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Fisticuff-Provoking Comment

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Okay, Asterix. Now you've done it.

Cell: Does Gohan know, by the way?
Trunks: Know what?
Cell: That you let [his future self] die?
(waves crash against the island as the Trauma Button registers)
Trunks: ... I'm going to power up now.
Cell: *winks* I'd be disappointed if you didn't!~

The Fisticuff-Provoking Comment marks the point in a dispute when verbal violence escalates to physical violence. Typically, it occurs during a heated argument when one character goes too far and says something so deeply insulting and/or offensive that the other character responds with force.

Similar to Rage Breaking Point except with a Fisticuff-Provoking Comment, the character is already expressing his rage before the punches fly. Also similar to Berserk Button except that trope often involves people making innocent comments that inadvertently trigger someone and the same words, phrases, and subjects always touch off a character. In contrast, a Fisticuff-Provoking Comment depends upon the context and circumstances the offensive statement is made. There may be times when the same offending words and phrases won't elicit any type of violent response from the character. Also, a Fisticuff-Provoking Comment is often something that would reasonably enrage someone thereby making the recipient's physically violent response a foreseeable outcome. It can be the reason a character who Can't Take Criticism reacts violently and be an example of someone trying to win a argument through Appeal to Force.


Can overlap with Talk to the Fist but that trope is about interrupting someone else while they're talking, whereas the Fisticuff-Provoking Comment is timing-insensitive.

Sometimes immediately after the Fisticuff-Provoking Comment and before the violence begins, the character-who-is-about-to-physically-attack-the-other will say something like "Them's fightin' words!", "[Verb] This!", or some variation on "Shut Up, Hannibal!" Other times, it will be a Pre Ass Kicking One Liner or Pre-Mortem One-Liner in more extreme cases. A Turn the Other Fist fake-out can also occur.

Argument of Contradictions, Cavemen Versus Astronauts Debate, Passive-Aggressive Kombat, Volleying Insults, I Shall Taunt You, Trash Talk, Unsportsmanlike Gloating, Your Mom (and especially I Banged Your Mom), and "The Reason You Suck" Speech can lead up to the Fisticuff-Provoking Comment. A Bar Brawl, Diner Brawl, Escalating Brawl, Big Ball of Violence, Cat Fight, Glove Slap, Throwing Down the Gauntlet, Duel to the Death, Blood on the Debate Floor, and Armor-Piercing Slap can result afterward. Someone pulling a Wounded Gazelle Gambit may purposely say something to trigger violence.


A frequent occurrence on a Talk Show with Fists.

Contrast with Hit Me, Dammit! if the punchee explicitly wants to be punched.

Sub-Trope of You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Megalo Box: In the first episode, Nanbu attempts to talk Junk Dog out of a fight with boxing champ Yuri by trying to make him apologize. When he tries to tell Yuri that he's got better things to do than to "fight trash" like Junk Dog, the latter, who at that point is tired of fighting in fixed fights because Nanbu is telling him to, punches Nanbu out of the ring, apologizes, and challenges Yuri anyway.

  • A notorious drawing by Caran d'Ache about the Dreyfus case show a common meal ending in a mass fighting once someone speak about the aforementioned case.

    Comic Books 
  • Asterix: The page image comes from Asterix and the Actress; Roman actress Latraviata, while posing as Panacea, causes a heated argument between Asterix and Obelix. When Asterix, in the heat of the moment, pushes Obelix's Berserk Button by calling him fat, Obelix punches him. He immediately regrets it though, since, while they had their arguments before, this is the first time ever he punched Asterix.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In Season 9's "Guarded" arc, Buffy bickers with Kennedy over her choice to leave Theo behind despite him urging them to do it so they could regroup. Kennedy strikes a hell of a nerve when she throws Giles' death at the end of Season 8 in Buffy's face as an example that Buffy gets so caught up in saving the world that she forgets about the "little guy" and lets other people die, which earns her a punch in the face.


