Stealth Insult

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
    Arnold Schwarzenegger's letter to the State Assembly. The stealth insult, if you can't find it, is in the first letters of the third through ninth lines of the letter, which form an explicit acrostic.

    Baloo: I'll learn him all I know!

    Bagheera: Well, that shouldn't take too long.

    Character A is in no position to insult Character B... but does so anyway in a way designed to slip under Character B's radar.

    A favored tactic of the Deadpan Snarker, especially the Servile Snarker. Different from Insult Backfire in that a Stealth Insult is intended to be misinterpreted by its target; indeed, it may sound like a compliment at first (which is why some call it a Backhanded Compliment).

    Sometimes rendered in writing via an acrostic, a text in which the first letters of each line or word collectively form their own message. The page image is an example.

    See also Overly Narrow Superlative, which is often a specific form of Stealth Insult.

    Compare False Reassurance.

    Examples of Stealth Insult include:

    Anime and Manga

    • In Case 7 of Princess Principal, the Kingdom of Albion sends a powerless royal with no political connections to meet the Japanese embassy that has arrived to sign a treaty, showing how little the Kingdom values the treaty. Princess says nothing about her lack of power to the Japanese, so only her companions Ange and Dorothy notice the insult.

    Comic Books

    • In the Captain Marvel series (the one with Rick Jones, not the one with Billy Batson) the titular character is a humanoid alien trying to do good on Earth. Rick, bonded to Marvel, teaches him a new battle cry. "Oh Watta Goo Siam".[1] Captain Marvel took some time to get it. About a year later, Marvel went insane and destroyed the entire universe, but that was probably unrelated. Probably.
    • In V for Vendetta, the gangster, Ally is hired by the new police chief, Creedy.

    Ally: Yer predecessor, Mr Almond wouldna' have had time fer a man like me, a verra superior man, Mr Almond. Now you sir, you're not superior. Quite the reverse, in fact.

    • In the comic version of 300, Leonidas and the remaining Spartans are surrounded by Xerxes' army after they were betrayed by the Spartan Ephialtes. Leonidas tells him, "May you live forever" before taking his last stand. This phrase may sound oddly complimentary until you realize that living forever in Spartan culture, as opposed to dying gloriously in battle, is a dishonorable fate.
    • In X-Men comics, the villain Mojo has an android assistant named Major Domo who tends do this a lot. Indeed, Major Domo is likely the only one of Mojo's henchmen who can get away with insulting his boss, often because Mojo is too preoccupied with something else to notice.


    • In Disney's Aladdin, the Sultan insults himself in a very subtle way. He is wondering why Jasmine can't choose a suitor to marry, then adds 'Her mother wasn't nearly so picky.' It may take the audience a little while to notice the self-deprecation.
    • In Disney's The Jungle Book, Bagheera delivers a sharp one when Baloo is trying to make himself look like someone who can be trusted to raise Mowgli (see page quote).
    • In Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Belle casually calls Gaston "primeval". It's only a stealth insult because Gaston has no idea what primeval means.
    • In Disney's The Emperors New Groove, Kronk remarks that one would think Kusco would have turned out better, in response to Yzma stating that she practically raised him. It's not entirely certain if Kronk even intended this to be an insult, given he's Dumb Muscle.
    • In the comedy film Liar Liar, Jim Carrey's character, who has been cursed to tell the truth for one day, is forced to tell his coworkers exactly what he thinks of them (not very complimentary thoughts, to say the least), but manages to save himself from disaster by affecting a mocking tone of voice, thus convincing his coworkers that his insults are only outrageous jokes.
    • Time Bandits.

    Evil: Dear Benson, you are so mercifully free of the ravages of intelligence.
    Benson: You say such nice things, master.
    Evil: Yes, I know. I'm sorry.


    Judge Smails: They tell me you're the man to beat this year, and, well, I'm no slouch myself...
    Ty: Oh, don't sell yourself short, Judge. You're a tremendous slouch.

    • In Zodiac the suspected Zodiac Killer is questioned by the police. As he leaves, he flatly tells the officers that he looks forward to the day when policemen are no longer referred to as pigs.
    • Quo Vadis has Petronius, who spends the entire film secretly snarking off to Nero of all people. His crowning moment comes during the Great Fire of Rome, when Nero worries that his song won't be epic enough to match the moment, Petronius serves him with this line:

    Petronius: I am sure you will be worthy of the spectacle.... as the spectacle is worthy of you.

