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Insult of Endearment

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Like father, like son.

Ted: Now, we all know Robin's not what you'd call "touchy-feely." She doesn't say "I love you," like a normal person. Instead, she'll laugh, shake her head, give you a little smile and say, "You're an idiot."
Barney: "You're an idiot"?
Ted: If she tells you you're an idiot, you're a lucky man.

To show how well two people don't get along, one or both gives the other an insulting nickname and refuses to call them anything else. Over time, the nickname loses its bite as the characters learn to respect, if not like, each other. Then the formerly insulting nickname becomes more of a term of endearment.

This trope is a good way to show Character Development. As two people who initially disliked each other grow closer, the use of a formerly insulting nickname as a gesture of affection is a good way to showcase their evolving relationship. The Vitriolic Best Buds may see insulting nicknames as part of their snarky banter rather than something genuinely meant to hurt, and couples who use insulting nicknames as part of their Belligerent Sexual Tension may soften the use over time to show that They Really Do Love Each Other. This is more likely when one of them is a Tsundere. This is relatively common in Real Life, especially amongst boys and men (often developed in the manner stated above).


Not to be confused with Insult Backfire, when an insult is taken as a compliment, or Appropriated Appellation, when the person cleverly uses the insulting name to his/her own advantage. In order for it to be this trope, the original nicknamer has to change from using the name as a deliberate insult to using it as a term of endearment, or at least friendly ribbing. Contrast Terms of Endangerment, where a villain addresses a hero by an affectionate name but there's nothing behind it but hatred. Also see Affectionate Nickname. May also overlap with N-Word Privileges, when a group of friends use a word for each other that would be a horrible slur coming from anybody else.

Because this trope typically accompanies Character Development, there may be unmarked spoilers present.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • In the animated adaptations (1993 OVA and 2014 David Production TV Series) JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, our three surviving heroes hugged each other with brotherly love at Cairo Airport as Polnaref leaves for Paris while Joseph and Jotaro fly back to Tokyo, resorting to this to fight back the tears welling in their eyes.
    Polnaref: Goobye you wrinkled old coot, you live a long life you hear! And you, his cheapskate grandson; don't you dare forget about me!
    Joseph: Let us meet again! That is if you don't already hate me by then, you stupid jackass!
    Jotaro: I can't ever forget a clown like you even if I tried, you bastard. Take Care.
  • Haganai: Yozora refers to Sena as "Meat" because of her Gag Boobs. It becomes clear later on that the nickname isn't really an insult anymore, and Sena actually secretly likes it because it's the first time anyone gave her a nickname.
  • Toradora!: Taiga calls Ami "stupid chihuahua" ("baka-chi") at first, but after both go through a lot of Character Development, it seems to be more of just an habitual nickname than a deliberate insult.
  • Tiger & Bunny: Veteran superhero Kotetsu resents having to team up with rookie Barnaby, due to the latter being younger, better-looking, more beloved of the sponsors, and having the exact same powers as him. He gives Barnaby the insulting moniker "Bunny" as a pun on his given name and reference to the rabbit-like antennas on his hero suit. Later on they start acting like real partners, and "Bunny" becomes Kotetsu's personal nickname for his partner. Barnaby, who used to take offence at being called by the the nick, eventually comes to accept it...though he still won't stand for being addressed as "Bunny-chan" (or "'lil Bunny" in the dub).
  • Sailor Moon: Mamoru creates the insulting nickname "Dumpling Head" (Odango Atama in Japanese), "Meatball Head" in the DiC English dub of the original anime, "Pigtails" in the Mixx/Tokyopop manga release, and "Bun-head" in the Kodansha retranslation and Viz subs for Usagi, but it becomes a term of endearment after they fall in love. Haruka also uses this nickname when talking to Usagi, albeit affectionately, so Usagi takes no offense.
  • Lovely Complex: Vitriolic Best Buds Koizumi and Otani refer to each other as "midget" and "amazon" or "totem pole" respectively. Later, after the Relationship Upgrade, they still occasionally call each other this, though in a considerably softer manner than before.
  • Takeda "The Puncher" and Ukita "The Thrower" manage to use their monikers very touchingly in the dub of Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple after both complete their Heel–Face Turn (s) (managing to save Kenichi (for both), save Takeda and Kenichi (for Ukita)), and both upright quitting Ragnarok, reaffirming their friendship and promising to help each other out. Prior to this, their monikers were being used rather beratingly by their superiors.
  • Naruto:
    • Naruto calls Jiraiya "Ero-sennin" (pervy hermit, usually translated as pervy-sage) throughout the story but it's clearly not insulting after the Time Skip, and even less after Jiraiya's death.
