Zing! 20 of history’s most brutal put-downs


There’s no better type of insult than historical mud-slinging! Today’s zingers just don’t have the refinement and wit of the insults of yesteryear, and they certainly don’t provide the immense satisfaction of picturing the most prominent and respected figures from your history textbook getting down and dirty with a little verbal warfare. We’ve found 20 of the most brutal put-downs of the past that prove just how harsh history’s finest could be.

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1. “That most deformed concept-cripple of all time.”.

Friedrich Nietzsche on Immanuel Kant


2. “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap”

Dolly Parton on Dolly Parton

3. “Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.”

Mark Twain on Congress

4. “Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas.”

Marie Curie to reporters

5. “An excellent man: he has no enemies; and none of his friends like him.”

Oscar Wilde on George Bernard Shaw


6. “[his argument] is as thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had been starved to death.”

Abraham Lincoln on Stephen A. Douglas

7. “A cold-blooded, calculating, unprincipled usurper, without a virtue; no statesman, knowing nothing of commerce, political economy, or civil government, and supplying ignorance by bold presumption.”

Thomas Jefferson on Napoleon Bonaparte

8. “Jerry Ford is so dumb he can’t fart and chew gum at the same time.”

Lyndon B. Johnson on Gerald Ford

9. “He possessed a soul of pulp, a body of wet paper, and a heart of pumpkin fricasseed in snow.”

Ninon de l’Enclos, French courtesan, on the Marquis de Sevigne, French aristocrat

10. “The fool wants to turn the whole art of astronomy upside-down.”

Martin Luther on Copernicus

11. “Handel is only fourth rate. He is not even interesting.”

Tchaikovsky on Handel


12. “His whole life has been one continued insult to good manners and to decency”

John Adams on Benjamin Franklin

13. “You can’t make a soufflé rise twice.”

Alice Roosevelt on a senator reportedly having an affair with a much younger woman

14. “Garfield has shown that he is not possessed of the backbone of an angleworm.”

Ulysses S. Grant on James A. Garfield

15. “As for yourself, you give me the impression of having studied many books, but not yet of having graduated to the books of Princes, rather remaining ignorant of the dealings between Kings.”

Elizabeth I to the Ambassador of Poland

Elizabeth I

16. “He bores me. He ought to have stuck to his flying machines.”

Auguste Renoir on Leonardo da Vinci

17. “Never did I read such tosh. As for the first 2 chapters we will let them pass, but the 3rd 4th 5th 6th–merely the scratching of pimples on the body of the bootboy at Claridges. Of course genius may blaze out on page 652 but I have my doubts. And this is what Eliot worships . . .”

Virginia Woolf on James Joyce’s Ulysses

18. “He slept more than any other president, whether by day or night. Nero fiddled, but Coolidge only snored.”

H.L. Mencken on Calvin Coolidge

19. “How could they tell?”

Dorothy Parker on Calvin Coolidge’s death


20. “A sheep in sheep’s clothing.”

Winston Churchill on Ramsay MacDonald

Were our choices for history’s most brutal insults brutal enough for you? Let us know in the comments which is your favorite! Additions to contextual information are welcome as well –  as Abraham Lincoln once said, “The problem with quotes on the internet is that you can never be certain of their authenticity”.

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5 replies
  1. Coolio
    Coolio says:

    Dorothy Parker don’t pull any punches. Wonder if Calvin Coolidge really was such a chilled president?

  2. Larry
    Larry says:

    Lydon B Johnson’s is brilliant! Sadly, it could be applied to at least two one other US president I can think of, although these were both Republican.


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