Follow TV Tropes


Insult Backfire / Real Life

Go To

  • Post-Civil War America suffered from a rash of corrupt Republicans in the White House and corrupt Democrats in the cities. Cartoonist Thomas Nast was so disgusted he drew cartoons portraying Republicans as giant elephants fat on their embezzled dollars and Democrats as stubborn donkeys. Over the years, the animals became the two parties' unofficial mascots and have lost all negative connotations.
    • The use of the donkey for Democrats as an insult goes back a little further than this, to the 1820s and 1830s. Back then, the opposing party, the Whigs, used the donkey label as an insult, because, to their largely urban voting base, the donkey was a comic figure, associated with stupidity (hence words like "jackass", "dumbass", and "asinine", originating when "ass" still referred to donkeys in the US). This backfired because the donkey was actually a very useful, dependable animal, particularly for farmers — then the Democrats' major voting base.
  • Advertisement:
  • In its early days, the baseball team of California State University, Long Beach (better known as Long Beach State) was called "dirtbags" because financial circumstances forced it to practice on an all-dirt infield. The insult was re-purposed to be a reflection of hard work and hard-nosed play. It is now an unofficial nickname for the (highly successful) team.
  • When a critic of the Catholic Church says things like "the Catholic Church has not changed in 2000 years and is completely out-of-touch with the world," it's supposed to be an insult. Except that many Catholics take that as a compliment, since it means that the Church has remained faithful to the original teaching of her Lord for 2000 years and has managed to not be corrupted by the world.note 
  • Other Real Life examples include labels such as Gothic, Baroque, Impressionist, Christian, Methodist, Mormon, Puritan, Fauvist, Cubist, and Prime Minister. They all started out as insults but were adopted by the targets as their own.
    • Similarly, the pretty much universal "Tory" for British Conservatives originally meant something like "Papist Irish Bandit". The less well known today, but still embraced "Whig" for a Liberal meant "Puritan Scots Pleb".
    • "Puritan" was also an insult to begin with, then was accepted by those it targeted. And now is back to being an insult again, thanks to H. L. Mencken's success in equating it with "uptight, no-fun moralizer." The label is actually kind of unfair, since relatively few Americans nowadays profess the Congregationalist or Calvinist brand of the Christian faith. (Unless you reside in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area, that is. Or you're Presbyterian, which is an offshoot of Calvinism. Or part of the growing "New Calvinist" movement in American evangelicalism, which includes a significant faction within the Southern Baptist Convention.)
    • Advertisement:
    • Modern-day Baptists are descendants of a sect derisively labeled "anabaptists", or re-baptizers, by the Catholics. This was due to their rejection of the practice of infant baptism, thus requiring any converts from Catholicism to be baptized again.
    • Baroque still retains its negative meaning, though, and has even expanded it beyond architecture metaphorically.
    • Transcendentalism was so named because detractors claimed that its followers transcended sanity and reason.
    • The different schools of Communism/Socialism. Marxism was originally "scientific socialism" (as opposed to Christian socialism) and was later adopted by many Marxists. Same went with Stalinism and Trotskyism. Stalin labeled himself a "Marxist-Leninist" with Trotsky calling his supporters "Stalinists". Stalin called Trotsky's supporters "Trotskyists" while Trotsky called himself a "Bolshevik-Leninist".
  • The origin of the word "Yankee" is not certain, but some believe that it comes from a Dutch word meaning "hick or "rube". Americans eventually adopted it as an inoffensive word to refer to themselves before it got mixed up in The American Civil War and became polarizing again. In an inversion of the trope, many foreigners still use it or the shortened "yank" as a generic word for Americans, though some Americans might take it as an insult for reasons quite unrelated to its original offensiveness.
  • When around 250 Dutch nobles presented a list of grievances to the Spanish ruler of the Netherlands, one of her councillors expressed surprise that she was worried about "these beggars" (ces gueux)note , which became geuzen in Dutch. Less than a decade later, the watergeuzen (Water Beggars) had proceeded to seize several key cities in the north, raid several Spanish fleets, and set off a full-scale religious and political rebellion against the Spanish crown that would last eighty years before ending in Dutch independence.
    • Thanks to this incident, Insult Backfire has its own word in Dutch: geuzennaam: "beggar's name", which is used to indicate reappropriations such as these.
  • Historically, new but unpopular scientific ideas were given pejorative names by the people intent on adhering to the status quo, and then happily adopted by the people proposing the new idea. Many terms most of us have heard in school came about that way, such as imaginary numbers or pathological cases.
    • That is also how the Big Bang was named. The term was coined by Fred Hoyle, a proponent of the competing steady-state hypothesis.
    • Similarly, Schrödinger's Cat was originally supposed to demonstrate how absurd the Copenhagen Interpretation was.
    • Likewise, the Mpemba Effect (that under certain circumstances warmer water will freeze before colder water) was originally a pejorative term.
    • There are also the lesser known ideal numbers, which were later just called ideals.
    • Irrational numbers are not an example, however. In this case "irrational" is not a pejorative; it is a literal description: "not expressible as a ratio".
      • Imaginary numbers, on the other hand, are a straight example.
  • Black was traditionally a derogatory phrase when applied to African-Americans, with "Negro" regarded as the more proper and acceptable term. This was more or less inverted in the 1960s.
    • The innocuous usage of variants of "nigger" by African-Americans appears to have this trope's intent.
    • Similarly, it's like that in wide parts of Europe, such as Germany. "Black" (Schwarz/Schwarzer/Schwarze; neutral, male and female respectively) is generally accepted, as is "Negro" (which can also be "Neger"). "Nigger", of course, is seen as an insult no matter the context, and thus not used in polite conversation.
    • In fact, "Black" is now the term most cultural critics and leaders prefer over "African-American," due to it being more inclusive and easier to say phoenetically. It is also advised that "Black" be capitalized in writing when used in this context.
  • The word queer, once an insult leveled against homosexuals, has largely been adopted by the community for self-description.
    Homer Simpson: Yeah, and that's another thing! I resent you people using that word! That's our word for making fun of you! We need it!
    • Similarly, many gay women choose the word "dyke" as self-definition and find "lesbian" an insulting or dirty word. Similar examples exist in various languages.
    • Ellen DeGeneres initially preferred to called a "gay woman" rather than "lesbian", as she considered the latter term at the time to be unintentionally alienating to straight people, and, more simply, didn't like the way it sounded to the ear.
    • Elio Di Rupo, Prime Minister of Belgium 2011-present, is openly gay. He spontaneously came out in 1996 (he was at the time a Vice-Prime Minister and a member of the federal and Wallonian Cabinets), he was being hounded by journalists in the street. When he heard one of them yelling "People are saying you're homosexual!", he turned on his heels and snapped "Yes, so what?".
    • The pink and black triangles were initially the identification symbols for gay prisoners at Nazi concentration camps.
    • Conservative commentators used the "gay agenda" as a bogeyman to attack non-negative depictions of homosexuality in media. Pro-LGBTQ people then began using "promoting the gay agenda" to refer to instances of Ho Yay that they enjoyed.
    • Back in the 2000's and early 2010's, Gen Z and younger Millennials used to use homophobic slurs (mainly "gay") as an insult, in a similar way to how "retard" was abused as an insult. Since members of these demographics are older and societal values are more progressive now, they either use "gay" to describe themselves as they've learned their sexuality/orientation since then or it's meant as a sarcasm (likely to make fun of people who are genuinely homophobic as well as to make fun of themselves for having thought those kinds of jokes were okay and cool). Hopefully.
      • Nowadays, the "ur mom gay" meme is an example of a joke insult, but it can hilariously backfire (if the joker wasn't seriously homophobic about it, of course) if the person in question's mother is indeed LGBT, especially if she's currently romantically involved with another woman at the moment or even married to another woman.
  • Redneck, though still mainly used pejoratively, has increasingly been embraced as a proud self-identifier in recent years (as in Gretchen Wilson's country hit "Redneck Woman", for example). The "You Might Be a Redneck" jokes made famous by Jeff Foxworthy probably contributed to this as the jokes were based around showing how similar other people can be to "Rednecks".
