Well my pribbling fool-born minnows, today is a good day for sharpening the pointed ends of our tongues. Today is a good day for Shakespearean insults.
But isn’t every day, really?
Among Shakespeare’s talents was his ability to coin creative forms of abuse. Where would we be without his savagery? It is all too easy to fall into vocabulary ruts, so this January I’m exploring several Shakespeare Insult Generators. Lore says that in 1996, English teacher Jerry Maguire came up with a format for creating insults that are Shakespeare-like. You can still see his original “Insult Kit” today. Over the past 20 years, however, technology has changed, and now insult generators are a bit fancier than Maguire’s lists. Because everyone needs a bit of lightness in their day, I’ve shared a few of my favorites below.
(There is a 90% chance that I have said something truly terrible in this post and don’t know it. If I have, forgive me and let me know.)
The highlight of these generators is, for me, the PanGloss Shakespeare Insult Generator. It combines randomly generated barbs with lines from Shakespeare’s works, which means visitors can read phrases like “[Thou art] like the toad, ugly and venomous” from As You Like It and “You are as a candle, the better burnt out” from Henry IV, part 2 alongside random lines like “Thou paunchy earth-vexing apple-john.” The site has also been floating around the internet since 1996, so it is a modern classic of sorts.
If you are a much cooler person than I am, there is also a Shakespeare Insult Generator app. I have never used it, but it looks like a good way to find ye olde insults on the run.
For those of you who like your insults to have a bit more heft, Barry Kraft has published a book of cards that help people create their own insults. I am fonder of the generators found on the internet, but the book could be a great addition to classrooms that want their students to embody the spirit of Shakespeare’s time.
So go forth, my roguish hasty-witted vassals, and malign your friends. (But do so kindly.)