Friday, July 25, 2014

Euphemisms for STUPID

We hear them all the time, sometimes cautiously whispered and other times as “in your face” insults. I would guess that people usually question the intelligence of others with a simple statement like: “She’s not too smart” or “He’s rather stupid” or even “You’re a dumb ass.” However, it just seems to make more impact when it’s done in a creative manner. Besides, I think it’s a lot more entertaining than bland statements of fact/opinion. Also, if the reference is sufficiently oblique, you can say it right in front of the person in question and they won’t get it. That makes it all the more entertaining.

Euphemisms abound in spoken language and even in a lot of fiction, at least in English. I can’t speak about many other languages but I know there are as many euphemisms if not more in Russian so I presume it’s pretty much a worldwide phenomenon. I have heard or read a lot of euphemisms for “Stupid” and I suspect there aren't many other topics where more euphemisms are used. Without doing a survey, I think there are probably more euphemisms for genitalia and sex. Other than that I don’t think there is a larger variety than those used to question someone’s intelligence. So I began a search for all of the creative ones I could find. Currently this list contains more than 400 examples.

Perhaps not surprisingly, many euphemisms for STUPID are kind of formulaic. Some forms are very common while others lag a little behind in popularity. This list starts with some of the more formulaic ones. I’ll put a few examples of them under the formulae and then put the majority in appendices at the end. Apparently anything goes and some people really seem to stretch just a bit too much for some of these but I’m going to try not to be too judgmental about it. My intent is to list the expressions that are in common usage, or at least used to be. Some are things I may not have heard before but I just considered them too funny not to include. Sometimes if the comparison is a little far off the beaten path (so to speak) you can help get the point across by following it up by saying, “If you know what I mean.” Some of these are not even euphemisms but just a little obscure or oblique.

While a lot euphemisms take the form of a metaphor, similes are very common as well. Some are sarcastic like the following ones which often start with an ambiguous synonym for smart: Sharp, Bright, Quick or the opposites: Slow, Dull, Dim and take something like the following form:

    As ______ as a ______.


    About as sharp as a bowling ball.
    As bright as a burned out bulb.
    As quick as a snail on Quaaludes.

Alternatively they may just be straightforward comparisons using “Smart”, ”Intelligent”, “Dumb”, “Stupid”, etc.


    Smart as a box of rocks.
    Dumb as a stump.
    Dumber than a bag of hammers.

See more examples in Appendix A

A whole bunch of these euphemisms take the form below. Looking through older writings you will see that this form has been around for a long time. One of the reasons this is so common is that the possible variations are practically limitless. You can see what I mean if you look at appendix C. Personally I think the best use of this form takes into account the context. For instance if you’re talking about a very religious Catholic or a Nun saying that “She’s a few beads short of a rosary” fits better than saying “She’s a few whiskers short of a beard.” Anyway, without further ado, here’s the formula:

    A few _____ short of a ______.
    A _____ short of a _______.

(sometimes ‘shy’ is used instead of ‘short’)


    A few sandwiches short of a picnic.
    A few cowboys short of a rodeo.
    A few bricks shy of a load.
    A cup and a saucer short of a place setting.
    A few french fries short of a Happy Meal.

See more examples in Appendix C

Another very common form for these insults is the one below. This is another one where the possibilities are virtually endless. They are easy to create. I made up a few of my own during the time I was working on this list. They go like this:

    Not the _____est _____ on/in the _______.


    Not the sharpest tool in the shed.
    Not the brightest bulb on the porch.

I’ve seen some more unusual ones like these but for me they are trying a bit too hard to be clever.

    Not the crunchiest chip in the bag.
    Not the crispest shirt in the closet.

See more examples in Appendix B

A form that is less common but still seen quite a bit is this:

    Doesn’t have all their ______ in one/a ________.

I put ‘in’ in the pattern but variations can use other prepositions like ‘on’ or ‘at’ etc. Actually this form is one of the most flexible and I’m sure some expressions only loosely fit the pattern but that’s ok. I think this gets my point across.


    He doesn't have all his dogs on one leash.
    She doesn’t have all her chairs at the table.

