When Insults Had Class

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These glorious insults are from an era “before” the English language got boiled down to 4-letter words.


A member of Parliament to Disraeli: “Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease.” “That depends, Sir,” said Disraeli, “whether I embrace your policies or your mistress.”

“He had delusions of adequacy.” ~ Walter Kerr

“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.” ~ Winston Churchill

“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.” ~ Clarence Darrow

“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.” ~
William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)
“Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I’ll waste no time reading it.” ~ Moses Hadas

“I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.” ~ Mark Twain

“He has no enemies but is intensely disliked by his friends.” ~ Oscar Wilde

“I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend, if you have one.” ~ George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill. “Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second… if there is one.” ~ Winston Churchill, in response

“I feel so miserable without you; it’s almost like having you here.” ~ Stephen Bishop
“He is a self-made man and worships his creator.” ~ John Bright
“I’ve just learned about his illness. Let’s hope it’s nothing trivial.” ~ Irvin S. Cobb
“He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others.” ~ Samuel Johnson
“He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.” ~ Paul Keating

“In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily.” ~ Count Charles Talleyrand

“He loves nature in spite of what it did to him.” ~ Forrest Tucker

“Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?” ~ Mark Twain

“His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork” ~ Mae West

“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.” ~ Oscar Wilde

“He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts… for support rather than illumination.” ~ Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

“He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.” ~ Billy Wilder

“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But I’m afraid this wasn’t it.” ~ Groucho Marx