Insults can be powerful tools of both communicating distaste and destroying a fellow human’s spirit. (They can also be indication of strongest friendship.) If you are intending to insult your enemies, you must be ruthless. If you are simply a bully picking on weaker beings, you are pathetic and trying to mask your own feelings of inferiority and I feel sorry for the lot of you. But I digress.
The worth of an insult can be broadly measured in two ways: inherent savagery and effect on target. (The overall effectivity is defined as being able to elicit whatever response you wish with the insult. What do you want to accomplish: rage, tears, laughter, etc.?) The first is the innate burn value of the insult: is it particularly stinging, devastatingly clever, withering and well-paced? The second refers to a whole host of factors: is the target thin-skinned, regular skinned, thick-skinned? A high inherent savagery will not deal enough damage to save you from the stoic thickly skinned specimen. For them, you must find the weak points they have to have – a task requiring considerable talent and intelligence at times – and strike from there. Weak points range from socially acceptable (e.g., sensitivity about a particular feature; this is seen as more acceptable because not everyone can relate to it) to unacceptable. Any dead children for you to insult? (I’m assuming that one of you (insulter or insultee) is a ginormous arsehat and therefore deserve to be insulted/think you deserve to insult them in such a manner.) A thin-skinned person wilts easily, so effective insult sessions are not necessarily due to your skill as an insulter. It only takes a very low inherent savagery to push those people to their maximum response. Regular-sensitivity specimens will be harder to crack, but a sufficient inherent savagery will still manage to bring them down.
As you may be aware, they are utterly useless as logical arguments. Infantile name-calling and insults constitute ad hominem attacks, at the very bottom of the hierarchy of disagreement. But I’m operating under the assumption that you aren’t trying to win an argument.
Now, some insults for the average person to avoid:
- Intelligence: unless you are more intelligent than that person in every possible way, it is unwise to attack intelligence. (Either way, your EQ is not very high if you have to insult them. That is, of course, unless you are in an insult contest. If you are in a heated Internet debate, you’ve revealed your technical flaws – stooping to insults, non-arguments, to support your cause.) You can always learn something from another person.
- Taking a person’s grasp of grammar (or a language) as an indication of their intelligence is both premature and doomed. It is not remotely reliable as a predictor of intelligence. With autocorrect and lazy non-prescriptivists, you can’t expect every comment to be perfect. If they’re not speaking English in the good, maybe they speak many other languages fluently. You have to see what they have to say before you judge the hell out of them.
- Attacking people with intellectual disabilities is weak tea (to put it mildly). What are you accomplishing? “I was born with an average intelligence and average genes, just like 99.9% of the population! You weren’t!”?
- Appearance: are you extremely attractive? Well, looks fade, and narcissism is not only unattractive, it can be pathological. If you aren’t and you’re using attacks against appearance, pot-kettle-black! Sorry for the tu quoque, but you’re ad homineming anyway (there it is again!), so you’re not concerned about fallacious arguments, are you? Only the effect matters. Appearance may be effective, but it is weak and it’s difficult to be original nowadays. Also, you’re just insulting people for being born a certain way again (which can backfire so easily) or not being able to slather themselves in cosmetics and artificial pelts correctly (in an aesthetically pleasing manner).
- Body shape: if your body is perfect (and especially if you have to work very hard at that), or very near it, good for you. Not everyone can be born with or maintain a shape coveted by society. What basis do you have for professing the superiority of one body shape over another? Personal taste? Your opinion carries no weight. (The apparently desirable hourglass apparently indicates increased fertility, which is apparently the reason for its attractiveness. If you want to reduce yourself to your reproductive capabilities, be my guest.)
- Fat comments: it’s barely an insult. It’s only insulting because society expects it to be insulting. Some people will find it very insulting, so it would have a strong effect on target. But inherently, it is another descriptor that is harmless, even complementary, at times. Everyone and their dog must have heard by now that girth was beauty in the Olden Days because it suggested wealth and health. This is therefore a subjective and not objective sense of beauty. Anything short of obesity comorbid with various other disorders is perfectly healthy and should be treated as such.
- Money: right now, even if you had 50% of the money in the world (ahem, 1%ers…) you still will die and rot to worms. Yes, flaunt your money over other people who might be working harder than you. Go ahead. I’m sure it’ll reflect well on you.
- Be irreverent. Attacking weak spots and dearly held beliefs is a cheap shot, but one that is often SUPER EFFECTIVE. Weak spots may vary, and if you find a very good foible, ignore the items on the to avoid list after rejecting each concern.
Go on, heartless or possibly very competitive or equally possibly compassionate soul. Insult others to your heart’s content.