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Tempting Fate

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Heinrich Hoffmann sends his condolences.

"Fate is like a caged gorilla. It will pelt you with dung if you mock it."
Warriv, Diablo II


Some things just shouldn't be said, even in jest. Taunting a monster or Bullying a Dragon is likely to end badly. (Mugging the Monster definitely will.) Monologuing will invariably give The Hero the time he needs to defeat you. And then there's this trope.

Tempting Fate is when a character says something that dares the universe into making things miserable for them, and the universe takes them up on the challenge. Oftentimes, the character is commenting on how they've hit Rock Bottom and how things couldn't possibly get any worse — right before things do turn From Bad to Worse. Conversely, they may talk about how things are absolutely perfect, only for their world to come crashing down five seconds later. Also watch out for a Gilligan Cut.

And sometimes tempting fate can get downright lethal. For example, that guy in every horror movie who tells his friends "I'll be right back" before wandering off by himself is most assuredly not going to be back. Or that guy in every war movie who shows that picture of his family to the others and expresses his hope to get through this and make it back home to them, which all but ensures that he won't make it. Or that veteran cop in every action movie who's just a few days away from Retirement, and thus doomed to be gunned down in his final case. This particular variant of Tempting Fate is known as a Death Flag.


The fate-tempting words may be followed up by a friend saying "You Just Had to Say It!" Of course, whether fate really had a hand in it or not depends on the situation. After all, it's not like fate just magically materialized that guard ambushing you from nowhere, right? What matters is that events pre-planned or not conspire to make things terrible the moment such phrases are uttered.

For the supertropes to this, see Trope Telegraphing and Be Careful What You Say. Compare Schmuck Bait, Instantly Proven Wrong, Speak of the Devil, Famous Last Words. Contrast the Godzilla Threshold for where things really can't get any worse. See also Too Good to Be True.

And don't forget the Evil Overlord List, either.




    Asian Animation 
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, any unfortunate ideas that Jonie comes up with are almost guaranteed to happen immediately after she mentions them. In particular, if she says anything related to Wolffy appearing, you'd better watch out for him.

