Topic : Insults


One New Year’s Eve at London’s Garrick Club, British dramatist Frederick Lonsdale was asked by Symour Hicks to reconcile with a fellow member. The two had quarreled in the past and never restored their friendship. “You must,” Hicks said to Lonsdale. “It is very unkind to be unfriendly at such a time. Go over now and wish him a happy New Year.”

So Lonsdale crossed the room and spoke to his enemy. “I wish you a happy New Year,” he said, “but only one.”

Today in the Word, July 5, 1993

One for a Friend

Churchill, the grand master of the rejoinder, made a habit of hoisting people by their own petards. He did it with his legendary response to Bernard Shaw, who had invited him to the opening-night performance of one of his plays. Shaw sent two tickets, “one for yourself and one for a friend—if you have one.” Churchill could not attend but asked if he could have tickets for the second-night performance— “if there is one.”

Source unknown


An English duke, annoyed by the slow service at his London club, called a waiter over and harrumphed, “Do you know who I am?”

The waiter replied coolly, “No, sir, I do not. But I shall make inquiries and inform you directly.”

Source unknown

Age Before Beauty

In American lore no volley quite compares with the one between Dorothy Parker and Clare Boothe Luce, who approached a doorway at the same time. Luce stepped aside, saying, “Age before beauty.”

Parker swept through the door riposting, “Pearls before swine.”

Source unknown


When Lord Sandwich offered the opinion that John Wilkes, an 18th century British journalist and politician would die “either of the pox or on the gallows,”

Wilkes shot back, “That will depend on whether I embrace your lordship’s mistress or your lordship’s principles.”

Source unknown


Noel Coward once encountered Edna Ferber, who was wearing a tailored suit.

“You look almost like a man,” said Coward.

“So do you,” said Ferber.

Source unknown

Who wrote it For You

An envious actress congratulated another actress on a book she had recently written. “I enjoyed it,” she purred, “who wrote it for you?”

Came the answer: “I’m so glad you liked it. Who read it to you?”

Kick-Back & Relax, April, 1992

Theater Seats

Quoted by Joey Adams, Oct., 1991, Reader’s Digest

Best Side

During the filming of Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat, actress Mary Anderson asked the famed director what he thought was her best side. “My dear,” he replied, “you’re sitting on it.”

Donald Spoto, The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock

You Love Music?

After dinner one evening a rancher’s wife was entertaining their house guest by playing the piano. At one point she turned to the visitor and said, “I understand you love music.”

“Yes,” murmured the guest politely. “But never you mind. Keep right on playing.”

Source unknown

Whistler’s Mother

Many have heard of the painting that hangs in the Louvre in Paris commonly known as “Whistler’s mother.” A model failed to show up one day, and the elderly lady patiently sat while her son worked on the canvas. When the painting was shown at the Royal Academy, Whistler simply titled it an “Arrangement in Grey and Black.”

James Whistler was known for his piercing wit and fiery personality. He complained that people didn’t appreciate his paintings and once sued a critic who had accused the artist of “flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face.” He constantly criticized the British, sometimes dressed outlandishly, quarreled frequently and even mistreated his subjects. “You can’t call that a great work of art,” one man protested after sitting for a portrait. “Perhaps not,” Whistler replied, “But then you can’t call yourself a great work of nature.”

Quoted in G. Collins, The Magnificent Mind, p. 95.


On occasion I do free-lance photography for local newspapers and magazines, and I take great pride in my work. At a party one evening, I was introduced to an extremely pompous gentleman who writes a weekly piece for a publication that had just used one of my pictures.

After telling me how he liked the “rather interesting” composition and tones I had used in my latest work, he said, “You must have a good camera.” I then mentioned that I had enjoyed his most recent article, and added, “You must have a good typewriter.”

Alexander Buiel II, in Reader’s Digest

Different Professions

James Whistler, the Victorian artist, showed scant respect for the hierarchy of any profession. When his poodle fell ill with a throat infection, he sent immediately for the country’s leading ear, nose, and throat specialist, Sir Morell Mackenzie. The great man was not amused when he was shown his patient, but he conducted a thorough examination, wrote out a prescription, and left with his fee.

The next day Whistler received a message asking him to call on Mackenzie without delay. Fearing some development in the poodle’s condition, Whistler hurried to the doctor’s house. “So good of you to come, Mr. Whistler,” said Mackenzie as his visitor was shown in. “I wanted to see about having my front door painted.”

Graeme Garden, The Best Medicine


Of Thomas Carlyle, by Samuel Butler; “It was very good of God to let Carlyle and Mrs. Carlyle marry one another and so make only two people miserable instead of four.”

Nancy McPhee, Book of Insults, Ancient and Modern

Long Sermon

Churchgoer to pastor, “Your sermon reminded me of the mercies of God. I thought it would endure forever.”

Dennis Fakes, Points With Punch

Facial Expressions

Charles H. Spurgeon was emphasizing to his class the importance of making the facial expression harmonize with the speech. “When you speak of Heaven,” he said, “let your face light up, let it be irradiated with a heavenly gleam, let your eyes shine with reflected glory. But when you speak of Hell—well, then your ordinary face will do.”

Source unknown

Best Disc Jockey

Willard Scott of “The Today Show” remembers his radio days when he received his all-time favorite letter from a fan: “Dear Mr. Scott—I think you’re the best disc jockey in Washington. You play the best music and have the nicest voice of anyone on the air. Please excuse the crayon—they won’t let us have anything sharp in here.”

Willard Scott’s Down Home Stories


1. God created Adam master and Lord of all living creatures, but Eve spoiled it all. - Martin Luther

2. I have always thought that every woman should marry, and no man. - Benjamin Disraeli

3. 20,000,000 young women rose to their feet with the cry, “We will not be dictated to” and promptly became stenographers. - G. K. Chesterton

4. Lady Astor: “Winston, if you were my husband I should flavor your coffee with poison.”
Churchill: “Madam, if I were your husband, I should drink it.”

5. Bessie Braddock, M.P.: “Winston, you’re drunk.”
Churchill: “Bessie, you’re ugly, and tomorrow morning I’ll be sober.”

6. Earl Warren (Supreme Court Justice): “I’m pleased to see such a dense crown here tonight.”
Heckler: “Don’t be too pleased, Governor; we ain’t all dense.”

7. Congressman John Randolf and Henry Clay met on a sidewalk in Washington.
Clay: “I, sir, do not step aside for a scoundrel.”
Randolf: “On the other hand, I always do.”

8. Lincoln of Steven Douglas: “His argument is as thin as the homeopathic soup made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had been starved to death.”

9. I know why the sun never sets on the British Empire: God wouldn’t trust an Englishman in the dark. - Duncan Spaeth

10. Of course America had been discovered before Columbus, but it had always been hushed up.
- Oscar Wilde

11. They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge.
- Rep. Thomas Reed, Speaker of the House, of two fellow congressmen

12. If you can’t say something good about somebody, sit right here beside me. - Alice Roosevelt Longworth, on a pillow in her sitting room.

13. Your manuscript is both original and good.
But the parts that are original are not good,
and the parts that are good are not original. - Samuel Johnson

Sources unknown

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