I’m an old fart who’s becoming older by the minute. And as typical old farts have always done, I too, tend to reminisce about the “old” days, especially about put-downs: political, social, or entertainment.
Oh, and for the record, my memory is IMPROVING with age, not diminishing. As I plunge cannonball style into the pool of my mid-70s, I can remember—in vivid detail—virtually EVERYTHING in my life . . . whether the stuff actually happened on NOT.
But speaking of quality put-downs, back during that magical time we refer to as “yesteryear,” intelligent people echoed honest differences using rhetorical bludgeons that amounted to cerebrally superb put-downs.
I have an entire file full of these things. There isn’t a single dud in the pile, and every one of them shows the quality way in which people used to convey discontent.
The insults reeked of class and sophistication. Ingenuity with words still had value, and the people hurling them didn’t use 4-letter words; unlike today when it seems like the English language is rapidly boiling down to often repeated 4-letter words while waving middle fingers for added emphasis.
Here are some examples:
An exchange between Winston 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.”
An exchange between 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.”
“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
About Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner wrote; “He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”
Hemingway replied; “Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?”
A wannabe writer sent Moses Hadas a copy of his manuscript, to which Moses replied; “Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I’ll waste no time reading it.”
“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
George Bernard Shaw sent a gift to Winston Churchill with the following note, “I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend . . . if you have one.”
Churchill returned fire with “Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second . . . if there is one.”
“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
“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 has Van Gogh’s ear for music.” – Billy Wilder
“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.” – Groucho Marx
Linguistically, things began to head downhill about 50-years ago. Today, self-appointed pontificators armed with pretend expertise wage verbal warfare that consists of nothing more than dull hair-splitting supported by a plethora of semantic, small-bore verbal weapons completely underwritten by stupidity.
And I’m talking about people with, allegedly, 3-digit IQs: politicians (Left and Right), stars of the entertainment world, issue-oriented radio and TV pundits, religious representatives, etc.
But if you want a glimpse of genuine stupidity, go into Yahoo; click on some of the articles on the banner ribbon across the top of the page (especially political and crime pieces); and then click on the comment sections at the end of the article.
Comments in the thousands jump at you. And 99% of them come from abjectly stupid people. You’ll understand in a heartbeat why Congress acts the way it does; these folks, unfortunately, VOTE!
We’re in a heap of trouble.