    Films — Animation 
  • In Bambi II, Ronno confronts Bambi during the start of the climax, the latter already at an emotional low due to his father handing him over to a doe. Ronno, who has gotten competitive towards Bambi throughout the film, starts heckling Bambi, though the latter, while clearly ticked, walks away. Then Ronno mocks the fact his father was supposedly ashamed enough of him to give him away. Bambi turns around and angrily bucks Ronno onto the floor. Cue the deer fight.
  • Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch: Stitch is forced to restrain Lilo when Mertle gloats that she'll beat her at the hula-dancing contest. But when she says that she'll never be as good as her late mother was, Stitch lets a furious Lilo go and proceeds to photograph the ensuing catfight.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Planes, Trains and Automobiles, an aggravated Neal (Steve Martin) learns the hard way that a snide remark can lead to physical pain.
    Cab Dispatcher: Where are you going?
    Neal: Chicago.
    Cab Dispatcher: Chicago?
    Neal: Yeah, Chicago.
    Cab Dispatcher: You know you're in St. Louis?
    Neal: Yes I do.
    Cab Dispatcher: Why don't you try the airlines? It's faster and you get a free meal.
    Neal: If I wanted a joke, I'd follow you into the john and watch you take a leak. Now are you gonna help me or are you gonna stand there like a slab of meat with mittens?
    [Cab dispatcher punches him in the face.]
  • Star Trek: Kirk tries to prove that Spock doesn't have his emotions in check, and succeeds when he cracks about his mother, who had just perished in the destruction of Vulcan. Even then, he still probably didn't expect what would happen when he did.

  • In Goliath, Deryn hits Alek when he accuses her of not being a real soldier when he finds out that she was actually a girl. She dares him to repeat himself, only to hit him every time he does.
  • In Pet Sematary, Irwin accuses Louis of neglecting his son Gabe, the funeral of whom they're attending. Louis responds by punching him square in the face. This leads to a squabble that results in the poor kids casket being knocked down. Irwin realizes what an asshole he was being a chapter later.
  • In the Warrior Cats book The First Battle, Clear Sky and Falling Feather are arguing at the start of the book. Clear Sky insists that he does what he does for The Needs of the Many, and after arguing that there's plenty of prey to share, Falling Feather calls him greedy. This makes Clear Sky furious enough to claw her across the muzzle.

    Live-Action TV 
  • El corazón nunca se equivoca: Temo's implication that Mateo is jealous of him is what causes the latter to push him and start a fight.
  • The George Lopez Show: In "Why You Crying?", Max mouths off at Benny, who gives him a slap on the face when he tells her to "get her tired ass home".
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • In the "This Side of Paradise" episode, Kirk intentionally delivers a series of vicious insults to Spock in order to anger him enough to fight off the influence of pacifying plant spores. Spock manages to hold out until Kirk says he belongs in a freak show with "the dog-faced boy". Curb-Stomp Battle ensues.
    • Played hilariously in "The Trouble with Tribbles", with a Klingon who's trying to provoke Enterprise crewmembers into fighting him. Chekov, in particular, is on the verge of attacking him every time he insults Captain Kirk, but Scotty keeps holding him back, saying "We're big enough to take a few insults." This prompts the Klingon to change tactics and aim for Scotty's Berserk Button by calling the Enterprise a "garbage scow". This gets a reaction.
      Scotty: [death glare] Laddie... don't you think you should... rephrase that?
      Klingon: [imitating Scotty's brogue] Yerr right. I should. [normal voice] I didn't mean to say that the Enterprise should be hauling garbage. I meant to say that it should be hauled away as garbage. [laughs]
      [Scotty slowly stands up and punches the Klingon; Bar Brawl ensues]
  • In Whose Line Is It Anyway?, during a "Scenes from a Hat" segment, we get this:
    Drew: Things to say that will always start a fight.
    Ryan: Guys wanna fight?
  • Firefly:
    • In "Serenity", during a tense confrontation between Simon and former Browncoat Mal, Simon suggests Mal ought to be working for the Alliance, as he "fits the profile". Mal responds predictably.
      Jayne: Saw that comin'.
    • And in "Shindig", Inara's current client all but refers to her as his property to Mal's face. Again, Mal responds predictably.
      Mal: Turns out this is my kind of party after all.

    Pro Wrestling 

    Video Games 
  • In Kingdom Hearts II, Sora and the party mistake the Steamboat Willie version of Pete for the bad guy Pete they fight with on occasions. After one too many insults and calling SW Pete a bad guy, he fights the party after being insulted too many times, yelling at them for what did he do to earn their anger and mentions that their comments are fighting words.

  • In Weak Hero, when Gray faces off against Jimmy's gang in the underpass, Ben tries to defuse the situation by threatening them enough with his words to get them to back down. However, Jack bites back with a threat to break Ben's arm, which triggers Alex into pummelling him and sparks a full fight.

  • A Not Always Learning story starts with parents being called into the office because a girl gave a boy a black eye. It turns out that the boy had called her mother a very dirty slur, and both the boy's father and the girl's immediately agreed that that was the definition of "them's fighting words" and she'd done nothing wrong.