    • Amusingly, it was originally an endearing term. Some reporter back at the turn of the 20th century coined this term when describing them because of the red bandanas they wore on their necks coming to fight in court for their right to form worker unions.
  • In World War II, where General Rommel called the Australian soldiers in Libya 'the rats of Tobruk' (Tobruk being a location in the east of Libya). Guess what nickname the Australian soldiers wore as a badge of pride...
    • The source of the term was actually the Nazi broadcaster Lord Haw-Haw, mocking the Aussies defences as 'rat holes'. He also named the 'Scrap iron Flotilla', who kept the garrison supplied, in a similar fashion; his success as a propagandist generally left something to be desired.
  • During the Height of the Jack Thompson phenomenon, Mr. Thompson started labeling people who played video games "Pixelantes". Needless to say, it didn't take long before the T-shirts emblazoned with "I'm a Pixelante" started showing up.
  • An interview with the famous liberal psychologist Karl Menninger on the NewsHour ended with the question "Does it bother you when you're called a bleeding heart"? He responded, "Not in the least. I'm flattered."
    • On the other side of the aisle, there are conservatives who have proudly adopted the label of the "vast right-wing conspiracy," a label originally applied to conservatives by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton as an insult.
  • Have you self-identified as a pirate lately due to your habit of downloading illegal files on the internet? Thank the RIAA; they dredged that label out of the bins of history to try and tar the public perception of copyright infringers. People wanting to be called pirates now include political parties in several European states. Seriously, who wouldn't want to be called a pirate?
    • The revival of this term goes back at least to 1964, when the pop-music boom in Britain was just starting but on the BBC, which had the monopoly on radio, fans were lucky if they got an hour a day. Hence to fill this gap in the market, numerous unlicenced commercial stations set up in international waters just off the British coast; it's probably the combination of maritime+dodgy that caused them to be dubbed "pirate" stations, although the term was also used in a non-marine context in the 1967 "psychedelic SF" novel The Probability Pad.
  • "Geek" has undergone a long history. Initially used to refer to a carny sideshow act, (The connotation of an expert in a very limited field, such as chasing chickens) then used insultingly to refer to intelligent but obsessed people. That is until geeks, like pretty much everyone else in this section, took the insult and started wearing it as a badge of honor. These days, magazines throw terms like 'geek chic' around without even the slightest tinge of irony. Ditto with "nerd."
    • It's not too hard to figure out, you see it everyday; And those that were the farthest out have gone the other way; You see them on the freeway, It don't look like a lot of fun; But don't you try to fight it—"An idea who's time has come." Don't tell me that I'm crazy, don't tell me I'm nowhere: Take it from me—It's hip to be a square!—Huey Lewis (and the News)
    • Taken to the extreme with Geek Pride Day (May 25), originally a day for the Spanish friki.
    • At this point it's been so watered down that it's functionally just another word for "fan", with the sole exception of sports fans never being called geeks (although baseball fans push that envelope at times).
  • There is a button from the early '70s that says "Hi. I'm an effete, impudent intellectual snob", a reference to VP Spiro Agnew's claim that the antiwar movement was led by an "effete corps of impudent snobs."
  • In the 1994 Gubernatorial race in Minnesota, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party put out a campaign advertisement excoriating the obstructionism of Republican then-governor Arne Carlson, set to a strangely upbeat and peppy tune. "That Darn Arne!" became more popular among Carlson's supporters than among his opponents, and he cruised to victory over DFLer John Marty in the general election.
  • Many Conservative attacks to Liberal Cities/Institutions have been adopted as well. "The People's Republic of Boulder/Austin/Santa Monica/Seattle" "Berzerkley" (The University of California-Berkeley), "Moscow on the Mississippi" (Minneapolis, Minnesota or specifically the University of Minnesota), "Mad City" (Madison, Wisconsin), and so on.
    • Rogue's Island!
    • In Ithaca, New York, we're "Ten Square Miles Surrounded By Reality." Cornell students were once called "Heathens on the Hill."
    • Heck, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, you can buy stickers practically anywhere that say "The People's Republic of Cambridge."
  • When the New Zealand rugby team toured England in the early 20th century, an English newspaper commented negatively on their "somber all-black outfits". They have been known as the All Blacks ever since.
  • When Jon Stewart appeared on The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly claimed that 87% of Daily Show fans were intoxicated while watching and repeatedly referred to them as "stoned slackers". The fans adopted it as a Fan Community Nickname and now there are "I'm one of Jon's stoned slackers" T-shirts.
  • In Australian Rules Football, North Melbourne were nicknamed the "Shinboners" due to their reputation for kicking opposition players in the shins. Their fans proudly adopted the name.
    • Geelong's nickname of the Cats came from a story about a black cat crossing the ground, and Geelong winning the match.
    • In American sports, many teams on both the professional and Collegiate level received their nicknames this way. For example: the Pittsburgh Pirates received their name after they "pirated" a player from the folding Player's League, the Philadelphia (now Oakland) Athletics mascot became an elephant after Giants Manager John McGraw called Connie Mack's team and the new American League a "white elephant," and the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish are said to be named for the contemporary stereotypes of the Catholic college.
  • Slight Variation: Abraham Lincoln, when called "two-faced", reportedly fired back "If I had two faces, do you think I'd be wearing this one?"
  • In 1848, Abraham Lincoln used the term Michigander to insult Lewis Cass (a Democratic politician and former Territorial Governor of Michigan who ran for President that year against Zachary Taylor, on whose behalf Lincoln was campaigning); "gander" was at that time slang for "dullard." People in Michigan now use it to refer to themselves—and many will be offended if you use another term. Incidentally, when Lincoln ran for President himself, the "Michiganders"—still proud to call themselves that—voted for Lincoln. Twice.
  • Andrew Jackson was called a jackass by his opponents when he was campaigning. He liked it so much he used it in his campaign posters. Thus, the donkey was born as a symbol of the Democratic Party.
  • In youth the eccentric Greek philosopher Diogenes of Sinope was banished from his hometown. He later remarked: "The Sinopans have condemned me to banishment. I condemn them to stay at home!"
  • Jesus freak.
    • 'Christian' was originally a less than complimentary term bestowed on the followers of Jesus by the pagans. You'll notice that for most of Acts the text refers to 'The Way'.
    • "Jesus freak" kind of wavers in and out of insultdom depending on who's saying so, and how they define it (and whether they define that definition as an insult when they address themselves that way). Sometimes it's used interchangeably with "Christian", while other times it's a Christian who is so into being one that they tend to belabor the point, usually with a side order of offhanded insults towards non-Christians and a tall, frosty glass of thinking their faith makes them immune to criticism. It is rarely used in its original sense, i.e. a Christian hippie (like, an actual '60s hippie who also believed in Christianity, on general Jesus Was Way Cool grounds).
    • Freak itself used to be a fairly nasty insult. But over time its meaning has mutated and then softened from "anything out of the ordinary" to "a person with a genetic abnormality" to "a weirdo" and finally to "an aficionado of something" (which is at worst neutral).
  • "Chicano" was originally a derogatory term for the American children of Mexican immigrants, meant as a reminder that they did not quite belong in either the U.S. or Mexico. Chicanos eventually adopted the name as a symbol of pride for their heritage.
    • Same thing with the term "Nuyorican" for American (and specifically New York) children of Puerto Rican ancestry; many, including Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Jennifer Lopez (who named her production company "Nuyorican Productions") wear the term as a badge of pride.
  • Occasionally you will see a bumper sticker or t-shirt proudly declaring that the owner is a "tree-hugging dirt worshiper".
  • When President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe (Hyperinflation dude, also responsible for turning the country around from its high standard of living among Africa to its current state) was compared to Hitler, he had this to say: "This Hitler has only one objective: justice for his people, sovereignty for his people, recognition of the independence of his people and their rights over their resources? If that is Hitler, then let me be a Hitler tenfold."
  • The words "guy" and "dude" were both originally insults. The former referred to Guy Fawkes, a failed royal assassin. The latter was originally a clueless newbie on a ranch (possibly from the Irish word dúd, "fool").
