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20 Latin Insults You Should Know

20 Latin Insults You Should Know

The Cambridge classicist Mary Beard became briefly notorious in 2009 (though not for the first or last time) when she was bleeped at length on NPR for quoting an ancient Roman poem—in Latin. “Catullus 16,” as it’s blandly known, insults and attacks two of the first-century BCE poet’s detractors. MastigiaLatin borrowed many of its own words, including its insults, from Greek, including this term meaning “one who deserves the lash.”11. Adultera meretrixFrom the Latin word for prostitute (meretrix), English developed meretricious (which is a great underused word). Stercus is the not-so-ugly Latin word for dung, so a sterculinum publicum is literally a “public poop pile.”17.

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