When insults had class


uniquely dreadful
Valued Senior Member
The lighter side of linguistics

There really was a time when insults had class.

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

“A modest little person, with much to be modest about.” –

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 in reading it.” –

Moses Hadas

“He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know.” –

Abraham Lincoln

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

Groucho Marx

“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’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

“He had delusions of adequacy.” –

Walter Kerr

“There’s nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won’t cure.” –

Jack E. Leonard

“He inherited some good instincts from his Quaker forebears, but by diligent hard work, he overcame them.” –

James Reston (about Richard Nixon)

“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…” –

Oscar Wilde

“He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lampposts… for support rather than illumination. ” –

Andrew Lang

“He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.” –

Billy Wilder


Hehe funny stuff Sam :)

Im not sure this one is an insult though, sounds more like a compliment to me:
“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.” –
William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)
"You're depriving a village somewhere of its idiot"

"Your gene pool is in dire need of some chlorine additive"
I prefer the earlier version I heard in elementary school, Nietzchefan: "May the spiders of the desert hold their annual parade in your undershorts."

While looking for one of my favorite insults, I came across this nugget in a TimesOnline article:

The very earliest recorded insult, as far as I can ascertain, was painted some 4,300 years ago on the walls of the tomb of Ti in Saqqara, Egypt. It depicts one fisherman saying to another: “Come here, you copulator”, or hieroglyphs to that effect. It is not Oscar Wilde, admittedly, but it was start.

There is an apocryphal exchange between Disraeli and Gladstone--attributed in the comments to the above-cited article to two lesser politicians, that is perhaps my favorite insult in history (and the one I was looking for):

"Your end will either come from the gallows, or of venereal disease."

"That, my dear sir, depends on whether I embrace your principles, or your mistress."​
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