Baloo: I'll learn him all I know!Character A is in no position to insult Character B... but does so anyway in a way designed to slip under Character B's radar. Alternatively, Character A may think of Character B as stupid, and so makes the insult relatively subtle so that Character B won't get it and will end up looking like a fool. A favored tactic of the Deadpan Snarker, especially the Servile Snarker. Differs from Insult Backfire in that a Stealth Insult is intended to be misinterpreted by its target; indeed, it may sound like a compliment at first (which is why some call it a Backhanded Compliment). Sometimes rendered in writing via an acrostic, a text in which the first letters of each line or word collectively form their own message. See also Overly Narrow Superlative and My Friends... and Zoidberg, which are often specific forms of this. With Due Respect is also sometimes used as this. A frequent technique in Passive-Aggressive Kombat, and sometimes a clever way to deliver a Quiet Cry for Help to third parties who are clever or informed enough to recognize the implications. Compare False Reassurance and Parenthetical Swearing.
Bagheera: Well, that shouldn't take too long.
Bagheera: Well, that shouldn't take too long.
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- In the Captain Marvel series note the titular character is a humanoid alien trying to do good on Earth. Rick, bonded to Marvel, teaches him a new battle cry. "Oh Watta Goo Siam"note . Captain Marvel took some time to get it. About a year later, Marvel went insane and destroyed the entire universe, but that was probably unrelated.
- In V for Vendetta, the gangster, Ally is hired by the new police chief, Creedy.
Ally: Yer predecessor, Mr Almond wouldna' have had time fer a man like me, a verra superior man, Mr Almond. Now you sir, you're not superior. Quite the reverse, in fact.
- In the comic and film versions of 300, Leonidas and the remaining Spartans are surrounded by Xerxes' army after they were betrayed by the Spartan Ephialtes. Leonidas tells him, "May you live forever" before taking his last stand. This phrase may sound oddly complimentary until you realize that living a long life in Spartan culture, as opposed to dying gloriously in battle, is a dishonorable fate.
- In From Hell, Sir William Gull explains at length to his uneducated, dim-witted coachdriver John Netley his intellectual rationale for the Whitechapel murders he's about to commit.
Gull: You realize that I only share these private thoughts with you in recognition of your lack of cognizance?
Netley: Why—thank you, sir. I can't say what that means to me.
Gull: Ha ha ha! Of COURSE you can't. That is precisely why I trust you.
- Calvin and Hobbes:
- Calvin sometimes has some fun this way at Moe the bully's expense. Once he responds to his demand for a quarter by telling him, "Your simian countenance suggests a heritage unusually rich in species diversity." As Moe stands there confused, Calvin hands over the quarter, and says it was Worth It.
- A couple of times, Hobbes makes a snide comment about Calvin while Calvin is distracted. Calvin doesn't realize that he has been insulted until much later that night.
Calvin: What the... I'm not playing a full deck!
Hobbes: That's what they all say.
- Watterson had to fight very hard to keep his syndicate from licensing his work note . During that time he threw the occasional Stealth Insult at the syndicate's expense into the strip. He insists that he never wrote anything that didn't stand on its own, though.
- Dogbert once gives the title character this epic zing:
Dogbert: I could never underestimate your intelligence.
Dilbert: Apology accepted.
- Also in this strip, where Wally insults the Pointy-Haired Boss, and claims that he's talking to his mother using his hands-free phone.
- And: "Bingo, sir."
- And again.
- Dogbert once gives the title character this epic zing:
- Played by Rat in Pearls Before Swine:
Pig: My goal in life is to leave every place I visit a little better than when I arrived.
Rat: I think you do that. Every time you leave a room, I say to myself 'Hey, the room's a little better.'
Pig: Ohhh, thank you!! Thank you!!
Rat: (to Goat) The best insults are the ones that look like compliments.
- In one Sally Forth strip, Nona says Hilary's obsession with the song "You're So Party, Let's Go Dancey" is "just one big DSM-5 entry. No offence, Hil." Hil's response is a perplexed "Not sure if one's taken".
- In one Sunday Zits strip, Jeremy's father asks him what music groups he's been listening to lately. Jeremy's response? "Stuff like Sweatervest, Eight-Dollar Haircut... Costco Specs, Rhino Jowels, Coffeebreath... Miles of Khaki, Slipperstank..."
Father: (as Jeremy leaves the room) That sounds like an awesome variety of music!\\
Father: Slipperstank rules!
- Sonic the Hedgehog fanfic, Amy and Mecha Sally has Fiona attempting to prove to Elias and Nicole that she didn't come to New Mobotropolis to pick a fight with Mecha Sally, who has regain her free will. She then hits her to see no damage so her point is proven.
Fiona: See? Sugar-Queen is indestructible. In other words, she's numb.Mecha Sally: I get the detail already.
- In the Ben 10 fanfic Hero High Ben and Gwen almost appear to try to one up each other when it comes to stealth insults.
- In Pokéumans, Spiritus confesses to Brandon that the original Pokemon referred to the developing human race as Homo Stultus.
- In this Avatar: The Last Airbender fic, Ozai gets one in after watching Zuko and Azula spar.
Ozai: Excellent as always, Azula. And a better effort than I've seen from you, Zuko. Perhaps one day you'll manage to become a firebender that isn't an affront to your ancestors.
- In Field Of Innocence, Ozai's farewell to Lu Ten and Iroh is basically him and his nephew taking shots at each other like this.
Lu Ten: Well, Grandfather would know best after all. Perhaps he sees that you would be of less use on the battlefield than you are here at the palace.
- In Equestria: A History Revealed, the Lemony Narrator seems to take great enjoyment out of making several potshots at Celestia's expense.
- In Faith No More, Faith's In-Series Nickname for Buffy "B" is revealed to actually be short for "Bitch".
- In Love and Loss, when Kurenai questions the idea that Naruto would attack a fellow Konoha villager if something happened to his daughter, Naruto responds that she should wait until she's a parent. Then if she can honestly say she wouldn't kill anyone who harmed her child, regardless of where they're from, he'll admit she's a better shinobi than him, leaving it all but unsaid that she'd be a far worse parent.
- In Weres Harry? Harry comes up with a rather nice one when he gets fed up with a social gathering Padma Patil drags him to during his first year at Hogwarts.
Harry: I apologize for my interruption of this most prestigious of gatherings. I am afraid my manners are not on the level of a gathering such as this. Ms. Patil merely wished for me to see for myself the society that my parents and I sacrificed so much in defending. I am pleased to say in this she succeeded admirably. And now if you would excuse me?
- In Soldier of Zero Saito calls Kirche a "pet name in the language of his homeland", namely Calamari for how bone crushingly tight her embrace is when she's trying to get him in her bedroom.
Films — Animation
- The Sultan insults himself in a very subtle way. He is wondering why his daughter Jasmine can't choose a suitor to marry, then adds 'Her mother wasn't nearly so picky.' It may take the audience a little while to notice the self-deprecation.
- When Aladdin decided to visit Jasmine and play up the prince charade, he struck an arrogant pose and asked the Genie "How do I look?" The Genie, who had just tried to convince Aladdin to stop pretending to be a prince, replied "Like... a prince."
- When Jafar is praising Iago on his plan to marry Jasmine and eventually bump her and the Sultan off: "I love the way your foul little mind works!" Note the way he pinches his fingers together when he says "little".
- Beauty and the Beast (1991 Disney version):
- Belle tells Gaston that he's "positively primeval", but says it in a light enough voice that he thinks she's complimenting him. It doesn't help that he's ignorant enough to not know what "primeval" means (although, he's the kind of person who would probably take it as a compliment even if he did know).
- Later, when she's trying to diplomatically kick him out of her house, she says "I just don't deserve you!" Bonus in the musical adaptation, where he responds to the line with "Who does?"
- Despicable Me: Gru asks Miss Hattie whether she speaks Spanish. When she says no, he tells her that her face is "Como un burro." She is flattered... until she later buys a Spanish-English dictionary.
- Eight Crazy Nights: The animated Adam Sandler (Davey Stone) does this:
Whitey (Davey's caretaker): Now I assume you've done your pre-game warm-ups.
Davey Stone: No, let me do them right now. [Hold up his fists, raises and lowers his middle fingers] One, two, three, four...
Whitey: [oblivious] That's good, but don't forget your hammies.
- The Emperor's New Groove: Kronk remarks that one would think Kuzco would have turned out better, in response to Yzma stating that she "practically raised him." It's not entirely certain if Kronk even intended this to be an insult, given that he's Dumb Muscle.
- The Jungle Book: Bagheera delivers a sharp one when Baloo is trying to make himself look like someone who can be trusted to raise Mowgli (also the example quote on top of this very Trope Page).
Baloo: I'll learn him all I know!Bagheera: Well, that shouldn't take too long.
- My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games: Principal Cinch does this when she breaks up the party that was just starting to give the schools a chance to intermingle.
"It's been four years since the last Friendship Games, but it feels as though nothing has changed. Canterlot High continues to pick its competitors in a popularity contest and Crystal Prep continues to field its top twelve students. It is a comfort to know that even after so many years of losses, your school remains to committed to its ideals, however misguided they may be. I wish you all the best of luck, regardless of the inevitable outcome."