  • Fan Wank. Many non-Brits understand what Fan Wank is; few understand what it means without the first few letters and many use it as an abbreviation. A few Brits, aware of what it means, have jokingly or otherwise mentioned their honour if someone assumes a claim is wank material. After all...
  • In World War I, the Kaiser commented on Britain's "contemptible little army", the BEF called themselves the old contemptibles in honour.
    • However, Wilhelm (who greatly admired the professionalism of the small British army) denied ever making such a statement and nobody ever came up with an original copy of the order in which is supposed to have been made. Apparently it was a British propaganda fabrication.
    • The same man, Kaiser Wilhelm II, was also subject to a strange inversion of this trope. After the Kaiser called for Germans intervening in the Boxer Uprising to make the Chinese remember them "like the Huns", British troops used "Hun" as a derogatory term for German soldiers during the First World War.
  • Australians have this reaction to comments about our country's origins as a Penal Colony. As one T-shirt put it, "Bet you wish your great-great-great-grandfather pinched a loaf of bread."
  • When Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the colonel in command of the all-black 54th Regiment during the American Civil War, died at Fort Wagner, he was stripped and buried with his men as an insult for daring to lead black troops, while the bodies of other Union officers were returned. His family, however, proclaimed that they were proud to know that he rests with his brave and devoted soldiers.
    Confederate General Johnson Hagood: "Had he been in command of white troops, I should have given him an honorable burial; as it is, I shall bury him in the common trench with the niggers that fell with him."
    Frank Shaw (Robert's father): "We would not have his body removed from where it lies surrounded by his brave and devoted soldiers... We can imagine no holier place than that in which he lies, among his brave and devoted followers, nor wish for him better company. What a body-guard he has!"
  • A snappy insult backfire is popularly attributed to Chinese premier Zhou Enlai during an exchange with his USSR counterpart Nikita Khrushchev. Although China and Russia were nominally allies, at the time relations between the two countries were very tense, particularly on the issue of who was adhering more closely to Communist principles.
    Khrushchev: The difference between the Soviet Union and China is that I rose to power from the peasant class, whereas you came from the privileged Mandarin class.
    Zhou: True. But there is this similarity. Each of us is a traitor to his class.
    • That anecdote had previously been at the beginning of the Cold War about Attlee's foreign minister Ernest Bevin (a former trade union leader) and Stalin's foreign minister Molotov.
  • The Labour Party, in an attack ad for the 2010 general election, released an ad depicting David Cameron as Gene Hunt with his Quattro, with the caption "Don't let him take Britain back into the 1980s". Obviously, Gene being the Memetic Badass he is, this led to tweets describing the poster as awesome and several Conservative campaign staffers going on the record wishing that they thought of it first. The Tories made their own version. David Cameron kicked his campaign off officially by closing his speech with the Tories' version.
    • Later, after Cameron became Prime Minister, Labour leader Ed Miliband compared him to Flashman...apparently not realising how popular the character is.
  • Danish avant-garde film director Lars von Trier was originally just named Lars Trier. One of his teachers at the Danish Film School added the "von" during a heated discussion, to mock his pupil's aloof, aristocratic style. Trier liked the sound of it and adopted it as his nom-de-guerre.
  • Author Steven Johnson wrote the book Everything Bad is Good for You, in which he described the increasing intellectual sophistication of popular culture as the Sleeper Curve, because everyone was reminded of that movie when he described it.
  • In the Furry Fandom, "furfag" is known as an insult. However, it's become something of an affectionate term when referring to other furries recently, especially those who are part of the LGBT community as well.
    • This is most likely caused by the various imageboards, where "<topic>fag" (eg furfag) can both be an insult (used by those who dislike the topic) as well as a term to refer to each other (used by those who discuss said topic), which in the latter case pretty much makes it this trope.
    • And of course, this disregards usage on /b/, where "<topic>fag" is essentially neutral.
  • In 2002, the then-editor of The Daily Telegraph, Campbell Reid, sent Media Watch host David Marr a dead fish; a replica of it is now awarded as the Campbell Reid Perpetual Trophy for the Brazen Recycling of Other People's Work. Known as "The Barra" and bearing the motto Carpe Verbatim, it is awarded annually for bad journalism and particularly plagiarism (a practice for which Reid was frequently criticised).
  • One famous one often told as involving Winston Churchill (although it now seems to be apocryphal):
    Bessie Braddock: You, sir, are drunk.
    Churchill: Bessie, you're ugly. And in the morning, I shall be sober.
  • Another one purportedly involving Churchill but in fact told as a joke in the early 20th century:
    Lady Astor: If you were my husband, I'd poison your tea.
    Churchill: If you were my wife, I'd drink it.
  • Yet another involving Churchill was a piece of Nazi Propaganda that featured a cropped picture of Churchill trying out a Tommy Gun. The propaganda, much like a wanted poster, made Churchill out to be some Badass gangster swaggering with his cigar and submachine gun... and Churchill loved it!
  • Benjamin Franklin got in on the act, as well, while walking through Paris (he was the American ambassador there at the time, and rather well-known):
    French Woman: (pointing to his ample stomach) Mr. Franklin, if that were on a woman, we'd know what to think.
    Franklin: Madam, an hour ago it was on a woman, and now what do you think?
  • In the 1993 Canadian federal election, an advertising firm hired by the Conservatives put out a political attack ad that made fun of Liberal leader Jean Chretien's appearance due to the Bell's Palsy paralysis he'd suffered since childhood on one side of his face. Aside from the sympathy this garnered Chretien and the resulting backlash against the Tories, the ad allowed Chretien to joke that at least he only talked out of one side of his mouth. What is the resulting backlash? Before the election they were the Government party with 169 members of Parliament. They only had 2 after the election. As The Other Wiki stated, "among the worst ever suffered by a governing party in the Western world."
  • A couple of examples above refer to it, but "bitch"note  is being taken back by women and used as something of an empowering slogan. Meredith Brooks' song "Bitch" and Missy Elliot's "She's a Bitch" seem to be where the move began.
    • And, incidentally, where it seemed to have stopped with the mainstream, although occasionally in a show or movie, if a woman is in a confrontation, you might hear her say something like "I'm the wrong bitch to mess with." Basically, the term only backfires when the woman wants to be aggressive and/or domineering (like an Alpha Bitch).
  • "Politically Correct, and Proud of It!"
    • "Politically Incorrect, and Proud of It!"
  • "The Iron Duke", the famous nickname of Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, was originally applied derisively by political opponents during his tenure as Prime Minister, after iron shutters were installed on Downing Street because of rioting, but later became absorbed into the mythology surrounding his career as a reference to his stern, quintessentially British resolve.
    • Another famous anecdote about Wellington: Someone tried to blackmail him with stories about his mistress. Wellington replied: "Just publish those stories and go to Hell!"
  • During World War II, the universal word for the Allied soldiers was "kichiku beihei" which translates literally as "barbarian American soldiers" or better as "dirty American devils" you can find the phrase in its original kanji on t-shirts made in America.
  • The United States Army and Marines are well known for their Interservice Rivalry and have sometimes used each other's names as insulting acronyms (for example, Marines sometimes claim that ARMY stands for "Ain't Ready for the Marines Yet"). Some members of the Army joked that USMC actually stands for Uncle Sam's Misguided Children... until of course the Marines proudly adopted the nickname for themselves.
    • My Ass Rides In Navy Equipment...Sir!
    • Muscles Are Required, Intelligence Not Essential.
  • In a similar manner to Wellington, notoriously divisive Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was nicknamed The Iron Lady by a Soviet newspaper in an article depicting her recent visit to the Soviet Union in a very derogatory manner. She liked the title and claimed it as her own.
    • This being a double mistranslation of her existing nickname of Iron Maiden, you can see why she considered it an improvement.
    • And considering that the Soviets were notorious for a certain other symbol made of iron, you'd think they'd shy away from employing that analogy.
  • Soviet Canuckistan. Embraced by many Canadians.
