Brutal Insults From the 1800s That Demand a Comeback

If you call someone a butt sniffer, they know they've been burnt (Phillips sure did!). But burns like "flapdoodle" and "mumbling cove," on the other hand, don't have quite the same bite. Back in the 19th century, though, throwing one of these insults could get you challenged to a duel. 

Below are the definitions for these Victorian insults, plus 14 more rude words that we definitely think should be integrated back into modern vernacular. The information comes courtesy of Chambers Slang Dictionary by Jonathon Green, a noted author of several old-time urban dictionaries. He's no ratbag, but feel free to use that word on your least favorite neighbor.


Church bell

A talkative woman

Example: "Hey man, sorry I'm late. Some total church bell on the street wouldn't stop lecturing me about Scientology. Do you know what a thetan is?"


A sexually incompetent man, who is either too young to have had sex or one who is too old to attempt it ("flapdoodle" also referred to nonsense or rubbish and ladyparts in the same time period)

Example: "I read in Holly Madison's memoir that Hugh Hefner is a weird old flapdoodle, if you know what I mean. It means his penis doesn't work."


A bungler, or one who does things clumsily

Example: "God, Karen you are such a foozler. Are you at least going to help me glue my '99 intramural basketball trophy back together?"


An ugly person, especially one with a heavy lower jaw

Example: "Jay Leno is a total gibface. I prefer my late-night hosts to have weak chins."



A prostitute, who presumably works in the countryside ("creeper" could also be substituted for "prowler" or "ranger")

Example: "See that hedge-creeper over in the cul-de-sac? She just asked me if I wanted to party. I think I'm going to call the police."


A fraud or cheat

Example: "Dan is such a hornswoggler! He told me he was personal friends with an Nigerian prince who needs help, and I'm starting to believe he's never even been to Nigeria."


A fat person

Example: "That jollocks who got stuck in the bathtub was our 27th president, William Howard Taft."

Malmsey nose

A heavily acned nose (the assumption here was that the acned nose was the result of drinking too much malmsey wine)

Example: "You get total malmsey nose after two beers. You should probably see a dermatologist."


A coward

Example: "Quit being such a meater and jump out of the plane, Frank!"

Flickr/Daniel Peckham

Mumbling cove

A shabby person or an unpleasant, deceitful landlord

Example: "So then the mumbling cove told me he was raising my rent 25%. Can you believe that? Also, his tattered coat was hideous."

Mutton shunter

A policeman, especially one tasked with harrying street prostitutes

Example: "I ain't telling you nothing, mutton shunter. Stop laughing, it's an insult!"



Example: "Oh man, I'm so scared of birds, I can't even go outside if there are too many out there. I guess you could say I'm pigeon-livered. But please don't, I fear pigeons the most."


A general term of abuse; a rogue or an eccentric

Example: "Sheena is a total ratbag. I'm not sure why I don't like her, but she sucks."



Example: "Stop being vazey and call a cab, Brent. You can't drive. You just asked me if Matt Damon was still stuck in space."

Flickr/Marilyn Brinker


A promiscuous woman or prostitute; less commonly, a dissolute man

Example: "That dude who hangs out around the hotel late at night is a wagtail. Yes, I know it's the less common use, but that's what he is, Diane."


A second-rate singer who produces noise rather than music

Example: "Get that whooperup belting Celine Dion off the stage! It's our turn to sing 'No Diggity.'"

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Kristin Hunt is a staff writer for Thrillist, and is a total whooperup, but she's okay with that. Follow her to Victorian thesauruses at @kristin_hunt.