feel insulted, cheer up. Contemporary insults lack the literal
punch they used to have. The adage about sticks and stones
breaking your bones but words never hurting you, while true,
ignores older forms of insults, which, to employ another
well-worn cliché, could quite literally add insult to injury.
Take the infamous inscribed sling-bullets of ancient Rome.
Essentially, tiny, mean phrases or symbols meaning “cowers
like a dog” and “OUCH!” were inscribed on lead slugs, which
were then launched by putting the slug into a sling, whipping
it three times about the head, and then flinging it into the
In ancient Egypt, if a slave hassled a free person with some
cheeky comment, the slave could be punished, or, in extreme
cases, put to death. In a similar vein, the historical
European tradition of dueling is the penalty phase of an
insult, or the result of a challenge to someone’s honour,
which really is just a much more refined way of describing an
today’s world, the greatest civilized penalty for insults
generally involves lawyer’s fees. So rejoice! Social progress
now allows people the freedom to insult each other without
serious bodily harm, even if one’s bank account is reduced to
a smoldering ruin.