When researching for a book, I usually run across a few exceptionally fun topics, insults among them. Especially since Piper Denna, my editor, insisted I comb through Red and the Wolf, my recent release, and make sure the language was period appropriate, I’ve become more keenly aware of the time a word evokes. So when working on my current projects, I went in search of period appropriate words and phrases that my characters could hurl at each other. Here are some of my favorites.
Mundungus: It literally means a malodorous tabasco. This one is funny to me mainly because of J.K. Rowling’s character in Harry Potter, Mundungus Fletcher.
Shrew: This one refers to a quarrelsome and headstrong woman, and I first learned it from literature class, reading The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare. The play was a lot of fun in that class.
Coward or craven: It’s just always fun to insult someone bravery. Maybe it’s just me.
Bastard: This one is just an all around, carries a punch through many centuries word. After all, in fiction, it helps for your insults to have some tug on a reader’s sensibilities.
Udderface: This is one I actually came up with for one of my fantasy novels. An eleven-year-old squire, Kennan Veranst, taunts a fully grown knight capable of dusting with him and came up with that one. Since, it has stuck with me.
Beyond this, a lot of people look to Shakespeare for inspiration on insults. Shakespeare could certainly turn a phrase and was often quite inventive with his insults. However, he is Renaissance, not Medieval, so he’s only a vague guideline. For anyone interested, though, I found this recommendation for Shakespearean insults, Thy Father is a Gorbelled Codpiece.
Here are a few more links with ideas:
Do you have a historical insult you really enjoy? What is it?