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Stealth Insult

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We don't condone their overuse, either.

Lissa: Oh, so you're "Teach" now, Vaike, is that it? Hee hee! And here I thought people were just born lacking wits. It can be taught?
Vaike: Ha! Never doubt the Vaike! …Wait, was that an insult?

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. Alternatively, Character A may think of Character B as stupid, and so makes the insult relatively subtle so that Character B won't get it and will end up looking like a fool.

A favored tactic of the Deadpan Snarker, especially the Servile Snarker. Differs 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). Stealth Compliments, the inverted version of this trope where a compliment is purposefully hidden in an insult, is a favored tactic of Tsunderes and Tough Love proponents.

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


See also Overly Narrow Superlative and My Friends... and Zoidberg, which are often specific forms of this. With Due Respect is also sometimes used as this. A frequent technique in Passive-Aggressive Kombat, and sometimes a clever way to deliver a Quiet Cry for Help to third parties who are clever or informed enough to recognize the implications. May overlap with Teasing from Behind the Language Barrier when character A uses a language unknown to character B.

Compare Backhanded Apology, False Reassurance, Two-Faced Aside, and Parenthetical Swearing.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Bloom Into You, Sayaka, while waiting for Touko at a train station, happens to run into her senpai and ex-girlfriend. The older girl apologizes to Sayaka for making her like girls and expresses the hope that Sayaka can go back to normal(i.e. heterosexuality). Sayaka responds with, "No need to worry about me. As of now, I don't know how I ever had feelings for you. Still, I suppose I'm grateful to you- in a way," much to her senpai's relief. Sayaka then leaves arm-in-arm with Touko, thereby subtly expressing that she's still a lesbian, and the only thing that's changed is that she no longer loves her senpai. She caps it off by saying goodbye with "Sayonara," - a word which carries the connotation "I do not expect to see you again."
  • In Charlotte, Nao Tomori visits Yuu Otosaka's little sister Ayumi when Ayumi falls ill. Ayumi remarks that Nao and Yuu would make a great couple, but Nao replies that someone with Yuu's intelligence and good looks would be out of her league. Outwardly, this would seem complimentary, but since Nao actually considers Yuu an idiot, it's insulting.
  • In Kino's Journey, Kino once meets a man who'd managed to overthrow the despotic king of his country, a tyrant who'd executed anyone who disagreed with him. Unfortunately, the resulting democracy became a tyranny of the majority, executing anyone who disagreed with the majority until only the man and his wife were left, and the latter died of an illness. In the end, Kino leaves the country, calling the man "Your Highness," as a way of saying that he's no better than the previous king.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Captain Marvel seriesnote  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."note  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.
  • 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 and film versions 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 positive. However, in Spartan culture, dying gloriously in battle is considered a highly sought after and desirable fate.
  • In From Hell, Sir William Gull explains at length to his uneducated, dim-witted coachdriver John Netley his intellectual rationale for the Whitechapel murders he's about to commit.
    Gull: You realize that I only share these private thoughts with you in recognition of your lack of cognizance?
    Netley: Why—thank you, sir. I can't say what that means to me.
    Gull: Ha ha ha! Of COURSE you can't. That is precisely why I trust you.
  • The Smurfs comic book story "Salad Smurfs" has a Stealth Pun Insult as Brainy who ate the magically grown vegetables in Farmer's garden is turned into a pea, thus becoming a "pea brain".
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Hestia (goddess of home and hearth), who can't stand her family's impulsive, incestuous, backstabbing ways gives up her seat as one of the Dodekatheon to Dionysus, the god of madness, drama and drunkenness, all things she can't stand about the other members.
  • While MAD is usually rather overt with its insults, it can often be rather subtle, often using Damned By a Fool's Praise or other related tropes. For example, in the The Last Jedi parody, General Hux complains about the film throwing out the narrative that J. J. Abrams had set up in the previous movie... while holding cases for Lost and Alias, the implication being that Abrams couldn't have come up with a good resolution to the plotlines.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • Calvin sometimes has some fun this way at Moe the bully's expense. Once he responds to his demand for a quarter by telling him, "Your simian countenance suggests a heritage unusually rich in species diversity." As Moe stands there confused, Calvin hands over the quarter and says it was Worth It.
    • A couple of times, Hobbes makes a snide comment about Calvin while Calvin is distracted. Calvin doesn't realize that he has been insulted until much later that night.
      Calvin: What the... I'm not playing with a full deck!
      Hobbes: That's what they all say.
    • In one strip, Hobbes notices Calvin making a long list of things that annoy him and makes the suggestion of "excessively negative people". Calvin happily agrees with that, until he realizes Hobbes was referring specifically to him.
    • Watterson had to fight very hard to keep his syndicate from licensing his work note . 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.
  • Dilbert:
    • Dogbert once gives the title character this epic zing:
      Dogbert: I could never underestimate your intelligence.
      Dilbert: Apology accepted.
    • Dogbert, acting as spokesdog for the strip, calmly, simply, and ruthlessly dismantles an offended reader who wrote to complain: [1]
    • Also in this strip, where Wally insults the Pointy-Haired Boss and claims that he's talking to his mother using his hands-free phone.
    • And: "Bingo, sir."
    • And again.
  • Played by Rat in Pearls Before Swine:
    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.
  • In one Sally Forth strip, Nona says Hilary's obsession with the song "You're So Party, Let's Go Dancey" is "just one big DSM-5 entry. No offence, Hil." Hil's response is a perplexed "Not sure if one's taken".
  • In one Sunday Zits strip, Jeremy's father asks him what music groups he's been listening to lately. Jeremy's response? "Stuff like Sweatervest, Eight-Dollar Haircut... Costco Specs, Rhino Jowels, Coffeebreath... Miles of Khaki, Slipperstank..."
    Father: (as Jeremy leaves the room) That sounds like an awesome variety of music!
    Mother: (unamused) Not to mention a pretty good description of you.
    Father: Slipperstank rules!

    Fan Works 
  • Sonic the Hedgehog fanfic, Amy and Mecha Sally has Fiona attempting to prove to Elias and Nicole that she didn't come to New Mobotropolis to pick a fight with Mecha Sally, who has regained her free will. She then hits her to see no damage so her point is proven.
    Fiona: See? Sugar-Queen is indestructible. In other words, she's numb.
    Mecha Sally: I get the detail already.
  • In the Ben 10 fanfic Hero High Ben and Gwen almost appear to try to one-up each other when it comes to stealth insults.
  • In Pokéumans, Spiritus confesses to Brandon that the original Pokemon referred to the developing human race as Homo Stultus.
  • In this Avatar: The Last Airbender fic, Ozai gets one in after watching Zuko and Azula spar.
    Ozai: Excellent as always, Azula. And a better effort than I've seen from you, Zuko. Perhaps one day you'll manage to become a firebender that isn't an affront to your ancestors.
  • In Field of Innocence, Ozai's farewell to Lu Ten and Iroh is basically him and his nephew taking shots at each other like this.
    Lu Ten: Well, Grandfather would know best after all. Perhaps he sees that you would be of less use on the battlefield than you are here at the palace.
  • In Equestria: A History Revealed, the Lemony Narrator seems to take great enjoyment out of making several potshots at Celestia's expense.
  • In Faith No More, Faith's In-Series Nickname for Buffy "B" is revealed to actually be short for "Bitch".
  • In Love and Loss, when Kurenai questions the idea that Naruto would attack a fellow Konoha villager if something happened to his daughter, Naruto responds that she should wait until she's a parent. Then if she can honestly say she wouldn't kill anyone who harmed her child, regardless of where they're from, he'll admit she's a better shinobi than him, leaving it all but unsaid that she'd be a far worse parent.
  • In Weres Harry? Harry comes up with a rather nice one when he gets fed up with a social gathering Padma Patil drags him to during his first year at Hogwarts.
    Harry: I apologize for my interruption of this most prestigious of gatherings. I am afraid my manners are not on the level of a gathering such as this. Ms. Patil merely wished for me to see for myself the society that my parents and I sacrificed so much in defending. I am pleased to say in this she succeeded admirably. And now if you would excuse me?
  • In Soldier of Zero Saito calls Kirche a "pet name in the language of his homeland", namely Calamari for how bone-crushingly tight her embrace is when she's trying to get him in her bedroom.
  • In Slipping Between Worlds, Lt Holtack slyly compares Lord Rust to one of the Roundworld's most known soldiers, whose manner to fight is still religiously taught: the General Custer.
  • In Princess of the Blacks, Jen manages to use an insult to hide a worse insult when she suggests that if Danny dies during the First Task, she'll put snapdragons on his grave. Besides the obvious reference to the dragon he's about to face, snapdragons represent arrogance, so she's saying that it's his fault if he dies.
    • While giving an interview to the Daily Prophet, Jen gives a statement directed at the Potters about how they've made a life without her so she doesn't expect them to make room for her and she's happy with the Blacks. To most, it reads as her saying she doesn't expect anything of the Potters; to those who know her, Jen's telling them to stay out of her life.
  • In Double Agent Vader, an in-story unidentified individual (actually Vader, as per Word of God) always has the Empire Day party attended by the Emperor decorated with flowers that, in the Naboo flower language, have mocking and insulting meanings, something that completely flies over Palpatine's head as he doesn't know any flower language. Pooja Naberrie, who does, always has a good laugh at the decorations.
  • In the Star Wars AU Heretic Pride, one of the changes from the canon timeline is that Anakin Skywalker tries to get Chancellor Palpatine to intervene on behalf of Tatooine's slaves, and gets a better understanding of Palpatine's nature from the way Palpatine always promises to do what he can but never actually does anything. During one conversation, Anakin responds to Palpatine's latest insincere promise by telling him that on Tatooine there's a phrase for what Palpatine's doing: "help from the Core". Palpatine is flattered, not knowing that "when we get help from the Core" is a Tatooine slave idiom equivalent to "when hell freezes over".
  • In Miraculous: The Phoenix Rises, the infamous Let's Go Brandon chant is used against the mayor of the town, Joe Biden.
  • The Miraculous Ladybug fanfic Fox Rain has two examples:
    • The Akumatized identity of original character Zoe the Fangirl is named Rose Bride, as even Papillon thinks she's just as crazy as that series.
    • The new superhero Vorpika refers to Papillon as "Papillon der grillo coi fiori'n mano", that in Rome's dialect translates as "Papillon of the cricket with flowers in the hand". She's paraphrasing a movie quote that is well known in Italy and extremely vulgar, enough the author refuses to complete it to protect the story's ratingnote .
  • In Growing Daylight, Darci jokes that if anyone between her Claire and Mary would have gotten pregnant first, she thought it would have been Mary instead of Claire.
  • The King Nobody Wanted: While less stealthy than most insults, Garth Tyrell gets in a zing at Lord Commander Hightower in the middle of a talk about the ideal kinds of leaders and advisors, and passes on to the next point so quickly that his companion seems to miss it.
    Oswell Whent: My past has made me suspicious of clever men.
    Garth Tyrell: Understandable. The problem being that if you don't trust in the clever, you wind up following the fools. And that never goes well. But enough of the Lord Commander. What do you think of Lady Ruari?
  • Inverted in The Second Try when Asuka says that "one could actually mistake [Rei] for a human being" after seeing her smile. Given that Asuka knows about Rei's Cloning Blues and is trying to keep her status as a time traveller a secret, she deliberately worded it in a way that everyone else would merely interpret as one of her younger self's standard insults.
  • In Darth Vader: Hero of Naboo, young Anakin teaches Padme a card game which Vader explains has no victory condition and is merely designed for a group of people to waste a lot of time. The name of the game? Republic-Senate.
  • Only Flowers Fall: While her abusive mother Lusamine is comatose in the hospital, Lillie brings her cyclamen flowers (a flower that symbolizes resignation and goodbyes). To those who don't know flower language, it just looks like a sweet gift.
  • In Zero Context: Taking Out the Trash, Aldonza is catering a wedding reception while pretending to be a ditz. At one point the groom, who was earlier identified as having zero redeeming qualities, pops into the kitchen to check on her. Aldonza flashes him the "okay" gesture, which he takes to mean that everything's in order. After he leaves...
    Zapana: "Weren't you the one who told me that gesture's considered obscene in Spain?"
    Aldonza: "Not my fault if he's never seen 'The Pod People'."
  • In Fate/Grand Order: Ring of Promise, da Vinci reveals to Makeda that during Olga-Marie's twentient birthday, her father Marisbury organized a Chaldea Father-Daughter Dance, knowing the majority of Chaldea's staff are frustrated singles that never had time to meet anyone and start families. Romani Archaman was able to avoid the insult by bringing Mash Kyrielight as his niece.
  • In Retold The Second Year Draco states that some people prefer classical beauty to "fat cows with big udders".
    [Harry stares at Pansy for a minute.]
    Harry: You know you're right. She does have a classical beauty. Sort of like a Picasso or Cezanne. Very much.
  • In the Futari wa Pretty Cure/Turning Red crossover Maple Sugar Pretty Cure, Pisard's debut chapter has him calling Miriam (Cure Clover) a little weed.

