Wrong Insult Offence

"I was walking down the street the other day and this man actually called me a Chink. I was so mad! Chinks are Chinese. I'm Korean. I'm a Gook. If you're going to be racist, at least get the terminology correct."

A Wrong Insult Offence occurs when one character attempts to insult another and hurls what they think is an appropriate insult in the other character's face. The second character considers this and then calmly replies, listing all the reasons why that particular insult does not apply to them and helpfully suggesting a more appropriate insult they could use.

As a piece of characterization, this usually indicates that the insulted party does not take the insulter seriously. Alternatively, it could just indicate that the second party is a shocking pedant.

Bonus points if the insult they suggest is worse than the original one.

A Sub-Trope of Do Wrong, Right.

If someone objects to the spelling or grammar of the insult, but not the insult itself, that's You Make Me Sic.

Compare Insult Backfire, Insult Misfire, I Take Offence To That Last One.


Comic Books

Fan Works

Film - Animated
  • Monsters, Inc.
    Randall: Where is she, you little one-eyed crettin?
    Mike: Okay. First of all, it's cree-tin. If you're gonna threaten me, do it properly.
  • In Monster House, when the hero accidentally kills his neighbor in a fight (or so he thinks), his friend reassures him that he's not a murderer - after all, killing someone accidentally is called manslaughter.

Film - Live Action
  • From S.O.B.:
    Polly Reed: You're gonna let that shyster on?
    Dr. Irving Finegarten: I could sue you for calling me that, Polly! A shyster is a disreputable lawyer. I'm a quack!
  • In Gran Torino, this exchange occurs between Walt and Sue, a spunky teenaged member of the Hmong family who'd moved in next door, concerning an old stereotype about Asians eating dogs:
    Sue Lor: There's a ton of food.
    Walt Kowalski: Yeah, well just keep your hands off my dog.
    Sue Lor: No worries, we only eat cats.
  • Die Hard: Hans Gruber claims to be a terrorist, but is later revealed to be after 600 million dollars worth of bearer bonds.
    Mrs. McClane: After all your posturing, all your little speeches, you're nothing but a common thief.
    Hans: I am an exceptional thief, Mrs. McClane. And since I'm moving up to kidnapping, you should be more polite.
  • Robert Clayton Dean (Will Smith) in Enemy of the State, when he's called a "shyster" by his mob client:
    Actually, I believe the slur "shyster" is generally reserved for Jewish attorneys. I believe the proper slur for someone like myself would be "eggplant".
  • In the film Murder by Death, Milo Perrier objects to being called a Frenchie. He's a BELGIE!
  • The Wicker Man (1973):
    Sgt. Howie: It means that you, sir, are a pagan!
    Lord Summerisle: A heathen, conceivably, but not - I hope - an unenlightened one.
  • In Roxanne, (a setting-updated adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac) C.D. responds to a man calling him "Big Nose" with a Long List of 26 better insults he could have given.
  • Enchanted:
    Robert: You're crazy!
    Narissa: No. Spiteful, vindictive, and very large, but never crazy.
  • In Spider-Man, J. Jonah Jameson resents being accused of slander.
    JJJ: Slander is spoken; in print, it's libel.
  • Porky's: A stupid racist high schooler taunts a Jewish high schooler by talking about "wanting to go fly a kite." The Jewish kid calmly explains that the word he's looking for is "kike."
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One, when the villainous Bellatrix says that the heroic Dobby nearly killed her by saving his friends:
    Dobby: Dobby never meant to kill. Dobby only meant to maim or seriously injure.

  • In the first Sword of Truth book, a mob comes to Zedd's house intending to lynch him because he's a witch. He starts his dialogue with them by asking to clarify whether they want to kill him for sorcery, or simply demean him by calling him a girl.
  • 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.
  • In McAuslan In The Rough one of the pipe-sergeants is recalling a heroic predecessor; Piper Findlater, who earned a VC on the Afghan border when he stuck to his task under fire and wounded because, he said, he didn't want his regiment to be beaten by a pack of "beastly niggers". One of the listeners (quite enlightened for 1950s UK) complains that Findlater should not have said that, and the sergeant telling the story remarks "Nor he shouldn't, and you're right for once. They wass not niggers; they wass wogs".

