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Comedy trope: Alice says something. Then Bob says something or something happens that makes it clear that what she just said doesn't make sense. Alice quickly revises her statement and repeats it. On Second Thought is a more specific case of this, as are some forms of Inflationary Dialogue.

Alternatively, Alice attempts an compliment or insult. However, Bob responds with information contradicting what they thought, which could include Compliment Backfire or Insult Backfire. So, Alice tries again with a new insult or compliment, directly opposed to what they had just said. Could be compounded by a Hair-Trigger Temper.

Students of rhetoric may describe this as "epanorthosis". If Alice has to retract a practical idea that uses bad methods, it's a case of And That Would Be Wrong. If she has to retract a controversial opinion, it's a case of Not That There's Anything Wrong with That. If she's retracting an insult to someone she hadn't meant to insult, it's because of Insult Friendly Fire.

Examples of Verbal Backspace include:

Anime and Manga

 Ritsuki: I find it very sexy when you stare at me like that.

Mayu: (blushes and covers herself)

Ritsuki: Err, I mean vexing, I find it vexing.

Fan Works

 Kyon: I won't be able to get much use out of this until next winter, but I know once I do, I will greatly appreciate this! Asahina-san, I don't know what I've done to deserve such a fine present, but I am very grateful.

Tsuruya: I've seen that coats before. You had it on when you beat up those Sumiyoshi-rengo fellows who hurt Kasai!

Koizumi: Y...yes. I've seen that once before, as well, that day you left even Mori-san impressed.

Kyon: Or, you know, maybe even sooner than that.

 Sakura: Hell, yeah! 'Not a front-line combatant' my ass, Sasuke! I am the champion of ass-kicking, you arrogant nutjob.

Sakura looks over and notices Naruto is winning a fight against three copies of himself with their will suppressed to release the Kyuubi entirely

Sakura:...ok, maybe I'm the runner-up. That's alright, I can live with being second to a guy that can knock out the damned Kyuubi.

  • An absolutely hilarious one occurs in Harry Potter and The Methods of Rationality. Quirrell suggests to Dumbledore that Harry take Occlumency lessons, with the as-of-yet undetermined teacher to have his memory wiped after every training session and an unbreakable vow to not reveal anything.

 Dumbledore: Such services are extremely expensive, as you well know, and I cannot help but wonder why you deem them necessary.

Harry: If it's money that's the problem, I have some ideas for making large amounts of money quickly -

Dumbledore: (without missing a beat) Thank you Quirinus, your wisdom is now quite evident and I am sorry for disputing it.

Video Games

 Huang: You still don't have a car?

Real Estate Agent: Why do I need a car when I've got a buddy like you to drive me around?

Huang: I'm not your buddy.

Real Estate Agent: Come on, I'll pay you good!

Huang: So where are we going, buddy?

 Sumika: Gaaaaah!!! Apologize to slugs!

Takeru: Gyahahahahaha!! Do you even know what you're saying!?

Sumika: Shut uuup! Apologize to me too!!


 Principal: I will keep you all night if I have to.

Teacher: We can't keep them past 4:00.

Principal: I will keep you till 4:00.

 Moses: The Lord Jehovah has given unto you these fifteen...

(one of the three tablets falls and breaks)

Moses: ... ten. Ten Commandments.

 Buford: Let's finish it, right now!

Underling: Uh, not now, Buford. Marshal's got our guns.

Buford: Like I said, we'll finish this tomorrow!

Underling: Tomorrow we're robbing the Pine City stage.

Buford: What about Monday? We doing anything Monday?

Underling: No, you can kill him on Monday.

Buford: I'll be back this way on Monday!

 Cardinal Richelieu: Do you know your accuser? Who brought you here?

M. Bonacieux: [pointing at Rochefort] That! That is the man!

Cardinal Richelieu: Take him away!

M. Bonacieux: That is not the man! It was another man altogether!

 Rocko Dillon: [firing gun over audience's heads] Freeze, and nobody gets hurt!

(grip falls from the rafters)

Rocko Dillon: Well, from now on!

 Donkey: Wow. Who would want to live in a dump like that?

Shrek: That would be my home.

Donkey: And it is lovely! You know, you're really quite a decorator. It's amazing what you've done with such a modest budget. I like that boulder. That is a nice boulder.