    Films — Animation 
  • Aladdin:
    • The Sultan insults himself in a very subtle way. He is wondering why his daughter 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.
    • When Aladdin decided to visit Jasmine and play up the prince charade, he struck an arrogant pose and asked the Genie "How do I look?" The Genie, who had just tried to convince Aladdin to stop pretending to be a prince, replied: "Like... a prince."
    • When Jafar is praising Iago on his plan to marry Jasmine and eventually bump her and the Sultan off: "I love the way your foul little mind works!" Note the way he pinches his fingers together when he says "little".
  • The Bad Guys: At the Golden Dolphin ceremony, Mr. Wolf, disguised as "Mr. Poodleton", asks Governor Diane Foxington if he can have a picture with her and a modern art structure he calls a "pile of garbage". Diane coyly tells him he's too hard on himself. Wolf catches onto what she said a second before he takes the photo. It doubles as Foreshadowing; Diane, later revealed to be a former criminal, can see through Wolf's disguise and is taunting him.
  • Beauty and the Beast (1991 Disney version):
    • Belle tells Gaston that he's "positively primeval", but says it in a light enough voice that he thinks she's complimenting him. It doesn't help that he's ignorant enough to not know what "primeval" means (although, he's the kind of person who would probably take it as a compliment even if he did know).
    • Later, when she's trying to diplomatically kick him out of her house, she says "I just don't deserve you!" Bonus in the musical adaptation, where he responds to the line with "Who does?"
  • In Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, when Mr. Krupp says that the evidence he has for George and Harold being behind all the school pranks is in his gut, Harold quips that he must have a lot of evidence.
  • Despicable Me: Gru asks Miss Hattie whether she speaks Spanish. When she says no, he tells her that her face is "Como un burro" ("Like a donkey"). She is flattered... until she later buys a Spanish-English dictionary and slaps Gru in the face with it.
  • Eight Crazy Nights: The animated Adam Sandler (Davey Stone) does this:
    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.
  • The Emperor's New Groove:
  • The Jungle Book (1967): Bagheera delivers a sharp one when Baloo is trying to make himself look like someone who can be trusted to raise Mowgli (also the example quote on top of this very Trope Page).
    Baloo: I'll learn him all I know!
    Bagheera: Well, that shouldn't take too long.
  • The Lion King (1994): Scar slips this into his conversation with Simba at the beginning. Simba, being a cub, doesn't pick up on it.
    Simba: Hey, Uncle Scar. When I'm king, what'll that make you?
    Scar: A monkey's uncle.
    • It may or may not have been intentional, but nevertheless, the hyenas dish one out to Scar himself just scenes later.
    Banzai: Oh Scar. It's just you.
    Shenzi: We were afraid it was somebody important.
    Banzai: Yeah, you know, like Mufasa.
    Shenzi: Yeah.
    Scar: (scowling at the sheer sentences) I see.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games: Principal Cinch does this when she breaks up the party that was just starting to give the schools a chance to intermingle.
    "It's been four years since the last Friendship Games, but it feels as though nothing has changed. Canterlot High continues to pick its competitors in a popularity contest and Crystal Prep continues to field its top twelve students. It is a comfort to know that even after so many years of losses, your school remains to committed to its ideals, however misguided they may be. I wish you all the best of luck, regardless of the inevitable outcome."
  • 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."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Our Miss Brooks: In the series' theatrical series finale, Miss Brooks is Mr. Conklin's campaign manager for his crack at the new post of Coordinator of Education (essentially, School Board Superintendent). Collecting donations from students and teachers, Miss Brooks tells Mr. Conklin that many of them were behind him. They were willing to give him a push out of Madison if necessary. Mr. Conklin's change of expression from glowing pride to a perplexed frown suggests he quickly realized the import of Miss Brooks' comment.
  • What Happened to Santiago: Santiago, who is an extremely Reluctant Retiree, tells the guests at his retirement dinner that his experiences with them allow him to "remember you as you deserve." There's a Beat before everybody decides to applause.
  • In Blackbeard's Ghost, Coach Walker delivers a beaut, disguised as a pep talk.
    "I want you to look at this event not as an ordinary track meet but as a preparation for life. Some of you are going to be graduating soon. You’re going to find the world out there full of nothing but trouble, frustration, and strife. And I tell you right now that nowhere will you find a better preparation for that world outside than to be a member of this particular team.”
  • 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 bosses 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 them 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.
  • From Caddyshack:
    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 National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation Clark frequently does this to Eddie.
    Clark: My cousin-in-law whose heart is bigger than his brain.
    Eddie: I appreciate that Clark.
  • 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 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 Star Trek (2009), 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.
  • In Amadeus, after the premiere of Salieri's opera Axur: King of Ormus, Salieri goes up to Mozart, hoping for his approval. Unfortunately, Mozart has learned to be diplomatic:
    Salieri: Mozart. It was good of you to come.
    Mozart: How could I not?
    Salieri: Did my work please you?
    Mozart: How could it not, Excellency?
    Salieri: Yes?
    Mozart: I never knew that music like that was possible.
    Salieri: You flatter me.
    Mozart: Oh no! One hears such sounds and what can one say, but — Salieri!
  • Men in Black:
    • Near the beginning of the film, J is arguing with a skeptical (and overweight) cop about his chasing a suspect who turned out to be an alien in disguise.
    NYPD Sergeant: Edwards, if you were half the man that I am...
    J: Hey man, what are you talking about? I AM half the man that you are!
    • Zed to the rejected MiB candidates: "Gentlemen, congratulations! You're everything we've come to expect from years of government training. And now if you'll just come with me, we have one more test to administer: an eye exam."
    • J scratches his forehead with his middle finger after K states he has to "grow up" before he can get a Neuralyser.
  • In The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren walks in on a meeting between supreme leader Snoke and Hux. After Hux leaves, Snoke responds to Kylo's unspoken question about why he keeps such a rabid fanatic around with "A cur's weakness, properly manipulated, can be a sharp tool". Kylo doesn't pick up on Snoke obviously speaking about both Hux and Kylo.
  • 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.
  • In Clue:
    Col. Mustard: Well, you tell him it's not true!
    Ms. Scarlett: It's not true.
    Mr. Green: It that 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!
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Iron Man: Tony's Sexy Secretary Pepper Potts delivers a not-very-subtle one to Tony's one-night-stand.
      Christine Everhart: After all these years, Tony still has you picking up the dry cleaning.
      Pepper Potts: I do anything and everything Mr. Stark requires. Including, occasionally, taking out the trash. Will that be all?
    • Iron Man 2:
      • The senator's remark to Tony Stark shortly after giving him the medal and "accidentally" pricking him with the pin.
        Senator: Sorry, it's funny how annoying a little prick can be.
      • Pepper once again proves she is the master of this.
        Hammer: Christine Everhart's actually doing a big spread on me for Vanity Fair. I thought I'd throw her a bone, you know. Right?
        Pepper: Right. Well, she did quite a... spread on Tony last year.
        Tony: And she wrote a story as well.
    • In Thor, Loki uses good timing on a comment for ironic effect:
      Thor: You're a talented liar, brother, always have been.
      Loki: It's good to have you back.
    • The Consultant: Phil Coulson unloads a fast one on Agent Sitwell.
      Sitwell: I got it. We send a patsy to sabotage the debrief.
      Coulson: A patsy?
      Sitwell: Yes, someone to screw it up. Someone so inept that General Ross will refuse to release Blonsky. I could do it. I make a great patsy.
      Coulson: Yes you do. Your patsy is legendary. In fact, when I think of the word "patsy"—
      Sitwell: Alright.
    • In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Rocket attempts to be "polite" to the Sovereigns by telling them "You know, they told me you people were conceited douchebags, but that isn't true at all" (with a wink to Peter afterwards to signal that the insult was intentional). The "stealth" part fails, partly because he messes up the winking and does it in full view of everyone instead of hiding it.
    • Thor: Ragnarok:
  • Maggie Smith plays a shrewish lady in Gosford Park who is a master at these. In one instance, she "compliments" a cash-strapped woman for wearing the same dress over multiple days, saying that she's delightfully economical.
  • There is a quick one in Transformers: Age of Extinction when Cade calls all of humanity "junk".
  • Monte Carlo: When Duke Otto sings "She'll Love Me and Like It," about how he's going to bring his Runaway Bride back and make her shape up, the wedding guests repeat his words in a way that turns them into insults.
    Otto: I have a nasty temper, though I keep it in control
    For, after all, I really am a simple-hearted soul.
    Chorus: He's a simp, he's a simp, he's a simple-hearted soul!
    Otto: But when my seeds of kindliness have failed to bear me fruit,
    I then become, I must confess, a nasty-tempered brute.
    Chorus: He's a nas [an ass], he's a nas, he's a nasty-tempered brute!
  • The Faculty uses one of these for a Genius Bonus. The theater teacher Mrs. Olsen wanted to put on a production of Guys and Dolls, but Principal Drake, having earmarked most of the school's extra money for the football team (because the football-obsessed PTA and school board would accept nothing less), recommends recycling the sets from Our Town instead. Any theater geek would know that Our Town doesn't use any sets — which means that, in other words, Drake just told Mrs. Olsen to fuck off. (Drake is played by Bebe Neuwirth, a Broadway star who definitely would've gotten the joke.)
  • A classic in Casablanca: "Major Strasser is one of the reasons the Third Reich enjoys the reputation it has today."
  • In Arthur (1981) (1981)
    • When Arthur introduces Hobson to his "date for the night:"
    Arthur: Hobson, this is Gloria.
    Gloria: Hi!
    Hobson: Thrilling to meet you Gloria. I look forward to your next syllable with great eagerness.
    • Later, Hobson says to his new girlfriend Linda: "Thank you for a memorable afternoon. Usually one must go to a bowling alley to meet a woman of your stature."
  • In The Italian Job (2003), Stella meets Steve, the man who killed her father, while pretending to be a cable technician. She is greeted by his guard dogs and promptly tells Steve in a casual tone that she is "used to meeting all sorts of animals".
  • In Spaceballs, Pizza the Hut gets Barf's name wrong and calls him "Puke". Barf corrects him, "That's Barf". However, Barf says this in such a way, that it doesn't sound like he's actually correcting Pizza, but rather telling Pizza he looks like barf (which he does).
  • Templeton from the live-action Charlotte's Web gives a sly one to the cows. It's half-subverted in that one of the cows laughs in response, while the other sees straight through the insult.
    Betsy: Don't you break that egg, rat!
    Bitsy: A broken rotten egg would make this barn stink to high heaven!
    Bitsy: Ahahaha!
  • In Wake Me When It's Over, a general presiding over Brubaker's court martial gets one in on Gus as he's leaving.
    "Brubaker. I'd like to commend you for what you've done for our air force. I can think of only one other man who has matched your record. I refer, of course, to Baron von Richthofen."
  • Queer documentary Paris Is Burning discusses "shade", which is stealth insults as raised to an art form in black and Latino queer communities. As explained by Dorian Corey in the documentary, "Shade is I don’t tell you you’re ugly, but I don’t have to tell you because you know you’re ugly. And that’s shade."
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit: At the beginning, after Roger blows his lines again by seeing Circling Birdies instead of stars after getting a refrigerator dropped on his head, the frustrated director Raoul J. Raoul calls for a lunch break, but Roger wants to keep trying.
    Roger: I'm a professional, I can take it! Don't worry about me!
    Raoul: I'm not worried about you, I'm worried about the refrigerator!
  • SHAZAM! (2019)
    • A variant on this trope happens shortly after Billy gains his powers and starts bonding with his foster brother Freddy, they have the following conversation. In this case, the person delivering the insult isn't trying to put one over on his target or get away with insulting someone he shouldn't, but is unwilling to be completely direct.
      Freddy: You know, I like you like this. This is so cool. I mean, no offense, but, like, at first you were kinda like the opposite of how Darla is.
      Billy: A dick?
      Freddy: Your words. Not mine. But yeah.
    • Late in the film, after Billy reunites with his biological mother and discovers she willingly abandoned him and currently doesn't want him back in her life, the former tells the latter that they are going to return to their "real family". Since the latter disowned Billy as a child, the former now disowned them, no longer viewing her as his mother.
  • Daniel Hillard is prone to these when he's in his Mrs. Doubtfire disguise, telling his ex-wife Miranda that her interior decorating "reeks of taste" and often inserting barbs towards her new flame Stuart Dunmeyer the few times "she" willingly converses with him.
  • In Child's Play (2019), Chucky does this when he's pretending to be Omar's "new" Buddy doll under the name of "Chode." When his unsuspecting owner demands he "salute his master," "Chode" responds with a left-handed salute.
  • In Die Hard, some of the terrorists are quite capable of doing a perfect American accent and passing for people from the United States. McClane isn't fooled for a second, however, and actually gives Hans an unloaded gun because the accent "Clay" used is too perfect. He praises Hans for his little trick, saying he "could have been on TV with an accent like that", to mock out how his Clay voice had no regional accent whatsoever and how it's so perfect it sounds strange coming from anyone other than a newscaster.

