Two characters in a verbal dispute are reduced to exchanging insults—back and forth, over and over, like a ping-pong ball. Sometimes they escalate to extraordinary heights of inventiveness, but more often it degenerates into utter lameness as they run out of nasty things to call each other and resort to stupid ones. If an intellectual character is involved, their Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness will be their key to victory.
And if the participants happen to be the same gender, such as with Vitriolic Best Buds, certain fans will use this as a ground for claiming that the pairing has a basis. Namely, that the characters have chemistry by bickering Like an Old Married Couple, or that they have a lot of Foe Yay.
Commonly known as "The Dozens" in mid-20th Century America.
Anime and Manga
- Sanji and Zoro from One Piece; the two fight constantly, and their contests end with "love-cook" and "marimo", respectively.
- Lately, Sanji has gone straight into using "Zoro-kun" to fake concern for him. After the time-skip, the first thing they do when they meet up again is insult each other.
- Don't forget Iceburg and Franky with "Bakanky" and "Bakaburg."
- Goku and Gojyo from Saiyuki: their fights always end up as "____ monkey!" / "____ kappa!" The most popular fill-in-the-blanks are 'stupid' and 'pervy,' respectively. Often, they just go straight to this trope.
- In Azumanga Daioh, in the episode where Kagura is introduced (ep. 10), she & Tomo start doing this, and soon degenerate into face-pulling and grappling.
- In G Gundam, a good part of the interaction between White Prince George and Boisterous Bruiser Chibodee consists of snarking at each other and throw playful insults around. George calls Chibodee "savage", he retorts by calling George "young master".
- The last episode of Code Geass R2 had Rakshata and Lloyd bickering at each other when they're in prison, right before Lelouch's assassination at the hands of Suzaku/Zero. Hardly surprising, since they're ex-classmates and members of opposing Rival Science Teams. Lampshaded when the also imprisoned Nina hears them, asks Lloyd's assistant Cécile what's up, and Cécile is all "oh, don't worry hon, they've been like this since forever".
- In Full Metal Panic!, Kurz and Sousuke tend to do this with each other a lot. Kurz tends to take the dirtier approach, and insults Sousuke by calling him a stupid, naive, gutless virgin (which Sousuke reacts angrily to mainly because he assumes it's probably an insult), while Sousuke tends to attack Kurz as being a lazy, useless good-for-nothing. Interestingly enough, Kurz is shown to pretty much be the only person who can make Sousuke get annoyed to the point where he yells petty insults and bickers. Some people think it means something.
- Kanda and Allen from D.Gray-man. They can't go two sentences without Volleying Insults at each other. Most of the time it ends with Kanda calling Allen "Moyashi," and Allen calling Kanda some random insulting name.
- One example is in the Drama CD where the following conversation takes place:
Kanda: Gluttonous pig with no sense of taste.
- Naruto and Sasuke did this often in the beginning. One flashback had Naruto calling Sasuke "idiot" repeatedly and Sasuke responding with "dumbass." Ino and Sakura did this after becoming rivals as well, with Sakura calling Ino "Ino-pig" and Ino calling Sakura "Billboard Brow" for her big forehead.
- Alice and Gilbert of Pandora Hearts revel in this. Gilbert calls Alice "Baka-Usagi" and Alice calls Gilbert "Seaweed head."
- This is a major part of comedy in Bleach; their expressions, voices and dialogue as they're arguing is downright hilarious to most fans. Participants include Ichigo and Rukia, Haineko and Tobiume, Shinji and Hiyori, Renji and Ichigo, Rukia and Renji, Ichigo and Ishida, Byakuya and Kenpachi, Apache with Sun-Sun and Mila-Rose, Snakey with Chimpette, and now Ikkaku with Shishigawara.
- Kazuha and Heiji from Detective Conan have a relationship built almost exclusivly from this trope. Most of their conversations will degrade into calling one another "ahou!" (Or, "idiot!")
- Ranma ½: Ranma and Akane have done this before. Their fights usually involve the words "idiot," "jerk," and "tomboy," but sometimes, they're a bit more creative.
Akane: What did you say, you little sardine?!
- In Elf Quest, two major characters Cutter and Rayek are in a physical duel where they share banter that quickly degenerates from bragging about their skills, to calling each other "Bone Polisher!" and "Bead Rattler!" to "Dog!" and "Snake!" respectively.
