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How to Insult People: A Ladies' guide

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Bridge evenings and cocktail parties are dangerous occasions and there are times when a lady must verbally defend herself from the manners of the uncouth. In social skirmishes one must have a ready armoury of barbed comments and spirited put-downs, and be prepared to deploy them with glacial efficacy.  A great insult is like a great firework: the onlooker watches the lead-up with curiosity before being overwhelmed by the explosive force and majesty that follows. Following these simple steps will leave you victorious in the cut-and-thrust of society conversation.

1. Respond swiftly

If Lady Asquith tells you that you’re awfully brave for wearing your dress, do not sit and stew like a poached pear, fire straight back! Tell her that she is certainly one who understands bravery having to leave the house every morning with a head resembling a chicken salad that has been returned to the chef.

2. Always dress an insult as a compliment

This we all know. Smile and deliver venom wrapped in ribbons. ‘How lovely of you to join us. It is so refreshing to meet someone so uninterested in fashion.’

3. Use your opponent’s weight against them

Encourage braggarts to drown in their own fanfaronade, poseuses to pose and the loose-lipped to sink their own ships.

4. Asymmetrical response

If somebody insults you with a particularly witty sleight do not try to outdo them in the mode of combat they have chosen. Instead, drag them into the mud with a simple put-down. Likewise if somebody insults you with puerile comments, muster the guardians of culture and leap to the intellectual high ground like a snooty mountain goat.

5. Victory is decided by the crowd

Never start a cussing tournament in front of onlookers you do not respect; choose a sensitive friendly crowd.

6. Tactical withdrawal

As soon as the ideal minatory bon mot has issued from your lips, turn away. You have won. This rapid disengagement (is that Henry over there? I might just go and say hullo) thwarts counterattacks and always ends in victory.

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