Sard off, you bescumbered rantallion!

The inimitable Eva Price, of Coronation Street fame, uses the word ‘pigging’ (I presume) in place of swearing. She uses it a lot. And that got me thinking – leaving aside all the gangsters, murder, affairs etc, the inability to swear (not even the mildest of rude words like a ‘bloody’ or a ‘bugger’ seems to be allowed pre-watershed) is one of the things that makes soaps less believable (that and how people always just order ‘a pint’ when they go in the pub – A PINT OF WHAT!?!).

It must be tough for scriptwriters to come up with a decent insult when a character’s slept with someone’s husband/wife, murdered their family, stolen their baby (and so on), and the worst they can call them is a git or a pillock. If I was a soap opera writer, I’d be plundering the English language’s glorious back catalogue for swears* – there are ye olde insults galore which could definitely slip by the censors. Here are eight of my favourites.

1. Cumberworld

Nope, not a theme park devoted to Benedict Cumberbatch (although how I wish that was a thing), a cumberworld is a person who’s so useless that all they do is take up space. Think Piers Morgan, most politicians, etc.

2. Gillie-wet-foot

This is an old Scottish word for a businessman who swindles people out of their money, or someone who gets into debt then legs it.

3. Scobberlotcher

A scobberlotcher’s someone who never works hard. So not me then (because I’m definitely not looking up swear words on the internet when I should be working). It probably comes from scopperloit, which is an old English dialect word for a holiday (which I’ll be using in my next out-of-office).

4. Wandought

No, not a spell from Harry Potter – a wandought is a weak and ineffectual man (wandoughty is an old word for impotence. Say no more). 

5. Sard

This is basically the f-word of its day (which was pre-18th century). Apparently it first turned up in a 10th-century Old English translation of the Bible which said ‘...don’t sard another man’s wife’. Good advice. Especially as it leaves us ladies free to sard as many husbands as we like apparently.

6. Beardsplitter

An alternative for ‘dick’, this is Victorian slang for penis. I’m not going to walk you through the why as you can probably work it out for yourself. Paints a vivid picture, doesn’t it?

7. Rantallion

Another uncharacteristically graphic Victorian insult. It means a man whose scrotum’s longer than his penis. So basically someone with a teeny weeny winkie.

8. Bescumber

Still nothing to do with Cumberbatch (although when I open Cumberworld I might adopt it as a ride name where you get covered in Benedicts), to ‘bescumber’ someone is a swear that means to ‘discharge ordure’. Regular readers (hello Dad!) will know ‘ordure’ means poo. So if you say you’re going to bescumber someone, then you’re going to cover them in poop.

So, there you are scriptwriters – eight alternatives to bitch, pratt, idiot, etc. I’m sure we’ll be hearing Phil Mitchell yelling ‘You sarding wandought!’ in the Queen Vic any day now.


* So it’s probably lucky I’m not a soap opera writer.

Welcome to the masquerade ball

Have you ever heard a lovely word, then realised it actually means something horrible? Here are six terms that are masquerading as pretty things, but have not-so-nice meanings.

*Warning: Contains references to faeces. A LOT of references to faeces.

Oh, and some swears.

1. Tenesmus

Okay, so this sounds like some kind of beautiful landscape feature. Come my darling, stroll with me along the tenesmus and we can watch the sun go down together...

What it actually means

Cramping rectal pain. Yep, it’s when you really need to poop, and can’t. Nice.

2. Nugatory 

Mmmm, this must be an adjective for something creamy and delicious. Maybe something chocolatey...?

What it actually means

From the Latin nugari (‘to trifle’) it means unimportant, of no value or useless. Futile basically.

So definitely not chocolate then.


3. Meconium

Ooh, it’s science-fictiony, right? I’m sure I remember Captain Kirk asking Scottie to fire up the warp drive with some meconium.

What it actually means

Well, it’s kind of science-y. Nope, who am I trying to kid – it’s poop again, sorry. Originally it was used to describe a brown, syrupy substance made from crushed poppy heads (from the Greek word mekon for ‘poppy’). But we now use it to describe the poos a baby does when it’s born. Oh.

4. Moribund

Maybe just because it sounds vaguely like ‘fecund’, this one could be something to do with being bountiful or fertile. Or maybe relating to mushrooms? I don’t know why.

What it actually means

Close to death. Sorry.

5. Ordure

This one’s got a certain air of respectability about it. I can just imagine Dickens writing about a well-dressed gentleman with a double-barrelled name exuding an air of ordure. He’d be wearing a very smart stovepipe hat.

What it actually means

Once again, I apologise, because this one’s also poo. Ordure literally means excrement or dung, and goes all the way back to the 14th century. So you’d probably want to avoid any gentlemen exuding it, stove-pipe hat or not.

6. Coprolalia

Wait, I know this one. It’s the name of a 19th-century ballet about a mechanical doll. Nailed it, right?

What it actually means

No smarty pants, that’s Coppélia. Coprolalia is a psychiatric term for the involuntary use of obscene language. Still, at least it’s nothing to do with motherfucking shit this time.

So, the moral of this blog post is that you should never judge a word by the way it sounds. And that the English language has a lot of words about poo.