British insults: Yeah, I deserved it

by Jan 25, 2016Humor

Dense Fog In The Lake District While Hiking Near Lake Windermere - the reason for the British Insults

To be able to deliver the classy and thoughtful zinger of an insult is of course a time-honored British tradition. And my compatriots do it quite well. So well, in fact, that even after being knowingly insulted (often a result of inordinate stupidity deserving of said insult), it’s difficult to feel bad. Such is the art form of British insults.

Consider this from William Shakespeare: “I desire we may be better strangers.” So much nicer to hear than someone saying, “Hey f*%$k off,” don’t you think? Or this classic among British insults from playwright Oscar Wilde: “He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.” Ah, the beauty of such poetic yet insulting words.

My moment of being on the receiving end of an artful insult happened on a misty mountaintop in the Lake District of England, just north of the lovely village of Windermere.

Michael Hodgson Sits On A Stone Bridge On A Hike Near Lake Winde

My wife, Therese, and I had set out on a short hike armed with a walking map of the area – a decent enough map acquired in a local outdoor store though by no means a more expensive and far more practical topographic one. It should also be pointed out that part of our planned route left the map near its top margin, moving onto another map that would have been extremely useful had we remembered to purchase it. But was I worried? Please. I have taught classes in navigation, earned the nickname “navgod” competing in Mark Burnett’s famous Eco-Challenge adventure race, and even published a book on finding one’s way in the woods. Owning only part of a map was more than enough map for me to navigate a short ramble over English hills and crags.

As we wandered up the track across sheep pastures and through a wooded valley toward a broad rocky ridge, the sun began to disappear and a light mist began to swirl around us. And, as is typical in the English Lake District, that light mist quickly turned into a thick blanket of fog, obscuring everything around us.

We continued along the track as it snaked up one side of a drainage to the ridge (the part cut off on our map). The plan was to skirt the ridge, more of a horseshoe as I recalled from studying a larger map in the store, and drop down via a different drainage heading back to town. Since we couldn’t see, I was navigating by feel. As we headed down, working our way out of the fog, it didn’t take us long to realize we’d actually headed off the ridge in the wrong direction and were on our way to the next village — miles distant from Windermere. That would never do, so we did an about-face and retraced our steps.

Back on the ridge and in the dense fog, I was puzzling over the map when a couple of hikers materialized right in front of us. Smiling, one of the two, a woman, asked if we needed any help.

“Well, yes actually. We’re just getting our bearings…. We came from here,” I said, pointing to a crease on the map, “We’re now here. Where we want to go is right here,” as I pointed to a damp smudge to the right of the crease. “So I’m thinking we need to go that way,” as I pointed off in the direction of where I thought Windermere lay.

The woman furrowed her brow, peering at the map and queried, “Where do you think you are?” And so I pointed again, to the former damp smudge that was turning into papier-mache right before my eyes. “Right here.”

She shook her head. “No love, you’re here,” she said, pointing to another smudge on the increasingly soggy map. I of course knew that was absolutely not anywhere close to where we were.

“No no, no,” I said. “We came from here, so no way we could be there,” pointing to the now disintegrating part of the map where the woman had indicated we were.

And back and forth we verbally danced for a couple of minutes until the lovely lady put her hand gently on my arm, looked earnestly into my eyes, and said quite firmly in a most clear and proper British accent, “You DO realize we live here.”

What she meant of course was “Listen, you sodden piece of week-old mackerel, we live here, and you don’t, so if you want help, you speck of moldy sheep dung, shut up and listen!”

I took a deep breath, “Ummm, of course you do. So…which way do we need to go again?”  And she smiled, tightly but politely, and pointed.

With that, Therese and I walked off in the direction she indicated, mumbling to each other there was no way she could be right, this felt so wrong. But, in short order, as the fog began to lift, we realized she was indeed quite right and Windermere sat below us just off in the distance.