- The Swan Princess: One of the musicians says "I'm an artist, not a boar!" (Protesting his being asked to dress up like an animal for archery practice.) Derek's advisor Rogers, the resident Deadpan Snarker, gives an Aside Glance and says "Could've fooled me."
- Tangled: Mother Gothel is quite adept at using these against Rapunzel, fitting within the pattern of emotional manipulation she uses against Rapunzel to destroy any self-confidence Rapunzel may have in order that Rapunzel will never leave the tower.
Mother Gothel: [To Rapunzel when they're standing in front of a mirror together] Look in that mirror. I see a strong, confident, beautiful young lady.
[Rapunzel smiles in response]
Mother Gothel: [Faux-surprised tone] Oh look, you're here too. [Laughs]
[Rapunzel's smile changes into an expression of sadness / hurtedness]
Films — Live-Action
- Our Miss Brooks: In the series' theatrical series finale, Miss Brooks is Mr. Conklin's campaign manager for his crack at the new post of Coordinator of Education (essentially, School Board Superintendent). Collecting donations from students and teachers, Miss Brooks tells Mr. Conklin that many of them were behind him. They were willing to give him a push out of Madison if necessary. Mr. Conklin's change of expression from glowing pride to a perplexed frown suggests he quickly realized the import of Miss Brooks' comment.
- In the comedy film Liar Liar, Jim Carrey's character, who has been cursed to tell the truth for one day, is forced to tell his bosses exactly what he thinks of them (not very complimentary thoughts, to say the least), but manages to save himself from disaster by affecting a mocking tone of voice, thus convincing them that his insults are only outrageous jokes.
- Time Bandits.
Evil: Dear Benson, you are so mercifully free of the ravages of intelligence.
Benson: You say such nice things, master.
Evil: Yes, I know. I'm sorry.
- From Caddyshack:
Judge Smails: They tell me you're the man to beat this year, and, well, I'm no slouch myself...
Ty: Oh, don't sell yourself short, Judge. You're a tremendous slouch.
- In National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation Clark frequently does this to Eddie.
Clark: My cousin-in-law whose heart is bigger than his brain.Eddie: I appreciate that Clark.
- In Zodiac the suspected Zodiac Killer is questioned by the police. As he leaves, he flatly tells the officers that he looks forward to the day when policemen are no longer referred to as pigs.
- Quo Vadis has Petronius, who spends the entire film secretly snarking off to Nero of all people. His crowning moment comes during the Great Fire of Rome, when Nero worries that his song won't be epic enough to match the moment, Petronius serves him with this line:
Petronius: I am sure you will be worthy of the spectacle.... as the spectacle is worthy of you.
- Spock's goodbye "salute" to the Vulcan Science Academy in the new Star Trek movie, which can basically be translated as, "Live long and fuck you." It was a fairly appropriate response.
- In School of Rock, after Ms. Mullins berates Freddy for not being in accordance with the school's dress code (he was styling himself as a punk), Frankie says "Ms. Mullins, you're the Man." She responds "Why, thank you, Frankie", not realizing that he was referring to the phrase "stick it to the Man", i.e. he called her an oppressive authority. Dewey had taught the class about "The Man" early on.
- In Amadeus, after the premiere of Salieri's opera Axur: King of Ormus, Salieri goes up to Mozart, hoping for his approval. Unfortunately Mozart has learned to be diplomatic:
Salieri: Mozart. It was good of you to come.Mozart: How could I not?Salieri: Did my work please you?Mozart: How could it not, Excellency?Salieri: Yes?Mozart: I never knew that music like that was possible.Salieri: You flatter me.Mozart: Oh no! One hears such sounds and what can one say, but — Salieri!
- Men in Black:
- Zed says "Congratulations, you're everything we've come to expect from years of government training" to the agent candidates who failed the test, shortly before neuralyzing them. J also scratches his forehead with his middle finger after K states he has to "grow up" before he can get a Neuralyser.
- At one point, when J is arguing with a skeptical (and overweight) cop, the officer says "You're not half the man I am!". J's response: "I am half the man you are".
- In Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Kim gets to do quite a few of these, notably flipping off her contract manager by using her middle finger to scratch under her eye.
- Kirk gave a more in your face insult to Tugg in Tropic Thunder.
Tugg Speedman: There were times while I was playing Jack where I felt...retarded. Like, really retarded.
Kirk Lazarus: Damn!
Tugg Speedman: In a weird way I had to sort of just free myself up to believe that is was okay to be stupid or dumb.
Kirk Lazarus: To be a moron.
Tugg Speedman: Yeah!
Kirk Lazarus: To be moronical.
Tugg Speedman: Exactly, to be a moron.
Kirk Lazarus: An imbecile.
Tugg Speedman: Yeah!
Kirk Lazarus: Like the dumbest motherfucker that ever lived.
Tugg Speedman: [pause] When I was playing the character.
- In Clue:
Col. Mustard: Well, you tell him it's not true!
Ms. Scarlett: It's not true.
Mr. Green: It's not true?
Ms. Scarlett: No, it's not true.
Mr. Green: Aha! So it IS true!
Wadsworth: A double negative!
Col. Mustard: Double negative? You mean you have (whispering) photographs?!
Wadsworth: That sounds like a confession to me, In fact the double negative has led to proof positive. I'm afraid you gave yourself away.
Col. Mustard: Are you trying to make me look stupid in front of the other guests?
Wadsworth: You don't need any help from me, sir.
Col. Mustard: That's right!
- In Thor, Loki uses good timing on a comment for ironic effect:
Thor: You always were a talented liar, brother.
Loki: It's good to have you back.
- Marvel One-Shots: Phil Coulson unloads a fast one on Agent Sitwell in The Consultant.
Sitwell: I got it. We send a patsy to sabotage the debrief.
Coulson: A patsy?
Sitwell: Yes, someone to screw it up. Someone so inept that General Ross will refuse to release Blonsky. I could do it. I make a great patsy.
Coulson: Yes you do. Your patsy is legendary. In fact, when I think of the word "patsy"—Sitwell: Alright.
- Iron Man: Tony's Sexy Secretary Pepper Potts delivers a not-very-subtle one to Tony's one-night-stand.
Christine Everhart: After all these years, Tony still has you picking up the dry cleaning.Pepper Potts: I do anything and everything Mr. Stark requires. Including, occasionally, taking out the trash. Will that be all?
- Iron Man 2:
Senator: Sorry, it's funny how annoying a little prick can be.
- The senator's remark to Tony Stark shortly after giving him the medal and "accidentally" pricking him with the pin.
Hammer: [Christine Everhart]'s actually doing a big spread on me for Vanity Fair. I thought I'd throw her a bone, you know. Right?Pepper: Right. Well, she did quite a... spread on Tony last year.
- Pepper once again proves she is the master of this.
- Maggie Smith plays a shrewish lady in Gosford Park who is a master at these. In one instance, she "compliments" a cash-strapped woman for wearing the same dress over multiple days, saying that she's delightfully economical.
- There is a quick one in Transformers: Age of Extinction when Cade calls all of humanity "junk".
- Monte Carlo: When Duke Otto sings "She'll Love Me and Like It," about how he's going to bring his Runaway Bride back and make her shape up, the wedding guests repeat his words in a way that turns them into insults.
Otto: I have a nasty temper, though I keep it in controlFor, after all, I really am a simple-hearted soul.Chorus: He's a simp, he's a simp, he's a simple-hearted soul!
Otto: But when my seeds of kindliness have failed to bear me fruit,I then become, I must confess, a nasty-tempered brute.Chorus: He's a nas [an ass], he's a nas, he's a nasty-tempered brute!
- The Faculty uses one of these for a Genius Bonus. The theater teacher Mrs. Olsen wanted to put on a production of Guys and Dolls, but Principal Drake, having earmarked most of the school's extra money for the football team (because the football-obsessed PTA and school board would accept nothing less), recommends recycling the sets from Our Town instead. Any theater geek would know that Our Town doesn't use any sets — which means that, in other words, Drake just told Mrs. Olsen to fuck off. (Drake is played by Bebe Neuwirth, a Broadway star who definitely would've gotten the joke.)
- A classic in Casablanca: "Major Strasser is one of the reasons the Third Reich enjoys the reputation it has today."
- In Arthur (1981), Arthur's butler Hobson says to his new girlfriend Linda: "Thank you for a memorable afternoon. Usually one must go to a bowling alley to meet a woman of your stature."
- In The Italian Job (2003), Stella meets Steve, the man who killed her father, while pretending to be a cable technician. She is greeted by his guard dogs and promptly tells Steve in a casual tone that she is "used to meeting all sorts of animals".
- In Spaceballs, Pizza the Hut gets Barf's name wrong and calls him "Puke". Barf corrects him, "That's Barf". However Barf says this in such a way, that it doesn't sound like he's actually correcting Pizza, but rather telling Pizza he looks like barf (which he does).
- Templeton from the live-action Charlotte's Web gives a sly one to the cows.
Betsy: Don't you break that egg, rat!Bitsy: A broken rotten egg would make this barn stink to high heaven!Templeton: That'd be a change.Bitsy: [laughs]
- Suicide Squad: Harley delivers one to Croc during this dialogue between people who are all criminal and mentally disturbed; Croc is the only one of them who has a more reptile-like than humanoid appearance.
Boomerang: [To Harley] Outside, you're amazing, but inside, you're ugly!Harley: [Looking at all of them] We all are. WE ALL ARE! Except for him [Head-motions to Croc]. [Beat] ...He's ugly on the outside too.
