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A character says something inappropriate or embarrassing to the wrong person or within earshot of the wrong person. They wear fur in the presence of an overzealous animal lover. Or eat peas with their knife. And now the eyes of the world are upon them, sneering and/or laughing contemptuously at their little (or not so little) faux pas.
A faux pas can be defined as "a social blunder" or "a violation [intentional or not] of accepted social rules or norms". It can be a Freudian Slip, it can put The Fun in Funeral, it can result in someone saying "How Did That Get in There??" It could even be something as simple as tripping and falling ("faux pas" literally means "false step"). And it is, 99% of the time, played for comedy in fiction.
This trope has no connection whatsoever to the webcomic Faux Pas (which is actually pronounced "Fox Paws," unlike the french, which is more to the effect of "fo pa")
Subtropes may include one or more of the following:
- Did I Just Say That Out Loud?
- Digging Yourself Deeper
- Freudian Slip (naturally)
- Freudian Slippery Slope
- The Fun in Funeral
- How Did That Get in There?
- Innocently Insensitive
- Ignore the Disability
- Right Behind Me
- Right in Front of Me
- That Came Out Wrong
See also Oh God, Did She Just Hear That?, where the character doesn't even have to speak. I Meant to Do That is when the character pretends the blunder was in fact done on purpose in order to mitigate the embarrassment. Compare Protocol Peril, which is what happens when a particular faux pas is treated as a life or death matter and with Fumbling the Gauntlet, where the faux pas is an invitation to fight.
Anime and Manga
- In the first season of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Admiral Lindy, wishing to make Nanoha more comfortable and show her appreciation for Nanoha's culture, invites the title character to a tea ceremony. She then proceeds to prepare her green tea by dropping lumps of sugar in it and adding milk, a Japanese no-no (Lindy's doing it British-style with Japanese aesthetics) that caused Nanoha to wince. This later turned onto a running gag.
- In the fourth StrikerS sound stage, it is revealed that she introduced it to Mary. Ginga, who also drinks her tea this way, asks her father, who is suggested to be of Japanese descent, if he would like to try it, and he politely refuses.
- Mad Magazine often makes reference to these in its humor. For example, one article lists a few things to say when you're otherwise headed into an inappropriate statement.
Woman: Say, when are you expecting...
- In the first issue of the new Batgirl series, Barbara Gordon's new roommate sees the wheelchair lift on Barbara's van and makes a comment about how being "trapped in a chair" is her worst fear, since it would be "like prison." Barbara's internal narration says that she knows her roommate didn't mean anything by it, and she's not ready to correct her and that she has no way of knowing that Barbara herself used to need it, and when she was in the chair she was Oracle.
- In The Film of the Book of the first novel in the Earth's Children series, Clan Of The Cave Bear, lead character Ayla must, within sight of her tribe, save a child from a wolf using her advanced hunting skills, skills which it is not lawful for a woman in her society to have.
- In the book, too. Clan of the Cave Bear is practically one long sequence of these, although the results are generally not all that funny...
- In the book, it was a hyena.
- Ladyhawke - Proud at escaping an inescapable prison, Phillipe offers to buy a drink to everyone in a tavern. Some of them are out looking for him.
- In Disney's The Little Mermaid, literal Fish Out of Water Ariel, at her first dinner with Prince Eric, uses a fork to comb her hair (based on faulty information provided by Scuttle the seagull). She also grabs Grimsby's pipe and blows into it believing that it is a musical instrument called a snarfblatt.
- Ridicule by Patrice Leconte depicts the fearsome consequences of social blunders at the court of Louis XVI. People were Driven to Suicide for saying the wrong thing at the wrong moment, or at the very least their hopes for advancement at court were ruined.
- Jason around Kelly in Mystery Team. He explains to the (orphaned) girl that life isn't fair because he didn't get a bike for Christmas, tells her to have fun at her parents' wake, and says her skin feels similar to what a dolphin's must feel like.
- The whole Mystery Team is like this. For example, their most common suspect is Old Man Mc Gintey, whom they suspect for murder when he is clearly very comatose. They break into his house. Twice.
- Piers Anthony's Xanth has a location called the "Faux Pass" (har de har; the entire series is essentially a Hurricane of Puns). Anyone crossing through this pass is fated to commit a faux pas in the near future.
