The 7 most amusing historical insults - as chosen by Susie Dent

Thursday, 1st October 2020, 1:25 pm
Updated Thursday, 1st October 2020, 1:25 pm

Lexicographer Susie Dent has dug through historical dictionary archives to unearth rude terms you can send your loved ones– from the Shakespearean version of the F word to the Victorian slang for a drunkard.

It's always difficult finding the right words to say on a loved ones special day. However Moonpig has transformed some of  Susie’s favourite newfound jibes into a new line of birthday cards.

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In an animated episode, Susie explains the words’ origins and how we can use them to rib our loved ones.

The new (old) swear words include:

  • 'Sard': If you really want to give your message the full whack, why not opt for the Shakespearean version of the F word? 'Sard', from the 15th century, is defined in the dictionary as 'to know carnally'. But no need to be so coy in your special day greetings – Happy Birthday sard-face is surely worth a try.
  • 'Lubberwort': A 16th-century word for an imaginary plant said to inspire extreme laziness, as well as for the slubberdegullion (that's an idler to you and me) it produces. 'Happy Birthday you lazy lubberwort' has a rather nice ring to it.
  • 'Arf'arf'an'arf': Comes from Victorian slang, where it described a drunkard who sank one 'arf' – or half pint – after another. Incidentally, the same tippler would also have been known as a tosspot – because they tossed back their pot of beer and immediately started on another. So how about 'Cheers to you, you great arf'arf'an'arf'.
  • 'Dunderhead': Is one of those old-fashioned insults that makes everyone smile. Its origins may be elusive, but its meaning is clear: a bit of an idiot or blockhead who never quite gets it right. And all dunderheads need a good friend, which is why 'Happy Birthday my dearest dunderhead' might be the nicest greeting of all.
  • 'Blunderbuss': A 17th-century word meaning a gun with a large bore but which slipped into metaphorical use to mean a blustering, noisy talker (and we all know one of those). From the Dutch for 'thunder gun', it can be used for anyone who loves nothing more than to hold forth on any subject for hours on end. 'Happy Birthday you bloviating blunderbuss' should do the trick.
  • “Muckspout”: A dialect word coined in the early 19th century to describe a person who not only talks a lot, but who seems to constantly swear, especially after a few celebratory drinks. 'Keep the noise down, you Mucksprout'
  • “Pizzle”: We must once again look back to Shakespearean times for the inspiration for this just brilliant insult. Simply put this is the Shakespearean term for 'penis ' and if you are looking for an example of how this can be used: “Happy Birthday you total pizzle”

Susie Dent, lexicographer and etymologist said: “Flowery, affectionate birthday greetings are all well and good, but we all know that if you really want to show your loved ones how much you care, there’s nothing better than lobbing a carefully-chosen insult their way.”

“The trouble is, our usual pieces of invective might be feeling a little tired by now. After all, our top swears have been with us for five centuries or more. This is where a historical dictionary can help. Within its pages are literally hundreds of taunts - from lickspigot to smellfungus, mumpsimus to ultracrepidarian - that will show the special person in your life just how much you think of them,”

“And if you need a few pointers, Moonpig has created a new line of birthday cards that will enable you to have a playful dig at your nearest and dearest, with some of the choicest mudballs from the past to sling their way. Because, as decades of birthday card choices have proved, we clearly love nothing more than a joyful jibe.”

Sarah-Jane Porter, Head of Cards at Moonpig commented: “One of the fastest-growing categories this year has been our humour range, so we wanted to give people inspiration to have a playful dig at their loved ones and raise some smiles as the nation celebrates the most common birthday of the year; September 26th.”

“Susie - the queen of words - was the obvious choice to inspire our exclusive Olde Worlde Birthday Cards range, as, during these difficult months we could all do with a giggle!”

The exclusive range of cards is available to buy on Moonpig.com here: https://www.moonpig.com/uk/personalised-cards/olde-worlde/