Basically, it's all about insults which are... creative. Not so much like You Fight Like a Cow. These are more serious, but at the same time almost poetic. Like this Arabian insult:
"You son of a rabid bitch! Grandson of a stinking jackal! Great-grandson of a plucked vulture!"
Or this one:
"A thousand dicks in your religion!"
May be caused by being from a foreign culture like the example. If both opponents do this, Volleying Insults is likely to turn into a verbal Lensman Arms Race.
Compare Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon.
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Tintin's Captain Haddock is the best known user of this in the Bande Dessinee genre. See here for alphabetically-sorted examples. "Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles!" ("Mille millions de mille milliards de mille sabords!") is probably the most iconic one.
"Stupid little puffy rat-midget cotton-tushed cootie infested freak of nature poo poo headed monstrosity of the seventh layer of heck pee pee breathed dookie eating pig loving crab like bow legged creepy ass bulbous headed smaller than a bread box hollow brained gopher licking intestine shaped bacon wrapped no soap using squid slurping botulism growing crotch scratching one balled accidentally birthed filth spreading juice producing greasy palmed fart leaking ball of crap shaped like a man."
Principal: What you have just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
Billy: Ok, a simple "wrong" would have done just fine, but yeah.
"Good, then here's a few more to remember, you brainless featherbottomed excuse for a duck."
"I will not stand here and be insulted!"
"Then stand somewhere else and I'll insult you there, featherbag!"
The Spellsinger novel The Paths of the Perambulator has a cage made of gratuitous insults. Mudge the otter manages to defeat it by beating it at its own game.
"Your master should 'ave great fortune. 'E should become rich an' famous an' attractive, with all the world bowin' before 'im. An' 'e should learn at the same time that 'e 'as some 'orrible incurable disease."
In the book There Will Be Dragons, the Big Bad is given a magnificent dressing down in the middle of a battle, his opponent almost singing a long and eloquent combination of flowery insult and "The Reason You Suck" Speech (it's a full page in the book) that literally leaves the guy crying before he finally gets put down.
"Dionys, thou art a coward. Sooth doth thou send others before thee and refrain from the strife thyself. Thou strikest women yet shirk to strike a man, lest thy pustulent skin be cut by a blade fairer than thy own. Sooth, thou art a coward, Mc Canoc. Dionys, thou art a braggart. Braggart thou art for naught, for in every contest thou art defeated. Fighter of weaklings and braggarts like thyself, whensoever a true knight face thee, thou runs away. Yet, in sooth, from this cowardly retreat dost thou make brag. Mc Canoc, thou art a braggart. Dionys, thou art smelly. Thy breath stinks of the rotten ejacula of horses, which, sooth, thou dost love as thy morning drink. Thy body reeks with the stench of fear, and the manure of the asparagus-eating goats is better than the smell from thy mustache. Mc Canoc, thou art a stinker. Dionys, thou art ugly. The orcs doth not run forward to fight, but away from thy countenance. Sooth, in the history of the ill-favored, thy name is held in high esteem. Thy whore mother screamed at first sight of thee as the replicator burst open of its own accord in horror. The ill-fortuned persons that were forced to care for thee had to put a pork chop around thy neck to get the dog to play with thee. Further sooth, when it did, it mistook thy ass for thy face and preferred it to lick. Mc Canoc, thou art ugly. Dionys, though art stupid. Thrice you have attacked us, and thrice have we thrown thee back, though we are but, forsooth, a fraction of thy number. Thou art unlettered and hath never read of the term "defeat in detail", for assuredly, but those few letters would require all day and the use of both of your pustulent forefingers. But the veriest simpleton canst understand thy tactics are those of a schoolyard bully held back until his tutors at last release him as a man full grown yet unable to manage fingerpainting. The very fact that thou canst breathe must be by the arts of some homunculi or hob, smarter than thou, who doth sit upon thy shoulder and whisper "Breathe in, breathe out" else surely thou wouldst cease in this vital activity for lack of thought. Canst thou walk and chew bubble gum at the same time it is asked and I cry "Nay" for I have found you, face down, the bubblegum before you upon the ground as proof. Mc Canoc, thou art stupid. And that is how a professional insults someone! Now, go away, or I'll start in on Arabic, you miserable mound of gelatinous pus!"
The Enchantress of Florence gave us, among others, "Why don't you go and masturbate a diseased goat?" and "Tell your master to go put a hole in a picture of his late wife and fornicate with that."
A possible example in one of the Get Smart novels, when Max is told by Funny Foreigner Hassan Pfeiffer, "May the great bird of paradise lay its eggs in your onion soup." Max spends the rest of the book on and off trying to work out if this is something he would want to have happen to him.
The trading of flowery insults is very much part of the joy of conversation in Rudyard Kipling's Kim, with a definite note of one-upmanship. Kim for instance forms a rather low opinion of an English drummer boys set to watch over him, in part for Europeans' lack of imagination in this respect, when "all he heard from his companions were the few useless words which seemed to make two-thirds of the white man's abuse. Kim knew and despised them long ago."
