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Wednesday, 18 May 2022

On being insulted

Said to be one of 19 most imaginative insults

It’s been some time since I was called “a pillock”. Not that I’ve minded. If the word means anything it suggests incompetence in manual skills – a failing I willingly own up to.

During national service in the RAF I was regularly called “a smart bastard” and this I took as a compliment. The result of uttering a moderately obscure word like “sentient”. Occasionally this led to fights but these tailed off when my opponents realised I was tall enough to apply the Commando Head Lock which rendered them helpless and – if they struggled – vulnerable.

Being called “a bore” could be one of two insults – one that mattered and one that didn’t. I am fairly articulate but prone to run off at the mouth; detected in this unforgivable sin I became contrite, otherwise “sulky”. If I’d been merely misunderstood by someone who was even worse educated than I was (there were a few) I merely smirked. I should add I was easily the least congenial airman – bar one – during square-bashing. The other – a skimp – came from Lancashire; case proved.

Once, during an early interview for a journalistic job, a very superior editor read my cuttings book and said I lacked the craft of writing. I cringed. At that time there was a justifiable reason for this judgment but I have no desire to resurrect it now. The smart-ass editor was right then and it was an agonising truth. I didn’t get the job but started crawling towards a better form of prose.

I have had – may still have – a particular weakness. Any woman who has chosen to insult me has seen me crawl away, tail between my legs. However extreme the wound I’ve tended to accept it as true. In my novels all women are heroines. Go figure.


  1. Agh, to be called " a bore", what do people know! Jealousy.
    The most common insult I have received abroad - on all continents! - was "German" and the more detailed versions referring to WWII and/or soccer failures/successes.
    Universally, there's "woman" or "just a woman". Never ends.

  2. One may bore others in a variety of ways. Repetition is the commonest, a growing tendency with age. Seems a shame given one should have lots of original experiences to draw on but then no one ever said getting older was much fun. Almost equal is via cliché - excessive use of over-familiar words and/or phrases expressing attitudes, beliefs and insistences - proof (alas) that the borer has not re-examined his/her thoughts for ages. No one is entirely proof against being a bore, other than by demonstrating - at high speed - an ability to switch tracks. Anyone with an iota of introspection should consider the attractions of saying or writing something original. Easier said than done, of course - and that too is a cliché.