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Sep 16, 2019
This week’s theme
Shakespearean insults

This week’s words

“All words are pegs to hang ideas on.” ~Beecher
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with Anu Garg

Freud once said, “The first human who hurled an insult instead of a stone was the founder of civilization.” The good doctor had a point, of course, but a good insult is more than just throwing a bunch of misspelled words into a tweet, commenting on someone’s weight or otherwise calling them a lightweight.

When it comes to insults, William Shakespeare knew how to throw them down with gems like:
“Thy sin’s not accidental, but a trade.” (Measure for Measure)
“He has not so much brain as ear-wax.” (Troilus and Cressida)
“I do wish thou were a dog, that I might love thee something.” (Timon of Athens)

In this week’s A.Word.A.Day, we’ll see five words taken from the works of the Bard.

Apparently, 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.



noun: One whose mental faculties have deteriorated, especially due to old age.

From Middle English doten (to be foolish). Earliest documented use: 1393.

“Years ago, when my daughter was in elementary school, there was an election for student council or something, and one of the candidates promised longer recess if he were elected.
“Naturally, he won, proving that ‘longer recess’ is the childhood equivalent of ‘Mexico will pay for it.’ When it comes to elections, some voters will hear what they want to hear, even if deep down they know you are lying or exaggerating or being a delusional dotard.”
Greg Jayne; Climate Change May Hoist Inslee; Columbian (Vancouver, Washington); Apr 14, 2019.

“Leonato: I speak not like a dotard nor a fool,
As, under privilege of age, to brag
What I have done being young, or what would do
Were I not old.”
William Shakespeare; Much Ado About Nothing; 1623.

See more usage examples of dotard in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

The man who is always waving the flag usually waives what it stands for. -Laurence J. Peter, educator and author (16 Sep 1919-1990)

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