    • Also, Sasuke calls Naruto "usuratonkachi" in canon, which essentially means "idiot." In the English version it's usually translated as 'loser.' It's claimed in the Official Databook that Sasuke has began using it as a "pet name" or "in an affectionate way". He stops saying it altogether after the time skip until he agrees to come back to the village at the end of his last duel with Naruto, to show that things are going to get back to normal.
  • In Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro, Neuro frequently calls his human assistants "servant number one" and "servant number two" (along with a lot more one-off insults). By the end of the series, though, he develops a sort of demonic respect for the human Yako, and "servant" becomes if not affectionate, then at least respectful. He maintains that Yako is still a "pillbug"... but the rest of humanity are amoebas by comparison.
  • In PandoraHearts Gil calls Alice "Baka-usagi" and Alice calls Gil "Seaweed head" noticeably even after they become closer.
  • Rebuild of Evangelion: Asuka's trademark "Stupid Shinji" has become this...sort of. In a mirror of their first scene in the anime where they sort of open up to each other (but unlike the series it actually finishes without something one of them saying ruining it) Asuka cuts off Shinji's attempt to sound formal to her by annoucing she's going to dub him Stupid Shinji, so he can drop all formality and just call her Asuka. Notably she becomes a lot nicer to him from this point on. Unfortunately she ends up wounded when she goes out of her way to do something kind for him and by the next movie, she's anything but endearing towards him and has started calling him "brat" instead.
  • Code Geass. At first, Jeremiah Gottwald is ridiculed with his nickname "Orange-kun/Orange Boy" given by Zero/Lelouch during the latter's effort to free Suzaku from the former. He utterly dislikes the term but after coming to terms with Zero and a Heel–Face Turn, he starts taking pride in it and considers it the highest level of praise.
  • At the beginning of D.Gray-Man, Kanda called Allen "Moyashi" (Beansprout) because he didn't want to spend time and energy remembering the name of someone who was just going to die, anyways. He continues with this annoying nickname throughout the entire series, only calling Allen by his real name once. By now, though, Kanda is actually quite protective of Allen, due to owing him a debt (and wanting to kill him when he turns into Neah), so this has led to some interesting lines such as "If your mission is to assassinate Beansprout, I'll cut you down where you stand."
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Some fans believe this is the case with Kaiba towards the rest of the cast. His more famous insults are "mutt" or "dog" for Joey and "dweebs" and "nerd patrol" for the gang as a whole.
  • In Gokusen, Kumiko's students came up with the name "Yankumi" as an insult and were disappointed when Kumiko thought it was cute. After the students develop genuine respect for their teacher, the nickname becomes affectionate.
  • Haru of Ojojojo always refers to her friends and classmates (especially Tsurezure) as "commoners". It becomes an affectionate nickname after she slowly grows attached to her friends. She continues to call Tsurezure a commoner after they get married (it's even the final line of the manga).
  • Team Rocket of Pokémon almost never refers to Ash and his friends by name. To the Terrible Trio, they will always be "the twerps" and variations thereof (female protagonists from May onward are called "twerpette").
  • Yuu's comrades like Kimizuki and Guren call Yuu "Idiot Yuu" (Baka Yuu) noticeably even after they've warmed up to him in Seraph of the End.
  • One Piece:
    • When Nefertari Vivi first meets the Straw Hats under her "Miss Wednesday" identity, she gives Zoro the mocking nickname of "Mister Bushido" while battling him. Soon after, she joins the Straw Hats temporarily and becomes their Honorary True Companion, but throughout her time with them—and even when she addresses all of the other crew members by their names—she continues to refer to Zoro as "Mister Bushido" as an Affectionate Nickname.
    • Sanji refers to Zoro as "marimo" (or, in the English version, "moss-head") even after they make the transition from Sitcom Arch-Nemeses to Vitriolic Best Buds, and even in the most emotional of situations ("Aww, is Marimo-kun worried about me?"). Zoro has apparently become attached enough to it to, on at least one occasion, correct people when they use the wrong plant-based insult ("It's not 'broccoli-head,' it's 'moss-head!'")
  • Yona of the Dawn:
    • Hak calls Kija and Jaeha "White Snake" and "Droopy Eyes", which both grow to see as nicknames. Despite that the names started out as deliberate insults, and that the trio frequently banter, the two are probably the members of the group Hak is closest to—besides, of course, childhood friend and love-interest Yona. Hak comments on this at one point when he, Yun, and Yona are searching for Kija and Jaeha. He asks if Yun has any insults to call Kija, because Kija is the sort of person who will come running if he hears someone insulting him, but he's stopped reacting "White Snake" and now he just answers to it normally. Yun then asks him if he's going to try insulting Jaeha, but Hak says Jaeha will just take it as praise.
    • Kija also has one for Hak, having called him the "Dark Dragon" when Hak jokingly claimed to be the Yellow Dragon. At the time, Hak thought the name sounded pretty cool, and later he starts actively introducing himself as such.

