Classy Insults


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In today's Internet world it seems the fine art of insult has devolved into unimaginative snark and banal expletives. I thought it would be nice to reflect back on the days when folks took the time to hone their sarcasm to a razor's edge. So, without further ado, here are a few classic insults (and some scathing replies) from past days:

The exchange between Churchill & Lady Astor: She said, "If you were my husband I'd give you poison," and he said, "If you were my wife,
I'd drink it."

A member of Parliament to Disraeli: "Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease." "That depends, Sir,"
said Disraeli, "on whether I embrace your policies or your mistress."

"He had delusions of adequacy." - Walter Kerr

"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire." Winston Churchill

"A modest little person, with much to be modest about." - Winston Churchill

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure." - Clarence Darrow

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary."
William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).

"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?"
Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)

"Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it."
Moses Hadas

"He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know."
Abraham Lincoln

"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it."
Mark Twain

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends."
Oscar Wilde

"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend.... if you have one."
George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

"Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second... if there is one."
Winston Churchill, in response.

"I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you> here."
Stephen Bishop

"He is a self-made man and worships his creator." - John Bright

"I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial."
Irvin S. Cobb

"He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others."
Samuel Johnson

"He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up."
Paul Keating

"There's nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won't cure."
Jack E. Leonard

"He has the attention span of a lightning bolt."
B R Robert Redford

"They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge."
Thomas Brackett Reed

"In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily."
Charles, Count Talleyrand

"He loves nature in spite of what it did to him."
Forrest Tucker

"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?"
Mark Twain

"His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork."
Mae West

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go."
Oscar Wilde

"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts... for support rather than illumination."
Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

"He has Van Gogh's ear for music."
Billy Wilder

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it."
Groucho Marx


Shakespearean Insulter

Scarab Sages

CourtFool wrote:
Shakespearean Insulter

"Thou weedy weather-bitten flax-wench!"

I can't wait to use this one.


"Thou reeky guts-griping flirt-gill!"

Even Shakespeare had his off days.


Aberzombie wrote:
CourtFool wrote:
Shakespearean Insulter

"Thou weedy weather-bitten flax-wench!"

I can't wait to use this one.

"[Thou hath] not so much brain as ear wax."

Not bad, either.

Some others I picked up from films and such. (Look up "The 100 Greatest Movie Insults of All Time" on youtube. Not all of them are classy, though).

"When you were born, the doctor turned around and smacked your mother."

"You despise me, don't you?"
"If I gave you any thought, I probably would."

"There is a name for you, ladies. But it isn't used in High Society. Outside of a Kennel."

"What you just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I've ever heard. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. May god have mercy on your soul."

"How do you write women so well?"
"I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability."

"You're literally too stupid to insult"

"When you die, only your fleas will mourn you."

"You mustn't eat candy, it's very bad for you"
"My great aunt Jennifer ate a whole box of candy every day of her life. She lived to be 102 and when she'd been dead for 3 days, she looked better than you now."

"My bathmat means more to me than you"


These aren't all insults, but at least they are witty.

From Dorothy Parker's extensive list:

"That woman speaks eighteen languages, and she can’t say 'No' in any of them."

"If, with the literate, I am
Impelled to try an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit;
We all assume that Oscar said it."

"You can lead a whore to culture but you can't make her think."

"If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy."

Liberty's Edge

If you were twice the man you are, you'd be a wit.

Isadora Duncan to WBS - "I want to have your children, my beauty and your brains."

WBS's response, "Ah, Madam, but what if they had my beauty and your brains?"

A British lawyer & politician called Lord Birkenhead was once asked at the end of a boring dinner to give his address. So he did, stating that he was returning there forthwith. He was asked if he'd enjoyed himself, and responded "Yes, I have enjoyed myself but that's all I've enjoyed."

Sometimes he got as good as he gave, though. Once when sitting as a Judge, after a long and convoluted presentation by the defence, he said, "I'm afraid I'm none the wiser as to your argument."

"No," replied the counsellor, "Not wiser, just better informed."

And I shall be off now firmly resolved never to enter into a duel of wits with an unarmed man!

Liberty's Edge

Years and years ago, there was a fellow who traveled the Ren Faire circuit known as "Seamus, the Insulter."

He was a very large, jovial fellow dressed as a scotsman, and for a price would insult the person of your choice.

He had some lines that were priceless:

"Madam, I don't mean to question your virtue, but when they bury you, it shall be in a Y-shaped coffin."

"Sir, that thing that you call a moustache bears a striking resemblance to a balding weasel mating with the lower half of your face."


"" wrote:

"They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge."

Thomas Brackett Reed

That's a favorite of mine.


This page has some good ones (including some from Churchill)

One in particular that caught my attention was from Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada's first Prime Minister one time he arrived at the House of Commons drunk: "Yes, but the people would still prefer John A. drunk to George Brown sober".


'It's a battle of wits between two mental pygmies.'

'It's a proven fact you learn more with your mouth shut and your ears open.'

'You're a prime example of the flaws within the argument for survival of the fittest.'

'You're proof God has a sense of humor. That or he's a sadist.'

'Oh, no, I quite enjoy your company. Just by standing next to you I feel smarter by comparison with every passing second.'

'Millions of sperm, and you're the one that got through.'

'When you said you wanted to be somebody, you should have been more specific.'

'Were your parents by any chance brothers?'

*To a friend lying on the ground after peeing on an electric fence* 'You're living proof that idiots are immortal.'

'The Village Idiot called, he's suing you for copyright infringement.'

'Nobody is saying you're an idiot. We're all just thinking it really, really hard.'


"…and I'm guessin' you weren't burdened with an over abundance of education."


I once told a coworker that he was a man amongst gods.

He didn't get it for nearly an hour.


Here's to you, as good as you are.
Here's to me, as bad as I am.
As good as you are and as bad as I am,
I'm as good as you are as bad as I am.
-Irish Toast

Scarab Sages

Perhaps not an insult, but maybe the musicians thought different:
"The Detroit String Quartet played Brahms last night. Brahms lost."
Bennet Cerf
(it is said to be the shortest yet most devastating professional review published)

Silver Crusade

Roger Ebert's legendary put down of Rob Schneider must go in here.

Schneider had claimed another critic (Patrick Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times) was unqualified to review "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo" because he hadn't won a Pulitzer Prize.

In response to this spat Ebert wrote the following:

"As chance would have it, I have won the Pulitzer Prize, and so I am qualified. Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks."

The Exchange

William Shakespeare is proof of his father's Broken Quill, and his Mother's communal ink. - yd

The Exchange

FallofCamelot wrote:

Roger Ebert's legendary put down of Rob Schneider must go in here.

Schneider had claimed another critic (Patrick Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times) was unqualified to review "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo" because he hadn't won a Pulitzer Prize.

In response to this spat Ebert wrote the following:

"As chance would have it, I have won the Pulitzer Prize, and so I am qualified. Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks."

That just proves they give out the Pulitzer Prize to any bitterly inked quill. -yd


I'm inclined to think that yellowdingo is the Louis Armstrong of blowing his own horn.

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