass than they are."
Bartlet: "Damn right."
Later in the series, when Matt Santos is referred to as a liberal by conservatives, he delivers a brilliant response which lets them know that he's proud to be called a liberal.
A variation occured in Two and a Half Men. A running joke is that Charlie often goes makes a meowing sound and then making a whipping motion towards Alan when trying to hint that Alan is a pussy. This eventually backfired during a psychotherapy session after Alan was sleepwalking and trying to make a cake, where he does this to Alan and it resulted in the psychiatrist attending the session to schedule a future appointment with Charlie when she mistakenly interpreted the mocking action by Charlie as a means to communicate his fear of Vaginas.
Buffy: The only thing that's different is that I'm disgusted with myself. That's the power of your charms. Last night was the most perverse, degrading experience of my life.
Spike:(smiling happily) Yeah. Me, too.
In The Big Bang Theory, Howard is showing his friends his programmable robot arm. Sheldon makes a smart-aleck retort about the robotic arm. Howard then attempts to retort by programming the robot arm to flip the bird at Sheldon. However, due to either a misprogramming or a glitch, the robot arm instead makes a gesture that was misconstrued by his friends as a peace sign.
In The Young Ones, Rick called a man a fascist and got the reply 'Si'. He could have picked a better thing to call Benito Mussolini.
Seinfeld George has it really though when he tries to get back at a guy for insulting him during a meeting.
Rodney: Hey George, the Ocean Called, they're running out of Shrimp.
George: Oh yeah, well The Jerk Store called, they're running out of you.
Rodney: What's the difference, you're their all time bestseller!
George: Well I had sex with your wife!
Person at the meeting: His wife's in a coma.
In an 3rd Rock from the Sun episode, Harry runs for political office and his opponent makes an attack ad full of lies. Not-so-bright Harry takes it extremely well: "That ad mentioned my name like twenty times. That was great publicity."
In Chappelle's Show, during the second of the two "C: True Hollywood Stories" skits, Charlie Murphy describes a time when Prince challenged him and his friends to a game of 3-on-3 basketball. Charlie, amused by Prince's mannerisms and getup, mockingly calls the game a "shirts vs. blouses" contest, referring to Prince's team as the latter. Later, after Prince's team wipes the floor with him:
Prince: Game... (game-winning slam dunk) "blouses".
In a Thirty Rock episode, Liz calls Jack a wang. He replies, "I'll take that as a compliment. An Wang, the founder of Wang Computers, was one of the great businessmen of the twentieth century. And you're the one being a lowercase 'wang', Lemon."
In an episode of Babylon 5, Garibaldi tells Bester how he'd like to use him as a pinata. Bester considers this, and then says "So you think of me as something bright and cheerful, full of candy and toys for young children. Thank you, Mr. Garibaldi." Though considering this is Bester we're talking about here, he probably did it on purpose to infuriate Garibaldi.
In Game of Thrones, the former sellsword Bronn highlights the difference between his receiving the title of knight from merit as opposed to getting it because of a high birth:
Ser Meryn Trant: "You're an up-jumped cutthroat. Nothing more." Bronn: "That's exactly who I am. And you're a grub in fancy armour who's better at beating little girls than fighting men."
At one point, Tyrion explains to Jon how to make Insult Backfire work for him, by accepting and owning his imperfections:
"Let me give you some advice, bastard. Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you."
Hippolyte to Alternate George, after the reveal he's the Big Bad:
Alternate Cindy: You can't do that! It's... it's... Hippolyte: It's Evil. Congratulations, little girl: you've just met your first supervillain. Alternate George: Oh, coming from such a specialist as yourself, I'll take this as a compliment, thanks.
Vlad: You know what the Ottomans will say when they see the bodies of 20,000 of my own people spiked on the border? Interviewer:You're Insane! Vlad: Exactly!
TV Guide once put up a list of the worst TV shows in the history of the medium, with Jerry Springer at #1. The show now opens every episode with "Voted the worst show in the history of television!"
Taxi Normally gentle, an aggravated Latka Gravas makes a rude foreign gesture to Louie dePalma. Louie makes a more familar Italian gesture back at him. They go back and forth until Louie flicks his teeth at Latka with thumb — clearly the most obscene gesture he could do on TV. Latka's response: "Okay, I accept your apology."
Chicago Fire In "Professional Courtesy", Mouch quips that the firehouse is out of spending money because they used it on an elliptical machine "so Shay can have a toned ass." Shay immediately replies that everyone benefits from her having a toned ass, which Mouch concedes to.
Daft Punk got its name from a review of Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo's previous band Darlin', which the reviewer called "a bunch of daft punk".
After The Yardbirds broke up, Keith Moon told Jimmy Page that his new band was 'going to go down like a lead balloon.' The name of the band alone illustrates how spectacularly that insult failed.
Hip hop example: In the song "Second Round K.O.," Canibus included in his disses of LL Cool J, "99% of your fans wear high heels." The intention was to insinuate that LL was not "hard" enough to appeal to men, but the impact is considerably weakened by the fact that the name "LL Cool J" stands for "Ladies Love CoolJames." LL Cool J responded in the song "The Ripper Strikes Back" with the following lyric: "Ask Canibus, he ain't understandin' this/'Cause ninety-nine percent of his fans don't exist."
A musical at Six Flags called "Love at First Fright" featuring an evil sorceress who wanted to hero's brain for her creation. At one point all the protagonists chorus, "WITCH!!" This is followed by a long beat, after which she gleefully replies, "Guilty!"
A lot of critics — including John Lennon, his former writing partner — were fond of sneering that all Paul McCartney ever wrote were 'silly love songs'. In response, he wrote 'Silly Love Songs', which acts as a cheerful affirmation of this:
Some people wanna fill the world with silly love songs
Axl Rose once contemptuously referred to the Eagles Of Death Metal as the "Pigeons of S*** Metal". The band loved it so much that one of them got the phrase on a tattoo.
Those who play Born In The USA as anything but the protest song it was meant to be.
The song "Yankee Doodle" is thought to have originated from British soldiers in the Colonial Army to mock the colonials. "Doodle" is thought to have originally meant a fool or simpleton. The verse "stuck a feather in his cap and called it Macaroni" mocks a foppish fashion at the time involving feather caps and tall wigs. Essentially the song paints a typical American as a backwoods hick with delusions of sophistication. The insulting meaning was quickly forgotten and it has become perhaps the most classic patriotic song outside of the national anthem.
The Canadian-penned song "American Woman" is a criticism of American politics, but many people think it's about the singer's interest in an American woman.
Tom Lehrer's fight song parody "Fight Fiercely, Harvard" is regularly performed by the Harvard marching band at football games. (And Lehrer himself liked to quote negative reviews on his album covers.)
Regular commenters on the Web site Jezebel sometimes call themselves and other members "lesbian shitasses" in response to a slur hurled at them by former actor Scott Baio's wife, who called them (and probably feminists in general) that via Twitter in a rather childish attempt to insult them.
A similar thing is true for commenters of Regretsy, which mocks pretentious Etsy sellers, bizarre items on Etsy, and Etsy resellers (selling bulk goods as "homemade"). One such seller called the Regretsy commenters "fat jealous losers" and the name (and the acronym FJ Ls) stuck.
Also true for the fighting game community, where people who only watch streams and chats (especially when it involves trolling and/or spamming) without participating in the scene proper, are referred to as "stream monsters." Said people actually embraced the term and even refer to themselves as such.
