Have you ever noticed the skill and creativity with which Shakespeare's characters insulted one another? The delightful wit in Austen's biting repartee? The grin-inducing charm of a pirate calling someone a scurvy dog?
Oh yes, insults have always been used--and prior to this modern age, were a work of art that relied less on the vulgar and more on the brain. They were clever, they were cruel, and they often make modern readers giggle.
When writing historical fiction, we have a real challenge when our characters get upset with one another. Our heroines can's just call our heroes jerks--it would leave them scratching their heads and asking, "Have I tugged on you too forcefully? Whatever do you mean?" Our heroes, prior to the mid-19th century, can't call our heroines snobs--they would quirk their delicate brows and say, "Am I a shoemaker? Pardon me, sir, but you must have mistaken me for someone else."
Nay, dear readers, our insults must be as old-fashioned and charming as our characters, must convey the true art that a good insult has been throughout history. All so you can smile while the characters pivot on their heels and huff away.
And so, for your reading pleasure, I offer you this list I've compiled of historical insults. So next time your spouse or neighbor ruffles your feathers, you can surprise them into laughter by demanding, "How dare you, you unctuous scalawag!" ;-)
Some favorites of the medievalists:
You dog's body!
You son of a sow!
You misbegotten spawn of hell!
You fewmet of a hare!
You squirming adder!
You vile, spitting shrew!
Shakespeare offers us the following:
A Filthy Piece of Work
A Mere Dull Shadow
A Mind Diseas'd
A Very Toad
Abandoner Of Revels
And Nothing Of A Man
Anointed Sovereign Of Sighs And Groans
Arrant Counterfeit Rascal
Or mix and match the nouns and adjectives below! (You'll find that animals are very popular, LOL)