    • Spock's goodbye "salute" to the Vulcan Science Academy in the new Star Trek movie, which can basically be translated as, "Live long and fuck you." It was a fairly appropriate response.
    • In School of Rock, after Ms. Mullins berates Freddy for not being in accordance with the school's dress code (he was styling himself as a punk), Frankie says "Ms. Mullins, you're the Man." She responds "Why, thank you, Frankie", not realizing that he was referring to the phrase "stick it to the Man", i.e. he called her an oppressive authority. Dewey had taught the class about "The Man" early on.
    • Amadeus, and Mozart's reaction to Salieri's music. "I never knew that music like that was possible." And, "One hears such sounds, and what can one say but... Salieri?", two sentences designed not to purposely say anything good.
    • In 300, Leonidas tells the hunchback traitor Ephialtes, "May you live forever." Since the greatest glory a Spartan can achieve is to die for Sparta...
    • In Men in Black, Zed says "Congratulations, you're everything we've come to expect from years of government training." J also scratches his forehead with his middle finger after K states he has to "grow up" before he can get a Neuralyser.
    • Done by the animated Adam Sandler (Davey Stone) in Eight Crazy Nights:

    Whitey (Davey's caretaker): Now I assume you've done your pre-game warm-ups.
    Davey Stone: No, let me do them right now. [Hold up his fists, raises and lowers his middle fingers] One, two, three, four...
    Whitey: [oblivious] That's good, but don't forget your hammies.

    • In Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Kim gets to do quite a few of these, notably flipping off her contract manager by using her middle finger to scratch under her eye.
    • Kirk gave a more in your face insult to Tugg in Tropic Thunder.

    Tugg Speedman: There were times while I was playing Jack where I felt...retarded. Like, really retarded.
    Kirk Lazarus: Damn!
    Tugg Speedman: In a weird way I had to sort of just free myself up to believe that is was okay to be stupid or dumb.
    Kirk Lazarus: To be a moron.
    Tugg Speedman: Yeah!
    Kirk Lazarus: To be moronical.
    Tugg Speedman: Exactly, to be a moron.
    Kirk Lazarus: An imbecile.
    Tugg Speedman: Yeah!
    Kirk Lazarus: Like the dumbest motherfucker that ever lived.
    Tugg Speedman: [pause] When I was playing the character.


    Col. Mustard: Well, you tell him it's not true!
    Ms. Scarlett: It's not true.
    Mr. Green: It's not true?
    Ms. Scarlett: No, it's not true.
    Mr. Green: Aha! So it IS true!
    Wadsworth: A double negative!
    Col. Mustard: Double negative? You mean you have (whispering) photographs?!
    Wadsworth: That sounds like a confession to me, In fact the double negative has led to proof positive. I'm afraid you gave yourself away.
    Col. Mustard: Are you trying to make me look stupid in front of the other guests?
    Wadsworth: You don't need any help from me, sir.
    Col. Mustard: That's right!




    Sybill Trelawney: Everything went pitch black and the next thing I knew, I was being hurled headfirst out of the Room!
    Harry Potter: And you didn't see that coming?

    • From Ella Enchanted, Ella gets one over her thicker-than-bricks stepfamily:

    "What a clever daughter I have," Olga beamed at Hattie.
    "As clever as she is beautiful," [Ella] said.
    They both began to answer me, and then stopped, confused.
    "Hattie isn't pretty," said Olive.

    • Sherlock Holmes gets one of these on Inspector Gregson after noting that the pathway outside of the murder scene has been so trampled over by the police that any clues are now impossible to make out: "With two such men as yourself and Lestrade upon the ground, there will not be much for a third party to find out." This goes completely over the head of Gregson, who assumes that Holmes is complimenting him on the thoroughness of his investigation.
      • He does many of these throughout the canon, but one particularly ballsy was targeted towards the King of Bohemia.

    King of Bohemia: (Talking about Irene Adler) What a woman – oh, what a woman! Did I not tell you how quick and resolute she was? Would she not have made an admirable queen? Is it not a pity that she was not on my level?
    Holmes: From what I have seen of the lady she seems indeed to be on a very different level to your Majesty.

      • Also in "The Problem of Thor Bridge" towards his own client.

