Monday, February 25, 2008

When insults had class

These glorious insults are from an era when cleverness with words was still valued, before a great portion of the English language got boiled down to 4-letter words, not to mention waving middle fingers.

The exchange between Churchill & Lady Astor:
She said, "If you were my husband I'd give you poison,"
and he said, "If you were my wife, I'd drink it."

A member of Parliament to Disraeli:
"Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease." "That depends, Sir," said Disraeli, "on whether I embrace your policies or your mistress."

"He had delusions of adequacy."
- Walter Kerr

"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."
- Winston Churchill

"A modest little person, with much to be modest about."
- Winston Churchill

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure."
- Clarence Darrow

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary."
- William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).

"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?"
- Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)

"Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it."
- Moses Hadas

"He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know."
- Abraham Lincoln

"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it."
- Mark Twain

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends."
- Oscar Wilde

"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend.... if you have one."
- George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

"Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second... if there is one."
- Winston Churchill, in response.

"I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here."
- Stephen Bishop

"He is a self-made man and worships his creator."
- John Bright

"I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial."
- Irvin S. Cobb

"He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others."
- Samuel Johnson

"He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up."
- Paul Keating

"There's nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won't cure."
- Jack E. Leonard

"He has the attention span of a lightning bolt."
- Robert Redford

"They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge."
- Thomas Brackett Reed

"In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily."
- Charles, Count Talleyrand

"He loves nature in spite of what it did to him."
- Forrest Tucker

"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?"
- Mark Twain

"His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork."
- Mae West

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go."
- Oscar Wilde

"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts... for support rather an illumination."
- Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

"He has Van Gogh's ear for music."
- Billy Wilder

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening But this wasn't it."
- Groucho Marx


furiousBall said...

see the problem is, all these guys are little. and all it takes is one of these well thought out insults to reduce a thug into stomping Oscar Wilde's sissy ass.

pissed off patricia said...

I love them and most of them are clever as hell. Those words could cut your throat and you wouldn't know it until you felt the blood.

Ian Lidster said...

Those are superlative, and I agree that we have lost so much genuine wit and the ability to turn out an apt bon mot.
A favorite of mine is another of Churchill's, in describing Clement Attlee, his successor as PM: "Mr. Attlee is a sheep in sheep's clothing."

Josie said...

Jazz, those are wonderful. I remember once I did something really, really stupid at work, and my boss (who thought he was a comedian) said to me, "Nice one, Josie! Did your mother have any children that lived?"

We're still friends.

Dumdad said...

Churchill said many witty things as Ian Lidster above points out with one of my favourite quotes. Here's another:

Lady Astor: Mr. Churchill, you're drunk!

Winston Churchill: Yes, and you, Madam, are ugly. But tomorrow, I shall be sober.


Gnightgirl said...

Love it! Thanks for giving me a mid-morning (mid-cubicle) smile.

ticknart said...

For the Billy Wilder quote, I like to imagine him lifting up a fake ear.

geewits said...

Here are some good Hollywood insults:

Whatever it was that this actress never had, she still hasn't got it.
- - - Bosley Crowther (about Loretta Young)

Dramatic art in her opinion is knowing how to fill a sweater.
- - - Bette Davis (about Jayne Mansfield)

Jane Fonda coming back to the screen after a decade-and-a-half absence in Monster-in-Law is like Brando returning from the dead to star in a Police Academy movie.
- - - Michael Sragow

Hah! I always knew Frank would end up in bed with a boy!
- - - Ava Gardner (about Mia Farrow's marriage to Frank Sinatra)

She turned down the role of Helen Keller because she couldn't remember the lines. - - - Joan Rivers (about Bo Derek)

She ran the whole gamut of emotions from A to B.
- - - Dorothy Parker (about Katherine Hepburn)

Big Brother said...

Here's another one lil sister... a wealthy beautiful socialite once wrote to George Bernard Shaw, telling him that they should get married since any children they would produce would be beautiful like their mother and brilliant like their father. To this Shaw answered..."God forbid, for what will happen to the poor children if they get my looks and your brains!"

Tai said...

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go."
- Oscar Wilde

I just used this one just the other day!
Love these!

That girl said...

These are great :-)

Dorky Dad said...

Winston Churchill was awesome. I only wish our leaders had a sense of humor like that.

Jazz said...

Furiousball - Perhaps, but they got in a good insult beforehand. The thug woulda probably stomped 'em anyway. Besides, thugs being notoriously stupid, they migh not even realize they've been insulted.

POP - Yep and that's what makes 'em brilliant.

Ian - I have the ability to turn out an apt bon mot - problem is it's always 4 hours after the fact when it does me no good whatsoever.

Josie - I'm liking your boss.

Dumdad - I heard that one before! I'd like to be in a situation where I'm sober enough to remember to use it...

Gnightgirl - Well if I can elicit a cubicle smile, I'm happy.

Ticknart - LOL :-D

Geewits - Pure unadulturated snark. I love it.

BB - Love it...

Tai - Yeah, I like that one too. Hope I can use it someday.

That Girl - Glad you liked 'em

DD - Yeah, Winston Churchill was a breed unto himself. Unfortunately nowdays our leaders aren't intelligent (cultured, well read??) enough to actually be witty.

A Happy Downtowner said...

Yep, very good insults. Too bad the world has lost the art of hurling such beautiful prose for the shortened form. Nothing like sarcasm to get your point across :)

Maddy said...

Cheers that makes for a fabulous start to my day!

Patience said...

Love 'em one and all!

Dita said...

I think I'll have to use some of those lines and none required the infamous four-letter word (unless of course, I've read to quickly!)

Jazz said...

HD - yes, but this is ever so much more complicated for people than a resounding F**K you. Unfortunately. The civilized insult is a dying art.

Maddy - If I can help start your day on the right foot, I'm honoured.

Patience - glad you like them. Welcome to my blog

Dita - Indeed, none required the infamous four letter word. And they got the point across so much more elegantly. Welcome to my blog.

Anonymous said...

It takes a cool head to come up with somethign like that when angered. Impressive.