In the UK there are a lot of insulting words which end in -er, like this: scrubber (slut), tosser (masturbator), chancer (untrustworthy person), poofter (homosexual), wanker (masturbator, generally despicable person), nutter (insane), poser (affected/overdressed person). I think it’s a relatively modern British phenomenon because it seems like American English doesn't have all these -er insults. Can anyone give any insight into this?

(p.s. I am creating a plural tag "insults" since plural is winning votes over at meta.english.stackexchange.com; please give your vote on whether tags should be plural or singular.)

  • 3
    Bett-er late than nev-er to discov-er about this... – badp Sep 5 '10 at 15:14
  • I think it's noteworthy that the -er is used here to create a verb, indicating that the insult is based on something someone does - i.e. their behavior. – mickeyf Mar 24 '11 at 14:04
  • @mickeyf: How are any of the '-er' examples considered to be verbs? – oosterwal Mar 24 '11 at 21:10
  • I hear "poser" = wannabe used in the US not infrequently. – Charles May 5 '11 at 2:19
  • "Poser" is a corruption of "poseur" - but spelling it correctly is guaranteed to make you look like a poser. – MT_Head May 17 '11 at 5:35

American English doesn't have these -er insults, but don't think it lacks -er insults all together. Wikipedia has a list of pejoratives for people, and on the list I saw these -er examples that I'm familiar with.

  • Ambulance chaser (scummy lawyers)
  • Bible thumper
  • Breeder (against straight people from gay people)
  • Carpetbagger
  • City slicker
  • Cracker
  • Holy roller
  • Hoosier
  • Loser
  • Mother fucker
  • Pecker
  • 6
    "Mother fucker" reads totally differently than "Motherfucker" – cori Sep 5 '10 at 12:45
  • 7
    I want to note that wanker is one of the very small number of modern Britishisms that has made its way to some degree into ordinary American usage. – nohat Sep 5 '10 at 17:35
  • 6
    some others: codger, greaser, hater, muckraker, poser, not to mention the “N-word”, which ends in -er. – nohat Sep 5 '10 at 17:41
  • 17
    @Cinque, are you really suggesting that even referencing the existence of an offensive word is in itself offensive? – nohat Sep 6 '10 at 19:02
  • 22
    @Cinque I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you are not just trolling here—but by all appearances you are. If you think people can legitimately be offended by having a discussion about language and referencing the existence of an offensive word (without even mentioning it explicitly, and which, mind you, is completely relevant to the question of “insults ending in -er”), then you’re out of your mind. I would never actually use the word in question, but to pretend that it doesn’t exist in an intellectual conversation about language is, frankly, absurd. – nohat Sep 6 '10 at 22:48

I think mickeyf has hit the nail on the head here. These insults end in -er because that is how you take a verb and turn it into a noun. Like farm -> farmer, wank -> wanker, fuck -> fucker. Probably the most likely reason you don't see many of the same -er insults is that the perjorative verbage in the UK is different than in the US. Love the list, JoFrhwld!

protected by tchrist Jul 2 '14 at 2:35

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