See more examples in Appendix D

There are a wide range of metaphors as well as every other kind of reference and comparison found in these expressions Comparisons are made to everything imaginable. Check these out:

Tools and machinery (usually malfunctioning or broken)

    His car is fine but there’s a loose nut behind the wheel.
    The engine is running but nobody is behind the wheel.
    The choke is stuck on his mental carburetor.
    His trolley ran off the tracks.
    He parked his head and forgot where he left it.
    Body by Fisher (God) - brains by Mattel.
    His little red choo choo has jumped the track.
    The oil doesn't reach his dipstick.
    His dipstick doesn't quite reach the oil.
    Her wipers don't touch the glass.
    His mind runs on sailboat fuel.
    The caboose seems to be pulling the engine.
    Her axel is a little bit off camber.
    Your little red choo-choo's gone chugging 'round the bend.
    He’s not firing on all cylinders.
    She’s running on 3 (5,7) cylinders.
    He has some lug nuts rattling in his hubcaps.
    She's running about a quart low.
    His seat back is not in the full upright and locked position.
    He’s driving with two wheels in the sand.
    She's a lap behind the field.
    She ran out of gas before her car.
    He's all booster, no payload.
    He’s not exactly running on all thrusters. (Star Trek said by Dr. McCoy)
    She only has one oar in the water.
    His boat doesn’t have all its oars in the water.
    Both ofhis oars are in the water, but on the same side of the boat.
    Her bicycle works but the training wheels wobble.
    The gates are down and the lights are flashing, but the train isn't coming.
    If he went any slower he'd have to speed up to stop.
    He has the parachute but is missing the ripcord.
    Her elevator doesn't go all the way to the top floor (penthouse).
    His elevator is stuck between floors.
    His elevator goes to the top but the doors don't open.
    She’s got a screw loose (or a few screws loose).
    When he was a kid, his tricycle had training wheels.
    Her battery isn’t fully charged.
    His antenna doesn't pick up all the channels.
    Her receiver is off the hook.
    Her batteries weren't included.
    His screen has a permanent test pattern.
    His modem only runs at 400 baud.
    His hard drive is spinning but the OS hasn't been installed.
    Her brain’s sending packets, but the checksums are wrong.
    There are some bugs in his software.
    His CPU isn't connected to the bus.
    Her phone is on but there's no reception.
    His laptop's on but there's no internet connection.
    He’s missing a few buttons on his remote control.
    She’s all phone, no receiver.
    His strip is demagnetized.
    The cheese slid off his cracker.
    Her pilot light has gone out.
    He has a leak in his skylight.
    She’s about half a bubble off plumb.
    His rope slipped off its pulley.
    He’s a few degrees off square.
    He’s dumber than paint.
    His belt doesn't go through all the loops.
    Her sewing machine is out of thread.
    The logs are ablaze but the chimney is clogged.
    He would lose a debate with a doorknob.
    A few too many lights are out on his Christmas tree.
    He writes blank checks on a closed account.
    His mind is on vacation but his mouth is working overtime.
    There are too many birds on her antenna.
    There’s a whole lot of chopping, but no chips are flying.
    She has a mind like a steel sieve.
    He’s a dim bulb.
    He just uses his head for a hatrack.
    Nice house, not much furniture.
    The lights are on but nobody's home.
    His porch light ain’t on.
    The porch light’s on but nobody's home.
    His attic's a little dusty.
    She has a few cobwebs in her attic.
    He’s got the mental agility of a soap dish. (can also use most any other inanimate object)
    He hasn't got enough sense to come in out of the rain.
    She’s off her rocker.
    He’s clearly off his nut.
    He’s a real whack job.
    The smoke doesn't make it to the top of his chimney.
    She’s thick as a brick.
    He has a vacancy on the top floor.
    Music & Sports
    He’s conducting without an orchestra.
    Her fiddle's not in tune.
    The spit valve's fallen off his trumpet.
    She’s not singing from the same hymn book.
    All the lights don't shine in his marquis
    He’s playing hockey with a warped puck.
    He wouldn't know if he was on foot or horseback.
    He's got a bow but no arrows.
    He has too much yardage between his goal posts.
    He hasn't seen the ball since kickoff.
    She’s not playing with a full deck.
    Her slinky has a kink or two.

