Knowing how to insult is an art | The print


My column last Monday on the inconvenience of the Pride Parade1 made me all kinds of comments. On Facebook, a young woman didn’t like me saying that the new team had spent a lot of time defending a myriad of claims when it would have been better to take care of the logistics of the event.

Posted at 7:15 am

This woman, as anonymous as an abandoned orange cone on Robert-Bourrassa Boulevard, called me a “favorite old white boomer”.

I don’t mind a crumb of being called who thrives. Neither favored the white man. But being called straight, I don’t take it!

I’m kidding, but this comment got me thinking about how some people react to ideas they don’t like. They find nothing better to do than throw one or two insults, often the same ones, without any effort of originality.

I notice the term who thrives has been back in fashion for some time. Also, don’t you find it odd that the most ardent defenders of human, racial, social, sex or gender equality rights are often quick to call “old croûtons”, “old monks” or “old boomers” who they pick on?

They defend respect in all its forms by doing … ageism. The worst part is they don’t even realize it.

In short, I find ourselves lazy in our way of insulting. It lacks work, depth and culture.

You write “jerk” or “asshole” and imagine the job is done. But let’s see, to insult well, you have to apply yourself, you have to think.

This week I went back to my library to reread a pamphlet that had been lying on a shelf for many years: The art of insult. This delightful little book was compiled from many of Arthur Schopenhauer’s writings.

This great German philosopher, who died in 1860, thought a lot about the question. He tells us that the appropriate insult or the insult intended to strike requires preparation. To achieve its purpose, the insult must be learned and practiced.

Those who have mastered the art of mockery and invective believe that you must first choose the interlocutors you want to talk to. But this is the tragedy of our time. Social networks put strangers in front of us, invisible faces, ephemeral beings.

From there this laziness and all these “innkeepers de moron”, “great whore”, “great cellar”, “crisse d’épais” that abound.

By the way, why do we insult? Magazine Philosophy looked into this a few years ago. According to Aristotle, insulting is good and relieves. The desire to insult is often preceded by anger. By swinging cowrie to cowrie, we release the tension.

Closer to Home, William B. Irvine published a book in 2013 entitled A slap in the face: why insults hurt and why they shouldn’t. According to the American philosopher, the insult allows one to keep one’s place “within a group”. Interesting, right?

I think we can apply it to small groups that form on social networks. The insulters try to impose themselves by multiplying the insults. They don’t have to go very far to find a teacher: Donald Trump is a pathetic model.

To insult is to want to be right. And this gesture is often the last resort. However, it is not with the primary invectives that one shines. An insult must contain an idea. It is the richness of the formula that puts K.-O. the opponent.

When Winston Churchill said of Clement Attlee, who won the first political elections after World War II against him: “He is a modest man who has every reason to be,” the formula is both cruel and hilarious.

Our insults lack wit, but they also lack humor.

Far be it from me to encourage insults. We live in a fairly violent world as it is. Schopenhauer also reminds us that we always have the possibility to ignore the insults and act as if nothing had happened.

“Even in the face of the grossest insults and invectives, the sages did not let their confidentiality be lost and kept their serenity,” he writes.

The impact of verbal or written insults should not be underestimated. A study by the University of Utrecht2in the Netherlands, examined the effects of insults on mental health.

This study, published July 18 in the journal Borders in communication, shows that the impact of an insult is similar to that of a “mini slap”. Repeated insults create anxiety and self-esteem problems.

Should we return an insult or take it? This is the question. It all depends on our level of wisdom or our degree of intoxication. How many times will it have to be repeated? At the third glass of wine we leave the social networks and have an episode of MIXTURE you hate Me and the other.

For my part, I try to follow the path of humor and gentle arrogance.

This is the “nose prank” method. When Cyrano de Bergerac is insulted by Viscount de Valvert for his appendage, what does he do? He tells her that his attack is weak and clumsy. He even encourages her to try harder.

Valvert: “You… have a nose… er… a nose… very big. ”

Cirano: “Ah! No ! This is a little short, young man! And Cyrano to give him a thousand fabulous examples to insult him.

Destroying an insult with a lesson in the art of insulting is the best weapon there is.

In short, the neighbor who dares to call me blunt should be careful!


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