Before Christmas I featured some insults from Matthew Parris’s Scorn: The Wittiest and Wickedest Insults in Human History. The put-downs were all from the world of politics. Here are some more from the rest of the book:
You could tell by his conversation which volume of the Encyclopaedia Britannica he’d been reading. One day it would be Alps, Andes and Apennines, and the next it would be the Himalayas and the Hippocratic Oath. Bertrand Russell on Aldous Huxley
They say Rothko killed himself because he met the people who bought his art. Adrian Searle
I don’t mind. I have gloves on. Mark Twain after running his hand over a Whistler painting, which caused the artist to exclaim: ‘Don’t touch that, Can’t you see, it isn’t dry yet.’
I had not realized that the Arabs were so musical. Sir Thomas Beecham on hearing that a concert by Malcolm Sargent in Tel Aviv had been interrupted by the sound of gunfire directed at the concert hall.
Brass bands are all very well in their place – outdoors and several miles away. Sir Thomas Beecham
Frank Sinatra is a singer who comes along once in a lifetime … why did he have to come along in my lifetime? Bing Crosby
I always knew Frank would end up with a boy. Ava Gardner on Sinatra’s marriage to Mia Farrow
If white bread could sing it would sing like Olivia Newton-John. Anonymous review
I don’t like country music, but I don’t mean to denigrate those who do. And for the people who like country music, denigrate means ‘put down’. Bob Newhart
He’s not even the best drummer in The Beatles. John Lennon, when asked whether Ringo Starr was the best drummer in the world.
There are probably more annoying things than being hectored about African development by a wealthy Irish rock star in a cowboy hat, but I can’t think of them at the moment. Paul Theroux on Bono
She was good at playing abstract confusion in the same way that a midget is good at being short … Clive James on Marilyn Monroe
A whole family of women who take the faces they were born with as a light suggestion. Amy Schumer on the Kardashians
Jeremy Clarkson is like Marmite. Disgusting. Peter Serafinowicz
If name-dropping were an Olympic sport, Yentob would be suspected of doping. Henry Mance on Alan Yentob
The shit hits the fan. Headline suggested by Kenneth Tynan after Rex Harrison punched an autograph hunter
A bore is starred. Village Voice review of A Star is Born starring Barbra Streisand
Marie Osmond is so pure, not even Moses could part her knees. Joan Rivers
I like a drink as much as the next man. Unless the next man is Mel Gibson. Ricky Gervais, introducing Gibson onstage at the Golden Globes
Monica Lewinsky has agreed to host a new Fox reality show called Mr. Personality. Lewinsky says this way, when people ask her the most degrading thing she’s ever done, she’ll have a new answer. Tina Fey
To call it an anticlimax would be an insult not just to climaxes but to prefixes. Roger Ebert on the end of The Village
No. Leonard Maltin’s complete review of Isn’t It Romantic?
This is great. When does it start? Groucho Marx, watching a cricket match at Lord’s
If defensive linemen’s IQs were 5 points lower, they’d be geraniums. Russ Francis on American football
Me and Jake LaMotta grew up in the same neighbourhood. You wanna know how popular Jake was? When he played hide and seek, nobody ever looked for LaMotta. Rocky Graziano
Anglers think they are divining some primeval natural force by outwitting a fish, a creature that never even got out of the evolutionary starting gate. Rich Hall
I’ve seen George Foreman shadow boxing, and the shadow won. Muhammad Ali
Beckham? His wife can’t sing and his barber can’t cut hair. Brian Clough
Do you think I would enter into a contract with that mob? Absolutely no chance. I would not sell them a virus. Sir Alex Ferguson, in December 2008, on the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid. Ronaldo was sold the following summer for £80m.
The definition of countryside is the murder of Piers Morgan. Stephen Fry
Of course they have, or I wouldn’t be talking to you. Barbara Cartland, when asked by BBC reporter Sandra Harris in a radio interview whether she thought English class barriers had broken down
She’s been married so many times she has rice marks on her face. Henry Youngman on Zsa Zsa Gabor