    Holmes: I'll give you one. This case is quite sufficiently complicated to start with without the further difficulty of false information.
    Client: Meaning that I lie.
    Holmes: Well, I was trying to express it as delicately as I could, but if you insist upon the word I will not contradict you.

      • In "The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier"—one of only two cases narrated by Holmes himself—he even takes a pot-shot at Watson, although in this case, he might not mean it as poorly as it comes off sounding.[2]

    "A confederate who foresees your conclusions and course of action is always dangerous, but one to whom each development comes as a perpetual surprise, and to whom the future is always a closed book, is indeed an ideal helpmate."

    • Older Than Print: In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Cao Cao manages to insult the capabilities of his surviving advisors by weeping for a dead one.
    • An intercultural example: in The Death of the Vazir Mukhtar, the main character pretends to be impressed by a lousy Persian court poet, so much that he compares him to "the excellent Count Khvostov", a legendarily, memetically awful Russian poet.
    • Warrior Cats is good with these: in the later books of the series, most Gatherings consist almost entirely of the Clans taking jabs at each other in this manner.

    "I am pleased to hear that you are getting so much use out of a piece of land prey-poor by ThunderClan standards."

    • In Discworld, even though Vetinari and Vimes are in a position to insult people straightforwardly, their insults often confuse people, sometimes because the insults are clever and sometimes because the people being insulted are just thick. Jingo has this example:

    Sgt. Colon: I know something about seaweed, sir.
    Vetinari: You do?
    Sgt. Colon: Yes! When it's wet, that means it's going to rain!
    Vetinari: I shall never forget you said that.
    Colon's response is to walk away proudly thinking that he's "Made a Contribution", when Vetinari probably meant he would never forget its monumental stupidity.

    • In The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Poirot gets one in at Hastings: "We must be so intelligent that [the murderer] does not suspect us of being intelligent at all. There, mon ami, you will be of great assistance to me."
    • Bertie Wooster calls out Jeeves on the way he says "Well, sir," and "Indeed, sir?"

    Bertie: "The impression I retain after hearing you shoot it at me a couple of times is that you consider me to be talking through the back of my neck, and that only a feudal sense of what is fitting restrains you from substituting for it the words 'Says you!'"

    • Fisk tricks a servant into doing this to herself in the Knight and Rogue Series. When she tries to guilt him for his criminal ways and for never doing any hard work, he informs her that a clever person doesn't have to work hard, then asks if she's a hard worker. She proudly declares that she is.

    Live-Action TV

    • In All in The Family, Lionel Jefferson would do this to Archie Bunker to trump Archie's racist comments. In one case, after Archie made a stereotypical comment about black people living crowded in small quarters, Lionel "explained" that they have special efficient storage closets to shove their things into, and that Archie should get one to "shove yours". After he left, Archie realized that "you could take that two ways"; in response, "Meathead" joined the stealth insult game by assuring him that Lionel "only meant it one way".
      • Sammy Davis Jr. also told one to Archie: "If you were prejudiced, you'd go around thinking that you were better than everyone else in the world. But after spending these wonderful moments with you, Archie, I can honestly say - you ain't better than anybody."
    • In an episode of The Golden Girls, Dorothy's ex husband Stan is staying with the women to recover from a heart attack. However, he's afraid of being alone and fakes a relapse. The following is paraphrased:

    Blanche: Isn't it funny that you would have a relapse on the day that the doctor said you could go home?
    Stan: What can I say, the heart's a funny organ.
    Blanche: I bet a lot of your organs get a laugh.

    • One of the ways Never Mind the Buzzcocks can insult its guests, but still get stars who take themselves seriously to appear on the show. For instance, after Preston walked out when Simon Amstell innocently read out sections of his wife's book:

    Simon Amstell: I only read his wife's book, I can't believe that upset him... I mean, then again, I've read the whole thing and it upset me.


    Caligula: Do you think I'm mad?
    Claudius: Mad? Why your majesty, you set the standard of sanity for the entire world!

    • You better believe that Blackadder indulges in this from time to time. Especially prevalent in seasons 3 and 4, when he had more superiors than underlings.
      • Barely stealthed example: In Blackadder the Third, Prince George complains that a fellow at his club said he had the brains of a donkey. Blackadder, in his most servile tones, states that this is absurd ... "unless it was a very stupid donkey". George's reaction? "If only I'd thought of saying that!"
    • From The IT Crowd:

    Jen: It's indescribable.
    Moss: Good.

