Perspective: Hurl Barbs Like A Bard

Sep 17, 2020

America has probably not been this divided -- or this uncivil -- since the Civil War. Differences of opinion have resulted in, not surprisingly, ad hominem attacks. I’ve found the use of misogynistic and anti-Semitic language especially troubling. And lately, I’ve also noticed social media pundits using a variation of what I’ll call the “r” word, an outdated and unacceptable way to describe special needs individuals.

Asking political opponents to avoid mudslinging is no doubt unrealistic. But as a former English teacher and current librarian, I suggest a creative alternative for informal and formal political debates. Who better to emulate than the Bard of Avon?

Shakespeare is always timely. In the COVID era, some might be tempted to take their differences too far. But Shakespeare warns us, “I’ll beat thee, but I would infect my hands.”  And who hasn’t tired of those who beat the same partisan but inaccurate drum: “More of your conversation would infect my brain.”

Perhaps my favorite Shakespearean insult, best reserved for unscrupulous politicians: “A most notable coward, an infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise breaker, the owner of no one good quality.”

Too busy to comb through Shakespeare plays to find your own verbal barbs? Take heart—there’s a website called the “Shakespearean Insults Generator!” I just tried it and up popped, “Thou loathed shag-haired scut!” It sounds like something you shouldn’t say on NPR, but I’m confident that’s it’s preferable to many of the epithets floating around social media.

I’m Lori Drummond-Cherniwchan, and that’s my Perspective.