The Top Ten: Insults worn as badges of pride

From Old Contemptibles and Suffragette to Barmy Army...

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Indy Politics

Robert Hutton was struck by 'Iron Lady', first applied by the Soviet military newspaper 'Red Star' to Margaret Thatcher to suggest that she was stubborn and inflexible, and suggested this list

1. Old Contemptibles

British Expeditionary Force. Kaiser Wilhelm II is said to have described it as a "contemptible little army" in 1914. Thanks to Market House Books and Peter Russell.

2. Prime Minister

Originally a derogatory term meaning the monarch's favourite. Nominated by James Farrar and Uday Maudgil.

3. Know-Nothings

The American Party, 1850s. Opposed immigrants and Roman Catholics. Originated as a secret society whose members claimed they "know nothing" about it.

4. Quaker

Religious Society of Friends. So called because founder George Fox bade magistrates "tremble at the Word of the Lord" when brought before them in 1650. From Chris Jones.

5. Suffragette

Derogatory term coined by the Daily Mail and adopted by more militant suffragists. Given the vote by John Peters.

6. The Vermin Club

Formed by Tories (also originally an insult) in 1948 after Aneurin Bevan called them "lower than vermin". Pest control by Steve Van Riel.

7. Barmy Army

Coined by Australian commentators for English cricket fans constantly cheering despite their team losing to Australia in 1994-95, says Paul Frame.

8. Scouse

Pertaining to Liverpool. Short for lobscouse, cheap stew for sailors. Served by Tom Wein.

9. Queer

Duncan Hothersall wrote in to suggest: "Queer, Blairite, pedant. But enough about me…"

10. Geek

Late 19th-century English, "fool", of Germanic origin, related to Dutch gek, "mad, silly". From the obsessively knowledgeable Matthew Jupp, Gareth Jones and William Barter.

Next week: Words you think derive from one language but come from another (eg bistro comes from Russian)

Coming soon: Original names for bands (Supertramp were once called Daddy). Send your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, to top10@independent.co.uk

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