A recent Edmonton Journal Sunday Telescope featured a compilation of insults spotted on the Internet and submitted by a reader. According to the intro, ?a carefully crafted, clever insult is becoming a forgotten art.? When I think about the not-so-recent public peeing match between Rosie O?Donnell and Donald Trump I’d have to say I agree.
She said: ?Left the first wife, had an affair, left the second wife, had an affair, had kids both times. But he’s the moral compass for 20-year-olds in America. Donald, sit and spin, my friend.?
He said: ?Rosie’s a loser. A real loser. I look forward to taking lots of money from my nice, fat little Rosie.?
She called him ?a snake oil salesman.? He said She’s ?a woman out of control.?
Contrast that with this exchange between Winston Churchill and George Bernard Shaw.
Shaw: ?I enclose two tickets to the first night of my new play. Bring a friend . . . if you have one.?
Churchill responded: ?Cannot possibly attend first night; will attend second, if there is one.?
In another example of a famous exchange, we see William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway trading barbs. ?He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary,? claimed Faulkner of Hemingway.
Hemingway responded with, ?Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words??
There was one that brought a smirk to my face because I can see myself thinking it but not being clever (or ballsy) enough to say it: Groucho Marx saying ?I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.? I wish I knew the context for Marx’s remark.
I also loved the wit of Mark Twain–?I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it?–though I could never imagine actually feeling that way about anyone. Well, maybe bin Laden.
Remember when our parents said ?If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all?? That was likely some feeble attempt to stem sibling name calling. But It’s also one tongue-biting, ulcer-inducing life lesson. Insulting anyone in whatever way at whatever time in history really shouldn’t be admirable. But I do love the power of words–well-chosen, succinct, double entendres, clever, clarifying. So much better to search for just the right words rather than settle for the default ?f#$k? for every occasion. So much better to attack the actions, not the person. So much more civilized to ridicule pomposity.
There’s nothing worse than having a battle of wits with an unarmed man. For an exchange to be truly remarkable the parties need to be intellectual equals with a playful, competitive streak and a genuine lack of malice. Anything less is just laziness. Anything more is bordering on hateful.
Have a safe outlet for expressing rage that doesn’t hurt anyone, including yourself. Try some witty insults if you dare. Admire the clever comeback. With the right attitude It’s all good, from where I sit.