  • From Fierce Creatures, Rollo loses it and gives his zoo's employees a scathing critique of their new corporate owner:

 Rollo: I think the whole Octopus philosophy is poison. The only aim of any and every McCain business is to downsize and halve the quality, to make enough money to acquire another business to downsize and halve the quality, to make enough money to acquire another business to downsize, etc., etc., without ever running a single one of them really well. And if anyone ever raises the question of quality, they're immediately attacked as an elitist, because at Octopus it's considered morally offensive to talk about anything but money. All so that Mr. Rod McCain can feel a little more powerful every day. That's why, instead of running this wonderful zoo properly, we've got to spoil it in order to finance his next mindless acquisition.

(notices Willa, McCain's employee, standing behind him)

Rollo: (without flinching) On the other hand, he is a remarkable man--

 Inigo: Give us the gate key.

Yellin: I have no gate key.

Inigo: Fezzik, tear his arms off.

Yellin: Oh, you mean this gate key.

 Wonka: So much time and so little to do-- Wait. Strike that. Reverse it.

 Marcus: Viktor fashioned two keys. What do you know of them?

Tanis: Keys? I don't know of any keys.

Marcus: (Spears Tanis in the shoulders and pulls him across the table)

Tanis: Oh... yes. Yes, those keys.

  • In Hot Fuzz, Danny and Nick are discussing Nicolas' role model.

 Nicholas: It all started with my Uncle Derek. He was a Sergeant in the Met. He bought me a police pedal car when I was five. I rode around in it every second I was awake - arresting kids twice my size for littering and spitting. I got beaten up a lot when I was young, but it didn't stop me. I wanted to be like Uncle Derek.

Danny: He sounds like a good bloke.

Nicholas: Actually, he was arrested for selling drugs to students.

Danny: What a cunt.

 Hal: Wow, okay, the stuff they make you read on air, that's un-freakin'-believable. It's crazy!

Roxanne: I wrote that piece myself, Hal.

Hal: What I was trying to say was, I can't believe that in our modern society, they let actual art get onto the news.

Roxanne: Nice save, Hal!

 Miguel: (dramatically cutting away foliage) The trail that we blaze! (the foliage falls, revealing solid stone behind it) (points to the side) That trail that we blaze!

 Bruce Banner: I don't think we should be focusing on Loki. That guy's brain is a bag full of cats. You can smell crazy on him.

Thor: Take care how you speak. Loki may be beyond reason, but he is of Asgard and he is my brother.

Black Widow: He killed eighty people in two days.

Thor: ...he's adopted.

Live Action TV

  • In "The Stinson Missile Crisis" episode of How I Met Your Mother, Barney invokes this several times during his various Bimbo Delivery Systems, two commercials and an autodialer.
  • A favored technique on 30 Rock:

 Kenneth: I will buy Mr Donaghy a new pair of pants!

Assistant: Those pants cost $2,500.

Kenneth: I will find Mr Donaghy's pants!

 Melody: Can you control yourself?

JD: Of course I can.

Janitor: (opens the door) God is watching.

JD: I can't.

Janitor: Who is this "God" everyone fears?

 Louis: Am I in heaven?

Chuck: Not yet. We all died, and heaven closes in like five minutes.

Ned: One minute.

Chuck: Heaven closes in like one minute.

 Sylar: I'm not a serial killer.

Luke: But you've got a pattern. You go after specific victims. You collect mementos.

Sylar: Okay, technically, I'm a serial killer.

 Kitty: Red, you can run the raffle.

Red: I'm your man.

Kitty: Don't yell at the customers.

Red: I'm kinda your man.

Kitty: And smile.

Red: You need another man.

  Ximenez: NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... Our two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency.... Our three weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.... Our Amongst our weapons.... Amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, surprise.... I'll come in again.

 Serena: Look B, I understand why you're reluctant to burst your happy bubble but I'm not giving up.

Blair: I'm sorry if unlike some people I haven't been on the pill since I was fifteen.

Serena: Okay I am giving up.

 Bartlet: I could fund this initiative out of my pocket!

Toby: It's ten million dollars.

Bartlet: Leo could fund this initiative out of his pocket!

 Picard: I look forward to your report, Mr. Broccoli.

(everyone on deck looks ruefully at him)

Picard, with mortified face: "Barclay."

  • The IT Crowd had Douglas do one of these when he talked about deleting incriminating files and then quickly added that he only meant to say "files".
  • A Running Gag in Get Smart, with Maxwell Smart's claims simultaneously growing less dramatic and more ridiculous, along the lines of:

 Max: The entire Navy has this island surrounded! Would you believe it? The entire Navy!

