WikEd fancyquotesQuotesBug-silkHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extensionPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifierAnalysisPhoto linkImage LinksHaiku-wide-iconHaikuLaconic

Bob has something important to tell Alice. She's busy and focused on something, and he's been told never to interrupt her... but this is important! Surely she won't mind... He taps her on the shoulder.

"Hey, Alice, I- " POW!

Alice punches Bob across the room the moment he touches her. Then she realizes who it was. "Bob! I told you not to sneak up on me like that!"

This trope is about any instance where a character attacks someone accidentally, just because they were taken by surprise. If it's being Played for Laughs, the attacker will usually utter some variation of the trope's title. However, if the victim is seriously injured (or killed), it usually leads to My God, What Have I Done? and Cradling Your Kill instead.

One common variation is for the victim to be playing a prank on the attacker by dressing as something they don't like, without considering that fear may lead to violence. Or it may be a Subversion of Cooldown Hug, where it fails to have the desired effect and just angers the huggee even more (possibly leading to a Deadly Hug).

Friend or Foe is the Super-Trope, while Wake Up Fighting is a common Sub-Trope. See also Cat Scare.

Examples of Don't Sneak Up On Me Like That include:

Anime And Manga

  • In Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple this is a reflex conditioned into Miu through years of martial arts training: she always throws anyone who touches her (or, God forbid, grabs her) from behind.
  • In Naruto, when Naruto lost control of the Kyuubi, Sakura tried to calm him down and got slapped with a Hellfire-imbued tail for her trouble. She didn't really sneak up on him, he was just berserking and attacked her because she presented herself as a target.
  • In G Gundam, Rain Mikamura flips Chibodee over her shoulder one-handed when he taps her on the shoulder in a dark, creepy system of underground tunnel ruins.
  • In Gundam Wing this happens if a pilot loses control of the ZERO System. It's a combat system, so one has to maintain absolute focus; if you start thinking about your girlfriend or that Bus Full of Innocents over there, the System will tell you the best way to kill them, which tends to lead to a slippery slope right down into a Freak-Out. In at least one instance the response to such a Freak-Out was to have the pilot's allies clear the area.
  • In Elfen Lied, Bando punched a woman with that excuse, and, by extension, Kicked a Dog.

Comic Books

  • Yorick's reunion with his mother in Y: The Last Man went more or less "She contemplates another night in a lantern-lit White House office two months after the Gendercide, he steps out of the shadows behind her with a crack about security, he ends up on his back via adrenaline-fueled shoulder throw."



  • This happens in Servant: The Acceptance by Lori Foster.


She jerked still held by the bellicose nostalgia, she reacted on instinct. Grabbing her confronter, she put him in a deadly hold----and heard a choking laugh.

"God Gaby I've missed you," the strangled voice said.

Mort. "You idiot!" She loosed him with a shove of temper. "Don't you know better than to sneak up on me?"

  • In the Sherlock Holmes book "The Valley of Fear", McMurdo's girlfriend sneaks up on him while he's writing a letter:

 If she had expected to startle him, she certainly succeeded; but only in turn to be startled herself. With a tiger spring he turned on her, and his right hand was feeling for her throat.

  • In David Gunn's The Aux book Maximum Offense, Sven explains the "first second rule" to one of his auxiliaries: When you wake someone up and they hit you within the first second, it's uncontrolled and you shouldn't hold it against them. He's shown applying it both ways.
  • William Gibson's Neuromancer. Case forgets to knock when dropping in on Molly.

  He placed his chip against the black plate. The bolts clicked. She seemed to hit him, somehow, before he'd actually gotten the door open. He was on his knees, the steel door against his back, the blades of her rigid thumbs quivering centimeters from his eyes...

Live Action TV

  • In season 2 of Dexter, after her recent traumatic experience of being kidnapped by a serial killer, Deb punches a guy in the nose when he comes up behind her at a bar.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy herself does it pretty often, which is excusable considering that she hunts monsters by baiting them into jumping out at her from the shadows. It's how she meets Oz, for example.

 Oz: That is a tense person.

  • In Angel the title character does this to often humorous results.

 Cordelia: And now I look like the Joker.

  • On Get Smart, after 86 and 99 got married, he'd occasionally make the mistake of sneaking up on her to give her a kiss, only to get karate chopped.
  • Mac on Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia punches Dee in the face when she grabs him from behind. This is foreshadowing for him doing the same thing to Carmen in public, causing a couple of guys to chase him over what they think is a hatecrime. A conversation with Dennis suggests this is a common problem;

 Mac: She grabbed me from behind. It was instinctual.

Dennis: I know that, man. You don't grab.

Mac: You don't grab from behind!

Newspaper Comics

  • Bloom County, "The Great Bloom County Snake Massacre". Several main characters set out to kill a snake at the local swimming hole. In one strip Binkley was carrying a club when the groundhog Portnoy came up behind him, touched his shoulder and said "See anything?" Binkley, scared out of his mind, started wildly swinging the bat around and knocked Portnoy unconscious.

Tabletop Games

  • The "Berserk" disadvantage in GURPS, in addition to everything else the disadvantage entails (rabidly attacking every enemy on hand with whatever weapon is on hand), also conveys this, treating anyone trying to restrain the character, friend or enemy, as an enemy. Earlier editions nicknamed the berserker rage "the Doom of the North" for this very reason.
  • The Berserk disadvantage/complication in Champions works like this.


 McNinja: He fell down the stairs.

Gordito: I fell down the stairs.

  • In Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name Veser meets the main characters this way in a haunted theatre. This is lampshaded on the next page.

 Hanna: Hey man don't be angry. That's what happens when you run screaming through the dark, ok? Yea.

Web Original

 "[ When it comes to horror movies, it's a tradition. They always have that moment when somebody's all alone, in a dark alley or a dark room. You're just waiting for something to happen, just waiting, and then all of a sudden... oh, it's just a friend scaring the hell out of you!]. Though they never do it on purpose, it's not like they're playing a prank. Is that how you greet somebody? By sneaking up on them, and grabbing their shoulder?"

  1912. No more surprise parties for The Berserker.

Western Animation

 24: BOO!

21: Dude, I was about to kill you! I have dangerous cat-like reflexes.

  Ninja: Ooh, sorry honey! You know you can't sneak up on me like that...

    • Played With in "The Griffin Family History" where Peter thought he heard a burglar and so is prowling the house with a baseball bat.

 Meg: Dad! What is it? What's going on? I heard a noise. Is somebody downstairs?

{{[[[Beat]] Peter stares at Meg for the 5 full seconds it takes for her to say the above}} before clocking her with the bat]

Peter: Oh, God, Meg, you startled me, I'm sorry!

Meg: What the hell's your problem, you dumbass?!

Video Games

  • This is how Ike's mother got killed in ]Fire Emblem: Path Of Radiance, as she was trying to retrieve a medallion from her husband that turned him into a crazed berserker. She succeeded, but not without getting stabbed.
  • Said word for word by Craig Boone in Fallout: New Vegas, the first time you meet him.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.