    • In the Doctor Who episode "The Sunmakers", Gatherer Hade has an ostentatious manner of addressing The Collector (your Immensity, your Hugeness, your Supernal Eminence, etc), but as their relationship breaks down under the strain of events the honorifics become somewhat insulting, as in: "I fear the situation is worsening, your Grossness!"
    • Jeeves gets two of these over on Bertie on separate occasions in Jeeves and Wooster:

    Bertie: Oh, stop playing with the hat, Jeeves. I knew you wouldn't like it.
    Jeeves: Oh, not at all, sir!


    Bertie: She gave it to me, you know. Trying to improve my mind, I dare say.
    Jeeves: That seems scarcely possible, sir.

      • Jeeves sneaks in a dig at the song "Nagasaki" in response to Bertie's expressed love of the song:

    Jeeves: Extremely... invigorating, sir.
    Bertie: Yes, Jeeves, that is just the word I would have used. Yes, it makes you want to get up and bally well have a run 'round the park.
    Jeeves: My feelings precisely, sir.

    • Subverted in the Extras Christmas special, where Andy tries his best to insult his agent but it doesn't land:

    Darren: But if I send you, they'll think I don't know what I'm doing!
    Andy: Ohhh, no one could ever think you don't know what you're doing, that you're a total waste of space and shouldn't even be in the industry.
    Darren: Well, thanks, mate, but you'd be surprised.

    • In one episode of Hogan's Heroes, Hogan manages to convince Klink that the name the men have been calling him 'Klink the Fink' is actually a compliment.
      • Hogan did this to Klink a lot. Klink once complained to Hogan about the prisoners blowing raspberries at him, so Hogan told him that it was a sign of respect. Later in the episode, Hogan lead them in a cheer for Klink - which consisted of all the prisoners blowing a raspberry at the same time.
    • In Married... with Children, Marcy once berated her husband Steve by saying that she didn't blame Al's involvement in one of their misadventures because "If you give a loaded gun to a chimp and it shoots somebody, you don't blame the chimp." Al sat for a moment before saying, "I think that was a hidden dig at me."
    • This one from the French And Saunders skit, "The Generation Gap," featuring Dame Helen Mirren acting on a (bad) sitcom written by Jennifer. Bonus points for the insults seeming to hit both people.

    Helen: But I don't have any funny lines!
    Jennifer: Don't blame your tools.

    • While you'd be hard pressed to find insults in Monty Python's Flying Circus, the "Oscar Wilde Sketch" was composed of Wilde and others lampooning the king, claiming it to be a quote of one of the others. Each one miraculously manages to turn them into compliments, though only the king seems oblivious.
    • Major Burns in Mash is a frequent target, except for those times when people insult him to his face. Two examples:

    Burns: Wasn't your nose broken?
    Radar: Oh no, sir, it was just sprained. Doctor Pierce said I should just stay off my nose for awhile.
    Burns: I'm a doctor and that's crazy!
    Radar: I've heard that, sir.
    Burns: What I don't understand is, why does everyone take an instant dislike to me?
    Trapper: It saves time.


    Charlie: I just read 150 words about you in Us Weekly, and I feel like I know you already.
    Jean Paul: Thank you.


    Larry: Man! Oz, I would love to get me some of that Buffy and Willow action, if you know what.
    Oz: That's great, Larry. You've really mastered the single entendre.

    • In Talking Funny Jerry Seinfeld and Louis CK recall a conversation about the F word (Jerry doesn't use it while Louis is Mr. Cluster F-Bomb), where Jerry compared it to an American sports car. Louis thinks Jerry means the F word is special and should be used sparingly, but after some thought realized that his wealthy car-collecting friend meant that the word is flashy, vulgar, and only really appealing to low-class people who don't know better.
    • After giving a rotten answer on Match Game, the audience boos Bill Cullen. Bill responds by politely thanking the audience.
    • Example from Community:

    Slater: Britta! You look great! Such a stunning improvement.
    Britta: Wow, you look gorgeous. It must've taken all day.

