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Verbal Backspace

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Mr Popo: This carpet gets 10,000 miles to the soul.
Bulma: What?
Mr Popo: The gallon.

Comedy trope: Alice says something. Then Bob says something or something happens that makes it clear that what she just said doesn't make sense. Alice quickly revises her statement and repeats it. On Second Thought is a more specific case of this, as are some forms of Inflationary Dialogue.

Alternatively, Alice attempts a compliment or insult. However, Bob responds with information contradicting what they thought, which could include Compliment Backfire or Insult Backfire. So, Alice tries again with a new insult or compliment, directly opposed to what they had just said. Could be compounded by a Hair-Trigger Temper.

Students of rhetoric may describe this as "epanorthosis". If Alice has to retract a practical idea that uses bad methods, it's a case of ...And That Would Be Wrong. If she has to retract a controversial opinion, it's a case of Not That There's Anything Wrong with That or Present Company Excluded. If she's retracting an opinion based on who else does or doesn't agree with it, it just might be a Favouritism Flip-Flop. If she's retracting an insult to someone she hadn't meant to insult, it's because of Insult Friendly Fire.

Compare Freudian Slip (where the character says something that reveals thoughts he's concealing or repressing) and Last-Second Word Swap (where the character revises what he was just about to say before he actually says it). Also see Verbal Backpedaling where an improper statement is covered up with a flimsy explanation. Related to Can't Believe I Said That.


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    Asian Animation 
  • BoBoiBoy:
    • Gopal, laughs along with Ying and Yaya when BoBoiBoy says he has superpowers. After he demonstrates his powers, Gopal says: "See? Didn't I tell you so?"
    • When Adu Du threatens to destroy their school, Gopal and several other students celebrate since they would get a day off. As Yaya is about to fine them, Gopal backtracks and tells the others that they shouldn't like it if their school is destroyed and the others nod followingly.
  • Mechamato: Deep initially celebrates at the news of Mr. Jamie possibly being attacked by a bad robot, but when Mara interjects on his behaviour, Deep instead claims he's concerned, turning his "Yahoo!" into "Hu hu hu..."

    Comic Books 

  • The Punisher MAX: One-Shot Character Dingo goes from gloating to his employer's corpse about how he'll take over Toomey's drug racket (Punisher blackmailed Dingo into helping him ambush said boss) to desperately saying that he'll actually get an honest job and leave town after he realizes that he's just been gloating about his future drug-running plans in front of a drug-hating Knight Templar Vigilante Man. Said backspace doesn't save him.
  • In the Wallace & Gromit comic "Anoraknophobia", Wallace's neighbour is the pigeon-obsessed Mr Patel. Towards the end of the comic, as Wallace is desperately trying to survive a deadly game of ping-pong against a Mad Scientist, the day is saved when Mr Patel's favourite pigeon catches the exploding ping-pong ball and flies off with it. When Wallace expresses concern, Mr Patel assures them that the pigeon can tell the difference between an exploding ping-pong ball and margarine.
    Distant explosion
    Mr Patel: Well he can now!

  • Chronicles of the Kencyrath. Regarding Bane being locked up in a Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere, Jame says she wouldn't wish such a fate on her worst enemy...then names a few exceptions who have annoyed her recently.
  • Chrysalis (RinoZ): Anthony takes the chance to vent to Morrelia about the guy who nearly cut him in half, and how unfair it is for someone to be so ridiculously powerful — until she tells him that that was her father.
    Anthony: [Lovely guy. Charming even. I mean, so human. Such a warm personality and totally regular level of strength.]
  • Dear Dumb Diary: Let's Pretend This Never Happened: An illustration of Jamie looking "irresistible" has an arrow pointing to her hair; on the other end is the words "gorgeous", "beautiful", and "okay" crossed out, followed by "some hair".
  • The last line of the children's book I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean is "I'm the biggest thing in this whale!"
  • In Peter Pan, after Peter learns that Tinker Bell was responsible for tricking the Lost Boys into shooting down Wendy, he orders Tink to leave forever. Wendy encourages him to be lenient, so he changes it to a week.
  • In Super Minion, any time human.exe gets shut down, Tofu's inner monologue will resume from a few lines back and say something different.
  • In Tales from Netheredge, Piff has a habit of beginning to correct someone of a higher social sta— Deciding it's not worth it in mid-sentence.

  • Mystery Show has two from the same person, during the same conversation:
    • Some helpful career advice:
    Jake: One thing I have learned: when you try to destroy your career, it only brings wonderful things. Don't ever use that advice. That's the worse piece of advice anyone has ever given.
    • And a few minutes later:
      Jake: Maybe we can all go out to dinner, and then you can measure me, and you can make sure.
      Starlee: [beat] Okay. I mean...
      Jake: Or not. Forget about it.
      Starlee: No, my pause was not that that was a bad idea.
      Jake: No, never mind. I didn't want to anyway.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppet Show:
    Kermit: But first, meet the Vikings, those cruel, heartless Scandinavian marauders whose savage brutality earned them the reputation "worst human beings in history".
    (The Swedish Chef berates Kermit and hits him over the head with a frying pan)
    Kermit: Uh, I'm sorry about that. Uh-uh, ladies and gentlemen, uh...uh, the Vikings, those gentle, quaint, fun-loving old charmers.
  • Muppets Tonight!: John Goodman is fighting in a war with a bunch of rats:
    John Goodman: Don't worry, I promise to get all of you home back in one piece.
    (a rat explodes and then comes back into view with his top torso separated from his bottom torso)
    John Goodman: Okay, maybe several pieces.

  • Cabin Pressure: At one point Arthur serves Martin what he says is a nice warm cup of coffee. Martin's reactions mean Arthur is forced to repeatedly change the description until it's eventually just down to "cup".
  • I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, Series 79, Episode 4:
    Jack Dee: Literary legend George Orwell lived in Suffolk. Born Eric Blair, the author took his celebrated surname from the local River Orwell. Imagine what kind of loser takes his surname from the name of a river.
    [sound of someone talking in Jack's earpiece]
    Jack: What, really? In Scotland? As I said, what a great idea, naming yourself after a river.
  • The Goon Show: At one point, Bloodnok demands to know what blasted idiot thought of a given idea.
    Seagoon: You did, sir.
    Bloodnok: What a brilliant idea.

  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Hyeon asserts that his squirrel can't help Benedict on account of it being the 'dumbest motherfucker' in Oldport. He then retracts his statement when he notices Carlie next to him.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Atmosfear: Kufu, inviting the players to gamble, So, who are the suckers... uh, I mean, winners that are taking me on?

  • 'Sincerely Me' from Dear Evan Hansen is basically 'Verbal Backspace: The Song'.
    Connor: ♫ I gotta tell you life without you has been hard. ♫
    Jared: (Snarky) Hard?
    Connor: ♫ ...has been bad. ♫
    Jared: Bad?
    Connor: (Annoyed) ♫ ...has been rough. ♫''
    Jared: Kinky!
    • Later:
      Connor: ♫ If I stop smoking drugs then everything might be alright ♫
      Jared: "Smoking drugs"?!
      Evan: Just fix it!
      Connor: ♫ If I stop smoking crack- ♫
      Evan: Crack?!
      Connor: ♫ If I stop smoking pot then everything might be alright ♫
  • The Phantom of the Opera: The song "Notes" has a quick gag as the managers are increasingly baffled by a series of letters:
    Raoul: Isn't this the letter you wrote?
    Firmin: And what is it that we're meant to have wrote? (beat) written?
  • In The Ring of the Nibelung Hagen asks his father Alberich who will inherit the "eternal power" (ewige Macht) of the Ring if Hagen manages to get it back from Siegfried.
    Alberich: I (beat) and you.
  • The 2012 Royal Shakespeare Company production of Much Ado About Nothing: Catherine Tate, a redhead, played Beatrice, so when Benedick (David Tennant) described his ideal wife, he declared, "And her hair shall be re...whatever color it please God!"

    Visual Novels 
  • Muv-Luv: When Takeru calls Sumika a slug, combined with Insult to Rocks:
    Sumika: Gaaaaah!!! Apologize to slugs!
    Takeru: Gyahahahahaha!! Do you even know what you're saying!?
    Sumika: Shut uuup! Apologize to me too!!

    Web Animation 
  • But Really Really Fast:
    • In "JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Stardust Crusaders But Really Really Fast", the heroes learn that their next nine enemies are all based on the nine Egyptian gods. However, they already defeated one, and two more are completely skipped over in the adaptation, so we get the following exchange:
      Jotaro: Hey so we need to defeat 9 Egyptian gods.
      Joseph: So you mean we have to defeat 8 Egyptian gods?
      Jotaro: Yes, we need to defeat 6 Egyptian gods.
    • In "JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Golden Wind But Really Really Fast":
      Florist: Bucciarati!! Please exact revenge on my daughter's murderer!
      Bucciarati: We're not assassins.
      (The florist dumps a Stock Money Bag in front of Bucciarati)
      Bucciarati: ...Alright we're conditional assassins.
  • Epithet Erased:
  • Happens in the Homestar Runner short "Donut Unto Others", Homestar sets up his donut shop right in front of Bubs's Concession Stand. Bubs confronts Homestar about it:
    Bubs: You opened up a competing donut place right across the street from me!
    (Homestar looks at the empty field between the two shops)
    Homestar: Street?
    Bubs: (same tone) Right across the way from me!
  • Red vs. Blue: In season 5 episode "Tucker Knows Best", when Sarge thinks the Blues are planning to attack them, he calls them "dirty backstabbers". Donut points out that the Blues are supposed to attack them, and Sarge amends that to "dirty frontstabbers".
  • The Zero Punctuation review of Bayonetta makes a Running Gag of Freudian slips due to the game's sexualisation:
    "Get past the cock-tease presentation and the game is adequate at breast. Best."

    Web Original 
  • In one of the Rooster Teeth Podcast episodes, Jon is explaining about how, during his divorce case, he had to bring Blaine in as a character witness to prove that Jon isn't having gay sex with him (long story). As Blaine takes over, we get this wonderful snippet:
    Blaine: So, the night before the case, I'm in my closet—wait... (sputtering noise) Phrasing! (Jon and Gus bust out laughing)
  • That Annoying Guy does this unintentionally while carving a pumpkin with his girlfriend.
    Oh my God, this smells like your momma-mamma-mama mia it's a pizza-a.
  • This tumblr post:
    horreurscopes: there is literally no logical, emotional, aesthetic, philosophical, moral, or sexy reason for the sun to be gone at 4.30 pm
    another-exclus: Vampires can come out earlier
    horreurscopes: One sexy reason

    Web Video 
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd:
    Nerd: Don't kill me!
    Jason: (shows Friday the 13th cartridge)
    Nerd: KILL ME!
  • Bennett the Sage's review of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz sees a skit where, after a little girl in the story asks why there's fighting, Bennett as her grandpa says Bandai needs money for milk and cookies immediately after saying it was for Hookers and Blow.
    Bennett (as the grandpa): Because Bandai needs that coke and whore money, dear. (gasps) Oh, I'm sorry—milk and cookies money.
  • bill wurtz:
    • history of japan: Describing how Russia built the South Manchuria Railway:
      And Russia builds their railroad, supervised by a shit-ton of soldiers. And then, when the railroad was done, they downgraded to a fuck-ton. Did I say "downgrade"? I meant "upgrade".
    • history of the entire world, i guess: Chandragupta after giving 500 elephants to Seleucus:
      Chandragupta: Time to conquer all of India...most of India.note 
  • Check Point, Zyng and Zag
    Kathleen: (offering Major Nelson a job at Checkpoint) We can't technically pay you money, but we do have free soda!
    Paul: No we don't!
    Kathleen: Free water!
  • City Nerd: When describing typical businesses on stroads one is money laundering operations, which is quickly corrected to mattress stores.
  • Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog:
    • For starters:
      Billy: I wanna do great things, you know? I wanna be an achiever. Like Bad Horse...
      Penny: "The Thoroughbred of Sin?!"
      Billy: ...I meant "Gandhi".
    • Also, from the first musical number...
      Billy: Love your hair!
      Penny: What?!
      Billy: No, uh, I love the... "air". Heh.
  • A favoured comedy technique of British Youtuber Hbomberguy.
    Hbomb: (on pick-up artist Roosh V) He's basically writing horoscopes, only for desperate and lonely people. [beat] He's basically writing horosco- [hard cut]
    • There's a particularly intricate example in his "In Defence of Dark Souls II" video, combined with jokes about his Youtube subscriptions going up and down with comedy sound effects depending on how effectively the backspaces land.
      Hbomb: [count: 65,907] It's not as good as Bloodborne, but it's a little bit...a little bit better than Dark Souls. [count: 4] Oh, I mean, in my opinion it's a little bit better than Dark Souls I. [count: 2,500] OK, it's about as good as Dark Souls I but it has some differences I prefer. [count: 12,500] Okay, it's not as good as Dark Souls I, but the changes were an interesting and useful risk that's more valuable existing than not existing, and is genuinely better than getting more of Dark Souls I, which we already have, and you can still just go back to and play if you want to. [count: 24,000] And I personally think I had more fun with it. [count: 4] I think the Emerald Herald is a better waifu than Gwynevere. [count: "seven hundred million"]
  • Honest Trailers: Occurs in the trailer for Black Panther.
    Narrator: After taking eighteen movies to get six quality villains, cry as Marvel takes just three movies to cut it back to two.
    (cut to The Vulture disintegrating after the snap)
    Narrator: Maybe one.
  • LoadingReadyRun, Bandwidth Exceeded.
  • Mother's Basement, In "I Miss English Anime Openings":
    "I bet you didn't even remember Mon Colle Knights existed until just now, and I blame that 30 seconds of farting tubas, because the show was awes-... goo-... okay, look, I liked it."
  • The Nostalgia Chick:
    • Their Labyrinth review:
      "I think everyone remembers their first boner... Bowie."
    • Later used in her You've Got Mail review when trying to explain the plot of the movie:
      You've Got Mail is a two-hour AOL commercial — I mean, You've Got Mail is the only title more dated than She's All That - I mean...
  • Outside Xbox:
    • Jane isn't impressed by the masks in We Happy Few, because she's worn creepier - seen creepier.
    • In one of their Let's Plays of Hitman (2016), Andy delivers some in-character dialogue:
      Andy: You can stop protesting, I killed him, I mean someone killed him, I mean it was an accident.
  • TFS at the Table: When the cast discover that Wake's long-lost brother Sheldon is somehow alive and meet him in the monastery at Rite, Zito narrates that he looks extremely old and a lot worse than the last time Wake saw him. Zito then reflects that Wake last saw the guy being impaled alive, and that technically he looks a lot better than the last time Wake saw him.
  • Todd in the Shadows:
    • He mishears the lyrics to "I've Got Nerve" by Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus as "I've Got Nerf".
      "Heh, Nerf should use this in their commercials. Nerf should not use this in their commercials, I immediately take that back."
    • Happens again in his Top 10 Best Pop Songs of 2011.
      "Ah, Usher. The women want him and the men want him. Want to be him. I meant want to be him."
    • When he is talking about the "two-ply Hefty bag" line from Train's "Drive By":
      Todd: This song has to be the worst commercial for Hefty bags ever!
      (A commercial with jumping Hefty bags is shown.)
      Todd: (beat) This song has to be the second worst commercial for Hefty bags ever!

    Real Life 
  • Online, there are two additional methods to invoke this: writing the text in a strikethrough font, and writing one thing and then "backspacing" over it with control-H, written ^H. (Each control-H deletes one letter^H^H^H^H^H^H^H character.) This is a reference to 1980s-era Unix systems, where misconfigured terminals would display control codes instead of invoking them. (A more obscure option is control-W, which deletes entire words ^W^W^W deleted one word in the Berkeley UNIX and in the vi text editor, and was therefore used for more succinct examples.)
  • Lojban has actual words for this: The words "si", "sa" and "su", to be specific.
  • In the US Armed Forces' basic training programs, a drill instructor will never admit to having misspoken. Instead, they'll use the phrase "As you were" to indicate that the recruit(s) should mentally rewind and forget the DI's mistake. Alternatively, the British Army would have the officer saying "Carry on, Sergeant" whenever this situation occurred, which is probably where the popular army-based comedy film name came from. From the Navy, we get the expressions "Belay that" or "Belay my last", a reference to belaying, or tying off a rope to stop further movement.

Here's the finger—oops, I mean stinger.


"There is no P in Mine--"

RedstoneNed carefully dodges a bullet.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / VerbalBackspace

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