fighting words

fighting word

noun
Usually, fighting words. language that arouses rage in an antagonist.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

fighting words

A statement bound to start a quarrel or fight. It is often expressed as them's fighting words, as in You say your father's smarter than mine? Them's fighting words. The ungrammatical use of them's for "those are" emphasizes the folksy tone of this colloquialism, first recorded in Ring Lardner's Gullible's Travels (1917).

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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