Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Putting Someone/Something Down With Dignity

There was once a day when the art of insulting someone was actually quite a refined art. The idea back then was not necessarily to find a despicable noun or verb to associate a person with, but rather to discover a humorous witty quip that may take more than a few brain cells to parse.

I guess you wouldn't necessarily call them "insults" persay, they were more literary sabre rattling. Men who had a way with words, tended towards having a way with clever jabs too.

For instance, mark the following jab which Mark Twain documents in "Roughing It":

'Once, while editor of the Union, he had disposed of a labored, incoherent, two-column attack made upon him by a contemporary, with a single line, which, at first glance, seemed to contain a solemn and tremendous compliment--viz.: "THE LOGIC OF OUR ADVERSARY RESEMBLES THE PEACE OF GOD,"--and left it to the reader's memory and after-thought to invest the remark with another and "more different" meaning by supplying for himself and at his own leisure the rest of the Scripture--" in that it passeth understanding.'

And lest we misappropriate these colorful jabs exclusively to frontier ruffians, let's consider the exploits of the noble and pious preacher Charles Spurgeon. He had a way with words too. And one would prefer not to be on the business end of his witticsms. In his "Commenting on Commetaries", he executes some most creative assesments:

"The author professed to offer his work with great diffidence, and he had just cause to do so: he had better have burned his manuscript."

"This book reads to us like utter nonsense. We question if anyone except the author will ever be able to make head or tail of it, and he had better be quick about it, or he will forget what he meant."

"It is easy to divide an egg by letting it drop on the floor, and in this fashion this author divides texts."

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2 Comments:

Blogger Ian said...

You should read Doug Wilson's "A Serrated Edge," it's very good on this subject.
I think Wilson's the king of witty sabre rattling.

5:18 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

I've heard good things about that book. But somehow it never made it on my wishlist. Could it be in Grace's library? I think I need to start doing more borrowing as opposed to buying :)

Regarding Doug Wilson.. his debate with Dan Barker won me over as a fan of his quick wit.

9:43 PM  

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