    • Nucky Thompson from Boardwalk Empire throws out a few of these early in the show which go right over the head of his partners because most gangsters are not nearly as well read as he is. For example, when one rather annoying gangster talks about changing his name, Nucky absentmindedly says "A rose by any other name..." When the gangster asks what that means, Nucky just gives him a cold look and tells him "Read a fucking book".
    • Mad Men's Pete Campbell gets off a pretty awesome one in S3 when he assures his old college buddy that his idea for a national jai alai league is "exactly my father's sort of investment."
    • House: when House tests candidates for his team at the beginning of the 4th season, one of the candidates's theories is shot down by Foreman. When House confirms that the candidate's idea was actually good, the candidate subtly looks at Foreman and gets some dust out of his eye... with his middle finger.

    Newspaper Comics


    Calvin: What the... I'm not playing a full deck!
    Hobbes: That's what they all say.

      • Watterson had to fight very hard to keep his syndicate from licensing his work (he didn't want a bunch of crappy Calvin and Hobbes merchandise out there). During that time he threw the occasional Stealth Insult at the syndicate's expense into the strip. He insists that he never wrote anything that didn't stand on its own, though.
    • In Dilbert, Dogbert once gives the title character this epic zing:

    Dogbert: I could never underestimate your intelligence.
    Dilbert: Apology accepted.


    Pig: My goal in life is to leave every place I visit a little better than when I arrived.
    Rat: I think you do that. Every time you leave a room, I say to myself 'Hey, the room's a little better.'
    Pig: Ohhh, thank you!! Thank you!!
    Rat: (to Goat) The best insults are the ones that look like compliments.


    Garfield: Odie, you're much smarter than you look!
    Odie smiles broadly.
    Garfield (to the reader): But he's still dumb enough to think that's a compliment.


    Tabletop Games

    • In the GURPS RPG sourcebook GURPS Banestorm, the Honor-obsessed Sahudese culture considers direct insults to cause both the insulted and the insulter to lose face. Therefore, they have elevated the Stealth Insult to an art form; the standard form is to compliment the target on everything except his most obvious flaws. For example, at a meal consisting of a rice dish, fish and somewhat inferior cakes for dessert, a hostile guest might elaborately praise the rice and fish, but say nothing about the cakes. Thus, the cook will be shamed for their poor quality.
    • Magic the Gathering has one in the flavor text for the joke card Zombie Fanboy (The implication being that gamers have a stench comparable to that of zombies.):

    The real advantage of being a zombie gamer? No one notices the stench.



    • Shakespeare actually did this all the time.
      • In Julius Caesar, Marc Antony is permitted to deliver a eulogy for Caesar provided that he does not denounce the assassins. He sticks to the letter of the agreement, but nevertheless turns the crowd against the assassins to the point where his repeated references to them (particularly Brutus) as "honorable men" has the effect of a sarcastic jibe.
      • Another notable example is Hamlet, where the titular character made many of these comments, most notably urging his then-girlfriend Ophelia, "Get Thee to a Nunnery". ("Nunnery" was slang for "brothel" at the time.)
      • Hamlet calls Polonius a "Fishmonger". When he was corrected, he responded with regret that Polonius was not so honorable a man. It seems to fit in with Hamlet's "antic disposition," but fishmonger is thought to be period slang for "fleshmonger." In other words, he's saying that Polonius is lower than a pimp.
    • In Moliere's play The Miser, title character Harpagon wants his daughter, Elise to marry a much older man, because he'd take her without dowry. When Harpagon's steward, Valère, who's secretly in love with Elise, hears this, he comments: "When a man offers to marry a girl without a dowry, we ought to look no farther. Everything is comprised in that, and "without dowry" compensates for want of beauty, youth, birth, honour, wisdom, and probity." Harpagon takes it completely seriously.
    • Cyrano De Bergerac: While the baker Raguenau reads his poem to his poets friends, they are frenetically eating Ragueneau’s pastries. When Ragueaneau finishes, the poets praise his poem with culinary terms.

    The poets (with mouths crammed full): Exquisite! Delicious!

    • A Streetcar Named Desire has both Stanley and Blanche firing these off at one another at certain points. One memorable moment is when they talk about horoscopes, with Blanche under the assumption that Stanley is an Aries (forceful and dynamic) while Stanley scoffs at Blanche's sign being Virgo the Virgin (in which she's the opposite).

