3.1 Old English Period: Flyting

Material from the Old English Period, which is relatively rare, introduces us into the tradition of flyting in heroic poetry. This special form of verbal duel could be found between Anglo-Saxon warriors who competed in addressing boasts, challenges and insults at each other. Flyting is the 'exchange of verbal provocations between hostile speakers in a predictable and highly stylised way' (Jucker 2000:96), a rule-governed form of insulting each other.

The warriors accused each other of cowardice, failure of honour, irresponsible behaviour or crime kindship. 'Statement is followed by understatement until the last response terminates the verbal duel'(Jucker/Taaverstain 2000:29). Either one contestants silencend the otherís tongue or they finally bursted out in physical violence.

Ritual insults continued to exist beyond the period of heroic poetry, as in the ritual challenges between later medieval knights. The sounding of young African-Americans is comparable to flyting, too.