The Lost Art Of Insulting

In a modern world, swearing, insults, mindless language has become the norm, either in jest or in spite. Whether you agree with insults or quick-witted come backs, they happen everyday. The problem is, they are dull and unimaginative in modern times. These days it’s bland reproaches, “your mum” or one worded names. For those who are really lazy it’s simply “what-evs”. There has been an influx in period dramas on British TV recently and so these shows reprise the old mannerisms of insulting. This blog looks at some words and phrases which have dropped out of favour but should be reintroduced simply because they are funny. It also looks at some of the most memorable and quick-witted insults during history.


Words Which Should Be Reintroduced

  • Fop: A 17th Century English term used to describe vain men who are overly concerned with fashion and appearance and little else.
  • Wench/Harlot/Scrubber/Trollop: A woman, often young. Serving girl or prostitute.
  • Fussock: Fat and stupid person, usually a woman.
  • Berk/Pillock: A term for an idiot, stupid or mindless person.
  • Codger: A grumpy, stubborn old man.

Historical Insults

  • George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill – “I am enclosing two tickets for the opening night of my new play; bring a friend. If you have one”
  • Churchill to Shaw – “Can not possibly attend first night, will attend second. If there is one”
  •  Irvan S. Cobb – “I’ve just learned about his illness.Lets hope it’s nothing trivial”
  • Mark Twain – “I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it”
  • Clarence Darrow – “I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure”
  • Robert Louis Stevenson – “I regard you with an indifference bordering on aversion”
  • Jack London – “Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten principles”
  • Kin Hubbard –  “Some folks seem to have descended from the chimpanzee later than others”
  • John Cantu – “She’s got such a narrow mind, when she walks fast her earrings bang together”
  • Groucho Marx – “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it”
  • Jim Samuels – “You’re a good example of why some animals eat their young”


Maybe it’s just me, but I think language is in decline. It has become over simplified and ugly. People are lazy with the words they use, how they use them, when and with who. Language, both generally and in terms of wit and insult, was such a colourful and fun thing over the centuries. It’s a shame that today we have lost that. Insulting people may not be nice, but most of us insult in jest, sarcasm or humour rather than malice. By reprising old words and phrases, we could bring the sting, intelligence and wit back to the art of a flippant insult.

For those of you who enjoy a little light-hearted fun and are colourful with your use of language, you should visit this website dedicated to Shakespearean insults where you can create your own damming phrase!

~Image source:


12 thoughts on “The Lost Art Of Insulting

  1. My favorite insult of all time comes from Clueless of all things:

    Tai: Why should I listen to you? You’re just a virgin who can’t drive.
    Cher: [groan] That was way harsh, Tai.

  2. very enjoyable. There also was the Lady Astor/Churchill one. She said “If you were my husband I’d give you poison.” And he said “If you were my wife I’d drink it.”

  3. Pingback: Nice verses Insulting… | authorannegriffith

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