Live English

Open Dictionary word of the week: spanner

spanner (noun)

an offensive word for a stupid person

I never had any great love for Enid Blyton because the children in her books were always such insufferable spanners.

(Submitted from the United Kingdom)

It’s always good to learn a new word for “stupid”. Not that this one is particularly new – whenever there has  been a spanner in the works, that spanner invariably has a face … and a name. And when there’s a tool in the works it’s always a spanner. Tool is a wonderful alternative term for stupid and spanner takes tool to a whole new level – you could be forgiven for inferring that spanner, then, is a specific kind of stupid. “Tool? Tool’s too vague for what he is!” I particularly like to learn new words for stupid because I am completely unable to actually call someone stupid to their face. Stupid was absolutely not allowed in my household growing up and the taboo has remained, along with an echoing threat of soap in the mouth. We had to get creative with our insults as a result, but picked  garden over  garage with insults like: pumpkin head, banana bum (I know, weird, but shows, I think, an early attraction to alliteration), dirt face, pea brain.  My collection of insults has grown splendidly ever since that fertile beginning and I think if my parents could have seen this far ahead they would probably beg me to swear my allegiance to stupid for life.

Insulting others can be a hugely satisfying pastime, if done with creativity and taste. Shakespeare is a beacon of inspiration in the search for creative insults. He did some garden time too – but oh, what a magnificent gardener: Thou weedy shard-borne dewberry! And, [Thou art] not so big as a round little worm.  There’s a Shakespearean Insulter that will provide you with inspirational material in those dry times of insulter’s block.

One last thing about insulting: I think  that when it comes to insulting others, you can judge the severity you believe the insult to carry by asking yourself whether you’d be able to say it to your children. A good insulter must have a scale of severity by which to measure the force of possible offence so as to save the real corkers for true idiots and not waste them on momentary lapses by perfectly nice human beings.  It turns out that by this measure my tamest insult is ‘numpty’ – I even use it as an endearment, a harmless insult that seems to float like cotton wool towards the target rather than thud at it lethally like a a hammer to a head – I save that sort of thing for total ***************s.

If you’d like to leave your own choice insults in the comments below, that would be wonderful – but keep in mind that there are obviously some things we just can’t and won’t publish. So don’t be a pillock about it.

Email this Post Email this Post

About the author


Laine Redpath Cole

Leave a Comment