Be polite: call someone a stupid idiot

Recently, I stumbled across an old page on the BBC World Service website that made me laugh. It was within the 'Learning English' section, focusing on "expressing possibility: perhaps/maybe, may/might".

To give the reader "further practice of may and might, maybe and perhaps", the page included the following joke:

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson go camping and pitch their tent under the stars. In the middle of the night, Holmes wakes his companion up and says: "Watson, look up at the stars and tell me what you deduce." Watson says: "I see millions of stars and maybe quite a few planets among them. It may be true that a few of the planets are quite like Earth and there might be life on them." Holmes replies: "Watson, you bloody fool*! Somebody has stolen our tent!"

But it was the footnote to 'bloody fool' that caused me amusement:

*Bloody is a medium-strong swear word, used to give emotional emphasis to something that you are saying. It should not be used in polite situations. For polite conversation, substitute: You stupid idiot!

I'm not sure that 'you stupid idiot!' is very appropriate in polite situations...


Apus said...

While eschewing pedantry, one might suggest that "stupid idiot" is actually a stronger insult that "bloody fool".

The OED defines a fool as someone who "acts or thinks unwisely or imprudently" while an idiot is someone "so deficient in mind as to be permanently incapable of rational conduct".

Turning to the adjectives, "stupid" means "slow witted, lacking in sensibility" which surely adds to the insult. "Bloody" is defined as "a mere intensive". However I was surprised to find that "bloody", according to the OED, is not a contraction of "by our lady" (eg the virgin Mary) as I was taught many years ago – it's simply rooted in the Old English for bloody in its literal sense.

And if you're looking for a Holmes/Watson gag look no further than the one with the punchline "Lemon entry, my dear Watson!" which is, alas, far too coarse for the Engine Room's intellectual readership.

ammir said...

I like it great,good knowledge i got.carry on.

tellurian said...

In my youth I lived in England and often heard the somewhat quaint 'ruddy' used as a substitute. I live in Australia now, so bloody is perfectly acceptable.

Apus said...

Yep, I recall ruddy being in common use, presumably as a neutered bloody, as darn, presumably, stands for damn – and thanks to Father Ted feck is in pretty common use.

But different expletives carry different weights in different English-speaking countries.

An English teacher once illustrated this by recalling being in a pub in London soon after the end of last war. It was packed with happy squaddies of various nations, and an Aussie referred to a Yank next to him as a bastard,leading to a ferocious brawl.

To the Aussie bastard was a term of affection; to the Yank, it wasn't.