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Persiflage: Intelligent Insults

As brutality slowly but surely takes over the US TV and motion picture industries, it is likely to stamp out any memory of the days of civility when a barbed tongue was as effective as an artesian gusher of profanity. This page is a remembrance to those days when men and women sharpened their wits rather than their swords as a defense against friend and enemy. This sort of light-hearted, chit-chatty mockery is known as persiflage. New witticisms are added to the bottom of the list.

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

"A modest little person, with much to be modest about."
—Winston Churchill

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

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

"He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know."
—Abraham Lincoln

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

"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 had delusions of adequacy."
—Walter Kerr

"There's nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won't cure."
—Jack E. Leonard

"He has the attention span of a lightning bolt."
—Robert Redford

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

"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?"
—Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)

"They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge."
—Thomas Brackett Reed

"He inherited some good instincts from his Quaker forebears, but by diligent hard work, he overcame them."
—James Reston (about Richard Nixon)

"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

"You, Mr. Wilkes, will die either of the pox or on the gallows."
—The Earl of Sandwich

"That depends, my lord, on whether I embrace your mistress or your principles."
—John Wilkes

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

"Forgive me for shaking your hand with my left; I eat with the other one."
—Dr. Goodword

"As I walk away, please note the mistletoe on my coattail."
—Dr. Goodword

(When the death of Calvin Coolidge was announced) "How would they know?"
—Dorothy Parker

There is only one thing you mustn't miss when you are in [Philadelphia]—the plane.
—Anonymous

If you want me to read your mind, give me more to work with.
—One of Eric Slinn's coworkers

He was so narrow-minded, he could look through a keyhole with both eyes.
—Jeff Abbott (Courtesy of J. Frimpter)