When insults had class…

These glorious and eloquent insults are from the good old days when our armory of linguistic weapons extended beyond 4-letter expletives, frowny faces made out of punctuation marks, and screaming caps … And, what’s more, they’re eminently stealable, since most of their authors are long gone.


  • A member of Parliament to Disraeli: “Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease.”

“That depends, Sir,” said Disraeli, “whether I embrace your policies or your mistress.”


  • “He had delusions of adequacy.” – Walter Kerr


  • “He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.” – Winston Churchill


  • “I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.”  Clarence Darrow


  • “He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.” – William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).


  • “Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I’ll waste no time reading it.” – Moses Hadas


  • “I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.” – Mark Twain


  • “He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.” – Oscar Wilde


  • “I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend, if you have one.” – George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

“Cannot possibly attend first night. Will attend second … if there is one.” –  Winston Churchill, in response.


  • “I feel so miserable without you; it’s almost like having you here.” – Stephen Bishop


  • “He is a self-made man and worships his creator.” – John Bright


  • “I’ve just learned about his illness. Let’s hope it’s nothing trivial.” – Irvin S. Cobb


  • “He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others.” – Samuel Johnson


  • “He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.” – Paul Keating


  • “In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily.” – Charles, Count Talleyrand


  • “He loves nature in spite of what it did to him.” – Forrest Tucker


  • “Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?” – Mark Twain


  • “His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.” – Mae West


  • “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.” – Oscar Wilde


  • “He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts… for support rather than illumination.” – Andrew Lang (1844-1912)


  • “He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.” – Billy Wilder


  • “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.” – Groucho Marx



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