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Berger’s Burg: Insults are merely love letters in reverse

By Alex Berger

Readers, it is mid-winter and I racked my brain trying to come up with a column that would warm the cockles of your hearts. I was at a loss until I opened a letter from an anonymous reader which read,”You have Van Gogh's ear for comedy.” Thank you, Mr. Anonymous, you just gave me my subject ДInsults.” When I was a child, I lived on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, a tight community with a multi-ethnic population. Although I was not able to speak the many diverse languages, I learned, as I grew older, that some of the words uttered by irate residents were certainly not love odes. I recall running to my father with the first Italian words I ever learned. “I found gold! I found gold,” I proudly shouted at my father. A stony look greeted my exuberance. “Don't you ever let me hear you say those words again,” he warned. Although I did not know the Italian meaning of the words at the time, “I found gold” left my vocabulary forever. I also remember my mother during periods of stress (and there were many considering the family's dire financial straits and the strain of raising eight children) mumbling under her breath, something that sounded like: “afinster klippity klopen en drayet.” Since I never learned Yiddish, I still don't know what that meant, but I am certain that it wasn't “please pass the blintzes.” I was always, and still am, intrigued by these devilish remarks that escape intuitively from the mouths of people during periods of exasperation. I saved many of the zingers which were uttered by masters in the art of insults, to use at just the right moment. So, a cautionary warning to Mr. Anonymous – never cross my path with wicked intentions ever again, or else feel the wrath of getting your ears burned by this master of malediction. I really am itching to use a few ripostes in my vast repertoire on scoundrels who fail to treat me right. There in waiting are such plums as: “May you inherit three shiploads of gold and it still will not be enough to pay your doctor bills;” “May they name something after you – a disease;” and: “If you were as tall as you are stupid, you would have to sleep in a bowling alley.” But, I must NOT forget NOT to use them on persons larger than I am. That may be injurious to my health. I came across an article by one Dr. Reinhold Aman, supposedly the world's foremost authority on verbal aggression, who had collected thousands of insults and curses. Dr. Aman devoted most of his life assembling the gems of verbal abuse in more than 200 languages. “Cursing and name-calling have always existed in all cultures throughout the world,” the good doctor wrote. He concluded that some of the cleverest insults appear to be of Yiddish origin. An example: “May you look like an onion with your head in the ground and your feet in the air.” Interestingly, Italian barbs are second – “May your blood turn to whiskey so that a thousand bedbugs get drunk and dance the Tarantella in your bellybutton.” The Hungarians and Polish, Aman points out, are also experts in this field because they themselves have borne the brunt of insults for so many years. Aman recalls a typical insult of a West African tribe: “You smell like the armpits of an elephant.” Wow! That would be a good one to use on my financial adviser. Other samplings of Dr. Aman's international pearls of insult are: “May you have the nicest neighbors in all of Siberia;” ” May you be a good liar with a poor memory;” “May you be turned into a chicken and the soup made from your bones be used to cure your worst enemy.” “May your clock run slow, your heart run fast, your bile run over, your wife run away, and your nose run always;” he continues. “May you have a house with 1,000 rooms and the rooms have 1,000 beds and may cholera throw you from bed to bed;” “May you always have a seven-year itch (that lasts 14), a 24-hour flu (that lasts 6 weeks) and a larger hernia, a fatter goiter, a riper cataract, and a rounder carbuncle;” “May all your teeth fall out except the one that aches;” and, “With a nose like yours, you should be forced to carry a weapons permit.”The poorest cursers, Aman contends, are the Americans. They usually fall back on approximately the same 24 words and, when angry, resort to (heavens to Betsy) obscenities. Well, fellow Americans, don't be crude – be rude. Try these nuggets on someone who deserves it: “I wish you everything you wish me, and everything you wish you wished me, after I have wished you everything I wish you.” That says it all. In conclusion, I emphatically warn one and all not to tamper with my disposition from this day henceforth. My one-curse, coup de grace (recently registered as a lethal weapon) is just itching to swing into action. I pray that I will never have to use it. But, in the horrific event that it may, one day, need to be unleashed, I must now test its effectiveness. To the meek among you, I pray that you discontinue reading any further. In the event you are so foolish as to defy this warning, please bring this newspaper to the nearest emergency room first. Forewarned is forearmed: “MAY YOUR SHOELACES BECOME UNTIED EVERY TIME YOU RUN TO CATCH A BUS!!! Bulls-eye. For those readers still standing, how did you like them apples? After that powerful burst of venom you now know that when it comes to brain-piercing insults, yours truly certainly ranks with the best. Wait, I have more. If you were alive, you'd be a very sick person. If I had your mind, I'd………Reach columnist Alex Berger by e-mail at timesledger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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