If you don’t have anything nice to say, say it like Shakespeare: Thou unhandsome smush-mouthed mush-rump! Thou obscene rug-headed hornbeast! The Shakespeare Insult Generator helps you craft creative zingers by mixing and matching the Bard’s own words–perfect for the wanton swag-bellied underskinker in your life.  Plus, how do you feel when you say “Thank you” and the person replies “No problem”? That response bothers many people–but should it? Plus, what happens when a married couple doesn’t gee-haw together? Also: the origins of shimmy and smidge, ham-and-egger, a techie word quiz, double possessives, and enough food to feed Coxey’s army.

This episode first aired May 29, 2015.

Download the MP3.

 Shakespeare Insult Generator
For a compendium of slanderous Elizabethan expressions, try Barry Kraft’s book, Shakespeare Insult Generator. There are more sources online for sneering Shakespearean phrases and randomly generated insults inspired by the Bard, perfect for the obscene rug-headed hornbeast in your life.

 Capitalizing Seasons
Don’t capitalize names of seasons unless they’re part of a proper noun, such as Summer Olympics or Spring Formal. Unlike the names of months and days of the week, seasons aren’t eponymous, meaning they don’t derive from proper names.

 Work Paraprosdokian
Here’s a fun paraprosdokian: I like work. It fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.

 Stuff We All Get
Swag is not an acronym for Stuff We All Get. In fact, most acronymic “etymologies” are complete hogwash. Swag, commonly used to mean “free stuff,” goes back to the 1700’s and refers to the ill-gotten swag, or booty, of a thief or pirate.

The Shakespeare Insult Generator tipped us off to a handful of booty-themed disses, including rump-fed, which refers to someone who is less than callipygian.

 Tech Age Portmanteaus Game
Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a game of portmanteaus for the tech age, like a fanciful word for when you spend hours buying books online to the point where you’re unconscious.

 Just Can’t Gee-Haw
When two people can’t gee-haw together, it means they don’t get along. The terms gee-haw, or gee and haw, come from farming, where a trained animal obeys a command to go left or right–to gee or haw, in other words. Noncompliant animals don’t gee-haw.

 No Problem vs. You’re Welcome
There’s a hot debate going on about the use of “no problem” instead of “you’re welcome,” in response to “thank you.” But there’s nothing wrong with this phrase. The expression can’t be broken down semantically to prove it’s disrespectful; it’s more a matter of what people are used to, and the differences seem to break down along age lines.

A ham-and-egger job, meaning a weak effort or a dud, comes from boxing, where a ham-and-egger fighter doesn’t have much fight in him, it’s just someone doing it to earn a meal. The idiom goes as far back as at least 1918, when it showed up in a U.S. Navy journal.

 Panic Monkey
Perhaps you have a panic monkey in your life. That’s someone who starts flailing their hands anytime they’re nervous.

 Feeding Coxey’s Army
In 1894, the U.S. was in an economic depression, an Ohio businessman named Jacob Coxey led a march on Washington to protest national economic policies. This motley crew came to be known as Coxey’s army, and the phrases “enough food to feed Coxey’s army,” or “enough grub to feed Coxey’s army,” meaning “a whole lot of food,” showed up in print soon after. Both Coxey’s army and Cox’s army have also been applied to any ragtag group, the latter influenced by a much bigger march on Washington in 1932, that was led, as it happens, by Father James Renshaw Cox.

 Spitball vs. Spiffball
You can spitball ideas all you want, but spiffball is not a real variation of the term.

 Using Double Possessives
A young woman in Charleston, South Carolina, owns a boa constrictor named Wayne, and wonders if it’s correct to say that her father isn’t a fan of Wayne’s. Such double possessives are fine, and have been in use for centuries.

 Unhandsome Smush-Mouthed Mush-Rump
If you need a Shakespearean insult, there’s always unhandsome smush-mouthed mush-rump.

 Etymology of Smidge
A Fort Worth, Texas, hospital worker says she’s forever telling her patients to move over on the gurney just a smidge or a tidge, and wants to know if they’re real words. Smidge is a shortening of smidgeon; tidge is likely a mix of tad and smidge. She also wonders about the shimmy, meaning “to move,” which comes from the name of a dance in the early 1900’s.

Next time you’re in a bar and in need of an insult, say it like Shakespeare: Thou wanton swag-bellied underskinker! An underskinker is an assistant tapster who draws beer for customers.

This episode is hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett, and produced by Stefanie Levine.

Photo by Meg. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Broadcast

Shakespeare Insult Generator by Barry Kraft

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
Four Walls Eddie Holman I Love You ABC Records
This Can’t Be True Eddie Holman This Can’t Be True Parkway
Inner City Blues Reuben Wilson The Sweet Life Groove Merchant
Nasty Hats Orgone Bacano Killion Floor Sound
The Scorpion Lou Donaldson The Scorpion (Live at The Cadillac Club) Blue Note
Hot Rod Reuben Wilson Love Bug Blue Note
Hold On I’m Coming Reuben Wilson The Lost Grooves Blue Note
Vibromeyer Orgone Bacano Killion Floor Sound
Ronnie’s Bonnie Reuben Wilson On Broadway Blue Note
Upshot Grant Green Carryin’ On Blue Note
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book Verve

  1. germang33k says:

    These Shakespearean insults are great for road rage. If i could just memorize a few to have at hand. There is also an online generator (I’m sure there are many). Here’s one I found. http://www.pangloss.com/seidel/Shaker/index.html

    But it’s not as much fun as a flip book.

  2. Danielle Bee says:

    There’s a cool App I’ve used for writing like Shakespeare (or other authors): Write in Style. appsto.re/de/upVBS.i

  3. Katie says:

    Here are some great Shakespearean terms of endearment!

  4. Danny says:

    Re the phrases “no problem” and “my pleasure”: my daughter, as a toddler, famously confused these two phrases, bravely responding to people who would thank her with “no pleasure”!

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