21 Insults From Literature That Are On The Verge Of Being Way Too Mean

by E. Ce Miller
Warner Bros. Pictures

A well-worded, bitingly sharp insult is (while perhaps not the most noble of pursuits) something of an art. For a lover of books and language, few things are as satisfying as a precise, perfectly timed, cringingly insulting (and, you know, grammatically correct) zinger — with just enough unvarnished truth to cut your unlucky subject right to the quick. But the art of the insult is a lost art, it seems, given the surplus of three-lettered, monosyllabic, nuance-less jabs folks pass back and forth online and out loud, prolifically, these days. Let's step it up, with a little inspiration from books.

Literature can almost always be counted on to deliver the kind of insults that both satisfy and make a point. From the “lily-liver’d knaves” that people William Shakespeare’s plays to Rhett Butler’s "My dear, I don't give a damn" in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind (named the greatest literary put-down, according to one survey, BTW) great literature loves great insults — and so do readers.

Next time you find yourself burnt out on all the “bad” and “not smart” insults being tossed around right now, cleanse that mental palate with some of these quips. Here are 21 great insults from literature — use them wisely.

"The simplicity of your character makes you exquisitely incomprehensible to me."

"If I was as ignorant as you I wouldn't let on.”

“There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.”

“The tartness of his face sours ripe grapes.”

“I misjudged you… You’re not a moron. You’re only a case of arrested development."

"You speak an infinite deal of nothing."

“I can tell you this — if the whole human race, ourselves excepted, were swept away, and we two stood alone on the earth, I would leave you in the old world, and betake myself to new.”

“Just because you have the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn't mean we all have.”

“He was a … vicious gossip, with a vocabulary composed almost entirely of obscenities, guttural verbs, and the word 'postmodernist'."

“Money-makers are tiresome company, as they have no standard but cash value.”

“If you will forgive me for being personal… I don’t like your face.”

“I detest the masculine point of view. I am bored by his heroism, virtue, and honor. I think the best these men can do is not talk about themselves anymore.”

“All God's children are not beautiful. Most of God's children are, in fact, barely presentable.”

“A prig is a fellow who is always making you a present of his opinions.”

"He would make a good lamp post if he’d weather better and didn’t have to eat."

“I desire that we be better strangers.”

“I don’t think man has much capacity for development. He has got as far as he can, and that is not far, is it?”

“In youth, it was a way I had, / To do my best to please. / And change, with every passing lad / To suit his theories. / But now I know the things I know / And do the things I do, / And if you do not like me so, / To hell, my love, with you.”

"I rise… / and I eat men like air.”

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”