14 long-lost English swear words ranked in order of offensiveness

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You might want to rethink describing the weather as a bit "nippy".

New research by University of Exeter expert Dr Todd Gray MBE has uncovered some long-forgotten insults, combining them in a new swear word dictionary.

Dr Gray read hundreds of slander cases heard in Devon courts between 1500 and 1650 - a combined total of 40,000 ancient documents which are held at the Devon Heritage centre.

These reveal the insults used centuries ago - most commonly used were 'rogue' and 'knave' for men, to imply dishonesty, and 'whore' for women usually in conjunction with a foul adjective.

Vote for the one you find most offensive in the list below:

Dr Gray said:

This is the first time anyone has looked into the history of name-calling in Devon. The insults used were fairly sharp and outrageous then, and people had to appear before the court for using them, but perhaps they are not shocking to us now.

He told indy100:

I particularly like the word cucumber, which shows a sense of humour in it alluding to a gorged member which was useless.

He also commented on how insults typically differed by gender:

Men are principally insulted for having low intelligence, dishonesty and immoral behaviour but women are mainly criticised for illicit sex - it was also women who were accused of being scolds and eavesdroppers but these were not male faults.

In the case of 'copper-nosed', he also explained the connotations between copper and syphilis:

Copper was thought to cure syphilis (then in a new virulent form in Europe) - one person insulted another by suggesting verdigris came out of their backside.

Noses were one of the casualties of syphilis and copper noses were used to replace them.

So if you really want to get under someone's skin, recall your ancestors' accusations of bright turquoise-stained underwear.

Dr Gray has published a number of books on historic insults, such as Strumpets and Ninnycocks. Name calling in Devon, 1540-1640 and How to Swear like an Elizabethan in Devon, available from Steven's Books.

More: Every British swear word has been officially ranked by its offensiveness

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