  • Crosstime Traffic: In The Gladiator, Annarita gets in a good insult at her fanatical, self-righteous rival for the socialist equivalent of class president when they make their speeches to the class.
    Annarita: Maybe I was wrong about The Gladiator. At least I know I can be wrong though. I don't think Maria's ever been wrong in her life—and If you don't believe me, just ask her.
    Maria Tenance started to nod. She almost gave herself a whiplash stopping when she realized, a split second too late, that Annarita wasn't complimenting her.
  • In Dragon Bones, Tisala says to Ward that it's his eyes that make him look stupid, especially the long lashes. He replies that he always thought it was the colour - his eyes are brown, as are Tisala's.
  • Emma: At her lowest moment, Emma carelessly insults her old friend Miss Bates. When the latter is challenged to say "three dull things", she quips "Ah! ma’am, but there may be a difficulty. Pardon me— but you will be limited as to number—only three at once." The old lady takes a moment before getting it.
  • Lord of the Rings: Bilbo Baggins' famous toast "I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.". If you can parse out those negatives, it's actually a compliment (more or less, he wishes he knew more of them and he doesn't like some of them as much as he should), but it's noted in the book to be deliberately worded it to confuse them as to whether it was good or not. He also proclaims that he set up the guest list specifically so it could have 144 people on it (because it's both his 111th birthday and his adoptive son Frodo's 33rd), which the people quickly realize is an implication that he only invited them to pad the list. After he leaves, his parting gifts are straight up passive aggressive, including: a trash bin for a hobbit who writes unsolicited advice, a bookcase for someone who borrows books and never returns them, and most of a set of silver spoons for Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, who stole the rest of the set years ago. Lobelia immediately recognizes the insult...but still takes the spoons.
    • A more straight example occurs in The Silmarillion. King Thingol agrees to give land to the Haladin on the condition that they protect the militarily critical crossings of Teiglin from orcs. Lady Haleth, their leader, is insulted that he thinks they would do otherwise.
      Lady Haleth: Where are Haldad my father and Haldar my brother? If King Thingol believes Haleth will treat with the murderers of her father and brother, then the thoughts of the Eldar are indeed strange to men.
  • Harry Potter:
    • In the first book, despite having been bullied by his cousin Dudley for his entire childhood, Harry manages to get one over on him.
    Dudley: They flush people's heads down the toilet first day at Stonewall. Want to practice?
    Harry: No thanks. The poor toilet's never had anything as horrible as your head in it; it might be sick.
    • In the fifth book, Minerva McGonagall does this to Dolores Umbridge.
    McGonagall: He [Harry Potter] has achieved high marks in all his Defense Against the Dark Arts tests—
    Umbridge: I'm terribly sorry to have to contradict you, Minerva, but as you will see from my note, Harry has been achieving very poor results in his classes with me—
    McGonagall: I should have made my meaning plainer. He has achieved high marks in all Defense Against the Dark Arts tests set by a competent teacher.
    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?
    Sybill Trelawney: No, as I said it was pitch— *suddenly gets it and gives Harry a Death Glare*
  • 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. note 
    "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."
  • Words of Radiance (book two of The Stormlight Archive): Kaladin continuously insults Adolin while pretending to compliment him. Examples include: "You are the least obnoxious heir to a princedom I've ever met." Read: The only heir to a princedom he has ever met. Adolin is none the wiser until Shallan points it out to him. Kaladin stops once Shallan points out that Adolin is making an effort to be friendly (in contrast to earlier, when he distrusted Kaladin on every level).
  • 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.
    • Vimes does it to Wide-Eyed Idealist Reg Shoe throughout Night Watch. Eventually, he pushes it far enough that Reg catches on. (The setup is that Reg is trying to ration out the besieged Republic's food and, to his disappointment, Vimes has just pointed out they don't need to ration the food, because they have most of the food in the city):
      Vimes: But I'll tell you what, if this goes on, the city will see to it the deliveries come in by other gates. We’ll be hungry then. That’s when we’ll need your organizational skills.
      Reg: You mean we'll be in a famine situation?
      Vimes: If we aren't, Reg, I'm sure you could organise one.
    • In The Wee Free Men, one of the traveling teachers condescendingly complements Tiffany on knowing the word "zoology":
      Teacher: That's a big word, isn't it?
      Tiffany: No it isn't, actually. "Patronizing" is a big word, "zoology" is really quite short.
    • In Wintersmith, Petulia remarks that when Annagramma calls her "the pig witch", there's too much "pig", and not enough "witch". Petulia is a witch who looks after pigs, not a pig that practises witchcraft, but based off which word Annagramma chooses to highlight...
    • Carrot Ironfounderson is either a deft master at this trope, or a sincerely well-meaning speaker who only accidentally says things like "If it [the Fools' Guild] burns to the ground, it'll be a blow for entertainment in this city."
    • In The Truth, William, a master of Exact Words because he Will Not Tell a Lie, responds to an article Sacharissa wrote about a flower-arranging competition with "I think it is quite likely that it would be impossible to improve this piece in any way." He means not that the article is perfect, but that there's so much wrong with it that he couldn't begin to improve it, but he runs it anyway to take up newspaper space, appeal to the ladies who were mentioned in the article, and avoid offending Sacharissa.
    • In The Last Continent, the Senior Wrangler is criticising Ponder Stibbons for wasting his time studying fossils. Ponder, who is getting really fed up of the senior wizards by this point, replies "I always thought that old fossils had a lot to teach us. I may have been wrong."
  • 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."
    • It's made even more hilarious by Hastings' follow-up narration.
      I was pleased with the compliment. There had been times when I hardly thought that Poirot appreciated me at my true worth.
  • Bertie Wooster of Jeeves and 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.
    Mrs. Trimmer: I hope you're prepared to work.
    Fisk: I never work. If you're clever you don't have to. Are you a hard worker, Mrs. Trimmer?
    Mrs. Trimmer: That I am, and an honest woman to boot.
  • In one of the Captain Underpants books, an obnoxious student named Melvin gains superpowers and takes on the name of "Big Melvin". He declares that whenever he has halted a crime, he'll use his laser vision to scorch the initials "B.M." in large print, so people will know it was him. Cue George snarking that "Big BMs always made me think of Melvin!"
  • Most of the conversations Odd Thomas has with villains are comprised of him doing these.
  • Tyrion from A Song of Ice and Fire is a master of these:
    King Joffery: [Sansa's] stupid brother is calling himself a king.
    Tyrion: All kinds of people are calling themselves kings these days.
  • In the final Animorphs book, Jake contacts the Andalite fleet, who intend to quarantine Earth in hopes of killing the evil Yeerks there too. Unfortunately for the Andalites, Jake's message is also being broadcasted to their civilian nets, meaning both sides have to keep up the appearance of peace. Jake responds with some carefully worded statements (which Marco ever-so-helpfully translates for the reader).
    • "We must set aside the necessary ruthlessness of war... and turn to the more satisfying duties of making peace." Translation: Your civilians who are watching this broadcast now are going to be really upset if you decide to rush in and annihilate us when we're offering peace.
    • "Our victory could have never occurred without the help of our Andalite friends." Translation: You did squat for us, but we're willing to share the credit just to make you look nice. Grateful?note 
    • "We have [learned] so much from the great Elfangor and his no less courageous brother Axmili." Translation: If your ship attacks anyway, you'll end up killing Elfangor's hero brother aboard this ship and undoing all their hard work.
  • Older Than Feudalism: "Rex" (Latin for "king") was a huge insult according to the Romans, but many of the societies that they conquered (such as Judea) had much higher opinions of kings. For example, "Rex Iudaeorum" ("King of the Jews") was the biggest insult (by Roman standards) that Pontius Pilate could throw at Jesus in The Four Gospels, but the insult was lost on the native Jews. In fact, the chief priests' main objection to Jesus being given that label was that it was too big of a compliment to him.
  • Composer Ziller in The Culture novel Look to Windward sometimes amuses himself by doing this, although normally his criticisms of Culture society are more direct (since the incessant politeness of the Culture is one of the things that gets on his nerves). At one point a rather foolish Culture citizen named Treslen Scofford attempts to jog his memory by reminding him that, when Treslen had commented on one of his compositions, Ziller had called the comments "singular" and "uniquely viewpointed". Ziller acknowledges that this certainly sounds like something he'd have said.
  • One for the Star Wars Expanded Universe: Mandalorians want to find the biggest, nastiest, most challenging thing the galaxy can throw at them so they can test themselves against it; so they ally themselves with the Sith to fight against the Republic and/or Jedi. It's basically a statement of "Compared to the Jedi, you're Not Worth Killing and only good for a paycheck". The Sith doesn't seem to mind it, however, as the Mandalorians are still killing Jedi and republic troops, so they're earning their pay as mercenaries.
  • In Tricky Business, Wally's rock band Arrival plays a disastrous gig at a redneck bar ("'Nuffa that shit! Play some country!") that ends in a Bar Brawl and a trip to the emergency room for the Lead Bassist (whose reported injuries inspire a cool new name for the band). When the owner tells Wally that he doesn't want Arrival to ever play there again, Wally tells him that he was thrilled to meet the original cast of Deliverance, a reference that sails over the owner's head.
  • In Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder (author of Little House on the Prairie), young Almanzo finds and returns a wallet belonging to the local rich miser. Bystanders insist that the wallet’s owner should give the boy a reward. Relucantly he reaches into his pocket and proffers ... a dime. Almanzo looks at the coin and says “I’m sorry, I can’t change that.”
  • The Name of the Rose: In front of a crowd of monks, William of Baskerville credits inquisitor Bernardo Gui for the most important decision of his life. All the monks view it as a major compliment, but as Adso points out, the most important decision William ever made was to suit the Inquisition... and Bernardo is clearly aware of William's true meaning.
  • Number 26 of The Thirty-Six Stratagems: "Point at the Mulberry tree, but curse the Locust."
  • In the pulpy historical thriller/romance Subtle Blood, Kim's thoroughly unlikable older brother, when referred to as "the gentleman" by a police inspector investigating a murder he's the prime suspect for, shouts that he's an earl, not a bloody gentleman. (There is actually a difference, at least in the parlance of the British peerage, but only a truly stupid Jerkass would insist on it while suspected of murder.) The inspector very politely agrees that his lordship is indeed not a gentleman.
  • American Gods: Inverted when Mr. Nancy says that Shadow reminds him of his son, who's "stupid as a man who bought his stupid at a two-for-one sale". Shadow answers that he'll take it as a compliment to be likened to a member of Mr. Nancy's family, which earns him Mr. Nancy's approval.

