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Insult Misfire

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Batman: [to Ventriloquist] I see you're still carrying that dead weight around.
Scarface: Believe me, Batman, I tried ditching the bum — but he follows me everywhere I go!
[Ventriloquist chuckles nervously]

Alice, Bob and Charlie are chatting together, and Charlie viciously launches an insult at Bob; but Bob, Master of Missing the Point, fires back, "I won't let you insult Alice like that!"

Occasionally this will take an alternate form where Bob hasn't missed the point at all but is deliberately misinterpreting the insult as a form of snark.

Not to be confused with Insult Backfire. Compare Insult Friendly Fire, Wrong Insult Offence, Insult to Rocks.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In one episode of the anime adaptation of Koihime†Musou, someone insults Rin Rin by calling her flat-chested. Her response is to demand that they apologize to Shuri immediately.
  • Early on in My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, Katarina asks her maid Anne why her mother seems so angry at all the time, to which Anne responds that it's probably having to deal with such a difficult child. This just leaves Katarina even more confused. After all, Keith is so well behaved.

    Comic Books 
  • In the third Adam Warren miniseries of the Dirty Pair, we find perhaps the ultimate misfired insult. Kei's just had an exotic weapon snatched from her hand by a man who fears she'll set it off. "Set it off? Do I look as decerebrate as one of your KalSec morons!?" she demands of him. "Actually, no! We have standards for our morons!" he replies, and probably realizes a few moments later what he's just actually said.
  • The Sandman (1989) has Hob Gadling talking to a Renaissance Fair worker:
    Hob: You're the twat with the sheep.
    Worker: Lamb.
  • In Wanted, Wesley calls Shit-Head "Fuckface", but Shit-Head thinks that Wesley is getting him mixed up with Fuckwit.
    Wesley: I'm trying to be insulting, asshole!
  • Used as the punchline of one Archie Comics story. Principal Weatherbee catches Archie fresh from a fight with another student, and about to reprimand him when Archie explains that the other guy had insulted his father. Weatherbee is actually sympathetic to Archie's excuse, as he considers those kinds of insults to be below the belt, and lets Archie off with a warning. As Weatherbee leaves, Jughead comes over and asks what the insult that set Archie off was, and Archie replies "What the creep said - and I quote exactly - was 'Arch, your dad's got a stupid son!'".

    Comic Strips 
  • In Baby Blues, Zoe asked her mom, Wanda, to help her confront a bully in her grade. The bully said, "Good morning, stupid." When Wanda told her not to talk to Zoe that way, she replied, "I wasn't."
  • One Dilbert strip from 1990.
    Dogbert: If brains were beans, you wouldn't have enough to make a bee burp.
    Dilbert: Hey! We don't insult bees in this house!
  • Foxtrot: Jason tries to farm World of Warquest gold and sell it for cash on eBay.
    Peter: I guess there's an idiot born every minute.
    Jason: Don't call my future customers idiots.
    Peter: I wasn't referring to your customers.
  • My Cage: Jeff fails to realize that Rex was calling him "clammy".

  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged: Episode 27 — Freeza gloats that by killing Dende, he's spared him watching what's about to happen to the others.
    Vegeta: Joke's on you. He hated the bald one.
    Krillin: Hey that's not fair, he just met Piccolo!
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series: Episode 11
    Kaiba: No offense Yugi, you're a great duelist and all, but your buddy there couldn't duel his way out of a paper bag.
    Joey: That does it! No-one talks about my friend Tristan that way!
  • Masquerade (Vellaen): One of the guards in Sumire's Palace tells the Phantom Thieves that, "Unscrupulous gentlemen and unchaperoned ladies are not permitted within. Only couples may enter, invitees and their designated guests." Ryuji starts to reply, “Hey, who are you callin' unscrup—" before remembering that Ann had already been accepted and he had been accepted as her guest. "Oh, right. Not me. Wait, are you callin' my friends here unscrupulous?"