- Often exchanged by the title characters of Calvin and Hobbes. One time, instead of escalating to a Big Ball of Violence, they wind up just doing insulting 'impressions' of each other, until Calvin's mom calls, "Time to come in!" They trudge off, muttering:
Calvin: Leave it to Mom to interrupt our repartee.
- Also Calvin and Suzy
- WHO'S A MUFFIN-HEAD?!
- In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mirage comics, Raphael and Casey Jones did this as a way of male bonding, in the first issue after their Northampton exile. This scene is later adapted in the first movie with Donatello instead of Raph, and with both characters going up the alphabet as they did so. A similar scene then occurs in the 2003 cartoon, where Casey and Raph are doing the same thing while roof-hopping.
- An installment of The Simpsons Comics showed Lisa Simpson and Martin Prince engaging in a poetry duel:
"You're a self-absorbed neurotic mess!"
- The Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Harry Potter Crossover Fic The Life of Brian by "echo" has this wonderful exchange between Sirius Black and Severus Snape:
"I am beyond houses today, git."
Swoosie Kurtz: Your Honor, I object!
- During the credits, the following out-take occurs.
Swoosie Kurtz: Your Honor, I object!
- Who can forget the legendary exchange between Rufio and Peter in Hook, consisting of at least nineteen volleys, climaxing with "Rufio, if I'm a maggot burger why don't you just EAT ME? You two-toned zebra-headed paramecium-brain, munchin' on your own mucus, suffering from Peter Pan envy!"
What's a Paramecium-brain?
- In Wild Wild West, West and Loveless take not-so-subtle verbal pot shots at each other for being black and crippled, respectively. This becomes a Brick Joke near the end of the film.
- Happens in The 40-Year-Old Virgin when David and Cal are playing a video game:
David: You know how I know you're gay?
- The first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film had a painfully G-rated version of this between Donatello and Casey Jones. Part of it was that they were trying to go in alphabetical order.
- Watch a majority of Stephen Chow's golden age movies. A majority have this by the bucketloads. Hail the Judge, Flirting Scholar, Lawyer Lawyer, it is a trademark of his since he specializes in Mo Le Tau style of comedy. This is lampshaded in Hail the Judge when the title character can talk trash to the extent of making his opponent spew blood, making water explode and freaking raising the dead.
- Dickinson and Adams in 1776, leading to a stick fight:
- Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, when Ron and Veronica's rivalry finally spills over:
Ron: You're a smelly pirate hooker.
- This exchange from The Sandlot:
Phillips: We play on a real diamond, Porter. You ain't good enough to lick the dirt off our cleats.
- In the Discworld novel Mort, Mort and Ysabel have a lengthy slanging match with one another, including, at a few point taking a moment out to clarify their meaning, before continuing.
- Year of the Griffin displays this with Felim and the Emir of a far off land. When they meet towards the end of the book, they begin yelling various insults at each other about how their maternal ancestors were different animals. (Your mother was a camel!) It is later revealed that the two are brothers and insulting their own mothers, grandmothers, etc.
- Artemis Fowl: something of a hobby among most of the main characters, Foaly and Mulch in particular.
- Bartimaeus and Nathaniel, nigh-constantly.
- By circumstances, main protagonist Monza Murcatto and Carlot dan Eider, whom she once more than just slighted, meet on the same side before a major battle in Best Served Cold. An insult volley ensues (though of course strictly speaking both only speak the truth. Or at least, as far as they know):
Carlot dan Eider: And who is this? The Butcher of Caprile! I thought you were but a thief, blackmailer, murderer of innocents and keen practiser of incest! Now it seems you are soldier, too."
- The Icelandic Saga of Gunnlaug Viper-Tongue (Gunnlaugs saga ormstungu). A major part of the story is Gunnlaugur confronting his rival in front of the king of Norway and them doing the ancient equivalent of freestyle battle rapping to see who the king favours.
- Mudge gets something of a Moment of Awesome in The Paths of the Perambulator, when the world-saving heroes are trapped by a magical cage built of insults. Only Mudge is a sufficient maestro of put-downs to volley the cage's slurs back at it, with each diss's intensity turned Up to Eleven, until it disperses.