    Live-Action TV 
  • All in the Family:
    • Lionel Jefferson would do this to Archie Bunker to trump Archie's racist comments. In one case, the episode "Gloria's Pregnancy", 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."
  • Babylon 5:
    • Londo, preparing to meet the new Emperor, informs the Regent that he met the Emperor twice before. The first time, he was an infant, and drooling on himself, and later as an adolescent, trying to look up girls' skirts.
    Cartagia: Ah, Mollari. It's wonderful to see you again.
    Londo: And you, Majesty. I could swear you have not changed since the last few times I saw you.
    Cartagia: Oh, you are of course too generous.
    • According to the Expanded Universe, this scene also includes another: that binary agent is a well known poison among Centauri nobility and using it can come off as calling them a Worthy Opponent as you had to spend that much to kill them-so Londo makes sure to describe how that poison works, as if Refa didn't know that already.
  • Billions: Laura's husband Bobby employs Wendy, but Wendy's husband is trying to get Bobby arrested, so Laura doesn't like Wendy or her husband. During a company party that Bobby throws, Laura casually asks Wendy about her marriage, which she knows is failing. Trying to overlook the jab, Wendy only says that marriages are hard. With a fake, supportive smile, Laura replies, "Yes, I've heard other people say that."
  • Blackadder indulges in this. 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!"
  • In Bluestone 42 Nick and the colonel are discussing the new member of the team before he arrives. Nick is saying all the reasons why he chose Towerblock. The colonel says I just go with "Turns up on time" and "not a twat". Later on the colonel asks how Towerblock is fitting in with the team, and Nick just says Well, he turns up on time...
  • 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".
  • Buffyverse:
    • The second season had the following exchange:
      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.
    • A darker example occurs in "Innocence". Angel, having been stripped of his soul due to experiencing a moment of "perfect happiness" with Buffy, makes it his mission to destroy her emotionally for the crime of making him feel like a human being. His first step is to pretend he was just using her for sex, with this exchange transpiring when he and the unbeknownst Buffy talk the next day.
      Buffy: Was I not good?
      Angel: No, you were great. Really. I thought you were a pro.
    • Any time Cordy tries to be relatively nice, this is the result.
  • Cheers has them frequently, particularly between Sam and Diane. One first season episode has a zinger, though. Right after Norm's boss has made an aggressive pass at Diane (and fired Norm for stepping up to Diane's defense) because he believed she was a hired escort, Sam says to Diane "We all know you'd starve to death before you made a living with your body."
  • Stephen Colbert's nickname for Bill O'Reilly is "Papa Bear". This coming from a man who considers bears to be the number one threat to America.
  • Community:
    • From the first season finale, when Slater and Britta are fighting over Jeff.
      Slater: Britta! You look great! Such a stunning improvement.
      Britta: Wow, you look gorgeous. It must've taken all day.
    • Inverted in the episode where Pierce is pretending to be dying when Jeff gets sick of it.
      Nurse: You can't go in there!
      Jeff: Or what? You'll do twice the work of a doctor for half the pay?
      Nurse: ...thank you?
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Sun Makers", 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!"
    • At the end of "Rose", the title character says goodbye to her boyfriend Mickey before leaving with the Doctor by thanking him. When he asks for what, she says "Exactly." She's basically calling him useless to his face.
    • In "Dalek", the Doctor describes Davros, creator of the titular species, to megalomaniac Henry van Statten, then adds, "You'd like him." It goes over the man's head because he doesn't realize just how much the Doctor despises Davros.
    • "The Beast Below": After the Doctor hits the protest button, he and Amy fall a ways down. Amy asks where they are, and the Doctor takes a sniff and guesses "Lancashire". They're standing on a tongue covered in rubbish.
  • 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.
  • Fawlty Towers: In "The Hotel Inspectors", Polly delivers one to the demanding Mr Hutchison.
    Polly: You're not by any chance the Duke of Kent, are you?
  • Firefly: When Jayne tries on the knit hat he got in the mail from his mother, Wash comments, "Man walks down the street in that hat, you know he's not afraid of anything."
  • 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.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • When the people of King's Landing prepare for a siege, Sansa Stark (who is being kept there as a guest/hostage) gets one on her hated fiance King Joffrey after he gloats about how he'll kill her older brother. In overly innocent tones, she asks him if he'll be on the front lines and not hiding from the fight because said brother leads the charge and Joffrey just boasted about being better than him. She then gives one to Tyrion, telling him that she'll be praying for his safe return from battle, "just as [she] prays for our king's". Alternatively, she could be referring to her brother Robb as "our king," making this a stealth insult against Joffrey, and a genuine well-wishing for Tyrion, who was one of the few to treat her decently.
    • In "Garden of Bones", King Renly Baratheon knows very well the kind of self-serving person Littlefinger is and is disgusted by it.
      Renly: You can trust Brienne. Her loyalty comes without charge.
    • In "Valar Dohaeris", Margaery Tyrell subtly criticizes Cersei's fashion sense.
      Margaery: Loras, isn't the Queen's gown magnificent? The fabric, the embroidery, the metalwork. I've never seen anything like it!
    • Loras then (politely) rubs it into Cersei's face that he thinks very poorly of her as Queen due to her neglect/mistreatment of the smallfolk.
      Loras: [smiling directly at Cersei] Margaery does a great deal of work with the poor back in Highgarden.
    • Cersei also levels one against Joffrey, though judging by his expression, he got the message.
      Cersei: You are your father's son. Not all of us can have a king's bravery.
    • Sansa also insults Joffrey unintentionally. When her father, realizing how dangerous King's Landing has become for the Starks, wants to take her away from her betrothed and placates her by saying that he'll find her "someone who's brave and gentle and strong," heartbroken Sansa replies that "I don't want anyone brave and gentle and strong, I want [Joffrey]!"
    • When Hizdahr waxes philosophical about traditions that will go on long after they are all gone, Tyrion declares, "My father would have liked you."
    • Margaery practically bombards Cersei with these when she comes to meet her new daughter-in-law. Smiling sweetly, Margaery calls her a drunk, an old bat and useless figurehead. None of them slip past Cersei's radar, of course.
    • In "The Lion and the Rose", Loras, engaged to Cersei, proves that he can fight with words just as well as he fights with swords after Cersei's brother Jaime threatens him.
      Jaime: Luckily for you, none of this will happen, because you will never marry her [Cersei].
      Loras: (smiles smugly) And neither will you. (pats Jaime on the arm)
  • House of the Dragon: The final dinner of King Viserys and his whole family could have gone relatively well if not for Aemond's favorite backhanded insult towards the first three children of Rhaenyra ("strong", as in "Harwin Strong's bastards").
  • Dean Learner does this a lot in Garth Marenghis Darkplace, sometimes out of obliviousness rather than malice, but more often because Garth is too stupid and self-absorbed to catch on.
    “I call Garth the Orson Welles of horror, and not just because of his weight.”
  • 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.
  • 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 led them in a cheer for Klink - which consisted of all the prisoners blowing a raspberry at the same time.
  • House: When House tests candidates for his team at the beginning of the 4th season, one of the candidates' 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.
  • On House of Buggin, one sketch has a crew of mariachis insulting their monolingual English-speaking customers in Spanish under the guise of serenading them until, of course, they run into some customers who also speak fluent Spanish. While most of their insults are translated for us in the subtitles, this piece comes with a further Bilingual Bonus or two as well for actual Spanish-speakers' further amusement. (Translated: "Miserable barato..." Not translated: "...pendejo!")
  • House of the Dragon: In "The Lord of The Tides," Aemond Targaryen makes a toast to his much older half-sister Rhaenyra Targaryen's sons, during a family dinner in which Rhaenyra and Alicent(Aemond's mother and Rhaenyra's stepmother/former friend) seem to be putting aside their differences. While it sounds as though he's praising them, his use of "Strong" twice is a clear jab at how they are the bastard children of Ser Harwin Strong.
    Aemond: Final tribute. To the health of my nephews: Jace, Luke, and Joffrey. Each of them handsome, wise... Strong. Come, let us drain our cups to these three... Strong boys.
  • This conversation from I, Claudius:
    Caligula: Do you think I'm mad?
    Claudius: Mad? Why your majesty, you set the standard of sanity for the entire world!
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022):
    • In the fifth episode, when Claudia exclaims to Louis, "Let's be vampires worthy of your love!", her underlying message is that Lestat is not a worthy romantic partner to Louis. Lestat — who is absolutely besotted with Louis — is so offended that he goes berserk and suffocates Claudia by squeezing his hand around her throat.
    • In the seventh episode, Lestat and Claudia are watching a newsreel about Adolf Hitler, and after Lestat compliments the look of the Nazi uniforms (he's a Sharp-Dressed Man who adores fashion), Claudia insinuates that he's a dictator in their own home.
      Lestat: They may be nasty little beasts, but they do have excellent tailoring.
      Claudia: Well-dressed tyrants. Where have I seen that before?
  • From The IT Crowd:
    Jen: It's indescribable.
    Moss: Good.
  • Jeeves and Wooster:
    • Jeeves gets two of these over on Bertie on separate occasions:
      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.
  • Mad Men's Pete Campbell gets off 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."
  • 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."
  • M*A*S*H:
    • Frank Burns is a frequent target, except for those times when people insult him to his face. Two examples:
      Burns: Your nose is supposed to be broken.
      Radar: Uh, yes, well, Dr. Pierce said it was just a sprain and if I keep off it for a month, I'll only have to put liquids in it.
      Burns: I'm a doctor, and that's crazy!
      Radar: [straight-faced] I've heard that, sir.
      Burns: What I don't understand is, why do people take an instant dislike to me?
      Trapper: It saves time, Frank.
    • His replacement, Major Charles Winchester, tends to be the deliverer rather than the recipient of these. For instance, in one episode he calls three Korean doctors "Moe, Curly, Larry", assuring them that those are great philosophers from the West. However, they aren't fooled. At the end of the episode, when the Korean doctors have alleviated Winchester's bad back with acupuncture, one of them replies to Winchester's apology by quipping that their efforts weren't bad for a bunch of stooges.
  • After giving a rotten answer on Match Game, the audience boos Bill Cullen. Bill responds by politely thanking the audience.
  • While you'd be hard pressed to find insults in Monty Python's Flying Circus, the "Oscar Wilde Sketch" was comprised 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.
  • One of the ways Nevermind 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.
  • Chris from Parks and Recreation has this great little jab that he takes at Donna, made even more hilarious by him holding his overly cheerful and chipper demeanor the entire time:
    Chris: Donna you are a remarkable woman and I just want to say I have always thought of you as family.
    Donna: I just want to say I always thought you were pretty hot.
    Chris: Yes I know.
  • Porridge: In the movie, Fletcher tells new officer Mr Beale that is probably a legend.
    Fletcher: Afternoon, Mr Beale.
    Mr Beale: How do you know my name?!
    Fletcher: Word gets around, it doesn't take long. I expect you're already a legend on some bog walls.
  • When Power Rangers: Dino Thunder had a crossover with the preceding season, Power Rangers Ninja Storm, Megogog greeted Lothor with "Your reputation precedes you." For context, Mesogog had previously made an offhand reference to Lothor back when Dino Thunder premiered — and called him "that idiot".
  • Raised by Wolves: Marcus takes a Mithraic pendant relic after being told that it belonged to a king. One of his disciples, who has grown disillusioned with his claims of being their prophet, tries to assure him that the relic is a fake. When he ignores her, she then apologizes and says, with great meaning, that the pendant is actually a perfect ornament for him. After beat, Marcus winces, showing that he registered the insult.
  • In the "A Pain in the Neck" episode of Sanford and Son, when Fred is attending the Watts Businessmen's Association's Man of the Year award dinner, Aunt Esther manages to slip a subtle one past Fred:
    Esther: Lord knows, I've had my differences with Fred Sanford, but tonight is a happy occasion. So rather than speak on his bad points, I'll just dwell on his good points. [She pauses for a few seconds of silence] Thank you.
  • Spartacus: Blood and Sand has a lot of this, particularly during conversations between Lucretia and Ilithyia. Ilithyia is constantly finding ways to reference the fact that Lucretia comes from a lower social class, which Lucretia always pretends to ignore. In one episode, Ilithyia warns Lucretia that a very elevated woman she knows is very vain and might treat Lucretia poorly for her lower status. Lucretia looks directly at Ilithyia and assures her, "I have experience dealing with such people." Ilithyia doesn't seem to notice.
  • Lampshaded in the Sports Night episode "The Apology":
    Casey: I'm completely cool, huh?
    Dana: And you dress cool.
    Casey: Yes! (Beat) Wait, that was a dig, wasn't it.
    • And a bit later:
      Casey: I love music. I have a great appreciation of music.
      Dan: Dude, I've been in your car and you've got the Starland Vocal Band singing "Afternoon Delight".
      Casey: That's right! (Beat) Wait, I do not have the Starland Vocal Band, it's not like I went out and bought the single. It's on my Time-Life Sounds of the '70s.
      Dan: Well, there you have it.
      Casey: How can I be cool again? I'm a newly divorced man, I'm young, I used to be cool. I need to be cool again. Help me be cool again.
      Dan: Well, first I'd have to disabuse you of the notion that you were ever cool before.
  • In Star Trek: The Original Series, invoked by Spock at the end of "Mirror, Mirror" regarding their Mirror Universe counterparts, leading a bemused Kirk and McCoy to question whether they've just been insulted as well.
    Spock: May I point out that I had an opportunity to observe your counterparts here quite closely. They were brutal, savage, unprincipled, uncivilised, treacherous, in every way, splendid examples of homo sapiens, the very flower of humanity. I found them quite refreshing.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "The Neutral Zone", Starfleet learns that several bases along the Federation/Romulan Neutral Zone, suspecting that the Romulans were responsible till they explain that their own bases along the Neutral Zone were destroyed in a similar manner, and after suspecting the Federation in turn, they tell Picard, "Once we realized the level of destruction, we knew it could not have been you.". Assuaging and insulting at the same time, as befitting a side known for using cloaking technology.
  • Jon Stewart had a great many hilarious barbs to shoot at the guys on Crossfire, but perhaps none quite so good as the ones that passed unnoticed.
  • Succession: British aristocrat Caroline Collingwood reveals that she's a sharp-tongued elitist while hosting her daughter's wedding in her castle. During pleasant conversation with the groom, she notes how "clever" it is for his middle-class parents to tell all the guests that they provided the wine. After she walks away, the groom admits that he'd just been "stabbed".
  • In Talking Funny, Jerry Seinfeld and Louis C.K. 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.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "Jess-Belle", the title character finds Elly Glover gathering flowers after she has won Billy-Ben Turner's love using Granny Hart's Love Potion. She tells her that she saw a patch of old maid's fern up on the mountain. Elly replies that she has noticed a lot of vixen wort around.
  • Far from uncommon on The West Wing. For instance, when Charlie meets his ex's new boyfriend.
    Charlie: I just read 150 words about you in Us Weekly, and I feel like I know you already.
    Jean Paul: Thank you.

