He had not so much brain as earwax.

I once had to talk to a student about a word he’d used while teasing a coworker. They were having fun in class, but the word defined a category of people and was being used as an insult. My student was a kind soul and meant no harm, but he’d gotten his vocabulary from the 5th grade school bus. Today, we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He led a movement focused on legal issues between two races, but he changed the nation’s heart, not just its laws. The civil rights movement has taught us  to communicate more effectively. Words which have never hurt you might make someone else feel rejected. When we are careless in our conversations, people become distrustful. They block out not only what we’re saying, but who we are, and they’re unlikely to listen to anything we say in the future. Even if we don’t agree that others should be offended, if we recognize this potential and adjust our speech, we get heard.


What about those times you aren’t aiming for polite conversation? What about the times you





Loooooong to insult someone? In the honor of Dr. King, who inspired me with his well-crafted writings, I’m proposing we choose our words more carefully. Focus on your target without insulting the innocent masses, and craft creative banter. For insultational inspiration, we can look to the king of bantercraft, Sir William Shakespeare.

  • Replace a word overused for those with lower IQ, with “Light of brain.”
  • Trade the banality of a stereotyped nationality for “Anointed sovereign of sighs and groans.”
  • Dialect is no indicator of intellect. Any conversational companion may be a delight or a “long-tongu’d babbling gossip.”

When your annoyaance finds no legitimate excuse, offer a slur that has nothing to do with race, nationality, gender, intellect or preference. My favorites:

  • Canker-blossom
  • Embossed carbuncle
  • Bolting hutch of beastliness
  • Foot-licker (see above)

What about those times you’re judged for being yourself? Pray for that prejudiced person: “Lord, ‘the tartness of his face sours ripe grapes,’ so I ask You to teach him compassion.” You and God will both get a giggle.

You must know by now that I say all of this with a twinkle in my eye. We should always see others through the eyes of their Creator and treat them with the compassion of Jesus.  Insults are fun when you read them, but rarely when you receive them. Dr. King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Spread some love today.

My friends are such a blessing! Best birthday party in all my grown-up years!




Picture of Michael Bridges
Michael Bridges

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