Redefining Insults: A Creative Approach to Expressing Displeasure

Posted in   Dr. Lanae   on  December 31, 2015 by  The MamaSutra minutes remaining

On December 31st, I plan to make a New Year’s Resolution that is slightly different than those in my past.

It’s the end of the year, and like many people, I’ve finished my review of 2015 and set some goals for 2016. My resolutions in the past have been The Usual – save more money, eat a healthy diet, and spend less time online – but this year I want more change.

A bit of the motivation happened by way of YouTube. Not long ago, I was watching videos with my kids and we stumbled upon a video clip of the Disney movie Bambi. His little rabbit friend Thumper had a lesson about saying nice things – or rather not saying something bad about a person – “If you can’t say something nice – don’t say nothin’ at all.”

Ignoring the double negative in the clip, Thumper has good advice. But sometimes people need to voice displeasure. They need to express themselves (because expressing emotion is not a bad thing and neither is expressing the “mad that you feel”).

Being angry with someone and wanting to shout at them is normal but how we go about it does need to be shaped, however. The disrespect that gets lofted these days is pretty standard (and it has been this way for a while): whenever one person wants to put another person down, they often use language against race, sexuality, or sex-related acts. It comes out as shaming, sexist, and otherwise privileged and mean.

These insults are everywhere. I tried to think of insults that had nothing to do with sex or sexuality (it was quite difficult). Take a moment to consider the insults, put downs, or criticisms that you hear. Have you noticed how many of them make fun of people based on gender or sexual preference or something sexual?

Wuss, wimp and puss – short for pussy
Mamma’s boy
Son of a bitch (an insult to the mother, but there is none relating to the father)
“That’s so gay.”

Creating an exhaustive list would be …exhausting.
Why do you suppose we think the best way to insult (or otherwise rile somebody up) is to question his or her sexuality? Or call them names of parts of the body? Or insult their relatives (“your mama…”, “your sister…”)? I think it indicates a lack of respect – for people and for sexuality.

I’m sorry Thumper; try as I might I’m not perfect. I have called another driver a “dick” when they cut me off in traffic. Or muttered “asshole” under my breath when someone pissed me off. Cooler heads do not prevail for lots of people all of the time. But with this year’s resolution, instead of lashing out in a non-inventive way, I decided to try a new approach – to pause for a moment before I lash out, tap into my creativity and say something that might be less damaging.

This creativity was inspired in part by a series of 3 German postcards I got in Berlin in the summer of 2014. If you can read German, there are some gems in here.

If you’re a person like me who struggles for a witty replacement on the fly then below, you will find a handy guide. Now you’ll have a few new monikers to use. So in the spirit of creativity, I submit a short list of descriptions. Some are taken from pop-culture and thankfully aren’t particularly mean (i.e. “Dog-dresser” reminds me of “Boo, the Cutest Dog in the World”). Anyways, these should be pretty self-explanatory.


Or, the worst one in my book, “unapologetic-terrible-person”. Whatever works.

How do you handle situations when you hear disrespect or insults that are inappropriate? How about while you are with your children? Do you say something to the offender? Do you have revised insults that you would like to share? How do you handle it when your kids use insults you have used before but don’t want them to be used?

Now it’s your turn: Care to share your New Year’s Resolutions which you haven’t had before?

The MamaSutra

About the Author The MamaSutra

Dr. Lanae St.John is a Diplomate of the American Board of Sexology and certified sex coach with a background in sexology and a passion for helping people improve their sexual health and relationships. She is the author of "Read Me: A Parental Primer for "The Talk"" and the upcoming "You Are the One: How stopping the search and looking inside will lead you to your romantic destiny," and is committed to staying up-to-date on the latest research and trends in the field. Dr. St.John aims to share her knowledge and expertise in a relatable and approachable way through her blog on

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