Them's fightin' words!!

I’ve heard that this can be used as a legitimate defense in court. Example: you taunt someone with words you know will enflame a person, usually it’s an ethnic or religious slur, but it could also be something like making fun of the hometown sports team. Any credence to this?

I read something about this. I think it was a defense only in civil court. I don’t know. :slight_smile:

Work like you don’t need the money…
Love like you’ve never been hurt…
Dance like nobody’s watching! …(Paraphrased)

I don’t think you can beat the charge on that basis, but the “extenuating circumstances” would probably have an impact on the sentence.

The “fighting words” doctrine is most commonly used to suppress speech. After enough Constitutional cases, exceptions have been carved out of the First Amendment’s admonition that “Congress shall make no law…” (Would that it ended there!)

One of these exceptions is the use of words “which by their very utterance, inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.” Fighting Words.

The phrase had been knocking around appellate courts and legal articles for a while, and finally made its smashing debut with the Supremes in Chaplinsky vs. New Hampshire 315 U.S. 568 (1942). Mr. Chaplinsky was one angry Jehovah’s Witness. And he used some pretty awful language (by the standards of the times) in a public forum. Then he got arrested and convicted of an incitement-like charge. Justice Murphy used the phrase when the Court affirmed Mr. Chaplinsky’s conviction.

As to whether it then became a defense for person/people did what comes naturally after hearing such words, I will leave you in the capable hands of Mr. DSYoungEsq.

Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine

I remember hearing something about this, too. I heard that calling a man a ‘SOB’ or ‘motherfucker’ was considered to be ‘striking the first blow’, and any subsequent action taken by the insultee was considered self-defense.

Don’t know if its true or not!

The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best. - Henry Van Dyke

And in the United States military the term for such is “provoking speech or gestures” and is, in itself, an offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. If the person to whom you made the provoking speech/gesture replied with violence, then the two of y’all (assuming both in the military) could face punishment.

‘Fighting Words’ is often used to try and get around 1st amendment protection of free speech. During the flag-burning debate, some people against the burning of flags tried to claim that the act of burning the flag was an example of incitement, and should be banned on those grounds.

The argument also comes up when trying to prevent Klansmen from burning crosses, etc.

“Stop or I shall taunt you a second time!”

peas on earth

Freedonia went to war after their leader was called an “upstart”.

All I know is when the asshole who lives below me threatened me and called me names (like “asshole,” ironically enough) my landlord was as upset about the words as she was the threats.

Yer pal,