The older we get the less we understand the slang that these young kids use nowadays. Or, wait, is that just me? Hey, I’ll admit… I’m just not picking up what these young cats are laying down these days, you dig? What exactly is a “yeet” anyway? It sounds like the newborn offspring of a species of goat that only lives in the mountainous regions somewhere deep in the Andean Mountains. The insults we grew up with were more scathing. There was nothing more insulting than walking down the street and hearing someone yell out, “hey, nerd!” Brutal, I know.
To be truly creative, though, we need to go back a bit further. We need to take it back to a point in history where insults were truly scornful, and yes, inspiring. I’m talking Shakespeare. Now, Shakespeare knew how to curse, but he also knew how to throw insults with the best of them. Oh, who am I kidding, he WAS the best of them. I mean, the man made up new words when those readily at hand would not do, for Pete’s sake.
So, without further ado, here are my favorite Shakespearean insults, in no particular order. Trust me, folks, we need to bring these gems back into circulation.
Thou art as fat as butter. (Henry IV)
If you really want to get your point across to someone, you need to compare them to something with high fat content and not something fat by default like the world or their mother.
More of your conversation would infect my brain. (Coriolanus)
Why settle for calling someone stupid when you can go one better and describe exactly how their words are affecting you? Instead of saying, I’m all the more stupid for having heard this… try telling them that their word salad is literally infecting your brain. It would devalue their argument so much that they’ll have no choice but to submit to your Shakespearean wit. You could tell them that your insult was from Shakespeare, but they probably don’t even know who J.K. Rowling is, let alone Shakespeare.
I’ll beat thee, but I would infect my hands. (Timon of Athens)
We’ve all met those annoying people we would love to whack over the head if it would get them to stop blathering. Continuing Shakespeare’s odd fascination with infections, you can tell these folks that they are simply too loathsome for the figurative (of course, figurative) beating they so rightly deserve. Despite their seemingly good health, merely touching them would put you in a state of near death due to their gangrenous personality. I know, right!? Awesome insult!
I am sick when I do look on thee (Midsummer Night’s Dream)
I’m starting to think Shakespeare had a thing with the bubonic plague. Apparently, you could infect him with sound, touch, and now… simply looking at someone makes him sick. But hey, he does have a way with words. This would be the final topping on the cake for someone with a lovely outer skin but an ugly disposition. Bonus points if you mix this with the phrase about butter.
You Banbury cheese! (Merry Wives of Windsor)
Not a lot of people will know that this insult was originally meant for skinny people. You see, Banbury cheese was very thin. Stupidly thin. And back in Shakespeare’s time it was more prominent to be plump, so calling someone skinny was just plain insulting. However, nowadays this insult goes beyond looks, as every good insult should do. Cheese is smelly, cheese can be ridiculously obnoxious, cheese can look lovely on the outside and be rancid on the inside, cheese can make you want to vomit. Just take your pick. Viewing it a different way, cheese is supposed to be thick and rich and decadent, so the fact that Banbury cheese is ludicrously thin with more rind than actual cheese is rather stupid. Hence the person you’re calling a Banbury cheese is a stupid-head (of cheese). Plus, I just like the way it sounds.
You whoreson cullionly barber-monger! (King Lear)
I’m not exactly sure where Shakespeare was going with this one as it’s contained in a scene where people were throwing words all over the place. However, I assure you that using this is the equivalent of firing a bullet from your mouth and it would absolutely destroy whoever it is aimed at. Just walk into your local dive-bar and use this phrase at random, then watch everyone freeze, impressed with your mighty wit.
Away, you three-inch fool! (The Taming Of The Shrew)
Thinking back on my English Lit days, I believe that Shakespeare used this as an insult to someone’s height, but let’s be real about using it today, you’re going to insult another area of someone’s life that they really, really care about when it comes to length. Instead of directly insulting some guy’s junk with a “why, you have a small wiener sir,” drive home the point by dropping this line that gives a very specific length. I can’t think of a better response to those crude ‘negging’ pick-up lines too many of us women endure every time we go out.
So, there you have it. Some grade-A, well-honed – if not contemporary – put-downs for your insult arsenal. One for every day of the week. Now, get out there and make me proud!