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Sep 22, 2019
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Shakespearean insults

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AWADmail Issue 899

A Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Tidbits about Words and Language

Sponsor’s Message: We’ve finally become our own worst nightmare: a sell-out. Large anonymous corporation gets wind of One Up! -- The Wicked/Smart Word Game and wants to license it worldwide. We say sure, why not? Creativity, principles, artistic integrity, success on our own terms? Right out the window at the first sign of cash we’re happy to say. Seriously, we’re offering all AWADers, including Email of the Week winner, Leonore Helder (see below), 50% OFF our Special Dark Edition, while supplies last. Once this limited and lovely version of our best-selling cutthroat IQ contest is gone, it’s gone forever. So, smarten up (on the cheap) RIGHT AWAY >

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the Net

The Beauty of Being Bilingual
The New York Times

Merriam-Webster Dictionary Adds “They” as Nonbinary Pronoun
The Guardian

Email of the Week brought to you by One Up! -- Play mind games on the cheap NOW >

From: Leonore Helder (toddyfox aol.com)
Subject: Shakespeare’s insults

The Festival in Stratford, Ontario, has souvenir shops full of the items you mentioned. I have a cup with a quotation from Measure for Measure: “Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall.” More of a Thought for the Day than an insult, I guess. It certainly seems more and more relevant in these latter days!

Leonore Helder, Lansing, Michigan

From: Jonathan Horwitz (jonathan.horwitz gmail.com)
Subject: scullion

“Falstaff: Away, you scullion! You rampallion! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe.”
William Shakespeare; Henry IV, Part 2; 1599.

Thank you SO MUCH for including “I’ll tickle your catastrophe.” It made my day, and then to be topped off by the quotation from Dr. Johnson! Blessings on your House.

Jonathan Horwitz, Munka Ljungby, Sweden

From: Russell Lott (russellwlott comcast.net)
Subject: knotty-pated

Almost everyone growing up here in the south knows this term as knothead. In my mind I’ve always associated it with a lighter’d knot -- another term that someone from the pine belt will likely be familiar with. Lighter’d is the general term applied to the resin-filled heartwood remnants of the longleaf pine timber that once filled the old-growth forests down here. And lighter’d knots are the smaller pieces left behind after the trees were cut and their stumps were later harvested. The heartwood of these trees, being much harder and having much more resin than the softer outer wood, these lighter’d pieces are very conducive to lighting a fire, making it easy to get a fire started even in damp or windy conditions with just a small piece of kindlin’.

Russell Lott, Hattiesburg, Mississippi

From: Audie Finnell (via website comments)
Subject: gorbellied

A term my dad used that means the same thing: pussel-gut or pussel-gutted. The repeated uh sound makes it a bit more poetic to my ear than Shakespeare’s gorbellied.

Audie Finnell

Shakespeare insult magnets
From: Amy Metnick (aam3 catskill.net)
Subject: Shakespeare insults, magnetically!

In your first email installment of Shakespeare insults this week, you mentioned that “Shakespearean insults have spawned a cottage industry. There are the usual posters and books, but you can also find his insults on mugs, playing cards, gums, and even bandages.” I have a cool poster and am delighted to learn about the bandages, which inspire me to plan holiday gifts.

I’m sure your readers will contribute more product ideas. However...

For years, I have provided my college literature students with abundant resources, including links to sites that function as Shakespeare insults generators. And another product, not mentioned, that I am deeply “attracted” to is my set of Shakespeare insult magnets, displayed here on my file cabinet, appropriately enough on the drawers labeled “Literature” and “Theater”.

I am verging on my dotard years and may soon be referred to as a “cream-faced loon” (I hope with affection), but to the end of my days I will appreciate the treasury of Shakespearean insults that have enriched my vocabulary.

Amy Metnick, Margaretville, New York

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Shakespearean insults

My favourite Shakespearean insult comes from the mouth of Kent in King Lear. He refers to Oswald, Goneril’s servant, as a base football player, thus insulting two sports that are themselves an insult to intellect, i.e., baseball and American football (originally rugby football), not the beautiful game that is played mostly in Europe and South America.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Christine J Hopple (chopple brockport.edu)
Subject: Shakespearean insults


Love it, thanks for the laugh. I’ll remember some of these (if not all of them), thanks!