    Western Animation 
  • Family Guy:
    • In "Play It Again, Brian", Peter and Brian have an argument when the former finds out that the latter tried to have sex with Lois. A Bar Brawl ensues when Peter mocks Brian for his inability to hold down a girlfriend and says that his longest-lasting date (Jillian) was "dumber than Lou Ferrigno".
    • In "Tiegs for Two", Brian goes on a date with Quagmire's old flame, Cheyl Tiegs, so he dates his ex-girlfriend Jillian to spite him. When both couples go on a double date, Brian and Quagmire get into a verbal sparring match that involves spilling each other's secrets, and Quagmire goes berserk when Brian asks "Does Jillian know you're half-Polish, Mr. Quagglechek?".
  • Looney Tunes: This often happens when Yosemite Sam confronts Bugs Bunny. However, before Sam can physically attack him, Bugs instead uses Sam's angry state to trick him into, say, stepping across a line at the edge of a diving board.
    Yosemite Sam: Now, you dog-blasted, ornery, no-account, long-eared varmint!
    Bugs: Hey, just a minute, you! Dem's fightin' woids!
    Yosemite Sam: Yeah, dem's fightin' words!
    Bugs: I dash ya to step across dis line. [traces line along edge of diving board]
    Yosemite Sam: I'm a-stepping. [steps over line and off board]
  • Often played for laughs on The Simpsons.
    • In the "Colonel Homer" episode, there's this exchange:
      Redneck 1: Let's fight.
      Redneck 2: Them's fightin' words!
    • Happens twice in the "Grampa vs Sexual Inadequacy" episode.
      • The first time, Homer and Abe are at the mall trying to peddle Abe's homemade aphrodisiac. Homer approaches a man saying, "Hello sir! Yes, you look like a man who needs help satisfying his wife." The would-be customer responds by punching him in the face.
      • The second time occurs after Abe's aphrodisiac results in Springfield's adults spending all their time in their bedrooms and abandoning the city to the children. Bart attributes the absence of grown-ups to an invasion plan by "the saucer people" but Milhouse sharply disagrees stating it's the result of "a massive government conspiracy" and accuses Bart of being part of it. Bart reacts by attacking Milhouse and the two briefly scuffle on the floor before Lisa breaks up the fight.
    • The people of Springfield are prone to getting into mass brawls that usually start with one character becoming so offended by what another character said that he punches him in the face. This, in turn, encourages every single person on the street to start brawling with whichever person is closest to them at the time.
  • Disenchantment: In the episode "The Electric Princess", Luci and Elfo become roommates, but quickly grow annoyed with one another, leading to several heated arguments. But when Elfo calls Luci little, the demon is done arguing and attacks Elfo.

    Real Life 
  • In the Wild West there supposedly were four fighting words that you would call someone only if you were prepared to fight for your life: coward, thief, liar, and cheater (especially when playing cards in a saloon).
  • Truth in Television: The phrase, "Them's fightin' words!" comes from "fighting words" which originated as a legal term describing words spoken to deliberately incite a fight (e.g., in Tennessee and the DC area, you can get arrested for calling someone a coward if they refuse to fight you). The "fighting words" defense for assault in common is based on the premise that what someone said was so recognizably enraging that the injured party became an Asshole Victim and the person who punched/slapped them was entirely justified in doing so.
    • This law is much more limited in scope today, however. Unless you are dealing with imminent, likely threats of violence you cannot physically retaliate against someone for being rude or mean to you.
  • Among The Mafiya, calling someone "cock/rooster" ("petukh" in Russian) is the gravest insult because that term denotes the lowest of the Russian criminal prison castes. As a result, the only appropriate response to this insult is to immediately physically assault the one using it, lest you be actually considered a petukh for the rest of your life. This holds even when you are outmatched and outgunned.
    • It is also not a good idea to call someone a "bitch" ("suka" or "ssuchenniy" in Russian) - among Russian mob types, that word is used to refer to former members of the Mafiya who try to reform and aid the law and has much the same connotations as the word "rat" in Western mob circles.
  • Averted with the legal excuse of provocation, which doesn't allow mere words to be considered.
  • What provoked Zinedine Zidane's headbutting of Marco Materazzi in the 2006 FIFA World Cup Final that earned Zidane a red card was Materazzi calling Zidane's sister a whore.
  • The writer Osamu Dazai and Nakahara Chuuya met up in a cafe and exchanged some insults and observations while it stayed mostly calm. Until Chuuya asked Dazai for his favorite flower, at which Dazai answered (allegedly): 'Peach blossoms.' He chose these small flowers as a jab to the 160cm 'tall' Chuuya, who almost bashed Dazai's face in after that.
  • Moon landing conspiracy theorist harassed Buzz Aldrin. Aldrin responded.


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