  • Here's a subtle, sartorial example: In early 20th-century Spain, many blue-collar workers in the big cities wore a dark blue one-piece garment (sort of similar to a prison jumpsuit) called the mono azul ("blue monkey"). The name mono azul was probably intended to humiliate and degrade the common laborer. But in the summer of 1936, after the people of Barcelona (a radically left-leaning city) revolted against their city government in reaction to General Francisco Franco's illegal attempt to seize power, Barcelonans of all classes who held communist sympathies began going out on the streets proudly wearing the mono azul as a sign of revolutionary egalitarianism; people who dared to still wear three-piece suits and hats could expect to be harassed, or worse. While they were at it, the Barcelonans also seized control of the city's taxicabs and buses, plastered vibrantly colored propaganda posters everywhere, and forced luxury hotels and five-star restaurants throughout the city to open their doors to the common people. George Orwell, the famed British author and social critic (and socialist) was on hand to view many of these dramatic changes, and he remarked that everything looked so alien that he couldn't even be sure if he was in Europe anymore.
  • "Peckerwoods" was originally a slur used by rich whites to insult the poor, and then co-opted by blacks to serve as a racial slur against white people in general. Now The Peckerwoods are among the most well-known white supremacist prison gangs, alongside the Aryan Brotherhood and the Nazi Lowriders.
  • In a pre-game interview in the 2011 NBA Eastern Conference First Round, Miami Heat forward LeBron James described their Game 5 (in which Miami was up 3-1 in the series against the Philadelphia 76ers) as "Just finishing our breakfast." In response, 76ers guard Lou Williams nicknamed his teammates after various breakfast items, such as Marreese Speights as "Fruit Salad", Thaddeus Young as "Hash Browns", Spencer Hawes as "Over Easy", and Andrés Nocioni as "Huevos Rancheros". Hawes also added that, "A lot of times people don’t finish breakfast."
  • There is some debate as to whether "There stands Jackson like a stone wall." was complimentary or not.
  • Older Than Feudalism: Diogenes was told he lived like a dog. Apparently, it appealed to him enough for his entire school to be called "dog-like" (cynics).
  • Author Jim Butcher tells the story of a creative writing teacher who he constantly clashed with, calling her way of writing boring, cliché and generic. He wrote a novel in her style to show how such a story would be; her response was that it would sell. The novel in question, of course, was Storm Front, the very first book in The Dresden Files; Butcher himself related this story as a way of admitting the Insult Backfire.
  • After several years of poor showings, Winnipeg's Football team the Blue Bombers (named after beer, of all things), met with large success in the 2011 season. After beginning to show their confidence on the field, opposing fans started talking about their swagger. Winnipeg promptly began referring to itself as Swaggerville.
    • Not any more; the Bombers then went and finished last in the CFL in 2012.
  • The C++ programming language was widely criticised back in its heyday; critics included Linus Torvalds, the founder of Linux. However, the criticisms levelled at it also contributed to its widespread use back in the nineties and early 2000s, and Bjarne Stroustrup, the designer of the language, acknowledges it:
    "The major cause of complaints is C++ undoubted success. As someone remarked: There are only two kinds of programming languages: those people always bitch about and those nobody uses."
  • Dick Cheney has been compared to Darth Vader. He essentially took it as being a combination of The Lancer, I Did What I Had to Do, and Evil Is Cool.
  • When Kevin Murphy replaced J. Elvis Weinstein as the voice of Tom Servo on Mystery Science Theater 3000, an angry fan sent him a banner that read "I HATE TOM SERVO'S NEW VOICE!" Murphy kept the banner as a souvenir and even hung it on his office wall. He also displayed it for the audience at a recent convention panel with the show's cast.
  • Alec Baldwin yelled at Greyhound in his tract against American Airlines for booting him off one of their planes. Greyhound's CEO proceeded to invite him on a Greyhound trip from New York to Boston as proof to him that, contrary to his claims in that tract, Greyhound isn't what they used to be, and that's a good thing.
  • Atheist high school student and activist Jessica Ahlquist campaigned to have her school remove a posted prayer. She was called an "evil little thing" by a state representative; her supporters created a college fund for her by selling T-shirts with this phrase on it.
  • One of the key factors in Dalton McGuinty's victory in the 2003 Ontario general election was the backfire from a rather bizarre insult, apparently from his primary opponent's campaign: "evil reptilian kitten-eater from another planet".
  • Barack Obama's 2012 campaign included a drive to take the term "Obamacare" and made it a positive nickname for the Affordable Care Act — right down to T-shirts and stickers made by the DNC emblazoned with the word.
  • To UsefulNotes.Objectivists and some libertarians, selfishness would be the fulfillment of free-market and individualist ideals, so they would react to being called selfish with pride. However, this doesn't apply to all libertarians equally, with some countering accusations of greed and selfishness by saying that they are simply okay with both selfishness and altruism as long as the actions they lead to are voluntary and non-coercive, and with others openly denouncing the more individualist wing of the movement and/or advocating for various private charities.
  • A popular anti-Japanese slur in China is 日本鬼子 (riben guizi, "Japanese demon"). Following an international dispute between the two countries in 2010 Japanese netizens noted that the slur looks like a Japanese girl's name, with 本 ("-moto") being a common family name component and 子 ("-ko") being a common female given name component. So, using the magic of Alternate Character Reading, they created the moe character Hinomoto Oniko, a Cute Oni Girl in traditional Japanese attire who became instantly popular on Japanese Image Boards and inspired an impressive amount of fanart, videos, and a VIPPERloid with her own image song. Chinese netizens were baffled at the way the slur was reappropriated, citing it as another example of the weirdness and craziness of Japan.
  • Jaffa Cakes, the commercial was originally a bit of an insult towards sweet tooths and a Scare 'Em Straight towards kids, but the kids who ate themselves into a chocolate coma looked so utterly fulfilled it completely ruined the point they were trying to make (sweets are bad). Eventually a company wound up making the fictional sweet into a real thing, which is very popular in the UK.
  • The term "McCarthyism" was embraced by Senator Joseph McCarthy, who chose to define it as "Americanism with its sleeves rolled." He had some success with this during his lifetime, but today "McCarthyism" is synonymous with its original intended meaning of "Witch Hunt."
  • One of the candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the open U.S. Senate seat from Texas in 1984 referred to another one, then-state senator Lloyd Doggett, as a "Little Leaguer", suggesting his bid wasn't to be taken seriously. James Carville, Doggett's campaign consultant, swiftly turned it around, having Doggett appear in commercials surrounded by actual uniformed Little League players and talking about how "someone needs to go to bat for all the Little Leaguers in Washington". He won the party's nomination that year; while he ultimately lost to Phil Gramm the increase in his profile got him elected to Congress later.
  • At the 1988 Democratic Convention Senator Ted Kennedy gave a speech wherein he mocked Republican candidate George H. W. Bush's supposed lack of involvement in President Ronald Reagan's administration by listing several incidents (some good, some bad) and after each asking rhetorically, "Where was George?" By the next afternoon Republican supporters were wearing T-shirts printed with the words "Dry, Sober, And Home With His Wife".
  • Speaking of Reagan: how could forget this classical exchange?
    Henry "Hank" Trewhitt of the Baltimore Sun: "You already are the oldest President in history, and some of your staff say you were tired after your most recent encounter with Mr. Mondale. I recall, yes, that President Kennedy, who had to go for days on end with very little sleep during the Cuba missile crisis. Is there any doubt in your mind that you would be able to function in such circumstances?"
    Ronald Reagan: "Not at all, Mr. Trewhitt and I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience."
  • Andrew Young, in addition to being a pioneer in the Civil Rights movement, served as Mayor of Atlanta, Congressman from Georgia, and US Ambassador to the UN. During Walter Mondale's presidential campaign in 1984 he said that it was being " by a bunch of smart-ass white boys who think they know it all." Cue T-shirt and cap vendors all over the country, "SAWB" was the acronym of the year.
  • When Richard I of England first was called "the Lionheart" after his incursion into Sicily during the Third Crusade, it was meant as an indictment of what was perceived as his merciless cruelty, more appropriate to a predatory animal than to a human being. In later years, it was seen as a honorific sobriquet.
