Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Tongue Cuffs

[Henry Spicer], "Calling Names," All the Year Round (October 22, 1864) 258-260 (at 260, where E.S. = Evil Spirit and D.A. = Devil's Advocate):
"Villain! Dolt! Knave! Rascal! Donkey! Scoundrel! Ruffian! Booby!" commences, with comparative mildness, the E.S.

"Dunghill! Coward! Dunce! Rapscallion! Vagabond! Beast! Goose! Thief!" retorts the D.A.

"Swindler! Liar! Jolthead! Bully! Craven! Miscreant! Sot! Quack! Rebel!" pants his opponent.

"Pighead! Carrion! Cutpurse! Drunkard! Brawler! Mountebank! Cheat! Bravo! Vermin! Snip! Bull-beggar!" returns his learned brother.

"Tosspot! Pimp! Clown! Rat! Felon! Mooncalf! Noodle!"

This is pretty well, yet are these phrases but common tongue cuffs, after all. The first speaker dives into the recesses of the language.

"Gulligut! Boor! Filthard! Bardash! Royster! Druggel! Lubbard! Lout! Calf-lolly! Fox! Raggard!" are the gems he brings up.

Antagonist makes a deeper dive, and reappears with, "Nincompoop! Lusk! Bilkslop! Jobbernol! Lobcock! Oaf! Grub! Pigface! Wittol! Botch! Slubberdegullion!"

James Boswell, Life of Johnson (anno 1767, aetat. 54):
His Majesty then talked of the controversy between Warburton and Lowth, which he seemed to have read, and asked Johnson what he thought of it. Johnson answered, 'Warburton has most general, most scholastick learning; Lowth is the more correct scholar. I do not know which of them calls names best.' The King was pleased to say he was of the same opinion; adding, 'You do not think, then, Dr. Johnson, that there was much argument in the case.' Johnson said, he did not think there was. 'Why truly, (said the King,) when once it comes to calling names, argument is pretty well at an end.'
Related post: Odium and Insults.

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