How To Insult People Like an Eighteenth Century Ruffian

Hello once again dear readers!

What have I got in store for you today I hear you cry! Why, insults of course! I should probably elaborate on that point. This post is going to show you a couple of ways to make your insults authentic but still have some punch behind them. So as a bit of a warning this post has some language that’s a bit colourful.

One of the things that I think can be difficult for writers of science fiction, fantasy or anyone writing a setting that’s not the real world is the inclusion of the little details that really bring the setting to life. It’s things like cuss words, oaths muttered under your breath, or sayings uttered in confusion. These things are by no means mandatory, but they can really change your setting and characters from good to excellent.

Francis Grose, the man himself.

So I thought it would be a nice idea to take a look at some authentic slang and insults from way back when; specifically from around the 1800s. The book I’m going to be referring to is (the title as it was on the first edition that I found) Captain Francis Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue: The Scoundrel’s Dictionary. It is essentially a dictionary of phrases, words and nicknames that were used by ‘thieves, house-breakers, street robbers and pickpockets about town’. You can find varying editions that have dates ranging from the late 1700s to the early 1800s and it’s definitely worth a look to really see how these slang terms have changed and which ones have stuck with us.

So I’ve written down a list of 15 definitions that are amongst my favourites, but this is by no means all that the dictionary has to offer. I always find it interesting, amusing or downright strange (and not always in equal measures) to give the dictionary a quick peruse. For some of the examples I’ve written a quick piece to show how you might like to use it, or at least how I might use them. So take a look at these and see if you would like to use them or even take them as inspiration for grumbles, nicknames or even a way to give one of your characters a quirky turn of phrase:


To fall arsy varsey, i.e. head over heels.


Criminals in the stocks, or pillory.

Earl chuckled darkly as he played with the rotten fruits in his hands, ready to throw them at the criminals in the stocks. He nudged the man standing next to him and said, “They’re strung up like babes in the wood.”



He squints like a bag of nails; i. e. his eyes are directed as many ways as the points of a bag of nails.


Pistols, from their explosion resembling the bow-wow or barking of a dog.


A beastly, sluttish woman.


A husband governed by his wife, is said to be henpecked.


A squinting wench.

    The plate whistled past Gerald’s ear and he ducked back behind the door frame. He heard his wife scream in frustration and rage. With a laugh that was equal parts relief and mockery he shouted around the corner. “You’ll never hit me, you moon-eyed hen!”


 A simpleton.


  The highway, or a robber thereon; also a bed. Footpads; foot robbers. To go out upon the pad; to go out  in order to commit a robbery.


 Horse stealers.


A house. To do a panny: to rob a house.


A great drinker, one much given to liquor.

    The constable wrinkled his nose and frowned as the man stumbled passed him. With a shake of his head he made to follow the man and guide him gently away from the canal he was dangerously close to. “Typical,” he muttered to himself. “I always get the piss makers, never anything interesting.”


A rude boisterous fellow; also a hound that opens on a false scent.




 A retailer of love, who, for the sum mentioned, dispenses her favours standing against a wall.

So there you have it, a few things to mix up your insults and give your writing a bit of authentic spice! There’s a whole host of other terms that you can find in the Classical Dictionary and I’ll probably end up showing you some more of my favourites later! I love to flick through it and get a chuckle on every page, so I’ll want to share that joy.

I should also give a quick warning if you do end up using some of these phrases. Do take a couple of minutes to do a quick bit of research on the your chosen phrase. Some of the phrases have stuck and evolved so just in case it’s a phrase you’re not familiar with it would be best to do a quick internet search. For example, ‘a story about a cock and a bull’ is now better known by ‘a cock and bull story’. It’s usually only a small change, sometimes only a slightly different spelling, but it can be those kinds of small details that make a reader trip up as they’re reading.

For the prospect of further research into the wonderfully colourful topic, Francis Grose also penned another book along the same lines called: A Provincial Glossary; With a Collection of Local Proverbs, and Popular Superstitions. So there’s plenty of words and phrases from the eighteenth century that you won’t be able to find in a dictionary!


That about wraps it up for another post! I hope that you’ve enjoyed this post (I know I certainly did) and that it helps you to create a really authentic world.

Until next time: be well, be kind, and have fun!

Where to Begin!? A Quick Starters Guide to Fantasy

Last blog post I talked about planning your novel and a couple of methods that should make your planning more effective. So this time after we’ve done some planning we’re going to do some research (kind of).

This post is all about a beginner’s guide to fantasy. Maybe you’ve started watching Game of Thrones and want to read some similar works, or maybe the fantasy genre is something that you’ve always wanted to get into but just didn’t know where to start. Whatever the reason this post should help you decide where to begin!

So in no particular order, let’s dive into it!

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Series

I don’t think an entry talking about getting into fantasy should miss out this absolute gem of a series. Written by a genuine Knight of the Realm and Officer of the British Empire, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series spans (currently) almost 40 novels as well as short stories, maps and books on the science of Discworld.

In short, Discworld is a number of stories where the earth is a flat disc balanced on the back of four elephants who are standing on the back a turtle flying through space. And in a way that pretty much sums it all up. Pratchett’s writing is as wonderful as it is amusing, scattered with witticisms and puns as much as a dragon’s horde is scattered with gemstones.

The Discworld series spans across many different characters across the whole Discworld, from a cowardly wizard, the leader of the City Watch and even to Death himself. So there’s something for everyone, and each of the books is easily understood if you don’t have any other experience with the series. I would recommend starting with the first book The Colour of Magic and working your way out from there, but here’s a helpful infographic to help you find which books have which characters in them.

