What if this were fun?
Or, a sesquicentennial synthesis
Collecting great quips is like painting a fence in the rain: You wonder if anything is going to stick. In sifting through 150 issues of Get Wit Quick, I’ve used a simple metric to find the best bits: Which of these lines have I actually remembered and applied?
Here are five I think about a lot, preceded by these three caveats:
a) My fifth grade English teacher Ms. Betts told me that if you say “a lot” you can only ever be referring to a vacant patch of land.
b) Whenever anyone collects the Top 100 Tweets/Movies/Music Videos/Memes of All Time, the Bronze Age is woefully underrepresented.
c) A Nicolas Chamfort line I’ve yet to unpack: “Most anthologists of poetry or quotations are like those who eat cherries or oysters, first picking the best and ending by eating everything.”
1. “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”
— G.K. Chesterton
My rephrasing: What if this were fun? Ask yourself this as many times a day as is necessary.
2. “We can be offered only two kinds of information — what we already know, which is boring, and what we do not, which is humiliating.”
— Quentin Crisp
Learning hurts. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either a liar or a superior being. It’s an extrapolation of the line “I don’t like to write but I like having written.”
3. “I try to keep my abiding love for all humanity in one place, but somehow it always ends up in piles on the dining room table.”
— Duchess Goldblatt
The wits who said the meanest things they could think of (Patricia Highsmith, James Whistler) were real and miserable; those who consistently keep it light (Duchess Goldblatt, Ted Lasso) are fictional and thriving. Dunking is no way to live.
4. “Let’s have some new cliches.”
— Samuel Goldwyn
The surest way to make a work of art invisible is to hang it where you’ll see it every day. Best to make like Zora: Sharpen your oyster knife, discard the shells, and keep looking for pearls. When you find one, hold it aloft like Clive James, who said:
5. “All I can do is turn a phrase until it catches the light.”
Quick quips; lightning
“Life itself is a quotation.”
— Jorge Luis Borges
“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”
— Oscar Wilde
“Life doesn’t wait to be asked: it comes grinning in, sits down uninvited and helps itself to bread and cheese, and comments uninhibitedly on the decorations.”
— Philip Larkin
Distilling 100 issues into 12 forms of wit
Distilling the year 2020 into 51 zingers
Three years and 150,000 words in, that was GWQ No. 150. Welcome to everyone who climbed aboard thanks to Sarah Lazarovic’s shout out. I’m always looking for fine lines; just hit reply with any zingers that have lodged in your cranium. This newsletter grew out of my book Elements of Wit: Mastering The Art of Being Interesting and will keep going until it’s a complete catalogue of everything good ever said by anybody … so at least another month? Tapping the ❤️ below is widely recognized as a thing you can do.