  • For a while, people from Illinois would call people from Wisconsin "cheeseheads", in reference to that there wasn't much about Wisconsin except for dairy farms. Wisconsinites since have took to the name, including making hats out of foam that look like cheese (they're a staple at Green Bay Packer games).
  • The term "American exceptionalism" was originally an insult by Joseph Stalin, who claimed that the Americans believed themselves to be too good for Communism and went on to mock the idea. It has since been picked up and used by Americans who genuinely believe the USA is special compared to other countries.
  • During the 2012 US presidential election, conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh accused Obama of somehow manufacturing a hurricane that disrupted the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Comedian Mark Agee tweeted in response: "Do what you want, but I'll def vote for THE GUY WHO CAN CONTROL THE FUCKING WEATHER."
  • The term "meritocracy" was originally coined in an essay that satirized those who became successful through advantages of birth or circumstance but claimed to have done so through hard work and ability (it is a combination of the words merit and aristocracy). The term meritocracy is now used to describe any system in which success is brought about by merit with none of its original satirical intent.
  • This is what happened with the Mexican soccer team Club Deportivo Guadalajara, a.k.a. Chivas de Guadalajara: They got that name as an unflattering insult from a local newspaper after playing a tough game, since the editor considered they played like a bunch of unruly goats (Chivas in Spanish). For some reason, they loved that name and not only it became the semi-official nickname of their team, they even bring a goat dressed with the team uniform as well as their team pet. Heck, even their team motto is named in Spanish as El Rebaño Sagrado (The Sacred Herd).
  • Done by supporters of Tottenham Hotspur F.C. in the English Premier League. Supporters of rival clubs used a variety of anti-Semitic slurs against the club and its supporters due to their home pitch being located in Tottenham, which once was the primary Jewish neighborhood in London (nowadays it's incredibly multi-ethnic). One such slur, "Yids", was adopted by Tottenham supporters as a way of identifying themselves.
  • And in Italy, there's A.C. ChievoVerona. For background, football in Verona has historically been dominated by Hellas Verona, which has been around since 1903. Chievo is a suburb of Verona with fewer than 5,000 people; while its club was founded in 1929, it didn't start playing professionally until 1986. They then moved in with Hellas and began rising up the ranks, eventually joining Hellas in the second-level Serie B in the mid-nineties. During the first few Chievo–Hellas matches, Hellas supporters taunted Chievo with the chant "Quando i mussi volara, il Ceo in Serie A" ("Donkeys will fly before Chievo are in Serie A"). Cue Chievo getting promoted to Serie A for the first time in 2001. Ever since, Chievo fans have proudly called their club il Mussi Volanti (The Flying Donkeys).
  • Bandit Keith from Yu-Gi-Oh! (over patriotic with a fondness for guns), America from Axis Powers Hetalia (burger-obsessed overenthusiastic idiot), and Lieutenant Vixen from Squirrel and Hedgehog (a curvaceous, glasses-and-uniform-wearing badass commander female fox, with similarities to The Baroness), all parodies of America, all characters American fans love. Especially glaring in the case of Squirrel and Hedgehog, as it's a North Korean propaganda cartoon, that, quite obviously, has never been ported officially to the U.S.
  • Some militant vegans have taken to calling meat-eaters "bloodmouths." It's been about as effective of an insult as you'd expect something so redoubtable-sounding to be.
    • Inevitably led to one vegan taking their overwrought hyperbole a bit too far and accidentally spawning a metal song about being a meat-eater.
    • Meat-eaters have also been called "carnivores" by some vegetarians and vegans which meat-eaters themselves have embraced the term and proudly refer to themselves as such (though technically a more correct term would be "omnivore").
  • In the 1980s, supporters of the Swedish football (soccer) team AIK tried to make fun of another team, IFK Göteborg, and made a song to sing during matches against them called "Alla heter Glenn i Göteborg" (Everyone is called Glenn in Gothenburg) due to IFK Göteborg having four players called just that on their team. But the supporters of the latter team liked it and adopted it, and it's probably the most used song among its fans even today, it's become like an unofficial club anthem.
    • AIK also has another story. In the 1920s, the club was very small and struggling financially. The team played in black shirts, but buying new shirts when the colour faded wasn't an option because the club had no money. This led to the team being referred to as "gnagare" (rodents), both due to their faded rat-grey shirts and their perceived poverty. This appellation stuck with the team as their fortunes grew and the shirts were replaced, and is now worn as a badge of pride.
  • Dick Cheney arose from his retirement to call Ed Snowden a traitor. Snowden replied, "Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American."
  • Ever see a biker wearing a "1%" patch? This is because back in the 60s, law enforcement described outlaw bikers as 1% of the culture making things hard for the other 99%. The Hell's Angels promptly took to calling themselves "One-Percenters", and these days bikers use the term to indicate they aren't corporate goons or mindless sheep.
    • Inverted during the Great Ape-Snake War movement in 2011 where protesters used to dub themselves as the 99% whose lives are filled with burden and hardship (due to the economic recession) while the rich 1% of the population are living in wealth and luxury which most of them did not rightfully earn. Some of the said 1% took the insult as endearment and proudly proclaimed themselves to be the 1% of people that have a nice home and can afford to spend their money on luxurious items.
    • Yet other Americans mashed the concept together with a Bill O'Reilly soundbyte and declared themselves proud members of the 1% of Americans with common sense.
  • People that troll others on the internet in order to rile up others are universally seen as pathetic and are disliked. A deviant Art user named Whynne created this image to showcase what they see trolls as. The actual trolls themselves found the image to be hilarious and endearing, so they use the troll face image as a signature card of sorts.
  • PC vs. Console had console fanboys, more prominently Zero Punctuation dub PC elitists as "PC master race" as an insult to those that think PC gamers are above everyone else. PC gamers saw the phrase as "yes, we are better than those console gaming scrubs, as we can actually bother to improve upon our hardware, unlike console scrubs who have to wait for entire new version release", so now many PC gamers dub themselves as the glorious PC master race whenever they troll gaming consoles and their fans.
  • There is an old saying, which is usually attributed to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, that if theory doesn't fit the facts, too bad for the facts.
  • After the split of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party into the Menshevik and Bolshevik branches, the former accused the later in Jacobinism for their extremist methods. Vladimir Lenin, who saw himself and his Bolshevik party as the Spiritual Successors to the Jacobins, took this as an compliment and encouraged his comrades to accept this label.
  • "Tuga" and "Brazuca", the latter of which is usually shortened as "zuca", started as derogatory terms for Portuguese and Brazillian people, respectively. "Zuca" began and was mostly used during the Brazillian war of independence by the Portuguese, while Tuga was used at the same time by the Brazillian and the Portuguese-African independence forces in their own war. As with most things on this page, they were later adopted as nicknames of their respective country's people.
  • William Henry Harrison's infamous "log cabin and cider" slogan was originally an insult from Martin Van Buren. Van Buren claimed that they could get Harrison to never leave his log cabin by giving him 2000 USD (about 50000 USD in 2018, so enough to live comfortably on, but not an income to inspire rap lyrics) a year and a keg of hard cider. At the time, the only people who still lived in log cabins and drank hard cider were old coots in the backwoods (logs had mostly been replaced by clapboard and hard cider by whisky as the construction material and beverage of choice by then), and Van Buren attempted to paint Harrison as such. Harrison ran with it, and used it to mean that he was a down-to-earth frontier type promoting what would be called "small-town values" today (when in fact he was a Virginian plantation owner and, if anything, even more of an aristocrat than Van Buren). It was one bad interpretation that led to Harrison smashing Van Buren in the electoral college, then promptly croaking.
  • One recent Chevy commercial claims that their trucks are "second to nobody", before adding "If by 'nobody,' you mean Ram and Ford." What they apparently didn't realize is that Chevy is unintentionally, but directly stating that their trucks are second to Ram's and Ford's.
  • A rather amusing one; In Iran the thumbs-up signal basically means "Up yours", while almost everywhere else it has a positive connotation. A lot of people aren't aware of the difference, however. So if an Iranian person gives a thumbs-up to an unknowing American...
