Follow TV Tropes


Quote-to-Quote Combat

Go To

B.A. Baracus: "Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary."
Hannibal Smith: Gandhi. (Beat) "It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence."
B.A.: Who said that?
Hannibal: Same guy. Gandhi wasn't afraid to fight for what he believed in.

Quotes are quite popular in debates and arguments, as they can sum up an argument quickly. Being the words of someone notable also tends to help. This trope covers cases of characters arguing by exchanging them. For added effect, a creator might have his characters all quote the same source. Another possibility is for one party to quote his opponent taking the exact opposite position he's currently advocating, portraying him as a hypocrite or cynical opportunist.

This can be used to either show that both the arguers are well read. It can also be used to portray one of them as a Know-Nothing Know-It-All who is humiliated by the much wiser second quoter. On the other hand, relying too much on quotes can run one into the Appeal to Authority fallacy and similar Logical Fallacies, and expecting quotes alone to win the day is tantamount to Insane Troll Logic. On the third hand, sometimes the first quoter tries to top the second quoter, which if it goes on long enough may just turn into an Overly-Long Gag.

Compare Politeness Judo (a similar exchange using manners rather than quotes). May involve As the Good Book Says.... See also Analogy Backfire and Verbal Judo, or Beam Me Up, Scotty! when the quoter gets the line wrong. Similar to Hurricane of Aphorisms. If this happens a lot, one may consider the work Reference Overdosed. Not at all related to Ship-to-Ship Combat.


    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • During Frank Miller's run on Daredevil, Matt Murdock agreed to help an ailing ex-con make peace with his religious-zealot father, who refused to have anything to do with him after his initial arrest. When the father quoted the Bible, declaring, "'Ye shall be smitten, ye whited wall,' says the Lord, and 'Vengeance is mine,' says the Lord," Murdock answered back, "'Whenever thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself.' You'll find that in St. Paul somewhere." The father replied, "The devil can quote scripture for his own purposes."

    Fan Works 
  • Chapter 8.4 of the Doki Doki Literature Club Loops has Vitriolic Best Buds Natsuki and Yuri hurl Volleying Insults at each other using the quotes of William Shakespeare. Yuri wins, Natsuki collapses, and Monika, Sayori, and Blake are impressed at the show.
  • "Heis'he Ri'nanovai": Between Velal tr'Hrienteh, the Praetor of the Romulan Star Empire, and Dronk, the Ferengi ambassador who is trying to get one of his citizens out of Romulan death row after he was caught looting in the ruins of Romulus.
    Dronk: "The riskier the road, the greater the profit." 62nd Rule of Acquisition.
    Velal: "Dead men close no deals." 15th Rule of Acquisition.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live Action 
  • Our page quote comes from The A-Team. B.A. took a vow of nonviolence while in prison. About two-thirds of the way through the movie, he shows Hannibal a quote from a book about Mahatma Gandhi advocating nonviolence. There's a big fight coming so Hannibal needs The Big Guy, and uses the second quote to get B.A.'s fighting spirit back.
  • The Black Hole: A brief example between Charlie and V.I.N.CENT (who tends to talk in quotes):
    Charlie: You know what they say about "all work and no play".
    V.I.N.CENT: "All sunshine makes a desert." So the Arabs say.
  • Day of Defense: The Mormon missionaries engage in this during the trial with their accusers regarding their church's beliefs vs. mainstream Christianity (the issue being whether they're Christian or not).
  • Done twice in A Few Good Men between Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and Luther, the newsstand attendant. It appears to be part of their daily routine, a friendly verbal quote competition. Here's the first one:
    Kaffee:How's it goin', Luther?
    Luther: Another day, another dollar, captain.
    Kaffee: You gotta play 'em as they lay, Luther.
    Luther: What comes around, goes around, you know what I'm sayin'.
    Kaffee: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
    Luther: Hey, if you've got your health, you got everything.
    Kaffee: Love makes the world go round. I'll see you tomorrow, Luther.
  • In How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, after Cindy Lou nominates the Grinch to be the Holiday Cheermeister, both she and the Mayor take turns quoting from the Book of Who to argue their positions. The Mayor loses badly.
  • The Last Rites of Ransom Pride: When Rev. Pride has Juliette at gunpoint atop the grave, they engage in a exchange of Bible quotations; each using the Bible to justify their actions. Juliette's knowledge of the Bible surprises Pride.
  • In Loaded Weapon 1, there's a very funny one between General Mortars and Mike McCracken:
    Mortars: Where's the microfilm, Mike?
    McCracken: I don't know. I gave it to York; I thought she was one of your men.
    Mortars: Act in haste, repent in leisure.
    McCracken: But he who hesitates is lost.
    Mortars: Never judge a book by its cover.
    McCracken: What you see is what you get.
    Mortars: Loose lips sink ships!
    McCracken: Life is very short, and there's no time for fussing and fighting, my friend.
    (Jigsaw consults the rule book and shakes his head)
    Mortars: Sorry, Mike, no good.
  • In The Man Who Came Back, Paxton and the preacher exchange Bible quotations during Paxton's Kangaroo Court: Paxton trying to get the preacher to tell the truth and admit his part in the lynching, and the preacher justifying his perjury and mistreatment of the former slaves.
  • In Porky's II: The Next Day the school Shakespeare production is being shut down by a group of hyper-conservative religious nuts who think Shakespeare is immoral. They quote out of context dirty Shakespeare passages (of which there are many) to support their cause. But the school principal, who supports the show, goes quote-for-quote against them using The Bible as his source of smutty sayings.
  • In The Rock, the antagonist General Hummel justifies his actions to John Mason, one of the protagonists:
    Hummel: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." Thomas Jefferson.
    Mason: "Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious," according to Oscar Wilde.
  • Tombstone has a scene where Doc Holliday and Johnny Ringo trade thinly-veiled barbs at one another in the form of Latin aphorisms.
  • Triangle of Sadness: Staunch Marxist Thomas and staunch capitalist Dimitriy get into a debate over dinner about their respective political philosophies. They start trading off relevant quotes off the top of their head. Later on they pull out their phones and start reading lines they looked up on the internet.

