There was a time when people put thought into their words. Even the biggest imbecile during Civil War times would sound like a poet next to 90% of the American population these days. Nowhere is that more evident than in the insults we choose to hurl at each other. These days, everyone is a “douche” or some other lame attempt at being insulting. But it wasn’t always this way.
Here are eight old-timey insults that need to make a comeback.
Definition: Noun. “One, especially a politician, who is guided by personal advantage rather than by consistent, respectable principles.”
Actual Example: “Truman’s grossness shows up in the fact that he took pains to tell the reporters what he meant, adding a fillip which was not volunteered when he used the word ‘snollygoster’ in speech in 1952.” – Westbrook Pegler, November 16, 1953
Taken From: Most likely snallygaster, a mythological beast said to prey on “poultry and children.”
Great Garfield’s ghost! Hide the live poultry!
Why It Still Works: Because there are very few words in the English language reserved specifically for describing corrupt and/or self-serving politicians. All we have today is “fat cat,” and this word runs the risk of coming off too darn cute to work.
Former-Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert
When it comes to “snollygoster” there is no middle ground. You are basically calling out an elected official/school-board administrator for possessing a moral compass comparable to a Hyrulian dungeon monster. Snollygosters are the worst of politicians, and the worst politicians make the very best snollygosters: They prey on the children and eat the poultry of their hard-working, tax-paying constituents. Besides, anyone can be accused of being “corrupt,” “self-serving” or simply “a dick” from an untrustworthy assistant-manager at Taco Bell to this dick right here:
Say “snollygoster” in the mirror three times and this dick will piss on your floor.
Only “snollygoster” covers everything on the menu, explaining so much about a person in as few words as possible.
Definition: Noun. “A slovenly or worthless person.”
Actual Example: “He’s an Oxe and an Asse, and a slubberdegullion.” – Facetiae. Musarum deliciae, 1656
Taken From: Slubbern, the Low German ancestor of slobber.
Why It Still Works: Because it’s onomatopoeic. It sounds like what it is, like “bang” or “kazoo,” only in this case as a spectacular insult for only the most worthless of human and animal roommates. Similarly, “slubberdegullion” is culture-friendly: all cultures, languages, and vernaculars have slovenly, worthless people and they all “slubber” and go “gull” at some point in their day. Calling someone a “slubberdegullion” will instantly register as an insult no matter where on Earth you go because nobody wants to be described in any tongue with such universally-unflattering sounds.
Definition: Noun. “A monster with six eyes, three mouths, four arms, eight legs, five on one side and three on the other, three arses, two tarses [penises], and a cunt upon its back.” Also, “a man on horseback, with a woman behind him.”
Actual Example: “This is only a beginning ; I reckon next week we shall hear you are a free-Mason, or a Gormogon at least. Heigh ho!”
- Thomas Gray, 1747
Taken From: Either a mix of “gorgon” and “dragon,” or “pseudo Chinese” comparable to the Cityspeak in Blade Runner.
Why It Still Works: Thomas Gray’s use of the word came with its own “HIYOOOO!” That’s all we need to hear to know that it will work.
The gold standard of any zinger
Besides, running through a laundry list of “snot-nosed, buck-toothed, knocked-kneed”-style brilliance tends to leave one out of breath after a while. “Gormogon” manages to pack all that punch and more in only three syllables. It is the efficiency expert’s way to dress someone down with style.
Definition: Verb. To be infected with the venereal disease. “Clapped; more generally and accurately poxed.”
Actual Example: “The mort [wench] is frenchified.” – Slang and its Analogues, Past and Present, 1890
Taken From: The French, literally, who picked up the disease during the Italian War of 1494–1498, better known as the explosive debut of syphilis in the Eastern Hemisphere. Believed to have originated from the New World, the disease was likely carried back home by Columbus and his sailors, providing yet another reason to believe Christopher Columbus was the worst person ever. However, due to the French being regarded as even bigger assholes, syphilis was commonly referred to as the “French Disease” up to and including the 19th century.
Why It Still Works: If making fun of the French could ever get old, humanity would have retired this word 500 years ago.
Admiral of the Narrow Seas
Definition: Noun. “A man who, under drink, vomits into the lap of his neighbor or vis-a-vis.” See also “Vice Admiral of the Narrow Seas,” which is a drunk that “pisses under the table into his companions shoes.”
Actual Example: Although he probably wasn’t drinking, that moment when President George H. W. Bush puked in the lap of Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa.
Taken From: Aside from the naval title, we’re guessing some smartass who saw a similar scene unfold and thought up a clever name for it.
Why It Still Works: Because it was birthed at a time when vomiting was so frequent that there actually existed specific words for the way the puking was performed. Thanks to college students and the Internet, we need to bring these words back now more than ever.
Born under a Threepenny Halfpenny Planet, never to be worth a Groat
Definition: Figurative. “Said of any person remarkably unsuccessful in his attempts or profession.”
Actual Example: The above, which we got from Francis Grose’s A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1796.
Taken From: We’re guessing the 19th century equivalent of Champion “Champ” Kind from Anchorman to his generation’s George Costanza.
Why It Still Works: When somebody dedicates their entire life to something yet somehow sucks at it, the more artfully you put your point the more spectacular their failure becomes. William Butler Yeats wrote a poem on the subject called “To A Friend Who’s Work Has Come To Nothing,” and the entire work reads like it was written to aid in someone’s suicide. “Born under a Threepenny Halfpenny Planet, never to be worth a Groat” is basically the most artful way outside of poetry to tell someone they were born to fail, and there is nothing they can do to correct it. Ouch.
Besides, any insult this long is guaranteed to blow the minds of a crowd if you are able to say it in succession without error.
Definition: Noun. “A slovenly fop; one finely dressed, but dirty.”
Actual Example: “Foote’s clothes were, then, tawdily splashed with gold lace; which, with his linen, were generally bedaubed with snuff; he was a Beau Nasty.” – Albert Romer Frey, 1887
Taken From: We’re guessing a particularly unimaginative 19th century inventor of compound words.
Why It Still Works: Because now, more than ever, you can still be gross as hell even though you are wearing designer clothes. Shit like this was just as common in the old days as it is now, except they had a word to describe the phenomenon whereas all we have is “Snooki.” Expect this one to be a major hit at middle-schools throughout the country.
Definition: “A chattering gossip, flighty woman.”
Actual Example: “This is the foul fiend Flibbertigibbet.” – King Lear – Act IV, Scene 1, 1605
Taken From: William fucking Shakespeare, who likely imported this beauty from Samuel Harsnett’s Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures, the Middle English flepergebet, or the even older expression “fly by the gibbet.”
Why It Still Works: This word was made for everyone who has had to endure a coworker talking so incoherently about God-knows-what that their only retort is to interrupt, going “Blah, blah, blah!” Well, no more, thanks to beauties like “flibbertigibbet.” Also, since “flibbertigibbet” just might be a nonsensical word meant to sound like fast talking, you’re basically calling someone a “Blah, blah, blah!”, only in this case a “Blah, blah, blah!” who is also a gossip, a chatterbox and a bit of an asshole that simply must be stopped.