KAOS agent: I find that hard to believe.

Max: Would you believe CONTROL has sent a small boat filled with special ops to rescue me?

KAOS agent: No.

Max: How about two Boy Scouts in a raft with a BB gun?

 Stockwell Day: Let's look at the facts surrounding my leadership of our party. Since I took over, our founder, Preston Manning, has announced he's getting out of politics. We've had quite a few members leave the party. The latest poll puts our popularity just below E. coli bacteria. Okay, let's not look at the facts.

  • Blackadder the Third: Blackadder accidentally lets slip how he really sees the relationship between himself and the prince:

 Blackadder: It's good to be back in the saddle. Did I say saddle? I meant harness.

 Don: But who's gonna do it?

Tommy: I'll do it.

Don: Could be dangerous.

Tommy: Harry'll do it.

  • From Firefly episode Heart Of Gold, when the others were trying to convince Jayne to help with a job that was "strictly speculative":

 Jayne: Don't know these folks, don't much care to.

Mal: They're whores.

Jayne: I'm in.

  • After Starbug crashes in the Red Dwarf episode "Emohawk: Polymorph II":

 Kryten: At least Mr Lister's guitar survived intact.

The Cat casually takes the guitar and smashes it against a bulkhead.

Kryten: Not even Mr Lister's guitar survived intact.

  • Merlin and Arthur are trying to decide what to do with the sleeping Uther to protect him, and Merlin thinks they should disguise him, leading to:

 Arthur: That might just work.

Merlin: We could dress him as a woman!

Arthur: That, on the other hand...

Merlin: We could dress him as a servant!

 Jeremy Clarkson: Still, I'd only lost one thing...

[door falls off]

Jeremy: Two things.

 Nathan: Eight people in the world know {{[[[Big Brother Is Watching]] the Machine}}] exists. We need to keep it that way.

Alicia: Seven, Nathan. Seven people, unless you told someone.

Nathan: ["Oh crap"] ...come on, Alicia, you know I'm terrible at math.

Puppet Shows

  • Muppets in Space:

 Kermit: He's one of us. And no matter what happens, no matter what obstacles we face, we never forget one of our own.


Fozzie Bear: Hey! We left Bunsen and Beaker back at the gas station.

Kermit: Okay... Well, uh, from this point on, no matter what happens, we never forget one of our own.

  • Muppets Tonight!, John Goodman is fighting in a war with a bunch of rats:

 John Goodman: Don't worry, I promise to get all of you home back in one piece.

(a rat explodes and then comes back into view with his top torso separated from his bottom torso)

John Goodman: Okay, maybe several pieces.

Web Comics

 Roy: Well, that's gonna change now. Thanks for setting me straight, Dad. I'm gonna pack up my gear and go rescue Elan!

(Durkon runs by screaming in terror)

Roy: I'm gonna pack up my gear and go rescue the entire rest of the party!

    • Also, in a different strip:

 Vaarsuvius: But now we must defend ourselves against two highly skilled legal professionals-

Lawyer: Kitty kitty! Hello, kitty kitty! Hello!

Vaarsuvius: ONE highly skilled legal professional and one man in a very expensive suit.

 Jack: Now, before you do anything, just remember...we've got witnesses. I mean, "company."

 TAG: Success.

Captain Tagon: Hah! We're back in the fight!

Ennesby: The fight is over, sir.

Captain Tagon: Hah! The fight's over, and we're still standing!

    • Another one here:

 Ebbirnoth: And Lieutenant Pibald here is a genius.

Pibald: I didn't say anything smart. I was just whining.

Ebbirnoth: And Lieutenant Pibald here is an idiot-savant.

 Sweetheart: Sorry friend. That could have gone better. Tip doesn't really have the training for field work. Or the shoes. Sometimes I wonder if being our token human has cracked him even more. When you come to, I'll see that you only deal with the other members of our t--

Unity: Sweetheart! Praise me! I punched out these monkeys real good!

Sweetheart: With me. You will only deal with me.

    • And again when Tip's reaction to her saying "This is a job for Tip" means it becomes "This is a job for Tip, supervised by me."

Web Original

 Nerd: Don't kill me!

Jason: (shows Friday the 13th cartridge)

Nerd: KILL ME!

 Kathleen (offering Major Nelson a job at Checkpoint): "We can't technically pay you money, but we do have free soda!"

Paul: "No we don't!"

Kathleen: "Free water!"

 "I think everyone remembers their first boner...Bowie."

