Friday, July 24, 2015


According to Wikipedia "wit is a form of intelligent humour, the ability to say or write things that are clever and usually funny. A wit is a person skilled at making clever and funny remarks. Forms of wit include the quip and repartee."

I have always wanted to be witty.  I can be  very witty about ten minutes after the great wit  was actually needed.  I think that one of the great things about being a novelist is being able to put wise and witty words  into the mouths of characters as if it flowed from their tongue. When, in actual fact, the writer has spent  a good fortnight thinking up that effortless quip.

Having said that, a friend of mine once commented, ‘Caro, you should have gone into surgery as a career, with a tongue like yours you’d never need a scalpel.’

So here are some well known quips and put downs...

Famous put down to a heckler…  “If I throw a stick will you leave?”

Or as Billy Connolly used to say ‘Do I come to your work and show you how to sweep up?’ More about him later.

When John Pentland Malhaffie heard of the illness of the man who had beaten him to the provost ship of Trinity Dublin, he said ‘Nothing trivial I hope?”

 “I am inclined to think…..’
‘Then you should  do so.”   This is a famous  Conan Doylism.  

My friend  has a habit of saying 'I've just had a thought.'  It's too easy to reply, 'Well that's a start, isn't it.'

       “Her brain is a cage of canaries.”  Virginia Woolf on this lady...

       Lydia Lopokova, when the dancer claimed she  has a serious thought every day.
                                  That's sisterhood for you!

“He has the sort of face that makes you realise God does have a sense of humour.”  – Bill Bryson.

        Barbara, about to make a start on the hoovering.

One of my favourites from Clive James who had just interviewed Barbara Cartland  “Twin miracles of mascara, her eyes look like the corpses of two chalk crows which had crashed into a cliff.”

               Gregor Fisher and his comedy comb over.

“Never trust a man who combs his hair straight from his left armpit.” – Alice Roosvelt Longworth.

“The covers of this book are too far apart.” -  Ambrose Bearce.


Nancy Banks Smith’s review of The Far Pavilions, “This is one of those big fat paperbacks intended to while away a monsoon or two which if thrown with a good over arm action will bring a water buffalo to its knees.”    

“Listen dear you couldn’t write f*** on a dusty venetian blind.”  Alan Bennet’s great retort to somebody who had disliked his screenplay.

“She plunged into a sea of platitudes and with the powerful breast stroke of a channel swimmer made her way to the white cliffs of the obvious.” – Somerset Maughan in a Writer's Notebook.

‘I liked your opera I think I’ll set it to music.” – Beethoven to a fellow composer.

“He is a modest man who has a great deal to be modest about.” – Winston Churchill on Clement Attlee.

“So boring you fall asleep half way through her name.”  – Alan Bennett on Ariana Stasinopoulos.

Mary Higgins Clark said with great honesty.... “Some of the editors wrote rejection slips which were more creative than what I had written.  On my tenth submission to Red Book … “Miss Clark, your stories are light, slight and trite. ”My first novella was returned with this succinct note.  We found the heroine as boring as her husband had.”

“A critic is a man who knows the way but can’t drive the car.” – Kenneth Tynan. Indeed, and there are no great statues of critics!

“When I look at these works, culture only makes me think of yogurt.” – Edna Veiss. 

“About as cuddly as a cornered ferret.” – Lynn Barber on Anne Robinson. I still prefer ferrets to Anne Robinson, ferrets are some purpose at least.

 “Tony Hately had it all, the only thing he lacked was ability.” – Tommy Docherty. Talking about football but I can think of a few writers that  could apply to. 


Golf is not a sport.  Golf is men in ugly pants walking.” – Robin Williams. Yip!  Did you see the get ups at the British Open at St Andrews or did you miss it, thinking it was sub aqua golf?

“Like an octopus falling out of a tree.” Which was Feherty on Jim Furyk’s swing. I had no idea what that was about, but it is a you tube sensation. I'll leave golfers to comment more (Stanley?). but he will need a good osteopath soon. if you want to see the swing!

         Colin is better at golf than Mildred the warthog.

“Colin Montgomery has a face like a warthog that has been stung by a wasp.”

  A probably apocryphal flying quote. Plane has landed, Air Traffic Control say to pilot 'You landed a bit to the right of the runway.'
'Yes, ' replied the pilot, 'And I think you will find my co pilot landed a little to the left.'

                                                                                 Bonnie Langford as the child star. She's now a very good, all grown up, actress.

"If they had stuffed the child’s head up the horse’s arse they would have solved two problems at once.” – Noel Coward on Bonnie Langford’s performance after the horse defecated on the stage.


Some of my favourite Connollyisms....

"Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. After that who cares? He's a mile away and you've got his shoes!”

 "There are two seasons in Scotland: June and Winter".

"Scotland has the only football team in the world that does a lap of disgrace.''

And one my Dad uses.  His grandchild is trying to play the piano....
'He certainly has an ear for music. Shame it's Van Gogh's ear.'

Caro Ramsay  24/07/2015


  1. Thanks for this, Caro! Good to start the day with a laugh - even better with several laughs!

  2. My colleague in days of yore Jim Ruth, on arriving late at a meeting : "Sometimes the fastest way to get across town in New York is reincarnation."

    My friend Molly McClure, on having to decide what to see during a weekend visit to New York: "Trying to reduce the cultural opportunities of New York to a weekend is like trying to reduce a cow to a bullion cube."

  3. I know that politicians are cheap targets, but I heard a quote from Mark Twain the other day that I rather enjoyed:
    "Suppose you are a member of Congress, and suppose you are an idiot. But I repeat myself."

  4. This is wonderful! Thank you! Thelma Straw in wildest Manhattan

  5. Better to be a wit than a twit,
    Better to be a little wit than a little shit,
    Give me a bit and I'll be a great wit,
    Grate a zit, and your face will be lit
    With a hit of pain, most plainly writ,
    As 'neath a hammer your thumb will fit,
    Or 'tween your legs, a knee to your kit,
    But the worst of it, when your tongue it bit,
    And all of it will steal your wit
    Like an epileptic fit.

    Witless in the West

  6. Great collection! Love Billy Connolly, but don't get to see him much in this country. I'll bet I could find him on YouTube, though.

  7. Jono, a clip of Billy at his best !

  8. Of course, the famous golf put down is "Golf is a good walk spoiled. (Mark Twain)"

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. My dad, the avid golfer's quip: the Scots, the people who invented golf and called it a game invented the bagpipe and called it music.

  9. Love these, Caro. Here are a few of my favourites:

    Telegram exchange between George Bernard Shaw and actress Cornelia Otis Skinner after the New York opening of Shaw's "Candida," in which she played the lead. Shaw cabled: "Excellent, greatest!" She replied: "Undeserving such praise." Shaw answered: "Meant the play." She shot back: "So did I."

    A young woman who had submitted some of her short stories to Somerset Maugham for criticism asked him, "Do you think I should put more fire in my stories?" He answered. "No. Vice versa."

    When a female admirer asked the playwright Richard Sheridan to explain the essential difference between men and women, he answered: "I cannot conceive."

    But I think the nicest one is Cary Grant's answer to a cable from an anonymous magazine editor asking "How old Cary Grant?" Grant replied: "Old Cary Grant fine. How you?"

  10. I love these. And here are two more. Winston Churchill after being criticized for ending a sentence with a preposition. "That is a criticism up with which I will not put."

    Actress, writing to GB Shaw: We should marry. Imagine our children, with my looks and your brains.
    Shaw relies: It is not worth the risk. Suppose they have my looks and your brains.

  11. There's the famous Churchill/Shaw one where Shaw sent Churchill an invitation to the opening night of his new play. It went:
    "Dear Churchill, please be my guest at the opening night. Bring a friend (if you have one)."
    Churchill replied:
    "Cannot make the opening night, but will come to the second night (if you have one)."

  12. I love these sorts of things. Even when directed at me, as they so often seem to be.

    However, one of my favorites is a true life story that has an elderly Greek woman driving along in a fancy car in her own dawdling fashion through crowded Athens streets when an aggressive macho-man motorcyclist pulls up next to her and, after shouting suitable expletives at the woman, finishes off with, "You should be at home cleaning your house for your husband."

    With a calm icy stare she looked the motorcyclist in the eye, and said, "Why should I when I have your wife there to do it for me."