    Video Games


    Dr. Nefarious: Did you hear that, Lawrence?
    Lawrence: You put the wit in twit, sir.
    Dr. Nefarious: Yes, I do, don't I...
    Dr. Nefarious: That moron could never hope to beat the likes of me!
    Lawrence: If anyone can beat a moron at his own game, it's you, sir.
    Lawrence: Even drooling imbeciles can achieve success in certain fields, sir. Mad Science, for example.
    Dr. Nefarious: To think, they called me insane, Lawrence. We'll see who's insane when my mutant armies have exterminated all life on this planet!
    Lawrence: Yes, that should clear things right up, sir.


    Beat: "You're too old! You can't keep up with us!"
    Konishi: "Yes, I can see that being a child comes naturally to you."
    Beat: "Damn straight!"
    Neku: "... Dude, she's making fun of you."

    • Nintendo Power once described Back to The Future for the NES as having "that distinctive LJN style and an interesting 'timer'." The Angry Video Game Nerd naturally picked up on it being a Stealth Insult.
      • Which is one of Nintendo Power's preferred methods of insulting games as they review because even when giving a very harsh rating they don't fully dismantle a game being published by Nintendo.
    • In Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker, many characters regularly make a "V" Sign. Zadornov is fond of using the knuckles-outward version when talking to Snake.
      • In the ending, when Snake gives his speech about turning his back on almost everyone he's ever known, he's holding Zadornov's prosthetic hand in that same gesture.

    Web Comics

    • Shortly after being summoned into Erfworld, Parson was told that he should address Stanley using some respectful title. He replied that, where he came from, the highest title of respect was "Tool". Stanley interpreted this as a reference to his quest to gain all the Arkentools for himself, and declared that henceforth he would be known as "Stanley the Tool" (thus making it a combined Stealth Insult and Insult Backfire).
      • Not to mention a pun on Stanley's name.
    • Used in this Awkward Zombie strip. The insulted characters do notice, but not until after the person handing out the insults leaves.
    • Used in this Megatokyo strip, when Seraphim insults Asmodeus by saying "My partner's far sexier than you are", and he's still smiling because he thinks he's still up there. Little to his knowledge, the partner is Boo.
    • In Irregular Webcomic, a black market weapons dealer is trying to sell to Serron and Iki Piki. He says that a new weapon is a quantum leap above its predecessors. Iki Piki says that "quantum leap" actually means the smallest possible unit of change. When the dealer doesn't understand, Iki Piki says that his brain is obviously a quantum leap above primordial protoplasm. The dealer responds with "flattery will get you nowhere"
    • An early Dominic Deegan strip has Luna greet her sister Amelia with a four-sentence greeting, beginning with the letters "S", "L", "U", and "T". Dominic catches and snickers.
    • When she needs to find a secret passageway in Girl Genius, Agatha muses that they just need to “Think like a diabolical, paranoid, amoral megalomaniac.” Cue Tarvek finding it right off the bat.
    • Bobwhite. Ivy's response to Marlene's film comes across like she was trying to compliment Marlene but was insulting anyway.

    Ivy: Marlene, I gotta say. I'm as surprised as anyone, but I think... I think I like it! I think it might not be terrible! You're like the little retarded kid who finally learned how to fly.
    Marlene: Okay, no talking during the movie.


    Millie: Apparently I really don't know what I'm doing.
    Ozy: I admire how seldom that stops you.


    Web Original


    Gord: I'm sorry, I'm afraid I subscribe to the theory of intellectual osmosis. As such, I must now cease our conversation and move away from you before my intelligence begins to drop. Good day.


    Darby: "...One of these days, I'm going to be somebody someone's gonna want to shoot at."
    Mike: "Hey, if it's any consolation, I already think you should be shot."


    Everyone's a hero in their own way
    Everyone's got villains they must face
    They're not as cool as mine
    But folks you know it's fine to know your place
    Everyone's a hero in their own way
    In their own not-that-heroic way

    • See here and there on this very Wiki. For example, in the Film section of Pragmatic Villainy:

    The Prophecy featured a pragmatic Lucifer (played by Viggo Mortensen) who has the angelic habit of perching atop things like a bird. Satan saves the main cast from an evil Gabriel, who was on a rampage against mankind. His own selfish motives being "we don't need another hell up there".

    • Which is almost repeated in Constantine, down to the name of the rebel angel. However, The Prophecy could have been based on or inspired by the Hellblazer series.