WCW was partially undone by what may be the ultimate insult backfire. It was their habit during the Monday Night Wars on Nitro, to reveal the results of WWF matches on air, to prevent people from changing the channel to watch WWF Raw. In 1999, they revealed that Mick Foley would win the championship, with Tony Schiavone sarcastically claiming "That's gonna put butts in the seats". It did; many viewers switched channels to see it. This compounded the damage done by the Fingerpoke of Doom, which occured the same night. WCW never recovered.
Not to mention the signs in arenas for years which said, "Mick Foley put my ass in this seat".
At The Rock's birthday celebration on 5/2/11, Vickie Guerrero attempted to ruin Rock's party by bringing in...Mae Young. This backfired spectacularly, as The Rock was positively delighted to see Mae. And even kissed her.
On WWE Tough Enough, contestant AJ was nicknamed "tumbleweed" by the trainers. He embraced the nickname and his fans now call themselves "Team Tumbleweed".
Done rather believably by John Cena, who is from the Boston area, in response to CM Punk comparing him to the New York Yankees, the hated rivals of Cena's native Boston Red Sox, by saying he'd become a dynasty and combined with CM Punk making fun of Cena for his Broken Base. Cena replies to this by pointing out that the "Let's go Cena!/Cena Sucks!" chants mean that people are involved in his matches, which, as an entertainer, is his job. He also thanks Punk for the New York Yankees insult because, after giving it some thought, he realized Punk's comment was correct in that the Yankees get a very simular reaction that he does, which means that they're likewise doing their job. Cena's character has always embraced his Broken Base; Punk really should've known better than to call Cena out on that.
On February 27, 2011 edition of Raw, he takes The Rock insults and similar to above example he leaves the Rock speechless.
Cena has another spectacular one against The Rock; he turned Rocky's "Fruity Pebbles" insults into this.◊
Shane Douglas of ECW used to yell "WOO!" to mock Ric Flair. Everyone who copies Douglas now does it as appreciation for Flair.
In his WWF debut, Chris Jericho insulted Raw and The Rock. The Rock soundly verbally tears him apart, where normally new guys are built up to be strong. However, not only was Jericho a goof and this worked for his character, fans were overjoyed that he was in the WWF and were just happy that such a talented and abused performer would get the push he deserved. Later Jericho would try insulting The Undertaker, which resulted in something of a Worked Shoot over being disrespected, and Jericho either kayfabe or for real later discussing how much he stepped over the line not respecting the Deadman.
"You say that I am two-faced? Enough with the flattery. We have business to conduct.''
In Legend of the Five Rings, the Scorpion Clan's motto is "I can swim", from their telling of the fable of the Scorpion.
Dungeons & Dragons "drow" is said to be a corrupted/contracted form of old elven "dhaeraow", meaning literally "black heart" and figuratively "traitor". (Call the typical drow a traitor, and she'll see it as something to be proud of.)
Forgotten Realms has Khôltar, where dwarves trying to insult the human metalworking settlement nicknamed it "the Place of Pourers and Filers" — inhabitant didn't see this as an insult and ran with it.
A supplement to FASA's Star Trek RPG devoted to Klingons pointed out that insults often wouldn't translate very well. A Federation officer trying to insult a Klingon officer by using the old "Your mother wears army boots" line would find that it would translate to "Your maternal parent wears the footgear of a soldier" which sounds to the Klingon like an attempt to complement them on the military tradition of their line (extended family).
Dogberry: It pleases your worship to say so, but we are the poor duke's officers; but truly, for mine own part, if I were as tedious as a king, I could find it in my heart to bestow it all of your worship.
The Running Gag of Shakespeare's Falstaff was the fact he was a drunken, bawdy, cowardly, charismatic, corpulent thief/scoundrel/adventurer, and loved being one out loud.
An indirect example: In Molière's play The Miser, title character Harpagon wants his daughter, Elise to marry a much older man, because he'd take her without dowry. When Harpagon's steward, Valére, who's secrety in love with Elise, hears this, he comments: "When a man offers to marry a girl without a dowry, we ought to look no farther. Everything is comprised in that, and "without dowry" compensates for want of beauty, youth, birth, honour, wisdom, and probity." Harpagon takes it completely seriously.
Peter in the musical Babes in Arms does this when he's called a "communist." In fact, he is a communist.
Peter: Thank you for the compliment. Property is theft. We should place everything we have in a communal fund.
In the "God in Mahagonny" scene of The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, God condemnds the inhabitants of Mahagonny and tells them to go to Hell. They reply that Hell is where they are and have been all the time.
Sheena: I can't believe you! You were always a pervert, but I never doubted that you were a good person when it came down to it.
Zelos:Why, thank you, my sweet, voluptuous hunny.
Which seems to imply he's thanking her for calling him a good liar.
There's a longer version of an Insult Backfire in Neverwinter Nights 2 when the player first enters the Sunken Flagon after recruiting Qara (a red-haired sorcerer with a short temper and a penchant for fire spells).
Khelgar Ironfist: By my reckoning, the Flagon's never had a finer table-cleaning goblin-wench.
Qara: What, since your mother lost her job?
Khelgar: Eh? Now don't be bringing my mother into this! You'd best be careful, you simpering little father's girl, or you'll learn a thing or two about Ironfist honour and manhood!
Qara: Oh, you mean the two smallest things in all of Faerûn? From what I hear, no woman could learn about Ironfist manhood from you, Khelgar.
Khelgar: Wh-what?! I'll have you know plenty of women know about Ironfist manhood! Plenty! They just all live up... around Waterdeep... or they'd tell you!
Monkey Island lives this trope in its iconic insult swordfighting, although it's not as much agreeing with the insult as putting a spin on it and coming up with a riposte that literally makes it backfire at the person who made the insult.
Happens many times in Sam & Max: Freelance Police, concerning Max and his tendency for mass destruction, to put things in perspective: when Max is elected President of the United States, Impeach Max Weekly becomes a regular publication, surprisingly unsurprisingly Max enjoys reading it.
At the beginning of Sam & Max Season 3 Episode 5, "The City That Dares Not Sleep!" Satan is issuing a press release from the roof of a building. In an inversion of the trope, he's protesting all the people who are blaming the current disaster on him; sure, it's a tragedy, every second the problem isn't solved racks up thousands more dollars worth of property damage, and the trains have stopped running, but it's all just mindless destruction! Where's the temptation? Nobody's going to do any kind of significant sinning because of this; in fact there's a very good chance it will make people turn to God.
He also doesn't like that the artifacts used by Junior are stored in something called the Devil's Toybox. He vehemently denies knowing anything about it.
In-game example from Valve in Team Fortress 2. Due to people using external programs to idle for in game item drops, valve removed all such ill-gotten items from those players inventories, and gave all legitimate players a new, free hat, in the form of a (fake) halo called Cheater's Lament. The Result? All players who DIDN'T have a halo, ceased to assist players who did.
In Final Fantasy IX, not so much a straight-up insult, but in explaining to Quina why he chose him/her to accompany him to the Earth Shrine, Zidane states "Well... I sort of got stuck with the leftovers..." Quina reacts with delight, which puzzles Zidane, until s/he explains, "There old saying in my tribe... 'Leftovers good!'"
To make it fair, there's also the mission, "Covered Market" where Blake tells Norman to "fuck off", and how did Norman respond? He smiles it off.