Christine J Hopple, Brockport, New York

From: Deepak Ramamurthy (dpk.ram gmail.com)
Subject: This week’s theme

The other master of insults, in English at least, was PG Wodehouse. He excelled in the polite but withering insult. :) Here’s a sample ...

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

“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.” (The Girl in Blue)

“You’re one of those guys who can make a party just by leaving it. It’s a great gift.” (The Girl in Blue)

Deepak Ramamurthy, Mumbai, India

From: Charlie Cockey (czechpointcharlie gmail.com)
Subject: insults Shakespearean, in spirit at least

My favorite literary opprobrium, Shakespearean in quality at least, comes from the unlikely source of Idries Shah (of all people!!): “tipsy toper, cowardly scamp, bankrupt, blustering purblind braggart”.

Charlie Cockey, Bilovice nad Svitavou, Czech Republic

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: dotard and gorbellied

Our decidedly arcane word, “dotard”, went viral after North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un had made public a Sep 22, 2017, lengthy epistle he’d just dispatched to Donald Trump, calling Trump both a “rogue and a dotard”. Hmm... that sounds about right. Kim was merely offering up a rejoinder, countering the barrage of tweets Trump had been firing Kim’s way, peppering his insult-and-threat-stream with his new moniker for Kim... “Little Rocket Man”. Trump was nuke-rattling up a storm in response to the North Koreans’ escalating long-range nuclear missile testing forays, at the time. In this scenario, I’ve advanced perpetually tense US/North Korean diplomatic relations to a more recent juncture, Jun 30, 2019, attempting to capture that very brief rendezvous at the two Koreas’ DMZ, when Trump and Kim meet and shake hands at the militarized no-man’s-land. Trump continues his faux flattery of the so-called Hermit Kingdom’s Hermit-in-Chief, whilst the wily Kim realizes that he’s still shaking hands with the immutable, addle-minded dotard himself, Trump.

Who’da thunk it, that US Commander-in-Chief (in name only), Trump’s go-to weapon of self (and mass) deception would be a jumbo black Sharpie? Here, with a single looped stroke of “stable genius”, having put marker flourish to paper, following up on his “augmented” hurricane Dorian’s path of potential devastation stretching to Alabama, he’s drawn his turgid “false staff”* well beyond the bulge of his gorbellied midsection. “Oh! So THERE it is!, he must be saying to himself. I find it somewhat curious, the fact that in certain circles of more lasciviously laced conversation, the male member is sometimes referred to as “Mr. Johnson”. Hmm... can we say “Boris”, boys and girls?
*Had to get a little Shakespearean play-on-words in there, referencing the Bard’s recurring ribald character... the gorbellied, braggadocio, vain, and cowardly knight, John Falstaff.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Anagrams of this week’s words

Shakespearean insults:
1. dotard
2. sodden-witted
3. scullion
4. knotty-pated
5. gorbellied
1. senile granddad
2. totally dull
3. sad worker, a kitchen stint
4. stupid, not deep
5. so obese
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Limericks

“She’s missing! Dementia,” we told
the police, “has, alas, taken hold!”
But Granny’s no dotard.
She’s flown, savvy snowbird,
down south to escape winter’s cold!
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

We gave him our country to run.
Now look what that dotard has done!
With allies he’ll quibble
And tweet foolish drivel --
That’s Donald’s idea of great fun.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Now Trump had called Kim “Rocket Man”.
He reacted to the President’s pan.
Not a term he preferred,
Kim called him a dotard.
Seems diplomacy’s in the trashcan.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Up high on a hill was a goatherd,
A bit long in the tooth, but no dotard.
So he kissed a young lady,
And here’s something shady:
His yodels were soon in a show heard.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

You’re scraping the barrel with this!
I’d as soon bless a pig with a kiss!
Tried to rhyme “sodden-witted” --
Found nothing that fitted!
I’m plunging into an abyss!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

The dress that can cling is well-fitted,
The hiker in garb is well-kitted.
They all leave me behind,
They’re so chic, and I find
I’m ill-clad and not smart: sodden-witted.
-Marcia Sinclair, Newmarket, Canada (marciasinclair rogers.com)