In the Callahans Crosstime Saloon story "Have You Heard The One About...", when Al Phee's time-travelling scam was uncovered by Josie Bauer, he cursed angrily and creatively at her, concluding his tirade with, "May you fall into the outhouse just as the Turkish Army finishes eating its prune stew and six kegs of beer!"
Blackadder does this a lot. A particularly impressive example: "You ride a horse rather less well than another horse would, your brain would make a grain of sand look large and ungainly, and as for the part of you which can't be mentioned, I am reliably informed that it wouldn't be worth mentioning even if it could be!"
The Thick of It is living proof that this trope and Cluster F-Bomb are perfectly capable of living together and having lots of inventively sweary babies.
Klinger from M*A*S*H once said "May the Bluebird of Happiness leave a surprise in your orange juice!"
He's also said; "May a camel give birth in your tent!"
"May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits."
Johnny Carson as Carnac the Magnificent.
"May a bloated yak change the temperature of your jacuzzi"
"Minority leader, and septuagenarian ninja turtle, Mitch McConnell"
Horrible Histories's version of William Shakespeare, just like the real one, is a master of these. He manages to literally knock out an opponent in a battle of words, using a barrage of insults collected from the real Shakespeare's works:
Shakespeare: How can I respond to a beslubbered, pebbling, churlish clotpole, a beef-witted gleeking bum-bailey, a gorbellied, mewling, hedge-born, onion-eyed, fustilarian cob-loaf! Flappy-eared, knotty-pated measle, you ruttish, reeking coxcomb, you bugger-mugger moldwarp! Pottle-deep, maggot-pie lewdster! Yeasty, tickle-brained, whey-faced, nut-hook skainsmate!
A Jewish one:
May you live in a hundred houses, and may each have a hundred rooms, and may each room have a hundred corners, and may you be thrown from corner to corner!
A similar one:
May you have a hundred relatives, and may they all give you socks on your birthday!
Here are some more:
May you turn into a chandelier, so that you can hang from the ceiling all day and burn at night!
May every tooth in your head but one fall out, and that one ache!
A Chinese one (which actually probably originated in the U.S.): "May you live in interesting times."
Classical Arabic provides a large number of these. You see, more direct options for insults are notably absent; the ancient Arabs put a high value on poetry, and the language handed down from generation to generation is a high-class, literary/poetic tongue. Pre-Islamic Arabs even made an art of insult poetry, called Hijaa', which could get quite creative indeed.note One poem involves seeming to praise the insultee in the first half of each line, but noting in the second half "And [this letter] is actually [this other letter]," turning each "compliment" into a grave insult. On the other hand, the various kinds of colloquial Arabic spoken on streets across the Arab world includes an arsenal of vulgarity and obscenity to rival that of any other language, with a particular focus on attacks on one's parentage—most especially on one's mother—and (for men) implications of being a passive homosexual ("catching", not "pitching"). For comparison:
A typical Classical Arabic insult: You have the right, and may all your wishes come true.
A typical colloquial Arabic insult: Your mother's cunt, you son of a filthy whore!
This isn't to say, however, that Arabs have lost the knack for flowery insults. Classical Arabic—or rather its updated edition, Modern Standard Arabic—still thrives, and literary types are still quite good at creatively insulting one another in it. Additionally, some groups of Arabs have the old-fashioned floweriness: "A thousand dicks in your religion" is not Classical Arabic, but rather Palestinian.
May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits, and may your arms be too short to scratch.
"May the Protocaliphora fly lay eggs in your testicles weekly." (Protocaliphora is a real genus of fly, but these flies lay their eggs in birds, not humans.)
"May your genitals fall off in your soup." - From Japan
Hungarian language is basically an excuse to pull off extremely flowery insults. "May the old devil fuck you with his meter-long blue-veined studded dick until you split in two on the back of your filthy whore of a mother" is an appropriate reaction for stubbing one's toe. A shorter one is "Go home and make yourself a little brother!". Or "May you give birth to / shit out a hedgehog!"
Swedish rapper Timbuktu's "Resten av ditt liv" ("The Rest of Your Life") gives us
I hope you'll never again be able to remember a PIN code I mean never, even if they give you a new one And may your watch always be twenty minutes slow so you're always late And may flesh-eating ants eat your eyelids so you're always tired And even when you're well rested you'll look really really really tired And may your hard drives for ever always crash!
Done occasionally on The Navy Lark, usually by CPO Pertwee. A particularly impressive example:
Pertwee: Johnson...you are a stupid, idiotic, dim-witted, addle-brained, left-handed, feeble-minded, bone-headed, nonsensical, infantile, half-baked, blunt-brained, puerile, unenlightened, quicksotic, spoon-fed, dolt, nutting, biff, bonce—steaming great CLOD!