To expand upon this, They had just finished a job confronting a suspect who had looked like he was going to pull a gun on Blake, Norman has a clear shot at him and could have killed him, instead he Hesitated. It turns out to be a cross and they get out fine but Blake is understandably mad that he was willing to let the guy kill him if he did have a gun. Norman's response? He berates him for wanting him to kill the guy and thus leading into the aforementioned "Fuck Off".
Dawn of War Dark Crusade has a hypocritical one when the player as Chaos attacks the Space Marine stronghold. Upon capturing the Relic to fulfill a secondary objective, Captain Thule calls the Chaos commander Eliphas a "daemon-spawn". Eliphas replies dryly that it's kinda funny hearing a Blood Raven trying to insult someone else's parentage when the Blood Ravens don't even know who their own primarch was (the most likely candidate is actually Magnus, now a Daemon Prince himself, although the chapter themselves don't know this). Note that by the tone of his reply, Eliphas did took the euphemism as a compliment (since the entire point of his campaign is ascension into a daemon prince).
Brad Garrison: You're one hell of a journalist, aren't you, Frank? A hotheaded, underhanded, hotshot paparazzi with nothing better to do than to invade people's privacy.
Frank West: I try... You got a point?
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, specifically VCPR's Pressing Issues debate show at one point has firebrand preacher and evangelical conman Pastor Richards, espousing the "virtues" of his religion/Salvation Statue fund. Show host Maurice Chvez has this to say:
Maurice Chavez: Pastor Richards, as a human being I have to say, I find your philosophy or cult or whatever it is, utterly and completely appalling.
Pastor Richards: Why thank you! I knew you'd understand.
In MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries, the player has an option to join one of four preeminent mercenary companies, including the Kell Hounds. There are also missions pitting them against Clan warriors, who have a tendency to throw around insults like "honorless dog". Mix the former with the latter one too many times, and Spectre retorts thusly:
"That's hounds, Star Colonel. Kell Hounds. And you are trespassing on our planet."
In Little Busters, this happens twice in the same scene when Riki teases both Masato and Haruka about being bad at or late for school and both of them act like he just complimented them. He proceeds to wonder why people keep being proud of strange things lately.
In Erfworld, shortly after being summoned, Parson is told that he must refer to his lord and master in a respectful manner. He says that in his world, the highest term of respect is "tool"; Stanley the Plaid, being on a quest to gather divine artifacts called the Arkentools adopts "Tool" as his new title.
Later in Erfworld, Jillian leaves with her army after telling the Prince of Jetstone that everything that comes out of his father's mouth is utter crap. The Warlord commander tells the Prince when he becomes King, he should remember Jillian's behavior. The Prince remarks that when he is King, he would hope to be half the queen Jillian is. The commander has a spit-take behind the Prince.
Brian Clevinger was on the receiving end of this when he published the "ending" to Eight Bit Theater. He subscribes to the philosophy that the funniest jokes are on the audience (thus the bogus No Ending). He expected a deluge of hate mail for that, but found he was on the receiving end of a tidal wave of compliments for writing the perfect ending to the comic. Clevinger was very deeply upset by his audience's reaction.
Cassiel: It was my class nickname in the yearbook. Ah... Memories...
Precocious features the inevitable student council election, narrowing down to Roddy versus Dionne. Roddy starts describing Dionne as 'a soulless beast with malicious intentions!' Dionne's rebuttal? A happy "It's true!".
In the recent Fangirl invasion arc of And Shine Heaven Now, a fangirl pounces on Jeeves, who proceeds to note that the fangirl's outfit leaves something to be desired. The fangirl's reaction?
Fangirl: ...wait, Jeeves hates my clothing! JEEVES HATES MY CLOTHING EVERYBODY! MY EXISTENCE HAS BEEN VALIDATED!
Jeeves: All of you are clad in the most garish, unappealing costumes ever to have been assembled from colors not found in nature.
Moloch von Zinzer in Girl Genius tried to be sarcastic with a homicidally insane automaton. This sort of falls short.
When the attacking dragon calls Franz an unholy monster, well...
The variant occurs in Kevin & Kell, when Kevin ran for the school board position, R.L. confronted Kell about the press describing Herd Thinners as a "bloodthirsty pack of rapacious, slavering predators"...because they forgot to add "vicious" and "relentless" to the description. They have a reputation to maintain, after all.
Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation fame is well known for insulting various groups of people or a specific person when he reviews a game. In his review of Quantum Conundrum, he mentions that he went to the Steam forums to look for answers as to how to tweak the game's settings (the game didn't have an menu to do so) and saw one poster who was basically the walking stereotype of PC gamers; the poster said that if someone doesn't know how to modify the game's internal files or if their PC can't even run the game, then they are not a true PC gamer. The poster then goes on to say that he would be honored if Yahtzee insulted him. And thus he did.
In Fallout Nuka Break has the overweight Twig, a former resident of Vault 10, where being fat is the norm and skinnier people are bullied. As a result, anytime somebody tries to insult Twig about his weight, he takes it as a compliment.
The poster for the ultraviolent movie Boogie el Aceitoso has the poster call Boogie sexist, racist and disgusting, and Boogie thanking the poster for the compliment.
In the Bugs Bunny cartoon "Devil May Hare", Bugs tries to shoo away a fawn by warning it about the Tasmanian Devil, not realizing that the latter is right behind him:
Bugs: He's a mean, vicious, nasty, no-good, baggy-eyed, marble-headed ignoramorous. He's a stupid... (turning and seeing Taz) Eyee...
Taz: Flattery'll get you nowhere.
Inverted in Futurama Bender is trying to compliment a fellow soldier (Leela in disguise), but doesn't quite grasp the concept:
Bender: You hard fightin', hard fartin', ugly, ugly, son of a...
Leela: Stop, stop flattering me!
Also used by Fry when trying to defend himself and his friends who felt insulted from Leela's new boyfriend dislike of abnormality:
Fry: Zoidberg is a horrible monster who smells like he eats garbage, and does!
Zoidberg: Damn straight!!!
"Why Must I Be a Crustacean in Love?" is chock full of these.
Dr. Zoidberg: How do I look?
Bender: Like whale barf.
Dr. Zoidberg: Then the illusion is complete.
Dr. Zoidberg: You seem malnourished. Are you suffering from internal parasites?
Edna: Why, yes! Thanks for noticing!
That one's a bit of a subversion, as it actually was intended as a compliment; Fry had advised Zoidberg to tell Edna she looked thin.
Fry: I'm flattered, really. If I was gonna do it with a big freaky mud bug, you'd be way up the list.
Edna: Hush, you romantic fool.
Let's not forget when Leela tried to explain to Zapp Brannigan why she slept with him:
Leela: For a split second, my common sense was overwhelmed by pity.
During "The Beach", Zuko, Mai, Azula and Ty Lee end up spilling forth all their emotional baggage to one another. Azula chides Ty Lee for having run away to join a circus (even calling her a circus freak). Ty Lee, who is the youngest of six identical siblings immediately retorts that it was a way of finding her own identity, and that "Circus freak is a compliment!"
And then there was the lovely little family reunion between Zuko and his baby sister:
Zuko: You lied to me!
Azula: (smugly) Like I've never done that before.
Probably the best use of this occurs during the Day of Black Sun invasion. When Zuko confronts Ozai, this is part of the exchange:
Zuko: We've (the Fire Kingdom) created an era of fear in the world, and if we don't want the world to destroy itself, we need to replace it with an era of peace, and kindness.
