'Plonker, prat and numpty': Study shows classic British insults dying out

A new study suggests British insults such as berk, nitwit, pillock and plonker are set to die out as many young people have never heard of them

Classic British insults such as "pillock", "plonker" and "git" could soon be on their way out, as Gen Z embrace newer terms like "basic", "Karen" and "simp".

A new survey of Gen Zs - those born between 1997 and 2012 - has found that six in ten of the demographic have not heard the insult “berk” meaning an “idiot”.

"Prat", another common British insult, believed to have originated from the Old English word “prætt”, meaning trick or prank, was unknown to a quarter of the age group.

The term “Nitwit”, meaning someone particularly stupid had not been heard of by 27%, according to research agency, Perspectus Global.

Fans of Only Fools and Horses may wish to look away as 25% had no idea that the term “plonker” was used as an insult - or "put downs", as Gen Z would call them.

English actor Terry-Thomas was known for playing the role of the 'cad'. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Nearly half of Brits under the age of 28 (47 percent) had not heard of the insult “cad”, which refers to an unreliable character - particularly a man who has behaved badly with disregard to women.

Other more regional insults fared even worse. The East Anglian term for a clumsy oaf “Lummox” had not been heard by 62% of young Brits - and a majority of Brits overall (54%). The Scots term “bampot” meaning a fool was unknown to six in ten of the younger generation. Interestingly even in Scotland, 20% of people were unsure of its meaning.

The posh slang term “blighter”, to describe a contemptible individual, was unknown to a majority (54%) of the 18 to 29 year olds surveyed. “Language changes, evolves and moves on,” said Harriet Scott, CEO of research agency Perspectus Global.

“Our research shows that calling someone a plonker or a prat is no longer a fashionable way to insult them.

"Interestingly, the research highlights the extent to which Brits feel some of the more traditional jibes, feel softer and less severe, than some of today’s more controversial ones. “It has been fascinating researching thousands of old insults such 'mooncalf' which used to mean a fool - or 'Cozener' meaning a trickster dating back to Shakespearean England”. Overall, just 20% of Brits say they’d be offended if they were called a pillock or plonker.

Perspectus' study suggests 53% of Brits over the age of 40 believe insults were of a gentler nature back in the day, with 60% feeling they were more jovial than modern day put downs.

A resounding 72% of all ages polled, agreed Brits have a unique style when it comes to slights, while 81% felt it was a very British trait, to insult your loved ones, as a back handed term of endearment.

Meanwhile 68% of us are convinced that Britain has the best insults of any country in the world. Something to be proud of? Or are we just plonkers?

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