Sub-Lieutenant Phillips: Oh, hello, you chaps...
Pertwee: ...and then there were two.
Dungeons & Dragons quasi-Arabic setting Al-Qadim follows the tradition. A few of these are found in the "Adventurer's Guide to Zakhara" (Land of Fateboxed set):
May a porcupine live in your trousers for a thousand days and die there for a thousand and one.
May you sleep with a restless heart and know a thousand nights of misery.
Johnny Carson used to use these when doing his Carnac the Magnificent routine on The Tonight Show.
May a crazed weightlifter clean and jerk your sister.
May your only son become the goalie on a nude hockey team.
May a camel with a weak kidney condition find your hope chest.
May the winds of the Sahara blow a desert scorpion up your turban.
May you fall asleep under a camel with post nasal drip.
May you be forced to visit a near-sighted proctologist.
May a weird holy man drop a cactus down your shorts.
A man wants to insult Cyrano, but all he can say is: "Sir, your nose is... hmm... it is... very big!" Cyrano berates him for being unimaginative, and gives examples of better insults in many different styles.
At Act II scene I, Ragueneau gives us this gem when he reproach his practical wife Lise her judgment on his friends, the poets:
Lise(dryly): And am I not free to turn at last to some use the sole thing that your
wretched scribblers of halting lines leave behind them by way of payment?
Ragueneau: Groveling ant! ...Insult not the divine grasshoppers, the sweet singers!
Practically everything uttered by Fawful in the Mario & Luigi series. "Your lives that I spit on are now but a caricature of a cartoon drawn by a kid who is stupid!"
The insults in The Curse of Monkey Island venture into this territory sometimes. They're still prime examples of You Fight Like a Cow... but because he's on the high seas, he has to rhyme his retort with his opponent's jibe. If you don't know the correct response, you can still give 'em a rhyme...but it's more like Flowery Idiocy instead.
Pirate: I'll skewer you like a sow at a buffet! Guybrush: ...I'm more confused than mere words can convey.
Ezio gives Cesare an insult that's pretty flowery for him at the end of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood: "Che nessuno ricordi il tuo nome (May no one remember your name)."
In Team Fortress 2, most of the classes have pithy insults for if they get the occasional kill. But if they score a domination (achieved by killing the same enemy four times without said enemy killing them even once), they let loose with some of the most vitriolic (and hilarious) lines in the game. The typical domination line is "Dominated, you [adjective] [adjective] [noun]!", and each line ensures the victim's humiliation.
Goblins: Kin suffers from fear-enhanced Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness and comes out with some good ones. "Your existence demonstrates a flesh-to-futility ratio that is mathematically staggering!"
Homestuck: Good gracious, Karkat Vantas. For his first meeting with John, he composed a flood of verbal abuse that took up half-a-dozen inches of page-space, and his meticulously-crafted capslock vitriol can sometimes go downright purple.
El Goonish Shive: Catalina calls the fat Hitler-resembling principal a "facist-mustached-grapefruit-shaped-dictator-jackass" to his back in a rapid fire delivery instead of just yelling plain "jackass" at his face.
In the Protectors of the Plot Continuum mission Impostor, Captain Jack Sparrow tells a character replacement that "if you have a mind to impersonate the most fearsome pirate in the Spanish Main, it’d be a good idea not to make me out as having half the spine of a cooked jellyfish."
Seamus: Oooh, this is yer doing, Willy. I'll turn yer groin ta puddin'!
Willy: Ach, ya speak like a poet, but ya punch like one, too!
-Willy and Seamus fight-
Seamus: Oh, ow, ya bastard!
-Willy punches Seamus away-
According to Murdoc Niccals of Gorillaz, the school bully Tony Chopper (no relation to One Piece's Tony Chopper) who made his life a misery when he was ten was a "useless bloated backward waste of space who'd probably get a job holding up For Sale signs on street corners, only to then get himself fired and replaced by a bucket of soil. A pissed monkey would stand a better chance in life."
His wife is also very fond of these, showering them on Jack and the Scotsman as they try to rescue her from demons.
Theodore Roosevelt once said of President McKinley that he had "no more backbone than a chocolate eclair".
Former Prime Minister of Australia Paul Keating is still revered as having possessed one of the sharpest tongues ever wielded in the halls of parliament. His insults weren't all flowery gems (he could regularly be openly coarse and was often downright savage), but a number of them were practically works of art. A collection of some of his best can be found here.
Paul Keating: I was implying that the Honorable Member for Wentworth was like a lizard on a rock - alive, but looking dead.
Ludwig van Beethoven had a good one when one of his patrons, a Prince, complained about his work: "Prince, what you are is merely by accident of birth."
When the Spoonerism had first become popularized, a politician in the British parliament used the opportunity to get some crap past the radar against his opponent, saying, "Sir, you are a shining wit. I am sorry, that was a spoonerism."