Sneck up! Insulting language - doing it properly

‘Stupid woman!’ It’s terse and to the point, I suppose, but how does it compare with this:

“A most notable coward, an infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise breaker, the owner of no one good quality.”

Now that’s what I call an insult - and, though it’s more than four hundred years old, I can even think of the odd contemporary figure to whom it might apply.

The line comes from Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well (Act 3, Scene 6).

Here are nineteen more insults and put-downs supplied by the Bard. I reckon any one of them is better-phrased and more punchy than ‘stupid woman’ - and because they are all from Shakespeare I don’t think you could be accused of using ‘unparliamentary language’ if you deployed one of them in the House of Commons. Enjoy. No lip-reading skills required.

1. “Away, you starvelling, you elf-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue, bull’s-pizzle, you stock-fish!”

Henry IV Part I (Act 2, Scene 4)

2. “His wit’s as thick as a Tewkesbury mustard.”

Henry IV Part 2 (Act 2, Scene 4)

3. “More of your conversation would infect my brain.”

The Comedy of Errors (Act 2, Scene 1)

4. “Poisonous bunch-backed toad! “

Richard III (Act 1, Scene 3)

5. “The rankest compound of villainous smell that ever offended nostril”

The Merry Wives of Windsor (Act 3, Scene 5)

6. “That trunk of humours, that bolting-hutch of beastliness, that swollen parcel of dropsies, that huge bombard of sack, that stuffed cloak-bag of guts, that roasted Manningtree ox with pudding in his belly, that reverend vice, that grey Iniquity, that father ruffian, that vanity in years?”

Henry IV Part 1 (Act 2, Scene 4)

7.. “Thou art a boil, a plague sore”

King Lear (Act 2, Scene 2)

8. “Thou art unfit for any place but hell.”

Richard III (Act 1 Scene 2)

9. “Thou clay-brained guts, thou knotty-pated fool, thou whoreson obscene greasy tallow-catch!”

Henry IV Part 1 (Act 2, Scene 4 )

10. “Thou elvish-mark’d, abortive, rooting hog!”

Richard III (Act 1, Scene 3 )

11. “Thou leathern-jerkin, crystal-button, knot-pated, agatering, puke-stocking, caddis-garter, smooth-tongue, Spanish pouch!”

Henry IV Part 1 (Act 2, Scene 4)

12. “Thou lump of foul deformity”

Richard III (Act 1, Scene 2)

13. “Thou whoreson zed , thou unnecessary letter!”

King Lear (Act 2, Scene 2 )

14. “Would thou wert clean enough to spit upon”

Timon of Athens (Act 4, Scene 3)

15. “Would thou wouldst burst!”

Timon of Athens (Act 4, Scene 3)

16. “You poor, base, rascally, cheating lack-linen mate! “

Henry IV Part II (Act 2, Scene 4)

17. “You are as a candle, the better burnt out.”

Henry IV Part 2 (Act 1, Scene 2)

18. “You scullion! You rampallian! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe!”

Henry IV Part 2 (Act 2, Scene 1)

19. “You starvelling, you eel-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue, you bull’s-pizzle, you stock-fish–O for breath to utter what is like thee!-you tailor’s-yard, you sheath, you bow-case, you vile standing tuck!”

Henry IV Part 1 (Act 2, Scene 4)

Gyles Brandreth