    Western Animation

    • In The Simpsons episode "The War of the Simpsons," Homer has a talk with Bart, who saw him making a drunken fool of himself the previous night.

    Homer: I'm sorry it happened, and I just hope you didn't lose a lot of respect for me.
    Bart: Dad, I have as much respect for you as I ever did or ever will.
    Homer: Awww. (pats Bart's head)

      • Given how often people get away with insulting Homer to his face in the most obvious possible ways, it would seem to be a wasted effort.
    • In Despicable Me, Gru asks Miss Hattie whether she speaks Spanish. When she says no, he tells her that her face is "Como es burro." She is flattered... until she later buys a Spanish/English dictionary.
      • Especially insulting, since he used the masculine form.
    • Avatar: The Last Airbender: after Sokka shows everyone his drawing of Appa, Toph tells him it looks just like the real thing to her. It takes Sokka a second to get the inherent sarcasm of this statement, what with her being blind.
    • SpongeBob SquarePants: Squidward in "Band Geeks":
      • "I really expected better of you people. I guess I'm a loser for that too."
    • From The Looney Tunes Show:

    Yosemite Sam: Are you trying to make me look like a fool?
    Bugs Bunny: You don't need me to make you look like a fool.
    Yosemite Sam: You're darn right I don't!

    • In The Swan Princess, one of the musicians says "I'm an artist, not a boar!" (Protesting his being asked to dress up like an animal for archery practice.) Derek's advisor Rogers, the resident Deadpan Snarker, gives an Aside Glance and says "Could've fooled me."
    • Kick does this to Brad in the pilot episode of Kick Buttowski.

    Brad: "Mom and dad said I watch you good they'll let me take my driver's test again!"
    Kick: "...Fifth time's the charm."

    • In an episode of the original Duck Tales, Scrooge is surprised and upset at the sight of Gyro's Humungous Mecha that he built for a construction project, the memory of the android he built that tried to conquer humanity still fresh in his head:

    Gyro (Speaking from the mecha's cockpit): That was different Mr. McDuck, that robot had a computer for a brain. With this robot, I'm the brain!
    Scooge: I'm not sure that's an improvement.