    Comic Books 
  • In Transmetropolitan, Spider Jerusalem, Intrepid Reporter and all around Anti-Hero resents the two assistants foisted upon him by his editor, so he dubs them the "filthy assistants." Later on, after he starts respecting them, "Filthy Assistants! To me!" practically becomes a Catchphrase.
  • Lois Lane's use of "Smallville" for Clark Kent in some continuities goes from insulting to affectionate over the course of time.
  • Dick Grayson has referred to Tim Drake as "Boy Basketcase" when Tim is unduly worried about Dick's safety.
  • The Incredible Hulk tends to do this with his enemies-who-become-friends when in his Hulk Speak mode. Examples:
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics), Antoine is often referred to as "Ant" by the other Freedom Fighters, as an insult as first (i.e. comparing him to an ant) but later as a friendly nickname.
  • Jughead from Archie Comics (2015) was nicknamed that after his dad lost his money in a scam involving a water bottle company named "PureJug". Despite it originally being derogatory, it's used by his best friends and he doesn't seem to dislike it anymore.

    Fan Works 
  • Present in nearly every Neon Genesis Evangelion fanfic that ships Shinji and Asuka together. Here are a few examples:
    • A Crown of Stars:
      • After opening up to each other Asuka starts to call Shinji “baka” in a loving way. Variant when she tells him –because she is not ready yet to say openly she loves him- she “hates” in a deeply fond, affectionate tone so that Shinji knows that she means the opposite.
      • Played straight but also deconstructed. Rei doesn't fully get emotions yet. So that she takes what Asuka tells at face value and refuses to help them to fight because she thinks that Asuka hates him.
    • Advice and Trust: Before getting together Asuka called Shinji "idiot". After getting together she calls him "her idiot". Since they are hiding their relationship, she uses it as an insult in public and as an endearing pet name in private.
      Shinji:"You know I'm your baka."
    • Evangelion 303: At the beginning of their relationship, Asuka called Shinji "idiot" or "dummy" with scorn. After a while and several Relationship Upgrades she called him "dummy" lovingly.
    • The Child of Love: Asuka called Shinji baka (idiot) constantly. At some point “idiot” ceased to be an insult and became a pet name:
      • In the epilogue chapter:
        Asuka [happily]:"A boat ride! My sweetie baka Shinji!"
      • And in chapter 6:
        For Shinji, being called 'stupid' by Asuka was a compliment in itself.
    • Ghosts of Evangelion: Asuka calls Shinji idiot or pervert constantly but she calls him names in a loving, tender way after a while. At one point she slips she thinks that he is an idiot because he loves her and because he is always blaming himself for everything.
    • HERZ: After five years married (and knowing each other since they were thirteen), when Asuka calls Shinji "baka" it is not really an insult but a pet name.
      "Hmmmm...(giggle)...Baaka-Shinjii..." she whispered amorously. "I know you just love it when I call you that...(giggle).."
    • Higher Learning: In chapter 5 an inebriated Asuka declares Shinji is HER baka (idiot). From that point she calls him his "sweet idiot", her "little dummy Shinji" and the like.
      "You're just trying to be nice." She sighed. "You are a sweet baka, but you are still a baka."
      "No I am not. Kaji is the baka!" Shinji defended.
      Suddenly, Asuka sat up, grabbed the collar of his shirt and looked right into his eyes. Tears were forming in hers. "No."
      He swallowed hard. "Asuka...?"
      "YOU are my Baka." She said softly. A tear finally did escape the corner of her eye, and she sniffed. "Not Kaji. YOU are..." she smiled slightly, letting his collar go. "My Baka Shinji."
    • Scar Tissue: Reinforced. Before Third Impact Asuka used to call Shinji "idiot", sometimes with scorn and anger, but other times playfully. After Third Impact she was so traumatized and unstable that she become very abusive for months, during which she stopped calling Shinji "idiot" and used harsher, crueller insults to hurt him. One day her abuse went too far forcing her to face her awful behaviour and seek atonement for her actions, and simultaneously she started to call him "dummy" again, this time with fondness.
    • The Second Try: Even after they've fallen for each other and got married, Asuka still calls Shinji "baka" often enough that the term has almost become a pet name. To the point that when their daughter Aki says her first words, it's the second thing she utters after "Mama" (to Shinji's dismay and Asuka's amusement). It's also the only thing she can come up with when asked for her father's name by a police officer.
  • In A Year Like None Other, Severus Snape calls Harry an 'idiot child', at first with derision; but it eventually becomes a term of endearment. Once Severus adopts Draco as well he calls them 'idiot children'.
  • The name Gutsy becomes one for Duncan McSmurf when Hefty rarely calls him by his true name in Empath: The Luckiest Smurf.
  • Many after the fact Hey Arnold! fanfics have Helga continue to call Arnold "football head", though she no longer expresses hostility towards him.
  • Most Naruto fanfics that pair Tayuya with anyone (particularly Naruto or Shikamaru) have her referring to her lover as "shithead" as a term of endearment.
  • Almost every Buffy the Vampire Slayer story that pairs Cordelia and Xander has her affectionately calling him "dweeb" and "doofus" among other things.
  • It's not the Raptor DNA; Blue's thoughts describe Owen as "Stupid Alpha".
  • Star Wars fans seem to like turning Leia's insulting Han by calling him 'scruffy looking nerf herder' into one by having her occasionally use 'nerf herder' as a playful nickname for Han later on. Might be inspired by the Expanded Universe.
  • Deconstructed in the Aveyond fanfic, Uncertainty Principle, where Lars continues to call Rhen "Peta" even after learning to respect her and becoming a decent person. Turns out, Rhen detests this nickname, as it reminded her of her time as a slave, and believes that Lars calling her "Peta" meant that he still sees her as a second-rate citizen.
  • Pick a Ranma ½ fanfic that ships Ranma and Akane. Being among the most famous exemplars of Belligerent Sexual Tension, it was only natural for fanfic writers as a whole to turn Ranma being a 'baka' and a 'pervert', and Akane being an 'uncute tomboy' into pet names.
  • Any Fairly OddParents story like The Truth About Prince Charming that pairs Timmy and Vicky will have Vicky call Timmy "twerp" as a pet name.
  • In The Bridge, Aria Blaze and Monster X show begrudging respect to one another while training together to fight Enjin, by insulting or calling the other by vague descriptors. It later becomes a way of showing affection when they get romantic feelings for one another.
  • In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, Ash's Snivy refers to her trainer as "my idiot".
  • In Son of the Sannin, Mei refers to Zabuza as "Zabuza-chan" (and later "Zabuza-kun") in a way that's clearly meant to be half demeaning, half flirtatious. It pisses him off to no end, but considering the fact that he was willing to become her right hand man upon her being appointed Mizukage as well as enter a relationship with her, it obviously doesn't bother him as much as he claims.
  • Any Beast Wars fanfic that ship Rattrap and Dinobot will usually have their respective insults, mainly "chopper face" and "vermin", becoming friendly names for each other.
  • In Enlightenments, Wander's language has specific pronouns for use with divine entities like Dormin. Because of Nay-Theist tendencies, Wander very rarely uses them, instead using pronouns one might use for a mortal of the same gender. It's initially mildly insulting, but over time it starts to be a sign of his and Dormin's friendship.

    Films — Animated 
  • In The Little Mermaid, Ariel calling Flounder a "guppy" is this. It's clearly meant as friendly teasing rather than an insult.
  • Zootopia: Nick Wilde gives Judy the nickname "Carrots", with the intention to remind her she's only meant to be a carrot farmer. After they become friends, it becomes a casual pet name between them. They also reverse the original "Sly Fox; Dumb Bunny" to "Sly Bunny, Dumb Fox".
  • Wreck-It Ralph: Vanellope calls Ralph "Stinkbrain" on several occasions.
    Hey Stinkbrain... you're my hero!
    • This becomes a staple of their relationship with them exchanging various examples of this trope as Ralph leaves Sugar Rush in the aftermath of Vanellope being restored as the leader.
  • Cars: Sally calls Lightning "Stickers" as an insult for not having real headlights. Later, during the climactic race, she uses the nickname as she cheers him on.
  • At the end of The Boss Baby, Tim and Ted (formerly Boss Baby) playfully refer to each other by their respective Embarrassing Middle Names, Leslie and Lindsey.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In National Lampoon's Animal House, plump and naive Kent Dorfman, the newest member of the Delta house is given the nickname "Flounder", probably because of his size (in comparison to fish maybe), yet this becomes an endearing name for him over time.
    "Your new Delta Tau name is...Pinto"
    "Why Pinto?"
    "(BURP!) Why NOT?!"
    • The book of the movie explains how Flounder got his name, which involves a completely different and NSFW explanation for Pinto. In the course of the book, several of the other brothers have their fraternity names explained as well.
  • In The Pride of the Yankees, Lou Gehrig and his wife take to calling each other "Tanglefoot," in reference to their humbling first impressions of each other.
  • In Gran Torino, Walt's constant use of racial slurs appears to be this—particularly when we see him with his old friends at the barber shop.
  • In Maleficent the title character calls Princess Aurora "beastie" when talking about her. At first it's because she hates her; later it becomes a habit and eventually this trope.
  • Discussed in Demolition Man. A cop asks why John Spartan and his old friend are speaking to each other so rudely when they obviously like each other. Lenina explains that this is how insecure males of the 20th Century bonded with each other.
  • In Cool Runnings when the captain of the Swiss team, Josef Grull, first meets the Jamaican Derice Bannock, he uses the name "Jamaica" for him as if he couldn't be bothered to learn his real name. By they end, when they respect each other, he says "Sehr gut (Very good), Jamaica. We'll see you in four years, ja?" And Derice shakes his hand and says "Yeah, man."
  • Steve and Bucky's last exchange before Bucky ships out in Captain America: The First Avenger:
    Bucky: (as he's backing away) Don't do anything stupid until I get back.
    Steve: How can I? You're takin' all the stupid with you.
    Bucky: (comes back, hugs him) You're a punk.
    Steve: Jerk.
  • Assassin's Creed (2016): "Pioneer" was initially a reference to how Callum was helping the Templars explore Aguilar's memories and find the Apple of Eden, and to a lesser extent, for ordering steak when the Madrid facility guards recommended chicken. After Callum is inducted into the Brotherhood by Mary's hologram, it has clearly become more of a friendly nickname.
  • In Charly, Charly calls Sam "Utah" after he botches his introduction. She later uses it on him as a term of endearment after they get married.
  • Grumpy Old Men has John and Max, whom are Vitriolic Best Buds calling each other "moron" and "putz" both as insults and affectionately. The same thing happens with Max and his love interest Maria in Grumpier Old Men, who refer to each other as "Ox" and "Nag", even during their wedding.
  • In A League of Their Own, Dottie and Kit affectionately refer to one another as "Nag" and "Mule," respectively. Dottie tends to get after her little sister to try doing things differently (particularly in baseball), but Kit is very stubborn.