- In Dragon Bones, Tisala says to Ward that it's his eyes that make him look stupid, especially the long lashes. He replies that he always thought it was the colour - his eyes are brown, as are Tisala's.
- Harry Potter, in the sixth book, drops a quick one on his Divination teacher, the notorious Not-So-Phony Psychic Sybill Trelawney:
Sybill Trelawney: Everything went pitch black and the next thing I knew, I was being hurled headfirst out of the Room!Harry Potter: And you didn't see that coming?Sybill Trelawney: No, as I said it was pitch— *suddenly gets it and gives Harry a Death Glare*
- From Ella Enchanted, Ella gets one over her thicker-than-bricks stepfamily:
"What a clever daughter I have," Olga beamed at Hattie."As clever as she is beautiful," [Ella] said.They both began to answer me, and then stopped, confused."Hattie isn't pretty," said Olive.
- Sherlock Holmes gets one of these on Inspector Gregson after noting that the pathway outside of the murder scene has been so trampled over by the police that any clues are now impossible to make out: "With two such men as yourself and Lestrade upon the ground, there will not be much for a third party to find out." This goes completely over the head of Gregson, who assumes that Holmes is complimenting him on the thoroughness of his investigation.
King of Bohemia: (Talking about Irene Adler) What a woman – oh, what a woman! Did I not tell you how quick and resolute she was? Would she not have made an admirable queen? Is it not a pity that she was not on my level?
- He does many of these throughout the canon, but one particularly ballsy was targeted towards the King of Bohemia.
Holmes: From what I have seen of the lady she seems indeed to be on a very different level to your Majesty.
Holmes: I'll give you one. This case is quite sufficiently complicated to start with without the further difficulty of false information.
- Also in "The Problem of Thor Bridge" towards his own client.
Client: Meaning that I lie.
Holmes: Well, I was trying to express it as delicately as I could, but if you insist upon the word I will not contradict you.
"A confederate who foresees your conclusions and course of action is always dangerous, but one to whom each development comes as a perpetual surprise, and to whom the future is always a closed book, is indeed an ideal helpmate."
- In "The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier"—one of only two cases narrated by Holmes himself—he even takes a pot-shot at Watson, although in this case, he might not mean it as poorly as it comes off sounding. note
- Words of Radiance (book two of The Stormlight Archive): Kaladin continuously insults Adolin while pretending to compliment him. Examples include: "You are the least obnoxious heir to a princedom I've ever met." Read: The only heir to a princedom he has ever met. Adolin is none the wiser until Shallan points it out to him. Kaladin stops once Shallan points out that Adolin is making an effort to be friendly (in contrast to earlier, when he distrusted Kaladin on every level).
- Older Than Print: In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Cao Cao manages to insult the capabilities of his surviving advisors by weeping for a dead one.
- An intercultural example: in The Death of the Vazir Mukhtar, the main character pretends to be impressed by a lousy Persian court poet, so much that he compares him to "the excellent Count Khvostov", a legendarily, memetically awful Russian poet.
- Warrior Cats is good with these: in the later books of the series, most Gatherings consist almost entirely of the Clans taking jabs at each other in this manner.
"I am pleased to hear that you are getting so much use out of a piece of land prey-poor by ThunderClan standards."
- In Discworld, even though Vetinari and Vimes are in a position to insult people straightforwardly, their insults often confuse people, sometimes because the insults are clever and sometimes because the people being insulted are just thick. Jingo has this example:
Sgt. Colon: I know something about seaweed, sir.Vetinari: You do?Sgt. Colon: Yes! When it's wet, that means it's going to rain!Vetinari: I shall never forget you said that.Colon's response is to walk away proudly thinking that he's "Made a Contribution", when Vetinari probably meant he would never forget its monumental stupidity.
Vimes: But I'll tell you what, if this goes on, the city will see to it the deliveries come in by other gates. We’ll be hungry then. That’s when we’ll need your organizational skills.Reg: You mean we'll be in a famine situation?Vimes: If we aren't, Reg, I'm sure you could organise one.
- Vimes does it to Wide-Eyed Idealist Reg Shoe throughout Night Watch. Eventually, he pushes it far enough that Reg catches on. (The setup is that Reg is trying to ration out the beseiged Republic's food and, to his disappointment, Vimes has just pointed out they don't need to ration the food, because they have most of the food in the city):
Teacher: That's a big word, isn't it?
- In The Wee Free Men, one of the traveling teachers condescendingly complements Tiffany on knowing the word "zoology":
Tiffany: No it isn't, actually. "Patronizing" is a big word, "zoology" is really quite short.
- Carrot Ironfounderson is either a deft master at this trope, or a sincerely well-meaning speaker who only accidentally says things like "If it [the Fools' Guild] burns to the ground, it'll be a blow for entertainment in this city."
- In The Truth, William, a master of Exact Words because he Will Not Tell a Lie, responds to an article Sacharissa wrote about a flower-arranging competition with "I think it is quite likely that it would be impossible to improve this piece in any way." He means not that the article is perfect, but that there's so much wrong with it that he couldn't begin to improve it, but he runs it anyway to take up newspaper space, appeal to the ladies who were mentioned in the article, and avoid offending Sacharissa.
- In The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Poirot gets one in at Hastings: "We must be so intelligent that [the murderer] does not suspect us of being intelligent at all. There, mon ami, you will be of great assistance to me."
- It's made even more hilarious by Hastings' follow-up narration.
I was pleased with the compliment. There had been times when I hardly thought that Poirot appreciated me at my true worth.
- It's made even more hilarious by Hastings' follow-up narration.
- Bertie Wooster of Jeeves and Wooster calls out Jeeves on the way he says "Well, sir," and "Indeed, sir?"
Bertie: "The impression I retain after hearing you shoot it at me a couple of times is that you consider me to be talking through the back of my neck, and that only a feudal sense of what is fitting restrains you from substituting for it the words 'Says you!'"
- Fisk tricks a servant into doing this to herself in the Knight and Rogue Series.
Mrs. Trimmer: I hope you're prepared to work.Fisk: I never work. If you're clever you don't have to. Are you a hard worker, Mrs. Trimmer?Mrs. Trimmer: That I am, and an honest woman to boot.
- In one of the Captain Underpants books, an obnoxious student named Melvin gains superpowers and takes on the name of "Big Melvin". He declares that whenever he has halted a crime, he'll use his laser vision to scorch the initials "B.M." in large print, so people will know it was him. Cue George snarking that "Big BMs always made me think of Melvin!"
- Most of the conversations Odd Thomas has with villains are comprised of him doing these.
- Tyrion from A Song of Ice and Fire is a master of these:
King Joffery: [Sansa's] stupid brother is calling himself a king.Tyrion: All kinds of people are calling themselves kings these days.
- In the final Animorphs book, Jake contacts the Andalite fleet, who intend to quarantine Earth in hopes of killing the evil Yeerks there too. Unfortunately for the Andalites, Jake's message is also being broadcasted to their civilian nets, meaning both sides have to keep up the appearance of peace. Jake responds with some carefully worded statements (which Marco ever-so-helpfully translates for the reader).
- "We must set aside the necessary ruthlessness of war... and turn to the more satisfying duties of making peace." Translation: Your civilians who are watching this broadcast now are going to be really upset if you decide to rush in and annihilate us when we're offering peace.
- "Our victory could have never occurred without the help of our Andalite friends." Translation: You did squat for us, but we're willing to share the credit just to make you look nice. Grateful?note
- "We have [learned] so much from the great Elfangor and his no less courageous brother Axmili." Translation: If your ship attacks anyway, you'll end up killing Elfangor's hero brother aboard this ship and undoing all their hard work.
- Older Than Feudalism: "Rex" (Latin for "king") was a huge insult according to the Romans, but many of the societies that they conquered (such as Judea) had much higher opinions of kings. For example, "Rex Iudaeorum" ("King of the Jews") was the biggest insult (by Roman standards) that Pontius Pilate could throw at Jesus in The Four Gospels, but the insult was lost on the native Jews. In fact, the chief priests' main objection to Jesus being given that label was that it was too big of a compliment to him.
- Composer Ziller in The Culture novel Look to Windward sometimes amuses himself by doing this, although normally his criticisms of Culture society are more direct (since the incessant politeness of the Culture is one of the things that gets on his nerves). At one point a rather foolish Culture citizen named Treslen Scofford attempts to jog his memory by reminding him that, when Treslen had commented on one of his compositions, Ziller had called the comments "singular" and "uniquely viewpointed". Ziller acknowledges that this certainly sounds like something he'd have said.
- One for the Star Wars Expanded Universe: Mandalorians want to find the biggest, nastiest, most challenging thing the galaxy can throw at them so they can test themselves against it. Often, this means taking on the Republic and/or Jedi, which often allies them with the Sith. The stealth insult part kicks in when you ask the average Mando'ad to compare the two. They'll tend to praise the Republic and Jedi for being honorable fighters and WorthyOpponents, but tend to think the Sith and the Empire aren't good for much more than a paycheck.
- In Tricky Business, Wally's rock band Arrival plays a disastrous gig at a redneck bar ("'Nuffa that shit! Play some country!") that ends in a Bar Brawl and a trip to the emergency room for the Lead Bassist (whose reported injuries inspire a cool new name for the band). When the owner tells Wally that he doesn't want Arrival to ever play there again, Wally tells him that he was thrilled to meet the original cast of Deliverance, a reference that sails over the owner's head.
