You will, Oscar...you will.
And that an' all.
Quotes, that's what this page is ostensibly about. One can learn a lot from the verbal chaff of the sagacious. Take Shakespeare for example. Now everyone knows that his stuff is top drawer; it's right up there with Raymond Chandler in my opinion. But there's one arena in which Shakie flounders like an old woman on a bouncy castle, and that's humour.
Glib, liberal English teachers never tire of telling their usually incorrigibly bored charges that the Bard's jokes are weak, and the fact that you can't understand them is the writer's fault, and has nothing at all to do with the fact that you're the eleven year old son of a plumber, and know nothing whatever of life.
Unfortunately, like most of the guff that issues from teachers' mouths, this is false. Shakespeare was stymied by Elizabethan English, not by a stunted sense of the ridiculous. The language of his era was suited to bombast and hyperbole, not litotes. But understatement is the bedrock of the much-vaunted English sense of humour. Telling a joke in Elizabethan English, therefore, is like trying to sing an aria in Flemish. Pointless.
To illustrate this point, I'll take a proven, modern joke, and translate it into the vernacular of late sixteenth-century England to see what we get.
|Man #1: Fie, cus, know you how the comely wife of Telly Savalas doth with great exactitude resembleth Bill Wyman?|
Man #2: Zounds, Siree! In truth I know not.
Man #1: They both greatly esteem bald twats.
See? The joke of the eighties laid low by an over-abundance of linguistic egg. QED.
Every quotation contributes something to the stability or enlargement of the language - Dr Johnson
Anyway, on with the quotes. I thought about divvying them up by subject, but then it dawned on me that I couldn't be arsed. Consequently they're in a long, meaningless list. But for this section to have any point, I would ask that you pause for a moment after having read a quote and metaphorically stroke the chin thoughtfully.
- "She fitted into my biggest armchair as if it had been built round her by someone who knew they were wearing armchairs tight about the hips that season."
- PG Wodehouse
- "A wide screen just makes a bad film twice as bad."
- Samuel Goldwyn
- "Outside every fat man there's an even fatter one trying to close in."
- Kingsley Amis
- "His imagination resembled the wings of an ostrich. It enabled him to run, though not to soar."
- Thomas Macaulay
- "I went out to Charing Cross, to see Major-general Harrison hanged, drawn, and quarted; which was done there, he looking as cheerful as any man could do in that condition."
- Samuel Pepys
This next one doesn't really add much to the pool of human insight, but it did make me laugh. It's from series 2 of The Sopranos; for shame, I can't remember the name of the character who actually delivers this devastating bon mot. He's a button man for "T", who's been charged with the task of putting the frighteners on one of Tony's ex-goomahs, which he does thus:
- "...they'll be scraping your nipples off these fine, leather seats."
And that was her telt