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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!~
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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 an argument through Appeal to Force.

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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.

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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!.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    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.

    Arts 
  • A notorious drawing by Caran d'Ache about the Dreyfus case show a common meal ending in a mass brawl once someone speaks 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.

    Fanfiction 
  • In the Heretical Edge fanfiction Alma Mater, Flick remembers when she asked a boy to stop making rape jokes because her adoptive sister was a Child by Rape, and she hit him when he not only refused to stop, he proceeded to joke about that specific rape.
  • In the Harry Potter fanfic, Black Mask Sirius tries to invoke this with his father to get the uptight Ice King to lose control of himself. Sirius manages to get Orion to raise his arm when he mocks him for getting in trouble with his own father, Acturus, although their fight gets interrupted by Walburga before we get to see whether or not Orion would actually strike.
  • The Mountain and the Wolf: The Wolf cannot go two sentences without insulting someone, whether it be the person he's speaking to, the group they belong to or Westeros as a whole. While this makes sense when talking to his enemies, he also does it when among allies, who very much want to slap him but restrain themselves with difficulty. Even when he seems genuinely complimentary it comes with a strong dose of Your Approval Fills Me with Shame.
  • In Total Drama Legacy, when Morgan says Violet's skin is "basically orange", Violet is furious that Morgan dared to "disrespect the tan" and tells her she just "earned [herself] a one-way ticket to Beatdown Town".

    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 Neal in the face.]
  • The main conflict in the kung fu film, Shaolin Martial Arts, is kicked off when a fight breaks out between the Shaolin and Wing Chun sect. What causes the fight in the first place? When a Wing Chun disciple is showing off his skill with a guandao, and a nearby Shaolin trainee comments, "Look at his skills, it sucks..." The Wing Chun disciple retaliates by whacking his weapon into the Shaolin trainee (unintentionally killing him and all hell breaks loose.
  • 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.
  • John Wick: Dumbass Teenage Son Iosef gloats about murdering the dog of the man he beat half to death and stole a car from, unaware of just who he's talking about:
    Aurelio: The owner of that car, did you kill him or what?
    Iosef: No. I sure as hell fucked up his dog [laughs]
    Aurelio: You fucked up his dog? That's what you did? You fucked up his dog? [laughs nervously] That's crazy shit, man... [he decks Iosef with one furious punch]
  • Dead Poets Society: After the society members find out that Cameron sold out Mr. Keating over allegedly causing Neil's suicide, Charlie punches him as he tries to justify his decision.
  • Parodied in Monty Python's Life of Brian: Mr. Bignose gets irritated by a rather Trolly person constantly calling him 'Big Nose' and insinuating jokes about his nose that he threatens to punch him if that teasing guy continues, but he never got around throwing the punch to him, he instead threw his fist to a wife of a more normal man who told him to stop bickering while not saying anything about his nose.

    Literature 
  • 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 kid's 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.
  • Wulfrik: Wulfrik is able to insult his enemies even without knowing anything about them thanks to his Gift of Tongues. Notably, he makes cuckold jokes to an Imperial baron without knowing he's a Crazy Jealous Guy, taunting him into leaving the safety of his town's walls.
  • Oliver Twist is generally passive when it comes to enduring verbal abuse, until one day Noah Claypole makes the mistake of insulting Oliver's late mother. Oliver responds with his fists and knocks Noah down, much to Noah's terror.

    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 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer Fantasy: Wulfrik the Wanderer is a Hero Killer able to force characters into challenges and bypass bodyguards. He does this by insulting them so badly (in their native language) that they forget all about safety just to close with him and kill him. Such as this tirade given to a dwarf king:
    Face me if you dare, stunted whelp, or do you lack even an elven maid's courage? I thought the Sons of Grungni were great warriors, but perhaps you are no true Dwarf. Indeed, maybe you are instead some breed of bearded Goblin, though in truth I have seen a finer beard on a Troll's back-side.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed: Valhalla: During the Oxenefordshire arc, Eivor has two options in the same conversation to punch Basim and Sigurd. Basim for being condescending, Sigurd for being a total jackass, and insulting Eivor's late father. The fact Sigurd is Eivor's jarl and blood-brother has no impact on the force of the punch Sigurd receives.
  • 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.

    Visual Novels 
  • Discussed with Tim in Melody. In high school, he reportedly punched a guy in the face for asking his sister to prom. Tim doesn't remember this incident.

    Webcomics 
  • 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.
    • Alex is sensitive to people talking shit about Ben, and this was doubly true in middle school. When he overhears a fellow student claim that Ben's strength isn't real and he's just a "bluffing bastard", Alex belts across the school desks to deck him in the face.
  • Parodied by Sydney's ovaries in Grrl Power.
    Bowder : Hey, you! Uppercut, jab, haymaker, piledriver.
    Gaston : Them's fightin words!
  • The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!: After Molly tries and fails to cheer up a despondent Galatea, only for Galatea to resume picking on her mercilessly, Galatea finally tells her to stop calling Bob her daddy. "He's not your daddy! Neither of us has a daddy!" Molly finally slaps her for this — only to then collapse in tears, because she's never been angry enough to hit anyone before.

    Web Original 
  • During The Nostalgia Critic's review of BloodRayne, Linkara gets agitated about the many logical inconsistencies contained in the film, prompting Spoony to remind him once again that it's to be expected because he's dealing with an Uwe Boll movie. Spoony's attempt to calm Linkara fails, and he gets punched in the face for his trouble.
  • 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.
    • Similarly in the United States prison system, the words "bitch" and "punk" are not only fighting words, but it is practically obligatory to act with violence towards the person accusing them of being either of those two things - much like "petukh" above, your reputation and how convicts and other inmates (there is a difference) will see you relies on whether or not you'll stand up for yourself and show that you're capable of sticking up for yourself and refusing to let others walk all over you, or if you'll cower and be branded a "bitch" or a "punk" for the duration of your stay in prison, all but guaranteeing that your stay will be that much less pleasant and that you'll be treated like a second-class inmate by the convicts.
  • 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.
  • Frankie Palmeri perceived The Acacia Strain's "Skynet" as a Take That! aimed at him and Emmure, and despite Vincent Bennett's repeated and adamant insistence that it wasn't and had nothing to do with him or Emmure, he wrote "R2DEEPTHROAT", which explicitly was aimed at Bennett. This eventually culminated in Palmeri physically attacking Bennett at a tour date in Upstate New York (the most reliable account being that Palmeri confronted Bennett, who laughed and told him to calm down and that he had no issue with him, only for Palmeri to sucker-punch him, Bennett to fend him off while telling him that he wasn't going to fight him, and Palmeri putting on a pair of brass knuckles, which finally got him beaten to a pulp by Bennett).
  • In the early 1980s, The Rolling Stones were touring when Mick Jagger, after a night of partying, stumbled back into his hotel room, then called drummer Charlie Watts' room, asking "Where's my drummer?". The normally chill Watts, who was sleeping at that time, showered, shaved, and got dressed, then went to Jagger's room, where he swiftly punched him, saying "Don't ever call me 'your drummer' again! You're my fucking singer!", and went back to bed.

 
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Homer's innocent remark.

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.

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