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Wrong Insult Offence

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"I was walking down the street the other day and this man actually called me a Chink. I was so mad! Chinks are Chinese. I'm Korean. I'm a Gook. If you're going to be racist, at least get the terminology correct."

A Wrong Insult Offence occurs when one character attempts to insult another and hurls what they think is an appropriate insult in the other character's face. The second character considers this and then calmly replies, listing all the reasons why that particular insult does not apply to them and helpfully suggesting a more appropriate insult they could use.

As a piece of characterization, this usually indicates that the insulted party does not take the insulter seriously. Alternatively, it could just indicate that the second party is a shocking pedant.

Bonus points if the insult they suggest is worse than the original one.

A Sub-Trope of Do Wrong, Right.

If someone objects to the spelling or grammar of the insult, but not the insult itself, that's Grammar Correction Gag.

Compare Insult Backfire, Insult Misfire, I Take Offence to That Last One, Insistent Terminology. The inverse is You Know I'm Black, Right?


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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • A frequent exchange in Spider-Man. At times he knows his enemies speak figuratively but merely wants to troll them:
    Villain: You insect!
    Spider-Man: Actually, I'm an arachnid.

    Comic Strips 
  • Blondie (1930): Mr. Dithers takes offense when someone claims he runs his company "almost like a dictatorship", when he clearly runs it "exactly like one".

    Fan Works 
  • A running gag in Back To Us has Chat Noir picking up the nickname "Whiskers" from Nino/Emerald Shell, despite his mask not having whiskers.
  • In the Fate/stay night fanfiction Happy Riniversary, Rin's Sitcom Archnemesis Luvia gets more and more angry when Rin and the narration repeatedly insult her Swedish heritage. Mostly because she's actually Finnish.
  • Covering the Phantom Thieves has a Grumpy Old Man at Leblanc arguing with Kawakami and Keiko, saying "I can't believe I'm getting talked down to by a couple millennials." Kawakami points out that Keiko isn't even a millennial. (Dialogue elsewhere reveals she was born in 1999, making her Generation Z.) "If you're going to be ageist, at least figure out what your own shitty words mean."

    Films — Animation 
  • In Monster House, an elderly neighbour has a heart attack while trying to scare the Kid Hero DJ off his lawn, and DJ worries that he's responsible for the old man's death. His friend Chowder reassures DJ that he's not a murderer — after all, killing someone accidentally is called manslaughter.
  • Monsters, Inc.
    Randall: Where is she, you little one-eyed crettin?
    Mike: Okay. First of all, it's cree-tin. If you're gonna threaten me, do it properly.
  • Shrek is an ogre; he wouldn't grind your bones for his bread.
    Shrek: ...that would be a giant.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 25th Hour:
    Monty: You fat Russian fuck.
    Novotny: Fat Ukrainian fuck!
  • Con Air:
    Vince Larkin: [to Sims while walking to the surveillance truck] We pick up Mr. Cindino in Carson City. From then until the plane hits Alabama, we've got two hours to get him to talk. We got you a seat right next to him, and he's known to be somewhat garrulous in the company of thieves.
    Duncan Malloy: Garrulous? What the fuck is garrulous
    Vince Larkin: That would be loquacious, verbose, effusive. How about chatty?
    Duncan Malloy: [to Devers] What's with Dictionary Boy?
    Vince Larkin: "Thesaurus Boy" I think is more appropriate.
  • Die Hard: Hans Gruber claims to be a terrorist, but is later revealed to be after 600 million dollars worth of bearer bonds.
    Mrs. McClane: After all your posturing, all your little speeches, you're nothing but a common thief.
    Hans: I am an exceptional thief, Mrs. McClane. And since I'm moving up to kidnapping, you should be more polite.
  • Enchanted:
    Robert: You're crazy!
    Narissa: No. Spiteful, vindictive, and very large, but never crazy.
  • Robert Clayton Dean (Will Smith) in Enemy of the State, when he's called a "shyster" by his mob client:
    Actually, I believe the slur "shyster" is generally reserved for Jewish attorneys. I believe the proper slur for someone like myself would be "eggplant".
  • Gangs of New York: McGloin at one point, looking to pick a fight with Amsterdam, calls him a "fidlam bens" (a thief who steals worthless crap because he doesn't have the skills or guts to go after worthwhile loot). Amsterdam just shrugs and says that, given that the entire haul from his last heist was the corpse of a dead nightwatchman he sold to the local medical school, he really can't argue with the description. However, if McGloin had called him a "chiseler" (a thief who screws his partners out of their cut of the loot) he might feel insulted enough to fight. McGloin doesn't understand the term, but, being a dedicated Jerkass, says Sure, Let's Go with That.
  • In The Gentlemen, Ernie is furious at being called a 'black cunt'. His response?
    Me being black has got nothing to do with me being a cunt!
  • In Gran Torino, this exchange occurs between Walt and Sue, a spunky teenaged member of the Hmong family who'd moved in next door, concerning an old stereotype about Asians eating dogs:
    Sue Lor: There's a ton of food.
    Walt Kowalski: Yeah, well just keep your hands off my dog.
    Sue Lor: No worries, we only eat cats.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, when the villainous Bellatrix says that the heroic Dobby nearly killed her by saving his friends:
    Dobby: Dobby never meant to kill. Dobby only meant to maim or seriously injure.
  • In the film Murder by Death, Milo Perrier objects to being called a Frenchie. He's a BELGIE!
  • Porky's: A stupid racist high schooler taunts a Jewish high schooler by talking about "wanting to go fly a kite." The Jewish kid calmly explains that the word he's looking for is "kike."
  • In Roxanne, (a setting-updated adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac) C.D. responds to a man calling him "Big Nose" with a Long List of 26 better insults he could have given.
  • In Scream 4 when the killer calls Marnie he says of course she will die as "you're the Dumb Blonde with the big tits". She responds by saying she's a straight-A student. She still gets killed though.
  • From S.O.B.:
    Polly Reed: You're gonna let that shyster on?
    Dr. Irving Finegarten: I could sue you for calling me that, Polly! A shyster is a disreputable lawyer. I'm a quack!
  • In Spider-Man, J. Jonah Jameson resents being accused of slander. He's a journalist after all, not an orator.
    JJJ: Slander is spoken; in print, it's libel.
  • The Wicker Man (1973):
    Sgt. Howie: It means that you, sir, are a pagan!
    Lord Summerisle: A heathen, conceivably, but not - I hope - an unenlightened one.

  • Alexis Carew:
    • Alexis once responds to an Upper-Class Twit calling her a "stupid bitch" over comms by remarking to the bridge crew that "The very worst thing about being a woman in this Navy is that the insults are so very limited. You men get called all the imaginative ones."
      Bosun: Aye, sir. A quite limited repertoire, these Coalsons have.
    • Given a Call-Back in Privateer when a young lieutenant tries to pick Alexis (in civilian clothes) up in a bar, thinking her a local lady rather than the war heroine and privateer captain she really is. She starts in on him with the CO's routine of giving Pop Quizzes to young officers. He calls her a bitch for embarrassing him in front of the whole bar, and she boredly tells him to go ask his bosun for some better insults.
  • Domes of Fire:
    • Stragen takes the Styric Council to task for not being more proactive in the emerging crisis in Daresia. When one of the Councillors answers by calling him a bastard, he bears it no mind...because he literally is the illegitimate son of a nobleman. He then proceeds to point out he is also a swindler, murderer, and thief (since he is also the head of a thieves' guild): glibly implying that anything they could call him would not be insulting in the least.
    • In the same book, Chancellor Oscagne takes offense at the Tamuls being referred to as "godless yellow dogs". The Tamuls have gods, thank you very much (given a couple of minutes he might be able to remember their names) and think of themselves as less yellow or beige and more "golden-skinned", because it's more flattering.
  • I, Jedi: Corran Horn, undercover in a Space Pirate gang, gets into a confrontation with one of his fellows named Remart after the latter insults Corran's wingman. Remart makes a snide remark about Corellians (i.e. both Corran and his cover identity Jenos Idanian) tending to speak before they think. Corran replies with a classic Cyrano routine about how to properly insult a Corellian, culminating in him telling a glowpanel joke on himself.note 
  • In McAuslan in the Rough one of the pipe-sergeants is recalling a heroic predecessor; Piper Findlater, who earned a VC on the Afghan border when he stuck to his task under fire and wounded because, he said, he didn't want his regiment to be beaten by a pack of "beastly niggers". One of the listeners (quite enlightened for 1950s UK) complains that Findlater should not have said that, and the sergeant telling the story remarks "Nor he shouldn't, and you're right for once. They wass not niggers; they wass wogs".
  • Now Blooms the Tudor Rose: Regarding the belief that Magnus Vasa is so Royally Screwed Up he thinks he's Jesus Christ:
    The rumors are completely wrong. Magnus merely believes he's the prophesized First Horseman of the Apocalypse who rides a white horse and comes conquering and to conquer. He is deeply—DEEPLY—offended when people get it mixed-up.
  • Rivers of London: In Whispers Underground, a recent murder victim's extremely drunk, extremely American father asks PC Peter Grant whether he'd be more offended to be called a limey or a [racial epithet redacted]. Peter refuses to be provoked into dropping his line of questioning, but eventually points out that one of those words is impossible to take seriously and the other just makes the person saying it sound like a racist American:
    "You don't actually know enough about me to insult me properly."
  • In the first Sword of Truth book, a mob comes to Zedd's house intending to lynch him because he's a witch. He starts his dialogue with them by asking to clarify whether they want to kill him for sorcery, or simply demean him by calling him a girl.

    Live-Action TV 
  • While covering the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash on The Colbert Report, Stephen made mention of an incident in which the fictitious pilot names "Sum Ting Wong", "Wi Tu Lo", "Ho Lee Fuk" and "Bang Ding Ow" were broadcasted on the news.
    Colbert: I don't care who confirmed these names! It is wrong! I mean, "Wi Tu Lo"? "Bang Ding Ow"? This is a Korean airline; those are Chinese names! That's racist, OK! And if you're going to do a racist joke, at least get the ethnicity right! Like Captain "Park Ma Plen Tu-Sun" or "Ha Yu Lan Dis Tang"!
  • Doctor Who: From "The Curse of Fenric":
    Crane: Commander! Have some respect for the wheelchair! The man is an invalid!
    Judson: I'm not an invalid! I'm a cripple!
  • An unfortunate (yet utterly hilarious) example occurs in Fawlty Towers when the Major tells a story about how he took a woman to a cricket match, and she kept referring to the Indian players by the wrong racial slur.
  • Horrible Histories: Shakespeare is offended when the best that his opponent in an insult contest can do is "rogue" and "saucy knave". He proceeds to knock him out with a string of proper Shakespearean insults.
  • On House, one of Wilson's ex-wives tells House that she named their yappy unpleasant dog Hector because the dog reminded her of House, and "Doctor Greg House" is an anagram of "Hector does go rug."
    House: First, "Hector does go rug" is a lame anagram. You want a better one for "Gregory House"? "Huge ego. Sorry."
  • iCarly: From "iStill Psycho":
    Carly: Nora... YOU'RE A NUTCASE!
    Nora: The proper term is "disturbed, lonely sociopath."
  • The L Word: A group of hicks started harassing Jenny and her then-girlfriend, Max by asking if Max was "[her] faggot". Jenny's response was a taser and this bizarrely awesome Crosses the Line Twice example:
    Jenny: We're not faggots, we're dykes, you asshole!
  • M*A*S*H had one episode where Hawkeye, BJ, and Charles were all called a crumb, a louse, and a schmo in that order by Major Houlihan. When Houlihan later calls all of them crumbs together, Hawkeye corrects her by saying BJ is a schmo and Charles is a louse, while he is the only crumb. BJ and Winchester then correct him that BJ is the louse and Charles is the schmo.
  • In the Mike & Molly episode "Fish for Breakfast", Carl's latest girlfriend (who thought she was going to a party) calls Mike and Vince (Mike's mother-in-law's fiance) as "two gay guys eating a banana split". Mike protests that he hasn't had a bite of the banana split.
  • New Tricks: At the end of the pilot, Sandra refers to the boys as 'criminals'. They react with offence. She amends the insult to 'crooks'. This they can live with.
  • On an episode of Picket Fences a shock jock who was the focus of the episode has found his audience turning on him. One of them addresses him by epithets for a Jewish person, to which he replies, "I'm not even Jewish. If you want to slur me, call me a Kraut, you ignorant pig-farmer."
  • In his opening monologue for Saturday Night Live in 2017, Kumail Nanjiani note  complained about racists telling him to "go back to India"...because he's never been there; he's from Pakistan.
    Kumail Nanjiani: Here's my problem with most racism: it's the inaccuracy. That's what bugs me. I'm like, "Do the research! Put in the work! You will see the benefits!" ... if someone was like, "Go back to Pakistan, which was part of India until 1947, and is now home to the world's oldest salt mine," I would be like, "That guy seems to know what he's talking about. I'll pack my bags."
  • From Sherlock: "I'm not a psychopath, I'm a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research."
  • From The Thick of It:
    Olly Reader: Malcolm, you're bullying me...
    Malcolm Tucker: How dare you! How dare you! Don't you ever, ever call me a bully... I'm so much worse than that!
  • The Wishbone episode "Cyranose" does a Compressed Adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac as the book of the week (with Wishbone of course playing Cyrano). It opens with the famous "how to insult my nose" scene.
    Upper-Class Twit: Excuse me, Dog-face, but your nose is rather large.
    Cyrano: "My nose is rather large"? "Rather large", you say? Is that the best you can do? (laughs) I do not need my sword to teach you a lesson! I have... words! (drops sword out of his mouth) Let me teach you how to insult my nose, monsieur! You could have said, "Your nose is so big, you should call a doctor and have it amputated!" Or, how 'bout this: "What do you carry around in that snout, your pens or your whole writing desk?" Ooh, how 'bout this one: "Do you love the birds so much that you let them perch on your nose?" But no! The best you can come up with is, "Your nose is rather large." Well, any fool can see that my nose is rather large, but your brain is rather small.

    Puppet Shows 
  • From the Mark Hamill/Luke Skywalker episode of The Muppet Show:
    Luke Skywalker: Listen pal, we're on a mission. There's no way we're gonna be involved in some third-rate variety show!
    Kermit: [deeply wounded] Second-rate variety show!

    Professional Wrestling 
  • This exchange between Chris Jericho and a hostile fan.
    Fan: Go back to Toronto!
    Jericho: I'm from Winnipeg, you idiot!
  • A similar exchange happened between Io Shirai and a hostile fan.
    Fan: Go back to China!
    Io: I'm Japanese, bitch!

  • Following an incident when a football supporter threw a banana at a black player, black comedian Nathan Caton did a monologue on The Now Show complaining about lazy racism. "I mean, if you threw a bottle of Reggae Reggae Sauce or a Nando's menu, I'd be offended, but I'd think you did some research!"

  • Older Than Television: Cyrano de Bergerac has a very large nose, which a bit character insults by calling it "rather large". Cyrano's reaction is to tell him that it is, but "rather large" is an absolutely pathetic excuse for an insult and go on to tell him various better ways to insult him. Brian Hooker's translation of Rostand's version is awe-inspiring:
    Cyrano: Oh, no, young sir, you are too simple. Why, you might have said a great many things: why waste your opportunity? For example, thus: Aggressive: "Ay, sir, if that nose were mine, I'd have it amputated on the spot!" Practical: "How do you drink with such a nose? You must have had a cup made especially." Descriptive: "'Tis a rock, a crag, a cape — a cape? Say rather, a peninsula!" Inquisitive: "What is that receptacle? A razor case or a portfolio?" Kindly: "Ah, do you love the little birds so much that when they come to see you, you give them this to perch on!" Cautious: "Take care! A weight like that might make you top-heavy!" Eloquent: "When it blows, the typhoon howls, and the clouds darken!" Dramatic: "When it bleeds ... the Red Sea." Simple: "When do they unveil the monument?" Military: "Beware! A secret weapon!" Enterprising: "What a sign for some perfumer!" Respectful: "Sir, I recognize in you a man of parts. A man of ... prominence!" Or, Literary: "Was this the nose that launched a thousand ships?" These, my dear sir, are things you might have said, had you some tinge of letters or of wit to color your discourse. But wit? Not so, you never had an atom. And of letters, you need but three to write you down: A, S, S. [helpfully, to the other's dumbfoundedness:] Ass!

    Video Games 
  • Fallout 4. One of the sarcastic dialog options after searching through Kellog's home with Nick Valentine yields us this jewel:
    Sole Survivor: What? The Clockwork Dick is stumped?
    Nick Valentine: It's Synth Detective, jackass. If you're gonna be that way, you might as well get the make and model right.
  • Saints Row: The Third. Phillipe Loren is not French, he is Belgian... And pushing this ends up becoming a BIG MISTAKE.
    Boss: Ah damnit, I should have made a Belgian Pancake joke...
  • Pisha in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines is a rare vampire who has to consume human flesh, which makes her pretty off-putting even to a regular vampire. A Malkavian player character might nickname her "Black Widow", in which case she takes no offense but explains how "Mantis" would be a better pejorative. As a Fully-Embraced Fiend well into her third century of unlife, she's worked out the existential angst long ago.

  • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, when someone calls Doc a nurse as an insult, his response is to defend the nursing profession.
  • Lackadaisy combines this with I Take Offense to That Last One during Ivy's confrontation with the Arbogasts in Defiance:
    Bobby: It's one less of you high school jellybeans I have to worry about, slinking around here, trying to raid our stores.
    Ivy: Hey! I'm in college!
  • Sticky Dilly Buns: Ruby learns her sister Amber has moved out of porn to regular acting.
    Ruby: Direct to Video?
    Amber (with little icicles sprouting from her speech bubble): Made-for-TV.

    Web Original 
  • In Analog Control's movie riff of Dwegons and Leprechauns, the hosts theorize that the eponymous dwegons got the main character's family evicted from his home in Chicago to force him to move in with them. Thayne theorized they sent a letter to his landlord containing a horrible racial slur, but MJTR countered that, since dwegons don't understand human society and prejudice well, the letter was probably the wrong racial slur.
  • From Cracked:
  • In a Gravity Falls vlog, Rob Walker made fun of Doug "hating everything", and Doug's response is that he's just scared of everything. Cue apology.

    Western Animation 
  • Kim Possible: This exchange from "Clothes Minded":
    Shego: Huh, pretty impressive for a college reject.
    Drakken: Hey! College dropout, Shego. They let me in, I let myself out.
  • In the Looney Tunes short "Muscle Tussel", Daffy takes offense at his girlfriend calling him a "scrawny little nine-pound weakling", because "I'm obviously a scrawny little ten pound weakling."
  • The Looney Tunes Show: In "That's My Baby'', Bugs calls Daffy 'a bummer' after he refuses to go to lunch with him and Porky. Daffy's response is "No. Porky's the bummer. I'm a jerk."
  • On Rick and Morty, when the family is dealing with memory-implanting parasitic aliens they get trapped in a flashback where they ended up battling a Nazi. "Cousin Nicky" attempts to insult the Nazi, only to be bonked on the head by said Nazi for assuming there's anything worse than "Nazi" that he could call the guy.
    Nicky: Hey, we got a word for Nazis back in Brooklyn, pal.
    Nazi: I'm comfortable being called a Nazi. You think there's some other word that will hurt my feelings?
    Nazi: Ja. Think before you talk shit.
  • In an episode of What's New, Scooby-Doo?:
    Villain: And I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for you interloping adolescents.
    Velma: That's "meddling kids".
  • Winx Club gives us this:
    Mirta: You're mean!
    Icy: Mean? Try diabolical!

    Real Life 
  • When King Charles II's mistress Nell Gwynn (originally an actress, and an Englishwoman) was mistaken for the Duchess of Portsmouth (another of Charles' mistresses and a Frenchwomannote ), a crowd started calling her a Catholic whore and attacking her carriage. Nell stuck her head out and corrected the mistaken commoners, "Good people, you are mistaken. I am the Protestant whore." The crowds started cheering and escorted her carriage out of the area.
  • When the Miami Dolphins were a successful football team in the 1980s and 90s, "Squish the fish" was a rallying cry of their rivals. Miami fans were quick to point out that dolphins are mammals.
  • Anti-racist activist Tim Wise is known for saying that if you're going to be racist, at least be consistent: "I just don't want a moving target." For example, if you're going to say that Mexicans are lazy, don't also complain about illegal Mexican immigrants taking all the jobs.
  • John Scalzi has described Christian celebrity Kirk Cameron as an ignorant bigot, saying he stands by this rather than calling him something more poetic like "pestilent toad" on the grounds that Cameron seems to be fairly clean and is definitely not an amphibian.
  • During a Twitter argument on the subject of internet trolls, William Shatner was hit with the "OK Boomer" line. Shatner was born in 1931; as he was quick to point out, calling him a Boomer is a complimentnote .
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian was banned in several parts of the UK and other parts of Europe because local religious groups complained that the film was blasphemous. The Pythons were always quick to point out that the film would be blasphemous if they criticized Jesus Christ, which they didn't do: if anything, Jesus is portrayed rather respectfully.note  Instead, the film criticized organized religion overall, so technically it was heretical.
  • When Pierre Trudeau was called an "asshole" by Richard Nixon in 1971, rather than be insulted or fire back Trudeau flippantly commented that he's been called worse things by better people.
  • Defied by Sikhs in the Anglosphere. Sikhs are frequently mistaken for Muslims in English-speaking countries, frequently by people inclined to view Muslims as terrorists. In this situation, the Sikh is advised to avoid clarifying that they are a Sikh, because in the view of Sikh doctrine, this legitimizes the charge of "terrorist" against Muslims, something that Sikhs wish to avoid.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Wrong Insult Offense


"'Rather large', you say?"

"Cyranose". In this adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac's famous "how to insult my nose" scene, Wishbone, playing Cyrano, takes offense at the bit character's lack of creativity in insulting his outsize schnoz and suggests several alternate ways to do it.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / WrongInsultOffence

Media sources: