Epithet

“Epithet (noun): A characterizing word or phrase, whether a singular descriptive adjective or special appellation for a person or thing; personally disparaging expression or label; slur. Adjective: epithetic, epithetical.

‘The British restrictions go back in part to a 1562 pronouncement of Commons that “no reviling or nipping word must be used.” Today’s guide prescribes rules of “good temper and moderation” for parliamentary debate and is an extension of Sir Thomas Erskine May’s 1844 treatise on parliamentary usage. The following epithets are expressly forbidden: lie, liar, villain, hypocrite, Pharisee, criminal, slanderer, traitor, hooligan, blackguard, murderer, cad, dog, swine, stool pigeon, bastard, jackass, puppy (or its extension, cheeky young pup), ruffian, rat, guttersnipe, member returned by the refuse of a large constituency. Permitted, on the other hand, are Parliamentary leper, purveyor of inexactitude, goose, and halfwit. Mario Pei, The Story of the English Language.”

Excerpted from: Grambs, David. The Random House Dictionary for Writers and Readers. New York: Random House, 1990.

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