  • In The Lord of the Rings, when the Fellowship is setting out from Rivendell, Elrond states that Frodo is the only one of them who is actually obligated to bring the Ring to Mount Doom, the rest "go with him as free companions, to help him on his way", which leads to the following exchange between Gimli and Elrond:
    "Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens," said Gimli.
    "Maybe," said Elrond, "but let him not vow to walk in the dark, who has not seen the nightfall."
    "Yet sworn word may strengthen quaking heart," said Gimli.
    "Or break it," said Elrond. "Look not too far ahead! But go now with good hearts! Farewell, and may the blessing of Elves and Men and all Free Folk go with you. May the stars shine upon your faces!"
  • Early in Honor Harrington: Flag in Exile, a reactionary Grayson minister, Brother Marchant, crashes a party thrown by Honor at her Steading and starts demanding that she repent for her sins, yadda yadda, including Quote Mining the Grayson scripture The Book of the New Way. Honor, having studied Grayson history and scriptures in order to better govern her fief, matches Marchant line for line, including at one point supplying the second half of a verse Marchant quote mined. The situation gets out of hand when Marchant suggests that her slain lover Captain Paul Tankersley was killed to punish her for perfidy, at which point Honor's bodyguards have to rescue Marchant to keep her citizens from lynching him.
  • The Scream: Rachel has a battle of Bible quotes with Weissman.
  • Under Heaven: Given that poetry is almost a national pastime, and writing (and quoting) poems is part of the national Civil Service exam, most of the characters end up quoting lines at each other in various situations, usually as part of an argument to make a point. At one point, Shen Tai is in an argument with someone in service to the emperor's favorite consort about the disposition of Tai's horse... and aims an actual poet at him: Sima Zian, the "Banished Immortal", with a reputation for being repeatedly kicked out of Heaven. The servant's reaction to Sima's presence almost makes it worthwhile.
  • Unsong: When Aaron first meets Ana, they get into a fight over whether it's acceptable to take the "F" and "L" off a sign reading "CASH FOR GOLD". Both use puns based on different passages from the Bible to bolster their argument.
  • Vampire High: The school principal disapproves of Cody mingling with the jenti, quoting Robert Frost's "Mending Wall" at him: "Good fences make good neighbors." Cody retorts by pointing out that the poem also says, "Something there is that doesn't love a wall".