    Film — Animation 
  • Shrek: When the dastardly Lord Farquaad meets the titular ogre for the first time...
    Lord Farquaad: What is THAT? Ugh, it's hideous!
    Shrek: Oh, that's not very nice... It's just a donkey.
    Donkey: Huh?
    Lord Farquaad: Indeed.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Beverly Hillbillies: Miss Hathaway put on a disguise to rescue Granny. Later the two tried to return to Clampett Manor but were barred by a guard. Miss Hathaway asked the guard if he knew who he was talking to, to which the guard says it's one crazy lady and another one in a bad wig. Granny thought the "bad wig" part was about her and starts kicking the guy in the shins.
  • A variation from the Jose Ferrer version of Cyrano de Bergerac:
    Vicomte de Valvert: (to Cyrano) Dolt! Insolent puppy! Jabbernowl!
    Cyrano de Bergerac: (bowing, sarcastically) How do you do? And I — Cyrano Savinien Hercule de Bergerac!
  • Dr. Dolittle: A pigeon that Dr. Dolittle treated did an Insult Misfire when, along with an army of animals, he was guarding the hospital where Dr. Dolittle was operating on a very sick tiger.
    Pigeon: Pigs go Home! Pigs go Home!
    (a literal Pig is attempting to walk away)
    Pigeon: Oh, no, not you. I was talking to the Police!
  • The non-serious version can be found way back in the original King Kong (1933), when Denham spots Jack and Ann together:
    Denham: Beauty and the Beast, eh?
    Jack: Well, now, I never though I was good looking.
  • In the film Shallow Hal, two men snicker at Gwyneth Paltrow's character for being obese. Jack Black's character, who sees her as slender and beautiful, thinks the men are insulting him.
  • TRON: Legacy:
    Clu: The cycles haven't been kind, have they?
    Flynn: Nah. You don't look so bad.

  • In Cluster, Flint of Outworld is visiting a planet with a dueling society, during which he attends a party where he stands between two men who are constantly hurling insults at him. When a lady nearby asks if he is going to continue to let them insult him, he innocently says, "I thought they were talking about each other."
  • Discworld: In Witches Abroad:
    Lily: Look at the three of you. Bursting with inefficient good intentions. The maiden, the mother and the crone.
    Nanny Ogg: Who are you calling a maiden?
    Magrat: Who are you calling a mother?
    Granny Weatherwax glowered briefly, like the person who has discovered there is only one straw left and everyone else has drawn a long one.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Absolutely Fabulous there's one scene where Edina is yelling at her assistant Bubble to not screw up things at the office while Edina is on vacation, but Bubble keeps pointing at Saffy, thinking she's yelling at her.
  • A hilarious and intentional one in an episode of Babylon 5. Londo and G'Kar are on Centauri Prime, speaking with a Centauri minister (with G'Kar present ostensibly as Londo's bodyguard). For the unfamiliar, while Londo is also a Centauri, G'Kar is a Narn, and there has historically been bad blood between the two races.
    Centauri Minister: Is that why you brought it [G'Kar] along?
    Londo Mollari: No, he is still here as my bodyguard, that's all. Where I go, he goes.
    Centauri Minister: My condolences.
    G'Kar: Thank you. It's a burden, but I've come to accept it.
  • Beakman's World:
    Beakman: Here's some CO2 and some air. Like Phoebe and Lester, one is much denser than the other.
    Lester: (to Phoebe) He's got ya there!
  • In Blackadder II, a very drunken Edmund responds to his aunt's outraged queries with "shove off you old trout." She leaves, affronted that he had spoken to her husband in this manner.
  • El Chavo del ocho:
    • In one episode, Don Ramon entered Professor Jirafales' class claiming he wanted to learn. (He just wanted a place where he'd be safe from Doña Florinda) When El Chavo first saw him there, he believed it was an old kid who looked like Don Ramon. When Don Ramon stated something like "I am, idiot!", El Chavo said they had even that in common.
    • It happens frequently regarding Quico. Often when someone calls another "The dumbest person in the world" Quico will appear and say "Did you call me?"
  • From Cheers:
    Sam: (about John Allen Hill)...some hairless king of the snobs!
    Woody: (to Frasier) Boy, was that a shot at you from out of nowhere. Huh, Doctor Crane?
  • Doctor Who: In "The Sontaran Stratagem", smug Teen Genius Luke Rattigan, who believes the Doctor works for UNIT (he certainly used to, but works more with them on occasion now), tries to insult him, but the Doctor assumes he's talking about his escort instead:
    Luke Rattigan: You're a little smarter than most UNIT grunts.
    The Doctor: Hey, don't call Ross a grunt, he's nice!
  • The Good Place: This exchange from "Team Cockroach":
    Michael: I'm an immortal being with abilities you can only dream of.
    Eleanor: Yeah, and we're an Arizona dirtbag, a human turtleneck, a narcissistic monster, and literally the dumbest person I've ever met.
    Jason: And who am I? Describe me now!
  • There was a dramatic example in Life on Mars (2006) in the case of a teenage rape and murder suspect who was convicted partly due to a series of misunderstandings. According to Annie's version of events, Gene Hunt made a joke at the boy's expense about having Annie look after him, and the boy, thinking Annie was the target of the joke, made a crack about breastfeeding. Gene thought it was a comeback and knocked him on his ass.
  • In an episode of Mother & Son, Arthur attempts to get Robert to take care of Maggie for two weeks, so he can take his girlfriend to New Zealand. Robert dismisses his concerns, telling him they're all in his head, and walks out. Arthur yells back, "'All in my head'?! She's half-loony, she's absent-minded, and she can't look after herself!" He then turns around and apologises to Maggie, who replies, "That's alright, Arthur. But she sounds like a strange choice for you to go to New Zealand with."
  • In the That '70s Show episode "Eric's Hot Cousin", where Donna and Jackie are talking about the title character:
    Donna: I never liked her. You know, once when we were little she bit me, so I bit her back. And then she said, "Truce", so I said, "Okay". And then she bit me again... Whore.
    Jackie: (insulted) Slut!
  • Tosh.0: Daniel does this when responding to viewer mail.
    Viewer: How does such an unfunny douche get his own show?
    Daniel: Okay, that is not nice, Demetri Martin is a wonderful person.