  • An anecdote variously attributed to either English financier Sir Moses Montefiore or English humourist Israel Zangwill (both of whom were Jewish) states that at a dinner party he was once seated next to an anti-Semitic nobleman who told him he'd just returned from a visit to Japan where "they have neither pigs nor Jews." The reply? "In that case, you and I should go there, so it will have a sample of each."
  • South Park: Paris Hilton was mercilessly spoofed on this show in the episode "Stupid Spoiled Whore". Yet, when asked what she felt about this episode she actually enjoyed it. South Park creator Matt Stone replied to this in an interview: "That just proves how stupid she is, the fact that she actually seems proud of it."
  • Spitting Image: This show featured puppet caricatures of various celebrities intended to take the piss out of them. After a few seasons, however, some celebrities started to take pride in their puppets. Because: if you weren't spoofed on the show, you were a nobody. British politician Norman Tebbit actually enjoyed being depicted as a tough bully on the show. Author and politician Jeffrey Archer liked his puppet so much that the makers eventually avoided using him for a few episodes. TV presenter Chris Evans even wanted to be included as a puppet, and when it finally happened he even sent letters asking if he could voice the puppet himself, to which the makers naturally declined. Most notably, Phil Collins' response to being caricatured on the show was to hire the show's staff to produce the music video for "Land of Confusion", complete with ugly-as-sin puppets of Collins and his bandmates.
  • For overweight people who are actively harming their health, any insults regarding weight are taken as compliments.
  • For people living in the United States, nearly everyone knows how the country is heavily disliked and how everyone views Americans negatively. One of the negative traits commonly brought up is how Americans can become too patriotic. Many Americans take this as a sign of pride and many have used the song "America! FUCK YEAH!" as their calling card.
  • The Italian Bersaglieri assault infantry have been often called chicken soldiers for their Nice Hat decorated with capercaillie feathers. Given that bersaglieri is Italian for sharpshooter and those feathers helped them to aim by giving protection against intense sunlight, they were proud of it.
  • Certain schools of PR and marketing hold any attention is good attention: "There is no such thing as negative publicity". Insults, reports about racy stuff celebrities are involved in, crazy antics, it all keeps a name or a brand in the news which is advertising you don't have to pay for. Though it all depends on what you built your name and brand on in the first place.
    • They're not always right though. EA infamously ran a campaign that featured mothers reacting horrified to the violence in a video game and ran another campaign that featured booth babes called "Sin to Win" complete with fake religious protesters. These both drew heavy criticism and the negative reaction has long outlived the success (or lack thereof) of the games being marketed.
  • There's putting contracts out on people, and then there's putting contracts out on people in a stupid manner, such as this message to Junji Majima:
    I am a fan of ___.
    There are bad fans of ___.
    Even though ___ realizes this, [he/she] puts on the accessory [he/she] received from [him/her] when [he/she] does work and stuff. I can't forgive [him/her].
    Please kill [Junji] Majima.
Needless to say, Majima told the sender of that message exactly what he thought about that death threat as part of his reply.
Junji Majima: Wait just a second, don't push the riskiest task on me! lol
  • In a response to racist fans who throw bananas on the soccer field at black players, many of them decided to clean off and eat the bananas as a score of energy for the remainder of the game. Turning what was suppose to be a dehumanizing action into an extra nutritional boost.
  • Many times, after somebody makes a magazine or talk show's “Worst-dressed” list, they'll later go on and say they were flattered by it. Sometimes it's by people, such as comedians like Kathy Griffin and Margaret Cho, who are usually immune to such insults, who believe in No Such Thing as Bad Publicity and sometimes do it deliberately for attention. Others, however, genuinely feel like “Worst-dressed” is the better place to be, believing that the people on the “Worst” list at least had the courage to be bold and unique and do something edgy and daring, whereas the “Best” list is sometimes seen as being a little stodgy and boring.
  • An actual subversion of this (an Insult Backfire Backfire), came when a very conservative American woman named Holly Fisher decided to troll liberals by taking pride of her being called a "Fundamentalist Gun-toting, Bible-thumper American", so she posted a picture of her wielding an assault rifle while holding a Bible, with the American flag in the backdrop. The problem came when some people started comparing her photo with an eerily similar one of a fundamentalist Muslim woman, also wielding an assault rifle and a Qur'an, even adding the caption "Explain the difference". She was not amused.
  • On the internet, "Social Justice Warrior", used by those who see fighting for social justice as a bad thing. Most people the term is directed at are proud to be fighting for social justice, though others are trying to disassociate themselves from the label (due to its associations with left-wing extremists) while being proud.
    • Of note is that the term was originally coined by left-wing activists to describe internet activists that lacked real-world experience and did more to harm their causes than help them, with the "warrior" part after the "social justice" (itself holding negative connotations) part being strictly ironic and demeaning; a common analogy used by left-wing activists back when the term first developed prominence was that "an activist fights to install a wheelchair ramp next to the stairs; an SJW fights to remove the stairs because they're offensive to the disabled." It was then co-opted by the far right to mean "anyone less right-wing than me," resulting in the term losing its original meaning and devolving into a simple buzzword. Consequently, the term is no longer used by the left-wing activists who originally coined it, with them now simply explaining the issue the term referred to; those who do use the term "SJW" only bring it up to criticize it.
  • Ultra-conservative Australian MP Kevin Andrews claimed that the Liberal Party's defeat in the 2014 Victorian state election was due to "an unprecedented campaign by unions" — a comment which the unions immediately began using to promote themselves.
  • When a mosque in Houston, Texas burned down, one person made an Islamophobic comment on the page for the Quba Islamic Institute stating that they would donate bacon sandwichesnote  and a Bible. The QII responded with gratitude, informing them that the sandwiches could be used to feed the homeless and that the Bible is a valuable source of knowledge. Another comment read, "Forgive me if I don't shed a tear." The response: "No need to shed tears for material loss."
  • The label "Made in Germany" was invented by the Brits in the mid 19th century. It was not intended to become synonymous with "quality product" by the end of that same century.
  • The great cartoonist Al Hirschfeld (whose drawings mostly satirized Broadway) drew a picture of the legendary Broadway producer David Merrick as Santa Claus in a series on "Unlikely Casting". David Merrick used the drawing on his Christmas cards, adding a burning Christmas tree.
  • Notorious UK shock jock and general shit-stirrer Katie Hopkins went on to declare, among other things, that she would (supposedly) leave the country if Labour, and by extension then-party leader Ed Miliband, got elected. Since there are a lot of people that dislike her, the Cambridge University Labour Club took her comments and ran with them, saying that a vote for Labour was a vote for her to leave. Then the Tories won a majority and Katie declared she was here to stay.
  • The notoriously gaffe-prone UKIP politician Godfrey Bloom once described David Cameron as looking like "the sort of chap I used to beat up [at school]."
  • In 2012, Papa John's Pizza and textbook distributor Chegg sponsored a "VHS-Storytelling Contest", promising a concert by Taylor Swift to the winner. Some wise-guy group of Swift-haters on the website 4Chan pulled a stunt that hijacked the contest, awarding the prize to the Horace Mann School for the Deaf, a daycare center for hearing impaired children, the insinuation being only kids who couldn't hear could appreciate her music. When the prank was uncovered, the School had to be disqualified due to fraudulent voting, but Swift got the last laugh and then some, because the rather public incident earned the school $50,000 worth of donations from fans, $10,000 of it from Swift herself.
  • Combined with adding insult to injury, after former House Speaker John Boehner told Ted Cruz off on the air, calling him "Lucifer in the flesh", a representative for the Satanic Temple took offense. They certainly want nothing to do with Cruz either.
  • A common slur for supporters of Ron Paul and his son Rand Paul was "Paulbot" insinuating that all people did was repeat what he told them to say. Libertarians have started calling themselves Paulbots, partially as a joke.