    Live Action TV 
  • A friendly quote contest takes place in Barney Miller, when Wojo and Dietrich look at the fog outside the precinct window:
    Dietrich: "Fair is foul, and foul is fair. Hover through the fog and filthy air." Bill Shakespeare.
    Wojo: "The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on." Carl Sandburg.
    Dietrich: "I got smog in my noggin." Ed "Kooky" Burns.
    (Harris enters)
    Wojo: What do you think of the fog?
    Harris: Thick as pea soup.
    Wojo(to Dietrich): Well we did better than that.
  • Blue Bloods:
    • In "Black and Blue" Frank Reagan tangles with Rev. Darnell Potter, a spotlight-loving black pastor who has an axe to grind with the NYPD over race issues. Potter walks into a meeting between himself, Frank, and the mayor throwing out a quote by Malcolm X. Frank asks for the names of the men in Potter's church who assaulted two of his officers; Potter refuses and accuses him of being unwilling to seek a consensus.
    Frank: A true leader is not a seeker of consensus, but a molder of consensus. (walks out)
    (Potter looks confusedly at the mayor.)
    • In "Sins of the Father" Danny Reagan's case of the week involves a father seeking vengeance for his daughter, dead of an apparent suicide after being fired from a porn studio (he was targeting the crew). During interrogation:
    Jerry Phillips: "For if there was harm, you shall appoint as penalty life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth." Exodus 21:23.
    Danny: "Do not take vengeance against evil, but wait for the Lord and He will avenge you." Proverbs 20:22.
  • A couple examples early in The Handmaid's Tale. The Gilead regime is a far-right Christian fundamentalist theocracy that governs based on quote mined Bible verses, and Aunt Lydia often uses the line "Blessed are the meek" to chastise recalcitrant Handmaids. In the pilot, protagonist Offred (who was Catholic before the Gilead takeover) remarks in her Internal Monologue that "they always leave out the 'for they shall inherit the Earth' part". The second instance is in the episode "Late", when Offred is being interrogated by Lydia and a member of the Secret Police.
    Lydia: Blessed are the meek, dear.
    Offred: "And blessed are those who suffer in the cause of righteousness, for they shall inherit the Kingdom of Heaven."
    Lydia: (gets enraged and starts torturing her with a cattle prod)
  • Happens occasionally on Home Improvement, generally between Wilson and whichever Taylor had gone to him to discuss their problem in a particular episode. Illustrated particularly well between Wilson and Tim when Tim is in trouble for never having told an ex-girlfriend that the relationship was over (twenty years earlier).
    Wilson: Robert Louis Stevenson said, "The cruelest lies are often told in silence."
    Tim: Hmm. But, didn't Calvin Coolidge say, "Nothing I never said ever did me any harm?"
    Wilson: Very good! Thomas Mann once said, "A harmful truth is better than a useful lie."
    Tim: Not bad! But wait, wait, wait! Turkish proverbs was, "He who tells the truth will be chased out of nine villages."
    Wilson: Excellent! But I believe the final word would be Heywood Broun: "For truth, there is no deadline."
    Tim: [grunting] Oooh, that's three to two, you beat me, Wilson.
  • In the Spaced episode "Ends" Tim and Daisy share a moment similar to this when discussing about Tim moving back in with Sarah:
    Daisy: What do you mean you have a funny feeling?
    Tim: I can read her like a book.
    Daisy: Never judge a book by its cover.
    Tim: He who dares wins.
    Daisy: Look before you leap.
    Tim: Do you believe in life after love?
    Daisy: That's a song.
    Tim: Shit.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • "Fallen" has this exchange between O'Neill and a proverb- and parable-loving village elder.
    Old Man: No one can be a friend if you know not whether to trust them.
    Jack: Don't judge a book by its cover.
    Old Man: Enemies' promises were made to be broken.
