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Welcome all dreamers, fantasists, bibliophiles, and romantics. Join me Mondays and Fridays for speculation about other worlds, exploration of the human heart and soul in fiction and fact, sojourns in history and science, advice and tidbits in the realms of story, and thoughts on everything in between...

Friday, March 22, 2013

Medieval Insults


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?

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the reference! That Shakespeare insult book looks fun.

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  2. I like udderface. That's a good one. Skulking around online I found a cool medieval insults worksheet with three columns. You're supposed to be able to pick one word from each column and come up with a good insult. It's good for laugh value, but I've never been able to actually use any of them in my writing. They just felt too...fantasy, I guess. Coming up with good lingo for historicals is SO hard. More power to anyone who does it!

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