Suppose you really need to put people in their place? Consult the great works of science fiction and fantasy! You need a lot of imagination to concoct a truly bracing put-down, so it's probably not surprising that speculative fiction writers cook up the best burns. Here are 20 great insults from SF and fantasy novels.
1) Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold
"Were you born inhuman, or did you grow so by degrees — M.S., M.D., Ph.D..."
2) What a Dragon Should Know by G.A. Aiken
"Are you in great physical pain, or is that your thinking expression?"
3) Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut
"If your brains were dynamite there wouldn't be enough to blow your hat off."
4) A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
"'I know you for a man of ambition,' Ser Courtnay broke in. 'A man who changes kings and gods the way I change my boots.'"
Image via Acazigo/Deviant Art.
5) Mort by Terry Pratchett
"'It would seem that you have no useful skill or talent whatsoever,' he said. 'Have you thought of going into teaching?'"
6) Redwall by Brian Jacques
"To describe the young haremaid's singing voice as akin to a frog trapped beneath a hot stone would have been a great insult to both frog and stone."
7) Page by Tamora Pierce
"Neal glared at the chubby second-year with all the royal disdain of a vexed lion. He was limping from a staff blow to the knee. 'You are a bloody-minded savage,' he informed Owen sternly. 'I hope you are kidnapped by killer centaurs.'
8) Mission of Honor by David Weber
"Fleet Admiral Sandra Crandall had never been a good woman to disappoint. She was a big woman, with a hard, determined face and what one thankfully anonymous subordinate had once described as the disposition of a grizzly bear with hemorrhoids trying to pass pinecones. In fact, Commander Hago Shavarshyan thought, that had been a gross libel against grizzly bears."
9) The Wheel of Time: Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan, completed by Brandon Sanderson
"I dare the truth, Elaida. You are a coward and a tyrant. I'd name you Darkfriend as well, but I suspect that the Dark One would perhaps be embarrassed to associate with you."
10) Reamde by Neal Stephenson
Various descriptions of Devin Skraelin:
“One cannot call him profoundly mediocre without venturing so far out on the critical limb as to bend it to the ground”
“So derivative that the reader loses track of who he’s ripping off”
“To say he is tin-eared would render a disservice to a blameless citizen of the periodic table of the elements”
11) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling
The Marauder’s Map evisceration of Snape:
"Mr. Moony presents his compliments to Professor Snape and begs him to keep his abnormally large nose out of other people's business.
Mr. Prongs agrees with Mr. Moony and would like to add that Professor Snape is an ugly git.
Mr. Padfoot would like to register his astonishment that an idiot like that ever became a Professor.
Mr. Wormtail bids Professor Snape good day, and advises him to wash his hair, the slime-ball."
12) Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve."
13) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
"You guys are so unhip it's a wonder your bums don't fall off."
14) Marlfox, Brian Jaques
"Addletongued applenecked amateur animals! Baldybacked bumptious birdbrained bootlickers! Craventailed crumpetfaced curs! Despicable dungeoneared doodlebugs! Entrail-eatin’ eggheaded eyesores! Foulfurred frog-fearin’ felons! Nitnosed chopcheeked dishwater-drinkers! Loppylugged laggards! Begone! Fatuous ferrets!"
15) Turncoat by Jim Butcher
"'You,' Madeline said, her voice hollow and wheezing, 'are like a bad case of herpes, wizard. You're inconvenient, embarassing, no real threat, and you simply will not go away.'"
16) Alanna the First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
"[Alanna] announced clearly: 'Ralon of Malven has beggars and thieves for ancestors. He's the son of a lizard and a demon. He has all the honor of a weasel. He can't even fight in the open like a man and a noble. He picks his fights in back halls — so no one can see him cheat.' ...
Ralon was staring at Alanna, gasping for words. 'What did you say?' he finally squeaked.
'Liar. Sneak. Coward. Bully.' She threw the words at him. 'You disgrace your name. D'you want me to write it down for you? Oh — I forgot. You can't read, either.'"
17) The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
"Evil have been thy ways, son of Húrin. Thankless fosterling, outlaw, slayer of thy friend, thief of love, usurper of Nargothrond, captain foolhardy and deserter of thy kin. As thralls thy mother and sister live in Dor-lomin, in misery and want. Thou art arrayed as prince, but they go in rags; and for thee they yearn, but thou carest not for that. Glad may thy father be to learn that he hath such a son; as learn he shall."
18) American Gods by Neil Gaiman
"I got to tell you, you don’t look too bright. I got a son, stupid as a man who bought his stupid at a two-for-one sale, and you remind me of him."
19) There Will Be Dragons by John Ringo
"Dionys, thou art a coward. Sooth doth thou send others before thee and refrain from the strife thyself. Thou strikest women yet shirk to strike a man, lest thy pustulent skin be cut by a blade fairer than thy own. Sooth, thou art a coward, Mc Canoc. Dionys, thou art a braggart. Braggart thou art for naught, for in every contest thou art defeated. Fighter of weaklings and braggarts like thyself, whensoever a true knight face thee, thou runs away. Yet, in sooth, from this cowardly retreat dost thou make brag. Mc Canoc, thou art a braggart. Dionys, thou art smelly. Thy breath stinks of the rotten ejacula of horses, which, sooth, thou dost love as thy morning drink. Thy body reeks with the stench of fear, and the manure of the asparagus-eating goats is better than the smell from thy mustache. Mc Canoc, thou art a stinker. Dionys, thou art ugly. The orcs doth not run forward to fight, but away from thy countenance. Sooth, in the history of the ill-favored, thy name is held in high esteem. Thy whore mother screamed at first sight of thee as the replicator burst open of its own accord in horror. The ill-fortuned persons that were forced to care for thee had to put a pork chop around thy neck to get the dog to play with thee. Further sooth, when it did, it mistook thy ass for thy face and preferred it to lick. Mc Canoc, thou art ugly. Dionys, though art stupid. Thrice you have attacked us, and thrice have we thrown thee back, though we are but, forsooth, a fraction of thy number. Thou art unlettered and hath never read of the term "defeat in detail", for assuredly, but those few letters would require all day and the use of both of your pustulent forefingers. But the veriest simpleton canst understand thy tactics are those of a schoolyard bully held back until his tutors at last release him as a man full grown yet unable to manage fingerpainting. The very fact that thou canst breathe must be by the arts of some homunculi or hob, smarter than thou, who doth sit upon thy shoulder and whisper "Breathe in, breathe out" else surely thou wouldst cease in this vital activity for lack of thought. Canst thou walk and chew bubble gum at the same time it is asked and I cry "Nay" for I have found you, face down, the bubblegum before you upon the ground as proof. Mc Canoc, thou art stupid. And that is how a professional insults someone! Now, go away, or I'll start in on Arabic, you miserable mound of gelatinous pus!"
20) I Will Fear no Evil by Robert A. Heinlein
"'Going to dance at my wake?'
'I don’t dance,' the lawyer answered, 'but you tempt me to learn.'"