Most of our insults have denigrated to four-letter words and a few gestures. Time was when our elected leaders went at it tooth and nail all day, but retained respect for those with dissenting views. And the same Senators who stood on opposite sides of an issue during the day managed to sit down for drinks, dinner, and gracious conversation that same evening.
There are many ways to insult someone and time was when the insults were so beautifully said. Winston Churchill is no doubt more famous for his "blood, toil, tears, and sweat" comments than for his insulting remarks. But he was a master of them.
Photograph taken from Wikidpedia
Here are a few of my favorite Churchill insults:
Lady Astor once told Winston Churchill that if he were her husband, she would give him poison.
Churchill replied, "If you were my wife, I'd drink it."
On another occasion, Churchill said, "He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."
George Bernard Shaw sent Churchill tickets to a new play, explaining that he was sending two tickets so that Churchill could take a friend, "...if you have one" he added.
Churchill resonded, "Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second...if there is one."
Here are a few of my favorite insults:
A member of Parliament said that Disraeli would either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease. Disraeli responded, "That depends, Sir, whether I embrace your policies or your mistress."
Irvin Cobb: "I've just learned of his illness. Let's hope it is nothing trivial."
Mae West: "His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork."
Oscar Wilde: "Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go."
Groucho Marx: "I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it."
Clarence Darrow: "I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure."
William Faulkner (speaking of Ernest Hemingway): "He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary."
Billy Wilder: "He has Van Gogh's ear for music."
Mark Twain: "I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it."
I am not proposing that we insult others more often...just that we do it in a grander style. The best insults are worded so that the receiver of the insult has to think about it for a moment. I once felt obliged to respond in kind when insulted. Now I have mellowed to the point that I let almost all of them pass without comment. Life is easier that way.