It’s been a long time since I posted anything on here. I’ve been busy getting a full time job, my own place and, consequently, having considerably less free time than 6 months ago. So here I am attempting to get over some of the inertia I have been struck with in regards to some of my vocational pursuits, including my blogging. In order to overcome this inertia, I have decided to begin by writing about one of the greatest components of human communication: the insult; particularly, some of the more unusual and interesting insults I have encountered.
The act of making a good insult is an artform. A good insult is both insightful and incisive; it obeys all of the conventional rules of good creative language: colourful imagery, composed diction and clever wordplay, but a good insult is one that cuts right through the defences of the target and straight to their core. A truly great insult tears down the social pretensions the individual, and reveals them for what they are, shivering and naked, eloquently and mercilessly.
Insults also seem to be subject to the laws of supply and demand: say one too much and you will devalue its meaning . You should avoid using the word “fuck” in every single sentence, not because it is morally depraved, but because doing so diminishes the awesome power of the word. Powerful words should be reserved for special cases by the virtue of being powerful. It is for this reason that I have titled this blog “3 Unusual Insults that Should be More Widely Known” and not “3 Unusual Insults that Should be More Widely Used.”
Too many insults thrown around in popular discourse are banal and unimaginative. Consider the word “douchebag”: it is a go-to description for almost any kind of even remotely unpleasant person. There’s nothing special about being a douchebag. Here I set out to identify some more special insults, talk a bit about their etymology and why I find them particularly compelling.
1) “Walking Abortion”
On a purely visceral level, the potency of “walking abortion” as an insult is obvious: abortion is an unpleasant and, in some societies, controversial topic. The mental image of a walking abortion is particularly unsavoury, yet the etymology of the term is fascinating: it seems to have originated from
raging misandrist radical feminist, Valerie Solanas in her 1967 “SCUM Manifesto”. In SCUM Manifesto, Solanas, probably best known for her attempted assassination of Andy Warhol a year after writing the text, proclaims:
“It is now technically feasible to reproduce without the aid of males (or, for that matter, females) and to produce only females. We must begin immediately to do so. Retaining the male has not even the dubious purpose of reproduction. The male is a biological accident: the Y (male) gene is an incomplete X (female) gene, that is, it has an incomplete set of chromosomes. In other words, the male is an incomplete female, a walking abortion, aborted at the gene stage. To be male is to be deficient, emotionally limited; maleness is a deficiency disease and males are emotional cripples.”
“Emotional cripple” seems to be the key phrase here. We may call an intellectual cripple a “moron” or an “idiot”, someone whose lack of intelligence is painfully inconvenient to others. Similarly, a walking abortion is someone who is painfully inconvenient to others through their lack of emotional intelligence. To be a walking abortion is to be foolishly callous, to routinely piss on the best works of others through sheer lack of self-awareness. A walking abortion is this kind of person who vandalises a newly renovated public park, the kind of person who posts naked photos of their ex to a public Facebook group, the kind of person who regularly posts comments under Youtube videos.
I would argue that a walking abortion is not necessarily the same as a sociopath: a sociopath is at least intellectually aware that others may have emotional needs and that empathy is necessary to a functioning society, they just choose to completely disregard this. A walking abortion, on the other hand, is one who is genuinely and chronically ignorant of the inconvenience and suffering their actions bring upon others, an utter, total emotional moron.
Given Solanas’ use of the term, one may take the concept of a walking abortion to be inherently misandric; I disagree, to be a chronic emotional cripple is not necessarily a gender-specific affliction. My own encounter of the term actually comes from the one of my favourite albums ever: Manics Street Preachers’ the Holy Bible, specifically, the track “Of Walking Abortion”. Here, lyricist Richey Edwards allows for a more liberal and inclusive use of the term: “we all are of walking abortion”. That’s not misandric, that’s completely misanthropic.
I first encountered the term “cloaca” as part of a campaign amongst parts of the blogosphere to popularise its use a few years back. Specifically, the term was to be directed against notorious Daily Mail columnist and professional troll Richard Littlejohn, who is paid a seven figure salary by the Mail to rant about the decline of “British values” from the safe vantage point of his huge home in Florida. Littlejohn’s writing is of little intellectual value, amounting to barely anything more than crude stereotypes and thinly veiled xenophobia, homophobia and misogyny and consequently, he has become the butt of many generic insults across social media and the blogosphere. The reasoning behind employing the word “cloaca” against Littlejohn is that many traditional insults that we direct at others simply fail to do such an odious individual justice. A special word had to be brought into use, just for him.
