Archive for the ‘Insults’ Category

An exchange of childish ritual taunts

March 5, 2023

Of the form

V1 ya, wouldn’t wanna / shouldn’t hafta V2 ya (where V1 and V2 rhyme)

In a One Big Happy strip from the backlog on my desktop:

(#1) Ruthie and the tough neighborhood kid James trade taunts, until Ruthie’s mother drags her away from the encounter

This is a competitive performance of verbal skills, designed to insult without wounding. James’s first move is a pre-existing model, and then they go on from there.


Talking to the hand

November 29, 2017

From Dennis Lewis on Facebook recently:


The evolution of English: when this episode of “Match Game” was filmed 40 odd years ago, these were the top three responses to complete the phrase “talk to…” Today, of course, the $500 response would be “the hand.”

The idiom talk to the hand seems to have become current only in the 1990s, so in the 1970s nobody would have been likely to suggest the hand as the blank-filler on the Match Game.


Insult for fun

May 29, 2015

Today’s Dilbert has Alice persecuting the pointy-headed boss:

She has him over a barrel, as the saying goes.


March 20, 2015

Today’s Scenes From a Multiverse (on-line here):

They’re playing a game of the Dozens, which starts out promisingly in the first panel but then runs down and takes a strange turn.


Back to edible penises

March 19, 2015

A new item in the inventory of edible penises — gummi candies — but now with the penises viewed as insulting rather than (as in earlier postings on the subject) entertaining.


Anonymously on the internet

January 19, 2015

Today’s Scenes From a Multiverse (on-line here) has the superhero Colonel UnitedStates woken from 70 years of sleep:

Of course, not to their faces! Insults go behind people’s backs!

Name that cellist

November 9, 2013

Yesterday’s Pearls Before Swine has Pig misunderstanding more expressions — this time a name:

Yo mama (literally ‘your mother’) is of course the beginning of ritual insults, and can stand on its own as a all-purpose insult.

Yo mama and Yo-Yo Ma are both built from the syllables yo and ma, in that order, with one of them doubled. So they are formally very similar.


Trash talking

December 20, 2009

On the front page of the NYT sports section today: a piece (“The Last Word in Trash Talking”, by Greg Bishop) about Jets linebacker Bart Scott, who

talks trash freely and incessantly, all day, on any topic, on matters from petty to profound.

… Scott views trash talking as an art, or science. He has developed and refined his method. He has studied loquacious athletes [and pro wrestlers] from years past. And he has practiced, from the first day he tugged on a uniform all the way to Sunday, when he will unleash another torrent of mostly unprintable barbs on the Atlanta Falcons.

For Scott, trash talking is a weapon of intimidation, designed to throw opponents off balance. He starts with research on things he can use to distract them:

He scours ESPN, Google and scouting reports, which include pictures. He wants to understand the opponents he will talk to, understand what angers them, what makes them tick. He looks for police incidents, problems with wives or girlfriends, expanding stomachs, funny faces.

He then goes on to

mixing fact with fiction. Scott wants his barbs to be believable, but he often uses exaggerations, or lies disguised as truth, for maximum effect.

Scott is always prepared:

“I keep ammo on everybody, even if they never joked on me,” he said. “Because I will never be caught off-guard. No one will ever out-talk me. Ever.”

For obvious reasons, there aren’t many direct quotes in the story.

I don’t know if trash talking has been studied systematically, by sociolinguists, scholars of discourse, and the like. There’s a huge amount of material about verbal harassment, verbal abuse, and threats, but mostly from practical and legal standpoints.

Short shot #24: douchefag

November 30, 2009

A recent Language Log posting of mine on the rise of douche as an insult (directed at people) elicited a number of comments on the older, longer insult douchebag. And now (I suppose predictably) we have the portmanteau douchefag, which I came across in a feature in the December 2009 issue of Details magazine but which seems to have been around for a while.

(Details is aimed at cool guys, both straight and gay.)

The piece is entitled “The Rise of the Douchefag” — announced on the cover as “Introducing the G-Bag: A Guide to the Gay Douchebag” and summarized inside this way:

The fist-bumping, Bluetooth-wearing dude’s dude isn’t the only tool in the box. Meet the douchefag–a plucked, preened party boy who’s taken being gay to new depths of tackiness.

After that it’s a side-by-side snarky comparison between Gay and Gay Douchebag, with items like:

Bleaches teeth VS. Bleaches anus

Dead lifts to shape his butt VS. Buys shapewear to dead lift his butt

Buys a Beckham jersey on eBay VS. Buys Beckham’s underwear on eBay

Posts sleeveless pictures on Connexion VS. Posts pantsless pictures on Manhunt

It goes on and on.