 "Get past the the cock-tease presentation and the game is adequate at breast. Best."

 Spider-Man: This is the worst decision Marvel has ever ma--

(Deadpool holds up the head of his live-action movie In Name Only counterpart, a.k.a. Dude-Peel)

Spider-Man: This is the second worst decision Marvel has ever made!

  "Heh, Nerf should use this in their commercials. Nerf should not use this in their commercials, I immediately take that back."

    • Happens again in his Top 10 Best Pop Songs of 2011.

  "Ah, Usher. The women want him and the men want him. Want to be him. I meant want to be him."

 "One or the other. It's the fork in the throat--road, fork in the road. Henry's the one with the, ah, fork in the throat."

 Vegeta: " cut through my armor! This was a gift from my father!"

Yajirobe: "I'm sorry, I'm sure your father was a great man!"

Vegeta: "I HATED my father!"

Yajirobe: "Oh, well then, I'm sure your father was a total prick."


Western Animation

 Leela: I vow to become the best blernsball player ever.

Hermes: That's statistically impossible. At this rate you'll go down as the worst blernsball player ever.

Leela: Then I have a new vow. I vow to become not the worst blernsball player ever.

 Gloria Allred: We owe it all to me! And these six brave little boys.

(Kenny dies)

Gloria Allred: Five brave little boys.

    • Done again in "Tonsil Trouble":

 M.C.: With nothing but each other, and overcoming all odds, these two brave friends...

Kyle: Oh stop! We're not friends! He's the one who infected me with AIDS!


M.C.: These two brave lovers...

 Dr. Weird: Gentlemen! There's a chance this will work! (hoses attached to body, occasional swelling)

Steve: Actually, you said there's no chance this will work.

Dr. Weird': (looks back to see a keg of BBQ sauce) FOOL! That will never work!

 Girl Who Keeps Changing Her Name: Today my name is Jezebel.

Linus: Jezebel was the evil wife of king Ahab in the Old Testament. In II Kings, it says that her servants threw her out the window and she landed on her head.

Girl Who Keeps Changing Her Name: Today my name is Susan.

  • Perhaps the greatest example of all comes from The Simpsons with Moe hooked up to a lie detector:

 Moe: Good, 'cause I've got a hot date tonight.


Moe: A date.


Moe: Dinner with friends.


Moe: Dinner alone.


Moe: Watching TV alone.


Moe: Alright! I'm going to sit at home and ogle the ladies in the Victoria's Secret Catalog.


Moe: ...Sears Catalog.


Moe: Now would you unhook this already, please? I don't deserve this kind of shabby treatment!


    • They did it again in the episode parodying The Departed. After getting a mole into Bart's group, Chalmers gloats that they're going to put Bart away for a long time. Skinner points out that, legally, the most they can give him is a ten-day suspension. "Well, that's long to a kid!"
  • Metalocalypse

 Skwisgaar: Well, there are two things to do in a blackout. Get drunk. One thing to do.

 Phineas: ...we're going to laser our faces into the comet! Then, when it comes back in seventy-three and a half years, we can all show our grandchildren! Oh, yeah - my parents are cooking steaks for everyone.

Isabella: You had me at "our grandchildren".

Phineas: What?

[[[Record Scratch]]] Isabella: "Steaks"! You had me at "steaks"!

 Dr. Light: No one can defeat Doctor Light! No one! *turns to see Raven*

Raven: Remember me?

Dr. Light: *turns back around, looking absolutely horrified* I'd like to go to jail now, please.

 Quagmire: Sure, Lois. I would do everything to you.

Lois: What?

Quagmire: I would do anything for you.

 Le Fou: That crazy old loon! He needs all the help he can get!

Gaston: (laughs uproariously)

Belle: Don't talk about my father that way!

Gaston: Yeah! Don't talk about her father that way!

 Billy: Mandy's gonna take your pants off!

Grim: "Beat your pants off".


Real Life

  • Online, there are two additional methods to invoke this: striking out the text writing the text in a strikethrough font, and writing one thing and then "backspacing" over it with control-H, written ^H. (Each control-H deletes one letter^H^H^H^H^H^H^H character.) This is a reference to 1980s-era Unix systems, where misconfigured terminals would display control codes instead of invoking them. (A more obscure option is control-W, which deletes entire words ^W^W^W deleted one word in the Berkeley UNIX and in the vi text editor, and was therefore used for more succinct Verbal Backspaces.)
  • Lojban has actual words for this: The words "si", "sa" and "su", to be specific.
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