Quaint, Twitter-Ready Insults

Michael J O'Donoghue

Michael J O’Donoghue

In the ‘70’s, the late great Michael O’Donoghue published a hilarious piece in the National Lampoon entitled “The Churchill Wit” in which he replaced those time-honored, oft-quoted Churchillian zingers with-

Well, I don’t want to step on his punchline. Here’s the original anecdote.

“I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend … if you have one.”

— George Bernard Shaw, playwright (to Winston Churchill)

“Cannot possibly attend first night; will attend second, if there is one.”

— Churchill’s response

And O’Donoghue’s version

When the noted playwright George Bernard Shaw sent [Churchill] two tickets to the opening night of his new play with a note that read: “Bring a friend, if you have one,” Churchill, not to be outdone, promptly wired back: “You and your play can go fuck yourselves.”

Alas, it seems, as least when it comes to social media, O’Donoghue was prescient in that vulgarity is now to the go-to response in verbal battle, especially on Twitter.

Of course, exhibiting wit in 140 characters – much less waging an argument – is challenging, so it makes sense that the un-clever resort to shit-slinging.

Obviously, trying to out-Andrew-Dice-Clay Andrew Dice Clay makes you look like a psychopath yourself, so, of course, the judicious adult response to scatological insults is no response.

Andrew Dice Clay

Andrew Dice Clay

Unfortunately, judiciousness and I-and-I don’t even have a passing acquaintance. I’ll admit my skin is lens-cleaner thin. For the world of me, I cannot stand to let some cretin tripping on the Kool Aid reduce me to some emblematic body part. Being compelled to respond, I’ve come up with a system to counter foul-fingered trolls who call me “a pussy” or invite me to “suck their dicks.”

Rather than going Medieval on them in the Pulp Fiction sense, I go what you might call “quaint,” wielding minced, old-fashioned oaths inspired by (but not lifted from) those Shakespearean Insult Kits you can find on-line.

For example, let’s say I tweet something like “Does America really want a 79-year-old President in the situation room during a massive cyber attack?” and some Oscar Wilde wannabe responds with “Fuck you, pussy. Hillary’s a liar. It’s proven.”

Instead, of tooth-for-tooth vulgarity, I might respond with “Clever use of synecdoche, you ear-wax-witted nincompoop.”

The key is to throw the assailant off guard. Chances he doesn’t know what synecdoche is, which should give him pause, and even if he does, whatever he responds is going to make him seem ridiculous.

Here’s a quick list of quaint pejoratives: pettifogging, rapscallion, miscreant, bobolyne, scullion, lubberwort, jackanapes, scapegrace, ninnyhammer, poltroon, blatherskite, fopdoodle

Hey, I’m a school teacher, look them up, you lubberwort-eating jackanapes. It’s Friday, going on happy hour, so I’m off to Chico Feo to banter with the wits and all that jazz.


5 Things I Wish I Could Experience Before I Die

A performance of King Lear with Van Morison in the lead role and Keith Richards as the Fool.

keith and van








An NPR on-location story that doesn’t begin with some goddamned sound effect like a pile driver a-driving (story on beachside construction), a trickle of water a-trickling (story California’s drought), twelve stentorian obese sleepers a-snoring (story on sleep apnea laboratories).







The sight of Andrew Dice Clay and Howard Stern kissing on screen in a remake of Broke Back Mountain.







The discovery of a lost semi-nude painting of Jane Austen.










A restorative cure for alopecia.

hoodoo man b & wIMG_2580 copy








Let’s Rebrand Ultra-Conservatives as Reactionaries

One thing I try to stress to my students is that they shouldn’t assume that technological sophistication is the equivalent spiritual, intellectual, or social sophistication. Certainly, Tibet isn’t known for its state-of-the-art infrastructure, luxury condos, or sound systems, but few First World citizens would argue that US Televangelist Joel Osteen is a higher being than the Dalai Lama or that Jacques Derrida’s intellect was superior to Aristotle’s or that Dr. Phil understands human nature better than Geoffrey Chaucer.

For example, here’s one former member of the University of South Carolina’s Law Review, a former executive director of the South Carolina’s Republican Party, and current 21st Century US citizen’s solution to the now all but forgotten Ebola crisis:

todd quote







Need I add that, of course, Mr. Kincannon is pro-life.

Imagine someone in the 1950’s suggesting euthanasia as a way to eradicate polio. I suspect if you conducted a poll of sustenance farmers throughout Asia, the vast majority would consider Mr. Kincannon’s solution to the Ebola epidemic barbaric, even though a large number of them might very well be illiterate.

This same Kincannon fellow in another tweet offers this rather un-PC assessment of the original inhabitants of the American continent:

Tood q 2







Of course, the metaphor is backwards: my ancestors, the colonists, were the infestation. Native Americans were here first. We sort of, to be crude about it, car-jacked the continent.

Unfortunately, the media brand rabble-rousers like Kincannon as conservatives, but they have about as much in common with Edmund Burke as Andrew Dice Clay does with Oscar Wilde. They are reactionaries, hipshooters, intemperate, the opposite of conservatives.

Of course, the irony is that often far right adversaries like Benjamin Netanyahu and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei often have a lot in common — monotheism, tribal intransigence and the fervent wish that the US/Irani negotiations fail.