References to IQ & Intellect

    He has an IQ of room temperature. (or south of room temperature)
    Her IQ is lower than plant life.
    He has the relative IQ of a deck chair.
    She has an IQ lower than her shoe size.
    If her IQ goes up to 40, she should sell.
    He is one IQ point above brain death.
    His IQ is lower than a snake's belly in a wagon-rut.
    Hers is an intellect rivaled only by garden tools.
    A .22 caliber intellect in a .357 Magnum world.
    She’s intellectually challenged.
    If "What you don't know can't hurt you," he's practically superman.

References to Insufficiency

    His driveway doesn’t go all the way to the road.
    His driveway doesn't quite reach the garage.
    Her mooring lines don't reach the dock.
    He’s all foam, no beer.
    ...all lime and salt, no tequila.
    ...all shot, no powder.
    ...all wax and no wick.
    Her phone doesn't quite reach her desk.
    He’s as smart as a lawyer is honest.
    She’s overdrawn at the brain bank.
    Her dock doesn't quite reach the water.
    He doesn't have a round in every chamber.
    He doesn't have elastic in both of his socks.
    She doesn't have the sense God gave an animal cracker.
    He has insufficient funds in the brain bank.
    He has delusions of adequacy.
    She forgot to pay her brain bill.
    There’s no hay in the loft.
    She’s sitting in the right pew, but in the wrong church.
    Somebody lend her a quarter to buy a clue.
    His jack can't get the car off the ground.
    There’s not enough salt in her shaker.
    She has plenty of salt in the shaker, but no holes in the cap.
    There’s no grain in his silo.
    He’s paralyzed from the neck up.
    There are echoes between her ears.
    There’s too much air between her ears.
    His brain tank is running on empty.
    Not all his soldiers are marching in line.
    She’s knitting with only one needle.
    If you gave him a penny for his thoughts, you'd get change back.
    He’s got a leak in his think-tank.
    There is only half a cord in his woodshed.
    His corn bread isn't done in the middle.
    You’re not wrapped too tight.
    Nice cage, but no bird
    His candy bowl is not quite full.
    Her biscuits aren't quite baked.
    She’s an open book but the pages are blank.
    He’s missing a few cards from his catalog.
    He’s missing a few marbles.

Missing & Lost References

    He doesn't know whether to scratch his watch or wind his butt.
    He couldn't hit the floor if he fell on it.
    He couldn't find his way out of a paper bag.
    He couldn’t find his butt with two hands and a road map. (both hands and a flashlight)
    She’s lost contact with the mothership.
    He left the scene before his body.
    He’s out in left field without a mitt.
    You’ve lost your marbles.
    He’s a lost ball in high weeds.
    She couldn't pour water out of a boot with instructions on the heel.

Brain References

    If brains were dynamite, he couldn't blow his hat off.
    If brains were dynamite, he wouldn't have enough to blow his nose.
    If brains were electricity, she wouldn't have enough to light a firefly.
    If he had another brain it would be lonely.
    Donated his brain to science before he was done with it.
    If he had a brain he’d be on the floor playing with it.
    She has a Teflon brain (nothing sticks)
    You could fit all her brains in a thimble and still have room for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir!
    He had two brains but he lost one and the other went out looking for it.
    Her brain is like a BB in a boxcar.
    His brain on a razor’s edge would look like a BB on a two lane highway.
    He has a Neanderthal brain in a Cro-Magnon body.
    He has vacuum-tube brain in a microchip world.
    Her brain is permanently in power saving mode.
    She has varicose brains.
    He doesn't have two neurons to rub together. (or brain cells)
    He got his brains as a stocking stuffer.
    He got his brains in a Cracker Jack box.
    His brain was sold separately and they were out of stock.
    If brains were water, hers wouldn't be enough to baptize a flea.
    If her brains were put in a hummingbird, it would fly backwards.
    With another brain he would be a half-wit.
    His brain has one boot stuck in the sand.
    He has a brain only a mother could love?
    His only brain cell finally died of loneliness.

