The 10 Greatest Uses of Trash Talk in the History of War

Nothing about Hollywood is more unrealistic than the droll one-liners delivered in the heat of battle. Nobody's brain operates like that in real life -- when facing imminent destruction, most of us just manage a few mumbled words followed by the sound of retching.

Yet history records some badass trash talk that would put Schwarzenegger to shame, some spoken in dire circumstances. Of course, it takes a certain type of badass. Like ...

#10. King Leonidas I, the Battle of Thermopylae

Via Wikimedia Commons

The Situation:

We've devoted a fair amount of analysis to the events of the movie 300, not because so much of it is bullshit, but because a lot of the more awesome elements of the story are regarded by historians to be true. The Spartans' ability to trash talk is among them.

Prior to the battle, it was demanded that Sparta submit to the overwhelmingly powerful Persia by its ambassador. When he demanded that the Spartans surrender their arms, Leonidas had an answer.

The Quote:

"Come and take them."

(Or in the original Greek, "Molon labe.")

The Spartans are kind of famous for being able to not give a fuck in very few words, and this was their masterpiece. This simple Greek phrase somehow managed to roll every top badass one-liner into two words -- alternate interpretations include "Over my dead body" and "Bring it."

Getty
We're saying they smelled what he was cookin'.

The Aftermath:

This was, of course, the official foreplay to the Battle of Thermopylae, where a lot of the most badass, overacted lines from 300 would actually be spoken. Yes, that stuff about how Spartans would fight in the shade of the enemy's arrows and dine in hell (well, Hades) is actual, historically documented fact.

Via Wikimedia Commons
It turns out you can condense Badass into bricks.

#9. General Robert Nivelle, the Battle of Verdun

Via Wikimedia Commons

The Situation:

On June 23, 1916, about halfway into one of the bloodiest battles in World War I (and human history), French General Robert Nivelle issued an order to his tired and tattered troops, forced to stand against the impeding German forces. The order was simple.

The Quote:

"They shall not pass!"

Via Wikimedia Commons
General Robert Nivelle the Gray.

Or rather, "Vous ne les laisserez pas passer, mes camarades" (it's not a very badass language, French). But the shorter, punchier form is the one that everyone heard and remembered. And we mean everyone.

Via Wikimedia Commons
Well, everyone except Chad. That guy's a douche.

The Aftermath:

This simple phrase electrified the troops to the point that it was made immortal. "They shall not pass!" became the definitive slogan for the soldiers defending the Maginot Line and achieved cultural immortality soon afterward. The phrase has appeared on books, posters and medals, and continued to be used as the defiant slogan for numerous movements throughout the 20th century and beyond. And Gandalf.

Via Wikimedia Commons
This medal is awarded to the survivors of Verdun and anyone who kills a Balrog.

#8. Genghis Khan, the Siege of Bukhara

Via Wikipedia

The Situation:

If there's one thing history has taught us, it's that anyone who picked a fight with Genghis Khan was likely to experience a ton of rapidly approaching ass-kickery.

Via Wikimedia Commons
Even though you just can't help but want to pinch those adorable cheeks!

Shah Muhammad II of the Khwarazmian Empire found this out the hard way when he insulted Genghis by killing his messenger. This not only resulted in one of the most brutal acts of revenge in history, but one of the most systematic dismantlings of a civilization in history. Some Khwarazmians called the destruction of an entire nation over one messenger slight overkill. The Khan had an answer for them:

The Quote:

"I am the Flail of God. If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you."

Yes, Genghis Khan was something of a supervillain.

Via Kungfumagazine.com

The Aftermath:

Genghis Khan went on to become a legendary leader, fighter and lover, whereas you don't see a whole lot of Khwarazmians around. Shah Muhammad II spent the rest of the days in forgotten exile on an island in the middle of nowhere, no doubt fully aware of the fate his empire suffered due to his terminal lack of good manners.

Photos.com
"I told you no creamer! Where did you say you were from, again -- Atlantis?"

#7. John Paul Jones, the Battle of Flamborough Head

Via Wikimedia Commons

The Situation:

John Paul Jones, the father of the American Navy and the one-time temporary conqueror of England, found himself in dire straits on September 23, 1779, during the Battle of Flamborough Head. While dueling the HMS Serapis, Jones' boat was outgunned, undermanned and, ultimately, sinking.


Also, just about everything was on fire.

Having clearly won, Captain Pearson of the Serapis asked Jones if he was ready to surrender. Any sensible sailor would realize "certain death" was the only other option, but John Paul Jones was not a sensible sailor. According to the English, in fact, he was a flat-out pirate.

Via History.navy.mil
We can't see why.

From a sinking ship whose decks were awash with blood, Jones shouted ...

The Quote:

"I have not yet begun to fight!"

After this ballsy proclamation, which likely had the opponent in stitches, Jones began to fight. He rammed his ship into the Serapis, cleared its deck with sharpshooters and had his men storm its deck with swords and grenade-bombs like the pirates they totally weren't, honestly.

Via Deanmosher.com
This picture was brought to you by the letter "Arrr!"

The Aftermath:

Jones' ship was lost, but Jones and his men had no problem commandeering the Serapis. He sailed it to the Dutch Republic, where Jones was hailed by the drug lords in Amsterdam as "The Terror of the English."

Upon hearing that Captain Pearson, who had also survived the encounter, had been knighted for valor at Flamborough Head, Jones added to his list of awesome quotes with:

"Should I have the good fortune to fall in with him again, I'll make a lord of him."

Via Wikimedia Commons
Lord of the zings! BAM!

#6. Oliver Hazard Perry, Battle of Lake Erie

Via Wikimedia Commons

The Situation:

Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry was the type of man that Cracked lists were invented for, starting with his impossibly ballsy name.

Via Wikipedia
His real first name was "Fist," but people kept fainting.

When he engaged the Royal Navy in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812, the 27-year-old Perry famously boasted, "If a victory is to be gained, I will gain it." He meant it.

Perry experienced slight setbacks, like his flagship getting sunk while he was on it, but the battle was nevertheless one of the most spectacular naval victories in U.S. history, so much so that it marked the first time a British naval squadron had surrendered, ever.

Via Wikimedia Commons
Perry takes a few minutes during battle to get a little fishing time in.

As the ships were now the property of the U.S. Navy, Perry sent a message to General William Henry Harrison to let him know about their recent acquisitions. The message described all Perry felt there was to describe about such a historical victory:

The Quote:

"We have met the enemy and they are ours."

The Aftermath:

Perry became one of the most beloved heroes of the war, alongside the ranks of future presidents Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison. Had he not perished just a few years later, it could very well have been him sitting in the presidential chair instead of Harrison.

Via Wikimedia Commons
Believe it or not, this man was once famous for a lot more than dying.

Now, the best we have to offer him is a stamp.

Via Wikimedia Commons
With mutton chops like that, you bet your ass this stamp was worth a dollar.

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