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I've always wondered about this exchange of dialogue in "Pulp Fiction":

Butch: You lookin' at something, friend?

Vincent: You ain't my friend, Palooka.

Butch: What's that?

Vincent: I think you heard me just fine, Punchy.

What is Vincent's problem with Butch?

Is this just foreshadowing -- in other words, a set-up for the scene later in which Butch kills Vincent? Is it demonstration of Vincent's lousy personality? Or is there some plot element I'm missing?

side note: While searching Google, I came across the intriguing idea that after the dialogue above, Butch keyed Vincent's car (something Vincent complains about in another part of the movie)

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4 Answers

The Urban Dictionary defines palooka as "A fighter who isn't any good, or takes a dive." Marsellus had summoned Butch to tell him to throw the upcoming fight. That's when he told him "The night of the fight, you may feel a slight sting. That's pride fucking with you. Fuck pride. Pride only hurts. It never helps."

Vincent was showing his disdain for a fighter who takes a dive.

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I think that Butch was just in the wrong place at the wrong time for Vince.

Vince had had a exchange with about what he was going to do with Marsellus's wife which had angered him, the barman realised this and quickly walked away.

Vince was angry and took it out on Butch, he would have had a go at anyone else who caught his eye.

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In short, Vincent knew that Butch was a boxer who would be throwing a fight. Vincent was having a bad day and was merely responding to Butch's staring at Vincent for too long while buying a pack of Red Apple cigarettes from English Dave. It's conceivable that Vincent would not like someone who would throw a fight, but there's no evidence in the screenplay or the movie to suggest that.

We know that Vincent knows that Butch is a boxer when he calls him Palooka. Joe Palooka was a boxer in a comic strip in the 1930s.

We know that Vincent knows that Butch is supposed to throw the fight when he calls him "Punchy". In the 1949 film noir The Set-Up, Stoker Thompson is a 35-year-old has-been boxer who is supposed to throw the fight in the fourth round. (In Pulp Fiction, the fight is supposed to be thrown in the fifth round.)

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How does Vincent know Butch is going to throw the fight? I don't think Vincent heard Butch talking to Marcellus. –  Shiz Z. Oct 23 '13 at 7:23
    
I believe your question is really "how did Vincent LEARN that Butch is going to throw the fight". There is no evidence in the screenplay or movie to suggest HOW he came about this information. –  Evik James Oct 23 '13 at 15:00
    
Your answer above says "Vincent knew that Butch was a boxer who would be throwing a fight." I'm asking what evidence are you basing that on? Clearly Vincent knew Butch was a boxer -- but what evidence is there that Vincent knew Butch was going to throw the fight? –  Shiz Z. Oct 23 '13 at 17:14
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Shane, Vincent calls Butch "Punchy". Stoker Thompson is a has-been boxer who is supposed to throw a fight who is called "Punchy" by his trainer in The Set-Up . I don't know of any evidence beyond that simple statement. –  Evik James Oct 23 '13 at 18:13
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i always assumed that vincent dislikes butch because he knows he's taking a dive for money.

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Hi marc and welcome to the site. This answer is very subjective and doesn't really contain the detail we like to see in answers. Consider adding more information (with references) or posting this as a comment. For more information, take the Tour under the Help menu. –  Andrew Martin Mar 20 at 19:00
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