Friday, August 06, 2010

How Insulting!

This has been a heavy week around here, so it’s time to lighten up a bit for the weekend. And what’s brighter and cheerier than a few good insults?

I’m not talking about insults to your intelligence; journalism, politicians, advertising, and television already do a superb job of that. I’m also not talking about personal attacks— the kind that are meant to hurt—which seem to be the order of the day and creatively require the F-word in some form or manner.

Rather, I’m referring to the great insults of yore, when insulting was an art instead of a text message or a finger salute. Immensely witty and clever, I think Winston Churchill was the Master Insulter:

Lady Astor: "If you were my husband, I'd give you poison."
Churchill: "If you were my wife, I'd drink it."

"Mr Gladstone read Homer for fun, which I thought served him right."

"When I am abroad I always make it a rule never to criticise or attack the Government of my country. I make up for lost time when I am at home."

On Neville Chamberlain: "He looked at foreign affairs through the wrong end of a municipal drainpipe."

George Bernard Shaw to Churchill: "I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend ... if you have one."
Churchill, in response: "Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second ... if there is one."

Oscar Wilde, an outstanding Irish wit:

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

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

Mark Twain could fill a few books with insults (and he did), but just a couple for now:

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

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

Other insults I like:

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

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

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

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

I did not forget the women:

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

Dorothy Parker (a Harvard woman): "If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn't be surprised."

To summarize this post:

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

* * *

Do you, dear students, have a favorite insult or quote you would like to share with us in the comments? If not, I may be forced to call on someone.

And in case you're wondering, my favorite of these sixteen insults is Dorothy Parker's.


Donda said...

This is the sass talk that I truly love!

Robert the Skeptic said...

I don't recall the source but I am particularly fond of: "If my dog had your face, I'd shave his butt and teach him to walk backwards!"

Although on the other end of the scale, I believe it was Elanor Roosevelt who said: "No one can insult you without your permission".

Warden Files said...

More of a quote than an insult, but it did originate from the great master of the put-down himself.

"I chased a girl for two years only to discover that her tastes were exactly like mine: We were both crazy about girls."
Groucho Marx

Clyde said...

I think it was Churchill again when a woman said to him "You Sir are drunk" to which he replied "And you madame are ugly, but I shall be sober in the morning"

Attila The Mom said...

I adore Dorothy Parker. Among my favorite quotes:

“You can drag a horticulture, but you can't make her think.”

TechnoBabe said...

My favorite is Churchill' response to George Bernard Shaw.
One of my favorite quotes is:

Commenting on Clint Eastwood's bid for mayor of Carmel -- "What makes him think a middle aged actor, who's played with a chimp, could have a future in politics?"
-Ronald Reagan

Pat said...

Margot Graham (I think)fed up of the ingenue Jean Harlow addressing her as 'Margottt' said :
'No dear - it's a silent T - as in Harlow.'
You had to be there.

Wandering Coyote said...

Gotta love Churchill; the guy was great even though he was politically iffy IMO.

Sorry I don't have anything to add right now...I just got up. It's early. I'm sure after a day of cooking for seniors I'll think of something, though.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Oh that Dorothy Parker! I would have loved to have dinner (read martinis) with her!

One of my favourite insults came from an old boss, who threatened to write on someone's letter of recommendation, "you will be fortunate if you can get him to work for you".

Fay's Too said...

I shall read this often to turn my sourness to at least tart, if not sweet. My Papa always said I'd bitch if you hanged me with a new rope.
You are a funny man.

Alice said...

Robert the Skeptic...holy crap...i thought of the same one about the dog. I know it from a MASH episode, but I don't know if that is the original source!

My favorite is from John Hughes' Breakfast Club.

Principal: Any more questions?
John Bender: Yes, does Barry Manilow know you raid his wardrobe?

Syd said...

Churchill was a master for sure. I like the one about having no enemies but being intensely disliked by his friends.

Jerry said...

"For thou dost fear the soft and tender fork of a poor worm." Alas, it was Shakespeare that uttered that.

I love the witty turn of the tongue whether it be insults or puns.

laytonwoman3rd said...

For a subtle insult, you can't beat Will Rogers:

"I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts. There's no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you.
I belong to no organized political party. I'm a Democrat." And so on..

Buzzard said...

I always liked to hear Will Rogers remarks. He was a funny man.

"Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock."

Will Rogers

Madame DeFarge said...

You've picked all my favourite ones, so I shall content myself with agreeing that the Dorothy Parker ones is one of my absolute faves too.

Philip said...

Dorothy parker's review of an actress "she ran the whole gamut of emotions. From A right through to B."

Murr Brewster said...

"In him and his person I have learned to hate all religions. He has taught me to abhor and detest the Sabbath-day and hunt up new and troublesome ways to dishonor it."

Not the finest, but it was from Mark Twain (my hero) describing George Washington Cable (my great-grandfather) while they were on a lecture tour together. I like to imagine there was some baby-switching at birth somewhere along the line.

Kim Ayres said...

Another Winston Churchill classic is: “A modest little person, with much to be modest about.” –

DJan said...

Wanting to be clever like so many of your followers, I went online and searched for a totally cool quote so everyone would think I am really cool too, got sidetracked by your blogroll and now I'm back to admit to failure to find the totally cool quote. You may quote me on that. :-)

Some of these made me laugh out loud for whole minutes! Like Billy Wilder's.

Tiffin said...

The former Lord Mayor of Ottawa, Charlotte Whitton, was hosting the Lord Mayor of London, England, in Ottawa. Charlotte wore a rather décolletée dress with a single rose at the V of the neck; the L.M. of London wore his mayoral chain of office. Thinking to be gallant, he leaned over at the State dinner and said "Would her Ladyship blush if I smelled her rose?" To which Charlotte replied without missing a beat: "Would his Lordship flush if I pulled his chain?"

{In case some don't know, English toilets at the time flushed by pulling the chain on a tank suspended up on the wall}

KleinsteMotte said...

Love the Shaw one. I only have a quote. it's Betty White on Saturday Live thanking Facebook for getting her on the show but then calling it "a huge waste of time".