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Posts Tagged ‘Insults

“A graceful taunt is worth a thousand insults”*…

 

cards

Bumblepuppist

Definition – a bad whist player

Every so often you need a specific insult, and bumblepuppist is about as specific as they get. We will grant you that the game of whist is not as popular as it once was, having been edged out by newfangled card games such as euchre and canasta, but once upon a time whist was the most deucedly popular card game in the land. This ranks pretty high on the list of words which are likely inapplicable in your life, but imagine how excited you will be if you do meet someone who not only plays whist, but is bad at it, and you have the appropriate descriptor.

Bumblepuppist is also sometimes rendered as bumblepupper, and the word for “whist played poorly or without regard for rules” is bumblepuppy (from bumble and puppy).

“Bumblepuppy,” as defined by a renowned authority upon whist, is a game played by people who imagine that they are playing whist, but who in reality know nothing of that intricate game.
— The New York Times, 1 Jul. 1883

Just one in a collection of put-downs bigger than the sum of their parts: “8 Insults Made Up of a Noun and a Verb.”

* Louis Nizer

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As we test the limits of civility, we might send fascinating birthday greetings to Fernando Arrabal Terán; he was born on this date in 1932.  A playwright, screenwriter, film director, novelist, and poet, the New York Times’ Mel Gussow has called him the last survivor among the “three avatars of modernism.”  In 1962, Arrabal co-founded the Panic Movement with Alejandro Jodorowsky and Roland Topor, inspired by the god Pan.  In 1990 he was elected Transcendent Satrap of The Collège de ‘Pataphysique, a “society committed to learned and inutilious research” (“inutilious” = “useless”).  Forty other Transcendent Satraps have been elected over the past half-century, including Marcel Duchamp, Eugène Ionesco, Man Ray, Boris Vian, Dario Fo, Umberto Eco, and Jean Baudrillard.  Arrabal spent three years as a member of André Breton’s surrealist group and was a friend of Andy Warhol and Tristan Tzara.  A chess fanatic (a passion he shared with Duchamp), Arrabal wrote a chess column for the French weekly L’Express for over thirty years.

200px-Fernando_Arrabal,_2012 source

 

Written by LW

August 11, 2018 at 1:01 am

“His whole life has been one continued insult to good manners and to decency”*…

 

A man whose wit was matched only by the looseness of his tongue, the combative John Adams quickly acquired a hefty reputation for articulate jabs and razor-sharp put-downs at the expense of his allies and (numerous) rivals alike, including some of the most celebrated figures in American history (Bob Dole once described him as “an eighteenth-century Don Rickles”)…

American history comes alive: “7 of John Adams’ Greatest Insults.”

* John Adams, on Benjamin Franklin

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As we hail the heckler, we might recall, in fairness to the heckled, that it was on this date in 1752 that Benjamin Franklin and his son tested the relationship between electricity and lightning by flying a kite in a thunder storm.  Franklin was attempting a (safer) variation on a set of French investigations about which he’d read.  The French had connected lightning rods to a Leyden jar; one one their experiments electrocuted the investigator.  Franklin– who may have been a wastrel, but was no fool– used used a kite; the increased height/distance from the strike reduces the risk of electrocution. (But it doesn’t eliminate it: Franklin’s experiment is now illegal in many states.)

In fact, the French experiments had successfully demonstrated the electrical properties of lightning a month before; but word had not yet reached Philadelphia.

The Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing created this vignette (c. 1860), which was used on the $10 National Bank Note from the 1860s to 1890s

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Written by LW

June 15, 2015 at 1:01 am

“All philosophy lies in two words, sustain and abstain”*…

 

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To Epictetus’ dictum in the title of this post, one might add “disdain”…

“That most deformed concept-cripple of all time.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche on Immanuel Kant

“Hegel, installed from above, by the powers that be, as the certified Great Philosopher, was a flat-headed, insipid, nauseating, illiterate charlatan who reached the pinnacle of audacity in scribbling together and dishing up the craziest mystifying nonsense.”

– Arthur Schopenhauer on Georg Hegel

“There’s no ‘theory’ in any of this stuff, not in the sense of theory that anyone is familiar with in the sciences or any other serious field. Try to find… some principles from which you can deduce conclusions, empirically testable propositions where it all goes beyond the level of something you can explain in five minutes to a 12-year-old. See if you can find that when the fancy words are decoded. I can’t. So I’m not interested in that kind of posturing. Žižek is an extreme example of it. I don’t see anything to what he’s saying.”

– Noam Chomsky on Slavoj Žižek

“Well, with all deep respect that I do have for Chomsky, my… point is that Chomsky, who always emphasizes how one has to be empirical, accurate… well, I don’t think I know a guy who was so often empirically wrong.”

– Slavoj Žižek on Noam Chomsky

“Russell’s books should be bound in two colors, those dealing with mathematical logic in red – and all students of philosophy should read them; those dealing with ethics and politics in blue – and no one should be allowed to read them.”

