OnWords: Insulting Language

Feb 19, 2019

It’s not so much that there’s more insulting language these days but that it isn’t very good.

Calling a Millennial lazy or entitled, for example, simply shows a lack of wit.

Consider George Bernard Shaw’s note to Winston Churchill that he was “enclosing two tickets to the first night of my play; bring a friend, if you have one.”

And Churchill’s equally witty response: “Cannot possibly attend first night; will attend second, if there is one.”

Shakespeare was full of choice insults, some of which could still be useful, like “Your abilities are too infant-like for doing much alone,” and “He has has not so much brains as ear-wax.”

I’m personally fond of this, from the ever-quotable Dorothy Parker: “She runs the gamut of emotions from A to B.”

That was originally from a theatrical review, but it seems particularly apt now, when the depths of our compassion is being constantly swept away in the shallows of Twitter.

So when you’re accused of being an overly sensitive snowflake, a Shakespearean response might be “If you spend word for word with me, I shall make your wit bankrupt.”

I might just be yearning for better entertainment in the way we communicate, but maybe at the end of wit we’ll find common cause.

At the very least, we can rest assured there is an end to it, and like Oscar Wilde said “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.”

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