Ozai: [laughing dismisively] Your uncle has gotten to you, hasn't he?
Rhino: (while chasing Spider-Man) You like being hunted, freak?!
Spider-Man: Would you please look who's talking?
Rhino: Oh, I may be a freak, but I'm not a coward!
Probably done more than once in The Simpsons, but this example stands out. When Bart was working for money in order to save up for something, he worked at a barber shop. He gets his pay and it's hair instead of money. Bart asks the barber about that and asks if the barber's crazy, and the barber smiles widely and nods, also laughing in a creepy way as a disturbed Bart backs out of the barber shop.
From another episode:
Homer: Hey, Flanders, you stink! Flanders: (cheerfully) Oops. Thanks for the nose-news. I'd better cancel that dinner party tonight.
In early episodes of the series (and merchandise related to the show), Bart replied to accusation that he was an "underachiever" by saying he was "proud of it". This was lampshaded in a much later episode (after his antics in many seasons made it clear that he was anything but), when he read his permanent record at Springfield Elementary:
Bart: (reading) "Underachiever and proud of it"? Man, how old is this thing?
Martin Prince, competing with Bart to become class president, put up a campaign poster with the slogan "A Vote for Bart is a Vote for Anarchy!". Bart of course put up another poster with the same slogan.
Upon seeing Bart in his pajamas, this attempt to capitalize on the situation by Jimbo quite conclusively backfired.
Jimbo:(mockingly) Nice PJs Simpson. Did your mommy buy them for ya? Bart: Of course she did. Who else would have? Jimbo:(beat) All right Simpson. You win this round.
And another between Ned and Homer in "Hurricane Neddy":
Ned Flanders: Homer... you are the worst human being I have ever met.
Later in "Hurricane Neddy", Homer and Ned's roles were reversed.
Homer Simpson: That's it, you just can't insult this guy. You call him a moron and he just sits there, grinning moronly.
In "Three Men and a Comic Book" Bart works his ass off for Mrs. Glick to earn enough money to buy the first issue of Radioactive Man. After doing all his hard work upon pay day she gives him two quarters.
Mrs. Glick: "Bart... you didn't say 'thank you.'"
Bart: "Listen lady, I can leave without screaming, I can leave without saying a bad word, but there is no way I'm saying 'thank you'!"
Mrs. Glick: "You're welcome!"
In "A Star is Burns":
Rainer: The film is just me in front of a brick wall for an hour and a half. It cost $80 million. Jay:(contemptuous) How do you sleep at night? Rainer: On top of a pile of money with many beautiful ladies. Jay: Just asking. Yeesh! (Long after the interview, Rainer Wolfcastle prepares to shoot Jay on the street, having just realised he's been insulted and made him look bad. Jay distracts Wolfcastle by telling him his shoes are untied and grabs a taxi. Hours later, Wolfcastle realises he's wearing loafers.)
Later, a female viewer commented on how beautiful Barney's movie was. Barney was sitting next to her and thanked you. She was then disgusted by him.
Woman: Eww! Did something crawl into your mouth and die? Barney: I didn't die.
Rattrap: You're nothin' but a schemin' snake-in-the-grass! Starscream: Flattery will get you flattened, vermin.
Also a version where a genuine complement is basically taken as a backfired insult:
Blackarachnia: What are you looking at? Silverbolt: That star. It's a planet really. It's Venus. It reminds me of you. Blackarachnia: Dark, hot, deadly, and poisonous? You're sweet. Silverbolt: No, wait. That's not what I meant...
Narrator: Yes, unbelievable though it may seem, the box top counterfeiter was really Boris Badenov, that notorious No-Goodnik, that Venal villain, that delinquent demon, that... Boris Badenov: Is no use. Flattery will get you nowhere.
DNAmy: You are the biggest meanie in the whole wide world!
Drakken: A-ha! You have heard of me!
When Kim tries to zing Monkey Fist in "Oh No! Yono!" she accidentally reveals that Ron's sister, Hana, is "The Han" Monkey Fist is looking for. When he realizes this, he slaps his forehead and realizes "How blind I've been!"
In Batman Beyond there was this on between Barbara Gordan and Shriek over the phone, after Shriek made a ransom demand.
Done in one episode of Earthworm Jim (in which Psycrow and Professor Monkey-For-a-Head steal Jim's suit), though instead of being flattered, it just leaves Jim confused:
Psycrow: Face your doom, spineless worm-thingy! Jim: Was that supposed to be an insult? I really don't have a spine, you know...
Happens in the Code Lyoko episode "XANA's Kiss". Odd is having his ass handed to him by a polymorphic clone that keeps changing shape, currently assuming Jim's appearance. Odd tells it, "Hey, X.A.N.A., if you're going to keep changing appearances like that, do me a favor and turn into a wimp next time." XANA's response? He has it turn into a duplicate of Odd. Of course, being the Deadpan Snarker he is, Odd quickly comes up with a witty comeback to that: "Oh, no. Not him. I know his kind. Small, but tough as nails." (Unfortunately, he's right. It starts to pummel him even worse.)
Post-Civil War America suffered from a rash of corrupt Republicans in the White House and corrupt Democrats in the cities. Cartoonist Thomas Nast was so disgusted he drew cartoons portraying Republicans as giant elephants fat on their embezzled dollars and Democrats as stubborn donkeys. Over the years, the animals became the two parties' unofficial mascots and have lost all negative connotations.
Older Than They Think for Democrats and donkeys. During the Jackson administration, Jackson's opponents used the donkey to portray the Democrats. The problem: in the cities, a donkey is a figure of fun (as in, making a jackass of yourself); in the country, however, donkeys were hardworking, reliable, essential animals. Cue a rise in support for the Democrats among farmers (at the time, a majority of Americans). It should be noted that the modern Democratic Party is NOT related to the Democratic-Republican Party Jackson was a part of. Or rather, no more related to it than is the modern Republican Party, since both (eventually) trace their roots to Thomas Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party.note With the decline of the rival Federalist Party at the end of the War of 1812, culminating in its disbanding in 1824, the Democratic-Republican Party dominated all levels of government for almost 20 years. Eventually competing factions split off into other parties, including the Whig Party which upon its own collapse decades later would spawn the Republican Party from its anti-slavery wing. What remained came to be known as the Democratic Party, but aside from its name it had little in common with the modern party, being both economically and socially conservative and positioning itself as the champion of states' rights. It was a long, complicated process over the course of more than a century, including various factions of both parties splitting off and eventually moving to the other party, and both parties absorbing the membership of various third-party groups, that led to the current versions of the Democratic and Republican Parties.
The name "Democratic Party" itself was an insult invented by the opposition. At the time, the term "democracy" carried strong connotations of mob rule, as opposed to republicanism.
In its early days, Long Beach State University's baseball team was called "dirtbags" because financial circumstances forced it to practice on an all-dirt infield. The insult was re-purposed to be a reflection of hard work and hard-nosed play. It is now an unofficial nickname for the (highly successful) team.
Other Real Life examples include labels such as Gothic, Baroque, Impressionist, Christian, Methodist, Mormon, Puritan, Fauvist, Cubist, and Prime Minister. They all started out as insults but were adopted by the targets as their own.