Live Action TV
- The entire concept of Rob Newman and David Baddiel's History Today sketches on The Mary Whitehouse Experience, featuring two history professors insulting each other like schoolchildren; "That's you, that is..."
- In the Doctor Who episode "Doomsday", the leader of the Daleks and the Cyberleader take turns insulting each other after the Dalek refuses an alliance. What makes this particularly fun is that both communicate in Robo Speak. Mickey sums it up: "It's like Stephen Hawking meets the speaking clock."
- The is the entire premise of Yo Mamma on the Network Decay-ed MTV.
- "Jane, you ignorant slut." "Dan, you pompous ass."
- Parodied in Blackadder series three, with a French revolutionary and aristocrat using various animal insults, from 'Dog' and 'Snake' up to 'Happypotamus'.
- In the Babylon 5 episode "Convictions", Londo and G'Kar are trapped in an elevator. They exchange a final volley of insults as a rescue crew approaches (much to G'Kar's annoyance, as he'd seen the incident as a chance to watch Londo die under circumstances that would not trigger reprisals against his people).
Londo: There, you see... I am going to live!
- An episode of Ally McBeal had Ally and her ex doing this two different times, with Ally ultimately winning both rounds. In the first, her conquering insult was "Lawyer!" (ironic, since she was one also), and in the second, she won by calling her opponent, simply, "Man!"
- From Lost, "Tricia Tanaka is Dead":
Sawyer: What's your problem, Jumbotron?
- From That '70s Show, between Hyde and Laurie:
Hyde: Boy Laurie, you really like that hotdog! You didn't even chew it.
- in one episode of the incredibly obscure Uk Sitcom Never The Twain Windsor Davies character gets into one of these with a French waiter which ends with both of them consulting a phrase book/dictionary in order to continue the insults. Funnier than it sounds.
- In the Avery Schrieber episode of The Muppet Show, Avery does a sketch where he battles "the Monster of the Moors" (Sweetums) in an insult contest.
- Buffy and Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
Willow: I'll stop giving you a hard time... Runaway.
- Reba has Reba's ex-husband, Brock, and her close friend, Lori Ann interact with each other in this fashion. For example:
Brock, upon walking into Reba's eldest daughter's baby shower: Look at all these beautiful women. (Looks at Lori Ann) You must be security.
Donny Tourette (grabbing his crotch): This is what I think of you!
- From My Wife and Kids, Michael and Wanda:
Wanda: I'm going to dedicate my life to making you miserable, even if I have to live to be 150.
- In The Monkees episode "Monkees Chow Mein", Davy and Mike are dressed as superheroes and use insults as their "weapon":
Davy: You're nail biter. You're nail biter and your mother never ever loved you.
- The pilot episode of Community has this exchange:
Prof. Duncan: I'm asking if you know the difference between right and wrong.
- In the Two and A Half Men episode "For the Sake of the Child", Charlie and Alan take turns at insulting each other, using up insults that start with each letter of the alphabet. When we see them, they're at L.
- Surprisingly, given it's Beyond the Impossible Cluster F-Bombs and extremely Flowery Insults, The Thick of It doesn't have as many as you'd think. Arguments frequently occur, but they're usually about something that needs to be dealt with quickly and so seldom become simple insult contests. Also, the fact that most of the arguments involve Malcolm Tucker, who can steamroller most opposition fairly easily, means that the shouting matches don't drag on for as long as a fight between equals would.
- Happens often between Bud and Kelly on Married... with Children. The insults usually center around Al (occasionally Peggy's thrown in as well). Also happens between Kelly and one of her sleepover guests; the final insult before fisticuffs: Bundy.
- Discussed and invoked in the very first episode of Welcome Back, Kotter, in which Mr. Kotter contrasts the differences between the 1950s and 1970s versions of "The Dozens" by engaging Barbarino in an exchange of insults. (Kotter uses "your mother" attacks as examples of the 50s, Barbarino uses the immortal "Up your nose with a rubber hose".)
Musical and Opera
- The following from 1776:
John Dickinson: Are you calling me a coward?
- In Keating! The Musical a song called On The Floor is a rap-battle of volleying insults between Paul Keating and John Hewson. It's all the funnier because all the insults are things they actually said.
