Literary Insults

Who writes the best insults? It’s not easy to come up with something witty and cutting at the same time. Shakespeare is a master. P G Wodehouse is brilliant as well. The Guardian put up a list of choice literary insults today. They could have chosen better, but they did include a fabulous rant from King Lear:

A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a
base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited,
hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a
lily-livered, action-taking knave, a whoreson,
glass-gazing, super-serviceable finical rogue;
one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a
bawd, in way of good service, and art nothing but
the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pandar,
and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch: one whom I
will beat into clamorous whining, if thou deniest
the least syllable of thy addition.

That about covers it I would think.

And in the comments, sirroger went to the trouble of collecting quotations from various of P G Wodehouse’s novels:

“And she’s got brains enough for two, which is the exact quantity the girl who marries you will need.”

“It was one of the dullest speeches I ever heard. The Agee woman told us for three quarters of an hour how she came to write her beastly book, when a simple apology was all that was required.”

“You’re one of those guys who can make a party just by leaving it. It’s a great gift.”

“She looked like something that might have occurred to Ibsen in one of his less frivolous moments.”

“The brains of members of the Press departments of motion-picture studios resemble soup at a cheap restaurant. It is wiser not to stir them.”

“It would take more than long-stemmed roses to change my view that you’re a despicable cowardy-custard and a disgrace to a proud family. Your ancestors fought in the Crusades and were often mentioned in despatches, and you cringe like a salted snail at the thought of appearing as Santa Claus before an audience of charming children who wouldn’t hurt a fly. It’s enough to make an aunt turn her face to the wall and give up the struggle.”

“What are the chances of a cobra biting Harold, Jeeves?”
“Slight, I should imagine, sir. And in such an event, knowing the boy as intimately as I do, my anxiety would be entirely for the snake.”

That last one had me sniggering out loud at the computer to Petra and Travis’s confusion. Some of my favourite of Wodehouse’s insults though, are Bertie Wooster’s inarticulate attempts, like this one:

“Very good”, I said coldly. “In that case, tinkerty-tonk.” And I
meant it to sting.

I feel a Wodehouse rereading binge coming upon me…

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4 Responses to Literary Insults

  1. ashokbhatia says:

    He is timeless. When the chips are down, specially. Enjoy the binge.

  2. janstra says:

    For laugh out loud fun Jeeves and Wooster win, but I do enjoy the hapless Emsworth as well. Maybe one of each…

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