  • A borderline example from The Call of the Wild. When Buck does something good, John Thorton lavishes curse words on him. Buck sees this as an expression of love — which it is, albeit a slightly bizarre one.
  • Absolutely everywhere in The Book Thief. Every other sentence Rosa says to her adopted daughter Liesel ends with "Saukerl", a German insult that's obsolete in modern Germany. Liesel and her best friend, Rudy often call each other Saukerl and Saumench, the male version of Saukerl.
  • In the novel Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds, the main character is a doctor named Quillon. He's accompanied by a guide named Meroka. She doesn't like doctors, and at first, doesn't particular like Quillon either, so she insists on always calling him "Cutter", much to Quillon's chagrin. However, as the novel progresses, Meroka begins to warm to Quillon. She still calls him Cutter though. Amusingly, even other characters begin calling him Cutter, as they mistake that for his real name due to Meroka's continued use of it.
  • "Princess" was used as a mostly pejorative nickname for Kelly Connolly in Deadline, but it became slightly affectionate toward the end of the book.
  • Early in the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire, Jon is given the nickname "Lord Snow" by Alliser Thorne at Castle Black to mock him as an illegitimate son with a young lord's upbringing ("Snow" is the surname given to highborn illegitimate children in the North and as illegitimate children with noble blood, they cannot inherit). However, as Jon makes a lot of friends with those around him, he is addressed as "Lord Snow" as a form of respect — although Thorne still means it as an insult. Eventually, the nickname becomes a legitimate title when Jon is elected Lord Commander of the Night's Watch.
  • In the Descent novels, Sierra Taurus addresses Ben St. John with the nickname "Little Bird". This grates on St. John's nerves (like Taurus wanted), but after they complete their first mission together and become true wingmates, he keeps using the term and St. John doesn't mind it. It becomes so common between the two of them that Dravis realizes St. John has survived in the third book because someone overheard Taurus address him that way.
  • Light And Dark The Awakening Of The Mageknight: Rigil calls Danny 'newb' as an insult because the latter is a first year squire. After their duel, he continues calling Danny 'newb' but as a friendly nickname.
  • Song at Dawn: Estela's opinion of Nici is initially dismal because he's useless as a shepherd dog, and so she calls him 'big idiot'. She still uses it when she's fond of him.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Annabeth frequently calls Percy "Seaweed Brain," after both his godly father's domain and Percy's tendency to act recklessly. Percy calls her "Wise Girl" in return, after her mother's status as Goddess of Wisdom and (what he see as) her tendency to be a know-it-all. Both start out as insults, but lose a lot of the sting after the fourth or fifth time they save each other's lives plus eventually admitting romantic feelings towards each other. The Insult of Endearment status is obvious to everyone by the end of The Last Olympian. When Thalia call Percy Seaweed Brain he gets angry at the though of anyone but Annabeth using it rather than the insult it's self.
  • Clan cats from Warrior Cats often tease each other by affectionately calling each other "mouse-brain", "fish-breath", or some other variety of that. Squirrelflight, for example, is well-known for calling Bramblestar "mouse-brain". It's the harsher insults like "crowfood-eater" or "fox-heart" that they have to watch out for.
  • In Wyrd Sisters, Vitoller (a human) affectionately calls Hwel (a dwarf), who's been his closest friend for decades, "B'zugda-hiara"note , which is normally a killing insult in Dwarfish. It's made very clear that Vitoller's adopted son, while also a friend of Hwel's, does not have the same privilege. "Some things you earn."
  • In The Mortal Instruments, following Jace's lead, the Shadowhunters tend to consistently refer to Simon as "the mundane", despite him proving himself useful (and at one point saving their lives). Later on it gets switched to "vampire", although Isabelle in particular becomes less prone to use the latter.
  • Journey to Chaos: Tiza gives nicknames to everyone but she's unfriendly to everyone the first time they met. For example, she calls her teammates Eric and Nolien "Dimwit" and "Tenderfoot" respectively because she considers them stupid and squeamish. After they become Fire-Forged Friends, the nicknames become endearing.
  • Words of Radiance (book two of The Stormlight Archive): Adolin (basically a prince) and Kaladin (who went from bridgeman, effectively lower than a slave, to the king's bodyguard), get along only because Dalinar (the former's father and the latter's commander) needs them to. They take to calling one another "princeling" and "bridgeboy". After Kaladin saves Adolin's life by risking his own in a duel gone wrong, "bridgeboy" becomes more affectionate, though it takes Kaladin a while to notice that Adolin has gained a ton of respect for him. He drops the use of "princeling" once he notices.
    • Rock, one of the aforementioned Bridgemen, refers to his friends as "Airsick Lowlanders" (his people live on mountaintops). It's pretty obvious that this is a term of endearment as the bridgemen become an extremely tight group. He does still use at to genuinely mocking people he doesn't like as much, though.
  • In The Accursed Kings Hugh de Bouville Is sent in a diplomatic mission to Naples with Italian banker Guccio serving as translator. On their way in Italy they meet some of Guccio's friends and Bouville finds that's extremely destabilising seeing two close friends calling each other the worst names and laugh about it.
  • In The Raven Cycle, Ronan calls Blue "maggot" in reference to her diminutive size. By the time the fourth book comes around, they are basically family. He has other tender expletives for her:
    “No homework. I got suspended,” Blue replied.
    “Get the fuck out,” Ronan said, but with admiration. “Sargent, you asshole.”
  • In Loyal Enemies, Shelena dubs Veres "the sorcerer" before she learns his name. Thing is, that's an in-universe insult as it implies charlatanry and Veres is a formally trained battle mage. The fact that he hates it at first only spurs Shelena on, though, and she continues to call him "sorcerer" even after they're become the Official Couple.
  • In Richard Powell's Don Quixote, U.S.A. Pepe, a street rat who attaches himself to the naive Arthur, commonly refers to him as "El Estupido." It loses its sting over the months they spend in a rebel encampment, to the point where, when Carlos calls him the same name during a confrontation, Arthur decides that he much prefers the way Pepe says it.
  • In A Dog's Purpose, Ethan's grandmother dislikes the word "stupid". She tells Ethan to instead say something like "doodle". Ethan calls his dog a "doodle dog" which eventually ends up becoming a term of endearment.
  • The Wheel of Time: Min makes a habit of calling The Chosen One Rand "Farm Boy" (which, in fairness, he was), "Sheepherder" (ditto), "Woolhead", and so on, and keeps the habit after their Relationship Upgrade. She finally admits to herself that she'd done it to try to hide her instant infatuation with him.
  • Six of Crows: Matthias refers to Kaz as demjin—which means "demon". By Crooked Kingdom, there's no sting in it, just a nickname.
  • Prince Caspian, the second published and released book from C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia series, introduces Trumpkin, a crusty, agnostic but utterly loyal and valiant new ally to the Pevensie children. He is at first extremely doubtful that Peter and his siblings (who ruled Narnia and introduced its Golden Age as adults, but regressed back to children after returning to Earth) can really be of any help in overthrowing the tyrannical Miraz and his Telmarine regime, and the dwarf must suffer a minor Humiliation Conga via being bested in friendly competition by the youngsters he patronizingly referred to as his "dear little friends" before he believes they are in fact the heroes Narnia needs. Right after his first defeat in a mock swordfight with former King Edmund, Peter's younger brother throws the somewhat derisive term back Trumpkin's face with "Not hurt, I hope, my dear little friend?", which his brother and sisters Susan and Lucy swiftly pick up on, continuously calling the dwarf "Dear Little Friend" or "DLF" for short throughout their adventures (to the point where they almost forgot what "DLF" stood for), to good-naturedly tease their newfound, steadfast friend.
    • At the start of the story, Thea is a Royal Brat who has no respect for Koutarou and addresses him only as "pleb". She quickly matures enough to drop this, but in later arcs she returns to using it from time to time, now as a term of affection.
    • Koutarou likewise has an insulting nickname for Thea at the start of the story, "Tulip". At least, not being from Earth, Thea takes it as one. When she actually sees tulips for the first time, she realises it was never really that mean-spirited and encourages the pleb to start using it again.