  • Double subverted by Mike Oldfield in Amarok. Richard Branson had been demanding that Oldfield created a hit in the same vein of Tubular Bells, much to his annoyance. He therefore made a sixty-minute whopper which could not easily sampled into a radio-friendly version. More to the point of the trope, at a certain moment, one may hear a strident keyboard type a message in Morse code which spells "FUCK OFF RB".
  • The Hip-Hop genre is filled with these. Have a sharp ear and you'll hear a lot of subliminal disses, or maybe something that could get interpreted as a diss.
    • Many believe that Raekwon (Of Wu-Tang Clan) had subliminal disses to The Notorious B.I.G..
    • Many believe that Jay-Z was dissing Tupac Shakur in the song Shiny Suite Theory.
    • Bone Thugs-n-Harmony affiliate Maje$ty disses Crucial Conflict in the song Ready 4 War off of Bone's The Art of War album.
    • 2% diss by Mc Lyte which was toward Roxanne Shante.
    • One particularly controversial sublim is whether or not Eminem dissed Lil Wayne and Kanye West in "No Love", which, if he did it, would be remarkable for two reasons: First, that Eminem claimed on another track earlier on the album that dissing Wayne and Kanye would be pathetic; secondly, because Lil Wayne was the featured artist on "No Love".
  • The Pet Shop Boys' "Yesterday, When I Was Mad" has the main character on the receiving end of a barely-stealthy zinger:
    And someone said, "It's fabulous you're still around today—you've both made such a little go a very long way."
  • In "All The Lazy Boyfriends" by They Might Be Giants, it's clear from context the lyric "Man, you never lost your edge" implies that the subject (one of the eponymous "lazy boyfriends") never had an edge to lose.
  • In the live recording of Circle by Harry Chapin, recorded for his Greatest Stories Live album, he tries to coax reluctant members of the audience into singing along by assuring them that "Anybody can sing this song". To this end, he has pretty much everyone on hand sing a verse of the song, including the roadies, whom he describes as "The 70s answer to Simon & Garfunkel. They're a little Seals & Crofts, and a little Sears & Roebuck."

    Print Media 
  • In a Cracked parody of Happy Days, Potsie wonders why they show less of his singing every episode.
    Al: It's because you sound better that way.
    Potsie: Really?
    Al: Sure. And just think how great you'll sound when they don't show your singing at all.
    Potsie: YEAH!

    Pro Wrestling 

  • Cabin Pressure:
    Arthur: Will there be more learning how to understand people?
    Carolyn: No, Arthur, I think you understand as much about people as you ever will.
    Arthur: Thanks, Mum, what a nice thing to say.
    Carolyn: Case in point.
    • Douglas' job reference for Martin states, "Other than myself, there is no one at MJN whose skills as a pilot I rate higher." This is a case where only the person being insulted catches the insult; to the interviewer at Swiss Air, this looks like a high recommendation, but Martin knows that he and Douglas are the only two pilots at MJN.
  • From the sitcom Revolting People:
    Joshua: ...and then before long, I find myself wondering if I'm some kind of idiot!
    Samuel: Oh, I wouldn't waste your time wondering about that.
  • When Jeremy Clarkson and Ian Hislop discuss Piers Morgan:
    Jeremy: I think he's tremendous, isn't he?
    Ian: Yes, you mustn't be fooled by this media idea that we all hate each other.
    Jeremy: No!
    Ian: I mean, he's terrific fun, Piers. He's 'round my house all the time.
    Jeremy: When he isn't at mine! And his career has gone from strength to strength.
    Ian: I mean, who could begrudge him international success, money and wealth?
    Jeremy: And his wife likes him too!

  • American Football:
    • Sportswriters will often refer to certain quarterbacks as "game managers"; a term used to describe quarterbacks that on one hand wouldn't hurt a team by forcing plays that often result in interceptions... but on the other hand said quarterback generally doesn't put up huge stats; as their team typically relies on a strong defense and running game to win.
    • naturally produces highlight packages when their players perform well on the field. When a player has a bad game, the site will typically just ignore them. Unless they have a really bad game, in which case they will produce a "highlights" video showing their repeated failures.
  • Baseball:
    • 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. What appeared to be a praise of the Padres saying "Break Open Your Cold Ones! Toast The Padres! Enjoy This Championship Organization” at second glance was a subtle acrostic with the first initials of each word spelling out "Boycott PETCO".
    • The 1966 MLB All-Star Game was played at then-new Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis, where a severe Heat Wave resulted in a scorching game-time temperature of 105°F. Asked for his opinion of the venue, retired New York Mets manager Casey Stengel replied, "It sure holds the heat well."

    Tabletop Games 
  • Saying "check" in Chess is considered bad form in this manner, as it's implying your opponent lacks the awareness and competency to realize they've been placed in check. Thus you're supposed to say nothing and, if need be, politely point out you have them in check if they attempt an illegal move on their turn. Having someone say "check" in a game means you're either playing someone with little to no experience playing a human opponent, or someone who is a complete smarmy tool. Or both.
  • 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.
  • In both Vampire: The Masquerade and Vampire: The Requiem, the art of stealth insults is considered a prerequisite if you want to get anywhere at Elysium. Directly insulting another vampire may risk setting off frenzy.
  • The rules for duels in Warhammer 40,000 mention that Eldar characters are likely to call out their opponents with subtle and sophisticated insults, as likely to leave their opponents confused, as enraged, thus "proving Eldar superiority twice over."
  • In the Legend of the Five Rings universe, courts and other forms of social interaction can be deadly, and openly insulting your opponent without him noticing (or being able to retort) is often a great victory.

  • William Shakespeare 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 Molière'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 poet "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).
  • In the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, The Gondoliers, the Duke and Duchess are discussing their daughter's arranged marriage with her. The daughter (who has fallen in love with someone else) says that she will never be able to love her husband:
    Duke: I don't know. It's extraordinary what unprepossessing people one can love if one gives one's mind to it.
    Duchess: I loved your father.
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Harry transfigured as Voldemort tells Voldemort's daughter Delphi that he although he sees certain similarities to Bellatrix in her face, she hasn't inherited the best of her. It's difficult to tell whether this is a stealth insult toward Delphi or Bellatrix.
  • Oklahoma!: In "Pore Jud is Daid", Curly spends an entire song attempting to persuade Jud to kill himself, including multiple stealth insults. The highlight is probably:
    And he treated the rats like equals! Which was right!
    • The other notable lyrical masterpiece is:
    Curly: But the folks that really knowed him, knowed that beneath them two dirty shirts he always wore
    There beat a heart as big as all outdoors.
  • In Hamilton, as Hamilton is sending off his itemized list of thirty years of grievances, the final ensemble cast member ballet-dances the last two pages over, then pulls back the last page until the music catches up, as if to say "you're not worth much of my time."

