Devastating Disses

By Speirs, Doug | Winnipeg Free Press, October 6, 2018 | Go to article overview

Devastating Disses


Speirs, Doug, Winnipeg Free Press


You will probably not be surprised to hear this, but bombastic U.S. President Donald Trump insulted a female reporter last week.

It happened during a Monday morning news conference in the Rose Garden, held to mark the trade deal struck by the U.S., Canada and Mexico, when Trump called on ABC News White House correspondent Cecilia Vega.

As Vega was waiting for a microphone to be passed to her, Trump chirped to staffers behind him: “She’s shocked that I picked her. She’s, like, in a state of shock.”

“I’m not, thank you, Mr. President,” Vega politely responded.

“That’s OK. I know you’re not thinking, you never do,” Trump replied in a seemingly unprovoked jab.

The initial White House transcript, released several hours after the press conference, quoted Trump as saying, “I know you’re not thanking. You never do.”

On Tuesday morning, the White House corrected that portion of the official transcript to include the president’s insult of the reporter, noting he had, in fact, said “thinking.”

The presidential insult was blasted on social media, with critics suggesting the exchange was indicative of misogyny in the White House.

As insults go, it wasn’t especially clever or memorable, but it did inspire today’s mean-spirited list of Five of our Favourite Crushing Insults from Throughout History:

5) The insulter: Famed American author Mark Twain

The target: Famed English author Jane Austen

The withering words: In one corner, we have Mark Twain (1835-1910) — whose real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens — the legendary humorist and lecturer who is best known for his novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and its sequel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In the other corner, we have Jane Austen (1775-1817), whose historic novels — Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, to name just two — continue to delight modern book clubs, and inspire Hollywood movies and literary parodies, such as 2009’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. What we are talking about here are two literary heavyweights, one of whom (Austen) died before the other (Twain) was born. For reasons we are not sure of, Twain expressed an unparallelled hatred for Austen’s writing, defining an ideal library as one that had none of her books on its shelves. “Just that one omission alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn’t a book in it,” Twain insisted in Following the Equator, a travelogue he published in 1897. According to assorted bookish sites, Twain enjoyed venting his literary spleen on Austen in his extensive correspondence with fellow author and critic William Dean Howells, who adored Austen. Twain told Howells he would not be able to read Austen’s prose even if he were paid a salary to do so. For his part, when Twain fell gravely ill, Howells threatened to come and read Pride and Prejudice to him. But the most withering insult from America’s famed man of letters came when he marvelled that Austen had been allowed to die a natural death rather than face execution for her literary crimes. Sniffed Twain: “I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin bone!” Ouch!

4) The insulter: George Bernard Shaw

The target: William Shakespeare

The withering words: Just like the previous item, here we have a battle between two literary heavyweights most of us were forced to read in high school English class. It wasn’t much of a two-way fight in the sense that one of them (that would be Shakespeare) died more than 200 years before the other was born. If you are not aware that Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon, is widely considered to be the greatest writer in the history of the English language, then you probably slept through most of your classes, much like this columnist. …

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