  • Critics of Mao Zedong likened his rule to that of Qin Shi Huang Di. Mao replied, "You revile us for being like Qin Shi Huang. We are happy to agree. Your mistake is that you did not say so enough.". Incidentally, during the 20th century, the perception of Qin Shi Huang changed greatly, going from an evil despot to a great if ruthless and harsh Founder of the Kingdom, which Mao certainly aspired to be.
  • Charlie Chaplin was not in fact Jewish, but was widely believed to be by anti-Semites. According to one anecdote, he was once aggressively asked if he was a Jew at a party, and to avoid any implication that being Jewish was a bad thing responded "I'm afraid I don't have that honour."
    • Something similar happened to J. R. R. Tolkien. Once, a German publisher interested in publishing The Hobbit in Germany asked him by letter if he was "arisch" (Hitler was in power already). In a letter response he ultimately did not send, Tolkien replied that to his knowledge, he had no Indo-Iranian ancestors,note  that he was mostly of English ancestry, although one of his ancestors was German, and that, if the publisher meant to ask whether he was of Jewish origin, that he regretted to report he appeared "to have no ancestors of that gifted people".
  • People that complain about problems that are really insignificant (such as getting the wrong kind of cell phone for their birthday for example) were usually made fun of for bitching about problems that only affect people who were well off, which became known as "first world problems". After a while, people began to take first world problems as joke by complaining about something totally meaningless and follow it up by saying "first world problems" or "#firstworldproblems" as a way to invoke self aware irony.
  • If the story is to be believed, the modern day potato chip was born from an insult backfire. George Crum, a cook at Moon's Lake House, was dealing with an unruly customer who kept sending his fried potatoes back and demanded they be cut thinner. Finally fed up, George sliced the potatoes razor thin, fried them until crisp and brittle, and seasoned them with too much salt. To his surprise, the customer loved them, and the rest is history.
  • In response to a 2014 controversy where certain conservative science fiction writers and fans accused women of "destroying" science fiction, Lightspeed magazine made an all-female-written issue titled "Women Destroy Science Fiction".
  • "Big Bill" Thompson was Mayor of Chicago from 1915 to 1923 and again from 1927 to 1931. Ranked among the most unethical politicians in American history, his tenure (especially his last term) was marked with the height of Prohibition-era gangster violence and pervasive corruption in the city (including the height of Al Capone's empire; Capone had given Thompson his tacit support with the "Pineapple Primary"note  that ensured his favored candidates won). For the 1931 mayoral election the Democratic Party selected Anton Cermak, an immigrant from what is now the Czech Republic and whose political base at that point was the otherwise-marginalized ethnic immigrant neighborhoods of Poles, Czechs, Ukrainians, Jews, Italians, African-Americans, and others. Thompson, facing backlash for the city's corruption stemming from the out-of-control Prohibition violence and his reputation as a buffoon, tried to use ethnic slurs to attack Cermak; Cermak responded, "He doesn't like my name...It's true I didn't come over on the Mayflower, but I came over as soon as I could." It was a sentiment many in his base could relate to, and helped catapult him to victory in the election with 58% of the vote. Every mayor of Chicago since Cermak has been a Democrat.
  • A common insult against Americans by ISIS or jihadi extremists is infidel (unfaithful, going against the true faith). Patriotic Americans have taken the word as a badge of honor. Several people have t-shirts and bumper stickers advertising themselves as infidels, including the word written in both English and Arabic.
  • When Gods of Egypt was savaged by critics upon its release, the director, Alex Proyas, took to Facebook to complain in a lengthy and vitriolic rant that he and his film were being unfairly picked on by "a pack of diseased vultures pecking at the bones of a dying carcass". Mark Kermode pointed out the problem with thisvultures don't kill living things, they feed on things that are already dead. The only thing Proyas was insulting here was his own film.
  • The 2016 US presidential election:
    • During an appearance on MSNBC, Marco Gutierrez, a Latino surrogate for Republican nominee Donald Trump, warned viewers that without stronger immigration policies such as those Trump was running on, "You’re going to have taco trucks on every corner." The Internet at-large responded with variations of "Wait — that sounds awesome!" "#TacoTrucksOnEveryCorner" soon became the top trending hashtag and a viral sensation. Democrats and anti-Trumpers even began incorporating taco trucks into campaign events going so far as to park taco trucks outside of Trump offices and events.
    • Hillary Clinton controversially referred to half of Trump's supporters as a "basket of deplorables". It wasn't long before Trump supporters were wearing T-shirts reading, "Proud to be a Deplorable". They even named a formal event they held after Donald Trump's victory "Deploraball".
    • Netizens also started associating themselves with the internet meme Pepe the Frog, after Clinton's website listed it as a hate symbol, which of course only made it succumb to the Streisand Effect, making the meme and its associates only more visible and popular. It also spawned "Kekistan", a fictional ancient kingdom of worshippers of a frog deity named Kek, with the people who ascribe to its supposed values as "Kekistanis", intended to parody identity politics and "oppression Olympics." Now there are channels and pages on social media like YouTube all related to news, music and artwork centering around the concept. Not bad for a supposed "hate symbol".
      • A bit of a subversion in that the association of Pepe with groups that either are or are perceived as alt-right or fringe groups has also turned people away from Pepe; his creator eventually decided to kill the character off in his comic because he was saddened by the association, and he now files lawsuits against far-right outlets that utilize the character.
    • A twofer example happened when Donald Trump tried to fire back at a Vanity Fair article complaining about Trump Grill: not only did the magazine proudly incorporate the insults into their website, but VF saw the article's views, plus their (paid!) subscriptions go through the roof.
    • In the third presidential debate, Donald Trump interjected in the final moments, "Such a nasty woman," to Hillary Clinton. The term "nasty woman" quickly became a badge of honor for feminists online.
  • During Sweden's parliamentary period in the 18th century ("The Age of Liberty") the two dominant parties ended up being the Hats and the Caps. The Hats got called that because they drew most of their support from the nobility (who tended, stereotypically, to wear tricorner hats) and advocated an aggressive foreign policy (officers' uniforms including tricorner hats), so the people naming them were essentially trying to suggest they were a small group of warmongers. The Caps got their name as a shortening of Night-caps, the idea being that in politics they were soft and slow as if they'd just gotten out of bed (with their night-caps still on). By the time the period was abruptly terminated by royal auto-coup (1772, in case anyone's interested) supporters of both the Hats and Caps were using the terms to refer to their own side.
  • In February 2017, after Republicans silenced Elizabeth Warren's attempt to argue against Senator Jeff Sessions' nomination to be Attorney General, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said "She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted," invoking an obscure and rarely-used rule forbidding a senator to disparage another senator. Feminist activists immediately turned "She persisted" into a rallying cry, especially when it was pointed out that a few male senators had made similar remarks without being silenced, making Republicans appear sexist. Warren then finished her speech outside, delivering it as a webcast, where it was seen by millions more people than had she stayed in the Senate Chamber. The phrase "Nevertheless, she persisted" has since been used in different TV shows to refer to strong female characters who refuse to be defeated, similarly to the co-opting of "nasty woman."
  • Among other things, Those Wacky Nazis really hated what they called "degenerate art" i.e. art that they found too liberal, too modern, too controversial, or too Jewish. Once they had come to control the German government, they rounded up a large collection of "degenerate art" and staged a traveling exhibition to show everybody just how terrible it all was, bringing along an exhibition of proper "Aryan" art to set up alongside it. Not only did they end up staging one of the biggest single exhibitions of modern art up to that point, ticket sales showed that almost four times as many Germans went to see the "degenerate" art as went to see the "Aryan" exhibition. Sadly, the Germans then burned most it.
  • In the 2017 House special election for Georgia's 6th congressional district, a Republican SuperPAC ran attack ads against Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff using clips of him cosplaying as Han Solo while in college. Local news sources noted the ads "arguably helped him with name recognition more than it hurt" and he leapt to first place in the polls shortly thereafter.
  • During a September 2017 baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees, Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier hit a go-ahead home run and the TV cameras picked up New York Mets fan Gary Dunaiernote  staring at Frazier with a Death Glare and giving a thumbs down. After the players caught wind of it, the entire Yankees team began doing the gesture every time one of them drove in runs for several games afterward and even had t-shirts with the gesture made for them to wear.