- In Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder (author of Little House on the Prairie), young Almanzo finds and returns a wallet belonging to the local rich miser. Bystanders insist that the wallet’s owner should give the boy a reward. Relucantly he reaches into his pocket and proffers ... a dime. Almanzo looks at the coin and says “I’m sorry, I can’t change that.”
- On House Of Buggin, one sketch has a crew of mariachis insulting their monolingual English-speaking customers in Spanish under the guise of serenading them until, of course, they run into some customers who also speak fluent Spanish. While most of their insults are translated for us in the subtitles, this piece comes with a further Bilingual Bonus or two as well for actual Spanish-speakers' further amusement. (Translated: "Miserable barato..." Not translated: "...pendejo!")
- In All in the Family, Lionel Jefferson would do this to Archie Bunker to trump Archie's racist comments. In one case, after Archie made a stereotypical comment about black people living crowded in small quarters, Lionel "explained" that they have special efficient storage closets to shove their things into, and that Archie should get one to "shove yours". After he left, Archie realized that "you could take that two ways"; in response, "Meathead" joined the stealth insult game by assuring him that Lionel "only meant it one way".
- Sammy Davis, Jr. also told one to Archie: "If you were prejudiced, you'd go around thinking that you were better than everyone else in the world. But after spending these wonderful moments with you, Archie, I can honestly say - you ain't better than anybody."
- In an episode of The Golden Girls, Dorothy's ex husband Stan is staying with the women to recover from a heart attack. However, he's afraid of being alone and fakes a relapse. The following is paraphrased:
Blanche: Isn't it funny that you would have a relapse on the day that the doctor said you could go home?
Stan: What can I say, the heart's a funny organ.
Blanche: I bet a lot of your organs get a laugh.
- One of the ways Nevermind The Buzzcocks can insult its guests, but still get stars who take themselves seriously to appear on the show. For instance, after Preston walked out when Simon Amstell innocently read out sections of his wife's book:
Simon Amstell: I only read his wife's book, I can't believe that upset him... I mean, then again, I've read the whole thing and it upset me.
- This conversation from I, Claudius:
Caligula: Do you think I'm mad?
Claudius: Mad? Why your majesty, you set the standard of sanity for the entire world!
- You better believe that Blackadder indulges in this from time to time. Especially prevalent in seasons 3 and 4, when he had more superiors than underlings.
- Barely stealthed example: In Blackadder the Third, Prince George complains that a fellow at his club said he had the brains of a donkey. Blackadder, in his most servile tones, states that this is absurd ... "unless it was a very stupid donkey". George's reaction? "If only I'd thought of saying that!"
- From The IT Crowd:
Jen: It's indescribable.
- In the Doctor Who episode "The Sunmakers", Gatherer Hade has an ostentatious manner of addressing The Collector (your Immensity, your Hugeness, your Supernal Eminence, etc), but as their relationship breaks down under the strain of events the honorifics become somewhat insulting, as in: "I fear the situation is worsening, your Grossness!"
- In the episode "Dalek", the Doctor describes Davros, creator of the titular species, to megalomaniac Henry Van Stratten, then adds, "You'd like him." It goes over the man's head because he doesn't realize just how much the Doctor despises Davros.
- Jeeves and Wooster:
- Jeeves gets two of these over on Bertie on separate occasions:
Bertie: Oh, stop playing with the hat, Jeeves. I knew you wouldn't like it.
Jeeves: Oh, not at all, sir!
Bertie: She gave it to me, you know. Trying to improve my mind, I dare say.
Jeeves: That seems scarcely possible, sir.
- Jeeves sneaks in a dig at the song "Nagasaki" in response to Bertie's expressed love of the song:
Jeeves: Extremely... invigorating, sir.
Bertie: Yes, Jeeves, that is just the word I would have used. Yes, it makes you want to get up and bally well have a run 'round the park.
Jeeves: My feelings precisely, sir.
- Jeeves gets two of these over on Bertie on separate occasions:
- Subverted in the Extras Christmas special, where Andy tries his best to insult his agent but it doesn't land:
Darren: But if I send you, they'll think I don't know what I'm doing!
Andy: Ohhh, no one could ever think you don't know what you're doing, that you're a total waste of space and shouldn't even be in the industry.
Darren: Well, thanks, mate, but you'd be surprised.
- In one episode of Hogan's Heroes, Hogan manages to convince Klink that the name the men have been calling him 'Klink the Fink' is actually a compliment.
- Hogan did this to Klink a lot. Klink once complained to Hogan about the prisoners blowing raspberries at him, so Hogan told him that it was a sign of respect. Later in the episode, Hogan led them in a cheer for Klink - which consisted of all the prisoners blowing a raspberry at the same time.
- In Married... with Children, Marcy once berated her husband Steve by saying that she didn't blame Al's involvement in one of their misadventures because "If you give a loaded gun to a chimp and it shoots somebody, you don't blame the chimp." Al sat for a moment before saying, "I think that was a hidden dig at me."
- This one from the French and Saunders skit, "The Generation Gap", featuring Dame Helen Mirren acting on a (bad) sitcom written by Jennifer. Bonus points for the insults seeming to hit both people.
Helen: But I don't have any funny lines!
Jennifer: Don't blame your tools.
- While you'd be hard pressed to find insults in Monty Python's Flying Circus, the "Oscar Wilde Sketch" was comprised of Wilde and others lampooning the king, claiming it to be a quote of one of the others. Each one miraculously manages to turn them into compliments, though only the king seems oblivious.
- Major Frank Burns in M*A*S*H is a frequent target, except for those times when people insult him to his face. Two examples:
Burns: Wasn't your nose broken?
Radar: Oh no, sir, it was just sprained. Doctor Pierce said I should just stay off my nose for awhile.
Burns: I'm a doctor and that's crazy!
Radar: I've heard that, sir.or:Burns: What I don't understand is, why do people take an instant dislike to me?
Trapper: It saves time, Frank.
- His replacement, Major Charles Winchester, tends to be the deliverer rather than the recipient of these. For instance, in one episode he calls three Korean doctors "Moe, Curly, Larry", assuring them that those are great philosophers from the West.
- However, they aren't fooled. At the end of the episode, when the Korean doctors have alleviated Winchester's bad back with acupuncture, one of them replies to Winchester's apology by quipping that their efforts weren't bad for a bunch of stooges.
- His replacement, Major Charles Winchester, tends to be the deliverer rather than the recipient of these. For instance, in one episode he calls three Korean doctors "Moe, Curly, Larry", assuring them that those are great philosophers from the West.
- Jon Stewart had a great many hilarious barbs to shoot at the guys on Crossfire, but perhaps none quite so good as the ones that passed unnoticed.
- Stephen Colbert's nickname for Bill O'Reilly is "Papa Bear". This coming from a man who considers bears to be the number one threat to America.
- Far from uncommon on The West Wing. For instance, when Charlie meets his ex's new boyfriend.
Charlie: I just read 150 words about you in Us Weekly, and I feel like I know you already.Jean Paul: Thank you.
Larry: Man! Oz, I would love to get me some of that Buffy and Willow action, if you know what.Oz: That's great, Larry. You've really mastered the single entendre.
- The second season had the following exchange:
Buffy: Was I not good?Angel: No, you were great. Really. I thought you were a pro.
- A darker example occurs in "Innocence". Angel, having been stripped of his soul due to experiencing a moment of "perfect happiness" with Buffy, makes it his mission to destroy her emotionally for the crime of making him feel like a human being. His first step is to pretend he was just using her for sex, with this exchange transpiring when he and the unbeknownst Buffy talk the next day.
- Any time Cordy tries to be relatively nice, this is the result.
- In Talking Funny, Jerry Seinfeld and Louis C.K. recall a conversation about the F word (Jerry doesn't use it while Louis is Mr. Cluster F-Bomb), where Jerry compared it to an American sports car. Louis thinks Jerry means the F word is special and should be used sparingly, but after some thought realized that his wealthy car-collecting friend meant that the word is flashy, vulgar, and only really appealing to low-class people who don't know better.
- After giving a rotten answer on Match Game, the audience boos Bill Cullen. Bill responds by politely thanking the audience.
- Example from Community:
Slater: Britta! You look great! Such a stunning improvement.
Britta: Wow, you look gorgeous. It must've taken all day.
- Nucky Thompson from Boardwalk Empire throws out a few of these early in the show which go right over the head of his partners because most gangsters are not nearly as well read as he is. For example, when one rather annoying gangster talks about changing his name, Nucky absentmindedly says "A rose by any other name..." When the gangster asks what that means, Nucky just gives him a cold look and tells him "Read a fucking book".
- Mad Men's Pete Campbell gets off a pretty awesome one in S3 when he assures his old college buddy that his idea for a national jai alai league is "exactly my father's sort of investment."
- House: When House tests candidates for his team at the beginning of the 4th season, one of the candidates's theories is shot down by Foreman. When House confirms that the candidate's idea was actually good, the candidate subtly looks at Foreman and gets some dust out of his eye... with his middle finger.
- Firefly: When Jayne tries on the knit hat he got in the mail from his mother, Wash comments, "Man walks down the street in that hat, you know he's not afraid of anything."