    Comic Strips 
  • Peanuts has a few where the universe often takes offense to a character's Badass Boast:
    • In one arc, Linus gets a new hobby, drawing on air. Simply put, he traces things on air with his finger, and being a Mr. Imagination, perceives it as art, one that costs no money and needs no materials. However, he enjoys it a little too much, saying "nothing can interrupt your work! Nothing, nothing!" And then it starts to rain.
    • In another arc, Linus' hobby is building snowmen; he builds lots and lots of snowmen. However, he gets a little Drunk with Power, and starts talking to them like a general leading an army. "I am your leader!" he shouts to his "troops". "Stand behind me and you will be invincible! Nothing can stop us, nothing, nothing, NOTHING!" And then the sun comes out and melts them all.
  • Garfield likes to play with this trope. If someone says things can't get worse, they will (usually with Garfield warning not to say it). However, if a character admits things could get worse, they get worse.
    • The October 25, 1981 strip had Garfield invoke the old "sticks and stones" saying, only to then get hit by a dictionary, disproving the "words can never hurt me" part of the mantra.
    • In December, 15, 2011, Garfield told a spider that was under a mistletoe to forget it and that he'd rather kiss a dog. Odie then showed up.
    • At the beach, Jon tried to get the attention of a girl by screaming "Shark!". He was trampled by everyone who ran away out of fear, was slapped by the girl and, when he said things couldn't get worse, a shark appeared.
    • Jon sees a fly in his coffee cup in this strip. After the fly leaves, Jon asks "What could be more disgusting than that?!" Cue a swarm of flies setting up on and around his cup and treating it like their own beach resort.
    • Exaggerated in this strip.
    • Garfield wonders what the new year will bring in the December 31, 2020 strip. Cue Jon telling Garfield that he just found a great new tofu recipe.
    Garfield: Bring back the old year!
  • U.S. Acres:
    • In the November 3, 1987 strip, Orson said even Lanolin couldn't ruin that day. She shouted "I just washed my car!" and it rained.
    • In the March 24, 1989 strip, Booker blows on a dandelion seed head, causing the seeds to disperse and fly away. The flower next to it laughs at the seed head, only to be plucked by Orson immediately afterwards.
    • Booker asks Orson to make a story scary in the March 15, 1987 strip. Orson being Mr. Imagination, it doesn't take long for Booker to change his mind.
    • Booker encourages Wade to jump into a pool in the August 30, 1987 strip, telling Wade that his inner tube will keep him afloat. Once Wade jumps in, he slips right out of his inner tube and sinks, though he manages to save himself before drowning by drinking the pool water.
    • In the April 9, 1986 strip, Orson finds a book of jokes and claims that he's in the mood for a good laugh. Upon opening the book, he finds himself the target of a joke.
    • In the November 13, 1986 strip, Orson warns Roy not to eat corn so close to the stove, but Roy dismisses him. It turns out to be popcorn, which promptly pops inside Roy's body, much to his discomfort.
    Orson: I know it's popcorn.
    Roy: Why didn't you warn me?!
    • In the June 24, 1987 strip, Booker decides to do a cannon ball dive with a jump onto the springboard. It bounces him off in the direction from whence he came.
    Sheldon: Whoops, backfired.
    • Orson, after donning his "Power Pig" costume, declares himself leaping over barns in the August 22, 1987 strip. He ends up slamming into a wall of a barn.
    • In the October 17, 1988 strip, Booker succeeds on getting onto a hammock. He claims "Victory!", only for the hammock to flip him off it.
    • In the November 15, 1988 strip, Bo is excited to see the sunset, but Lanolin is not enthused, claiming sunrise and sunset always happen the same way. Cue the ensuing sunset taking place in a very unconventional way (i.e. turning out to be a flat disk and falling over after hitting the ground), which piques Lanolin's interest.
    Bo: *yawns* Coming to bed, Lanolin?
    Lanolin: Not tonight, Bo. This should be one interesting sunrise.
    • Lanolin tells Roy to stop smirking in the June 14, 1988 strip, or else she'd slap it to the moon. Roy, however, dismisses her. Bad move — the strip ends with Roy's mouth landing on the moon.
    • Possibly played with in the April 4, 1986 strip, in which Orson wonders where his food is, but a corn on a cob is thrown and hits him on the head before he even finishes the question.
    • When Booker places a gigantic megaphone at Roy in the January 1, 1989 strip and claims "Prepare to Die, rooster!", Roy dismissively mocks him with "What are you going to do, cheer me to death?". Booker promptly throws a small snowball into the megaphone... which becomes big enough to cover most of Roy's body when it gets out of said megaphone.
    • When Wade hears the sound of sleigh bells in the December 19, 1988 strip, he gets inside a chimney and looks upwards for Santa Claus. The strip ends with a large bag full of toys falling on top of him.
  • One segment of Calvin and Hobbes has Calvin try and snowball Susie in the back, only to miss with every single one. After the barrage ends, Susie turns around to laugh at Calvin's throwing ability... and THAT'S when Calvin's aim finally pays off.
    • In another strip, Calvin doesn't feel well in the middle of the night:
      Calvin's Mom: Calvin probably just ate too much dessert. If he's going to get me up at this hour, he'd better really be sick.
      Offpanel, we see a massive "BAAARRFF" as she reacts in horror)
      Calvin's Mom: (Shouting to the heavens) I DIDN'T MEAN IT!
  • FoxTrot does it on multiple occasions:
    • In one arc, Jason accidentally makes Eileen Jacobson fall in love with him thanks to a poem he wrote for his mom. Then this happens:
      Jason: Could anything be worse?! Could this situation possibly be any more dire?!
      Jason: Boy, that question sure got answered in a hurry.
      Eileen: I hope you don't mind, but I told a few of my friends.
    • One week of strips revolves around Paige getting a surly Tamagotchi knock-off called a Tamagrouchy. Near the week's end, she sends it to Jason, who thinks he can reprogram it.
      Paige: I figure it can't get any more annoying.
      (cut to upstairs)
      Tamagrouchy: (Beep) Feed me and give Jason $10.
      Paige: I take that back, Peter.
    • Jason and Paige try the so-called "super gum" invented by Marcus' uncle. With all the upsides, Paige has to ask, "Does this gum even have a downside?" while they're each blowing a monstrous bubble. They spend the next three strips stuck to each other.
  • In one Zits strip, Pierce runs off a list of his many, many body piercings, including an impressive twelve earrings on each ear.
    Pierce: I defy anyone to find a way to attach more metal to my head.
    (cut to Pierce at an orthodontist appointment)
    Mr. Duncan: Pierce, you need braces.

Alternative Title(s): Asking For It, You Were Asking For It, Tempt Fate


"Swine Flu"

TJ laughs off the threat of swine flu as hyperbole. And then...

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