‘F’ word to blame for dying art of smart put-downs
THE art of the great insult is, like so many other aspects of the English language, dying slowly.
Since the spread of that Anglo-Saxon swearword that begins with the letter "F", smart put-downs have all but disappeared.
Groucho Marx was famous for his wit; his note - to the hostess, after a boring party - that read, simply, "I've had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it" stands among the greats.
Dorothy Parker was another whose wit never failed. "That woman can speak 18 languages and can't say 'No' in any of them" was her opinion of a New York socialite.
I come up with the odd winner, but sadly it usually happens 15 minutes after the moment I needed it. We've all had those lightbulb moments; you know, where you mentally review a conversation you've had with someone who irks you, only to slap your forehead in exasperation when the perfect comeback pops into your brain much too late.
I have been known to even practise a good put-down in anticipation of a party where I know someone I dislike will be a guest. I don't think I've ever had the opportunity to trot out the rehearsed line, and, truth be told, I'd probably fumble it and look like a complete idiot anyway.
The "F" word has taken over. It used to be considered the ultimate swearword; now it has total versatility as it has been transformed from a simple verb into a noun, adverb, adjective, or part of a compound adjective or adverb. It's even used to invite the receiver of the insult to commit acts that are anatomically impossible.
I was visiting a friend last week on the other side of the tracks (which is why she's so much fun to visit) and several of her neighbours met in the middle of the street to carry on an altercation that apparently had been brewing for some time.
Shaylene had a way with words that, while lacking wit, certainly didn't lack creativity - but the "F" word was quite popular.
"Craig You Dog You (bleeping) Maggot Go Put A (bleeping) Skirt On, You Rabbit," she shrieked at him.
At least I think that's what she said - she may actually have been suggesting he dress his pet. Not sure.
Craig, whose gene pool was so shallow he was able to keep his head above water without a neck, displayed a prudence I wouldn't have suspected of him and retreated into his house, whereupon Shayles let fly with a volley of invective I couldn't actually follow - she even managed to split a couple of words to insert a bleep.
Finally Craig emerged to scream, "Shayles Watch Your Foul Mouth Around My Kids You Fat Slag."
Groucho Marx would have been appalled.