- Game of Thrones:
- When the people of King's Landing prepare for a siege, Sansa Stark (who is being kept there as a guest/hostage) gets one on her hated fiance King Joffrey, after he gloats about how he'll kill her older brother. In overly innocent tones, she asks him if he'll be on the front lines and not hiding from the fight, because said brother leads the charge and Joffrey just boasted about being better than him. She then gives one to Tyrion, telling him that she'll be praying for his safe return from battle, "just as [she] prays for our king's".
- In "Garden of Bones," King Renly Baratheon knows very well the kind of self-serving person Littlefinger is, and is disgusted by it.
Renly: You can trust Brienne. Her loyalty comes without charge.
- In "Valar Dohaeris," Margaery Tyrell subtly criticizes Cersei's fashion sense.
Margaery: Loras, isn't the Queen's gown magnificent? The fabric, the embroidery, the metalwork. I've never seen anything like it!
- Loras then (politely) rubs it into Cersei's face that he thinks very poorly of her as Queen due to her neglect/mistreatment of the smallfolk.
Loras: [smiling directly at Cersei] Margaery does a great deal of work with the poor back in Highgarden.
- Cersei also levels one against Joffrey, though judging by his expression, he got the message.
Cersei: You are your father's son. Not all of us can have a king's bravery.
- Sansa also insults Joffrey unintentionally. When her father wants to take her away from her betrothed and placates her by saying that he'll find her "someone who's brave and gentle and strong," heartbroken Sansa replies that "I don't want anyone brave and gentle and strong, I want [Joffrey]!"
- When Hizdahr waxes philosophical about traditions that will go on long after they are all gone, Tyrion declares, "My father would have liked you."
- In Babylon 5, Londo, preparing to meet the new Emperor, informs the Regent that he met the Emperor twice before. The first time, he was an infant, and drooling on himself, and later as an adolescent, trying to look up girls' skirts.
Cartagia: Ah, Mollari. It's wonderful to see you again.Londo: And you, Majesty. I could swear you have not changed since the last few times I saw you.Cartagia: Oh, you are of course too generous.
- In Star Trek: The Original Series, invoked by Spock at the end of "Mirror, Mirror" regarding their Mirror Universe counterparts, leading a bemused Kirk and McCoy to question whether they've just been insulted as well.
- Lampshaded in the Sports Night episode "The Apology":
Casey: I'm completely cool, huh?Dana: And you dress cool.Casey: Yes! (Beat) Wait, that was a dig, wasn't it.
Casey: I love music. I have a great appreciation of music.Dan: Dude, I've been in your car and you've got the Starland Vocal Band singing "Afternoon Delight."Casey: That's right! (Beat) Wait, I do not have the Starland Vocal Band, it's not like I went out and bought the single. It's on my Time-Life Sounds of the 70's.Dan: Well, there you have it.Casey: How can I be cool again? I'm a newly divorced man, I'm young, I used to be cool. I need to be cool again. Help me be cool again.Dan: Well, first I'd have to disabuse you of the notion that you were ever cool before.
- And a bit later:
- Cheers has them frequently, particularly between Sam and Diane. One first season episode has a zinger, though. Right after Norm's boss has made an aggressive pass at Diane (and fired Norm for stepping up to Diane's defense) because he believed she was a hired escort, Sam says to Diane "We all know you'd starve to death before you made a living with your body."
- Spartacus: Blood and Sand has a lot of this, particularly during conversations between Lucretia and Ilithyia. Ilithyia is constantly finding ways to reference the fact that Lucretia comes from a lower social class, which Lucretia always pretends to ignore. In one episode, Ilithyia warns Lucretia that a very elevated woman she knows is very vain and might treat Lucretia poorly for her lower status. Lucretia looks directly at Ilithyia and assures her, "I have experience dealing with such people." Ilithyia doesn't seem to notice.
- Doubly subverted by Mike Oldfield in Amarok. Richard Branson had been demanding that Oldfield created a hit in the same vein of Tubular Bells, much to his annoyance. He therefore made a sixty-minute whopper which could not easily sampled into a radio-friendly version. More to the point of the trope, at a certain moment one may hear a strident keyboard type a message in Morse code which spells "FUCK OFF RB".
- The Hip-Hop genre is filled with these. Have a sharp ear and you'll hear alot of subliminal disses, or maybe something that could get interpreted as a diss.
- Many believe that Raekwon (Of Wu-Tang Clan) had subliminal disses to The Notorious B.I.G..
- Many believe that Jay-Z was dissing Tupac Shakur in the song Shiny Suite Theory.
- Bone Thugs-n-Harmony affiliate Maje$ty disses Crucial Conflict in the song Ready 4 War off of Bone's The Art of War album.
- 2% diss by Mc Lyte which was toward Roxanne Shante.
- The Pet Shop Boys' "Yesterday, When I Was Mad" has the main character on the receiving end of a barely-stealthy zinger:
And someone said, "It's fabulous you're still around today—you've both made such a little go a very long way."
- In "All The Lazy Boyfriends" by They Might Be Giants, it's clear from context the lyric "Man, you never lost your edge" implies that the subject (one of the eponymous "lazy boyfriends") never had an edge to lose.
- In the live recording of Circle by Harry Chapin, recorded for his Greatest Stories Live album, he tries to coax reluctant members of the audience into singing along by assuring them that "Anybody can sing this song". To this end, he has pretty much everyone on hand sing a verse of the song, including the roadies, whom he describes as "The 70s answer to Simon & Garfunkel. They're a little Seals & Crofts, and a little Sears & Roebuck."
- Cabin Pressure:
Arthur: Will there be more learning how to understand people?Carolyn: No, Arthur, I think you understand as much about people as you ever will.Arthur: Thanks, Mum, what a nice thing to say.Carolyn: Case in point.
- Douglas' job reference for Martin states, "Other than myself, there is no one at MJN whose skills as a pilot I rate higher." This is a case where only the person being insulted catches the insult; to the interviewer at Swiss Air, this looks like a high recommendation, but Martin knows that he and Douglas are the only two pilots at MJN.
- From the sitcom Revolting People:
Joshua: ...and then before long, I find myself wondering if I'm some kind of idiot!Samuel: Oh, I wouldn't waste your time wondering about that.
- When Jeremy Clarkson and Ian Hislop discuss Piers Morgan:
Jeremy: I think he's tremendous, isn't he?Ian: Yes, you mustn't be fooled by this media idea that we all hate each other.Jeremy: No!Ian: I mean, he's terrific fun, Piers. He's round my house all the time.Jeremy: When he isn't at mine! And his career has gone from strength to strength.Ian: I mean, who could begrudge him international success, money and wealth?Jeremy: And his wife likes him too!
- NFL.com naturally produces highlight packages when their players perform well on the field. When a player has a bad game, the site will typically just ignore them. Unless they have a really bad game, in which case they will produce a "highlights" video showing their repeated failures.
- When PETCO won the naming rights to the San Diego Padres' new ballpark, PETA, who had been protesting PETCO's activities for many years, tried to stop the deal from going through. After failing at that, they decided to have an anti-PETCO message inscribed on a brick inside the stadium. Their first couple of attempts spelled their message out directly and were rejected by the Padres as unsuitable. When they switched to the stealth method of insulting PETCO, their message made it through.
- In American Football; sportswriters often will refer to some quarterbacks as "game managers"; a term used to describe quarterbacks that on one hand wouldn't hurt a team by forcing plays that often result in interceptions... but on the other hand said quarterback generally doesn't put up huge stats; as their team typically relies on a strong defense and running game to win.
- In the GURPS RPG sourcebook GURPS Banestorm, the Honor-obsessed Sahudese culture considers direct insults to cause both the insulted and the insulter to lose face. Therefore, they have elevated the Stealth Insult to an art form; the standard form is to compliment the target on everything except his most obvious flaws. For example, at a meal consisting of a rice dish, fish and somewhat inferior cakes for dessert, a hostile guest might elaborately praise the rice and fish, but say nothing about the cakes. Thus, the cook will be shamed for their poor quality.
- Magic: The Gathering has one in the flavor text for the joke card Zombie Fanboy (The implication being that gamers have a stench comparable to that of zombies.):
The real advantage of being a zombie gamer? No one notices the stench.
- In both Vampire: The Masquerade and Vampire: The Requiem, the art of stealth insults is considered a prerequisite if you want to get anywhere at Elysium. Directly insulting another vampire may risk setting off frenzy.
- The rules for duels in Warhammer 40,000 mention that Eldar characters are likely to call out their opponents with subtle and sophisticated insults, as likely to leave their opponents confused, as enraged, thus "proving Eldar superiority twice over."
- In the Legend of the Five Rings universe, courts and other forms of social interaction can be deadly, and openly insulting your opponent without him noticing (or being able to retort) is often a great victory.
- William Shakespeare did this all the time.
- In Julius Caesar, Marc Antony is permitted to deliver a eulogy for Caesar provided that he does not denounce the assassins. He sticks to the letter of the agreement, but nevertheless turns the crowd against the assassins to the point where his repeated references to them (particularly Brutus) as "honorable men" has the effect of a sarcastic jibe.
- Another notable example is Hamlet, where the titular character made many of these comments, most notably urging his then-girlfriend Ophelia, "Get Thee to a Nunnery". ("Nunnery" was slang for "brothel" at the time.)
