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Playing With / Bilingual Backfire

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Basic Trope: A character talks trash about another character in a foreign language. The character being insulted knows the language.

  • Straight: Alice and Charlotte talk trash about Billy behind his back, in French. Billy, an American whose first language is English, reveals that he knows French, and calls out Alice and Charlotte.
  • Exaggerated:
    • Billy is in a huge room with a lot of people present. Everyone speaks ill of him behind his back and everyone speaks different languages. Billy, being an Omniglot, calls them out in their native languages and improvises a "The Reason You Suck" Speech in each.
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    • Alice and Charlotte speak a language they made up. Billy still manages to guess what they're saying.
    • Alice and Charlotte use a mixture of Cree, Galician, Tamil, Dzongkha, Uighur, Chechen, and Australian English. Billy still understands them.
    • At First Contact, the aliens Aleez and Challot are insulting the Human Billy for being from a primitive species, only for Billy to chastise them in their own language with better grammar than the both of them combined, which is unusual since Aleez and Challot are Starfish Aliens who speak in a way that is physically impossible to humans.
  • Downplayed:
    • Alice and Charlotte talk trash about Billy behind his back in French. Billy's grasp of French isn't good enough for him to understand what exactly they called him, but he picks up enough to know it isn't flattering. He makes pointed glares at them to express his disapproval.
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    • Charlotte (who is a Shrinking Violet, and whose English isn't as fluent) asks Alice to discuss a legitimate grievance Charlotte had with Billy. As the French conversation goes, Billy appears and asks in French if everything is all right, and apologizes to Charlotte. Upon hearing Billy's response, Charlotte was nervous at first, but soon felt happy that Billy will be gentle with her, and that he knows her language.
  • Justified:
    • Alice and Charlotte see Billy as an idiot and don't expect him to know French. Billy learned French from spending some years in France.
    • Billy refuses to allow anyone to know he knows French as a Secret Test of Character, which Alice and Charlotte fail. Hard.
  • Inverted:
    • Alice and Charlotte talk trash in English. Billy is within earshot, but doesn't understand.
    • Alice and Charlotte are discussing in French on how to apologize to the English-speaking Billy. When they do, Billy accepts the apology in French.
  • Subverted:
    • Billy thinks they insulted him and cites an example, but it's a case of Calling Me a Logarithm.
    • Billy thinks he caught Alice and Charlotte talking behind his back, only for Alice to look straight at him and say "Bonjour idiot Billy".
  • Double Subverted:
    • There were in fact insults in other parts of the speech. Billy just happened to choose an incorrect example.
    • While Alice has no problem insulting Billy to his face, Charlottle does not and is shocked Billy knew what she was saying.
  • Parodied:
    • Alice writes "Billy est un idiot" and is surprised when he guesses what it means.
    • Alice and Charlotte speak Australian English, not expecting Billy the American to understand them. He struggles trying to understand their slang, but still gets the message.
    • Billy didn't need to understand them. He read the subtitles.
    • Alice points to Billy, and says something insulting about him in French, resulting in a bark of laughter from Charlotte. Billy didn't even have to speak French to know that he was being insulted.
  • Zig-Zagged: Alice says something in a foreign language. Billy believes she insulted him and gets mad at her, but it turns out he doesn't speak that language. Alice explains that she was complimenting him. Later, Billy checks this in a dictionary and finds out it was an insult. But the word Alice used has another meaning, which wasn't in Billy's dictionary ... You never find out what she meant to say.
  • Averted:
    • Alice and Charlotte speak English.
    • Alice and Charlotte speak French, and Billy doesn't understand.
  • Enforced: The writer had to set up a Chekhov's Gun about Billy being able to speak French, and wanted to do it in a funny way.
  • Lampshaded: "If you have the nerve to talk trash about me, you should do it to my face, and not hide it behind a foreign language."
  • Invoked:
  • Exploited:
    • Alice and Charlotte secretly insult Billy in French, who understands French but can't let anyone know for whatever reason, knowing he will not be able to react.
    • Billy uses a Completely Unnecessary Translator so that Alice and Charlotte will feel free to talk openly, allowing him to see their true colors.
  • Defied: Alice and Charlotte only talk trash about Billy when they're sure he's not within earshot, or using a language they know he doesn't know.
  • Discussed: "I wonder what Alice and Charlotte are saying behind Billy's back. Maybe they're talking trash, but I don't think he'll care."
  • Conversed: "When will they learn that speaking a foreign language may fail to prevent others from understanding what they're saying?"
  • Implied: Billy never calls them out, but starts looking angry or sad as they speak, implying that he understands what they're saying. Later, Billy's friends have turned against Alice and Charlotte.
  • Deconstructed: Alice and Charlotte are diplomats at a peace summit between their country and Billy's. By insulting Billy in a language they assume he doesn't know, they unintentionally cause an international incident, damaging relations between their countries and possibly causing an escalation into all-out war.
  • Reconstructed: Alice and Charlotte are summoned back home from the summit and are replaced by another diplomat, Bob, who apologizes on behalf of their country to Billy, and by extension his country.
  • Played for Laughs:
    Alice [In French]: Billy is the worst jerk I know. He's an unscrupulous swindler that will do anything to make a few more dollars. He will punish anyone that tries to tell the truth. He has cheated on every girlfriend he has ever had. In addition, he smells like he hasn't showered in a month.note 
    Billy [Also in French]: I want to tell you two things. First, I know French. Second, I don't smell bad.note 
  • Played for Drama: Billy is seriously offended and gives Alice and Charlotte a "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Played for Horror: What Alice and Charlotte say about Billy in French — and how Billy calls them out — somehow trigger the release of Sealed Evil in a Can.

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