    Live Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: "You know nothing, Jon Snow," becomes this for Ygritte.
  • On White Collar, Mozzie initially called Peter "Suit" in a derogatory way, but over the course of a few seasons, it becomes more of an affectionate nickname. Especially after Mozzie met Elizabeth and started calling her "Mrs. Suit."
  • Bones: Hodgins dismissively calls new intern Finn Abernathy "Opie," after the character in The Andy Griffith Show. Abernathy counters by calling Hodgins "Thurston." By the end of the episode they've gained respect for each other, but still use the same nicknames. As of "The Maiden in the Mushrooms", they're going into business together selling "Opie and Thurston's Hot Sauce" (originally Finn's late grandmother's recipe, chemically recreated by Hodgins after he used the last of Finn's last bottle not knowing it was irreplaceable.)
    • Played With by Booth and Bones herself. Booth originally used the name as a term of endearment and respect for Brennan but after their first falling out he continued to call her it out of a desire to annoy her and always got a "Don't call me Bones!" in response. Later on she came to like the nickname again and he became the only person allowed to call her that.
  • Dennis Duffy on 30 Rock thinks "dummy" is this for Liz, even though she hates it.
  • In the "Robin 101" episode of How I Met Your Mother, we learn that Robin doesn't say, "I love you," but if she ever shakes her head at you and says, "You're an idiot," that's what it means.
  • Scrubs:
    • J.D. is initially called "Bambi" by nurse Carla, as he's a new and inexperienced doctor. The nickname persists even after J.D. becomes more experienced and Carla becomes friends with him.
    • Dr. Cox definitely meant his terms for the main characters ("Newbie", "Barbie" and "Gandhi") to be insulting, but kept using them even once he started to respect them as doctors.
  • Doctor Who: As he departs to fight the cyber menace in a world not quite his own, the Doctor fondly calls him "Mickey the Idiot" one last time.
    • During the 7th Doctor's run, rebellious teenager companion Ace called the Doctor "Professor" to annoy him as part of her anti-authority streak. It later turned into an affectionate nickname between them.
  • In Nikita, Nikita often calls computer supergenius Berkoff 'nerd'. It started as her way of insulting him but as they worked together they became friends so now it is her way of showing him affection. She is the only one he allows to call him that.
  • In a BBC production of Gaudy Night, when Peter proposes to Harriet near the end, she responds, "Dear idiot!" and then kisses him. Although this is different than the novel's depiction (in which he proposes and she accepts in Latin), according to canon they've had several years of BST up to this point.
  • CSI: NY: Danny calling Lindsay "Montana" starts out this way; they never hated each other per se, but he used it to tease and annoy her, and it turned into a pet name later on.
  • NCIS:
    • DiNozzo frequently calls McGee "probie" (short for "probationary") in a lightly mocking way. In one episode McGee objects to the term, as he's no longer probationary. Gibbs responds by saying, "You want to guess what Franks (Gibbs's old partner) still calls me?" Sure enough, in those episodes in which Mike Franks appears, he does, in fact, call Gibbs "probie."
    • More frequent is DiNozzo calling McGee "Mc(Insert appropriate mocking pun)" for the situation.
  • Supernatural:
    • Dean and Sam's trademark insults to each other ("Bitch." "Jerk.") don't really start out as flat insults (though they probably did when the pair were kids), but they do get distinctly more endearing over time. Just how much so is emphasized in an alternate reality (created all in Dean's mind, by his wish that their mother hadn't died), where Dean and Sam never bonded:
    Dean: "Bitch."
    Sam: "What are you calling me a 'bitch' for?"
    Dean: "You're supposed to say 'jerk'."
    Sam: "What?"
    Dean: "Never mind."
    • Also from Bobby Singer to Sam and Dean: "You idiots." Though he also says that when he's genuinely annoyed with them.
  • Adama's call-sign (Husker) in Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome is actually a put-down from his co-pilot (Coker) after he first met him. He chooses it after spending a thinking Coker died, he didn't
  • Eddie of House of Anubis initially calls Patricia "yacker" as an insult, but it becomes an Affectionate Nickname when they start dating.
  • Shran from Star Trek: Enterprise calls Archer "Pinkskin".
  • In Gilmore Girls, Tristan often calls Rory "Mary", in reference to the Virgin Mary, as an insult. However, he is interested in dating Rory for his entire stay on the show.
  • Howard from The Big Bang Theory wants the other astronauts to give him one of these when he goes to space, and tries to organize a situation that will get him a good one. However, after being embarrassed by his mother calling him for breakfast, he ends up with "Fruit Loops." It does end up being less insulting... sort of...
  • Snow White initially calls Prince James "Charming" as an insult in Once Upon a Time.
    • In the enchanted forest during the missing year and when Regina first met Robin in storybrooke, she calls him "thief" as an insult. Later when they start dating they both start using it as an affectionate nickname.
  • On Glee, Sue, the vicious queen of insults, first starts calling Kurt "Porcelain" as a way to mock his girlishness, but it eventually becomes a term of endearment, as through the seasons it becomes clear that Sue started respecting Kurt deeply. It's also worth noting that she stopped using her other nickname for him, "Lady," once he snapped and told her it was genuinely offensive.
  • Kamen Rider Build: Sento starts calling Ryuga an "idiot" or "meathead" when annoyed or to poke his temper. It remains an insult when Sento is actually, truly mad, but for any other occasion, it slowly changes into affectionate way to adress his teammate. Ryuga accepts it as so when he starts to care about Sento, too.
  • Rupauls Drag Race: Season 4 contestants Sharon Needles and Phi Phi O'Hara had one of the most infamous rivalries on the show. It started with them getting into a heated argument in the third episode in which Sharon calls Phi Phi a busted-ass showgirl, to which Phi Phi responds, "At least I am a showgirl, bitch! Go back to Party Citynote  where you belong!" Since then, "Party City" and "Busted-Ass Showgirl" became the queens' "pet names" for each other. Sharon and Phi Phi actually made amends halfway through the season, but kept up the rivalry for the cameras because they knew it'd make for good television, making the nicknames something of a Running Gag between the two of them.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Backfires in Big Nate. After hearing that boys are more likely than girls to express friendship through insults, Nate and Francis start playfully insulting each other, until Francis hits a nerve. Then Nate does it on purpose. Soon they fight physically.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Fans continue to chant "You suck" to Kurt Angle, regardless of whether he is a face or a heel. This dates back to a feud with Edge, making it a recurring Call-Back that's going on two decades.
    • This was lampshaded on one Smackdown episode, where Angle began refusing to participate unless the crowd stopped chanting "you suck". He eventually settled on having the crowd censored out when they did so.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • This is the whole point of a comedy roast, an event made famous by, but not limited to, the New York Friar's Club. At such an event, an individual, the guest of honor, is subjected to good-natured jokes at his expense to entertain the wider audience, usually taking the podium himself and returning the favor at the conclusion.
  • Jeff Foxworthy notes that this is far more common between men than women. You might hear a man say "Wally, you ugly old bald-headed pervert!" to his friend, but you won't hear a woman say "Janet, you fat pig! You water-retaining sea cow! How are you?"

