Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Whole New World

When it comes to Shakespeare, I often don't go.

We are barely on speaking terms.

If, while watching Jeopardy with my wife, the The Bard comes up, I simply shout "Macbeth" at every opportunity. It's the only play I'm familiar with. And then only because I had a small role as the Drunken Porter while in high school.

All that might be changing. Or, as Willy might have put it,

"aye, the gods be frothy and there's a howlin' in yonder peat-covered hills."

But, probably not.

Thankfully, somebody sent me a handy-dandy Shakespearean Insult Kit. You might have have even seen it floating around the interwebs. I've got mine permanently bookmarked.

And have referenced it twice, sometimes thrice daily. I love it that much.

It's quite genius in its simplicity.

There are three columns of words. Adjectives, followed by adverbs, followed by nouns. To assemble a proper insult, you simply choose any random combination of the three. It's like a Chinese menu, you know if you replaced sweet and sour shrimp and lo mein noodles with canker-blossoms and malt-worms.

Keep in mind these are not the same English words you're likely to see in any online flame war. This is not Fuck You. Or even, Fucketh Thou. No, these are the ancient remnants of the Queen's Tongue that frankly pack so much more punch.

Which makes them particularly handy when discussing Precedent Shitgibbon.

For instance, you might go with the more contemporary Cheetoh-Face. I've seen that a lot.
I prefer, dribbling, ill-nurtured skainsmate.

You might elect to use a malaprop, like Drumpf.
I savor something more descriptive like unmuzzled, doghearted bum-bailey.

And you might opt for the straightforward rather pedestrian, Shithead.
While I choose to tack on with surly, spongy, wart-neck, malmsey-nosed foot licker.

Do I know what any of these terms mean? Only in the vaguest sense. The same way I sort of get Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet or The Tempest.

But none of that matters.

Because the Shakespearean insults have a tone. And a timber. And an unmistakable rhythm. And what they lack in clear definition, they more than make up for in raw, unfiltered, unmistakable disdain.


george tannenbaum said...

I love Billy.
New York, of course, has Shakespeare in the park,
free in the summer and underneath the stars.
So I see two Shakespeares a year.
And I enjoy them.
I always have some dread going, but it always turns out ok.

Also, my eldest daughter was in "The Tempest," in high school.

She had the best line in all of the Bard.

The one most relevant to our lives.

Both at work and at home.

"Hell is empty, and all the devils are here."

BTW, I remember this article from thirty years ago.

Rich Siegel said...

That's a great article george. I miss the sound of NYC.