  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Benedict approaches Hyeon and says he requires the help of Hyeon's diminutive friend. Hyeon takes it as a wisecrack against his buddy Eddie when in reality Benedict was referring to Hyeon's pet squirrel.

    Web Animation 

  • In And Shine Heaven Now, when Jeeves insults the fangirls' choice of clothing, not only did he get an Insult Backfire from the ecstatic fangirls, he got a "Hey!" from an insulted Alucard, thinking he was talking about Alucard's pillbox hat.
  • Ansem Retort has one between Ansem, Sora, and Riku in the second panel here.
  • Darths & Droids:
    • Pete says that Sally (who borders on Cloudcuckoolander at times) is in his "top forty percent" of people he believes should lead, as he doesn't like Ben and doesn't really respect Jim or Annie. Jim, missing the implied insult, then wonders aloud why Pete would rank Sally over himself.
    • In a later comic, Corey (playing Luke) refers to Wedge (who Corey believes will backstab him) and Biggs (who speaks like a stereotypical American southerner) as "the yokel and the psychopath". Wedge argues that he's not a yokel, and Biggs argues that Luke is not a psychopath.
  • Played with in The Order of the Stick, when Elan starts making jokes about Nale's physical attributes and parentage in the middle of battle. Nale points out repeatedly (to no avail) that because he and Elan are identical twins, Elan is insulting himself just as much as Nale with such quips.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Adventures of the Gummi Bears: "A Tree Grows in Dunwyn"
    Troll Leader: (pointing at Tummi and Zummi) Take the fat one and the old one!
    Tummi: Who are you calling old?
  • In The Batman, Scarface seems fond of intentionally invoking this trope, redirecting insults directed at him onto the Ventriloquist, which largely works due to the weird "who's in control?" nature of their relationship.
  • Code Monkeys does this when Noshi calls Todd a "fat homosexual with horn hat". Todd says that nobody talks to Black Steve that way.
  • Futurama:
    • "Into the Wild Green Yonder", Mr. Wong is talking to Fry in the presence of his daughter, Amy:
    Mr. Wong: Can I be brutally honest, Fry? I always wanted a son.
    Fry: That hurt, but I can take it.
    • In "A Tale of Two Santas", when the show's robotic Bad Santa asks Bender to help him "save" X-mas:
    Fry: Don't do it! He's evil!
    Robot Santa: I know he is, but I have no choice.
  • Gravity Falls:
    Bill Cipher: You're a lot smarter than you look, especially the fat one.
    Soos: (to Mabel) He's talking about you.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy:
    Grim: Hey, we got you this far. Not so bad for a weenie, a dope, and a useless bag of bones with no powers.
    Billy (whispering to Irwin): Am I the weenie, or the bag of bones?
  • Kim Possible: "Showdown At The Crooked D"
    Dr. Drakken: We've got a new team here. The genius and the lackwit!
    Ron: (to Mr. Dr. P) Don't let him call you a lackwit!
  • King of the Hill does this when Luanne realizes she's become just like Hank regarding house rules. "Oh my god! I've become you!". Hank assumes she meant Bobby.
  • In The Simpsons, Homer manages to screw up the local hippie community’s production of all-natural health-juice by Homering up the place.
    Kent Brockman (on TV): ... and a spokesman for ”Groovy Grove Juice Corporation” attributed the production shut down to a half-witted oaf.
    Homer: Aww, it was sweet of those guys to blame an oaf. But really it was my fault!
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: At the beginning of "Sailor Mouth", when Mr. Krabs tells SpongeBob to take out a "pile of filth" while pointing to Squidward holding a trash bag.
    SpongeBob: (gasp) Mr. Krabs! You shouldn't talk about Squidward like that!
    Squidward: He means this filth, you loon!