The Art of the Therapeutic Insult

John McManamy Health Guide
  • Did you ever wish you told some jerk off? Delivered a brilliant put-down, put some over-inflated gasbag in his place? We never do, of course. Our brains aren’t that quick, our nerve not that strong. Only our heroes in fiction get to have all the fun. Here are some of my favorites:


    French soldier to Arthur in Monty Python and the Holy Grail: I don't want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.


    If you detect a slight indebtedness to the Bard, I need only direct you to this delicious insult from King Lear:

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    What dost thou know me for?



    A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a

    base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited,

    hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a

    lily-livered, action-taking knave, a whoreson,

    glass-gazing, super-serviceable finical rogue;

    one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a

    bawd, in way of good service, and art nothing but

    the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pandar,

    and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch: one whom I

    will beat into clamorous whining, if thou deniest

    the least syllable of thy addition.


    (My belated New Year’s resolution is to memorize this word-for-word and use it at first opportunity, gratuitously if I have to.)


    GB Shaw’s Pygmalion is the motherlode of zingers. This from Henry Higgins to Eliza:


    Yes, you squashed cabbage leaf, you disgrace to the noble architecture of these columns, you incarnate insult to the English language, I could pass you off as the Queen of Sheba!


    But, of course, Henry gets his comeuppance:


    Henry Higgins: [directed to Eliza in anger] Get out and come home and don't be a fool!


    Mrs Higgins: Very nicely put indeed, Henry. No woman could resist such an invitation.


    The two real-life exceptions did possess the wit and the nerve. It helps when you are larger-than-life. First, Groucho Marx: "I never forget a face, but in your case I'll be glad to make an exception."


    And, of course, Winston Churchill. At a social function, Lady Astor snapped: "Winston, if I were your wife, I’d put poison in your coffee." To which our man of the hour replied: "Nancy, if I were your husband, I’d drink it."


    I’m sure there is a bipolar connection to this, somewhere. Yes, of course. I do not shy away from the word, “crazy,” to describe myself. Usually, I pair it with “depressed,” as in “depressed and crazy.” Trust me, I much prefer “depressed and crazy” to “bipolar.” It’s my life - I get to call myself what I want. But no, apparently not. At some delightful function, an officious PC-type woman tried to call me out. “We shouldn’t use the term crazy,” she chided, or words to that effect.


    I looked her straight in the eye and smiled, with absolutely no trace of malice. “Better than a-hole,” I replied.


    Okay, not exactly Shaw or Shakespeare. But this is about as good as it gets in real life. You should try it sometime ...

Published On: July 15, 2013