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Torment by Annoyance

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"TOUCHING ME!" "It's free air."

Being annoying is a very effective way to get under someone's skin, and it's especially so when it's done intentionally. Whether it's a repetitive sound or action, or whether it's actually done to someone or just in their presence, it's almost as distressing as actually causing physical injury. At its most innocent, it can be just done to pester someone, usually for attention or ribbing, and can also be a very effective way of getting what you want. Sometimes it's done to get a kick out of the target's discomfort. At its most malicious, it's an effective tool for psychological torment, and can even be a torture technique.

Common ways of doing this involve repeatedly making a loud or unusual sound, or a physical action such as touching someone repeatedly in a particular way. One technique children are fond of is doing or saying something repeatedly until the target (usually a parent) gets so exasperated that they give in to what's wanted, if only to get the noise to stop. When traveling, "Are We There Yet?" can fall into this if it's said enough.

A favored tactic of the Annoying Younger Sibling and The Bully. Bullying a Dragon can also be done with this. Has a similar effect on the victim as a Brown Note. Can overlap with Cool and Unusual Punishment.

Sister Trope to Loud of War, when someone intentionally causes distress via loud music. Related to Incessant Music Madness, when someone's constant music playing unintentionally causes annoyance. There are also a number of related Video Game-specific tropes:

There are also a few Internet-specific tropes:

"Why are you troping yourself? Why are you troping yourself? Why are you troping yourself?"

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Diamond Is Unbreakable, one of Cheap Trick's strategies to get Rohan killed (Cheap Trick being a parasitic stand that kills its host if someone looks at their back, but this is the only offensive attack it has) is to pester him so incessantly that he'll be willing to do anything just to get it to shut up. It also insults everyone and everything it can (and makes itself understandable to them even if they're animals like dogs or cats) so that they'll attack Rohan in a rage and hopefully accidentally look at his back in the process.
  • In Soul Eater, Death the Kid is once tortured by being tapped repeatedly on only one side of his face, making the two sides uneven.
  • In Pokémon Chronicles, Butch and Cassidy kidnap Professor Oak for information regarding the power-boosting virus Pokerus, and when he refuses to talk, they make a horrible noise with a nail and a piece of glass.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one Calvin and Hobbes story arc, the titular duo are in the car with Calvin's parents, driving to a campsite. At one point, Dad, who's driving, asks Calvin what he wants to eat, to which Calvin replies with hamburgers. His dad gets irritated, due to the fact that that's all they've eaten so far. Calvin then starts singing "TEN MILLION BOTTLES OF BEER ON THE WALL, TEN MILLION BOTTLES OF BEER", causing his dad to point out that they're close to a place that serves hamburgers and asking him if he's happy.
  • In one For Better or for Worse comic, Michael repetitively messes with the spring door stop, causing it to "boing" incessantly. Finally, Elly yells, "All right, you can watch television!"

    Fan Works 
  • In Friendship is Witchcraft, the other ponies visit Applejack while she's away getting her free iPod nanos and find she's been working on a cherry plantation. Applejack's reluctance to tell the truth that she has a hidden bomb on hernote  causes the rest of the mane cast to interrogate her, making Pinkie sing one of her annoying songs from the orphanage so that Applejack will cave and tell them.note 
  • Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality's Professor Quirrell decides to hum a Muggle lullaby in jail...sort of. The humming begins normal, but after five minutes it turns erratic, in a consistently inconsistent pattern. The narration notes that the humming sounds like what a torturer would come up with if they decided to restrict themselves to humming, for fun. Quirrell's guard calls in a code meaning a successful interrogation attack was underway.
  • Becky Lynch does a lot of this in The Horsewomen Of Las Vegas. She later says that she does it because it aggravates people who want to kill her so much they make mistakes which allow her to get the upper hand on them.
  • In The Parselmouth of Gryffindor, trying to get inside the Headmaster's Office, Hermione resorts to poking the Golden Griffin with her wand repeatedly until it abandons its stoic demeanor.

    Films — Animation 
  • In How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World Ruffnut winds up captured by the villain, and everyone worries that she's doomed, but Tuffnut laughs it off saying that he's "more worried for the bad guys!"... Cut to Ruffnut who rambles nonstop, annoying Grimmel to no end, until he finally releases her and begs her to leave.
  • The start of this clip from Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch shows the classic "I'm not touching you!" pestering move that young kids love to do.
  • In Shrek 2, while the protagonists are traveling to Far, Far Away, Donkey annoys Shrek both by repeating "Are We There Yet?" and by making a noise by smacking his lips together.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls: Ace tortures a suspect for information by scraping a knife and fork on a dinner plate, then poking his own eye.
  • Weaponized in Doctor Strange (2016). Strange locks himself and Dormammu into a Stable Time Loop in which he tries to get Dormammu to acquiesce to his demands, only to be killed by Dormammu which causes the loop to repeat. It takes a lot of cycles, but Dormammu finally can't take it anymore and gives in.
    Dormammu, I've come to bargain.
  • In Ghost (1990), Sam badgers Oda Mae into helping him by singing "I'm Henry the Eighth, I Am" loudly over and over again for hours until she finally can't take it anymore.
  • In Wanted, Wesley's foul-mouthed, verbally abusive boss carries a stapler around and aggressively snaps it in his ear while she's berating him, compounding his stress. The sound and visual effects added during these scenes make the effect even more intolerable, even for the audience.

  • Discworld: The waiting room adjacent to Lord Vetinari's office is where he makes people wait prior to interview if he wants to punish them. It is a quiet place with a clock which keeps perfect time, but the ticking of the clock has been precision-engineered to be just irregular enough, and randomly irregular. Ticks do not necessarily follow on from tocks. The time interval between tick and tock will not be constant. Sometimes, in defiance of all expectation, there are three ticks for every tock. The whole has been designed to convert the mental processes of even the stablest individual into something resembling cream cheese. Vetinari has said the craftsman who built this clock was worth every penny.
  • Goldfinger: The titular villain does this to James Bond while they're playing golf. First he plays with his keychain, then by grinding his teeth, in both cases to break Bond's concentration when he's taking a shot. This poor sportsmanship annoys Bond's caddie so much that he stands on top of Goldfinger's golf ball so that Bond can accuse him of cheating when the frustrated Goldfinger drops another ball after he can't find the original.
  • Perelandra features this, overlapping with Evil Is Petty. When Ransom finds himself stuck on a small island with a demon, the demon resorts to annoying Ransom. He calls Ransom's name, then when Ransom asks what he wants, he answers, "Nothing." He repeats this for hours.
  • In Artemis Fowl, Mulch Diggums uses this to great effect in the third book. He’s traveling by plane to Ireland in the company of a hitman who he wants to get rid of, and so Mulch continually irritates the hitman, to the point where said hitman has a breakdown in the airport and gets arrested for screaming that he’s going to kill Mulch.
  • The Marsh Moaner in Magyk from the Septimus Heap books. Upon finding a victim, it starts following them ceaselessly, chanting a singsong of "Weerrghh-derr-waaaah-dooooooooo" and will not stop until it is satisfied that the target has been reduced to a gibbering wreck.
  • In the second Nevermoor book, Morrigan is temporarily banned from Wunsoc, forcing her Sadist Teacher Professor Onstald to come teach her at home. Which is very bad news for him, because Morrigan is a permanent resident of the Hotel Deucalion, and the entire staff adores her—and they've heard all about how badly Onstald has been treating her, and how unfair the ban is. While they have no sway over the Elders or Onstald, they still do what they can to make his life Hell, from giving him cold, unappetizing meals on purpose (while slipping Morrigan pieces of candy), to claiming that the only room available for him to teach in just so happens to be the ballroom where an a cappella choir is holding rehearsal, to "accidentally" swarming the entire hotel with animals. Onstald cracks within a week, and convinces the Elders to lift the ban and let Morrigan come back to Wunsoc for school.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Jake tries it when he has a forty-eight hour time limit to get a confession.
    Jake: [getting up and heading towards the interrogation room] I'm gonna go take another crack at Whitman.
    Amy: You've been in there like five times! What are you gonna do? Annoy him into talking?
    Jake: *annoyed* Ha-ha.
    [Cut immediately to Jake sitting in the interrogation room with a guitar]
    Jake: Two, three, four!
    [Jake shreds on the very out-of-tune guitar and shrieks at the top of his lungs. Whitman gives him an exasperated stare. The scene then cuts to Jake walking back into the briefing room and handing the guitar to Terry.]
    Jake: Didn't work. Did not work.
    • A later episode has Jake try this trick again to try and get a confession out of a murderous dentist, this time with the guitar in tune. It works about as well as it did the first time.
    Jake: Yeah, I've really gotta stop trying that. It never works.
  • In an episode of Criminologist Himura and Mystery Writer Arisugawa, Himura and Arisugawa get the killer (posing as a witness) to give them a piece of important evidence just by annoying him to the point that he hands it over without thinking of its significance.
  • In one episode of M*A*S*H, Hawkeye and BJ get into a duel with Charles to see who can out-annoy the other. Hawkeye and BJ stop showering, while Charles plays his French horn incessantly. The end result is that this annoys everyone else so much that Hawkeye and BJ are eventually washed with a firehose and Charles's horn is run over by a Jeep.
  • The Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew frequently invoke this trope, whenever one character comes too close to the other on the screen: "Does this bug you? I'm not touching you!"
  • MythBusters tested Chinese water torturenote  and found it to be disturbingly effective, as it made Kari break down after only an hour or so. She was able to calm herself enough to keep going, but an EMT eventually called the test off. Tory had already tried to stop the test, being obviously very worried about her, but she overruled him.
  • One episode of Scrubs had Turk unconsciously angry with JD after he and Carla accidentally kissed. He keeps punching him in the same spot without realizing it until JD's able to make him realize he's doing it.
  • In the Sherlock episode "His Last Vow", the season's Big Bad spends some time tormenting a helpless John Watson by flicking him in the face. Because of the blackmail material he has on John's wife, he has no choice but to stand there and take it. Even when the villain moves on to flicking him in the eye. "Try to keep it open, John. Try to keep it open!"
  • Wonder Woman (1975): In "The Fine Art of Crime", Harold Farnum repeatedly torments everyone, Diana Prince, Steve Trevor, and even Henry Roberts - everyone.
    Henry Roberts: Do you know how many telephone calls I ignored from him yesterday? Ten. Ten!
    Moreaux: I believe his record is fourteen.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible: Jesus uses the parable of the persistent widow who keeps bothering an unjust judge to give her justice from her adversary in the gospel of Luke — the judge who eventually gave in to her demand just to keep her from bothering him — as a lesson for believers to never give up when praying to God, assuring them that God will avenge them speedily. Another parable He uses to make that same point is a person shamelessly knocking on his neighbor's door at night to give him some bread that he can set before his guests to eat, saying that the neighbor won't give him what he wants just because he is his friend, but simply to get his neighbor to stop disturbing him and his family.


  • This is sometimes the intent of Trash Talk, in order to goad an opposition player into taking a rash action. Michael Slater was playing in a state Cricket game against fellow Australian team mate Shane Warne. Warne, not shying away from sledging a fellow team mate, decided to get under Slater’s skin by suggesting that his temper was like a time-bomb. When Slater came out to bat, Warne and Darren Berry began the sledging:
    Warne: Tick
    Berry: Tock
    Warne: Tick
    Berry: Tock
After several overs, Slater got impatient and holed out to deep midwicket. As he trudged off, he glared at Warne and Berry, who said in unison "Kaboom!"

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 
  • In El Goonish Shive, Magus once threatened this to get Sirleck to consider his plan. Magus is currently trapped on what's best described as a parallel plane of reality. He can see what's happening in the normal world, but for the most part cannot interact with it. Sirleck exists partially on that same plane, and is capable of observing Magus, but has no way of physically harming him.
    Magus: You can't hurt me, I never sleep or run out of breath, and I have nothing better to do than follow you around and incessantly babble about anything and everything.
  • In Kid Radd, at one point Radd's group are trapped in an RPG battle that rooted each of them to one spot, with an opponent who seemed likely to kill Radd or Bogey within the next couple of turns. Sheena decided to just stall forever on her turn, but the others objectednote  and Radd sang badly until she gave in.
    Radd: [does air guitar] One more time! Her name is Rio and she dances on the saaand!
    Sheena: Alright, alright! I'll take the damn turn!!
  • The Last Human In A Crowded Galaxy: The purple alien's two kids behave like any siblings:
    Mommmm! Xu's lookin' at me!
    I am not! I'm lookin' near you!
    Are not!
    Am too!
    Mom says get your gross dry eyestalk off my side!
    Mom says my eyestalks are silky smooth!
  • In Level 30 Psychiatry, the first comic in the "Girl's Day Out" story arc had Roll asking Doc Gardevoir if she'd go out and have some fun, something she doesn't really do. The next comic starts with this.
    Roll: So last night Dr. Gardevoir and I agreed—
    Dr. Gardevoir: [thinking] Caving in after 10 minutes of "pretty please" is not agreeing.
  • Ozy and Millie: Millie tries to do this to an ambassador to Greater Llewellynland. She tries poking him, annoying noises, asking dumb questions, and trimming her toenails, all to no effect. In the end, she has to resort to cell phone ring tones.
  • Weak Hero:
    • Teddy's bread and butter back when he was a bully. He never directly fought Gray (at least until Gray deliberately riled him up), instead favouring more roundabout bullying techniques like messing with his possessions, tripping him up in the hallway, etc.
    • This is one of Phillip's favoured bullying tactics, as he doesn't have the strength to physically bully his victims. He steals Gray's bag after Teddy already messed with it, knowing that the repeated abuse would hurt Gray more than garden-variety bullying.
  • An xkcd strip has a person choosing between two rental cars: the "murder car," which is definitely haunted but only about one in six drivers actually get murdered, and an ordinary car with a broken GPS that's stuck navigating to Seattle and can't be turned off. After trying and failing to put up with the broken GPS, the customer returns it and takes the murder car instead.

     Web Original 

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Castle" sees Harold poking Gumball into annoyance.
  • In the American Dad! episode "Son of Stan," Roger attempts to force Hayley and Jeff to hand him the $50,000 they conned out of Stan and Francine, merely by repeatedly making a nasal squawking sound. Hayley at first mocks this, but hours upon hours of this slowly drive her and Jeff to insane lengths to get rid of him.
  • The Angry Beavers:
    • "Fancy Prance" had Daggett attempting to figure out Norbert's life-long dream by trying to wheedle it out of him. The act of "wheedling", in this case, involved Dagget repeatedly saying the word "wheedle" over and over again until Norb cracked.
    • A similar incident involved Daggett (as Muscular Beaver) apparently having been on the receiving end of a Grand Theft Me by the dreaded "Toe-Bot" (i.e. a thimble with springy arms and an angry face drawn on it sitting on Dag's toe). Norbert's attempts to halt Daggett's latest fantasy are for naught as simply removing Toe-Bot results in Daggett flopping around making a truly obnoxious wheezing sound until Norbert finally puts Toe-Bot back and plays along.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In the episode "The Last Roundup", Applejack's friends badger her into agreeing to tell a secret by having Pinkie Pie talk incessantly at her.
      Pinkie Pie: Pickle barrel, kumquat, pickle barrel, kumquat, pickle barrel, kumquat, chimi-cherry-changa...
    • In "School Raze – Part 2", when the Mane Six (and Spike) are locked in Tartarus with Tirek, they point out to the gloating villain that he Didn't Think This Through, because that means he's locked with Pinkie Pie. If she can be annoying without even trying to, it's much worse when she's doing it on purpose. She's prompt to slip into Tirek's cage, puts him in party gear and generally rank up the obnoxiousness, culminating with putting on a Cymbal-Banging Monkey costume. Tirek is quick to surrender and accepts helping them getting out.
  • This pops up a couple of times in The Simpsons.
    • In "Brush With Greatness", Bart & Lisa ask "Will you take us to Mount Splashmore?" over and over, to Homer's ever-growing annoyance, until he finally gives in and says yes.
    • In "Bart of Darkness", they tell Homer outright that they're going to ask him "Can we have a pool, Dad?" over and over again until/unless he gives in. He agrees to getting the pool.
  • In Smiling Friends, Charlie's only source of "entertainment" provided to him by the denizens of Hell is Jeremy, a weird, black, imp-thing that throws his fingers in and out of his face while making loud "BALALALALA" noises. Charlie warns him that doing it again will get him punched. Jeremy doesn't listen.
  • The Teen Titans Go! episode "Waffles" has Raven, Starfire and Robin annoying Brother Blood into surrender by picking up the other two Titans' game of saying just one word: "Waffles".


Video Example(s):


I'm not touching you!

Lilo and Stitch argue with each other to Nani's annoyance.

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / TormentByAnnoyance

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