    Video Games 
  • In Final Fantasy VII, Barret continues to call Cloud "Spiky" as a derogatory referral to his hair, but by the end of the game, it has become a term of endearment.
  • In Dragon Age II, the prim-and-proper Aveline keeps calling the Pirate Girl Isabela "whore", at first with disdain (though Isabela doesn't mind the moniker); but as the two women come to know and accept each other, "whore" becomes Aveline's term of affection of sorts for Isabela, which she now actively enjoys from her. Isabela also calls Aveline "big girl," a reference to her size, intended in the same vein.
  • The werewolf in the Dark Brotherhood in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim constantly refers to you as "hamshank" and various other nicknames for food. He explains that as a werewolf, you look awfully appetizing, so he's going to call you food. He warms up later... as far as sociopaths "warm up."
    • Ayla, in the Companions guild, calls Farkas "icebrain." According to Farkas, this is friendly teasing.
  • In the Nijiiro no Seishun canon of the Tokimeki Memorial Drama Series, Minori Akiho calls the main protagonist "Juu-rokuban no Senpai" (No.16-Senpai, referring to his shirt's number in the Soccer Club): the nickname had a derogatory connotation at first due to the intense jealousy she had towards him for getting her beloved senpai Saki's attention, then after her Character Development kicked in and she came to like him, it becomes an affectionate nickname.
  • In DmC: Devil May Cry when Dante and Vergil are getting ready for the final battle, they share some brotherly insults.
    Vergil: "You made it. We make quite the team."
    Dante: "I'm stronger."
    Vergil: "I'm smarter."
    Dante: "I'm better looking."
    Vergil: "Mundus is behind the vault door. Let's not keep him waiting. ... And I've got a bigger dick."
  • In Far Cry Primal, two of Takkar's allies, Jayma and Wogah have different insulting nicknames for him. Jayma calls him "Mammoth Feet" (because the first time they met, his supposed clumsiness scared off a bear Jayma was hunting), Wogah calls him "Piss Man" (because the first time they met, Wogah shoved Takkar into a pit and micturated on him). They keep calling him these nicknames throughout the game, even as they grow to respect Takkar more.
  • Mae and Greggory in Night in the Woods go back and forth on one another discussing the grisly bodily harm and/or death they didn't suffer in their latest shenanigans.
  • Flavour NPCs Asric and Jadaar in World of Warcraft started off insulting each other in their respective native languages, Asric calling Jadaar a "blowhard" and "pompous, uptight windbag" in Thalassian, while Jadaar responded with "incompetent, sniveling dandy" in Draenei. From there they moved on to Volleying Insults as a game to pass the time. By their last speaking appearance, the insults have taken on a much more affectionate tone.
    Asric:(raising a mug)"To your health, windbag."
    Jadaar:(raising a mug)"And to yours, brat."
  • In Shadowrun Dragonfall, teammate Eiger will refer to the player character as "Fearless Leader" in a clearly sarcastic fashion both out of erroneously believing that said player got the previous leader killed and over resentment that the player was made the new leader over her despite the player being the least senior member of the group. As the game goes on and she sees reason, she still calls the player that but in a much more respectful tone.
  • Fable I: The Hero's Vitriolic Best Bud and Rival Whisper always calls him "Farm Boy"note  in a nod to his humble roots. Her older brother Thunder also calls the Hero "Farm Boy", but from him, it's just an insult.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Zeke starts off as an enemy, and he and Nia tend banter before battles, leading to Nia calling him "Shellhead" and him referring to her as "Furry-Ears". Later, when Zeke joins the party, they continue with these insults, though there's an undercurrent of friendly teasing in their tones when they do.
  • In Harebrained Schemes' Battletech, Darius will mention that Markham, the former owner of the mercenary company the Player Character serves in, used to refer to one of his mercenary liaisons as "Bob Kurita". While initially intended to unbalance the latter, said liaison began finding it genuinely entertaining and thus the nickname stuck.
  • In Spiders GreedFall Kurt refers to the player as Green Blood,a derogatory name, but depending on friendliness level it bocomes endearing.
  • A rather dramatic version in Halo. The sangheili refer to Master Chief as "Demon." In the opening cutscene of the anniversary remake of Halo 2 (which takes place during the events of the fifth game), Locke asks if it's meant to be an insult or a compliment.
    Arbiter: An insult, to be sure. But one with a modicum of respect.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice, Princess Rayfa Padma Khura'in initially calls Phoenix "barbed head" with disdain, but as she undergoes Character Development this nickname slowly evolves into one of these.
  • In Ikemen Sengoku, Yukimura calls the female main character a "boar woman" after seeing her almost charge straight off a cliff. This initially offends the MC, but on routes where she gets to spend more time with him, the nickname gradually takes on a more friendly or affectionate tone.

