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Insult Misfire

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Batman: 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 and Manga 
  • In one episode of Koihime Musou, someone insults Rin Rin by calling her flat-chested. Her response is to demand that they apologize to Shuri immediately.

    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 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!

    Comic Strips 
  • 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".
  • 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."

    Fan Works 
  • 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!
  • 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!

    Films — Animation 
  • Shrek
    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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • 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 a 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!
  • TRON: Legacy:
    Clu: The cycles haven't been kind, have they?
    Flynn: Nah. You don't look so bad.
  • 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.

  • 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.
    • It's only a misfire for Nanny Ogg and Magrat. Mistress Weatherwax is actually trying to be the crone, so this would be an Insult Backfire, except that she's still insulted by the fact that someone has so little fear of her that they actually call her a crone. The others think of the triad as "the maiden, the mother and the... other one", even inside their own heads. Granny has ways of getting inside those.
  • 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."

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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!
  • 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!
  • Tosh0: 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.
  • 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?"
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In an episode of Mother And 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 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.
  • 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 dirt bag, a human turtleneck, a narcissistic monster, and literally the dumbest person I've ever met.
    Jason: And who am I? Describe me now!


    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • In 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.
  • 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.
  • Code Monkeys does this when Noshi calls Todd a "fat homosexual with horn hat". Todd says that nobody talks to Black Steve that way.
  • 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?
  • Gravity Falls:
    Bill Cypher: You're a lot smarter than you look, especially the fat one.
    Soos: (to Mabel) He's talking about you.