I love curse words. A lot of people like to disparage them, saying that it makes you sound unintelligent when you add “ass” or “cunt” to a sentence. I don’t buy it; swear words express strong emotion, and to swear them off (see what I did there?) is to limit your own vocabulary. Sometimes the situation calls for a satisfying “FUCK!” and if you don’t say it, you aren’t expressing your true feelings.
That said, I think people, myself included, have come to rely on swear words a bit too much in arguments, which in turn has watered them down. Arguments and insults are just plain boring most of the time, and that defeats the whole endeavor. That’s why, today, I want to give you a list of other incredibly expressive insulting words that I quite like. The surprise value alone makes them a great alternative to traditional curse words, and the fact that the person you’re insulting has to go home and look it up makes it even better.
Note: These have been pulled from Depraved and Insulting English by Peter Novobatzky and Ammon Shea. It might surprise you that I own a dictionary on the subject, but it shouldn’t–I have two whole shelves full of word nerd texts. If you ever need a recommendation for a dictionary or grammar manual, you know who to call. But let’s get to the list.
Alternatives to Modern Insults
Alternative to: cunt, bitch
Women have had the unfortunate distinction in English (and many other languages, I’m sure) of having nearly all of their gendered words turned into derogatory statements (see: slut, whore). For that reason, I have chosen this word, which has no origin in its gender but instead focuses on actual behavior. It refers to a girl who intentionally tries to stir up trouble, or “agitate” a situation, usually by asking loaded questions like “Do these pants make me look fat?” If you want to call a chick out, this is the word to use.
Baratress – “a female quarreler”
Beldam – “a mean and ugly old woman”
Dandilly – “a vain or spoiled woman”
Alternative to: slut, whore
As mentioned above, nearly all feminine terms get turned derogatory, but they also turn sexual. That’s how words like “slut,” which originally meant “untidy,” turn into euphemisms for “gets around.” Again, why not cut to the chase and just say what you mean? Bivirist means, literally, “woman who has sex with two men.” Of course, typically it refers to a polygamist, but you get the idea.
Dietairistriae – “women who go to female prostitutes”
Demivierge – “a sexually promiscuous woman who retains her virginity”
Fireship – “diseased prostitute”
Spoffokins – “a prostitute posing as a wife”
Alternative to: cocksucker, bastard, asshole
The point of these words is to say that the person you’re yelling at is the worst possible person, yes? Are we agreed on that point? Good. Then we can all agree that “comprachico” is the most accurate description, because it is the worst possible thing somebody could be. It means, “a villain who sells children after first deforming them.” Definitely a term never to be used lightly, and only to be used figuratively (I hope.)
Bedswerver – “an adulterous male”
Breedbate – “one looking for a fight or argument; a troublemaker”
Cacozelot – “an evil zealot”
Cockalorum – “a self-important little man”
Crepehanger – “a pessimistic killjoy”
Janiform – “two-faced”
Snollygoster – “an unprincipled person”
Alternative to: pussy, fag (much as I hate it, people do use it for this meaning)
This word is, essentially, what people actually mean when they say either of the modern options, except that it has nothing to do with being gay (although it does have its roots in baedling, which is Old English for “womanish man,” so you can’t really escape the whole women-are-terrible-people thing in the world of etymology). It means that the person is worthless as a man–the kind of guy who would steal a lifeboat all for himself, without letting even the children go first.
Anorchus – “a man having no testicles”
Deadhead – “one who rides for free”
Alternative to: retard, idiot, moron
Calling your opponent stupid is a time-tested staple of the modern argument, to the point where we have nearly as many words for it as we do for promiscuous women. But if you really want to be inventive about it, try this one out. While it might sound lovable and cute, probably because it reminds you of the Jabberwocky, a jobberknowle is a heavy and dim-witted person–so you can simultaneously call your opponent both dumb and fat. Two for one!
Asshead – “a stupid person”
Cumberworld – “a thoroughly useless person or thing”
Creodont – “a primitive, small-brained animal”
Driveler – “one who talks idiotically”
Gongoozler – “a dimwit who stares at unusual things”
Sophomaniac – “one under the delusion that he is wise”
Witling – “a person who lacks understanding or intelligence”
Alternative to: tool, guido (not technically swears, but definitely a variety of person you might want to insult)
I had to add this bonus word purely on the basis of its definition. It is Spanish for, literally, “shit-fire.” It’s used to describe somebody who thinks that they are the bees knees, and won’t shut up about it. You know–the guy who you’ve always secretly hoped to witness losing a fight to an eight-year-old girl. That guy.
Abydocomist – “a liar who boasts of his or her falsehoods”
Blatherskite – “a boaster, a loudmouth, a blathering fellow”
Callomaniac – “a person under the delusion that he or she is beautiful”
Snoutband – “one who constantly interrupts companions in order to contradict them”
So there’s my list. I hope you found a new favorite word or two. See you Monday (I’ll be in Canada on Sunday), and until then, may the comprachicos never find your children.
Your favorite woodpusher,
“When Pablo’s sweetheart joined the convent he refused to acknowledge defeat, but spent the rest of his days dreaming up futile schemes to unnun her.” –Depraved and Insulting English, by Peter Novobatzky and Ammon Shea