Possible Causes

    He fell out of the stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down.
    He’s proof that evolution CAN go in reverse.
    She has to take turns using the family brain-cell.
    They all have one brain on a time share.
    There was too much chlorine in his gene pool.
    Most people drink from the fountain of knowledge, she only gargled.
    She was hiding behind the door when they passed out brains.
    He suffers from cranio-rectal inversion. (see below)
    His head is up his ass.
    She rode the short bus to school.
    If ignorance is bliss, she must be in heaven.
    He'd come in third in a duel.
    She answers the door when the phone rings.
    His head whistles in a cross wind.
    He’s living proof that nature does not abhor a vacuum.
    He suffers from ano-fossal ambiguity. (see below)
    He can't tell his ass from a hole in the ground.
    She fell out of her family tree.
    She’s just differently clued.
    He was left on the Tilt-A-Whirl a bit too long as a baby.
    She got into the gene pool while the lifeguard wasn't watching.
    She’s an experiment in Artificial Stupidity.
    As a baby his parents stood him on his soft spot.
    His head went on holiday.
    Contents settled some during shipping.
    Born during low tide in the gene pool.
    His mind wandered and never came back.
    On permanent leave of absence from his senses.
    During evolution his ancestors were in the control group.
    He’s the goalie for his dart team.
    She suffers from Clue Deficit Disorder.
    He just fell off the turnip truck.

Animal & Plant References

    The bats are out of her belfry.
    Ignoramus Rex.
    He has bats in his belfry.
    His dog teaches him new tricks.
    The wheel is spinning but the hamster fell off (or is dead).
    Any slower and he'd need to be watered once a week.
    He has a kangaroo (roo) loose in the top paddock.
    He doesn't have all his dogs barking.

How Dumb is He/She?

    He is depriving some village of its idiot.
    She’s a few shades beyond blonde.
    He’s a Mensa reject.
    She’s a shining example of why you should avoid inbreeding.
    She would argue with a signpost.
    You’re a monosynaptic cretin (If you don't understand it my point is made)
    She’s like a pair of children’s scissors, bright and colorful, but not too sharp.
    He’s a poster child for birth control.
    People around her are at risk of second hand idiocy.
    It takes him an hour and a half to watch "60 Minutes".
    He plays solitaire for cash.
    She's immune from any serious head injury.
    He can't count his balls and get the same answer twice.
    She cheats when filling out opinion polls.
    He couldn't count to 21 if he were barefoot with no pants.
    He thinks Plato is a friend of Mickey Mouse.
    Her ears serve the same function as holes in a dribble glass.
    He always loses battles of wits because he's unarmed.
    I could outwit him with half my brain tied behind my back.
    If you put a lens in each of her ears you've got a telescope.
    Guillotining him would only make an aesthetic difference.
    He has signs on both ears saying "Space for Rent."
    Her dentist went deaf from the drill's echoes.
    He’s sort of like an inverse Einstein.
    He views mold as a higher life form.
    She's so stupid, mind readers charge her half price.
    He sets the lowest possible goals, and consistently fails to achieve them.
    She couldn’t tell which way an elevator was going if she had two guesses.
    If you stand close enough to her you can hear the sea.
    If his nose was on upside down he'd drown in the rain.
    You can have more meaningful conversations with a brick wall.
    He’s a member in good standing at the church of Duh. In fact, I think he’s a deacon.
    She eats soup with a fork.
    He’s a mental midget.
    He’s so dense light bends around him.
    If brains were taxed, she’d get a rebate.
    If stupid were a talent, she would be considered gifted.
    It’s hard to believe that he beat out half a billion other sperm.
    Calling him an idiot would be an insult to all the idiots in the world.
    She would be out of her depth in a mud puddle.
    He uses his head to keep the rain out of his neck.

And Then There’s always Scatology

    He’s got shit for brains.
    He doesn’t have all his shit in one sock.
    He's as useless as crap on a cracker.
    He’s not the fastest fly in the shit.
    He doesn’t know shit from Shinola.
Appending A
About as sharp as a marble.
As sharp as a bowling ball.
As sharp as a bowl of Jello.
As sharp as a thimble.
As sharp as a banana.
As sharp as a pound of liver.
As sharp as a sack of wet mice.
As sharp as a sack of wet leather.
As bright as a burned out bulb.
As bright as a lump of coal.
As bright as a lamp in Aladdin's cave.
As quick as a snail on Quaaludes.
As quick as a turtle on Xanax.
As quick as a snail crossing super-glue.
As smart as a bag of socks.
As smart as bait.
As smart as a box of rocks.
As bright as a nightlight.
As bright as mud.
As focused as a fart.
As dumb as a donkey.
As dumb as a stump.
As dumb as a corn cob.
As dumb as a salt shaker.
As dumb as a bag of hammers.
As dumb as a box of hair.
As nutty as a fruitcake.
As deep as a saucer of milk.
As dense as Sherwood Forest.
As dense as the Amazon Rainforest.
Appending B
Not the brightest light in the harbor.
Not the brightest bulb on the porch.
Not the brightest bulb in the box.
Not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.
Not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree.
Not the brightest crayon in the box.
Not the brightest paint on the palette.
Not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
Not the sharpest arrow in the quiver.
Not the sharpest pencil in the box.
Not the sharpest crayon in the box.
Not the sharpest tool in the shed.
Not the sharpest sword in the armory.
Not the sharpest hook in the tackle box.
Not the sharpest pitchfork in the barn.
Not the quickest bunny in the forest.
Not the quickest cheetah on the savannah.
Not the quickest horse in the stable.
Not the quickest ship in the fleet.
Not the quickest car on the track.
Not the crunchiest chip in the bag.
Not the crispest shirt in the closet.
Appending C
A few bales short of a wagon load.
A few bananas short of a bunch.
A few beers short of a six-pack.
A few bits short of a byte.
A few boats short of a fleet.
A few boxes short of a pallet.
A few bricks short of a load.
A few bristles short of a broom.
A few board members short of a quorum.
A few Bradys short of a bunch.
A burger short of a combo meal.
Four cents short of a nickel.
A few burgers short of a barbecue.
A few cards short of a deck.
A few cents short of a dollar.
A few clowns short of a circus.
A few colors short of a rainbow.
A few cowboys short of a rodeo.
A few cracker jacks short of a full box.
A few crayons short of a full box.
A few dollars short of a paycheck.
A few dogs short of a sled team.
A few electrons short of an isotope.
A few feathers short of a duck.
A few fuses short of a full circuit.
A few fries short of a Happy Meal.
A few fruit loops shy of a full bowl.
A few grams short of a pound.
A few grapes short of a fruit salad.
A few gunmen short of a posse.
A few ice bricks shy of an igloo.
A few keys short of a keyboard.
A few leaves short of a bush.
A few leftovers short of a bread pudding.
A few links missing from his chain.
A few tiles missing from his space shuttle.
A flower short of an arrangement.
A few marshmallows short of a bowl of Lucky Charms.
A few megabytes short of a gig.
A few needles short of a sewing kit.
A few peas short of a casserole.
A few people short of a party.
A few pineapples shy of a luau.
A few players short of a team.
A few teachers short of a faculty.
A few plums short of a pie.
A few Prozac short of a prescription.
A few twists short of a slinky.
A few threads short of a sweater.
A few sandwiches short of a picnic.
A few screws short of a hardware store.
A few whiskers short of a beard.
A few tacos short of a fiesta platter.
A few watts short of a light bulb.
A few pecans short of a fruitcake.
A few toppings short of a Deluxe Pizza.
A few sheep short of a flock.
A few springs short of a watch.
A few slices shy of a loaf.
A few yards short of a touchdown.
A few roots shy of an apple tree.
A few whiskers short of a kitten.
A few tires short of an eighteen wheeler.
A cup and a saucer short of a place setting.
A few eggs shy of a dozen.
A few ants short of a picnic.
A few trucks short of a convoy.
A few beads short of a rosary.
A few birds shy of a flock.
A few guppies short of an aquarium.
A few chickens short of a henhouse.
A few chapters short of a novel.
A few saucers short of a tea-service.
A couple eggs short of an omelet.
Appending D
He doesn't have all his dogs on one leash.
She doesn’t have all her chairs at the table.
He doesn’t have both oars in the water.
He doesn't have all the dots on his dice.
He doesn’t have all his monkeys in the barrel.
She doesn’t have all her ducks in a row.
She doesn’t have all her china in the cupboard.
She doesn't have all of her groceries in the same bag.
He doesn’t have all his cornflakes in one box.
He doesn’t have all his soldiers marching in one line.
She doesn't have all her peas in one pod.
He doesn’t have all his stuff in one sack.