    Web Original 
  • In Questionable Content, Faye calls Dora a variety of things, but her Official Nickname is apparently "Assbutt".
  • In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, Magnus lampshades that the Emperor, for all the insults he levels at the Custodes, is pretty fond of him and trusts him more than he ever did any of his children, so the curses might be more of this than actual insults.
  • One of the stories on Not Always Romantic has a girl referring to her boyfriend as "my dumb pig."
  • In FTL: Kestrel Adventures, The mantis tradesmen in episode 24 like Pavalo when he insults them. This serves to imply that Pavalo is complacent with their culture.
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged: When Future Trunks is preparing to return to his own time, instead of saying farewell like the rest of the characters, Vegeta flips the bird at him. Trunks responds in kind and Vegeta gives a proud smile that seems to say "That's my boy."note 
  • Princess Princess: “Butthead” becomes this for Vladric.
  • hololive has Virtual Youtuber Calliope Mori, whose nickname for her best friend/maybe more Kiara Takanashi is "Kusotori" (Shitty Bird). Calliope is very much the Tsundere regarding Kiara.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender, during the "Blind Bandit" episode, Aang manages to sneak onto the Beifong family's estate, without alerting the guards, to ask Toph to be his earthbending master; which leads her to call him "twinkle toes". As the series progresses, what began as an insult starts to become more of a nickname, and finally a term of affection, as seen at the end of "Nightmares And Daydreams".
    Katara: You've been training for this since the day we've met. I've seen your progress. You're smart, brave, and strong enough.
    Aang: You really think so?
    Sokka: We all do. You can do this. You're ready.
    Toph: You're the man, Twinkle-toes!
  • As seen in The Legend of Korra Toph still called Aang "Twinkle-toes", even when they were both adults. While it's definitely meant as endearing, Aang, as a grown man (and Physical God) finds it annoying. Which, to be fair, Toph is probably fully aware of.
    • She even continues to use the name for Korra, as she is technically Aang's next reincarnation. "Nice to see you again, Twinkle-toes."
    • The aye-aye spirit, after warming up to Wan after he saves Mula, calls him "Stinky", thinking it's a better one than his real name. Whenever we hear him call Wan "Stinky" after that, he sounds sincere.
    Aye-aye spirit: I am proud to call you my friend, Stinky.
  • In Codename: Kids Next Door, Numbuh 5 calls her friend-turned-rival Heinrich "Heiny". In his first appearance, it's pretty obviously a teasing insult, but it later on becomes more of an affectionate nickname.
  • King of the Hill kind of uses this: Cotton always refers to Peggy as "Hank's Wife," which demonstrated both his sexism and his general dislike for her. However, in later seasons he even uses it when he's trying to be nice. It's worth noting that his Character Development also includes indications that he's at least a little bit senile.
  • In the first episode of Ben 10: Omniverse, Ben and Gwen part ways by warmly calling each other by their childhood insults of "doofus" and "dweeb".
  • In Wakfu, Evangelyne frequently calls Sadlygrove a "Iop-brain". It becomes more affectionate after they become an Official Couple.
  • On Phineas and Ferb, Buford referring to Phineas as "Dinner Bell" lasted longer as this trope than as an actual insult since Buford was accepted into the core group of friends early on in the show.
  • On KaBlam!, Larry would call his sister Loopy "Shrimp" whether he was teasing her or being nice.
  • On The Flintstones, when the Great Gazoo would call Fred and Barney "dumb-dumbs", he was usually invoking this trope, although at first, it was because they annoyed him.
  • In The Loud House, Ronnie Anne calling Lincoln "Lameo" becomes this once they start dating.
  • In Futurama, Bender's go-to epithet for Fry, "meatbag," is clearly not meant in a friendly way during their first encounter, and is clearly affectionate all the other times.

    Real Life 
  • Astronaut Pete Conrad gave fellow astronaut Jim Lovell the highly-unflattering nickname of "Shaky." The two men were close friends and the nickname was just an example of Conrad's famous sense of humour.
  • George W. Bush's propensity for giving everyone around him nicknames included some of these. For example, he called his right-hand-man Karl Rove "Turd Blossom."
  • Romanesco, a dialect of Italian spoken in and around Rome, is (in)famous in the rest of Italy for its amazing amount of vulgarities, so of course the insults can be this depending on the context. A classic example is a mother calling her own son a "son of a whore".
    • To tell the truth, it's common on all the other parts of Italy, since it's a World of Snark. Close friends call each other the worst insults as an in-home, even among women.
  • It's not uncommon for people into polyamory, swinging, and the like to call their wife/girlfriend a slut as a term of endearment.
  • Ernest Hemingway was friends with Marlene Dietrich in real life (although it never went any further than that.) and sometimes referred to her as 'My kraut" or things along those lines. Despite that usually being a slur, she seemed ok with it (although it was probably a case of "It's only ok when he says it.")
  • Chances are you are like this with anyone you're close to, be it friends, family, or your significant other. You'll find once people are more than comfortable around you, banter is inevitable, and with that comes plenty of insults being hit back and forth like a game of ping-pong, but there's a high likelihood none of it is said with malice as you come to trust those people to know they truly care about you, and this trope is employed as a source of comedic entertainment.


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