Similarly, the pretty much universal "Tory" for British Conservatives originally meant something like "Papist Irish Bandit". The less well known today, but still embraced "Whig" for a Liberal meant "Puritan Scots Pleb".
Puritan was also an insult to begin with, then was accepted by those it targeted. And now is back to being an insult again, thanks to H. L. Mencken's success in equating it with "uptight, no-fun moralizer." The label is actually kind of unfair, since relatively few Americans nowadays profess the Congregationalist or Calvinist brand of the Christian faith. (unless you're unfortunate enough to reside in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area)
Baroque still retains its negative meaning, though, and has even expanded it beyond architecture metaphorically.
Don't forget Transcendentalism, which was so named because detractors claimed that its followers transcended sanity and reason.
The different schools of Communism/Socialism. Marxism was originally "scientific socialism" (as opposed to Christian socialism) and was later adopted by many marxists. Same went with Stalinism and Trotskyism. Stalin labeled himself a "Marxist-Leninist" with Trotsky calling his supporters "Stalinists". Stalin called Trotsky's supporters "trotskyists" while Trotsky called himself a "Bolshevik-Leninist".
The origin of the word "Yankee" is not certain, but some believe that it comes from a Dutch word meaning "hick or "rube." Americans eventually adopted it as an inoffensive word to refer to themselves before it got mixed up in The American Civil War and became polarizing again. In an inversion of the trope, many foreigners still use it or the shortened "yank" as a generic word for Americans, though some Americans might take it as an insult for reasons quite unrelated to its original offensiveness.
When around 250 Dutch nobles presented a list of grievances to the Spanish ruler of the Netherlands, one of her councillors expressed surprise that she was worried about "these beggars" (ces gueux)note French was the court language across Europe at the time, which became geuzen in Dutch. Less than a decade later, the watergeuzen (Water Beggars) had proceeded to seize several key cities in the north, raid several Spanish fleets, and set off a full-scale religious and political rebellion against the Spanish crown that would last eighty years before ending in Dutch independence.
Thanks to this incident, Insult Backfire has its own word in Dutch: geuzennaam: "beggar's name", which is used to indicate reappropriations such as these.
Historically, new but unpopular mathematical ideas were given pejorative names by the people intent on adhering to the status quo, and then happily adopted by the people proposing the new idea. Math terms most of us have heard in school came about that way: irrational numbers, imaginary/complex numbers, pathological cases.
That is also how the Big Bang was named. The term was coined by Fred Hoyle, a proponent of the competing steady-state hypothesis.
Similarly, Schrödinger's Cat was originally supposed to demonstrate how absurd the Copenhagen Interpretation was.
Likewise, the Mpemba Effect (that under certain circumstances warmer water will freeze before colder water) was originally a pejorative term.
There are also the lesser known ideal numbers, which were later just called ideals.
'Irrational' is not a pejorative; it is a literal description: "not expressible as a ratio".
Black was traditionally a derogatory phrase when applied to African-Americans, with "Negro" regarded as the more proper and acceptable term. This was more or less inverted in the 1960s.
The word queer, once an insult leveled against homosexuals, has largely been adopted by the community for self-description.
Homer Simpson: Yeah, and that's another thing! I resent you people using that word. That's our word for making fun of you! We need it!
Similarly, many gay women choose the word "dyke" as self-definition and find "lesbian" an insulting or dirty word. Similar examples exist in various languages.
Ellen DeGeneres initially preferred to called a "gay woman" rather than "lesbian", as she considered the latter term at the time to be unintentionally alienating to straight people, and, more simply, didn't like the way it sounded to the ear.
Elio Di Rupo, Prime Minister of Belgium 2011-present, is openly gay. He spontaneously came out in 1996 (he was at the time a Vice-Prime Minister and a member of the federal and Wallonian Cabinets), he was being hounded by journalists in the street. When he heard one of them yelling "People are saying you're homosexual!", he turned on his heels and snapped "Yes, so what?" Doubles as a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
The pink and black triangles were initially the identification symbols for gay prisoners at Nazi concentration camps.
Redneck, though still mainly used pejoratively, has increasingly been embraced as a proud self-identifier in recent years (as in Gretchen Wilson's country hit "Redneck Woman", for example).
Amusingly, it was originally an endearing term. Some reporter back at the turn of the 20th century coined this term when describing them because of the red bandanas they wore on their necks coming to fight in court for their right to form worker unions.
In World War II, where General Rommel called the Australian soldiers in Libya 'the rats of Tobruk' (Tobruk being a location in the east of Libya). Guess what nickname the Australian soldiers wore as a badge of pride...
The source of the term was actually the Nazi broadcaster Lord Haw-Haw, mocking the Aussies defences as 'rat holes'. He also named the 'Scrap iron Flotilla', who kept the garisson supplied, in a similar fashion; his success as a propagandist generally left something to be desired.
During the Height of the Jack Thompson phenomenon, Mr. Thompson started labeling people who played video games "Pixelantes". Needless to say, it didn't take long before the T-shirts emblazoned with "I'm a Pixelante" started showing up.
An interview with the famous liberal psychologist Karl Menninger on the NewsHour ended with the question "Does it bother you when you're called a bleeding heart"? He responded, "Not in the least. I'm flattered."
On the other side of the aisle, there are conservatives who have proudly adopted the label of the "vast right-wing conspiracy," a label originally applied to conservatives by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton as an insult.
Have you self-identified as a pirate lately due to your habit of downloading illegal files on the internet? Thank the RIAA; they dredged that label out of the bins of history to try and tar the public perception of copyright infringers. People wanting to be called pirates now include political parties in several European states. Seriously, who wouldn't want to be called a pirate?
The revival of this term goes back at least to 1964, when the pop-music boom in Britain was just starting but on the BBC, which had the monopoly on radio, fans were lucky if they got an hour a day. Hence to fill this gap in the market, numerous unlicenced commercial stations set up in international waters just off the British coast; it's probably the combination of maritime+dodgy that caused them to be dubbed "pirate" stations, although the term was also used in a non-marine context in the 1967 "psychedelic SF" novel The Probability Pad.
"Geek" has undergone a long history. Initially used to refer to a carny sideshow act, (The connotation of an expert in a very limited field, such as chasing chickens) then used insultingly to refer to intelligent but obsessed people. That is until geeks, like pretty much everyone else in this section, took the insult and started wearing it as a badge of honor. These days, magazines throw terms like 'geek chic' around without even the slightest tinge of irony. Ditto with "nerd."
It's not too hard to figure out, you see it everyday; And those that were the farthest out have gone the other way; You see them on the freeway, It don't look like a lot of fun; But don't you try to fight it—"An idea who's time has come." Don't tell me that I'm crazy, don't tell me I'm nowhere: Take it from me—It's hip to be a square!—Huey Lewis (and the News)
Taken to the extreme with Geek Pride Day (May 25), originally a day for the Spanish friki.
There is a button from the early '70s that says "Hi. I'm an effete, impudent intellectual snob", a reference to VP Spiro Agnew's claim that the antiwar movement was led by an "effete corps of impudent snobs."
In the 1994 Gubernatorial race in Minnesota, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party put out a campaign advertisement excoriating the obstructionism of Republican then-governor Arne Carlson, set to a strangely upbeat and peppy tune. "That Darn Arne!" became more popular among Carlson's supporters than among his opponents, and he cruised to victory over DFLer John Marty in the general election.
