Samuel Johnson's Insults
Levenger, 2005 (2004)
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
his is one of those little books that make great stocking stuffers - for anyone who enjoys the language of insults, that is. The book opens aptly with the Samuel Johnson quote, '
It is surely better a man should be abused than be forgotten.
' The book's editor tells us that in the 18th century - an '
age of insults
' served up with great zest - Johnson was '
second to none
his little book offers a
of insulting terms, from the unfamilliar
to the still used
. Explanations of terms include their origins, with the occasional quotation of an insult that uses them. At the back is an
Index of Selected Personages
mentioned within the book. Here are some of the words I liked most -
. And here are a couple of insults (though I wish the book had included more). On the death of a Jamaican slaveholder, Johnson said '
He will not, whither he has now gone, find much difference, I believe, either in the climate or the company.
' And to a friend complaining of illness, '
Do not be like the spider, man; and spin conversation thus incessantly out of thy own bowels.
n an age when the best today's youth seems able to come up with is '
', this little book can enlarge the imagination. Give it to anyone whose insults would benefit from better articulation, to afficianados of the absurd, or to those who enjoy edged wit.
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