- In Journey to the Center of the Earth, the narrator, having broken an ancient explorer's code, shows his uncle how the code is written. Unfortunately, he has his love for his uncle's ward on the brain, and the phrase he codes is that he loves her...
- The embarrassing faux pas is the single driving narrative force in Curb Your Enthusiasm. Some fans even use the term "Larry David moment" to it.
- Trope name comes from an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond which uses a whole slew of these to drive the plot.
Raymond: [regarding a man Robert arrested who was "flashing gang signs"] He wasn't breaking the law, was he?
- Something similar to the above example happens in an episode of Round the Twist. The scenario: The Twists are trying to eat a meal while ignoring Bronson, who's playing them for all their worth by deliberately disregarding table manners. Then he pulls out a fly-swatter (specially prepared for the occasion) and licks it, causing the whole charade to go tits-up. It's later revealed that there are no actual flies on the swatter.
- Red Dwarf - Rimmer claims he got passed up for a promotion because, at an important dinner with an admiral, his soup was cold. So he demanded it be heated up nice and hot. It was done so. Unfortunately, it was Gazpacho soup (which is meant to be served cold)... However, Rimmer claims he could have been an admiral by the time Red Dwarf had its disaster, even though he was the second lowest crewmember on the ship and the dinner was less than a year before he died.
- This was very nearly Truth in Television. The creators went out to dinner in a fancy restaurant and were served gazpacho soup - they were about to send it back when one of the other diners explained.
- On Top Gear, while in America filming a "factual documentary" which is getting dangerously close to becoming entertaining, the presenters are stopped by a patrolman. Jeremy Clarkson takes it upon himself to explain the situation, with helpful hand gestures.... and in the process flips the cop off three or four times.
- On Castle, an actress visits Rick Castle at home, thanking him for their relationship and her part in Castle's new movie. She walks out the door:
Ellie: Thanks Frank.
- One episode of Seinfeld involves Jerry tiptoeing around these while dating a Native American woman, avoiding common phrases with Native roots ("scalping" for tickets, "Indian givers") to not offend her.
- Truth in Television example: William Shatner was once berated for attending an environmentalist gathering in a seal skin jacket.
- Jim Gaffigan joked about putting ketchup on Sushi. Whether this is intriguing or appalling, I'll leave it to you.
- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on a campaign rally to Missouri politican Chuck Graham: "Chuck, stand up, let the people see you!" Then he realized that Graham is in a wheelchair.
- Then he changed it to "God love ya. You've got them standing up for you now, pal."
- Biden's good at these. Such as calling the healthcare reform bill "a big fucking deal" right next to a live microphone.
- Three words: "Clean and articulate."
- Lest we forget, his comments about being "unable to go to a 7-Eleven or Dunkin' Donuts without a slight Indian accent".
- Boris Johnson, who so far has had to officially apologise to the entire populations of Liverpool, Portsmouth, and Papua New Guinea.
- New Zealand TV host asking Star Trek XI actors Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and John Cho to bust out their best Scottish accents in honor of Scotty. Then she turns to John Cho and says, "I know you're Asian, but..." Holy Unfortunate Implications, Batman!
- Eliza's trip to the races at Ascot in My Fair Lady, culminating in the famous "Move your bloomin' arse!" line.
- Utawarerumono has Eruruw committing a whole SERIES of these with...pretty much every word she says, to the Imperial Princess. In a subversion, the princess brushes it off, while the assistant takes it the worst way possible. It's pretty much an Establishing Character Moment for the two.
- When Nick goes to meet Ki's parents in General Protection Fault, he takes great pains to impress her father with his knowledge of Japanese culture, but forgets to take off his shoes upon entering the house. To be fair to Nick, though, Mr. Oshiro is biased against him as a result of how Ki's relationship with Sam turned out, so even Nick's attempts to impress him come off as mocking Asian culture.
- The Trenches: Q is a big fan of Lawstar. Isaac learns this a few minutes after calling it a "shitty cartoon from the 80's.
- One Calvin and Hobbes story arc features Suzie getting into trouble for such things as passing notes and talking in class (all instigated by Calvin, of course).
- Happens quite often in the Norwegian comic Pondus. The usual scenario is Pondus and his wife, Beate, chatting with a friend (mostly Beate's friends). Beate makes a Faux Pas, tries to correct it and makes matter worse. Pondus usually praises Beate for this.