Many Conservative attacks to Liberal Cities/Institutions have been adopted as well. "The People's Republic of Boulder/Austin/Santa Monica" "Berzerkley" (The University of California-Berkeley), "Moscow on the Mississippi" (Minneapolis, Minnesota or specifically the University of Minnesota), "Mad City" (Madison, Wisconsin), and so on.
In Ithaca, NY, we're "Ten Square Miles Surrounded By Reality." Cornell students were once called "Heathens on the Hill."
Heck, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, you can buy stickers practically anywhere that say "The People's Republic of Cambridge."
Conservatives are actually happy of this; at last the institutions admit what they actually are in so many words!
When the New Zealand rugby team toured England in the early 20th century, an English newspaper commented negatively on their "somber all-black outfits". They have been known as the All Blacks ever since.
When Jon Stewart appeared on The O Reilly Factor, O'Reilly claimed that 87% of Daily Show fans were intoxicated while watching and repeatedly referred to them as "stoned slackers". The fans adopted it as a Fan Community Nickname and now there are "I'm one of Jon's stoned slackers" T-shirts.
In Australian Rules Football, North Melbourne were nicknamed the "Shinboners" due to their reputation for kicking opposition players in the shins. Their fans proudly adopted the name.
Geelong's nickname of the Cats came from a story about a black cat crossing the ground, and Geelong winning the match.
In American sports, many teams on both the professional and Collegiate level received their nicknames this way. For example: the Pittsburgh Pirates received their name after they "pirated" a player from the folding Player's League, the Philadelphia (now Oakland) Athletics mascot became an elephant after Giants Manager John McGraw called Connie Mack's team and the new American League a "white elephant," and the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish are said to be named for the contemporary stereotypes of the Catholic college.
Abraham Lincoln once used the term Michigander to insult Lewis Cass (a Democratic politician and former Territorial Governor of Michigan). People in Michigan now use it to refer to themselves—and many will be offended if you use another term.
Andrew Jackson was called a jackass by his opponents when he was campaigning. He liked it so much he used it in his campaign posters.
In youth the eccentric greek philosopher Diogenes of Sinope was banished from his hometown. He later remarked: "The Sinopans have condemned me to banishment. I condemn them to stay at home!"
'Christian' was originally a less than complementary term bestowed on the followers of Jesus by the pagans. You'll notice that for most of Acts the text refers to 'The Way'.
"Jesus freak" kind of wavers in and out of insultdom depending on who's saying so, and how they define it (and whether they define that definition as an insult when they address themselves that way). Sometimes it's used interchangeably with "Christian", while other times it's a Christian who is so into being one that they tend to belabor the point, usually with a side order of offhanded insults towards non-Christians and a tall, frosty glass of thinking their faith makes them immune to criticism.
Freak itself used to be a fairly nasty insult. But over time its meaning has mutated and then softened from "anything out of the ordinary" to "a person with a genetic abnormality" to "a weirdo" and finally to "an aficionado of something" (which is at worst neutral).
"Chicano" was originally a derogatory term for the American children of Mexican immigrants, meant as a reminder that they did not quite belong in either the U.S. or Mexico. Chicanos eventually adopted the name as a symbol of pride for their heritage.
Same thing with the term "Nuyorican" for American (and specifically New York) children of Puerto Rican immigrant; many, including Justice Sonia Sotomayor wear the term as a badge of pride.
When President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe (Hyperinflation dude, also responsible for turning the country around from it's high standard of living among Africa to it's current state) was compared to Hitler, he had this to say: "This Hitler has only one objective: justice for his people, sovereignty for his people, recognition of the independence of his people and their rights over their resources? If that is Hitler, then let me be a Hitler tenfold."
The words "guy" and "dude" were both originally insults. The former referred to Guy Fawkes, a failed royal assassin. The latter was originally a clueless newbie on a ranch (possibly from the Irish word dúd, "fool").
Fan Wank. Many non-Brits understand what Fan Wank is; few understand what it means without the first few letters and many use it as an abbreviation. A few Brits, aware of what it means, have jokingly or otherwise mentioned their honour if someone assumes a claim is wank material. After all...
In World War One, the Kaiser commented on Britain's "contemptible little army", the BEF called themselves the old contemptibles in honour.
However, Wilhelm (who greatly admired the professionalism of the small British army) denied ever making such a statement and nobody ever came up with an original copy of the order in which is supposed to have been made. Apparently it was a British propaganda fabrication.
The same man, Kaiser Wilhelm II, was also subject to a strange inversion of this trope. After the Kaiser called for Germans intervening in the Boxer Uprising to make the Chinese remember them "like the Huns", British troops used "Hun" as a derogatory term for German soldiers during the First World War.
Australians have this reaction to comments about our country's origins as a Penal Colony. As one T-shirt put it, "Bet you wish your great-great-great-grandfather pinched a loaf of bread."
When Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the colonel in command of the all-black 54th Regiment during the American Civil War, died at Fort Wagner, he was stripped and buried with his men as an insult for daring to lead black troops, while the bodies of other Union officers were returned. His father, however, proclaimed that he was proud to know that he rests with his brave and devoted soldiers.
A snappy insult backfire is popularly attributed to Chinese premier Zhou Enlai during an exchange with his USSR counterpart Nikita Khrushchev. Although China and Russia were nominally allies, at the time relations between the two countries were very tense, particularly on the issue of who was adhering more closely to Communist principles.
Khrushchev: The difference between the Soviet Union and China is that I rose to power from the peasant class, whereas you came from the privileged Mandarin class.
Zhou: True. But there is this similarity. Each of us is a traitor to his class.
That anecdote had previously been at the beginning of the Cold War about Attlee's foreign minister Ernest Bevin (a former trade union leader) and Stalin's foreign minister Molotov.
Later, after Cameron became Prime Minister, Labour leader Ed Miliband compared him to Flashman...apparently not realising how popular the character is.
Danish avant-garde film director Lars von Trier was originally just named Lars Trier. One of his teachers at the Danish Film School added the "von" during a heated discussion, to mock his pupil's aloof, aristocratic style. Trier liked the sound of it and adopted it as his nom-de-guerre.
Author Steven Johnson wrote the book Everything Bad is Good for You, in which he described the increasing intellectual sophistication of popular culture as the Sleeper Curve, because everyone was reminded of that movie when he described it.
In the Furry Fandom, "furfag" is known as an insult. However, it's become something of an affectionate term when referring to other furries recently, especially those who are part of the GLBT community as well.
This is most likely caused by the various imageboards, where "<topic>fag" (eg furfag) can both be an insult (used by those who dislike the topic) as well as a term to refer to each other (used by those who discuss said topic), which in the latter case pretty much makes it this trope.
And of course, this disregards usage on /b/, where "<topic>fag" is essentially neutral.
In 2002, the then-editor of The Daily Telegraph, Campbell Reid, sent Media Watch host David Marr a dead fish; a replica of it is now awarded as the Campbell Reid Perpetual Trophy for the Brazen Recycling of Other People's Work. Known as "The Barra" and bearing the motto Carpe Verbatim, it is awarded annually for bad journalism and particularly plagiarism (a practice for which Reid was frequently criticised).
Lady Astor: If you were my husband, I'd poison your tea.
Churchill: If you were my wife, I'd drink it.
Benjamin Franklin got in on the act, as well, while walking through Paris (he was our ambassador there at the time, and rather well-known):
French Woman: (pointing to his ample stomach) Mr. Franklin, if that were on a woman, we'd know what to think.
