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I like to think I am a gentleman. One of the criteria of such is self-composure under trying circumstances. This is even more challenging when there is name-calling happening. Miss Manners’ advice is never return rudeness with rudeness. This is called ‘setting a good example’ or ‘not stooping’.
On the other hand when I am in a sordid situation my mind immediately comes up with nasty comebacks and back talking. It makes my eyes cross to discover how readily and quickly acrimony arises from the recesses of my brain.
Spo-slights and insults and name calling have grandiloquence to them. I am less likely to call someone a bastard as a slobberdegullion. These gems puzzle the recipient and makes him pause to ponder whether or not he’s been actually insulted. It also shows a bit of superiority and sophistication.*
Shakespeare has some lovelies. Here are some of my favorites:
A fusty nut with no kernel
The anointed sovereign of sighs and groans
Highly fed and lowly taught
(and possibly my favorite)
I do desire we may be better strangers.
If I think these won’t work, I can always use my fustian lexicon:
virago; harridan; rampallian; snollygoster; pettifogger; strige; lespawg; troglobite.
Try using one in an email today.
But my favorite seems to be “toadsucker”. When the shadow-side of my psyche wants a vile word it pops up as first in line. Sucking toads implies the suckee has sucked all the vitriol and bitterness out of said toad, not unlike a vampire or as a parasite. “Toad sucker” is an indirect speech act for the recipient to hear between the words the implication he sucks something worse than a toad but I am too high-class to say what out loud.
*This is not nice but there it is.