How to write insults without swearing

UPDATED JULY 20, 2019. Further to our recent article about whether women should write swearwords or not, here is an updated and expanded version of some glorious, clean (well, cleanish) insults sent to me a couple of years ago by my cousin Alyson in Ottawa, Canada.

funny article about insults

William Shakespeare, King Lear

William Shakespeare was a master of insults, as you can see from above. That full quote, said by Lear to his daughter Goneril (why does her name always make me think of a sexually transmitted disease?) goes as follows:

“Thou art a boil, A plague-sore or embossèd carbuncle, In my corrupted blood.” Gee thanks, Dad. More of Willie’s best insults below. Meanwhile…

There was 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.” [Read more…]

Should swearing be more fashionable?

Do you consider it a hanging offence when someone turns the air blue? Or are you, like so many of us now, getting used to hearing expletives and becoming less uncomfortable when someone yells out a four-letter word?

Should we accept swearing more into our daily life?

To swear or not to swear … that is the ****ing question…

Whether we like it or not, rude (but not personally based) language** is becoming more widely accepted in the media.

No longer does the air turn blue when someone says “shit.”

[Read more…]

Swearing: should we accept or ignore it in our blogging?

Are you guilty of using a foul word or two in your blogposts, emails, comments, Facebook/Twitter posts et al? Do you think they enhance what you’ve written – or do they make you look foul-mouthed?

I know I am guilty of using words that I shouldn’t. Many of my articles, posts, comments etc. are peppered with (usually mild) profanities which tend to roll off the virtual tongue quite easily – or at least they do if you are, as I am, surrounded by lippy young people who fire off swear words if they so much as misplace a sandwich or find a hair extension out of place. As such, their use does have a nasty habit of becoming second nature. And I know that’s no excuse…

There are many people out there – and not just older folks – who find swearing objectionable, and you can’t blame them. Mostly they have been brought up to believe that swearing and cursing are disrespectful to the majority of people. My parents put across, to me, the diktat that the use of swear words merely demonstrated one’s ignorance and lack of vocabulary (mind you, that all went out of the window when one of them stepped on a live wasp or slammed their finger in a car door.)

Two categories – religious, and vulgar

As far as I can see it, swearwords in our modern age fall into two categories: 1) religious cursing, and 2) vulgarisms.

Religious cursing is very sensitive for many people and it’s something I try to avoid – don’t you? But what about words like “damn,” damned,” or “damning?” Despite those appearing largely innocuous these days, should someone wish to take it to the limit, there could be a religious connotation here.

And that doesn’t even begin to infiltrate what some people write using terms that may offend a whole host of religions from Christian to Judaism to Islam to who knows how many more. So is it appropriate to use religiously orientated swear words in our writing? In my humble opinion, absolutely no way.

OK, how about the serious vulgarisms?

Here’s where we enter relatively uncharted waters.  I remember once asking my father where he thought the word f*ck came from, and he – as a veteran of WW2 – trotted out the explanation that it’s an acronym standing for “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.” Nice one. But is it true? According to Wikipedia, the origins of the F-word are vague… so I doubt that my Pop’s answer was correct, convenient though it may have seemed at the time. seems to agree with me on that one.

And then there is the ultimate vulgarism (or at least so most of us think) – c*nt.  Where does this awful, horrible word come from? Wikipedia, bless them, have explored this one to a helpful extent and say, “the earliest citation of this usage in the 1972 Oxford English Dictionary, c 1230, refers to the London street known as Gropecunt Lane. Scholar Germaine Greer has said that “it is one of the few remaining words in the English language with a genuine power to shock.”

Maybe it’s the connotation, but maybe, too, it’s the sound of the word. Germaine was right. Would you use this word in any of your writing? OK, but there are lesser swearwords that express our thoughts so well, and they don’t resonate with quite the same impact.

Does swearing actually have a legitimate place in our writing?

This is where it gets a bit more interesting. Swearing, whether the purists like it or not, is a very common element in our every-day parlance. It’s part of our modern culture.

So, do we – as people charged with reflecting realistically this modern culture in our writing – pronounce judgment and exclude swearing as naughty, smutty, dirty and undesirable? Should we adopt the nanny-like stance of television drama in which even evil villains, murderers, drug dealers, etc. only say a mere “bloody” here and a “sh*t” there?

Or should we incorporate the swearing that people use in everyday speech, into the writing we do in our blogs, comments, posts, articles and more?

I’d love to know how you guys feel about this, so please jot down your comments here.

Brush up your writing, whether you swear 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