    Video Games 
  • In Portal, GLaDOS quickly proved herself to be the undisputed master of passive-aggressiveness thanks to her use of this trope. One of the reasons the first game is usually considered funnier than the already-hilarious Portal 2 is because so many of the jokes (the majority of them being jabs at Chell) tend to fly over the heads of first-time players, only clicking on repeat playthroughs after her deep antagonism towards Chell has come to light (and even with the insults that don't call for multiple playthroughs, most of them require you to spend a few moments deciphering their actual meaning).
    GLaDOS: "Unbelievable! You, [SUBJECT NAME HERE], must be the pride of [SUBJECT HOMETOWN HERE]."
  • In Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal, Omnicidal Maniac Big Bad Dr. Nefarious' robotic butler constantly gives these to his boss, who either ignores them or takes them as compliments.
    Dr. Nefarious: Did you hear that Lawrence?
    Lawrence: You put the 'wit' in 'twit', sir.
    Dr. Nefarious: Yes, I do, don't I? [maniacal laughter]
    Dr. Nefarious: That moron could never hope to match wits with 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 pets have exterminated all life on this miserable planet!
    Lawrence: That should clear things right up, sir.
  • In The World Ends with You, Konishi manages it with Beat, but that's not too hard. Of course, Neku's right there to clarify things.
    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 ovo188 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.
  • Batman: Arkham City: One of Hugo Strange's interview tapes with The Riddler begins with the professor saying that Riddler doesn't have to hack into the intercom to talk and that he should come in person so they can have a discussion "as equals". Riddler scoffs at this and gloats about how he'll kill Batman and find out his Secret Identity. Hugo, (who already knows who Batman is), claims that he was mistaken about them being equals. A smug Riddler ignorantly agrees.
  • Hazama of BlazBlue fame is known for dropping these from time to time, per his Faux Affably Evil nature. One particularly gratuitous incident is the end of Makoto's Arcade mode, where he gives the appearance of praising her information-gathering abilities. In reality, he is cursing her very name for almost ruining his plans again using said information-gathering abilities against him, and he only stops feigning his compliments when he activates his Azure Grimoire and tries to kill her.
    • There's also his line from the first game about not being very good at fighting. In his humble eyes the stuff he can do is probably not all that impressive... so what does that make you who cannot beat a self-professed weakling?
  • Guild Wars has the Asura call humans by the apparent nickname "bookah". Vekk eventually reveals that a bookah is the boogeyman of young Asura, notorious for its large size and stupidity. The fact that he explains this so readily when asked seems to indicate he doesn't think you'll make the connection.
  • A clever one in Kid Icarus: Uprising: In Chapter 20, before going to confront a possessed Palutena, Viridi chimes that it's time to save Palutena, to which Hades interjects: "'Save Palutena'? Don't you mean 'Crush Palutena'?" Pit replies: "Go home, Hades. Just...go home." Considering where home is for Hades...
  • Punch-Out!! on Wii, which Affectionately Parodies the nationality of every boxer in the game, jabs at Japan this way with Piston Hondo. He's shown to be the most stereotypical Japanese super-warrior imaginable, training by catching swords and outrunning bullet trains, yet he's merely the lowest ranked boxer of the second circuit who can't defeat the lumberjack who trains by chopping down trees and guzzling maple syrup. (Doubly funny if you're aware that the development studio, Next Level Games, is based in Canada.)
  • From Borderlands 2 with a Catch-a-Ride, where Scooter finds out he was being insulted by the ladies:
    Scooter: All the ladies say Scooter is the fastest ride in town! CATCH A RIII—aw, I just realized that's an insult.
  • In Final Fantasy VIII, just before a mission to Dollet that doubles as a graduation exam for the SeeD candidates, Quistis wishes her students luck. Unlike many of these examples, Seifer actually understands the insult and is not amused.
    Quistis: Good luck.
    Seifer: Instructor... I hate it when people wish me luck. Save those words for a bad student that needs them, eh?
    Quistis: Very well. Good luck, Seifer.
  • From Dragon Quest VIII, King Clavius's response to the Argon Heart Prince Charmles bought at the Bazaar. It goes completely over Charmles' head.
    King Clavius: I accept this as proof of your true character.
  • Quoted above is an exchange from Fire Emblem: Awakening, in which Lissa mocks the none-too-bright Vaike's insistence on calling himself "Teach," by saying, "And here I thought people were just born lacking wits. It can be taught?" It takes Vaike a moment to realize the insult.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses
    • The usually scrupulously polite Flayn sometimes likes to prod at Seteth's smothering in subtle ways. For example, if you eat with the two of them for lunch, Flayn declares that meals are best eaten with at least three people present; Seteth immediately asks whether that means she doesn't enjoy eating only with him.
    • In Linhardt and Ferdinand's C Support, Ferdinand tries to get Linhardt to be more like him, only to find that Linhardt is less than impressed, leading to the following exchange.
    Linhardt: You've mastered all the important noble skills. You drink tea, talk about how great you are, ride horses...
    Ferdinand: Indeed! I went for a ride earlier today.
    Linhardt: Is that so? You'll have to tell me about it sometime, when I'm not walking away...
    (Linhardt walks away.)
    • Just before the mock battle between the three houses begins on Chapter 1 of the Black Eagles route, Edelgard has the following to say to her rival house leaders when they show up to a pre-battle strategy meeting between her and Byleth.
    Edelgard: Simply tell me your weaknesses, and you're welcome to stay. But is there enough time to cover them all?
  • In The New Order Last Days Of Europe, while playing as the United States of America, President Johnson sends transition letters to his successors, whoever they are, like any other President. However, for some of the potential president elects he doesn't like, his letter for them can entirely comprise of stealth insults:
    • If Michael Harrington becomes the succeeding president, LBJ writes a seemingly cordial and congratulatory transition letter - albeit, one that reeks of patronizing contempt for the most ardent leftist elected president so far and his lack of actual political experience, evidently not trusting him to properly lead America. It has to be read between the lines, but is infinitely more scathing than anything anyone else would have written.
      "This letter is to acknowledge that you will be the next President of the United States.translation  It is remarkable that a college professor has risen to such dizzying heights.translation  I am certain you will receive much advice in the coming daystrans.  and that you have no need for anything that I might provide.trans.  I wish your administration the best of luck in pursuing its ambitious goals.trans. "
    • Meanwhile, if Phyllis Schlafly succeeds Johnson, he writes a rather short letter that is dripping in sarcasm, hinting at his surprise that the American people, with all of their "infinite wisdom", would pick her as President.
    • His succession letter to George Romney patronizingly wishes luck to the recipient over wrangling the Senate, pointing out his relative inexperience in politics. The takeaway does not fly over Romney's head and he's more than a little insulted by it.
    • In his letter to Gus Hall, Johnson very sneakily predicts a loss for Hall in the 1976 elections, and mockingly hopes that the transition of power in 1977 will be as smooth as Johnson claims to have made Hall's. The message seems to go over Hall's head, rather uncharacteristically for a man who can normally spot the critical wit in other letters and even frames LeMay's handy guide on how to use a gun to kill yourself.
    • In a less severe example, Johnson doesn't say much to Margaret Chase Smith in his transition letter to her, stating it will be "certainly interesting" to see how she manages the "unique caucus" she's built.

    Visual Novels 
  • Little Busters!: At one point, Masato claims that Riki has gotten sick because he isn't muscular enough. Kengo tells Masato that he'll never have to worry about getting a cold, in reference to the Japanese saying that stupid people can't catch colds. Masato smiles and thanks him. A few lines later he does figure it out, though.

  • 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 on 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.
    • Tarvek "complements" Gil on his deception in Paris while sort of apologizing for jumping to conclusions and prying into Gil's background. He probably is sincere but that doesn't mean he's not needling Gil on purpose.
    Tarvek: *with apparent sincerity* You were trying to convince me that you were a disgusting, swinish, lecherous, drunken sot. Well, I want you to know, it worked. Well done!
    • When Trelawney Thorpe says that the Queen will probably give Tarvek and Gil knighthoods the context means that she's calling them both ridiculous. Neither of them is paying attention to her as they are preoccupied with trying to one-up each other, though given their characters it's likely they heard her on some level.
  • In Jupiter-Men, Mari congratulates Pepper on not falling over for once while cheerleading at a basketball game, with the implication that everyone is used to her falling over and messing up. Pepper doesn't see the slight and is simply happy that she didn't ruin the performance for everyone.
  • 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.
  • Probably accidental example: the conclusion of "Abbygate". When Ctrl+Alt+Del creator Tim Buckley apologized for "accidentally" plagiarizing another artist's work (compare) the original artist was extremely gracious (him returning from a tropical vacation where he proposed to his girlfriend probably helped) and hoped Buckley's "little webcomic" becomes successful in the future. CAD is almost ten years old and one of the most well-known webcomics on the internet...
  • Lampshaded in Basic Instructions:
    Scott: I know Dune's a bad movie, but I still enjoy it.
    Rick: See, I don't get that.
    Scott: You're my best friend.
    Rick: I don't see how that's related.
    Scott: I especially appreciate your ability to know when you've been insulted.
  • Recognized by the insultee in Penny Blackfeather
    Mrs. Blake: You'll like our hostess, Penny. Miss Quinn is just like you!
    Miss Quinn: (appears) DARLINGS! Welcome!
    Penny: Eccentric and badly dressed?
    Mrs. Blake: Haha, ahem. Yes.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Malack seemingly makes one so stealthy even the readers didn't notice, when he comments that "You don't spend time with a general of Tarquin's calibre without learning a few things about attrition", which under the circumstances taken as saying that he's a skilled general experienced at draining an enemy's resources with minimal losses. Later events and author comments suggest that what he actually meant is that Tarquin's military tactics are restricted to We Have Reserves and Zerg Rush, so every battle is won by attrition when he's in charge.
    • When Tarquin goes to greet Sabine:
    Tarquin: Sabine! It's been too long. You're looking lovely.
    Sabine: That's a meaningless compliment to a shapechanger, Tarquin.
    Tarquin: Yes, I know.
    • In #1099, when Blackwing is disappointed about not getting the Greater Magic Fang Potion:
    Blackwing: Darn it! I was really hoping to become a totally cool killing machine with magical razor sharp talons of death!
    Vaarsuvius: You should not be concerned. There is far more standing between you and that goal than the absence of one potion.
    Blackwing: Thanks, V. You always know what to say.
  • Tripping Over You: Lampshaded when Liam is offended to have his compliment returned, then belatedly realizes how backhanded it was:
    Liam: Well look at you— You clean up pretty well.
    Dick: Thanks! So do you!
  • Schlock Mercenary: Usually used as a way to complain about superior officers- either the orders they give, or how much effort it takes to get them to understand what's being discussed. At one point, Ennesby tells Captain Tagon that maybe they should "set syllable restriction to two." (i.e. use short words) Tagon shoots back that he understood that insult.