    Jack: And yet, honesty is the best policy.
    Old Man: He who has too many friends has none.
    Jack: Ahh, but, birds of a feather.
    Old Man: I'm unfamiliar with that story. What lesson does it teach?
    Jack: It has to do with flocking, and togetherness, and to be honest I'm not so familiar with the particulars myself.
    • Daniel has a bit of a habit of countering the Ori Priors' dramatic quoting of the Book of Origin with yet more quotes from the same text. One great example happens after the supergate opens in "Camelot" and the Ori warships arrive. They send a text-only message to the allied fleet gathered to stop them, a quote from the Book of Origin saying, "And those who are prideful and refuse to bow down shall be laid low and made onto dust." Daniel sends back the line, "Then did Tileus say to the people of the low plains: 'seek not wickedness amongst your neighbors lest it find purchase in your own house.'" Unfortunately the subsequent space battle is decided by firepower rather than quotes.
      • Mitchell also loves to counter the Priors' quotes of the Book of Origin with his own quotes from the Bible. When asked, he explains that he had a very religious grandmother.
  • A scene in The West Wing has a Christian fundamentalist quote The Bible (Leviticus, in particular) to support her stance against homosexuality. President Bartlett then produces even more quotes from Leviticus, demonstrating how outdated and inapplicable those particular commandments are in the modern society.
  • In M*A*S*H Margaret asks Frank for a loan.
    Frank: "Neither a lender nor a borrower be." Polonius.
    Margaret: "To give and not count the cost." St. Ignatius Loyola.
    Frank: "The holy passion of friendship is of so sweet and steady and loyal and enduring a nature that it will last throughout a whole lifetime if not asked to lend money." Mark Twain.
    Margaret: "Blow it out your ear." Margaret Houlihan.
  • In the Nikita episode "One Way" an old enemy of Michael, the Islamic terrorist who killed his family, captures him and they start arguing. Tariq quotes from The Qur'an to back up his point:
    Tariq: “Fight in God’s cause against those who fight against you.”
    Michael: “But do not commit aggression.” You forgot that part of the Qur'an. If you’re going to twist its meaning at least quote the whole passage.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Q expresses a negative view of humanity by quoting Macbeth; "Out, out, brief candle, life's but a walking shadow, a poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage..." He then brings up Hamlet, prompting Picard to answer as only he can:
    Picard:" Oh, I know Hamlet. And what he might say with irony, I say with conviction: "What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form, in moving, how express and admirable! In action, how like an angel! In apprehension, how like a god!"
  • In one episode of House, M.D., House snidely refuses to follow Cuddy's instructions by quoting Mick Jagger at her: "Like the philosopher Jagger once said, 'You can’t always get what you want.'" Later in the episode, after she has one-upped him, Cuddy fires it right back at him, with the rest of the lyric: "Oh, I looked into that philosopher you quoted, Jagger, and you’re right, 'You can’t always get what you want,' but, as it turns out, 'If you try sometimes, you get what you need.'"
  • The X-Files, in the season 6 episode "The Unnatural":
    Scully: I don't care. Mulder, this is a needle in a haystack. These poor souls have been dead for 50 years. Let them rest in peace. Let sleeping dogs lie.
    Mulder: No, I won't sit idly by as you hurl cliches at me. Preparation is the father of inspiration.
    Scully: Necessity is the mother of invention.
    Mulder: The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
    Scully: (taking a bite of a diet ice cream cone) Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.
    Mulder: I scream, you scream, we all scream for nonfat tofutti rice dreamsicles. (grabs Scully's ice cream cone and takes a bite.)