- Hamlet calls Polonius a "Fishmonger". When he was corrected, he responded with regret that Polonius was not so honorable a man. It seems to fit in with Hamlet's "antic disposition", but fishmonger is thought to be period slang for "fleshmonger." In other words, he's saying that Polonius is lower than a pimp.
- 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, Valère, who's secretly 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.
- Cyrano de Bergerac: While the baker Raguenau reads his poem to his poet "friends", they are frenetically eating Ragueneau’s pastries. When Ragueaneau finishes, the poets praise his poem with culinary terms.
The poets (with mouths crammed full): Exquisite! Delicious!
- A Streetcar Named Desire has both Stanley and Blanche firing these off at one another at certain points. One memorable moment is when they talk about horoscopes, with Blanche under the assumption that Stanley is an Aries (forceful and dynamic) while Stanley scoffs at Blanche's sign being Virgo the Virgin (in which she's the opposite).
- The majority of the song Pore Jud is Daid from Oklahoma! is this. Well, Curly is trying to convince Jud to kill himself - he's not precisely fond of the guy.
Curly: But the folks that really knowed him knowed that beneath them two dirty shirts he always wore there beat a heart as big as all outdoors.
- In the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, The Gondoliers, the Duke and Duchess are discussing their daughter's arranged marriage with her. The daughter (who has fallen in love with someone else) says that she will never be able to love her husband:
Duke: I don't know. It's extraordinary what unprepossessing people one can love if one gives one's mind to it.Duchess: I loved your father.
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Harry transfigured as Voldemort tells Voldemort's daughter Delphi that he although he sees certain similarities to Bellatrix in her face, she hasn't inherited the best of her. It's difficult to tell whether this is a stealth insult toward Delphi or Bellatrix.
- In Portal, GLaDOS quickly proved herself to be the undisputed master of passive-aggressiveness thanks to her use of this trope. One of the reasons the first game is usually considered funnier than the already-hilarious Portal 2 is because so many of the jokes (the majority of them being jabs at Chell) tend to fly over the heads of first-time players, only clicking on repeat playthroughs after her deep antagonism towards Chell has come to light (and even with the insults that don't call for multiple playthroughs, most of them require you to spend a few moments deciphering their actual meaning).
GLaDOS: "Unbelievable! You, subject name here, must be the pride of subject hometown here."
- In Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal, Omnicidal Maniac Big Bad Dr. Nefarious' robotic butler constantly gives these to his boss, who either ignores them or takes them as compliments.
Dr. Nefarious: Did you hear that, Lawrence?
Lawrence: You put the wit in twit, sir.
Dr. Nefarious: Yes, I do, don't I...
Dr. Nefarious: That moron could never hope to beat the likes of me!
Lawrence: If anyone can beat a moron at his own game, it's you, sir.
Lawrence: Even drooling imbeciles can achieve success in certain fields, sir. Mad Science, for example.
Dr. Nefarious: To think, they called me insane, Lawrence. We'll see who's insane when my mutant armies have exterminated all life on this planet!
Lawrence: Yes, that should clear things right up, sir.
- In The World Ends with You, Konishi manages it with Beat, but that's not too hard. Of course, Neku's right there to clarify things.
Beat: "You're too old! You can't keep up with us!"Konishi: "Yes, I can see that being a child comes naturally to you."Beat: "Damn straight!"Neku: "... Dude, she's making fun of you."
- Nintendo Power once described Back to the Future for the NES as having "that distinctive LJN style and an interesting 'timer'." The Angry Video Game Nerd naturally picked up on it being a Stealth Insult.
- Which is one of Nintendo Power's preferred methods of insulting games as they review because even when giving a very harsh rating they don't fully dismantle a game being published by Nintendo.
- In Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, many characters regularly make a V Sign. Zadornov is fond of using the knuckles-outward version when talking to Snake.
- In the ending, when Snake gives his speech about turning his back on almost everyone he's ever known, he's holding Zadornov's prosthetic hand in that same gesture.
- Batman: Arkham City: One of Hugo Strange's interview tapes with The Riddler begins with the professor saying that Riddler doesn't have to hack into the intercom to talk, and that he should come in person so they can have a discussion "as equals". Riddler scoffs at this and gloats about how he'll kill Batman and find out his Secret Identity. Hugo, (who already knows who Batman is), claims that he was mistaken about them being equals. A smug Riddler ignorantly agrees.
- Hazama of BlazBlue fame is known for dropping these from time to time, per his Faux Affably Evil nature. One particularly gratuitous incident is the end of Makoto's Arcade mode, where he gives the appearance of praising her information-gathering abilities. In reality, he is cursing her very name for almost ruining his plans again using said information-gathering abilities against him, and he only stops feigning his compliments when he activates his Azure Grimoire and tries to kill her.
- Guild Wars has the Asura call humans by the apparent nickname "bookah". Vekk eventually reveals that a bookah is the boogeyman of young Asura, notorious for its large size and stupidity. The fact that he explains this so readily when asked seems to indicate he doesn't think you'll make the connection.
- A clever one in Kid Icarus: Uprising: In Chapter 20, before going to confront a possessed Palutena, Viridi chimes that it's time to save Palutena, to which Hades interjects: "'Save Palutena'? Don't you mean 'Crush Palutena'?" Pit replies: "Go home, Hades. Just...go home." Considering where home is for Hades...
- Punch-Out!! on Wii which Affectionately Parodies the nationality of every boxer in the game, jabs at Japan this way with Piston Hondo. He's shown to be the most stereotypical Japanese super-warrior who trains by catching swords and outrunning bullet trains, yet he's merely the lowest ranked boxer of the 2nd circuit who can't defeat the lumberjack who trains by chopping down trees and guzzling maple syrup.
- In Final Fantasy VIII, just before a mission to Dollet that doubles as a graduation exam for the See D candidates, Quistis wishes her students luck. Unlike many of these examples, Seifer actually understands the insult, and is not amused.
Quistis: Good luck.Seifer: Instructor... I hate it when people wish me luck. Save those words for a bad student that needs them, eh?Quistis: Very well. Good luck, Seifer.
- From Dragon Quest VIII, King Clavius's response to the Argon Heart Prince Charmles bought at the Bazaar. It goes completely over Charmles's head.
King Clavius: I accept this as proof of your true character.
- Little Busters!: At one point, Masato claims that Riki has gotten sick because he isn't muscular enough. Kengo tells Masato that he'll never have to worry about getting a cold, in reference to the Japanese saying that stupid people can't catch colds. Masato smiles and thanks him. A few lines later he does figure it out, though.
- Shortly after being summoned into Erfworld, Parson was told that he should address Stanley using some respectful title. He replied that, where he came from, the highest title of respect was "Tool". Stanley interpreted this as a reference to his quest to gain all the Arkentools for himself, and declared that henceforth he would be known as "Stanley the Tool" (thus making it a combined Stealth Insult and Insult Backfire).
- Not to mention a pun on Stanley's name.
- Used in this Awkward Zombie strip. The insulted characters do notice, but not until after the person handing out the insults leaves.
- Used in this Megatokyo strip, when Seraphim insults Asmodeus by saying "My partner's far sexier than you are", and he's still smiling because he thinks he's still up there. Little to his knowledge, the partner is Boo.
- In Irregular Webcomic!, a black market weapons dealer is trying to sell to Serron and Iki Piki. He says that a new weapon is a quantum leap above its predecessors. Iki Piki says that "quantum leap" actually means the smallest possible unit of change. When the dealer doesn't understand, Iki Piki says that his brain is obviously a quantum leap above primordial protoplasm. The dealer responds with "flattery will get you nowhere"
- An early Dominic Deegan strip has Luna greet her sister Amelia with a four-sentence greeting, beginning with the letters "S", "L", "U", and "T". Dominic catches on and snickers.
- When she needs to find a secret passageway in Girl Genius, Agatha muses that they just need to “Think like a diabolical, paranoid, amoral megalomaniac.” Cue Tarvek finding it right off the bat.
- Bobwhite. Ivy's response to Marlene's film comes across like she was trying to compliment Marlene but was insulting anyway.
Ivy: Marlene, I gotta say. I'm as surprised as anyone, but I think... I think I like it! I think it might not be terrible! You're like the little retarded kid who finally learned how to fly.
Marlene: Okay, no talking during the movie.
- Probably accidental example: the conclusion of "Abbygate". When Ctrl+Alt+Del creator Tim Buckley apologized for "accidentally" plagiarizing another artist's work (compare) the original artist was extremely gracious (him returning from a tropical vacation where he proposed to his girlfriend probably helped) and hoped Buckley's "little webcomic" becomes successful in the future. CAD is almost ten years old and one of the most well-known webcomics on the internet...
- Lampshaded in Basic Instructions:
Scott: I know Dune 's a bad movie, but I still enjoy it.
Rick: See, I don't get that.
Scott: You're my best friend.
Rick: I don't see how that's related.
Scott: I especially appreciate your ability to know when you've been insulted.
- Recognized by the insultee in Penny Blackfeather
Mrs. Blake: You'll like our hostess, Penny. Miss Quinn is just like you!
Miss Quinn: (appears) DARLINGS! Welcome!
Penny: Eccentric and badly dressed?
Mrs. Blake: Haha, ahem. Yes.
- In The Order of the Stick Malack seemingly makes one so stealthy even the readers didn't notice, when he comments that "You don't spend time with a general of Tarquin's calibre without learning a few things about attrition", which under the circumstances taken as saying that he's a skilled general experienced at draining an enemy's resources with minimal losses. Later events and author comments suggest that what he actually meant is that Tarquin's military tactics are restricted to We Have Reserves and Zerg Rush, so every battle is won by attrition when he's in charge.
- Acts of Gord, Book of Annoyances, Chapter 3;
Gord: I'm sorry, I'm afraid I subscribe to the theory of intellectual osmosis. As such, I must now cease our conversation and move away from you before my intelligence begins to drop. Good day.
- From the pilot episode of Space Janitors:
Darby: "...One of these days, I'm going to be somebody someone's gonna want to shoot at."Mike: "Hey, if it's any consolation, I already think you should be shot."
- All but reduces Hiei to tears in Yu Yu Hakusho Abridged when he fails miserably to insult Kuwabara.
- In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, the song "Everyone's A Hero" by Captain Hammer is sung in an inspiring fashion while being filled with contemptuous comments towards his audience.
Everyone's a hero in their own way
Everyone's got villains they must face
They're not as cool as mine
But folks you know it's fine to know your place
Everyone's a hero in their own way
In their own not-that-heroic way
- In the web video Esther with Hot Chicks, comedian Esther Povitsky interviewed model Cailin Russo:
Esther: Cailin, how can I be hot like you?Cailin: [Pauses, stares at Esther as if stuck for an answer] Uuuum, well...everyone is hot, you know, everyone is beautiful in their own way, and it's really just the inner beauty that—Esther: How does it feel knowing that you're so pretty that no-one cares what you say?
- See here and there on this very Wiki. For example, in the Film section of Pragmatic Villainy:
The Prophecy featured a pragmatic Lucifer (played by Viggo Mortensen) who has the angelic habit of perching atop things like a bird. Satan saves the main cast from an evil Gabriel, who was on a rampage against mankind. His own selfish motives being "we don't need another hell up there".
* Which is almost repeated in Constantine, down to the name of the rebel angel. However, The Prophecy could have been based on or inspired by the Hellblazer series.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series: Florence gets a great one in Marik Plays Slender:
Marik: You like stupid things, Bakura.
- In SF Debris Chuck claims that Janeway's fiance Mark gave her a copy of Dante's Inferno as a way of saying that the idea of marrying her puts him in mind of experiencing all the torments of the damned. Note that only the explanation is his invention; why on earth anyone would give that book as an engagement present otherwise is a mystery that Star Trek: Voyager does not explain.
- Critical Role Percy plays a fantastic game of Politeness Judo with the Briarwoods. They tell a story about how they let the de Rollo family stay with them during a storm. Percy, being the last of the de Rollo line, knows that five years later de Rollo family let the Briarwoods stay in their home, and the Briarwoods killed all of them. Percy then raises a toast to "gracious hosts" - and everyone knows who he's really talking about.
- In The Simpsons episode "The War of the Simpsons," Homer has a talk with Bart, who saw him making a drunken fool of himself the previous night.
Homer: I'm sorry it happened, and I just hope you didn't lose a lot of respect for me.
Bart: Dad, I have as much respect for you as I ever did or ever will.
Homer: Awww. (pats Bart's head)
- Given how often people get away with insulting Homer to his face in the most obvious possible ways, it would seem to be a wasted effort.
Homer: Son, one day you're gonna be a great father.Bart: Awww, and someday you will be one, too.
- At the end of the "Little Big Girl" episode, after Bart has just narrowly avoided a high pressure marriage proposal by Darcy (guest voice Natalie Portman), he manages to sneak one of these past Homer:
- King of the Hill has a pretty good one when Cotton admits to Hank that Hank is a better father than he was. It comes out as equal parts Crowning Moment of Heartwarming and hilarious backhanded compliment.
Cotton: You ain't in competition with me. Hell, if it's a contest on who's the better daddy, you win! I mean, you made Bobby! All I made was you.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: after Sokka shows everyone his drawing of Appa, Toph tells him it looks just like the real thing to her. It takes Sokka a second to get the inherent sarcasm of this statement, what with her being blind.
Sokka: Thanks I worked really... Why do you feel the need to do that?
Aang: You know, Zuko, I don't care what anyone says about you; you're pretty smart.
- Aang delivers an unintentional one to Zuko after he manages to outsmart the Sun Stone. Made even better that Zuko doesn't realize it right away.
- Zigzagged in an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987), where Shredder tells Rocksteady and Beebop that his new robotic attack drone is named after them; he calls it "the Knucklehead".
- Sponge Bob Square Pants: Squidward in "Band Geeks":
- "I really expected better of you people. I guess I'm a loser for that too."
- From The Looney Tunes Show:
Yosemite Sam: Are you trying to make me look like a fool?Bugs Bunny: You don't need me to make you look like a fool.Yosemite Sam: You're darn right I don't!
- From the The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh episode "The Piglet Who Would Be King":
Pooh: I cleverly put [my honey] where it's safe from honey-nappers...right in here! [pats stomach]
Rabbit: Sometimes, Pooh Bear, you really amaze me.
Pooh: Why, thank you, Rabbit!
- Kick does this to Brad in the pilot episode of Kick Buttowski.
Brad: "Mom and dad said I watch you good they'll let me take my driver's test again!"Kick: "...Fifth time's the charm."
- In Family Guy, Brian manages to get Lois to look over his old script for a TV pilot. When Lois finally reads it, she says that it was so good she immediately started checking online to see where he'd ripped it off from, and was pleasantly surprised to learn it was original. This is also a Call Back to Brian's disaster of a novel Faster Than the Speed of Love, which was a rip-off of the Iron Eagle seriesnote .
Men: We know how to be friends!
- This cutaway joke, in which two women having lunch at a cafe exchange bitchy insults about each other's appearances disguised with cheerful friendliness. It then crosses over to two men also having lunch at the same place, at which point one of the men... sincerely compliments the other's tie, which the other accepts gratefully.
- "Dan VS Canada" takes a fair number of shots at the United States disguised as jokes about Canada.
Dan: Canada sucks! They still have all their trees!
- The Penguins of Madagascar subverts this with Skipper describing someone exactly like him, then Marlene calls him out on it. The subversion occurs when Private tells her that Skipper's a thousand times worse than that meaning it as an actual compliment, but it may actually turn out to be an Insult Backfire as Skipper thanks him for it.
- Could have been attempted at the end of South Park's final episode from Season 18, "#HappyHolograms". It looks like Stan is about to summon Mr. Hankey, since this is a Christmas episode and the season is full of callbacks to earlier episodes. But the real-life PewDiePie instead appears and takes the role of Mr. Hankey to teach everyone a lesson. The implication is of course that PewDiePie is just another piece of shit.
- A common Stealth Insult among journalists and news analysts against each other is "He/she refuses to let the facts get in the way of a good story." (Think about it.)
- IT people have a number of Stealth Insults on hand for venting about difficult customers:
- Saying that the main problem with the system is BIOS. As in, Blind Idiot Operating the System.
- Saying that this appears to be a PEBKAC issue. Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair.
- Referring to an ID-10-T error code.
- Complaining about Layer 8 (or higher) of the OSI model.
- Referring to a PICNIC type issue: Problem In Customer, Not In Computer.
- There is a picture of Hillary Rodham Clinton shaking hands with a soldier while the soldier is flashing a downwards peace sign with his other hand. This hand gesture means "I am doing this against my will."
- A former student of Nicholas Murray Butler (who was then the president of Columbia University) was asked to contribute a piece to Poetry magazine. He obliged... with a poem in which the first letter of each line spelled out the statement "Nicholas Murray Butler Is A Horse's Ass".
- This creative headstone shows what happens when your girlfriend and your wife meet up after your death but before the carving of your monument.
- 19th century French theatre actor Frédérick Lemaître, angered by the noisy audience, called them "imbéciles" (idiots) before leaving the stage. The audience got quite angered and the theatre director order Lemaître to apologize. He did so, by saying "Je vous ai traités d'imbéciles. C'est vrai! Je vous fais des excuses. J'ai tort!" ("I called you idiots. That's true! I apologize. I'm wrong!")
- Similarly, Winston Churchill was once forced to apologize for accusing another politician of lying in Parliament. His "apology"? "I called the Right Honourable Gentleman a liar it is true and I am sorry for it. Punctuate that sentence any way you like."
- The sentence "See you next Tuesday!" is used as a sneaky way to reference Country Matters because the four words sounds like the four letters that make up the offensive word.
- The phrase "If you see Kay..." is a way to covertly drop an F-bomb, since it sounds like you're spelling out the word.
- Dorothy Parker, Oscar Wilde and William F. Buckley were all masters/mistress of this.
- After a public dispute between Robert Hooke and Isaac Newton, the latter wrote an open letter of apology to the Royal Society. It contained what became a famous quote of his "If I have seen further than most it is by standing on the shoulders of giants" (and not twisted little hunchbacks like Hooke).
- When the USS Pueblo was captured by North Korea and its crew taken prisoner, its sailors were photographed to show off how well they had been taken care of. The sailors found a creative way to get their message through: many of them flipped the finger,◊ telling their North Korean captors that the gesture was a "Hawaiian good luck sign." Needless to say, the North Koreans were not happy with them once they found out.
