Word Nerd: How to Swear at Someone Like a Pro

17 Oct

Swearing is mostly impolite, sometimes necessary and rarely fun. But it is an indispensable part of human existence. Stubbed your toe against the chair at night? Got a ridiculously unreasonable colleague? Stuck in traffic while on the way to an exam? Favourite character dies in the cliffhanger? Letting your favourite rude words rip is a common response.

But, swearing has different meanings. There are swearing-in ceremonies for important officials, and swearing on a holy book in a court of law, and all the swearing you were forced to, as a child (“I didn’t know I had to be back by 7 PM from playing,” or, “I didn’t take the last slice of chocolate cake” and so on). This is swearing in the sense of taking an oath (however, insincere).

In this Word Nerd, we are especially interested in how swearing can be creative and show a real flair for language. The regular profanities are now mostly beeped out and boring. So, we’re looking at comical cursing, subtle sarcasm and over-the-top insults, which will probably leave the listener confused and amused by turns. Enough for you to get away with saying whatever you want to as they figure it out!

  • Shakespeare Insult Generators

    Curse like the most famous writer in English. There are a few of these around the web. You can try this or this or make your own from MIT’s Shakespeare Insult Kit (“Thou gorbellied, fat-kidneyed hedge-pig” and “Thou mammering, ill-breeding, horn-beast” said no Shakespearean character ever but so what). But, the Bard has plenty of characters who had a gripe, a grouch or a judgement to deliver. So you will be spoilt for choice.
  • Lutheran Insulter Martin Luther, for those who don’t know, was a professor, monk, priest and the one responsible for the Protestant Reformation. All in all, a very serious man, who felt passionately about many issues – salvation by faith, translating the Bible into vernacular, and ignorance. He wrote strongly worded missives and volumes which, we are sure, made Luther’s many opponents feel quite puny. Sample these: “Are you ignorant of what it means to be ignorant?” (from The Bondage of Will). Or, “Why would anyone tolerate such things from someone like you, a rotten paunch, crude ass and fart-ass?” (from Against the Roman Papacy, an Institution of the Devil). If you want to leave someone in no doubt of exactly how you feel – try the Lutheran Insulter. Don’t bother about any band-aids later (they won’t do much good).
  • P.G. Wodehouse Wodehouse wrote in a literary style that is both unique and impeccable. And so are his insults. If you want to know how you can sound incredibly posh and incredibly cutting at the same time – pick one of these Wodehouse phrases.Our favourite? “Sheep-faced shambling refugee from hell.”p-g-wodehouse

As a bonus, we’re sharing this list of curses by one of our favourite characters of all time – Captain Haddock (of Tintin fame). Who can forget the temperamental sailor given to alliterative outbursts which were not too crude for children and adolescents! We don’t know how these insults would work in daily life, since we find it hard not to laugh while mouthing them.


Which are your favourite literary insults/ insult generators? Leave a comment below or email us! Read previous Word Nerd posts here.

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