Live-Action TV
  • An unfortunate example occurs in Fawlty Towers when the Major tells a story about how he took a woman to a cricket match, and she kept referring to the Indian players by the wrong racial slur.
  • From Sherlock: "I'm not a psychopath, I'm a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research."
  • From The Thick of It:
    Olly Reader: Malcolm, you're bullying me...
    Malcolm Tucker: How dare you! How dare you! Don't you ever, ever call me a bully... I'm so much worse than that.
  • From the Mark Hamill/Luke Skywalker episode of The Muppet Show:
    Luke Skywalker: Listen pal, we're on a mission. There's no way we're gonna be involved in some third-rate variety show!
    Kermit (deeply wounded): Second-rate variety show!
  • In the Mike & Molly episode "Fish for Breakfast", Carl's latest girlfriend (who thought she was going to a party) calls Mike and Vince (Mike's mother-in-law's fiance) as "two gay guys eating a banana split". Mike protests that he hasn't had a bite of the banana split.
  • iCarly: From "iStill Psycho":
    Carly: Nora... YOU'RE A NUTCASE!
    Nora: The proper term is "disturbed, lonely sociopath."
  • While covering the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash on The Colbert Report, Stephen made mention of an incident in which the fictitious pilot names "Sum Ting Wong", "Wi Tu Lo", "Ho Lee Fuk" and "Bang Ding Ow" were broadcasted on the news.
    Colbert: I don't care who confirmed these names! It is wrong! I mean, "Wi Tu Lo"? "Bang Ding Ow"? This is a Korean airline; those are Chinese names! That's racist, ok! And if you're going to do a racist joke, at least get the ethnicity right! Like Captain "Park Ma Plen Tu-Sun" or "Ha Yu Lan Dis Tang"!

New Media

  • Following an incident when a football supporter threw a banana at a black player, black comedian Nathan Caton did a monologue on The Now Show complaining about lazy racism. "I mean, if you threw a bottle of Reggae Reggae Sauce or a Nando's menu, I'd be offended, but I'd think you did some research!"

  • Older than Television: Cyrano de Bergerac had a very large nose, which a bit character insulted by calling it "rather large." Cyrano's reaction was to tell him that it is, but "rather large" was an absolutely pathetic excuse for an insult and go on to tell him various better ways to insult him. The Wishbone version went with:
    "'Your nose is so big, you should call a doctor and have it amputated!' Or how about, 'What do you keep in there, your pens or your whole writing desk?'"
    • Brian Hooker's translation of Rostand's version is awe-inspiring:
      Oh, no, young sir, you are too simple. Why, you might have said a great many things: why waste your opportunity? For example, thus: Aggressive: "Ay, sir, if that nose were mine, I'd have it amputated on the spot!" Practical: "How do you drink with such a nose? You must have had a cup made especially." Descriptive: "'Tis a rock, a crag, a cape — a cape? Say rather, a peninsula!" Inquisitive: "What is that receptacle? A razor case or a portfolio?" Kindly: "Ah, do you love the little birds so much that when they come to see you, you give them this to perch on!" Cautious: "Take care! A weight like that might make you top-heavy!" Eloquent: "When it blows, the typhoon howls, and the clouds darken!" Dramatic: "When it bleeds ... the Red Sea." Simple: "When do they unveil the monument?" Military: "Beware! A secret weapon!" Enterprising: "What a sign for some perfumer!" Respectful: "Sir, I recognize in you a man of parts. A man of ... prominence!" Or, Literary: "Was this the nose that launched a thousand ships?" These, my dear sir, are things you might have said, had you some tinge of letters or of wit to color your discourse. But wit? Not so, you never had an atom. And of letters, you need but three to write you down: A, S, S. (Helpfully, to the other's dumbfoundedness:) Ass!

Video Games
  • Saints Row: The Third. Phillipe Loren is not French, he is Belgian... and pushing this ends up becoming a BIG MISTAKE.
    Boss: Ah damnit, I should have made a Belgian Waffle joke...

Web Comics

Western Animation
  • The Looney Tunes Show: In "That's My Baby'', Bugs calls Daffy 'a bummer' after he refuses to go to lunch with him and Porky. Daffy's response is "No. Porky's the bummer. I'm a jerk."
  • In the Looney Tunes short "Muscle Tussel", Daffy takes offense at his girlfriend calling him a "scrawny little nine-pound weakling", because "I'm obviously a scrawny little ten pound weakling."
  • Happens in Voltron where Allura insults the evil Prince Lotor and Lotor does feel insulted...but for the wrong reasons.
    Allura: You're a monster, just like your father!
    Lotor: That old fool?! Why, I'm twice the monster he is!
  • Winx Club gives us this:
    Mirta: You're mean!
    Icy: Mean? Try diabolical!
  • Kim Possible: This exchange from "Clothes Minded":
    Shego: Huh, pretty impressive for a college reject.
    Drakken: Hey! College dropout, Shego. They let me in, I let myself out.

Real Life
  • When King Charles II's mistress Nell Gwynn was mistaken for the Duchess of Portsmouth (another of Charles' mistresses), a crowd started calling her a Catholic whore and attacking her carriage. Nell stuck her head out and corrected the mistaken commoners, "Good people, you are mistaken. I am the Protestant whore." The crowds started cheering and escorted her carriage out of the area.
  • When the Miami Dolphins were a successful football team in the 1980s and 90s, "Squish the fish" was a rallying cry of their rivals. Miami fans were quick to point out that dolphins are mammals.
  • Anti-racist activist Tim Wise is known for saying that if you're going to be racist, at least be consistent: "I just don't want a moving target." For example, if you're going to say that Mexicans are lazy, don't also complain about illegal Mexican immigrants taking all the jobs.

Alternative Title(s):

Wrong Insult Offense