  • In the skit "Ti Kwan Leep" by The Frantics, we get this exchange:
    Teacher: The only use of Ti Kwan Leep is self-defense. Do you know who said that? Ki Lo Ni, the great teacher.
    Ed Gruberman: Yeah? Well "the best defense is a good offense", you know who said that? Mel, the cook on Alice.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • This is Older Than Feudalism. In the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Satan tempts Jesus by telling Him (among other things) to prove He's the Son of God by throwing Himself off the roof of the Temple in Jerusalem, for the scriptures say God would command the angels to catch the Messiah. Jesus counters that the scriptures also say not to put God to the test.


    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy IX gives us the following exchange at the end of disc 2:
    Amarant: "'He who hesitates is lost.' You should remember that."
    Zidane: "Yeah? Well, I prefer 'my way or the highway.'"
  • In Kid Icarus: Uprising, if Pit's wielding a club and Viridi is his mission control, the two can get into one of these arguments regarding the weapon's merits. Pit runs out of steam quickly.
  • Sam & Max Hit the Road has a tongue-in-cheek example. When riding the Tunnel of Love at the Kushman Bros. carnival, examining a tableau based on the Garden of Eden leads to the following exchange.
    Sam: "Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven." - Milton
    Max: "Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens." - David Byrne
  • In Star Trek: Elite Force II, the Player Character gets to do this with a Ferengi using the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition. It helps that those rules are means to cover every conceivable situation. Just look at rules 34 ("War is good for business") and 35 ("Peace is good for business").

  • In The Last Days of Foxhound, Mei Ling and Vulcan Raven (who both had a habit of bringing up sayings in the source material) get into one of these over the issue of nanomachines (which Mei invented and Raven doesn't want anything to do with).
  • Pv P featured one of these when Butler suggested Brent should wait between drinks:
    Brent: Butler, another scotch on ice if you please, my good man.
    Butler: Perhaps Master Sienna would prefer to take a break from drinking.
    Brent: No. I want a scotch right now.
    Butler: "Bacchus hath drown more men than Neptune." Thomas Fuller.
    Brent: "I have taken more good from alcohol than it has taken from me." Winston Churchill.
    Butler: "There is more refreshment and stimulation in a nap, even of the briefest, than in all the alcohol ever distilled." Ovid.
    Brent: "I'm in it to win it, and no limit is my home." Snoop Dogg.
    Butler: Touche, sir. Well played.
  • Questionable Content #2243 features an idiom battle between Marten and Tai.
  • Schlock Mercenary: People love quoting from the Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries to settle a point, often while applying liberal amounts of violence. Sometimes they get a back and forth going that invokes this trope (the Maxims are extensive and quotable). One notable example included three different parties all getting in on the action:

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series: In the episode "I Am The Night", Batman meets Dr. Leslie Thompkins during his annual vigil at the site of his parents' murder.
    Leslie Thompkins: You seem quieter than usual tonight.
    Batman: Every year I come here, I wonder if it should be the last time... If I should put the past behind me... Try to lead a normal life.
    Leslie: Santayana says that "those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it".
    Batman: He also said "a fanatic is someone who redoubles his efforts while losing sight of his goal."
  • The King of the Hill episode "Hilloween" parodies this when this conversation happens between Hank and an overzealous priest:
    Judy Harper: "The complacency of fools will destroy them." Proverbs.
    Hank: "Get out of my house!" Exodus.
  • The Simpsons:
    • A delightful scene in the episode "Homer, the Heretic" when the reverend is trying to recover a lost sheep and Homer attempts a random and failed comeback.
      Lovejoy Homer, I'd like you to remember Matthew 7:26. "The foolish man who built his house upon the sand."
      Homer: [pointing a finger] And you remember... (thinks) Matthew... 21:17.
      Reverend Lovejoy: (confused) "And he left them and went out of the city, into Bethany, and he lodged there?"
      Homer: (beat) Yeah. Think about it.
    • In "Like Father, Like Clown", Bart and Lisa try to do this to convince Krusty's rabbi father to start speaking with his son again. Unfortunately for them, it's not so easy to out-quote a rabbi, especially since they don't know much about the holy texts. They go back and forth (with Lisa in the library researching and Bart delivering the responses) until they finally convince him with a last-ditch quote from Sammy Davis Jr. (a Jewish performer like the rabbi's son) about the hardships the Jewish people have overcome. This quote finally convinces Rabbi Krustofski that entertainers have a place in Jewish heritage and leads him to reunite with Krusty.


Video Example(s):


Communism vs. Capitalism

The American communist captain and the Russian oligarch get into a debate over dinner about their respective philosophies. Dimitriy tells a joke; Thomas is able to counter with another quote. To keep it going, they read quotes off their phones.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / QuoteToQuoteCombat

Media sources: