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You Fight Like a Cow

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"Swordfighting is a little like making love. It's not always what you do, but what you say."
Captain Smirk, The Secret of Monkey Island

Cutting implements and cutting remarks, combined.

Two characters are fighting, probably with swords or fists. They're also engaged in Witty Banter or Volleying Insults or, perhaps, having a discussion on fighting technique, the meaning of life, what they had for lunch, or why new music is so awful. In comics (and comic-based cartoons), this is typically referred to as "quipping" and is standard operational procedure for most heroes. Except Batman.

Common when the action sequences need some dialogue. If done right, the dialogue is more memorable than the action, and will probably be quoted incessantly. This is also a common trick of the Warrior Therapist. Luckily for them Talking Is a Free Action, so they're never short of breath or time (and can hear each other clearly over all the crashing and punching and loud gunshots).

Compare Gunpoint Banter. If an insult's delivered just before the killing stroke, see Pre-Mortem One-Liner. If a few moments later, see Bond One-Liner. See My Grandma Can Do Better Than You and My Dad Can Beat Up Your Dad for similar insults. Not to be confused with Snark-to-Snark Combat, which doesn't have to involve literal fighting, though the two can overlap.

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    Anime & Manga 
  • The duels in Revolutionary Girl Utena often contain some form of this; Utena's part, though, can be either participatory or merely reactionary, depending on how invested she is at the moment... or how confused. (Utena, not the audience.) Theatrically, in a series where the difference between reality and reality-as-a-stage has blurred, the duels were depicted as cathartic. This is especially blatant in the final Nanami duel, as both participants know Nanami hasn't a shot in hell of winning from the start and just needs to HIT someone.
  • The duels in Yu-Gi-Oh! are frequently peppered with insults when the characters don't Contemplate Our Navels.
  • The Amerimanga incarnation of the Dirty Pair mention taking a class in "Combat Quips," although they may have been just pulling their interlocutor's leg.
  • During his battle with Kyuzo in Samurai 7, Kambei confides that he is in love... with Kyuzo's skill, that is. He also tries to convince Kyuzo to join the samurai.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Vegetto, the fusion of Goku and Vegeta, is the absolute master of this, having the perfect blend of Vegeta's (now justified) arrogance, and Goku's sense of humor.
    Buu: Are you ready?
    Vegetto: That depends. If by that you mean "am I superior to you in every way?" then yes.
  • One Piece:
    • Roronoa Zoro is the most prone to this. Nearly all of his battles have featured gratuitous Trash Talk on his part. While holding a sword in his mouth. His heart allows him to speak.
    • Sanji is definitely no slouch either.
    • When Luffy talks in a fight, you can be sure he's either telling the other guy to shut up or fanboying over how cool the other guy's attacks are.
    • During Franky's fight with Fukuro at Enies Lobby, they start calling each other various forms of underwear.
  • Ranma ½: Ranma does this so much when he fights that it's a battle tactic. "Anything Goes."
  • The Lucifer and Biscuit Hammer: Mikazuki picks up on this when he plays "catch" with Yuuhi.

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City: In the story "Pastoral", Roustabout is full of quips when taking down the bank robbers. Less so with Team Carnivore, which actually looked able to overwhelm him for a time.
  • Batman: On the villain side, The Joker. Whatever hero he meets or situation Batman finds him in, he's always got some quip to deliver as they square off for the fight... often centered around the people he's just slaughtered or, in some cases, people important to the hero he's killed in the past. He'll often even give running commentary on the beating he's being handed, sometimes as a lead-in to a Breaking Speech.
  • Deadpool:
    • Being a lunatic who knows he's in a comic book, Deadpool has some truly... interesting... battle banter which often derails into stream-of-consciousness rambling about something completely unrelated (even as he handily beats the stuffing out of his opponent.) In fact, it's speculated by some characters that he does this on purpose to distract his opponents. Several characters, at least, have had lines like, "What are you talking about?" cut off by a blow to the face from Deadpool.
    • Given that Spider-Man and Deadpool are the masters of this trope within the Marvel Universe, it should come as no surprise that they utilize this to the fullest when they meet up in Amazing Spider-Man #611, which writer Joe Kelly describes as "a fight that very quickly degenerates into a 'your mother is' joke contest." It continues throughout their Spider-Man/Deadpool series.
    • In his second ongoing series, Deadpool has at least one voice in his head that he converses with; often he has two or more. As a result, he is one of the only comic book characters who can give "fight like a cow" insults to himself.
  • Generation X: Defied in one issue, where X-Cutioner explicitly tells Skin that he is "not interested in engaging [him] in a witty repartee."
  • Green Lantern: Defied by Sodam Yat in Sinestro Corps War when he's fighting Superman-Prime:
    Sodam Yat: I don't trade quips, insults, or banter. I'm Corps, not a comedian.
  • Rick and Morty (Oni): After enslaving all of the Ricks in the Council, Doofus Jerry orders them all to address him as the "Miggity Miggity Miggity Mack", disintegrating a Rick who refuses to do so.
  • Robin:
    • Dick Grayson is an expert in strings of witty quips. This is especially true once he became Nightwing.
      Nightwing: I'm chatty, it's part of my charm.
    • Jason Todd throws a lot of smack talk at his opponents (like Dick Grayson) as a way to get them emotional or distract them. The real difference is that Dick does it in a lighter and more playful manner. Jason's witty quips are darker and more sadistic.
    • Tim Drake was always less prone to quips unless fighting alongside friends to begin with and preferred a more understated shade of sarcasm but has toned back even that.
    • Stephanie Brown is snappy like Dick but with a tendency towards forgetting where she is going with a phrase.
    • Damian Wayne throws insults in a Sophisticated as Hell sort of way.
  • Rough Riders: While battling Jack Johnson, Rasputin delivers the odd insult "You fight like Russian midwife!".
  • Scott Pilgrim:
    • Knives attacks Ramona and manages to score a shallow cut on her face:
      Knives: I totally grazed you!
      Ramona: How appropriate. You fight like a cow.
    • Scott himself, however, sucks at battle quips:
      Scott: Shut up, you... guy!
      Wallace: Better comebacks, Scott!
  • She-Hulk: She-Hulk is a frequent quipper. When Spider-Man appeared early on in She-Hulk (2004), with her serving as his lawyer in a suit against J. Jonah Jameson, he even mentions that they enjoy quipping together. (This is also the source of the panel where Spidey claims JJJ hates him because "he's black".)
  • Sin City: There's this exchange between Wallace and Manute:
    Manute: You're quick. I should've brought a fly swatter.
    Wallace: You should've brought an army.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): While he doesn't do it a lot in the games, Sonic, being the resident Motor Mouth, does this quite a bit in the comics. 90% of the time it's as simple as an incredibly lame pun derived from his opponent's name. He does it often enough that in issue 48, it was explicitly noted by the narration that he wasn't running off at the mouth during a fight.
  • Wonder Woman Vol. 1: In her final match of the kanga-joust part of the champion tournament Diana and her opponent exchange some quips, with her opponent comparing her to a tulip since she's so much smaller.

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm has multiple instances of this, true to its Marvel roots, but perhaps the finest example is in Unfinished Business when Wanda does this at the Arc Villain's expense, casually criticising her technique as she tries - fruitlessly - to destroy Wanda. This drives said Arc Villain nuts.
    Wanda: Honestly. All mouth, no skirt.
  • In Vinyl and Octavia Have Multiple Dates, Octavia ends up getting into a pun battle with Neon Lights. Also includes a Shout-Out to the Trope Namer.
    Neon Lights: Yeah well, you... you... You- fight like a cow!
    Octavia: How appropriate. You fight like a dairy farmer.
  • In the Homestuck fanfic series Golden Age, Queen Jane has a grand time taunting the highblood captain of the ship she's appeared on. Granted, since he never seems to connect the dots that, as a hologram, she can't exactly be harmed by gunfire, he kind of has it coming.
  • Being somewhat based on Spider-Man, Madison/Tether from Atonement naturally indulges in a lot of quipping. So much so that when she fights an enemy who can redirect and weaponize sound, she endangers herself several times by accidentally quipping, thus giving her opponent ammo.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Fairy Tale: Irene engages in literal insult sword fighting with a hunter, defeating him in the end.
  • The Flash Sentry Chronicles: Flash throws insults and taunts at his enemies enough it would make even Spider-Man proud.
  • In Still Places, a Revolutionary Girl Utena fan-made Live-Action Role-Play, the winner of a duel is partially determined by whose banter was more psychologically damaging to the opponent.
  • The Mountain and the Wolf: The Wolf continuously insults all his victims as they fight, but the only one who manages to answer and match him for a while is Euron. Not that it helps him, the Wolf having the advantage of saying things supernaturally guaranteed to piss off whoever he's fighting (and even the people he's friendly with without meaning to). The Night King also isn't too affected, but just remains silent.
  • Intelligence Factor: Unlike most Inteleon, Thiver won't stop coming out with jokes and one-liners. Julian wonders if he does this to distract his opponents.
  • Voyages of the Wild Sea Horse: Ranma Saotome loves to mock, jeer, tease and taunt his foes as he battles them in order to throw them off their game. He only drops the quipping when he's genuinely threatened, or legitimately ticked off.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Road to El Dorado:
    Miguel: Oh, you fight like my sister!
    Tulio: I've... fought your sister! That's a compliment!
  • In Animalympics, when The Contessa confronts the crooked fencer Count Bordeaux:
    Bordeaux: You'll never fence again!
    Contessa: You've never fenced before!
  • Pretty ludicrously done in the eighth script draft for South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. The Doctor from the Hospital scene runs in with an M-16. A Canadian steps in front of him; the doctor shoots and blows the Canadian's head clean off.
    Dr. Gauche: Hey, pal, don't lose your head.
    [suddenly, the ticket guy's chest rips open; he falls dead, and standing behind him is a Canadian with a double-barreled shotgun]
    Canadian Soldier: I'm glad you got that off your chest.
    [Tom, the Rhinoplasty surgeon, leaps in and stabs the Canadian through the head with his bayonet]
    Tom: I guess he got the point.
    [a Canadian rushes in and machine-guns Tom full of holes]
    Canadian Soldier 2: Plastics are a cheap and efficient insulator for electrical applications.
  • Po vs. the Wolf Boss in Kung Fu Panda 2:
    Wolf Boss: Is that all you got? 'Cause it feels like I'm fighting a big, old, fluffy cloud!
    Po: Well this cloud is about to bring the thunder!
  • Subverted in Megamind.
    Megamind: [fighting Tighten] Now it's time for some witty back-and-forth banter! You go first!
    Megamind: Okay, I don't know where to go with that...
  • Spoofed in Sev Trek: Pus in Boots when Captain Pinchard is fighting his Evil Twin.
    Evil Pinchard: You fight like a girl!
    Good Pinchard: Oh yeah? Well, you look like a... never mind.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame played it straight in the fight between Esmeralda and Pheobus, which was rich with Casual Danger Dialogue.
    Pheobus: You fight almost as well as a man...
    Esmeralda: Funny, I was about to say the same thing about you!
  • In Strange Magic the duel between Marianne and the Bog King consists of a duet liberally mixed with these kinds of comments. And, as they prove to be each other's equal it turns downright flirtatious.
    Bog King: You fight well — for a fairy.
    Marianne: Wish I could say the same for you!
    Bog King: What do you mean?
    Marianne: I dunno. I was expecting... more.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The famous Inigo/Westley duel in The Princess Bride, where the two duelists discuss swordsmanship styles and dexterity as they fight, may be the most well-known example. Interestingly, though the fighting itself is pure Flynning, the various techniques they claim to be using (Bonetti's Defense, Capo Ferro, etc.) all include the names of real fencing masters.
  • Robin Hood: Men in Tights, the Mel Brooks parody of Robin Hood stories, featured Cary Elwes in an expy of his above role, complete with similar quipping swordplay. His archenemy the Sheriff of Rottingham attempts this and fails... every time.
  • The swashbuckling films of Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. (and Jr.) were rife with this trope. The 1937 The Prisoner of Zenda includes a particularly delicious example between Fairbanks Jr. (as a villain) and Ronald Colman. And of course, any film in which Flynn crosses swords with Basil Rathbone is bound to feature outstanding examples of the trope.
  • The title heroes of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films indulge in this with Michelangelo and Donatello being the prime offenders.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl features a short exchange of witty banter between Captain Jack Sparrow and Will Turner, and the series only builds on the banter from there. Indeed, at many points in the franchise one can discern who has the advantage in a fight by paying attention to who gets the better lines.
  • The three lightsaber duels in the original Star Wars trilogy use this, with A New Hope having the most and Return of the Jedi having the least. The prequels are pretty devoid of it, though.
  • Galaxy Quest's (mostly) fake fight in the airlock consists of trading insults ("Raving egomaniac!" "scene-stealing hack!") and (mostly) fake punches ("You used to pull your punches") while maneuvering into position to grab a blunt object.
  • The beginning of the third The Librarian movie, Curse Of The Judas Chalice, has an excellent example of this, with Flynn and the villain du jour dueling on stairs while critiquing each other's technique.
  • In Woody Allen's feature-length Gag Dub, What's Up, Tiger Lily?, the hero shouts nonsensical insults such as, "Russian dog! Spanish fly!" at his opponents.
  • Plenty of this happens in martial arts spoof Tongan Ninja, most notably when Action Fighter quips: "You fight like a baby... a dead baby!"
  • In Kuffs, during a standoff with some bad guys:
    Bad guy: It's a twelve-gauge pump, boys. He's only got three shots. They can't get us all! [he is promptly shot by Kuffs' partner]
    Kuffs: Well, now we know that he [the bad guy] can add, and he [indicates his partner] can subtract. So who wants to be next here?
  • The duel between Mina and Dorian Grey in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is Better on DVD because A) the version in the deleted scenes lasts longer and B) the double entendres are hilarious.
  • In The Deluge (1974 Polish film), Andrzej Kmicic finds himself in a duel with the resident Master Swordsman, Michał Wołodyjowski. Kmicic is extremely overconfident (good thing he has Plot Armour), and Wołodyjowski spends the whole duel playing with him like a cat plays with a mouse, a witty insult included. It's wittier than it appears at first glance, because on the surface, it's about Kmicic's lack of skill, but it's also calling Kmicic a peasant.
    Col. Wołodyjowski: You swing that like a flail, sir.
  • As should be expected from the title, Swashbuckler is full of these:
    Lynch: Here you are, my lord.
    [handing over a cutlass]
    Lynch: The blade, you know, is very sharp.
    Lord Durant: Unlike your wit.
  • In Red Sonja, Sonja does this during her fight with Brytag.
    Brytag: I shall feed your eyes to the birds, red hair!
    Sonja: I don't need eyes to find you. I can smell you from a hundred paces!

  • The Prisoner of Zenda: Doesn't show up as much as in the 1937 film, but still present in the fights between Rudolf and Rupert.
  • Harry Dresden of The Dresden Files; it makes sense since his creator is a self-proclaimed Spider-Man fan. He has managed to quip about following the Tao of Peter Parker while being interrogated by a Big Bad. Which makes a bit of sense since you don't need technology to read comic books.
  • Royal Flash. Flashman does this to the Rupert of Hentzau-expy he's fighting to make him lose his temper and wear himself out in wild thrusts, so the stronger Flashman will have the advantage. It doesn't work.
  • Snape, ever the teacher, corrects Harry's technique and lectures him on his mistakes while they duel near the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
  • In Johannes Cabal the Detective Cabal uses this to his advantage-he challenges Count Marechal to a swordfight (as opposed to just shooting Cabal dead) by provoking his pride into giving Cabal the chance of a fair fight. During the actual fight, he wonders if the Count learned to fight via correspondence course. The Count calls him a "low-born dog".
  • In Pale, where animist spirits exert subtle influence on everything, this is a valid way of influencing said spirits-show confidence and insult your opponent and you are literally more likely to find fortune turning your way. Avery Kelly is especially fond of combat quipping.
    "Mess with my friends, and you get the prongs!"
  • Happens a few times in Redwall, particularly with the hares, who seem to include more friendly-sounding snark the more serious the fight is, often even offering tips on fighting to their opponents. Dippler and Fenno also get in a bit;
    "I'm gonna slay you just like I did Logalog!"
    "You can't kill me the way you killed Logalog. I'm facin' you, Fenno. You stabbed Logalog in the back!"
  • Sienkiewicz Trilogy: In The Deluge, during Wołodyjowski's duel with Kmicic, the former calls out the latter on all of his shabby fencing techniques. A less trashy example than usual, but there are a few comments along the lines of: "Alright, that one? Good for chasing off stray dogs." "You swing that sabre like a peasant's flail!", comparing the nobleman Kmicic to a peasant, is definitely below the belt by the standards of the time, though.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Ser Rodrik criticizes the people he's teaching swordplay in this manner. Specifically, he tells one that he fights like a porcupine (presumably stabbing out a sword aimlessly to try and keep an opponent away) and another that he fights like a goose, letting himself be hit and hitting back harder, ignoring the fact that with real swords the first blow would have killed him.
    • The climactic duel between Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper of Dorne and Gregor Clegane, the Mountain that Rides. The former talks a lot, but it mostly consists of repeating the same thing over and over in an attempt to infuriate his opponent and get him to confess his crimes. The latter gets worked up enough to shout at him to shut up a few times but doesn't actually reply coherently until the end.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Dun Möch is waging psychological warfare on their opponents through taunts and insults while using the Force to manipulate their enemies' emotions. Almost entirely a Sith technique, although there has been the occasional Jedi who made use of it for more benign reasons. Admittedly, Jedi use of it tends less toward hurling insults and more toward Warrior Therapist, but the goal remains the same: put your opponent off balance by interfering with their ability to concentrate and thus their ability to use the Force.
    • The Captive Temple:
      • While dueling Qui-Gon, Xanatos taunts his former Master for being slow, claiming he's faster now. Qui-Gon disagrees.
        Qui-Gon: No. You just talk more.
      • Later he says that Xanatos always starts his taunts when he's tiring and that his fatal flaw is his need to boast, often revealing aspects of his complex plans that would be more effective if secret.
  • Several characters from Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers, the most serious offender being Porthos. He quipped so much that it was actually part of his combat technique. In the first sword fight from the book the duel between d'Artagnan and all three of the musketeers, that got interrupted by the cardinal's guards, Porthos gets stuck fighting two adversaries at once and he finishes first because he keeps tormenting them with questions about the time, what they thought of this and that social event at court, corrections about their fighting styles, etc. He, of course, is not the only offender; all of the characters engaging in this behavior from time to time.
  • Tortall Universe: In the Song of the Lioness books, Alanna notices that her opponents tend to get more nervous when she remains eerily silent throughout. However, during a friendly match between Alanna and Kel in the Trickster's Duet, they do taunt each other.
  • Warrior Cats: The Clan cats will use a phrase called "You're fighting like a kittypet(house cat)" to a cat whose fighting is poor. The best example is Blackfoot telling Darkstripe this when he's having trouble against a beaten and starving Stonefur.
  • In Piers Anthony's Xanth book Crewel Lye, the protagonist notes that some physically weak fighters with sharp tongues do well.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Most of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer crew get a shot at it, as they're living in a World of Snark.
    • Spoofed with the Buffybot, when Willow tries to make it as much like Buffy as possible but messes up the "quipping" feature, resulting in the likes of "That'll put marzipan in your pie plate, bingo!"
    • And lampshaded in "Anne", which showed the rest of the crew trying to get on with the slayage without her. Willow, after a really bad one:
      Willow: Well, w-w-well, the Slayer always says a pun, or-or a witty play on words, and, I think it throws the vampires off! And, and it makes them frightened because I'm wisecracking. Okay, I didn't really have a chance to work on that one, but you try it every time!
    • Also, in "Triangle", during the fight with Olaf the troll. Anya, being the reason he is a troll, has a lot to say about him - though she runs out of snark once she gets past, "You're a troll!";
      You're as inadequate a troll as you were a boyfriend! Uh, y-you're hairy and unattractive, and even women trolls are put off by your various odors. Your menacing stance is merely alarming! And your roar is less than full-throated!
    • Lampshaded by Buffy herself:
      Buffy: If I were at full slayer strength, I'd be punning right now.
    • Lampshaded when Buffy finds herself up against a female vampire who's as good as she is, including snark-wise. One of her henchvamps asks if they're going to fight or just have a monster sarcasm rally.
  • Cutthroat Kitchen: Chefs often do this in the middle of the round. The exchanges often go like this:
    Chef 1: How is that dish working out for you, eh? You can't cook without the thing which I took away.
    Chef 2: Oh, this is nothing. I can make a better dish out of these. I can't imagine cooking with those eggs.
    Chef 1: These may be stink bombs now, but that won't stop me.
  • Firefly: "War Stories" when Niska has Mal and Wash abducted and tortured. The two of them frustrate Niska by ignoring him and arguing with each other throughout the torture session, bantering and needling each other in between jolts of electricity. It's revealed later in the episode that Mal specifically goaded Wash with the banter to keep his mind focused and keep him sane throughout the brutal torture.
  • Iron Fist (2017): Danny Rand gets challenged to a duel with a bunch of the Hand's finest assassins, all of whom have various taunts to level at him. When he gets to the last one, Scythe, this happens:
    Scythe: Who the hell are you? [beat] When does the real warrior get here?
    Danny Rand: These childish insults are getting tiring. It's like you all trained on the same playground.
    Scythe: [chuckles] Would you like to choose a weapon? [motions to his rack of scythes]
    Danny Rand: I am the weapon.
  • Kaamelott's weaponmaster does not hesitate to insult the king while sparring with him. Arthur is usually not amused, doesn't really see the point though the weaponmaster does try and get him to throw insults around. He finally gets his way... only for Arthur to say something which he finds really, really offensive.
  • Kurenai Otoya from Kamen Rider Kiva tends to quip a lot when fighting as IXA.
  • A lot of characters in the Power Rangers franchise like to chat while they fight, but the undefeated masters of this has to be the Ninja Storm Rangers who sometimes layer jokes and quips so thick it's like Spider-Man times six.
  • Throughout the Star Trek franchise, saying "You fight like a Ferengi" is not a compliment.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise ("In a Mirror, Darkly"). In the Mirror Universe, the Hotter and Sexier versions of Hoshi and T'Pol exchange snarky comments during a Knife Fight.
    Hoshi: I was hoping you'd put up a fight.
    T'Pol: I'm surprised you're not exhausted from all the beds you've jumped into recently.
    Hoshi: Commander Tucker told me I should give you a few pointers in that area.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In "Way of the Warrior" Garak is beaten up by Klingon soldiers.
    Bashir: They broke seven of your transverse ribs and fractured your clavicle.
    Garak: Ah, but I got off several cutting remarks that no doubt did serious damage to their egos.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • An advantage of its origins in wrestling, since a locked-in hold is about as good a time to trash talk your opponent as any. Unless it's some form of choke or smother, the held wrestler can also return insults, especially if they're about to escape. Not a particularly smart thing to do in a match but it's doable all the same. Tag team matches allow for banter, since (if no one's cheating) at least two wrestlers will always be free to talk. For the most part, though, wrestlers prefer to talk to their audiences than to each other during matches. They have promo segments set aside for each other.

  • Sporting Trash Talk can take this form. This exchange from an Australia vs England Cricket match:
    Merv Hughes: You can't fucking bat.
    Robin Smith: [after smashing Hughes' next delivery to the boundary] Hey, Merv, we make a great pair. I can't fucking bat and you can't fucking bowl.
  • This one from a county game:
    Greg Thomas: [after Viv Richards completely missed his delivery] It's red, round and weighs about 5 ounces.
    Viv Richards: [after hitting Greg's next delivery out of the ground] Greg, you know what it looks like. Go ahead and find it!
  • A classic cricket exchange:
    Glen Mc Grath: Why are you so fat?
    Eddo Brandes: Because every time I make love to your wife, she gives me a biscuit.
  • Australia vs England, again:
    Rod Marsh: Now then, Beefy, how's your wife and my kids?
    Ian Botham: [taking guard with apparent unconcern] The wife's fine but the kids are retarded.
  • Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, whose personal hatred for each other was famous, would exchange taunts and insults during their boxing matches. For example, during the third round of the Thrilla in Manila, Ali shelled up against the ropes and recited mocking poetry at Frazier to provoke him.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 7th Sea is made of this trope, the description of the game world is "Where a cutting remark is as sharp as any blade." The game has a Repartee system that includes taunts (making a flourish and then forcing an opponent to make an equally impressive flourish) and intimidation (depriving opponents of dice), to the point that some swordsman schools are built around it. For example, one gives the player an extra action each turn that can only be used to taunt his foe.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In the 4th edition, the Bard class is a master of this trope. And since their puns and insults are actually magical attacks, it is possible for a Bard to insult someone to death. Not so spoony now, eh?
    • This is very likely derived from some prestige classes in some third edition settings (like the musketeer class in D20 Past) who gain the ability to automatically confirm critical hits if their player can come up with a witty, relevant, and previously unused remark (or a cheap pun, you know whatever) to go with the attack. Like stabbing a vampire and saying "Looks like the stakes were too high." (We're ignoring the fact that vampires cannot be critically hit.) See the The Order of the Stick reference below.
    • 3.5 edition had the Jester class, which was like the Bard but more focused on taunting the enemy into submission with insulting jokes than inspiring allies with heroic songs.
    • Kender, a race in the Dragonlance setting, have the racial ability to taunt opponents into attacking them wildly without regard to their personal safety as a tactical combat option.
      To wizards: "You call yourself a wizard? You couldn't even cast a fishing line!"
  • In GURPS, there is an advantage called Rapier Wit, which enables its user to stun an opponent with a well-chosen remark. And it is a free action.
  • Mutants & Masterminds has the Taunt Feat, which allows a character to use their Bluff Skill to lower an opponent's defenses.
  • The True 20 system adds an ability to the Bluff skill called Conversational Paralysis, in which you say something so flat-out ridiculous that your opponent can do nothing but spend their next turn marveling at how wrong you are.
  • Vampire: The Requiem has a bloodline called the Spina who can gain combat advantages against opponents they've engaged in dialogue. At their power's highest level they can injure opponents just by insulting them.
  • Deadlands allows three social actions to hinder opponents in combat: staredowns (i.e. give 'em the old steel-eyed glare and get them pecker heads quaking in their boots), bluffing to keep them off balance, and mocking them into doing something stupid.
  • Scion lets Scions of the Tuatha De Dannan (the gods of Ireland) insult their opponents so harshly that it destroys their ability to do the task mocked ("I've seen blind children who could hurt me worse than this idiot!", for example, would cripple the target's combat skill).
  • Warhammer: The Chaos special character Wulfrik the Wanderer is able to do this in order to challenge enemy champions. His insults are crude and unsubtle (think nine-foot-tall Viking Jerk Jock metalhead) but thank to Chaos magic, they infuriate the target so much they have to fight back (and often fight badly because of it).
  • In Lace & Steel, exchanging witticisms during combat is facilitated by rolling (mutually agreed upon) Repartee contests at the start of combat, as well as whenever a Disengage or Lock Hilts card is played. The winner of the contest gets to steal two cards from the loser's hand.
  • Exalted gives bonuses for using stunts, interesting descriptions of a character's actions. Combat quips, insults, banter, and repartee are all valid stunts.

  • Averted (though the trope apparently hadn't been invented yet) in the climactic duel in Macbeth:
    Macbeth: Of all men else I have avoided thee: but get thee back; my soul is too much charged with blood of thine already.
    Macduff: I have no words: My voice is in my sword: thou bloodier villain than terms can give thee out!
    They fight.
  • Older Than Television: Cyrano de Bergerac in Rostand's play, while fighting a duel, made up an insulting poem about how he was going to kill his opponent during the last line. He did.
    Hark, how the steel rings musical!
    Mark how my point floats, light as the foam,
    Ready to drive you back to the wall,
    Then, as I end the refrain, thrust home!

    Video Games 
  • Used throughout The Elder Scrolls series as combat dialogue insults, especially Morrowind and Oblivion. These include "you move like a pregnant cow", and, of course, most people have "fought mudcrabs tougher than you!" For bonus points, race specific insults are included as well.
  • In Fallout 4, the Super Mutants can say this line:
    "You hit like a radroach."
  • Knights of the Old Republic 2 has the last duel with Sion, which is punctuated by short conversations in which you try to weaken his resolve.
  • Loopmancer have moments where mooks taunt you for "hitting like a pig".
  • The trope name is taken from the above Monkey Island quotation; in that game, the results of sword fights are based entirely on insults, with lots of Flynning between barbs. As the game's sword-fighting instructor put it, sword fighting is a lot like making love: It doesn't really matter what you do, but what you say.
    • The sword-fighting in the first game starts with you getting a basic insult ("You fight like a dairy farmer") and a basic retort ("How appropriate, you fight like a cow.") You're then expected to roam the island looking for pirates, challenging them to duels, and using your insult to get a retort. If your opponent retorts successfully, they'll insult you, and if it's one you haven't heard before, you can add it to your repertoire. If you retort successfully, you can insult the enemy and see if they know the appropriate retort. Building up your insults and retorts allows you to then challenge the Swordmaster, who changes the game by always insulting you, and with insults that you haven't seen before, forcing you to find the retort that still matches ("I will milk every drop of blood from your body!" "How appropriate, you fight like a cow.").
    • In later games things get more... interesting... In the third game the fights all take place at sea, so all insults and comebacks have to rhyme. By the fourth, everything is based around insulting: Insult Darts, Insult Mudwrestling, Insult Arm Wrestling, and the Big Bad is a Corrupt Corporate Executive who goes around performing hostile property takeovers by challenging everyone into playing insult games with him. Naturally, he wins every time because no one can make heads or tails of his Australian insult vocabulary. The latter half of the game even centers on finding the Ultimate Insult and using it to power up a monkey-shaped Humongous Mecha.
    • Also in later games, the line "You fight like a cow" itself reappears as a Running Gag. Generally, the player has the option to respond "Oh yeah? Well, you fight like a cow!" or something similar when he feels he's been insulted and is usually told either that his material is stale or he's using the line out of context.
      • It's also a Running Gag in the original game — it appears as a dialogue option (used completely out of context) in a couple of situations, one of which gets him the response "You never did know when to use that one."
      • It also turns up in non-LucasFilm games, such as A Tale of Two Kingdoms, where you can use insult sword fighting against Rashakk the Goblin Warlord. Turns out he's better at it, though.
      • There's a Shout-Out to it after the tutorial battle in Jade Empire, where you can tell a fellow student he fights like a cow. Hilariously, Black Whirlwind takes offense to being told he fights like a drunk cow, because as he explains, he has fought drunk cows before.
    • It should be noted that the insults were written by none other than Orson Scott Card.
    • In Tales of Monkey Island, Guybrush tries using it on Morgan LeFlay. She responds by cutting off your hand.
    • It comes back with a particularly dark twist in Chapter 4. After Guybrush is killed, LeChuck tells Elaine she waves her sword around like a dairy farmer, and Elaine replies with the no-longer-funny "How appropriate... you fight like a Pox-infected undead cow."
    • Also comes back with a twist in Chapter 5. In the Crossroads, Guybrush tries to cheer up Morgan LeFlay's spirit and ends up getting in a fight with the ghost of an overzealous sword fighter. So you have to simultaneously compliment Morgan and insult your opponent.
    • In Return to Monkey Island, several swordfights break out. The fights with the swordmaster Carla are just for fun, but against LeChuck, he plays it straight by insulting you, and you have to come up with the appropriate retort. But because Guybrush is far more experienced, all of his possible retorts are appropriate, letting him easily beat LeChuck. LeChuck then gets angry and resorts to just punching Guybrush, stating that he's kept up with changes and trends while Guybrush has not.
    • Ron Gilbert said that the creative team often watched 1930s swashbuckling movies for inspiration and noticed the abundance of taunts. This fit the game way better than originally planned arcade sequences.
  • Wing Commander lets you insult enemy pilots using your fighter's communications system. This is actually an important tactic — insult them enough, and they attack you instead of whatever you're protecting.
    • The Kilrathi have their own witty ripostes, like "A proper fate for a coward!" or "I will eat your heart and spit it out, Terran!" and "Sad, that I must litter space with ape corpses!" Kilrathi ace Baron Baktosh nar Kiranka is notorious for his exceptionally insulting taunts.
  • Neverwinter Nights and Neverwinter Nights 2 gives all creatures and characters with human vocal capabilities a few one-liners they spout off at random during combat, so two characters will do this in a duel if it lasts long enough.
  • Morte, of Planescape: Torment, actually has a special ability directed related to his ability to cuss someone out. If they fail their save, they are enraged and attempt to attack him in melee. So, fired at a D&D style spell caster... Even better the save to resist actually becomes harder the higher the target's intelligence score, presumably on the basis that dumb characters won't understand most of the taunts.
  • The "Provoke" ability in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance works similarly—use it successfully on an enemy, and they'll only be able to use the "move" and "attack" commands, with the former primarily serving to bring them close enough for the latter. However, they also get a bonus to attack damage.
  • The Pkunk in Star Control II insult their enemies to make ammunition. Yes. Really. You actually have to do this in-game.
    • "Baby! Jerk! Stupid! Dummy! Fool!"
    • Also, in order to get either Tanaka or his brother Katana to join you, you must, despite how you are supposed to keep a cool head with almost every other sentient race in the game, insult him constantly, retreat, rinse, and repeat, until he realizes that you are not an Ur-Quan Dreadnought. Or as the Melnorme put it, try to talk to them on their own level.
    • You can hail any ship you encounter and speak to them, even ones who intend to attack you no matter what. The dialog tree pretty much always contains some insult that will result in instant combat. Ironically the Pkunk (the race which uses this trope as an actual gameplay mechanic) is an aversion; you need them on your side to proceed, so no matter how much you insult them, they will never take offense and fight you. After all, you're just refueling your ship.
    • Averted in Star Control III. If an alien ship attacks you because you insulted their commander, you're considered the aggressor and heavily penalized. This can lead to a Non-Standard Game Over. (Particularly nasty because there are two different opportunities to call the K'tang dolts, and only one of them has an associated penalty. Apparently, whether an insult counts as starting a fight is dependent on whether the specific alien you're talking to understands it.)
  • Near the end of Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, you insult-duel a wizened old pirate to convince him that you're someone else.
  • Kingdom of Loathing has Insult Beer Pong, a Shout-Out to Monkey Island. In order to win, you need to buy The Big Book of Pirate Insults and use it against pirates, and each time they embarrass you with a witty comeback, it's added to the list of retorts you can use during Insult Beer Pong. "You fight like a cow" is one of the default insults that don't work.
  • The starship flight sim Darkstar One featured an actual button for you to taunt your enemies. Of course, this was taking your concentration away from shooting them, meaning it was best reserved for when you were coated in turrets.
  • If any Fighting Game uses the concept of having the characters briefly have particular conversations with one another before the battle at all there is a strong chance that this will happen at least once.
  • Paper Mario featured The Master saying that Mario "fights like a plumber." In case you forgot, Mario is a plumber.
  • The Mortal Kombat series has Shao Khan, who insults you (or laughs) often during a match (usually after knocking you down). In Mortal Kombat Trilogy, when you could finally play as him, these moves were still there, as taunts.
  • WET has a load of Cluster F Bombs amongst some genuinely funny barbs.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum:
    • Mooks frequently says things like "You fight like a girl" and you "fight like an old man", thankfully a punch can interrupt them.
    • Courtesy of the public-address system Joker spends the entire frigging game making comments like this. Punching the Joker square in the jaw at the end of the game is one of the most satisfying moments ever.
  • [PROTOTYPE] has Captain Cross being all chatty while Mercer remains relatively silent soon after the duel begins. Depending on the player's performance against Cross, the Badass Normal will spout the appropriate lines.
  • In NetHack, imps will often have lines such as "I first mistook thee for a statue, when I regarded thy head of stone," immediately following their hit messages.
  • In Sleeping Dogs (2012), Sifu Kwok will constantly belittle protagonist Wei Shen and the other students alike when Wei is in a move-training session. (There's also a separate set of lines exclusive to the introductory session.)
    Sifu Kwok during the introductory session: All men must lose sometimes, but not to American tourists!
    Sifu Kwok during a move-training session: You hit with the strength of a porn addict!
  • In Mass Effect 3, Kai Leng often taunts Shepard during their fights. In their last fight, Shepard taunts back, and Kai Leng proves he can't take what he dishes out.
    Shepard: How's the legs? Getting tired?
    Kai Leng: You're still slow, Shepard!
    Shepard: I'm only slow 'cause I'm not running! You ran at the Citadel! You ran at Thessia! All you can do is run!
    Kai Leng: Sh-shut up!
  • In Time Gal, Reika, the Player Character, often taunts whatever is chasing her. For example, while being chased by bugs in the year 4000, she says, "This way, this way!"
  • The combo breaker system in Injustice: Gods Among Us has the characters quip at each other before launching their attacks. Certain character pairings have one or more unique back and forths, which vary even more depending on which character initiates the combo breaker. Needless to say, there are a lot of them.
    Lex Luthor: You look like a chicken.
    Hawkgirl: And you look like an egg.
    • A more direct example:
      Harley Quinn: You fight like my grandma!
      Nightwing: You fought your grandma?!
  • Can happen in the fight with Daud in Dishonored if you take long enough.
    Daud: This is who protected the Empress?
    Daud: Hit harder! You're not fighting Lady Boyle now!
  • In Improbable Island it is possible to learn a skill that allows you to fight and kill enemies simply by insulting them.
  • Half the fun of Yu-Gi-Oh! Capsule Monster Coliseum is seeing Yami Yugi or his opponents mock each other during the fights.
    Bandit Keith: Face it, kid. You suck!
    Yami Bakura: Keep on losing like the loser you are!
    Seto Kaiba: Now I've got a stranglehold on victory!
  • The [adult swim] web game Gigolo Assassin parodies Monkey Island's insult sword-fighting mechanic into "Pick-Up Line Battles", where the goal is to defeat your opponent by pitching your best woo while supplying the proper comebacks to their attempts at seduction.
  • During the dream sequence of RuneScape quest "Lunar Diplomacy", one of your tasks is to battle a vision of yourself called "Me". You and "Me" have some amusing banter of this nature.
  • In the fan game Rakenzarn Tales, bosses will often taunt the heroes during their fights. Sometimes, the player has the choice to taunt them in return. If the correct answer is selected, the enemies will be weakened (or will become stronger if the wrong taunt is chosen).
  • One of the nastiest monsters in Beyond Zork is the Cruel Puppet, whose quips are so lethal they cause physical damage. In this case, though, responding in turn is the worst thing you can do.
  • In the The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Witcher 3 DLC Blood and Wine, one of the fistfighters in Beauclair will boast about his wit, insulting Geralt in the process. Instead of going straight into the fight, Geralt can choose to respond with a rhyming retort. After a few of these, the fistfighter won't be able to think of a comeback and declare Geralt the winner of the fight without a single punch being thrown.
  • Them's Fightin' Herds: Texas will say this word-for-word in one of his taunts. Keep in mind one of the other fighters, his daughter, is a cow.
  • When two Miis are fighting in Tomodachi Life:
    Mii A: You throw like a joke!
    Mii B: You throw like a bad thrower!
  • Expect No Mercy has quite a number of taunts, but one of the most reoccurring one is "I have SEEN the amateur and it is YOU!"

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue: In one episode, Caboose uses some bizarre ones, such as "Your soul is burnt and no amount of scraping will remove the black parts!" and "Your brain is a mountain of lies!" This while using what was assuredly a form of autohypnosis to turn himself into a killing machine. Sarge was quite impressed.
    Caboose: My name is Michael J. Caboose! And I HATE BABIES!
  • One segment in This Spartan Life (A Halo 2-3 machinima series) is called Body Count and is a debate staged in a Halo competitive match where the combat flow is based on who is winning the arguments.


    Web Originals 
  • Almost the trademark of Chaka in the Whateley Universe. She even uses it as a very effective distraction during "Parents' Day" when a team of mutant superpowered ninjas attacks.

    Web Videos 
  • Given a Shout-Out in the web series Doomsday Arcade, where the main character is fighting Nefarious, who quips, "You fight like a dairy farmer," to which Lund responds:
    Lund: How appropriate. You fight like a yogurt.
  • The theme of the Britanick episode "OLS" — it's an infomercial for a company that provides witty one-liners on the fly.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series references the Monkey Island insult during Joey vs. Kaiba. One of Kaiba's put-downs goes on for nearly a minute.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers episode "Mindnet", Shane Gooseman and Ryker Kilbane are fighting for Her Majesty's amusement, and Killbane is getting more and more frustrated the longer he fights.
    Kilbane: You're finished! Stand still!
    Shane: Fighting you is like standing still.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: In "The Deserter", Aang taunts Admiral Zhao so Zhao will get increasingly angry and burn his fleet of riverboats with errant fire blasts.
    Aang: Ahoy! I'm Admiral Zhao! [proceeds to shake his butt at him]
  • Terry McGinnis in Batman Beyond develops a tendency to taunt his opponents, which differs from the normally stoic Batman. Bruce doesn't seem to mind. In Return of the Joker, he uses this to great effect against the Clown Prince of Crime himself, realizing that while Bruce refusing to laugh might be effective, the one thing a comedian really can't stand is being heckled. Joker loves to hear himself laugh, but he hates it when he's the punchline.
    Terry: He's tough. Any suggestions, Boss?
    Bruce: Joker's vain and likes to talk. He'll try to distract you, but don't listen! Block it out and power on through!
    Terry: Wait... I like to talk, too...
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers: Wheeler is prone to flinging insults at and mouthing off to the eco-villains while the team is in the middle of a mission.
  • Danny Phantom:
  • Rumble McSkirmish from Gravity Falls has this one:
    Rumble: You fight like a girl! Who is also a baby!
  • Max, the main character in Mighty Max, loves to shout quips, both in everyday life and when faced with life-threatening danger.
  • Popeye:
    • In a 1960 cartoon, Brutus has cornered the market on spinach, causing a shortage to where Popeye can't get to any. At a spinach factory, Brutus thinks he's finished him off by dropping a crate of spinach on Popeye, only to find he's eating it and gets his strength back. He challenges Brutus to a fight, to which Brutus comments "You couldn't bruise a begonia!" Popeye shows otherwise.
    • In another, Popeye and Wimpy are looking for Gonga, a tiger that has been terrorizing a village in India. When they discover the beast lurking in the shrubbery:
      Popeye: Come out and fight like a man!
      Gonga: Come in and fight like a tiger!
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Dancin' Homer", Bart and Lisa engage in heckling Mr. Burns' feeble attempt at throwing a pitch.
      Bart: You throw like my sister, man!
      Lisa: Yes! You throw like me!
    • In "I Am Furious (Yellow)", Groundskeeper Willie is fighting his Irish rival, Seamus:
      Seamus: Och, this is your doin' Willie. I'll turn your groin to pudding!
      Willie: Och, you speak like a poet, but you punch like one, too!
    • In "Moe'N'a Lisa", a fight breaks out between the American writers Jonathan Franzen and Michael Chabon. When Franzen lands a cheap shot, Chabon scoffs that his opponent "fights like Anne Rice".
  • Used hilariously in South Park by Russel Crowe while he's beating up some random basketball players.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
    • In "Cloak of Darkness", Luminara Unduli mocks Ventress' fighting style as an "unrefined, amateurish, sloppy" imitation of her master, Count Dooku's.
    • In "The Phantom Apprentice", Maul reveals to Ahsoka that he intended to lure Anakin to Mandalore and kill him in order to prevent Anakin's fall and commit Revenge by Proxy by depriving Sidious of his desired apprentice. During their fight, Ahsoka remarks that, based upon his performance against her, Maul is lucky that his plan didn't work, because Anakin would've made quick work of him.
  • In one episode of Street Fighter, Fei Long insults the crap out of Ken, who replies "And you... You're a loser! But I'M... a star!"
  • Teen Titans (2003):
    • In one episode, Raven briefly fights Jinx, during which Jinx says "You fight like a boy."
    • Slade does this to Terra in his usual blunt, aloof manner.
      Slade: Impressive. Unless, of course, you were aiming for me.
  • Weaponized by Prowl in Transformers: Animated. After cluing in to the link between Blitzwing's personalities and his alt modes, he has Bumblebee throw insults at Blitzwing until he switches from "Icy" to "Hothead", which swaps him from jet mode to tank mode... in midair.
    Bumblebee: Hey, Blitz-brain! Is that your jet mode, or did your pal Lugnut dump out some spare parts? [dodges ice blast] How come you have three faces? Couldn't decide which was the ugliest? [dodges another blast] And who uses ice as a weapon? What are you, a refrigerator?
    Hothead Blitzwing: You want heat!? I'll give you more than you can handle! [transforms into tank and plummets] Oh, slag! NOT AGAI[CRASH]
  • In Young Justice (2010), Black Spider frequently refers to the level of his "quippage" in every one of his appearances. Probably has something to do with having the same voice actor as Spidey and being on another show produced by Greg Weisman. Doubles as a Lampshade Hanging, Fandom Nod, or... something, as it came out not long after Spider-Man 3. One oft-mentioned downside to the Raimi Spidey trilogy is the absence of Spidey's trademark battle banter.

You trope like a fingerless whale!
How appropriate! You trope like a one-legged sailor!


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Insult Swordfighting, Adding Insult To Injury


Alastor Vs Adam

During Alastor and Adam's fight, while Adam isn't shown to be a skilled fighter, he does have a lot of raw power that overpowers Alastor and makes him retreat.

How well does it match the trope?

4.95 (22 votes)

Example of:

Main / UnskilledButStrong

Media sources: