On Writing

On Writing: Shakespearian Insults

(The drawing is from http://2.bp.blogspot.com).

I recently started trying to organize (O.K. I actually mean “clean”) the room that I call my library (i.e. the spare bedroom where I have books on shelves and boxes of books stacked almost to the ceiling) and came across this list that my Shakespeare Professor shared with all of his classes. I had tucked the list into my Oxford UP Shakespeare text and had used it as a bookmark once upon a time. This teacher had a wonderful sense of humor and kept everyone laughing, even when studying the tragedies. (He also taught a class on John Milton’s Paradise Lost and found ways to make portions of that funny!)

Shakespeare Insult Kit
Combine one word from each of the three columns below, prefaced with “Thou”:
Column 1                                    Column 2                                         Column 3

artless                                          base-court                                       apple-john
bawdy                                          bat-fowling                                     baggage
beslubbering                               beef-witted                                     barnacle
bootless                                       beetle-headed                                bladder
churlish                                        boil-brained                                    boar-pig
cockered                                     clapper-clawed                               bugbear
clouted                                        clay-brained                                    bum-bailey
craven                                          common-kissing                            canker-blossom
currish                                          crook-pated                                   clack-dish
dankish                                        dismal-dreaming                            clotpole
dissembling                                 dizzy-eyed                                      coxcomb
droning                                        doghearted                                    codpiece
errant                                           dread-bolted                                 death-token
fawning                                       earth-vexing                                  dewberry
fobbing                                        elf-skinned                                    flap-dragon
froward                                       fat-kidneyed                                  flax-wench
frothy                                          fen-sucked                                     flirt-gill
gleeking                                      flap-mouthed                                foot-licker
goatish                                        fly-bitten                                       fustilarian
gorbellied                                    folly-fallen                                     giglet
impertinent                                fool-born                                        gudgeon
infectious                                   full-gorged                                      haggard
jarring                                         guts-griping                                    harpy
loggerheaded                            half-faced                                        hedge-pig
lumpish                                      hasty-witted                                   horn-beast
mammering                               hedge-born                                     hugger-mugger
mangled                                     hell-hated                                       joithead
mewling                                     idle-headed                                    lewdster
paunchy                                     ill-breeding                                     lout
pribbling                                    ill-nurtured                                     maggot-pie
puking                                       knotty-pated                                  malt-worm
puny                                          milk-livered                                    mammet
qualling                                     motley-minded                              measle
rank                                           onion-eyed                                     minnow
reeky                                        plume-plucked                               miscreant
roguish                                    pottle-deep                                     moldwarp
ruttish                                     pox-marked                                     mumble-news
saucy                                       reeling-ripe                                      nut-hook
spleeny                                   rough-hewn                                     pigeon-egg
spongy                                   rude-growing                                   pignut
surly                                       rump-fed                                          puttock
tottering                               shard-borne                                     pumpion
unmuzzled                           sheep-biting                                     ratsbane
vain                                      spur-galled                                        scut
venomed                             swag-bellied                                     skainsmate
villainous                             tardy-gaited                                     strumpet
warped                                tickle-brained                                   varlot
wayward                             toad-spotted                                    vassal
weedy                                 unchin-snouted                               whey-face
yeasty                                 weather-bitten                                wagtail

Upon finding this, I did some research online and located two web sites that also deal with Shakespearean insults. (Yes—this was another way to put off cleaning and organizing the room.) The first automatically generates the insults and the second lets you “click and choose” from a variety of phrases to generate the insult.

Shakespearean Insulter


Ye Olde Official Shakespearean Insult Kit


Some of these insults sound fairly tame. For example, I can imagine reading “errant, ill-nurtured miscreant” in a Regency romance novel. However, a “spleeny, earth-vexing scut” sounds quite a bit rougher. I many have to find a way to use that someday in one of my short stories.

Categories: On Writing

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