Insult of the Week: You flaming floundering fool

Please excuse our lack of blogging lately!  We’ve had a remarkable number of back-to-back deadlines in the last couple of weeks, and are currently knee-deep in an exciting new project that’s due out before Christmas.  (I can’t give full details yet, but watch this space!)

On a perhaps-not-entirely-unrelated note, our insult this week comes from James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Source: Three Months’ Tour in Ireland, Marie Anne de Bovet, 1891.

In chapter 5 of Portrait, we find hero Stephen and a number of his fellow students milling around the environs of Trinity College and having a variety of more-or-less-contentious discussions, which sometimes degenerate into arguments and scuffling.  An admirer that Stephen has recently acquired, by the name of Temple, is behaving obsequiously towards Stephen and needling his other friend Cranly, and in the course of walking across the campus, Cranly becomes so irritated that fisticuffs nearly break out.

Temple bent again across Cranly, as they were passing through the doorway, and said in a swift whisper:
—Do you know that he [the dean of studies] is a married man? he was a married man before they converted him. He has a wife and children somewhere. By hell, I think that’s the queerest notion I ever heard! Eh?
His whisper trailed off into sly cackling laughter. The moment they were through the doorway Cranly seized him rudely by the neck and shook him, saying:
You flaming floundering fool! I’ll take my dying bible there isn’t a bigger bloody ape, do you know, than you in the whole flaming bloody world!
Temple wriggled in his grip, laughing still with sly content, while Cranly repeated flatly at every rude shake:
—A flaming flaring bloody idiot!

Stephen, who is busily formulating the aesthetic theory that he will later expound in great detail to another friend, the desperately hungover Lynch, declines to intervene in the situation, even when Cranly improvises a weapon from a broken barrel and threatens to kill Temple.  Although this is (probably) an empty threat, Cranly continues to express his dislike of Temple in the most forthright of language.

—Blast him, curse him! said Cranly broadly. Don’t talk to him at all. Sure, you might as well be talking, do you know, to a flaming chamber-pot as talking to Temple. Go home, Temple. For God’s sake, go home.

Wisely, Temple takes Cranly’s advice, and thus prevents the novel from making a swift transition into the crime genre.

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