Rare and Amusing Insults, Volume 3

group of children buying ice cream from a truck

Definition: dangerous to society

Useful for describing: people who spit on the street; ice cream truck vendors who keep their music playing

Pestiferous has a number of definitions, and none of them are complimentary. In addition to “dangerous to society,” the word may mean “carrying or propagating infection,” “infected with a pestilential disease,” or simply “annoying and troublesome.”

confused young man staring at blackboard

Definition: marked by an ignorance of mathematics and the scientific approach

Useful for describing: anyone who is bad at math; most people who read lists of words on a dictionary site.

It is somewhat curious that innumerate should be so much more obscure than illiterate (“unable to read or write”), considering that there is no shortage of people who are unfamiliar with either math or the scientific approach. However, no one ever said that language was fair; or, if they did we can safely tell you that they were mistaken.

rock in the sea shaped like buttocks

Definition - resembling the buttocks

Useful for describing: um … you may have to use your imagination a little bit for this one.

The English language is rich in many areas, not least of which is the category of words which mean “resembling some specific thing.” Resembling an alligator? Alligatoroid. Need a word for something that looks like a bunch of grapes? Botryoidal. How about something that resembles a vault? Easy! That’s vaulty. We are not sure who first decided that English needed a word for things that resemble the buttocks, but we’re glad they did.

young man with hat feels happy and surprise and showing thumb up on yellow background

Definition: one overly ambitious

Useful for describing: anyone at work who has a better position than you do

Ambitionist isn’t the only word in English for someone who is a bit too eager to get ahead. However, many of the other words, such as social climber are a bit specific. Ambitionist is a broad term, and doesn’t hem you in when using it; you could be describing the kid in class who got a better score on that test one time, the politician you don’t like who’s running for office this year, or anyone in between.

dog looking over an empty white plate on table

Definition: someone who steals plates and tableware from a restaurant

Useful for describing: someone who steals small things for no good reason.

If we are honest, bubber never really caught on, as it is little used in print outside of the 17th and 18th centuries. This is a shame, for how many other words do you know for someone who steals things off the table at a restaurant?

The eleventh is a Bubber, much used of late,
He goes to the Alehouse, & steals there the Plate.
— Richard Head, The Canting Academy, 1673

man spraying himself with perfume

Definition: an man who wears too much perfume.

Useful for describing: any man who smells better than you.

This word last appeared in our Second International Unabridged dictionary, published in 1934, in which it was defined as “a scented exquisite, a fop.” A fop is “a man who is devoted to or vain about his appearance or dress.”

young couple sitting on couch eating popcorn and laughing loudly

Definition - one who laughs loudly or immoderately

Useful for describing: the people at the next table in the restaurant; that one friend you have.

Cachinnator and cachinnate, comes from the the Latin verb cachinnare, meaning "to laugh loudly.” We have many other words for different kinds of laughter (and the people who laugh) in English, including cackle, snicker, and guffaw, but none of these seem to be quite right in describing the person who appear to think that their laughter is a gift to be shared with the ears of as many people as possible.

man wearing silly hat writing in a notebook

Definition: one who writes or talks twaddle

Useful for describing: writers you don’t much care for.

Twaddle can be “silly idle talk” or “something insignificant or worthless.” The word is thought to be from the English dialect word twattle, meaning “idle talk.” Twaddle is less commonly found today than it was some hundred years ago, and twaddler is even more rare.

ODOT's so-called study contained a foregone conclusion. Those bureaucratic twaddlers would much rather say No than get the job done.
The Blade (Toldeo, OH), 15 May 2022

pensive man sitting down with his father looking at him

Definition: worse than one's father; degenerate (Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd Edition)

Useful for describing: any man whose feelings you want to hurt

Father-waur is an extremely obsolete word, now found only in the pages of historical dictionaries such as the OED (which also helpfully points out that our language contains use of this word’s antonym: father-better. However, this article is about words to make people feel bad about themselves, not better, so we suggest you stick with father-waur. The second portion of this word, waur, is a Scottish regionalism meaning “worse.”

person squeezing toothpaste in a vise

Definition: a miser; a sneaking fellow

Useful for describing: anyone you don’t like

Snudge is a lovely little word: it’s obscure, yet readily understood (few people will think you are complimenting them if you say ‘stop being such a snudge!’). It can also be used as a verb, with a further variety of uncomplimentary meanings: “to be stingy,” “to cheat, especially in competition,” and “to go about hunched over or as if in deep thought.”