Franklin: Madam, an hour ago it was on a woman, and now what do you think?
In the 1993 Canadian federal election, an advertising firm hired by the Conservatives put out a political attack ad that made fun of Liberal leader Jean Chretien's appearance due to the paralysis he'd suffered since childhood on one side of his face from childhood due to Bells's Palsy. Aside from the sympathy this garnered Chretien and the resulting backlash against the Tories, the ad allowed Chretien to joke that at least he only talked out of one side of his mouth. What is the resulting backlash? Before the elections they were the Government party with 169 P Ms. They only had 2 voted into in this election. As The Other Wiki stated, "among the worst ever suffered by a governing party in the Western world."
A couple of examples above refer to it, but "bitch" is being taken back by women and used as something of an empowering slogan. Meredith Brooks' song "Bitch" and Missy Elliot's "She's a Bitch" seem to be where the move began.
And, incidentally, where it seemed to have stopped with the mainstream, although occasionally in a show or movie, if a woman is in a confrontation, you might hear her say something like "I'm the wrong bitch to mess with."
"Politically Correct, and Proud of It!"
"Politically Incorrect, and Proud of It!"
"The Iron Duke", the famous nickname of Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, was originally applied derisively by political opponents during his tenure as Prime Minister, after iron shutters were installed on Downing Street because of rioting, but later became absorbed into the mythology surrounding his career as a reference to his stern, quintessentially British resolve.
During World War II, the universal word for the Allied soldiers was "kichiku beihei" which translates literally as "barbarian American soldiers" or better as "dirty American devils" you can find the phrase in its original kanji on t-shirts made in America.
The United States Army and Marines are well known for their Interservice Rivalry and have sometimes used each other's names as insulting acronyms (for example, Marines sometimes claim that ARMY stands for "Ain't Ready for the Marines Yet"). Some members of the Army joked that USMC actually stands for Uncle Sam's Misguided Children... until of course the Marines proudly adopted the nickname for themselves.
My Ass Rides In Navy Equipment...Sir!
Muscles Are Required, Intelligence Not Essential.
In a similar manner to Wellington, notoriously divisive Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was nicknamed The Iron Lady by a Soviet newspaper in an article depicting her recent visit to the Soviet Union in a very derogatory manner. She liked the title and claimed it as her own.
This being a double mistranslation of her existing nickname of Iron Maiden, you can see why she considered it an improvement.
After Vanessa Redgrave's 1977 Oscar acceptance speech (ironically winning for the Anti-Fascist film Julia), where she referred to those who had criticized and protested her support of Palestine (to the extent of burning effigies of her outside the ceremony) as "Zionist Hoodlums", many Jewish Defense League members started wearing T-shirts emblazoned with just that phrase
Here's a subtle, sartorial example: In early 20th-century Spain, many blue-collar workers in the big cities wore a dark blue one-piece garment (sort of similar to a prison jumpsuit) called the mono azul ("blue monkey"). The name mono azul was probably intended to humiliate and degrade the common laborer. But in the summer of 1936, after the people of Barcelona (a radically left-leaning city) revolted against their city government in reaction to General Francisco Franco's illegal attempt to seize power, Barcelonans of all classes who held communist sympathies began going out on the streets proudly wearing the mono azul as a sign of revolutionary egalitarianism; people who dared to still wear three-piece suits and hats could expect to be harassed, or worse. While they were at it, the Barcelonans also seized control of the city's taxicabs and buses, plastered vibrantly colored propaganda posters everywhere, and forced luxury hotels and five-star restaurants throughout the city to open their doors to the common people. George Orwell, the famed British author and social critic (and socialist) was on hand to view many of these dramatic changes, and he remarked that everything looked so alien that he couldn't even be sure if he was in Europe anymore.
"Peckerwoods" was originally a slur used by rich whites to insult the poor, and then co-opted by Blacks to serve as a slur against whiteness in general. Now The Peckerwoods are among the most well-known white-supremacist prison gangs, alongside the Aryan Brotherhood, and the Nazi Lowriders.
In a pre-game interview in the 2011 NBA Eastern Conference First Round, Miami Heat forward LeBron James described their Game 5 (in which Miami was up 3-1 in the series against the Philadelphia 76ers) as "Just finishing our breakfast." In response, 76ers guard Lou Williams nicknamed his teammates after various breakfast items, such as Marreese Speights as "Fruit Salad," Thaddeus Young as "Hash Browns," Spencer Hawes as "Over Easy," and Andres Nocioni as "Huevos Rancheros." Hawes also added that, "A lot of times people don’t finish breakfast."
Older Than Feudalism: Diogenes was told he lived like a dog. Apparently, it appealed to him enough for his entire school to be called "dog-like" (cynics).
Author Jim Butcher tells the story of a creative writing teacher who he constantly clashed with, calling her way of writing boring, cliché and generic. He wrote a novel in her style to show how such a story would be; her response was that it would sell. The novel in question, of course, was Storm Front, the very first book in The Dresden Files; Butcher himself related this story as a way of admitting the Insult Backfire.
After several years of poor showings, Winnipeg's Football team the Blue Bombers (named after beer, of all things), met with large success in the 2011 season. After beginning to show their confidence on the field, opposing fans started talking about their swagger. Winnipeg promptly began referring to itself as Swaggerville.
Not any more; the Bombers then went and finished last in the CFL in 2012.
The C++ programming language was widely criticised back in its heyday; critics included Linus Torvalds, the founder of Linux. However, the criticisms levelled at it also contributed to its widespread use back in the nineties and early 2000s, and Bjarne Stroustrup, the designer of the language, acknowledges it:
"The major cause of complaints is C++ undoubted success. As someone remarked: There are only two kinds of programming languages: those people always bitch about and those nobody uses."
When Kevin Murphy replaced J. Elvis Weinstein as the voice of Tom Servo on Mystery Science Theater 3000, an angry fan sent him a banner that read "I HATE TOM SERVO'S NEW VOICE!" Murphy kept the banner as a souvenir and even hung it on his office wall. He also displayed it for the audience at a recent convention panel with the show's cast.
Alec Baldwin yelled at Greyhound in his tract against American Airlines for booting him off one of their planes. Greyhound's CEO proceeded to invite him on a Greyhound trip from New York to Boston as proof to him that, contrary to his claims in that tract, Greyhound isn't what they used to be, and that's a good thing.
Atheist high school student and activist Jessica Ahlquist campaigned to have her school remove a posted prayer. She was called an "evil little thing" by a state representative; her supporters created a college fund for her by selling T-shirts with this phrase on it.
One of the key factors in Dalton McGuinty's victory in the 2003 Ontario general election was the backfire from a rather bizarre insult, apparently from his primary opponent's campaign: "evil reptilian kitten-eater from another planet".
Barack Obama's 2012 campaign included a drive to take the term "Obamacare" and made it a positive nickname for the Affordable Care Act — right down to T-shirts and stickers made by the DNC emblazoned with the word.
To Objectivists and some libertarians, selfishness would be the fulfillment of free-market and individualist ideals, so they would react to being called selfish with pride. However, this doesn't apply to all libertarians equally, with some countering accusations of greed and selfishness by saying that they are simply okay with both selfishness and altruism as long as the actions they lead to are voluntary and non-coercive, and with others openly denouncing the more individualist wing of the movement and/or advocating for various private charities.