    Web Original 
  • Acts of Gord, Book of Annoyances, Chapter 3;
    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.
  • In Hazbin Hotel, Vaggie's attempts towards Angel Dust at trying make him support the hotel falls onto nothing.
    Vaggie: Can you please just try to take this seriously?
    Angel Dust: Fine, I'll try, just don't get your taco in a twist, baby.
    Vaggie: Was that you trying to be sexist or racist?
    Angel Dust: Whatever pisses you off more.
  • From the pilot episode of Space Janitors:
    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."
  • In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, the song "Everyone's A Hero" by Captain Hammer is sung in an inspiring fashion while being filled with contemptuous comments towards his audience.
    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
  • In the web video Esther with Hot Chicks, comedian Esther Povitsky interviewed model Cailin Russo:
    Esther: Cailin, how can I be hot like you?
    Cailin: [Pauses, stares at Esther as if stuck for an answer] Uuuum, well...everyone is hot, you know, everyone is beautiful in their own way, and it's really just the inner beauty that—
    Esther: How does it feel knowing that you're so pretty that no-one cares what you say?
  • 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.
  • A Broken Base or Base-Breaking Character entry may read like this if an editor isn't careful, where the positive interpretation may get a sentence or two at best while the negative version gets colorful. (e.g. "While some fans were pleased by the change in plot, others thought it was a waste of time and the writers shouldn't have bothered.")
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series: Florence gets a great one in Marik Plays Slender:
    Marik: You like stupid things, Bakura.
    Bakura: Yes I do, Marik. Yes I do.
  • Hellsing Ultimate Abridged:
    • The fact that the ringtone Alucard has for his boss Integra is The Bitch Is Back.
    • Sir Penwood has this line delivered to the nazi vampire officer he's about to suicide bomb:
      "When you get to Hell, tell them Penwood sent you. And then apologize on my behalf for the inconvenience."
  • In SF Debris Chuck claims that Janeway's fiance Mark gave her a copy of Dante's Inferno as a way of saying that the idea of marrying her puts him in mind of experiencing all the torments of the damned. Note that only the explanation is his invention; why on earth anyone would give that book as an engagement present otherwise is a mystery that Star Trek: Voyager does not explain.
  • Critical Role Percy plays a fantastic game of Politeness Judo with the Briarwoods. They tell a story about how they let the de Rollo family stay with them during a storm. Percy, being the last of the de Rollo line, knows that five years later de Rollo family let the Briarwoods stay in their home, and the Briarwoods killed all of them. Percy then raises a toast to "gracious hosts" - and everyone knows who he's really talking about.
  • "Cool story, bro!" is this in meme form, and is often something you'll see in response to a post that was simply idiotic or obviously trying to stir up a conflict. Of course thanks to overuse it's about as stealthy as a monster truck and barely if ever goes over anyone's head, but the intent is there.
  • The various "What Your Favorite [x] Ship Says About You" videos by Eldena Doubleca5t tend to feature this. For instance, saying "you are heterosexual" usually means that the pairing offers nothing besides being a heterosexual ship in a fandom where those are rare (i.e. an abusive couple, or an instance of Strangled by the Red String). A particularly prominent one was that if you ship Shiro/Curtis in Voltron: Legendary Defender, "you are either executive producer Joaquin dos Santos or executive producer Lauren Montgomery"—the implication being that the ship in question is so underdeveloped and lackluster that only the show's creators enjoy it.
  • From Dumb Lawyer Quotes IRL but in Ace Attorney (exchange starts at 1:40).
    Phoenix Wright: Now doctor, I'm sure you are an intelligent and honest man.
    Klavier Gavin: Thank you. If I weren't under oath, I'd return the compliment.
  • The "Fandom Explaining" meme often makes fun of various sectors of the fandom for their various irrational tendencies toward the character/work they're a fan of; for example, this video has "AOT fans" angrily reacting to seing a single second of CGI. Showing the fandom's name on a black screen, such as Your Lie in April at 0:42 in the video, implies that the subject is so unpopular that it has no fans.
  • An episode of Lasagna Cat has a sequence homaging Final Fantasy VI. Towards the end, Jim Davis joins the party, causing the player to open up the menu to check his stats. Upon attempting to open his Skills, the game registers a negative response and boots back... implying that Jim Davis has no skills.
  • This happened back in the days of, a now-defunct site that used to host serious art students and industry professionals, when a clearly amateur artist known as "DivineNibru" joined and tried to host an art contest for his "Nibru" character. Nobody paid any attention to it until Wesley Burt, an artist who worked on Skyrim, Infamous, and Tomb Raider, posted this. Soon artist like Dan Dos Santos and Andrew Jones were weighing in with this and this respectively, followed by numerous other industry professionals who drew for Marvel, Disney, and other AAA projects. The entire time, DivineNibru failed to realize they were clearly making fun of him and thought it was genuine.

    Western Animation 
  • 101 Dalmatians: The Series: Cadpig, Lucky, and Spot's defense of Rolly against Mooch's accusation of cowardice in "Bad to the Bone" boils down to Rolly being "allergic to risk", preferring sleeping over fighting, and being a "cream puff". Rolly takes offense with being called a "cream puff".
  • In the Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "Freedom Cobra", Shake tries to pick up chicks at a park but fails. He deduces that the women in said park are lesbians, to which Meatwad responds by asking, "So basically, all women are lesbians?"
  • 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.
    Sokka: Thank you, I worked really... Why do you feel the need to do that?
  • Dan Vs. Canada takes a fair number of shots at the United States disguised as jokes about Canada.
    Dan: Canada sucks! They still have all their trees!
    • Also in "Elise's Parents".
      Elise: My parents are here judging every single aspect of my life!
      Dan: Yeah, they're horrible! I mean look what they turned you into!
  • Dilbert gives us these two gems, one after another, at the Pointy-Haired Boss's expense when he shows the engineers the laughably bad infomercial for the Gruntmaster 6000. Naturally, they both go way over his head.
    Ted: If I may use a sports analogy, you really hit the goalpost on that one!
    Boss: Yes... I guess I did.
    Boss: Dilbert you seem strangely silent. Shall I interpret that as a sign of deep respect and dare I say awe?
    Dilbert: Yes. You could interpret it that way.
    Boss: Aww, I'm blushing now...
  • Edd in Ed, Edd n Eddy dishes out a brutal one towards Eddy in "Pick an Ed".
    Edd: Oh come now, Eddy. This is in no way a greater scheme to ruin your reputation. Why, I think you've done a good job of that on your own.
    • Before that, Eddy pulls one on him in Season 2's "Shoo Ed":
    Edd: (as the trio are making Jonny annoying) Ed, why did you glue a wooden block to Jonny's foot? Why these chains? And why the suit? Why Jonny?!
    Eddy: (trying to rile Jonny up) Jonny, people really like it when you say (glaring at Edd) WHY ALL THE TIME!
    Edd: (shoots Eddy a dirty look) Hmm!
  • In Family Guy, Brian manages to get Lois to look over his old script for a TV pilot. When Lois finally reads it, she says that it was so good she immediately started checking online to see where he'd ripped it off from, and was pleasantly surprised to learn it was original. This is also a Call-Back to Brian's disaster of a novel Faster Than the Speed of Love, which was a rip-off of the Iron Eagle seriesnote .
    • This cutaway joke, in which two women having lunch at a cafe exchange bitchy insults about each other's appearances disguised with cheerful friendliness. The camera then pans over to the table next to them, where two men are having lunch. One of them sincerely says he likes the other's tie, and the other thanks him.
      ♪ Men: We know how to be friends! ♪
  • It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown has a moment during Violet's Halloween Party. Everyone decides to have a round bobbing for apples, with Lucy being the first to take her turn.
    Lucy: This is the way to do it.
    Violet: Yeah, Lucy, you should be good at this. You have the perfect mouth for it!
    • The insult does not go unnoticed by Lucy, who crossly shoots her a glare.
  • 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.
  • On King of the Hill, Cotton admits to Hank that Hank is a much better father than he ever was. However, due to Cotton being Cotton, it comes out as one of these. He probably genuinely meant it as a sincere compliment too.
    Cotton: You ain't in competition with me. Hell, if it's a contest on who's the better daddy, you win! I mean, you made Bobby! All I made was you.
  • The Looney Tunes Show:
    • In "The Foghorn Leghorn Story", Bugs and Sam discover a vase inside a hole dug by Taz, and Sam repeatedly struggles to figure out what to do with the vase despite Bugs's advice.
    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 "Mrs. Porkbunny's", Daffy is trying to land a role in a commercial as an actor, and first auditions for a commercial about Mighty Wheats. He hates the taste, but utters the line anyway despite complaining about it only seconds earlier. Later at Pizzarriba, Daffy boasts that they thought his audition was, in their words, "unlike anything they've ever seen".
  • From The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh episode "The Piglet Who Would Be King":
    Pooh: I cleverly put [my honey] where it's safe from honey-nappers...right in here! [pats stomach]
    Rabbit: Sometimes, Pooh Bear, you really amaze me.
    Pooh: Why, thank you, Rabbit!
  • The Penguins of Madagascar subverts this with Skipper describing someone exactly like him, then Marlene calls him out on it. The subversion occurs when Private tells her that Skipper's a thousand times worse than that meaning it as an actual compliment, but it may actually turn out to be an Insult Backfire as Skipper thanks him for it.
  • Rocket Power: Sam dishes out one to Twister in "Escape From Lars Mountain" when the other three tell him to stop falling for Lars' simple tricks on him.
    Twister: You can't outsmart him.
    Sam: Well maybe you can't.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "The War of the Simpsons", rich palms no deposit bonus codesr has a talk with Bart, who saw him making a drunken fool of himself the previous night.
      rich palms no deposit bonus codesr: 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.
      rich palms no deposit bonus codesr: Awww. [pats Bart's head]
    • At the end of "Little Big Girl", after Bart has just narrowly avoided a high-pressure marriage proposal, we get this exchange:
      rich palms no deposit bonus codesr: Son, one day you're gonna be a great father.
      Bart: Awww, and someday you will be one, too.
    • In "Lisa's First Word", the reason why rich palms no deposit bonus codesr is on a Last-Name Basis with Ned Flanders is this trope.
      Ned: The handle says Flanders, but my friends call me Ned!
      rich palms no deposit bonus codesr: Hello, Flanders.
  • South Park:
    • In "Jewpacabra", Kyle states that anyone who says they believe in the Jewpacabra is either lying or stupid. At the end of the episode Cartman, still believing in the Jewpacabra, decides to convert to Judaism after a Nightmare Sequence and assures Kyle that he's not lying.
      Kyle: [puts an arm around Cartman's shoulder] I know you're not.
    • Could have been attempted at the end of the final episode from Season 18, "#HappyHolograms". It looks like Stan is about to summon Mr. Hankey since this is a Christmas episode and the season is full of callbacks to earlier episodes. But the real-life PewDiePie instead appears and takes the role of Mr. Hankey to teach everyone a lesson. The implication is of course that PewDiePie is just another piece of shit.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Squidward in "Band Geeks": "I really expected better of you people. I guess I'm a loser for that too."
  • Star Wars: Rebels: In "Steps Into Shadow", Pryce complains about Konstantine's incompetence by saying that he's more politician than soldier. This is likely a shot at the late Minister Tua.
  • Zigzagged in an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987), where Shredder tells Rocksteady and Beebop that his new robotic attack drone is named after them; he calls it "the Knucklehead".

