Word Nerd: 7 Impossibly Sophisticated and Smart Insults

27 Mar

Recently, we argued that poems can be as funny as they can be serious. In this Word Nerd, we’re making the same case for insults. Add enough wit to insults and they become glorious – masterpieces which are likely to offend and impress in equal measure.

And if you’re finding it hard to think of a cutting comeback in the heat of the moment, don’t worry. We bring you carefully crafted insults from men of letters, which will serve you well on most occasions.


1. “If your brains were dynamite there wouldn’t be enough to blow your hat off.”

Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake

Next time you want to call someone stupid? Tell them how little matter their skulls hold. In Kurt Vonnegut’s words. Burn.

2. “I never saw anybody take so long to dress, and with such little result.”

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

Wilde is widely feted as the Sultan of Sass. Done with someone’s tardiness? Issue the ultimate diss.

3. “I misjudged you… You’re not a moron. You’re only a case of arrested development.”

Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

Looking for a sophisticated way of venting your frustration at someone being slow? Let Hemingway show you how. The first sentence fools, the second slams.

4. “You see, but you do not observe.”

Arthur Conan Doyle, A Scandal in Bohemia

Are you a fan of BBC Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman? If yes, Cumberbatch’s delivery must be etched in your memory. If no, it will be now.

5. “Stop worrying about growing old. And think about growing up.”

Philip Roth, The Dying Animal

Not sure if it happened to you but we grew up thinking that age meant maturity. And then one day, realized it didn’t necessary. Thanks, biological adults, for showing us.

6. “I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of new play; bring a friend. If you have one.”

George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

Insults are incomplete without rejoinders. Here is a famous example from two intellectual giants who despised each other – Shaw and Churchill.

7. “Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second . . . if there is one.”

Winston Churchill to George Bernard Shaw.

Are there any particular insults which are your favourite? Email us or leave a comment below.

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