Quotations about   insult

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No one can be as calculatedly rude as the British, which amazes Americans, who do not understand studied insult and can only offer abuse as a substitute.

Paul Gallico (1897-1976) American author, sports journalist
In the New York Times (14 Jan 1962)
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Added on 20-Sep-19 | Last updated 20-Sep-19
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He is a man of splendid abilities, but utterly corrupt. He shines and stinks like rotten mackerel by moonlight.

John Randolph of Roanoke (1773-1833) American politician, diplomat
(Attributed)

Comment on Edward Livingson, quoted in W. Cabell Bruce, John Randolph of Roanoke, Vol. 2 (1923). Sometimes incorrectly given as an attack on Henry Clay.
Added on 31-Jul-17 | Last updated 31-Jul-17
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She speaks poniards and every word stabs

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Much Ado About Nothing, Act 2, sc. 1 (1599)
Added on 20-Jul-17 | Last updated 20-Jul-17
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“You ever fuck Susan here?” she said, her face almost touching mine.

“I’m impressed,” I said. “The question is intrusive, annoying, coarse, and voyeuristic. That’s quite a lot to get into a simple question.”

Robert B. Parker (1932-2010) American writer
Hush Money (1999)
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Added on 25-May-17 | Last updated 25-May-17
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Abuse is the weapon of the vulgar.

Samuel Griswold Goodrich (1793-1860) American author [pseud. Peter Parley]
(Attributed)

Quoted in Maturin M. Ballou, Edge-Tools of Speech (1886)
Added on 19-May-17 | Last updated 19-May-17
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If all else fails, the character of a man can be recognized by nothing so surely as by a jest which he takes badly.

Georg C. Lichtenberg (1742-1799) German physicist, writer
Aphorisms, K.46 (1765-99) [tr. Hollingdale (1990)]
Added on 9-May-17 | Last updated 9-May-17
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For to be civilized is to be incapable of giving unnecessary offense, it is to have some quality of consideration for all who cross our path.

Agnes Repplier (1855-1950) American writer
“A Question of Politeness,” Americans and Others (1912)
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Added on 24-Apr-17 | Last updated 24-Apr-17
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A sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use.

Washington Irving (1783-1859) American author [pseud. for Geoffrey Crayon]
“Rip Van Winkle,” The Sketch Book (1820)
Added on 15-Feb-17 | Last updated 15-Feb-17
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The tongue is not steel, yet it cuts.

George Herbert (1593-1633) Welsh priest, orator, poet.
Jacula Prudentum (1651)
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Added on 8-Feb-17 | Last updated 8-Feb-17
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A soft Tongue may strike hard.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Poor Richard’s Almanack (Oct 1744)
Added on 18-Jan-17 | Last updated 18-Jan-17
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A thick skin is a gift from God.

Konrad Adenauer (1876-1967) German politician
New York Times (30 Dec 1959)
Added on 26-Jul-16 | Last updated 26-Jul-16
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To persevere in one’s duty and be silent is the best answer to calumny.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Letter to William Livingston (7 Dec 1779)
Added on 11-Jul-16 | Last updated 11-Jul-16
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Neglected, calumny soon expires; show that you are hurt, and you give it the appearance of truth.

Tacitus (c.56-c.120) Roman historian, orator, politician [Publius or Gaius Cornelius Tacitus]
The Annals (AD 109)
Added on 20-Jun-16 | Last updated 20-Jun-16
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I never yet heard man or woman much abused, that I was not inclined to think the better of them; and to transfer any suspicion or dislike to the person who appeared to take delight in pointing out the defects of a fellow-creature.

Jane Porter (1776-1850) English historical novelist and dramatist
Aphorisms of Sir Philip Sidney, Vol. 2, “Falsehood, Treachery, and Slander,” #19, Remark (1807)
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Added on 6-Jun-16 | Last updated 6-Jun-16
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Every life is its own excuse for being, and to deny or refute the untrue things that are said of you is an error in judgment. All wrong recoils upon the doer, and the man who makes wrong statements about others is himself to be pitied, not the man he vilifies. It is better to be lied about than to lie. At the last no one can harm us but ourselves.

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American writer, businessman, philosopher
The Roycroft Dictionary and Book of Epigrams (1923)
Added on 25-Apr-16 | Last updated 25-Apr-16
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Act uprightly, and despise Calumny; Dirt may stick to a Mud Wall, but not to polish’d Marble.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Poor Richard’s Almanack (1757)
Added on 4-Apr-16 | Last updated 4-Apr-16
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Never complain and never explain.

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) English politician and author
(Attributed)

Regarding attacks on him in Parliament. Quoted in John Morley, Life of William Ewart Gladstone (1903).
Added on 28-Mar-16 | Last updated 28-Mar-16
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Calumny is only the noise of madmen.

Diogenes of Sinope (412 or 404-323BC) Greek Cynic philosopher
Quoted in Epictetus The Discourses, Book 1, ch. 24.
Added on 21-Mar-16 | Last updated 18-Mar-16
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No man can humiliate me or disturb me. I won’t let him.

Bernard Baruch (1870-1965) American businessman and statesman
(Attributed)

Quoted in Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living (1948). When asked by Carnegie if he was troubled by his enemies' attacks.
Added on 7-Mar-16 | Last updated 7-Mar-16
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Calumny is like a wasp which harasses you. Raise no hand against it unless you’re sure of killing it, for otherwise it will return to the charge more furious than ever.

Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Maxims and Thoughts, #302 (1796)
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Alt. trans.: "Calumny is like the wasp which worries you, which it were best not to try to get rid of unless you are sure of slaying it; for otherwise it will return to the charge more furious than ever."
Added on 29-Feb-16 | Last updated 29-Feb-16
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To avoid dissensions we should ever be on our guard, more especially with those who drive us to argue with them, with those who vex and irritate us, and who say things likely to excite us to anger. When we find ourselves in company with quarrelsome, eccentric individuals, people who openly and unblushingly say the most shocking things, difficult to put up with, we should take refuge in silence, and the wisest plan is not to reply to people whose behavior is so preposterous.

Those who insult us and treat us contumeliously are anxious for a spiteful and sarcastic reply: the silence we then affect disheartens them, and they cannot avoid showing their vexation; they do all they can to provoke us and to elicit a reply, but the best way to baffle them is to say nothing, refuse to argue with them, and to leave them to chew the cud of their hasty anger. This method of bringing down their pride disarms them, and shows them plainly that we slight and despise them.

St. Ambrose (339-397) Roman prelate, Bishop of Milan [Aurelius Ambrosius]
De Officiis Ministrorum, ch. 5
Added on 22-Feb-16 | Last updated 22-Feb-16
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It really hurts me very much to suppose that I have wronged anybody on earth.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) American lawyer, politician, US President (1861-65)
Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Quincy, Illinois (13 Oct 1858)
Added on 4-Jan-16 | Last updated 4-Jan-16
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There are two insults which no human being will endure: The assertion that he hasn’t a sense of humor, and the doubly impertinent assertion that he has never known trouble.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Main Street (1920)
Added on 13-Oct-15 | Last updated 13-Oct-15
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If crisis management requires cold and even brutal measures to show determination, it also imposes the need to show the opponent a way out. Grandstanding is good for the ego but bad for foreign policy. […] Many wars have started because no line of retreat was left open.

Henry Kissinger (b. 1923) German-American diplomat
Years of Upheaval, ch. 12 (1982)
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Added on 22-Sep-15 | Last updated 22-Sep-15
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Unless you intend to kill him immediately thereafter, never kick a man in the balls. Not even symbolically. Or perhaps especially not symbolically.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Friday [Friday Jones] (1982)
Added on 22-Sep-15 | Last updated 22-Sep-15
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The most perilous moment is often when an adversary is seemingly prepared to retreat and then is jolted into new defiance by an assault on his self-esteem.

Henry Kissinger (b. 1923) German-American diplomat
Years of Upheaval, ch. 12 (1982)
Added on 15-Sep-15 | Last updated 15-Sep-15
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My pain may be the reason for somebody’s laugh, but my laugh must never be the reason for somebody’s pain.

Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977) English comic actor, film director, composer
(Attributed)
Added on 5-Aug-15 | Last updated 5-Aug-15
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There are reproaches that compliment, and compliments that disparage.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #148 (1665) [tr. Kronenberger (1959)]
Added on 17-Jun-15 | Last updated 17-Jun-15
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The penalty of success is to be bored by people who used to snub you.

Nancy Astor (1879-1964) American socialite and English politician [Nancy Witcher Langhorne; Viscountess Astor; Lady Astor]
In the Daily Express (12 Jan 1956)
Added on 21-Nov-14 | Last updated 21-Nov-14
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Just deeds are the best answer to injurious words.

John Milton (1608-1674) English poet
Observations upon the Articles of Peace with the Irish Rebels (1649)
Added on 17-Sep-14 | Last updated 17-Sep-14
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He that flings Dirt at another dirtieth himself most.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia, #2107 (1732)
Added on 26-Aug-14 | Last updated 26-Aug-14
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Sir, calumnies are answer’d best with silence.

Ben Jonson (1572-1637) English playwright and poet
Volpone, Act 2, sc. 2 (1606)
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Added on 26-Feb-13 | Last updated 2-Aug-17
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Hurl your calumnies boldly; something is sure to stick.

[Audacter calumniare, semper aliquid haeret.]

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
De Augmentis Scientiarum [Advancement of Learning] (1605)
Added on 21-May-10 | Last updated 16-May-16
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There is nothing that people bear more impatiently, or forgive less, than contempt; and an injury is much sooner forgotten than an insult.

Chesterfield - injury insult - wist_info quote

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (9 Oct 1746)
Added on 15-Apr-09 | Last updated 17-Dec-15
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The idea that any kind of free society can be constructed in which people will never be offended or insulted is absurd. So too is the notion that people should have the right to call on the law to defend them against being offended or insulted. A fundamental decision needs to be made: do we want to live in a free society or not? Democracy is not a tea party where people sit around making polite conversation. In democracies people get extremely upset with each other. They argue vehemently against each other’s positions. (But they don’t shoot.)

Salman Rushdie (b. 1947) Indian novelist
“Do we have to fight the battle for the Enlightenment all over again?” The Independent (22 Jan 2005)
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Added on 11-Feb-05 | Last updated 7-Mar-18
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To limit the press is to insult the nation; to prohibit the reading of certain books is to declare the inhabitants to be either fools or slaves.

Claude Adrien Helvétius (1715-1771) French philosopher
A Treatise on Man: His Intellectual Faculties and His Education [De l’homme] (1772)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Jun-16
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Humor distorts nothing, and only false gods are laughed off their pedestals.

Agnes Repplier (1855-1950) American writer
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 24-Apr-17
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What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.

Salman Rushdie (b. 1947) Indian novelist
In Weekend Guardian (10 Feb 1990)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 5-Jul-16
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A strange and vanity-devoured, detestable woman! I do not believe I could ever learn to like her except on a raft at sea with no other provisions in sight.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 3, 3 July 1908 (2010)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.

Groucho Marx (1890-1977) American comedian [b. Julius Henry Marx]
(Spurious)

Groucho (in 1962) denied ever using the phrase (attributed to him as early as 1941). The earliest, somewhat dubious instance of it found is in 1936, attributed to comedian Hugh Hubert.  More here.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 7-Apr-17
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