    Real Life 
  • If you're in one of the Disney Parks, and the Cast Member you were just working with tells you to "Have a magical day" or "Have a Disney day", they were insulting you in the only way they can while keeping their job, since they reserve it for difficult or rude customers.
  • IT people have a number of Stealth Insults on hand for venting about difficult customers:
    • Saying that the main problem with the system is BIOS. As in, Blind Idiot Operating the System. This one's actually got some potential to confuse other IT people, since BIOS is also a legitimate technical term, referring to the firmware on most PCs; if there's a problem with your actual BIOS, you're really in trouble. That being said, the BIOS has mostly been phased out in favor of its successor, UEFI, so the snarky definition is becoming less risky.
    • Saying that this appears to be a PEBKAC issue. Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair.
    • Referring to an ID-10-T error code.
    • Complaining about Layer 8 (or higher) of the OSI model.
    • Referring to a PICNIC type issue: Problem In Customer, Not In Computer.
  • There is a picture of Hillary Rodham Clinton shaking hands with a soldier while the soldier is flashing a downwards peace sign with his other hand. This hand gesture means "I am doing this against my will."
  • 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 shows what happens when your ex-wife and mistress meet up after your death but before the carving of your monument.
  • 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 ordered 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."
  • Pope Pius XII was said to have encountered an anti-Catholic journalist who provocatively asked him for a blessing. Without skipping a beat, Pope Pius XII blessed him, saying: "Ab illo benedicaris, in cuius honore cremaberis. Amen." This is a blessing used for incense, and it translates to: "Be blessed by Him in whose honour thou art burnt. Amen." Another version of the story has Pope Pius IX or Pope Leo XIII giving the same blessing to a group of Anglican clergymen in response to them making a heretical utterance.
  • 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 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.

    The 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".
  • A Jester once compared King John of England (in other versions, John’s mediocre son Henry III) to Jesus. He said that Jesus had the same wisdom he had as a child as he did as a grown man. The King had the same wisdom as a grownup 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!"
  • At Stalag Luft 3, where the events dramatized in 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.
  • 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 popularly 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 in 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.
  • The People's Republic of China enforces its world monopoly of pandas by denying foreign zoos a panda unless they sign a document that says that the panda and all its descendants belong to the Chinese government and they are only on loan. In one occasion, however, China gifted a couple of pandas to Taiwan that were free of this imposition, and was met with protests from the Taiwanese. The Taiwanese understood too well that this was the Communist Party's way to say that Taiwan is not a foreign country, but a part of the People's Republic of China.
  • Adolf Hitler was on the receiving end of this more than once:
    "Spreche Meinen besten Dank aus. Chr. Rex"note 
  • It's said that, when asked what he thought of Western civilization, Mahatma Gandhi replied "I think it would be a good idea"
  • Wilhelm II got one himself from Otto von Bismarck, who as Chancellor had had a good working relationship with Wilhelm's grandfather and predecessor, Kaiser Wilhelm the First, but was fired by Wilhelm II after two years of service. When Bismarck died ten years later, his headstone read:
    Prince Otto von Bismarck.
    A faithful servant of Kaiser Wilhelm the First.
  • Arthur C. Clarke described one of his methods of responding to crank mail: sending a reply in barely-legible handwriting with keywords scrawled in completely illegible squiggles (e.g. "Your [squiggle] is the greatest piece of [squiggle] I have ever seen.") so that the correspondent "did not know whether I was praising him to the skies or telling him to boil his head."
  • Google, for a while, had been working with the MPAA on trying to curb piracy via their search engine and had done quite a good job, chopping search results in half. The MPAA's response to that was "Everyone shares a responsibility to help curb unlawful conduct online, and we are glad to see Google acknowledging its role in facilitating access to stolen content". Google was quite incensed at that and broke ties with the MPAA and opted to work with the production companies separately.
  • Related to the previous in a way; to circumvent Never Speak Ill of the Dead, British reporter Hugh Massingberd decided to employ Unusual Euphemisms that served as this. "Didn't suffer fools gladly" translated as "complete bastard", "gave colourful accounts of his exploits" meant "liar", "powerful negotiator" suggested "bully", "Uncompromising ladies' man" was to be interpreted as "serial sexual harasser" and "tireless raconteur" signalled "crashing bore".
  • Somebody in Texas got a license plate with 370HSSV printed on it. The state's DMV rejected it because it was considered "offensive". (If you don't get it, turn the plate's wording upside down.)
  • This story about a Connecticut high school senior who says he is being kept from walking at his graduation ceremony because a quote he had printed in the school’s yearbook contained a hidden, profane message that upset school administrators. Namely:
    “SMSA has taught me valuable lessons, such as Friendship, Unity, Community, Kindness, Youth Optimism and Understanding.”
  • In 2014, composer Martin O'Donnell was fired from Bungie after he protested how they and Activision were hoarding away his symphonies written for Destiny, titled "Music of the Spheres". A year later, he started his own company called Highwire Games, whose site includes a bio linking to his previous work for Bungie. Clicking on the link to "Music of the Spheres" leads to a 404 "Page Not Found" on Bungie's website.
  • A more tragic one: After Nicole Simpson's death (her spouse O.J. Simpson was tried for her murder, and was acquitted), her sister opened a charity in her name to prevent domestic abuse.
  • The fourteenth-century Hebrew polemical letter Do Not Be Like Your Fathers (Al Tehi ka-Avotekha), by Profiat Duran, purports to be a defense of Christianity against Judaism, and the Church at first took it as such. (It helped that the author, like the original recipient, was a Jew who'd chosen baptism over death during the 1391 anti-Jewish riots in Spain and Portugal.) However, Christian readers eventually realized the letter was one long Stealth Insult to their faith, and burned it in public.
    Do not be like your fathers, who believed in one God from whose unity they removed any plurality. They erred indeed when they said, "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one" (Deuteronomy 6:4), when they understood this unity in its purest sense [...] Not so you! You shall believe that one can become three, and that three united make one.
  • After the 2016 US election resulted in Michael Pence becoming Vice President, a flurry of controversy erupted due to his history of supporting conversion therapy. A few weeks after the election, Erie County introduced a bill to ban conversion therapy, named "Prevention of Emotional Neglect and Childhood Endangerment".
  • A popular meme after Donald Trump's election was that Americans owed him the same respect that Trump gave to them or Republicans to Barack Obama — as in, none at all.
  • One bill pitched by Democrats in early 2017 was to publicly publish White House visitor logs like the Obama Administration, as well as for Presidential vacation sites. The bill's name? "Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act", or MAR-A-LAGO Act, named after Donald Trump's favorite Florida resort that he attended every weekend.
  • June 2017 had the Democrats introduce a bill to make presidential social media posts be classified as presidential records, the Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically For Engagement Act, an acronym for, well...
  • When FBI Director James Comey was fired by the White House, he stated, "I have long believed that a President can fire an FBI Director for any reason, or for no reason at all."
  • Fans can submit letters to many of Marvel Comics's books, including America (2017). This book attracted many internet trolls, who come together and make fun of the book. A troll successfully got one of their (scathingly insulting) letters published, under the guise of praise. For example, the writer compliments the book for always making them laugh, and compared it to The Room. The book's writer responded to the letter kindly, showing that she didn't get she was being insulted.
  • Addressing someone with a title such as Doctor, Professor, Sergeant, etc as "Mister" or "Miss" is a mild case of Innocently Insensitive if unintentional. If done on purpose, it's a With All Due Respect kind of way to sneakily and sarcastically mock and disrespect someone's training and competency in their field.
  • It’s alleged (though they’d probably deny it) that British doctors would sometimes write “NFN” on patient notes. This was supposedly short for “Normal For Norfolk”, which simultaneously insulted the patient and the fine mostly-rural county of Norfolk; the implication was that the patient might seem mentally challenged, but this wasn’t a sign of a brain injury, it just meant that they were a slack-jawed inbred yokel. In any case, even if the code was ever used, the joke is too well-known now for it still to be used.
  • Amid the overwhelmingly negative reaction to the trailer for Reboot The Guardian Code, Code Lyoko co-director Thomas Romain posted "Wow, you really liked Code Lyoko didn't you?" on the official Reboot: The Guardian Code twitter.
  • An example of a Stealth Compliment can be found in a (likely apocryphal) story about Roman general Scipio Africanus: while on a diplomatic mission, Scipio ran into his defeated nemesis Hannibal Barca, now living in exile. The two managed to get along quite well, and at the end of the evening, Scipio asked Hannibal who he thought were the greatest generals in history. Hannibal claimed the greatest to be Alexander of Macedon, the second greatest to be Pyrrhus of Epirus, and the third to be... himself. Scipio, feeling insulted, asked Hannibal how he would rank himself if he had actually defeated Scipio. Hannibal replied that then he would rank himself as the greatest general in history. Scipio realized this was Hannibal's face-saving way of admitting that he considered Scipio to be outside the ranking all together and thus be greater than Alexander himself. The two men departed on good terms.
  • Upon hearing that the bus driver who had her arrested years earlier died (sparking the Montgomery Bus boycott), Rosa Parks simply responded "I'm sure his family will miss him."
  • A common practice in retail is to tell a particularly rude or unkind customer, "I hope your day is as pleasant as you are" in place of the typical "have a good day."
  • The Ig Nobel Prize is normally awarded to scientific research which is strange-sounding but has a level of value, but has been known to operate as a Medal of Dishonor as well, in which case it will usually present whatever horrible event it speaks of as if it were a breakthrough in research. A good example is their 2016 prize to Volkswagen in the field of chemistry, which lauded the company "for solving the problem of excessive automobile pollution emissions by automatically, electromechanically producing fewer emissions whenever the cars are being tested."note 
  • In 2007, Jamie Kennedy acted as the emcee for Activision's E3 press conference, and his performance was widely considered a trainwreck. Game Trailers' video coverage of the presentation took a jab at Kennedy's expense by describing him as a "comedian" and putting his profession in quotations.
  • The famous Giftedly Bad Scottish poet William Topaz Mc Gonnagall wrote a poetic tribute to his colleague Rev. George Gilfillan. Gilfillan's diplomatic response: "Shakespeare never wrote anything like this."
  • After Jessie Lee Peterson had David Pakman on his show The Fallen State for a particularly painful interview, Peterson asked whether Pakman had fun during the interview. Pakman replied, "In a thousand years, when the sociologists and philosophers try to figure out what exactly happened in the United States right around this time, this type of conversation is going to be incredibly informative for them, so I'm glad to have participated in it."
  • The Mace of the House is a ceremonial symbol of the United States House of Representatives, carried into the House Chamber by the Sergeant-at-Arms and placed on a pedestal near the rostrum to begin sessions of the House. If a Member of the House is unruly or out of order, and a verbal warning is ineffective, the Speaker (or whoever is presiding over the session in the Speaker's place) can order the Sergeant-at-Arms to present the Mace to the offender i.e. take it from the pedestal and hold it in front of the Member. During the 2019 and 2020 State of the Union Addresses, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wore a brooch in the shape of the Mace, as a symbol of her authority as Speaker. Since the Speaker sits behind the President, she was also, in a way, presenting the Mace to Donald Trump for the entirety of both speeches, symbolically declaring him unruly and out of order.
  • During World War II, the Germans awarded a number of American P.O.W.s with War Merit Medals for outstanding contributions to the Nazi war effort via their forced labor. Now, that alone was already quite a slap in the face, but note that the medal was given to non-German civilians for this. In other words, they were basically saying those prisoners weren't real soldiers.
  • When Robert Muldoon was Prime Minister of New Zealand, he once said that anyone who emigrated from New Zealand to Australia raised the average IQ of both countries.
  • A prankster crashed the 2022 National Rifle Association meeting to "thank" NRA chief Wayne LaPierre for offering his "thoughts and prayers" after each mass shooting. A number of attendees applauded.
  • This infamously happened to Morbius where, rather than insult the movie, people dubbed themselves to be "Morbheads" and began praising made-up parts that weren't even in the movie like the now memetic "IT'S MORBIN' TIME!", claiming it made "one morbillion dollars", photoshopping Rotten Tomatoes to claim it got a 203% critical / 142% audience score, and claiming Martin Scorsese had called it "the truest height of cinema that not even he can top", and claiming the reason it was such a Box Office Bomb was "everyone was too busy that weekend to see it", and creating fake news articles to talk about the sequel that "was already greenlit." Even Jared Leto, the star of the movie, got in on it by reading a fake sequel script on Twitter.

Alternative Title(s): Backhanded Compliment