- "Hawaiian Good Luck Sign" is still a popular euphemism for it in some regions.
- Pueblo's captain, Commander Lloyd Bucher, was tortured by the North Korean forces, who eventually succeeded in forcing him to confess. However, to quote The Other Wiki, 'none of the Koreans knew enough English to write a confession, so they had Bucher write it himself. They verified the meaning of his words, but failed to catch the pun when he said "We paean (paean meaning a fervent expression of joy or praise) the DPRK. We paean the Korean people. We paean their great leader Kim Il Sung".' Another quote from the confession: "[We] beseech the Korean people to forgive our dastardly deeds unmatched since Attila."
- California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill authored by one of his political opponents... with a veto message in which the first letter of each line spelled out "Fuck You".
- A Jester once compared King John of England (in other versions, John’s mediocre son Henry III) to Jesus. He said that Jesus had the same wisdom he had as a child as he did as a grown man. The King had the same wisdom as a grownup as he did as a child.
- Before the 2010 World Cup, a network analyst stated "You can't underestimate the USA's chances against England!" The United States played them to a draw in that match. So...
- Insulting someone using a foreign slang could count too, if the person you're insulting doesn't know what it means.
- The same also applies to gestures as well. Such as giving a backwards V-sign in the UK or giving the thumbs up in certain Muslims countries.
- At Stalag Luft 3, where the events dramatized in The Great Escape took place, prisoners called the guards "Goons", telling them that it stood for "German Officer Or Noncom."
- In a February, 2011 interview on Al Jazeera, a spokesman for the Libyan government was telling the reporters what was really happening in Libya so poorly that off-screen crew members could be heard laughing at the absurdity of his claims. The two reporters conducting the interview kept their composure despite the hilariously incompetent attempts to deny, spin, fold and mutilate the truth, and at the end of the interview one, with an absolutely deadpan expression, thanked the spokesman and said that he was a perfect representative of the Libyan government.
- Sarah Silverman, the Don Rickles of the backhanded compliment.
- There's also the time that the Band of the Welsh Guards, after some protest, did decide to play a song to greet King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. The song they chose? The Imperial March.
- Argentinian former-president Carlos Menem was loved during his time as president, but hated afterwards due to all the corruption he was linked to. In some sort of way, think of him as Argentina's Richard Nixon. In 2011 he went to vote, and the guy who was supposed to receive him made a gesture that's popularly believed to protect you from jinx (which is touching your left testicle). See it yourself.◊
- Not long after the Tiananmen Square protests, someone wrote a poem that, on the face of it, seemed to praise the Chinese government. It was even featured in the People's Daily. Not long after, it was discovered that if you took the characters going diagonally, it read "[Prime Minister] Li Peng must resign to appease the anger of the people."
- The Chinese are actually masters of stealth insults, or at least that's how they've presented themselves. Take, for instance, this widely publicized curse:
- The Chinese language has a useful tool for stealth insults - the intonation (pitch) of a syllable affects the meaning of the word, often quite dramatically. For example, the phrase "grass mud horse" becomes "fuck your mother" if said with different intonation.
- Armenian Radio jokes are all about this trope.
Q: What is chaos?
Armenian Radio: We do not comment on national economics.
Q: Is it true that there is freedom of speech in the Soviet Union the same as there is in the USA?
Armenian Radio: In principle, yes. In the USA, you can stand in front of the Washington Monument in Washington, DC, and yell, "Down with Reagan!", and you will not be punished. In the Soviet Union, you can stand in the Red Square in Moscow and yell, "Down with Reagan!", and you will not be punished.
- The People's Republic of China enforces its world monopoly of pandas by denying foreign zoos a panda unless they sign a document that says that the panda and all its descendants belong to the Chinese government and they are only on loan. In one occasion, however, China gifted a couple of pandas to Taiwan that were free of this imposition, and was met with protests from the Taiwanese. The Taiwanese understood too well that this was the Communist Party's way to say that Taiwan is not a foreign country, but a part of the People's Republic of China.
- The deposed Kaiser Wilhelm II sent a congratulatory telegram to Adolf Hitler on June 17th, 1940, after the fall of France, which read: "Under the deeply moving impression of the capitulation of France I congratulate you and the whole German Wehrmacht on the mighty victory granted by God,in the words of the Emperor Wilhelm the Great in 1870: What a turn of events brought about by divine dispensation! " - basically the Emperor said in diplomatic language the Führer was an incompetent who only got lucky by the will of God. Hitler understood the subtext and got appropriately angry, but answered one week later in similar diplomatic, but hollow language.
Prince Otto von Bismarck.A faithful servant of Kaiser Wilhelm the First.
- Wilhelm II got one himself from Otto von Bismarck, who as Chancellor had had a good working relationship with Wilhelm's grandfather and predecessor, Kaiser Wilhelm the First, but was fired by Wilhelm II after two years of service. When Bismarck died ten years later, his headstone read:
- Arthur C. Clarke described one of his methods of responding to crank mail: sending a reply in barely-legible handwriting with key words scrawled in completely illegible squiggles (e.g. "Your [squiggle] is the greatest piece of [squiggle] I have ever seen.") so that the correspondent "did not know whether I was praising him to the skies or telling him to boil his head."
- Google, for awhile, had been working with the MPAA on trying to curb piracy via their search engine and had done quite a good job, chopping search results in half. The MPAA's response to that was "Everyone shares a responsibility to help curb unlawful conduct online, and we are glad to see Google acknowledging its role in facilitating access to stolen content". Google was quite incensed at that and broke ties with the MPAA and opted to work with the production companies separately.
- When a bad ex-employee puts you down as a reference while applying for a new job, it can put you in an awkward spot; you don't want to bad-mouth them and ruin them (or get sued), but you also don't want to leave the new employer without some warning. So often comments with double meanings are used, such as "I cannot recommend this person too highly", "He has made immeasurable contributions to our firm", "There is nothing you can teach a man like this", and "You’ll be lucky if you can get this person to work for you".
- As employment references in Germany are forbidden to be negative, a set of code compliments has formed. Examples would be "has a special empathy" for sexual harassment, "contributed with sociable kind to the working atmosphere" for alcoholism, "successfully delegated tasks" for laziness and so on.
- Related, in a way to circumvent Never Speak Ill of the Dead, British reporter Hugh Massingberd decided to employ Unusual Euphemisms that served as this. "Didn't suffer fools gladly" translated as "complete bastard", "gave colourful accounts of his exploits" meant "liar", "powerful negotiator" suggested "bully", and "tireless raconteur" signalled "crashing bore".
- Somebody in Texas got a license plate with 370HSSV printed on it. The state's DMV rejected it because it was considered "offensive". (If you don't get it, turn the plate's word upside down.)
- In the various queer communities, especially in black and Latino queer communities, stealth insults are raised to an art form, called "shade". As explained by Dorian Corey in the documentary "Paris is Burning", "Shade is I don’t tell you you’re ugly, but I don’t have to tell you because you know you’re ugly. And that’s shade."
- Done in this◊ one Facebook chat against someone complaining about people pushing their religion on their kids. More specifically, about a Muslim man named Islam while he himself is named Christian.
- "You'd struggle to pour water out of a boot with the instructions on the heel."
- This story about a Connecticut high school senior who says he is being kept from walking at his graduation ceremony because a quote he had printed in the school’s yearbook contained a hidden, profane message that upset school administrators. Namely:
“SMSA has taught me valuable lessons, such as Friendship, Unity, Community, Kindness, Youth Optimism and Understanding.”
- In 2014, composer Martin O'Donnell was fired from Bungie after he protested how they and Activision were hoarding away his symphonies written for Destiny, titled "Music of the Spheres". A year later, he started his own company called Highwire Games, whose site includes a bio linking to his previous work for Bungie. Clicking on the link to "Music of the Spheres" leads to a 404 "Page Not Found" on Bungie's website.
- A popular quip among academics and reviewers in various fields: "This book fills a much-needed gap in the literature." Another useful word is “provocative”, which means “everyone’s going to have fun rebutting the writer’s theories”.
- A more tragic one: After Nicole Simpson's death (her spouse O.J. Simpson was tried for her murder, and was acquitted), her sister opened a charity in her name to prevent domestic abuse.
- The fourteenth-century Hebrew polemical letter Do Not Be Like Your Fathers (Al Tehi ka-Avotekha), by Profiat Duran, purports to be a defense of Christianity against Judaism, and the Church at first took it as such. (It helped that the author, like the original recipient, was a Jew who'd chosen baptism over death during the 1391 anti-Jewish riots in Spain and Portugal.) However, Christian readers eventually realized the letter was one long Stealth Insult to their faith, and burned it in public.
Do not be like your fathers, who believed in one God from whose unity they removed any plurality. They erred indeed when they said, "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one" (Deuteronomy 6:4), when they understood this unity in its purest sense [...] Not so you! You shall believe that one can become three, and that three united make one.
- After the 2016 US election resulted in Michael Pence becoming Vice President, a flurry of controversy erupted due to his history of supporting conversion therapy. A few weeks after the election, Erie County introduced a bill to ban conversion therapy, named "Prevention of Emotional Neglect and Childhood Endangerment".
- A popular meme after Donald Trump's election was that Americans owed him the same respect that Trump gave to them or Republicans to Barack Obama — as in, none at all.