Yo gumba, search online for name-calling and every link will tell you it’s a bad, bad thing. Like, Vladmir Putin crushing the last post-apocalyptic vial of zombie antidote under his blood-fueled tank kind of bad. The internet has all kind of terms for name-calling. Abusive insults. Offensive slurs. Bullying. And even the GATEWAY TO MURDER. Which is ridiculous. Not to sound like a jackass, but I frequently indulge in name-calling and I’m not a proponent of bullying or for that matter, murder—other than the fictional kind.
Screw the PC thumbsuckers. I name-call. And I’ll tell you why. With examples. So buckle up, pork chop.
The Funny: “I’ll explain and I’ll use small words so that you’ll be sure to understand, you warthog faced buffoon.”
Insulters anonymous, this is your sassy moment, your time to shine, your three snaps in a Z formation.
William Goldman riddled The Princess Bride with an array of insults more vibrant than my Pinterest boards. The more wild insults, the merrier. Literally. Literarily literally. And it’s a beautiful thing. Because it’s fiction and a comedy on top of that, so the more ludicrous the slander and scurrility, the better. Further, if it’s a PG-rated comedy, it’s essential to ratchet up The Ridiculous. As insults go, Goldman’s are a frickin’ art form. No, they’re more than that: they advance the genre, professor.
Mind you, I’m not opposed to the occasional big, fat f-bomb. Or even an outrageous glut of them, depending on the context. Because, in the right environment, just when you think no more f*cks can be given, you’re hilariously proven wrong. However, I have a great appreciation for variety. Of unexpected combinations. And as a writer, I owe it to my readers to stretch for the eyebrow raiser. Or, even better, the unexpected outburst of laughter.
The Smart: “Asses are made to bear, and so are you.”
Yeah, you heard me, cupcake. I just quoted Shakespeare. As an English major, that’s the only hammer I can hit you with. Pretend it hurt (really bad…a soccer flop wouldn’t be too much) so my fragile ego doesn’t get too wounded.
Shakespeare was a monarch of colorful name-calling. “You scullion! You rampallian! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe!” (Henry IV Part 2) You may need a thesaurus to figure out you’re a lowly, wretched douchebag, but man, you come away feeling classy. That’s an insult to roll over your tongue with an after-dinner sherry, an insult that leaves you smarter than you started out.
Way, way too nerdy, you say? Yeah, well, I didn’t complete nineteen years of school for your bull-necked ignorance. A thesis, an ornery advisor, chugging Milk of Magnesia by the bottle, and…yes, sure, I can supersize that for you.
The Sensitive: Nice job, Einstein, but what about real life?
Sure, colorful insults and name-calling can trip the light fantastic in fiction. So let’s take it to the next level: real life. I’m an almost pathologically silent person, so it might be shocking to learn that I’ve been on both sides of the bullying stick. I was once lured by the bug light of bullying, the crackle of its brilliance, the allure of power, the adrenaline of humiliating someone smaller and weaker than yourself. But I also know what it’s like to be called racial slurs, to be body-shamed, and to be catcalled in new and bizarre ways. (Yes, “thighs” and “eyes” rhyme. Good job, Mr. Monster Truck Dude.) So why would I be pro name-calling?
Let me be clear: successful name-calling is 98.5% venom-free. Like the king snake, the similarly-clad but harmless version of the coral snake, the non-lethal shade-throw is perfection in the world of interpersonal relations. “Red and yellow kill a fellow. Red and black is your friend Jack.” If you’re insulting someone or calling him names, you’d better know jack.
I’m not talking about a group of fine young [fill in the ethnicity] calling each other [fill in a racial slur]. Or the girlfriends who call each other sluts, skeezes, skanks, and ho-bags. They may have built up a tolerance for that particular poison in their own social circles. That’s fine within its own ecosystem, but not good for general consumption.
I’m talking about the harmless but clever cream puffs you pitch at the heads of your loved ones.
Colorful as fiction. Classy as Shakespeare. Smart enough not to irretrievably alienate people. If I’m calling you a name, taking the effort to think of the goofiest way to goad you specifically, you can bank on the fact that it’s a sign of deep-rooted affection, ya lunkhead.
Want more? You can find plenty of colorful insults and cream puff language in my books.