- Gyorgy Ligeti's operatic Mind Screw masterpiece Le Grand Macabre has this embarassing scene where the Black and the White Ministers trade insults with each other—alphabetically, from A to W, because they cannot think of anything that start with X, Y or Z.
White: Arse-licker! Arse-kisser!
- In Gilbert and Sullivan's last opera, THE GRAND DUKE, the duet of Rudolph and Ludwig:
Ludwig. Tall snobs, small snobs, rich snobs and needy ones!
- Also, in Gilbert's Cox and Box, the duet "Who are you, sir?" followed by "Printer, printer"
Myth & Legend
- Flytings are found in Norse Mythology, the most memorable being Lokasenna ("The Insults of Loki") in which Loki insults every single god in the pantheon, and is only quelled when Thor threatens to smash his head in.
- Another classic flyting is the exchange between Thor and Harbard the Ferryman (actually Odin in disguise).
- In the African epic Sundiata the eponymous hero does this with his Worthy Opponent.
- Appears in the ancient Greek comedy The Clouds by Aristophanes.
- Several examples from the works of Shakespeare:
Brabantio: Thou art a villain.
- Much Ado About Nothing:
Beatrice: I wonder that you will still be talking, Signior Benedick, nobody marks you.
- Appropriately, these are the archetype for Slap Slap Kiss.
- A Shakespearean example appears in Act IV, Scene I of Timon of Athens:
Timon: When there is nothing living but thee, thou shalt be welcome. I had rather be a beggar's dog than Apemantus.
- In Henry IV, Hal and Falstaff spend most of their scenes together trying to top the other in insults.
Hal: I'll be no longer guilty of this sin; this sanguine coward, this bed-presser, this horseback-breaker, this huge hill of flesh,—
- Seen in the play Waiting for Godot where Vladimir and Estragon spend one page hurling insults until Vladimir yells 'Cretin' to which Estragon replies with 'Critic', which naturally utterly defeats Vladimir.
- Cyrano De Bergerac: Viscount de Valvert and Cyrano engage on this in an epic' way at Act I Scene IV. It was not pretty for the Viscount.
- In The Marriage of Figaro, Susanna and Marcellina insult each other in song while fighting over Figaro.
- In The Threepenny Opera, Lucy and Polly try to out-do each other in the Jealousy Duet, while fighting over Macheath.
- Volleying Insults are a staple of Monkey Island.
- The most famous example is the "insult swordfights" from Secret ("You fight like a dairy farmer!" "How appropriate. You Fight Like a Cow."); the Fettucini Brothers indulge in this a bit as well ("Slacker!" "Weasel!" "Ruffian!" "Fop!").
- The quality of your insult comes from your swordfighting skill, of all things.
- The Curse of Monkey Island features rhyming insult sword-fighting.
- Escape from Monkey Island has insult arm-wrestling and a monkey form of insult battles, "Monkey Combat". Also in Escape, in order to solve a puzzle, Guybrush needs to "borrow" a time clock from two chess players, so he gets the two mad enough at each other that they're too busy Volleying Insults (such as "Falstaff stand-in!" and "Weasel worrier!") to notice him take it.
- Likewise, there's an entire pirate insult mini-game in the third Sly Cooper game where the object is to not do the same insult twice.
- Pirates and Volleying Insults seem to go well together: a quest in Kingdom of Loathing requires you to face another pirate in a game of Insult Beer Pong.
- That's a blatant swipe/parody of Monkey Island, though, even to the point of having the same (long, tedious) puzzle solution and even some of the same insults.
- In World of Warcraft, an exchange between two bumbling ex-cops in Dalaran (possibly a tribute to the above Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles example) goes as follows:
- The cutscenes of The Amazing Spider-Man for the Game Boy have Spidey trading insults with villains.
- Imoen and Korgan from Baldur's Gate II get into this in the "Throne of Bhaal" expansion.
Korgan: Hmph, Imoen, yer an o'er-lame excuse fer a member o' this party and I be tired of exertin' meself to protect ye! Next time I let ye perish, screaming like a ninny as ye does!
- The top-rated quote on Bash.org is a somewhat meta version.
- The Nostalgia Critic and Angry Video Game Nerd do this in their first brawl.
- The Nostalgia Chick, Nella and Tammy use the Wii FIT to insult the hell out of each other instead of just using it for exercise.
- This quote from two people from the blog Everything Sucks Forever.
