Journal of a Living Lady #372
Nancy White Kelly
Some of my favorite friends are the insulting kind. You know…those people who teasingly throw out sarcastic, linguistic jabs at lightening fast speed. These pundits know their victims well and are selective about who is on the receiving end of these verbal acts. Only members of the Mutual Admiration Society participate. It would be an act of social war to send the same message to someone whose heart is housed in a body wrapped in sensitive skin.
A reader wrote me this note just after my book, Journal of a Living Lady, was published: "Thanks for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it." That reader and I have known each other for more than thirty years and we have a history of comedic slams.
Perverse or reverse humor has been around a long time. You might be surprised at the people who have engaged in such verbal warfare. These are a couple of my choice quotes:
"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.
"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)
Unfortunately, not all wit is well-intentioned. Remember the exchange between
Churchill & Lady Astor. She said, "If you were my husband I'd give you poison."
He replied, "If you were my wife, I'd drink it."
And finally. A member of Parliament discoursed to Disraeli: "Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease."
"That depends, Sir," said Disraeli, "whether I embrace your policies or your mistress."
I have always heard that quick wit is a sign of lofty intelligence. Even though I carry an ancient Mensa membership card as a reminder of smarter days, I still don’t qualify for the elite group who can instantly return a swicket.
But to my good friend who is always late, I offer a defense on her behalf. She has good reason for perpetual tardiness. Her ancestors arrived on the Juneflower.