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The insulting names jerk, a--hole, bit-h, cu-t, and dipsh-t are defined by most dictionaries as to generally used to describe someone who is foolish, contemptible, obnoxious, and disagreeable, but what are the distinctions/nuances between them?

For example, I know that there are situations where calling someone say, an a--hole is more accurate than calling someone a jerk, or calling somebody a cu-t is not as accurate/appropriate as calling somebody a dipsh-t in certain situations even though both terms are defined similarly in the dictionaries.

AHDE, Collins Dictionary, Wiktionary, and Dictionary.com defines jerk as:

  • a foolish, rude, or contemptible person
  • a person regarded with contempt, esp a stupid or ignorant person
  • a dull or stupid person
  • a contemptibly naive, fatuous, foolish, or inconsequential person
  • a person with unlikable or obnoxious qualities and behavior, typically mean, self-centered or disagreeable

A--hole is defined by these dictionaries as:

  • a thoroughly contemptible, detestable person
  • a jerk; an inappropriately or objectionably mean, inconsiderate, contemptible, obnoxious, intrusive, or rude person
  • a stupid, mean, or contemptible person
  • an irritating or contemptible person

Bit-h is defined by these dictionaries as:

  • a woman considered to be spiteful or overbearing
  • a man considered to be weak or contemptible
  • a despicable or disagreeable, aggressive person, often female
  • a malicious, unpleasant, selfish person, especially a woman

The definitions of cu-t are:

  • used as a disparaging term for a person one dislikes or finds extremely disagreeable
  • a mean or obnoxious person
  • a contemptible person
  • a contemptuous term used to refer to an unpleasant person

And the definitions of dipsh-t are:

  • a foolish or contemptible person
  • a very stupid or unpleasant person
  • a stupid or despicable person
  • a stupid or undesirable person

Most or almost all of the definitions provided for these terms generally have the same meaning, so what are the distinctions or what sort of behaviours, traits, attitudes, etc. that are typical of a jerk, an a--hole, a bit-h, a cu-t, or a dipsh-t? In other words, if someone is being lets say, unpleasant, foolish, and rude, do I describe them as a jerk, an a--hole, a bit-h, or...? I figured there must be a certain situation, or a particular thing they do which categorizes them as being either a jerk, an a--hole, a bit-h, etc..

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closed as not constructive by Kristina Lopez, Andrew Leach, Brian Hooper, FumbleFingers, James McLeod Jun 10 '13 at 22:40

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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Seriously? They're all nasty insults and no one has ever stopped to think: Hang on, I'd better use a different offensive expression because AHDE, wiki, etc... told me to. –  Mari-Lou A Jun 10 '13 at 17:18
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I think this is a good question. Most of us "feel" the difference, but it's not bad to formalize this feeling. –  KamikazeCZ Jun 10 '13 at 18:33
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- 1 I find the expressions used to be extremely offensive and pointless. You are a native speaker, if you yourself are not aware of the subtle differences why should you care about someone else's subjective point of view? I see a well concocted prank set up by a sniggering schoolboy and I am voting it down. –  Mari-Lou A Jun 10 '13 at 19:25
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@Mari-LouA My sole intention is the curiousity of the nuances between the individual terms, and I admit they might be offensive to some, but it's still part of the English language. And by the way, I'm not a native speaker and I'm no longer a schoolboy :) –  Theo Jun 10 '13 at 19:42
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"You shouldn't use these" isn't an answer. "I find these to be offensive" isn't an answer. Even if the OP is well-mannered and never says any of these words himself, he might want to understand what they mean when other people say them. I don't personally believe that this question is "hopelessly subjective", either. I think there are clear differences between most of these words that any native speaker could describe. If you voted to close because these words are taboo, please read this meta answer. –  snailboat Jun 11 '13 at 2:02
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1 Answer

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I'm going to do what it says not to do and post my opinions, but I think a Master's in Linguistics entitles me to some latitude...

"jerk" is someone who acts without regard for others. Generally, his/her bad behavior is the result of self-involvement or minor malice, but a jerk usually offends without trying to, simply because s/he can't help it.

"That jerk pulled right in front of me because he wasn't looking."

"Some jerk by-passed the line and went right to the front, and they actually waited on him."

"a--hole" implies a level of malice or such blatant disregard for others that it is felt to be malicious.

"That a--hole left my car windows down, even though it had already started to rain."

"After I told him I wanted the only copy in the store, that a--hole went and bought it himself."

"dipsh-t" implies stupidity to the point of annoyance. To contrast with "a--hole", the sentence

"That dipsh-t left my car windows down, even though it had already started to rain." implies that the person was performing up to their full potential, which clearly was inadequate. I almost never hear the word "dipsh-t" used to indicate malice. Instead it's used to indicate a level of buffoonery and stupidity that make the person hard to deal with.

I won't make an attempt at the more feminine words, except to agree that I avoid "c-nt" almost completely. I'll also mention that the word "bit-h" has acquired a positive meaning in the sense of assertive, in phrases like "If I have to be a bit-h, I'll be a bit-h."

That was fun. I'll have to avoid this site like the plague, or I'll waste so much of my life here.

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too late! it's addictive! :-) –  Kristina Lopez Jun 10 '13 at 19:41
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I expect this question will soon be closed (it's hopelessly subjective/Not Constructive, imho). But please don't let that put you off answering other questions here. Or even asking questions (surely there must be something they never taught you, that you've always wondered about! :) –  FumbleFingers Jun 10 '13 at 21:21
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