    • ...but unfortunately for the Yankees, it went right back to insulting status when every other fanbase started giving thumbs-down to them once the Houston Astros defeated them in the 2017 ALCS that year.
  • The term "geringonça" ("contraption" in Portuguesenote ) was first used disparagingly to refer to the António Costa-led Socialist Party government with the support of the Communist Party and the Left Block (a first in Portuguese politics). Later a pro-geringonça website called opened and once Costa stated in a speech which had a paper-machéd flying cow with wings that "it might be a geringonça, but it works". So the word is now used in a good sense to refer to the government and the coalition.
  • When American football player Colin Kaepernick started the practice of kneeling during the national anthem as a way to protest the treatment of African-Americans by police, Donald Trump made a speech calling him a son of a bitch, to which Kaepernick's mother tweeted in response, "Guess that makes me a proud bitch!"
  • When supporters of Hillary Clinton complained that Senator Bernie Sanders "wasn't even a Democrat," (which is technically true, as Sanders is an independent who caucuses with the Democrats), Sanders supporters replied with variants of "Thank God!"
  • When John McCain decided to run for Arizona's open seat in Congress, opponents tried attacking him by claiming he was a carpetbagger who was unsuitable for representing the state due to his brief time living there. McCain shot back by pointing out that due to his father's naval career as well as his own, he was forced to relocate frequently and didn't have the luxury of living in one area for an extended period of time. In fact, the place McCain lived the longest was in Hanoi during his time as a prisoner of war during The Vietnam War.
  • In a similar vein to the Jon Ossoff example above, an anonymous right-wing Twitter account attempted to embarrass Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez by posting a video of her in high school re-enacting the dance scene from The Breakfast Club with her friends. Instead the Internet found the video fun and cute. As the website Red State put it:
    Having fun in high school with friends, doing a rendition of one of the most well-known scenes from a great movie doesn’t make anyone a “clueless nitwit.” It just makes them look relatable.
    • Just like Ossoff and Ocasio-Cortez; The GOP tried smearing Texas Senatorial candidate, Beto O'Rourke with stuff about his past as a Punk Rock musician, which only make him look even coolernote .
  • In 1906, a famous architect was hired to design a new building in the Paseo de Gracia, center of the growing Catalan bourgeoisie. He designed a revolutionary new kind of building, using concepts that would not be seen further until decades later. The people in the region disliked it, as it did not fit with the style in the rest of the street, and negatively compared it with a quarry. Said architect was Antoni Gaudí, and the building, Casa Milà, is better known as "La Pedrera" (quarry in Catalan), is a World Heritage Site and considered one of the best, most beautiful expressions of Spanish architecture.
  • Christopher Hitchens in a 60 Minutes interview:
    Interviewer: Alexander Cockburn, a former friend of yours, called you a self-serving, fat-ass, chain-smoking, drunken, opportunistic, cynical contrarian.
    Hitchens: Well, I don't see what's wrong with that.
  • The line "It's called Xbox 360 because you turn 360 degrees and walk away." became a meme after people quickly pointed out that 360 degrees is a circle and you'd be facing exactly where you started. Cue people getting inventive with it.
  • In 2019, Donald Trump took to Twitter to say that four Democrat congresswomen, all of whom are women of colour, should "go back" to their own countries, "whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world". The problem with these remarks, aside from their inherent racism, is that three of the four congresswomen were born in the US (with the exception of Ilhan Omar, who was born in Somalia and became a naturalised US citizen). Naturally, this led to jokes that Trump was technically correct. Omar has since adopted "Send her back to Congress" as her campaign slogan.
    • Later that year, Trump tweeted a picture of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) standing and pointing at him during a heated meeting on foreign policy, passing it off as Pelosi suffering a meltdown. Pelosi liked the picture so much she made it her Twitter background. Some people has pointed out it also looks like an adult (Pelosi) scolding a petulant child (Trump).
    • When formal impeachment proceedings began, Trump responded by insulting everybody involved, including Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chair of the House Intelligence Committee and chair of the impeachment hearings, calling him a "pencil-neck" among other silly things. Cue Schiff's campaign selling pencils stamped "This pencil won't break."
  • The term "Gun Nut" is often used by anti-gunners to refer to gun owners or by casual gun owners to refer to the more obsessive members of their community. A lot of gun owners and enthusiasts have embraced the term and will proudly refer to themselves as "gun nuts," similarly to the co-opting of "Jesus freaks."
  • There's subreddit called r/accidentalallys, which collects examples of people who try to make transphobic statements but, often through some mistake in wording, accidentally end up saying things that a trans ally would support. A common example fitting this trope is trying to misgender someone but accidentally using their correct pronouns (often caused by confusion about terms relating to transgender people, such as thinking "trans man" means someone who was assigned male at birth and not female).
  • There was a meme on social media showing a photo of Drag Queen sitting on a subway next to a Muslim woman in full veil, with a caption that read, "This is the future liberals want for America." The average liberal response was, "Diversity and well-funded public transit? Yes, that's exactly what we want!" The tweet's caption additionally became a meme used to highlight surreal or amusing situations as a means of making fun of the original post's intentions.
  • The phrase "trigger/own the libs" was originally devised by right-wing netizens as a catchphrase for activities designed to deliberately anger left-wing peers, typically by expressing support for various right-wing figures or causes with intentionally inflammatory language or behavior. However, after a number of high-profile cases where these attempts resulted in said right-wingers simply embarrassing themselves, the phrase was co-opted by said left-wing peers as a way of mocking right-wingers who, in an attempt to make a point, only end up looking silly or self-debasing.
  • In the wake of the 2020 George Floyd protests, infamous far-right gaming journalism site OneAngryGamer published a list of people, corporations, and other entities that the site's sole staff member considered "Traitors to America"— with additions to the list being based solely on whether or not a party openly supported Black Lives Matter (which had achieved mainstream popularity during the protests) or even just the cause of fighting police brutality and institutional racism, under the premise that being against racism and abuse of authority is automatically equatable to supporting rioting and looting. Because of how bizarre the absolutism of it was— being mocked by even a great deal of the American right— and how trigger happy OAG was with making additions (not to mention the fact that it included non-Americans and people who supported the protests but condemned the riots), being placed on the list was treated as a badge of honor among protesters and their supporters, with the left-wing parody site OnePetulantGamer being created specifically to copy-paste the "Traitors to America" list and rebrand it as the "#BlackLivesMatter Supporter List". Additionally, because of the nature of its targets, the list became something of a watering hole for left-wing netizens to find people and companies to support, much to OAG's bewilderment on Twitter.
  • In the 1884 U.S. presidential election, a prominent New York supporter of Republican candidate James G. Blaine denounced the Democratic Party as the party of "rum, Romanism, and rebellion". At the time, Catholics were a social group who political parties mostly tried to politely ignore, due to anti-Catholic sentiment being rife throughout the country well into the following century, but Catholics being a large enough voting bloc that parties daren't alienate them outright. This had immediate results in mobilizing the Catholic vote in New York against Blaine, causing him to lose the election to Grover Cleveland, and longer-term results in that Catholics tended to gravitate towards the Democrats in the decades ahead, resulting in cities with large Catholic populations like Chicago and New York developing powerful Democratic political machines that could wield influence on a national level.
  • Whenever a world leader mocks her on Twitter, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg often briefly updates her bio to match that leader's insult. A prime example is after she was named Time Magazine Person of the Year and Donald Trump tweeted "Greta needs to work on her anger management problem, then go to a good old-fashioned movie with a friend! Chill, Greta, Chill!" Greta responded by changing her bio to "A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old-fashioned movie with a friend."
  • When it was announced that Idris Elba was going to play Heimdal in Thor, a number of white supremist groups condemned the movie and said they would refuse to watch it. The cast and crew gave a resounding response of "good."
  • One presidential campaign ad consisted entirely of Donald Trump stating that if Joe Biden wins, "you'll never see me again." before immediately cutting to "I'm Joe Biden, and I approve this message."


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: