Quotation, Oscar Fingal O’Flaherty Wills Wilde once said, is a serviceable substitute for wit. Yet, the Irish dramatist and poet himself was never seen to be at his wit’s end. More than a hundred years after his famous last words (“Either those curtains go or I go”), Wilde humour continues to be quoted to the sound of chortles around the world. No wonder then that this wild boy of the 19th century has been voted as the best British wit ever, topping a list of people with barbed tongues that include Spike Milligan and Winston Churchill.
If truth be told, these humourists have taught us, tell it with a twitch of that funny bone; more than anything else, it keeps your other bones intact. Variously referred to as a weapon, a sword and even “cultured insolence”, a wisecrack allows one the liberty of meaning offence and, funnily enough, keeping the peace at the same time.
Besides, there’s nothing like a good mix of intellect and humour to make sure that what you have to say will not be forgotten in a hurry. But then again, to use a serviceable quote by Samuel Johnson to good use, “wit, like every other power, has its boundaries; it’s success depends upon the aptitude of others to receive impressions”. Who’s the real fool in such a situation?