How to be insulting in English without using 4-letter words

Gone are the days when you could make someone shrivel up and crawl down a drain with an educated, upmarket insult. And I think that’s very sad. Surely it’s more fun – and more effective – to use clever insults rather than all those clumpy words representing body parts and bodily functions, sexual inadequacy, and other boring clichés?

My cousin Alyson in Canada sent these to me recently to remind us just how cutting a good, clean insult can be. Enjoy… and how about coming up with some new ones? Send yours in as comments – and I’ll try to think some up, too…

The exchange between Winston Churchill & Lady Astor:

She said, “If you were my husband I’d give you poison.”  He said, “If you were my wife, I’d drink it.”

A member of Parliament to Disraeli: “Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease.” That depends, Sir,” said Disraeli, “whether I embrace your policies or your mistress.”

“He had delusions of adequacy.” – Walter Kerr

“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.” – Winston Churchill

“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.” – Clarence Darrow

“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.” – William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)

“Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I’ll waste no time reading it.” – Moses Hadas

“I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.” – Mark Twain

“He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.” – Oscar Wilde

“I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend…. If you have one.” -George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill.  “Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second…. If there is one.” – Winston Churchill, in response.

“I feel so miserable without you; it’s almost like having you here.” – Stephen Bishop

“He is a self-made man and worships his creator.” – John Bright

“I’ve just learned about his illness. Let’s hope it’s nothing trivial.” - Irvin S. Cobb

“He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others.” – Samuel Johnson

“He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.” – Paul Keating

“In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily.” – Charles, Count Talleyrand

“He loves nature in spite of what it did to him.” – Forrest Tucker

“Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?” – Mark Twain

“His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.” – Mae West

“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.” – Oscar Wilde

“He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts… For support rather than illumination.” – Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

“He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.” – Billy Wilder

“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.” – Groucho Marx

I love ‘em – don’t you?

Brush up all your writing, whether it’s insulting or not!

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

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Thoughts

  1. What a LOVELY read! I wish I could think of some wonderful retorts – I have a book called Wrinklies Wit and Wisdom – there’s hundreds in there!

  2. Thanks Amanda – glad you enjoyed it!
    SuzanStMaur recently posted..Do Justin Bieber’s lyrics herald born-again purity?My Profile

  3. I always liked “He rose without a trace” – said of David Frost.
    Cathy recently posted..German Christmas markets 2011My Profile

  4. Very entertaining. :) I’ll print these quotes out and hang them up somewhere.

    I know: “Why don’t you go to the library and brush up on your ignorance?”

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