Friday, 20 March 2009

Beer O’Clock: In praise of the eloquent insult

We have twin goals here at here at NOT PC Towers on a Friday afternoon. 

While raising our glasses we also wish to raise the standard of what’s in those glasses - and the quality of insults we hear while drinking from them.  Not for us the simple four-word epithet, not at least when a more silver-tongued sally could prove more devastatingly effective.

That, at least, is our goal.

To this end, why not shake up your martini and peruse the following.

The famous exchange between Churchill & Lady Astor: She said, "If you were my husband I'd give you poison." He said, "If you were my wife, I should drink it."

Lord Sandwich to John Wilkes: "You sir, will either die on the gallows or of the pox." "That must depend, Sir," said Wilkes, "whether I embrace your lordship’s principles or your mistress."

“I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.” – Tom Waits on wowsers

"He had delusions of adequacy." - Walter Kerr on an actor

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

“The trouble with the world is that everyone is two drinks behind.” – Humphrey Bogart

"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 on Ernest Hemingway

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

“A triumph of modern science – to find the only part of Randolph that wasn’t malignant and remove it.” – Evelyn Waugh on Randolph Churchill

“A difficulty for every solution.” – Herbert Samuel on the civil service

“I admire him, I frankly confess it; and when his time comes I shall buy a piece of the rope for a keepsake.” Mark Twain on Cecil Rhodes

“Do you pray for the senators, Dr Hale?”  “No, I look at the senators and I pray for the country.” – Edward Everett Hale

“Like being savaged by a dead sheep.” - Denis Healey of a verbal attack on him by Geoffrey Howe

“Is there no beginning to your talents?” - Clive Anderson to Jeffrey Archer

“Mr Speaker, I said the honourable member was a liar it is true and I am sorry for it. The honourable member may place the punctuation where he pleases.” - Richard Brinsley Sheridan, MP

"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 the scandal of coquetry, Mme de Genlis 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

“When they circumcised Herbert Samuels they threw away the wrong bit.” - David Lloyd George (attrib.)

“You were born with your legs apart.  And they’ll send you to the grave in a Y-shaped coffin.” – Joe Orton in What the Butler Saw

"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)

"You have Van Gogh's ear for music." - Billy Wilder to Cliff Osmond

“Five bowls of muesli looking for a spoon.” NME magazine on prog-rock group Yes

“Her voice sounded like an eagle being goosed.” – Ralph Novak on Yoko Ono

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

And finally, George Bernard Shaw who, when asked by the conductor of a restaurant orchestra if he would like to request the orchestra to play anything in particular, replied, “Dominoes.”


  1. Excellent, however it is missing the quintessential zinger attributed to Churchill, where he is accosted by a woman who berates him for being drunk, and he replies: 'Yes, and you are ugly, but I will be sober in the morning'.


  2. IF you want to get the martini right go to:

    And now you can replace the English Saphire gin with our own Christies which has 47% alcohol and is a wonderful Crisp Green Gin. Only $40 a litre bottle too.

  3. Yes, Den -- and another favourite from Groucho who said he'd never want to belong to any club that would have him as a member. :)

    And the US Congressman (name escapes me) who walked past an old adversary, patted the latter's bald head and loudly said "Hmmm. Feels just like my wife's bottom".

    Baldie (touching his head) just as loudly: "Yes, it does, doesn't it!"

    " .. spine looking for a shiver to run up .. "

    Always thought that was Muldoon on Bob Tizard. ?

  4. When the great jazz drummer Buddy Rich was being prepped for his heart operation, they asked him if he was allergic to anything, and he replied, "Only country music" :)

  5. I thought of this post as I watched Daniel Hannan stick it to Gordon Brown over his mismanagement of the economy oh so eloquently. The clever, withering insult is an art.

  6. ahha I just came to this entry / I just remember now Owen McShane / it was good to know him .


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