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld provides an excellent entryway into the fantasy genre as well as a most pleasant and entertaining read for veteran.

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

This series is the perfect opportunity to acquaint yourself with contemporary fantasy. The series follows the character Harry Dresden, a private detective in modern day Chicago and he just happens to also be a wizard. Harry’s character is vibrant and funny and each story, whilst contributing to an overarching storyline, wraps itself up nicely if you want to just pick one up every now and again.

The stories are full of suspense, mystery and excitement (what else would you expect from a wizard P.I.?) and in every story you feel like Harry is being pushed to his limits. It’s a great series with warm characters and an excellent magic system, the story works its way up from Harry solving supernatural crimes in Chicago to fighting powerful magical beings AND solving crimes in Chicago.

A very fun series that’s easy to get into and easy to get hooked on, an excellent first adventure for those looking for contemporary fantasy.

The Mistborn Trilogy (ish) by Brandon Sanderson

You may have heard of the author Brandon Sanderson who does everything he can to disprove rumours that he is an automaton programmed to write excellent fantasy, and Mistborn does nothing to dispel that rumour.

The tagline for the first book in the series is ‘What if the Dark Lord won?’ and that’s exactly where you are at the start of the series. The evil overlord has reigned supreme for one thousand years and the world is covered in the ash from constantly erupting volcanoes. There is magic in the world in the form of Allomancy; the magic of metals. Certain people can ingest and ‘burn’ metals to release the magical energy within them, and different metals have different properties. The story opens onto Vin, a young girl who must master her Allmonatic powers and gets dragged into the plot for revolution.

The Mistborn is currently a trilogy that follows Vin, and then another book The Alloy of Law set about 300 years after the events of the original trilogy. Sanderson’s writing is thoroughly enjoyable and his ability to weave a story full of suspense, excitement and plot twists is second to none. Sanderson’s worlds are extremely well crafted and his stories work hard and fast to do them justice, and they succeed. I highly recommend this series; once you’ve dipped your toe in the proverbial waters of the Mistborn you’ll find it hard to put the book down. Definitely a must read for new and experienced readers alike.

Conan the Barbarian by Robert E Howard

The classic barbarian, Conan is thick sinewy muscle, moving with leonine grace as he dashes from adventure to adventure. Conan first appeared in 1932 and has been at the forefront of fantasy ever since, appearing in countless adventures ranging across the written word to film and games.

Given the nature of the Conan stories a lot of them are relatively short so it’s nice and easy to dip in and out of. Although the chronology might jump around a bit, but it’s probably just a good idea to go along with it and think “Oh it’s just Conan on another one of his crazy adventures!” and apart from that there’s nothing to stop you picking a story at random and thoroughly enjoying the read through.

The prose that Robert E Howard uses in his stories is vibrant and elegant, his language easily conveys the lithe power and grace of Conan and the world springs to life from the page. It’s good old fashioned sword and sorcery adventure with something for everyone, if you don’t want to see Conan on one adventure there’s sure to be another adventure to your tastes! An excellent window into classic fantasy and a good refresher for anyone who wants a bit of a change from dark, gritty fantasy.

Magician By Raymond E Feist

The first book in the Riftwar Saga and the Riftwar Cycle, an epic story spanning across worlds, planets and time. Initially part of the Riftwar Saga trilogy, Raymond E Feist has recently finished the final book in the epic Riftwar Cycle, spanning 29 novels and more.

The orphan boy Pug is apprenticed to a master magician and as the kingdom is suddenly attacked by alien invaders, Pug and his friend Tomas are swept into the conflict and Pug’s destiny leads him through a rift to a new world.

I still remember my first reading of Magician and I remember pausing in my reading to think how wonderfully written it was and how much great fun it was to read. The writing is easy to get to grips with and the characters are vibrant and the world just as colourful, with magical races and creatures to keep you entertained. The story has some interesting twists and turns and the characters rise to their challenges but not without being tested both emotionally and physically.

A thoroughly enjoyable read and one that is sure to enthrall you from cover to cover, an excellent window into an epic cycle but is also neatly wrapped up in an initial trilogy should you wish to leave it at that.

The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss

I would not be able to permit myself to talk good fantasy books if I did not mention The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. The novels follow a young man named Kvothe, a mysterious individual running a tavern in an out of the way village when he is happened upon by a man looking for him to tell his story, after some convincing he does just that. And so each book is a day of Kvothe telling his tale, with breaks in the first person narrative as Kvothe rests from his storytelling.

The first book is The Name of the Wind, the second is The Wise Man’s Fear and Patrick Rothfuss is currently working on the final instalment. Rothfuss’ elegant and elaborate prose will draw you into this book and the compelling story of Kvothe will keep you there. The magic within Rothfuss’ world is based on energy manipulation rather than outright magery, called ‘Sympathy’ it connects objects together and then uses energy manipulation to effect changes on the object.

The Name of the Wind is most certainly my favourite book of all time, the prose are phenomenal and you know that every word in the book has been placed there with extreme forethought and expert precision by Rothfuss.

So there you have it! My few suggestions for anyone wanting to begin reading in the fantastical world of fantasy if they’re not sure where to start! Most of these choices give you the option to read as little or as much as you like, in particular The Dresden Files and the Discworld series is perfect for jumping in and out of as you like.

If you have any other suggestions please let me know! 

Until next time, be well, be kind, and have fun!