– Ludwig Wittgenstein on Bertrand Russell

The hits just keep on coming at “The 30 Harshest Philosopher-on-Philosopher Insults in History” and “Philosophers’ Insults.”

Special bonuses:  Monty Python’s “Philosophers’ Football” and “Dead Philosophers in Heaven.”

* Epictetus

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As we live the examined life, we might send porcelain brithday greetings to Marcel Duchamp; he was born on this date in 1887.  A painter, sculptor, and conceptual artist, Duchamp was, with Picasso and Matisse, one the defining figures in the revolution that redefined the plastic arts in the early Twentieth Century– in Duchamp’s case, as an early Cubist (the star of the famous 1913 New York Armory Show), as the originator of ready-mades, and as a father of Dada.

In the 1930s, Duchamp turned from the production of art to his other great passion, chess.  He became a competitive player; then, as he reached the limits of his ability, a chess writer.  Duchamp’s   Samuel Beckett, an friend of Duchamp, used Duchamp’s thinking about chess strategy as the narrative device for the 1957 play of the same name, Endgame.  In 1968, Duchamp played an on-stage chess match with avant-garde composer, friend, and regular chess opponent John Cage, at a concert entitled Reunion, in which the music was produced by a series of photoelectric cells underneath the chessboard, triggered when pieces were moved in game play.

Duchamp (center; his wife Teeny, right) “performing” Reunion with John Cage (left) in 1968

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Written by LW

July 28, 2014 at 1:01 am

“The first human who hurled an insult instead of a stone was the founder of civilization”*…

 

Cretin (n), “A stupid, vulgar, or insensitive person.”

It’s ironic that cretin is used to describe an insensitive person, because its origin is terribly insensitive. Cretin, like spaz, is an insult that evolved from a very real and very dreadful medical condition. It comes from a word used in an 18th century Alpine dialect. The word was crestin, used to describe “a dwarfed and deformed idiot.” Cretinism was caused by lack of iodine resulting in congenital hypothyroidism. Etymologists believe the word’s root, the Latin “Christian,” was to be a reminder that cretins were God’s children, too.

From Mental Floss, the origin of 10 familiar insults.

* Sigmund Freud

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As we mind our language, we might recall that it was on this date in 1919 that the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Schenck v. United States– in which Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.’s opinion famously observed that “the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.”  As his observation passed into common parlance, “falsely” fell away and the condition of the theater was embellished– so that “shouting fire in a crowed theater” has come to stand for speech that is dangerous and unlawful.  The ever-precise Holmes recognized that, if in fact there were a fire in a crowded theater, one may rightly shout “Fire!”; indeed one might, depending on the law in operation, be obliged to.

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All the news that’s fit to spit…

Your correspondent is an admirer of the stylings of Matt Taibbi; consider, e.g., “The Great Bubble Machine,” wherein Taibbi compares Goldman Sachs to “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

So one can imagine the delight of discovering that, thanks to New York Magazine, one can play along with the Master:

Rolling Stone‘s Matt Taibbi… is perhaps best known for is his willingness to say Bad Things about Important People in a Colorful Way. This talent is on copious display in his new book, Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America, which is ostensibly about how America is becoming “a vast ghetto in which all of us … are being bled dry by a relatively tiny oligarchy of extremely clever financial criminals and their castrato henchmen in government” but mostly serves as a 252-page delivery mechanism for ad hominem insults*… we’ve put together a quiz using some of his most vivid descriptions of public figures. See how many you can figure out!

It’s a particularly-challenging game in that so many of the questions have several answers that could easily be correct.  An example:

Try to “Match the Matt Taibbi Insult to the Public Figure.”

* New York’s opinion, not your correspondent’s (though the insults are in fact epic)…

As we Question Authority, we might recall that it was on this date in 2005 that Kenny G, Don Henley, Stevie Nicks, and Tom Petty performed at the Rainbow Room on a bill topped by Aerosmith and 50 Cent for a private bat mitzvah.  The doting dad who sprang for the lavish coming-of-age-fest (at which, in addition to the entertainment, guests were treated to gift bags containing over $1,000 of personal electronics) was defense contractor David H. Brooks, CEO of DHB Industries, a Long Island company that manufactured body armor for the United States military.

Two years after the lavish event, Brooks was served with a 71-page federal indictment featuring charges of insider trading, tax evasion and raiding his company’s coffers for personal gain– including for the $10 million he used to pay for his daughter’s soiree.  Other questionable items charged to the company (thus, via cost-plus contracts, to the Government): pornographic videos for his son, plastic surgery for his wife, a burial plot for his mother, prostitutes for his employees– and, for himself, a $100,000 American-flag belt buckle encrusted with rubies, sapphires and diamonds.

Steven Tyler singing to Our Miss Brooks at her Bat Mitzvah (source)

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