Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Eloquence of a Bygone Era

Four letter words are pretty common these days. No, not work or labor but those ones that we were told by our mothers not to use. They seem to crop up everywhere. When a comic needs a laugh, out they come. Also when a movie is supposed to be "real" or "gritty", a TV show is supposed to be "cutting edge", an online comment writer is seriously trying to "make a point".

In truth, most of this is just cheap sensationalism. Making people laugh without cursing or cheap sex jokes is hard work. So is researching your facts and presenting a cogent argument. I must confess I've used my share of four letter words, but I realize that when I do I've already started to lose the argument.

Although I don't have proof, I think our ancestors struggled with the same problem. However, we do have writing of true eloquence. Of people being thoroughly put in their place by someone who knew the language and how to use it. It is with pleasure that I present the following.

Overheard in the smoking car of a New York subway in 1899:
Woman said to the man smoking next to her, “If you were my husband, sir, I’d give you a dose of poison!”
The man looked at her. “If I were your husband,” said he, “I’d take it!”

A member of Parliament 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."

"He had delusions of adequacy ."
-Walter Kerr  

"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."
- Winston Churchill

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

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary."
-William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)

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

"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

"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

"I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here."
-Stephen Bishop

"He is a self-made man and worships his creator."
-John Bright

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

"He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others."
-Samuel Johnson

"He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up."
- Paul Keating

"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 uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts... for support rather than illumination."
-Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

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

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

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