What actually is a cloaca? The term is zoological in origin, and is defined by Wikipedia (WARNING: do not click link if currently eating) as thus:
“In zoological anatomy, a cloaca is the posterior opening that serves as the only such opening for the intestinal, reproductive, and urinary tracts of certain animal species. The word comes from Latin, and means sewer. All birds, reptiles, and amphibians possess this orifice, from which they excrete both urine and faeces, unlike placental mammals, which possess two separate orifices for evacuation.”
In others words, a cloaca is simultaneously an anus, a female reproduce orifice and a pee-hole. There is also a birth defect known as “persistant cloaca” (again, reader discretion is advised when Googling this condition) in which these three openings in humans become fused. It is a particularly unpleasant insult for a particularly unpleasant person.
Above all else, pejorative use of the word “cloaca” is a triumph of economic efficiency: it takes at least two of the worst things you could ever call someone, and does the work of both.
3) “Dunning Krugerite”
In order to understand what a Dunning Krugerite is, one must first have some understanding of the Dunning Kruger effect, a hilarious and terrifying psychological phenomenon. Roughly be summed up as follows: the Dunning Kruger effect states that people who are incompetent within a given discipline tend to vastly overestimate their competence within that discipline, especially in relation to those who possess actual competence. The theory behind this is that those who are incompetent are unable to recognise that they are incompetent, out of the simple fact that by being incompetent, they have no appreciation of what it actually means to be competent. In other words:
The Dunning Kruger effect is when you are too stupid to even realise that you are stupid.
A Dunning Krugrite is more than an ordinary moron, a Dunning Krugerite is a turbo-charged metamoron. It’s as if they’ve managed to turn the very concept of moronity in on itself into some kind of fuckwitted Moebius strip. A Dunning Krugerite is not just horrifically stupid or ignorant, but insufferably obnoxious in their stupidity and ignorance, this is because the lack of awareness of how limited their understanding actually is gives them an enormous sense of overconfidence. It is insufferable to try and reason with Dunning Krugerite because they are unable to even entertain any idea beyond the cascade of shite that regularly spews from their own oral cavities. It’s a bit like trying to explain what purple looks like to someone who totally colour-blind, or playing chess with a pigeon.
Dunning Krugerite’s are well recognised throughout history, William Shakespeare proclaimed: “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool” whilst Bertrand Russell wrote “One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision”. Dunning Krugerites are easy enough to spot, for one they tend to be opinionated, yet due to due to their incapacity to engage in even remotely critical thought, these “opinions” tend to be little more than stock populist sound bites, often played out between other Dunning Krugerites like some kind of migraine-inducing Moron Symphony.
A Dunning Krugerite is someone who proclaims that a 5 year old could paint like Mark Rothko.
A Dunning Krugrerite is some who dismisses all electronic music as “talentless pressing of buttons on a laptop, not real music”.
A Dunning Krugerite is someone who proclaims that “evolution is just a theory” and that “the climate has changed before, therefore anthropogenic global warming is a hoax.”
Richard Littlejohn displayed strong Dunning Krugeresque tendencies when he described his critically panned novel To Hell in a Handcart as “much more complex than Tolstoy”
As an insult that should be more well-known, the case for raising the profile of the Dunning Krugerite is that of its sheer ubiquity; there is just so fucking many of them. That girl on Facebook who regularly posts incoherent and reactionary political statements with utterly atrocious spelling and grammar? She’s a Dunning Krugerite. Your absolute cloaca of a manager? Possibly also a Dunning Krugerite. Almost every tabloid newspaper columnist ever? Oh boy…
It may seem to call out people on such ineptitude, but I believe that by outing Dunning Krugerites we perform a service both to the public and to themselves. If you’re not aware of your own ineptitude, what will ever motive you to improve? To paraphrase Socrates, to achieve true knowledge is to recognise the extent of one’s own ignorance.