    Real Life

    • A former student of Nicholas Murray Butler (who was then the president of Columbia University) was asked to contribute a piece to Poetry magazine. He obliged... with a poem in which the first letter of each line spelled out the statement "Nicholas Murray Butler Is A Horse's Ass".
    • This creative headstone.
    • 19th century French theatre actor Frédérick Lemaître, angered by the noisy audience, called them "imbéciles" (idiots) before leaving the stage. The audience got quite angered and the theatre director order Lemaître to apologize. He did so, by saying "Je vous ai traités d'imbéciles. C'est vrai! Je vous fais des excuses. J'ai tort!" ("I called you idiots. That's true! I apologize. I'm wrong!")
      • Similarly, Winston Churchill was once forced to apologize for accusing another politician of lying in Parliament. His "apology"? "I called the Right Honourable Gentleman a liar it is true and I am sorry for it. Punctuate that sentence any way you like."
    • A stealth insult heard of in England is to say to a (ideally dim) coworker you dislike "See you next Tuesday!". The insult is in the initials (C U...).
      • Which is now recognized in America, perhaps partly because American Dad had Roger quip "My boss is being a real 'Catch U Next Tuesday'."
      • An American version could be the less offensive and somewhat insulting "If you see Kay, you tell her I said hi!" Say the first five words out loud slowly.
      • There's the Irish "Whale oil beef hooked" (say it out loud, possibly with an Irish accent).
    • Dorothy Parker, Oscar Wilde and William F. Buckley were all masters/mistress of this.
    • After a public dispute between Robert Hooke and Isaac Newton, the latter wrote an open letter of apology to the Royal Society. It contained what became a famous quote of his "If I have seen further than most it is by standing on the shoulders of giants" (and not twisted little hunchbacks like Hooke).
    • When the USS Pueblo was captured by North Korea and its crew taken prisoner, its sailors were photographed to show off how well they had been taken care of. The sailors found a creative way to get their message through: many of them flipped the finger, telling their North Korean captors that the gesture was a "Hawaiian good luck sign." Needless to say, the North Koreans were not happy with them once they found out.
      • "Hawaiian Good Luck Sign" is still a popular euphemism for it in some regions.
      • Pueblo's captain, Commander Lloyd Bucher, was tortured by the North Korean forces, who eventually succeeded in forcing him to confess. However, to quote The Other Wiki, 'none of the Koreans knew enough English to write a confession, so they had Bucher write it himself. They verified the meaning of his words, but failed to catch the pun when he said "We paean (paean meaning a fervent expression of joy or praise) the DPRK. We paean the Korean people. We paean their great leader Kim Il Sung".' Another quote from the confession: "[We] beseech the Korean people to forgive our dastardly deeds unmatched since Attila."
    • California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill authored by one of his political opponents... with a veto message in which the first letter of each line spelled out "Fuck You".
      • Double whammy-not only is there the "Fuck you", but when you translate that out of politician-speak, he's saying "your bill is worthless, get back to me when you're either less of a jackass, or you're a jackass with his priorities straight".
        • The actual letter would hardly count as 'stealth', however, given that its recipients probably all speak fluent Politician.
    • A Jester once compared King John of England to Jesus. He said that Jesus had the same wisdom he had as a child as he did as a grown man. King John had the same wisdom as a grown up as he did as a child.
    • Before the 2010 World Cup, a network analyst stated "You can't underestimate the USA's chances against England!"
    • When PETCO won the naming rights to the San Diego Padres' new ballpark, PETA, who had been protesting PETCO's activities for many years, tried to stop the deal from going through. After failing at that, they decided to have an anti-PETCO message inscribed on a brick inside the stadium. Their first couple of attempts spelled their message out directly and were rejected by the Padres as unsuitable. When they switched to the stealth method of insulting PETCO, their message made it through.
    • Insulting someone using a foreign slang could count too, if the person you're insulting doesn't know what it means.
    • At Stalag Luft 3, where The Great Escape took place, prisoners called the guards "Goons", telling them that it stood for "German Officer Or Noncom."
    • In a February, 2011 interview on Al Jazeera, a spokesman for the Libyan government was telling the reporters what was really happening in Libya so poorly that off-screen crew members could be heard laughing at the absurdity of his claims. The two reporters conducting the interview kept their composure despite the hilariously incompetent attempts to deny, spin, fold and mutilate the truth, and at the end of the interview one, with an absolutely deadpan expression, thanked the spokesman and said that he was a perfect representative of the Libyan government.
    • Sarah Silverman, the Don Rickles of the backhanded compliment.
    • There's also the time that the Band of the Welsh Guards, after some protest, did decide to play a song to greet King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. The song they chose? The Imperial March.
    • Argentinian former-president Carlos Menem was loved during his time as president, but hated afterwards due to all the corruption he was linked to. In some sort of way, think of him as Argentina's Richard Nixon. In 2011 he went to vote, and the guy who was supposed to receive him made a gesture that's popular believed to protect you from jinx (which is touching your left testicle). See it yourself.
    • Not long after the Tiananmen Square protests, someone wrote a poem that, on the face of it, seemed to praise the Chinese government. It was even featured in the People's Daily. Not long after, it was discovered that if you took the characters going diagonally, it read "[Prime Minister] Li Peng must resign to appease the anger of the people."
    • Armenian Radio jokes are all about this trope.

    Q: What is chaos?
    Armenian Radio: We do not comment on national economics.


    Q:: Is it true that there is freedom of speech in the Soviet Union the same as there is the USA?
    Armenian Radio:: In principle, yes. In the USA, you can stand in front of the Washington Monument in Washington, DC, and yell, "Down with Reagan!", and you will not be punished. In the Soviet Union, you can stand in the Red Square in Moscow and yell, "Down with Reagan!", and you will not be punished.

    • A headstone in a Nova Scotia cemetery:

    Here lies Ezekial Aikle
    Age 102
    The Good Die Young.

    • According to an anecdote, Jean Harlow was once at dinner with Margot Asquith (wife of Herbert Henry Asquith, the former British Prime Minister), and kept pronouncing Mrs. Asquith's name with the 't' at the end. Eventually Asquith said "No, Jean, the 'T' is silent, like in 'Harlow'".
    1. "Oh, what a goose I am."
    2. Given Holmes' distaste for the tendency of the professional police to jump to conclusions, it might even have been meant as a sincere, if quite barbed, compliment.