Archive for the ‘Insults’ Category

hockey puck

April 11, 2017

From the Bloomberg site on 4/6/17, a death notice: “Don Rickles, Comedian Who Turned Insults Into Art, Dies at 90”, by Laurence Arnold, which notes:

“The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang credits Rickles, circa 1963, with repurposing ‘hockey puck’ to mean ‘a stupid or useless person.’”

There’s some question about when Rickles first used the insult to address someone, but no one seems to have asked

🏒Why hockey puck?🏒


More British slurs

July 17, 2016

A follow-up to yesterday’s posting on “oiks, yobs, and prats”, about British social slurs, especially in the tv series Midsomer Murders: Facebook comments from John Wells (on the slurs in my posting, plus chav) and Don Steiny (on the status of cunt in British (also Australian) English).


Two Z language cartoons

March 1, 2016

A Zits and a Zippy playing with language:





August 11, 2014

Unfolding in Iraq, a fierce campaign by the Sunni Muslim organization ISIS against “infidels”, in particular, Shia Muslims, Christians, and Yazidis. (I’m skipping here what ISIS stands for, and whether some other label entirely should be used for the organization.) Jews would of course be on the list, but there aren’t many left in Iraq; ISIS proposes to get to the Jews by attacking Israel, but only after they eliminate Iraqi infidels first — by the classic tactic of requiring them to convert or be killed. (The Convert or Die tactic is familiar in the West from the long history of Roman Catholic impositions on other groups, especially the Ottoman Turks, but also Jews and (what the Church saw as) heretical Christian sects.)

Obviously, what counts as an infidel depends on your point of view, as will become clear from a run through the OED2 entry. But first, some notes on the etymology.



October 10, 2013

From David Nash on Google+, this ad (from Australia, I assume):

(meaning, ‘in the native language of the country where the games will be held, namely Brazil’ — that is, in Brazilian Portuguese).

The verb sledge was new to me, though David quickly explained it to me.


Breaking up is hard to do

August 25, 2013

Yesterday’s Pearls Before Swine:

Rat is characteristically insulting; never hire Rat for a delicate task.

Then there’s the agentive noun breaker upper (or breaker-upper), with double marking: -er on both the verb, break, and the particle, up.


The Weinerfest rolls on

August 3, 2013

In the latest New Yorker, a Paul Noth cartoon alluding to Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin:


Then came a string of misogynist profanity from Weiner’s aide Barbara Morgan.

The Noth cartoon will lead us to the actual Weiner-Humedin nuptials, then via Noth to Where’s Waldo?, cheating spouse cartoons, and accent prejudice. Then: Morgan’s outburst included the unusual insult slutbag, and that’s attracted interest from linguabloggers.


Saturday funnies

August 3, 2013

Three cartoons for today: a Pearls Before Swine on insults; a Mother Goose and Grimm meta-cartoon; and a One Big Happy on tongue twisters;




In #3, Ruthie attends to the sense of the tongue-twister, treating it as it it set forth a claim about the real world.

Respecting each other

July 20, 2013

The short version of an ad for a gay dating/cruising app:

MISTER is an online community for men who value themselves and other men. Unlike other gay social networking apps, MISTER encourages users to show their faces, show respect, spend less time searching and more time meeting men in the real world. The users of our app are proud to say, “I am MISTER.”

(There will eventually be a linguistic point.)


Annals of insult crimes

May 18, 2013

In my last foray into insult crimes, the legally actional insults were directed againt religion (the Russian Orthodox Church, Islam). Of course, in many countries, speech that’s perceived as denigrating a ruler is actionable. Which brings me to this NYT news flash on the 16th:

A Bahraini court jailed six people for a year on Wednesday for insulting King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa in messages on Twitter, the official news agency said.

The six were accused of posting remarks “undermining the values and traditions of Bahrain’s society towards the king on Twitter,” the head of the public prosecutor’s office, Nayef Youssef, said in a statement reported by the Bahrain News Agency. He said freedom of opinion and expression were guaranteed by the Constitution, law and international conventions, but should not be used in a way that contradicted the norms of society. The news agency gave no further information about the six.

Of course, the agency gave no information about what they said on Twitter, because that would be to disseminate the insult.

What struck me especially was the claim that Bahrain guaranteed freedom of opinion and expression — but only insofar as people conform to the norms of society. There is a genuine tug here between two different core values (a great many jurisdictions regulate obscenity in certain contexts, for example), but an appeal to “the norms of society” can easily be stretched to ban any unpopular or embarrassing expression of ideas. So just citing norms in a general way won’t do.