When you search for an insult that’s plain
“Sodden-witted” out-classes “boiled brain”.
Both have the same meaning
But Shakespearean leaning
Is better, the scholars maintain.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

Some words into verse can’t be fitted.
I’m stumped, and it must be admitted.
Not all of the time
Can I make a rhyme --
I’m stuck, and I feel sodden-witted.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“Not one have I called sodden-witted,”
Thought Donald, “though many it fitted.
If I keep being kind,
These dumb jurors won’t mind
What I did, and I’ll soon be acquitted.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The French Chef who was frying an onion,
Dropped the pan right on top of his bunion.
He let out a loud yelp,
Blaming all of his help,
Just by calling each one a low scullion.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

If my language I don’t care to guard
and I want to insult someone hard,
I would call him a scullion,
a slubberdegullion;
For invective I look to the Bard.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

Your nose I would never try bloodyin’;
I’m no scoundrel or rascal or scullion.
I’m quite peaceful, you see,
Won’t hurt you. Don’t hurt me!
Now please leave me alone, for I’m studyin’.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (jpmarlin456 gmail.com)

It’s time to get rid of the scullion
Who the office of POTUS is sullyin’.
But help us, please, Bernie;
Your far leftward journey
The crystal clear waters are muddyin’.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

While the person’s IQ had been rated,
the numbers somehow oscillated.
Says the analyst, “Well,
we have no way to tell
if he’s genius or else knotty-pated!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Said Trump to Vlad P., “I’m elated,
Our bromance keeps me happily sated.”
Then said Putin, “Look, Don,
Pretty soon you’ll be gone,
The truth is, you are so knotty-pated.”
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

When “Believe me” he says, ‘fraid I can’t;
It’s just one more command in his rant.
His ideas knotty-pated
And words he’s dictated
Are lies he will never recant.
-Gayle Tremblay, Saint John, Canada (gayletremblay hotmail.com)

Whenever poor Dotty had dated,
All her beaux were quite knotty-pated.
“I will not pick a guy
Whose IQ isn’t high.”
And, she found that nobody rated.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Thanksgiving is quite overrated;
To my guests I’m ashamed I’m related.
My uncles are gaga
For hats that say MAGA;
A turkey is less knotty-pated.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Overeating can make you feel sore-bellied.
You may wish you were cow-like and four-bellied.
I attest with much cheer,
“If done year after year
You’ll no longer be svelte, you’ll be gorbellied.”
-Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma (pgraham1946 cox.net)

His wife had seemed distant, of late.
This morning, he learned of his fate:
She found him gorbellied,
and loved him no more; Well, he’d
just have to find a new mate!
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

He’s as handsome as a man can be;
A gorbellied one, it’s plain to see.
Yet once that I saw
That’s his only flaw,
I decided he’s the man for me.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

The gorbellied man drank a lot,
And that’s how he’d grown such a pot.
His ample physique
Was hardly unique --
He looked like a typical sot.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

If you’re being polite call him stout,
but fast food is what he’s all about.
Burgers, fries, KFCs
why he can’t see his knees.
He is just a big, gorbellied lout.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

He shopped for a gorbellied suit,
And chose fabric of linen and jute.
When he checked his reflection,
and cooed, “It’s perfection!”
They gave him a red tie to boot.
-Gayle Tremblay, Saint John, Canada (gayletremblay hotmail.com)

John Falstaff was loved by Shakespeare.
In lots of his plays he’d appear.
A gorbellied knave,
Who couldn’t behave;
Not much of a soldier, I fear.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“Though I hope this call’s not inconvenient,”
Said Melania, “Here’s an expedient.
Judge, you know in a cell he’d
Become more gorbellied --
Nude photos of me, if you’re lenient?”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Some things Bard and some things blue

For a short while Trump really dotard on Stormy Daniels.

When rain drenched the outdoor rehearsal of A Midsummer Night’s Dream the director said, “Forget ‘jiggy’ -- get sodden-witted!”

Canoe think of a better way to row a boat than scullion?

“Your husband’s tax bill is overdue.” “No it’s knotty-pated last week!”

Al Gorbellied up to the bar on climate change awareness.

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

The characteristic of a well-bred man is, to converse with his inferiors without insolence, and with his superiors with respect and with ease. -Lord Chesterfield, statesman and writer (22 Sep 1694-1773)

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