Sheep Above Lake Windermere On A Misty Day

My “navgod” status was knocked down a few notches that day with an artful British insult. Not that I mind really. I deserved it, and, in truth, how could I feel bad about being reminded that it’s always much classier to put someone in their place with poetry and style … that is, after all, the British way.


Other humor essays by Michael you will enjoy

If you enjoyed reading about Michael getting lost in the Lake District, you will also enjoy reading about his being bamboozled on a climbing trip in Fear and loathing while climbing Moosedog Tower or discovering he is not meant to fly in Learning to fly a hang glider. Or how I nearly wet my pants. And then there is the dog sledding classic An Iditarod adventure – In March, Nome Alaska goes to the dogs. We hope you enjoy the chuckles. 

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  1. Made me laugh! This is just up the road from where I live (it wasn’t me by the way!). Fairfield Horseshoe is quite a challenging hike and the views from the top are spectacular. Not that you’d know….🤣 You need to make a return visit!

    • We do indeed. Was one of my father’s favorite (sorry, favourite) walks. We did the walk because I had just scattered his ashes a few days before on Queen Adelaide’s Hill. He lived the last few years of his life in Windermere and loved every moment. I would like to see it in the sunshine. Though it did make for quite a fun story. I am glad I provided a chuckle or two for you. 🙂

  2. Haha!! Love it! Dont you know women are always right!! LOL! 🙂 Happy Travels 🙂

  3. What a fun story. I laughed the entire time. ” You sodden piece of week old mackerel”…that’s rich. 😉

    • 😉 It is the Brit in me that inspires such fishy linguistics…all my family is Brit so its in the blood. That and I watched a lot of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers.

  4. Such a great story! Being originally from Newfoundland we get our own share of insults … but is perfectly acceptable as long as its from one of our own 🙂 So glad you found your way to Windemere!

    • Glad you liked the story and yes, we were very happy to have “found our way.”

  5. Hahaha, I’m glad you finally listened to her and took her direction. Who knows where you would have ended up if you didn’t. It was a gentle gentle British insult 🙂

    • We would have ended up in the wrong town. 😉 And yes, it was gentle, but most British insults are just that … the appearance of gentle while delivering a rather direct message.

  6. First of all I must admire your writing skills as when I was reading, I was completely absorbed in the post. Even the description of English countryside in your blog post, the description of fog and how you walked through the green pastures. I don’t know much about Britishers as not been there, so don’t comment on their attitude.

    • Thank you … I had a lot of fun writing this.

  7. I have been living in the UK for the past three years and every now and then I am left wondering what people really meant!

    I hope you still enjoyed Windermere and the trails around.

    • If you ever need a British translator, let me know … I am fluent in both British and American. 😉 And yes, we loved Windermere … always love the Lake District.

  8. I have a good friend from Texas who has the best way of speaking. One day she said, I will tell them off, but I’ll do it so nicely they won’t even know. Sounds like she might have a little British in her. 🙂

    • Southern insults are but a short polite jump from the Brit ones to be sure. I have a friend who loves to say “Isn’t that nice…” with a tight smile and proper sweet drawl instead of the more obvious “That is so f*%!ked up”. So much more refined.

  9. I just loved this travel tale! The best part of travelling – those encounters that in hindsight are hilarious moments in time. Sorry ’bout the Navgod status – guess you are probably working at regaining that! Quite frankly, I am relieved to know that even someone who has written a book on finding one’s way in the woods, can get completely turned around!

    • Alison, I aspire to the Daniel Boone philosophy on navigation expertise … “I have never been lost once in my life, disoriented for several days perhaps, but never lost” 😉 I am happy you enjoyed my tale.

  10. Oh lord ! I really enjoyed reaidng your experience and you have put it so well i.e point to point. you dont get usually such experiences every where 🙂 thanks for sharing.

  11. Oh my, I’m in stitches laughing at your experience. You sound so much like me, sure of yourself and your sense of direction. I love how long the lady tried to reason with you before dispelling the harsh ( but loving) rebuke. Another thought: I need to remember and use the Shakespeare insult.

    • That Shakespeare put down is a classic. Glad this brought a chuckle.


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