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Samuel Johnson's Insults


The eighteenth century was a golden age of insults, with Swift, Pope and Voltaire providing much of the lucre. When it came to verbal goring, though, Samuel Johnson's lance was among the sharpest. He adored a good sparring and reveled in giving much better than he got.


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Among the 300+ insults defined as only Johnson could - and culled from his famous Dictionary - are the ones below. See if you can guess their meanings.
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If you're drawn to superior snubs like these, we offer these zingers and
four more in magnetic form, to wear or to post. Definitions are included.


Need A Witty Riposte? Try a Johnsonian One
Johnson on Milton's Paradise Lost:
"None ever wished it longer."
On the writer Oliver Goldsmith (a friend):
"He seldom comes where he is not more ignorant than any one else."
On the overly garrulous:
"Do not be like the spider, man; and spin conversation thus incessantly."
On too many questions from his faithful companion, Boswell, who told Johnson he only asked them because Johnson was so good at answering:
"Sir, my being so good is no reason why you should be so ill."
On Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels:
"When once you have thought of big men and little men, it is very easy to do all the rest."

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Excerpted from Samuel Johnson's Insults, edited by Jack Lynch.
A Levenger Press/Walker & Company book, registered under U.S. copyright.

Also by Levenger Press