Is there a name for this comic device?

Example (from a play called Hadrian VII, probably slightly paraphrased, not that it matters):

“Go tickle your ass with a feather.”

“WHAT did you say?”

“I said ‘particularly nasty weather.’”

Is there a term for this particular gimmick? That is, a character says something nasty and insulting, then when asked to repeat it by an outraged victim says something perfectly innocous which is phonetically similar. To keep this out of MPSIMS, I suppose we need to try to discuss the technique, not provide fresh examples from “South Park” or other sources.

Don’t know the name of the device, but Rumpole is a master of it, when addressing the Mad Bull and She Who Must Be Obeyed.

(oh, you didn’t want more examples? too late now)

I don’t know if there’s a particular name. But I do find the device pretty tired these days. It’s not really all that funny any more.

FTR, this specific exchange was also used in the (so bad it’s good) movie Up the Academy.

That said, I don’t know what it’s called.


There’s a thing called a malapropism.

Malapropism doesn’t particularly fit - that generally involves a ludicrous misuse which is unintentional, and the butt of the gag is the speaker who made the mistake. This specific device involves intention on the part the original speaker, and is being used against the character serving as the speaker’s foil (usually an authority figure whom the speaker is getting the intellectual better of).

Well dammit, if it doesn’t have a name it needs one. Any suggestions?

Well, it’s not a malapropism, and it’s spot a noonerism…I mean, not a spoonerism.