(I have no idea what this picture is about, I just couldn’t resist.)
Do we still liken each other to animals when we want to insult each other? I was pondering this today in class as we discussed the various animals that figure amongst medieval name calling, and it seems to me that animal insults have somehow over the years lost some punch. No doubt the terms “bitch” and “ass” are still popular favorites, but it seems that after centuries of increased urbanization and subsequent distancing from quite a few animals, human/animal comparison have faded significantly in the contemporary vernacular.
Now to veer off track a bit. A simple google search on the subject of “animal insults” brought up a very interesting site that catalogues a number of animals and their associated meaning when applied to human beings, revealing some interesting discrepancies. For instance, in English when we refer to a person as a “chicken”, we intimate that that person is a coward. In Turkish however, it evidently signifies someone who goes to bed early…. ? A camel is likened to a “stupid, nasty man” in the Portuguese language. In German, a “rhinoceros” might mean a stupid person. Can you compare anything to a rhinoceros? Perhaps these usages are a bit archaic, so I wanted to invite anyone fluent in a second language to comment. I noticed in a BBC article that dealt with “swearing” in a very broad sense, that an old Icelandic insult was to call someone a “cod”, but the word no longer carries derisive connotations. Nowadays the word “jam” might be used as an affront, (primarily amongst the young Icelanders).
But even with regards to the English language, do you feel that animal comparisons make the most denigrating insults, or have we moved on to stranger terms to verbally abuse our peers? Just something to think about.