Jaffa Cakes, the commercial was originally a bit of an insult towards sweet tooths and a Scare 'Em Straight towards kids, but the kids who ate themselves into a chocolate coma looked so utterly fulfilled it completely ruined the point they were trying to make (sweets are bad). Eventually a company wound up making the fictional sweet into a real thing, which is very popular in the UK.
The term "McCarthyism" was embraced by Senator Joseph McCarthy, who chose to define it as "Americanism with its sleeves rolled." He had some success with this during his lifetime, but today "McCarthyism" is synonymous with its original intended meaning of "Witch Hunt."
At the 1988 Democratic Convention Senator Ted Kennedy gave a speech wherein he mocked Republican candidate George HW Bush's supposed lack of involvement in President Ronald Reagan's administration by listing several incidents (some good, some bad) and after each asking rhetorically, "Where was George?" By the next afternoon Republican supporters were wearing T-shirts printed with the words "Dry, Sober, And Home With His Wife". Also qualifies as Crowning Moment of Funny.
Andrew Young, in addition to being a pioneer in the Civil Rights movement, served as Mayor of Atlanta, Congressman from Georgia, and US Ambassador to the UN. During Walter Mondale's presidential campaign in 1984 he said that it was being "...run by a bunch of smart-ass white boys who think they know it all." Cue T-shirt and cap vendors all over the country, "SAWB" was the acronym of the year.
When Richard I of England first was called "the Lionheart" after his incursion into Sicily during the Third Crusade, it was meant as an indictment of what was perceived as his merciless cruelty, more appropriate to a predatory animal than to a human being. In later years, it was seen as a honorific sobriquet.
For a while, people from Illinois would call people from Wisconsin "cheeseheads", in reference to that there wasn't much about Wisconsin except for dairy farms. Wisconsinites since have took to the name, including making hats out of foam that look like cheese (they're a staple at Green Bay Packer games).
The term "American exceptionalism" was originally an insult by Joseph Stalin, who claimed that the Americans believed themselves to be too good for Communism and went on to mock the idea. It has since been picked up and used by Americans who genuinely believe the USA is special compared to other countries.
The term "meritocracy" was originally coined in an essay that satirized those who became successful through advantages of birth or circumstance but claimed to have done so through hard work and ability (it is a combination of the words merit and aristocracy). The term meritocracy is now used to describe any system in which success is brought about by merit with none of its original satirical intent.
This is what happened with the Mexican soccer team Chivas de Guadalajara and it's semi-official name: They got that name as an unflattering insult from a local newspaper after playing a tough game, since the editor considered they played like a bunch of unruly goats (Chivas in Spanish). For some reason, they loved that name and not only it became their nickname of their team, they even bring a goat dressed with the team uniform as well as their team pet. Heck, even their team motto is named in Spanish as El Rebaño Sagrado (The Sacred Herd).
Oddly enough, despise being the name used by the team and their fans, for legal and also spelling reasons, the team is still named in Mexico and abroad as Club Deportivo Guadalajara or simply Guadalajara.
Done by supporters of Tottenham Hotspur FC in the Premier League. Supporters of rival clubs used a variety of anti-Semitic slurs against the club and its supporters due to their home pitch being located in Tottenham, which once was the primary Jewish neighborhood in London (nowadays it's incredibly multi-ethnic). One such slur was adopted by Tottenham supporters as a way of identifying themselves. (For sensitivity's sake, it will not be replicated here. Google it if you're curious.)
Bandit Keith from Yu-Gi-Oh! (overpatriotic with a fondness for guns), America from Axis Powers Hetalia (burger-obsessed overenthusiastic idiot), and Lieutenant Vixen from Squirrel And Hedgehog (a curvaceous, glasses-and-uniform-wearing Badass commander female fox, with similarities to The Baroness), all parodies of America, all characters American fans love. Especially glaring in the case of Squirrel and Hedgehog, as it's a North Korean propaganda cartoon, that, quite obviously, has never been ported officially to the U.S.
A lot of words have become this down the years:
"fantastic" means "pertaining to fantasy", so if not a literal term for stories about elves and magic kingdoms, it originally meant "absurd".
"terrific" originally meant "inspiring terror".
In an inversion, "awful" originally meant "inspiring awe". This has mutated to "awesome".
In the 1980's, supporters of the Swedish football (soccer) team AIK tried to make fun of another team, IFK Göteborg, and made a song to sing during matches against them called "Alla heter Glenn i Göteborg" (Everyone is called Glenn in Gothenburg) due to IFK Göteborg having four players called just that on their team. But the supporters of the latter team liked it and adopted it, and it's probably the most used song among its fans even today, it's become like an unofficial club anthem.
AIK also has another story. In the 1920s, the club was very small and struggling financially. The team played in black shirts, but buying new shirts when the colour faded wasn't an option because the club had no money. This led to the team being referred to as "gnagare" (rodents), both due to their faded rat-grey shirts and their percieved poverty. This appellation stuck with the team as their fortunes grew and the shirts were replaced, and is now worn as a badge of pride.
Dick Cheney arose from his retirement to call Ed Snowden a traitor. Snowden replied, "Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American."
Ever see a biker wearing a "1%" patch? This is because back in the 60s, law enforcement described outlaw bikers as 1% of the culture making things hard for the other 99%. The Hell's Angels promptly took to calling themselves "One-Percenters", and these days bikers use the term to indicate they aren't corporate goons or mindless sheep.
Inverted during the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011 where protesters used to dub themselves as the 99% whose lives are filled with burden and hardship (due to the economic recession) while the rich 1% of the population are living in wealth and luxury which most of them did not rightfully earn. Some of the said 1% took the insult as endearment and proudly proclaimed themselves to be the 1% of people that have a nice home and can afford to spend their money on luxurious items.
People that troll others on the internet in order to rile up others are universally seen as pathetic and are disliked. Some people created this image◊ to showcase what they see trolls as. The actual trolls themselves found the image to be hilarious and endearing, so they use the troll face image as a signature card of sorts.
PC vs. Console had console fanboys dub PC elitists as "PC master race" as an insult to those that think PC gamers are above everyone else. PC gamers saw the phrase as "yes, we are better than those console gaming scrubs", so now many PC gamers dub themselves as the glorious PC master race whenever they troll gaming consoles and their fans.
When Vladimir Lenin was criticized that his ideology and reality didn't match, he used to boast: "Too bad for reality!" We know how things turned out after that.
"Tuga" and "Brazuca", the latter of which is usually shortened as "zuca", started as derogatory terms for Portuguese and Brazillian people, respectively. "Zuca" began and was mostly used during the Brazillian war of independence by the portuguese, while Tuga was used at the same time by the Brazillian and the Portuguese-African independence forces in their own war. As with most things on this page, they were later adopted as nicknames of their respective country's people.
William Henry Harrison's infamous 'log cabin and cider' slogan was originally an insult from Martin Van Buren. Though Harrison used it to mean that he was a down-to-earth frontiersman ([if anything, he was even more of an aristocrat than Van Buren), the original insult referred to the idea that Harrison would be good for nothing but sitting on the porch of his log cabin and drinking cider. It was one bad interpretation that led to Harrison smashing Van Buren in the electoral college, then promptly croaking.
One recent Chevy commercial claims that their trucks are "second to nobody", before adding "If by 'nobody,' you mean Ram and Ford." What they apparently didn't realize is that Chevy is unintentionally, but directly stating that their trucks are second to Ram's and Ford's.