- Dragon Ball Abridged had Nail and Vegeta snappily shooting back and forth for a few moments.
Vegeta: Trust me, you don't want any of what I am right now.
- On SpongeBob SquarePants, in the episode "Pressure", an argument between Spongebob and Sandy over whether land creatures or sea creatures are better leads to one of these. It ends when Spongebob can't think of a better insult than "not-wet person".
- An Animaniacs sketch features Yakko trading insults with "Howard Tern", ultimately winning out when the best insult Tern can think of is "You're a little shorty-shorty."
- Beavis and Butthead did this to each other constantly. On more than one occasion, it's actually shown as a sign of endearment.
- On The Tick (animation), (the animated version), this happens between Die Fledermaus and American Maid: "Jerk!" "Jingoist!"
- The Earthworm Jim cartoon gave us this classic...
Professor Monkey-For-A-Head: Yellow belly!
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Katara and Sokka pick a fight in front of some Fire Nation soldiers to try and get Katara arrested...
Sokka: Get out of my way, pipsqueak!
- Jackie Chan Adventures, this happens whenever Uncle and Tohru's mom are in the same room.
- Siblings Bonnie and Billy often did this in the first season of Popples.
- This happens between Madame Medusa and Mr. Snoops in The Rescuers when the Devil's Eye is found.
Medusa: It's mine! It's all mine!
- South Park runs nuts on this trope, usually revolving around Cartman. After about season 4 or so, any scene featuring him and Kyle has about a 50% chance of devolving into an exchange of insults focusing on Kyle's Judaism and Cartman's weight.
- Ed and Edd exchange this in Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy over a hunk of rotting cheese Ed keeps in his jacket. But Ed's only insult he made was "STINKY HAT!"
- Honeydew Syndrome shows this between Josh and Metis in the last scene of Chapter 5.
- Metanoia has Star and Zander doing this a few times.
- Misfile has a round of this between Ash and Tom before their last race.
Tom: Say, why don't you wear something sexy some time? I keep mistaking you for a boy. Maybe if you showed some cleavage I'd feel bad and go easy on you."
- Ozy and Millie had a friendly version of this in one strip, in one of their games: iambic pentameter slam.
- The Dreamer has Alexander and Beatrice do this in spades.
- In Rusty and Co, this is a pirate duel.
- In Sinfest Seymour and Lil' E trade cynical and idealistic cliches.
- Prime Minister's question time (yes, that really is what it's called) in the UK can desend into this. Luckily there is someone with the job of "Speaker of the House" who stops it going on for too long. There has been at least one incidence of an argument over music groups breaking out (paraphrased);
- Also frequently occurs in the Australian Federal Parliament's Question Time. Certain politicians are infamous (and often popular) for their command of invective, but the all-time champ in the last few decades was former Prime Minister Paul Keating. Many of his 'greatest hits' can be found on YouTube, and make quite entertaining viewing.
- They call the floor of the Australian Parliament the "bear pit" for good reason.
- Sir Winston Churchill is known for more than a few of these. A small sampling:
- Lady Astor: "If you were my husband, I'd poison your tea." Churchill: "If I were your husband, I'd drink it."
- Elizabeth Braddock: "Winston, you are drunk." Churchill: "And you, madam, are ugly. But In the morning, I shall be sober."
- If you have multiple children who are capable of speech, odds are this will ensue.
- Even if they are incapable of speech, they will find a way to do this. Bickering trumps all obstacles.
- Known as "The Dozens", this is a semi-friendly practice of trying to top each others' insults. This is thought to have originated from the slave-trade practice of selling less valuable (old, feeble, deformed) or less skilled slaves by "the dozens", where being included in that group was the lowest insult imaginable.
- Roger Ebert's feud with Vincent Gallo. After reviewing the premier of Gallo's The Brown Bunny as "the worst film in the history of Cannes," Gallo retorted that Ebert was "a fat pig with the physique of a slave trader." Taking a page out of Churchill's book, Ebert proclaimed that "one day I will be thin, but Vincent Gallo will always be the director of The Brown Bunny." Gallo then claimed to have hexed Ebert's colon, and Ebert replied that a colonoscopy would be preferable to watching the movie again. They have since made up.
- Sadly, thyroid cancer made that thin joke a Funny Aneurysm Moment.