In the ‘70’s, the late great Michael O’Donoghue published a hilarious piece in the National Lampoon entitled “The Churchill Wit” in which he replaced those time-honored, oft-quoted Churchillian zingers with-
Well, I don’t want to step on his punchline. Here’s the original anecdote.
“I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend … if you have one.”
— George Bernard Shaw, playwright (to Winston Churchill)
“Cannot possibly attend first night; will attend second, if there is one.”
— Churchill’s response”
And O’Donoghue’s version
When the noted playwright George Bernard Shaw sent [Churchill] two tickets to the opening night of his new play with a note that read: “Bring a friend, if you have one,” Churchill, not to be outdone, promptly wired back: “You and your play can go fuck yourselves.”
Alas, it seems, as least when it comes to social media, O’Donoghue was prescient in that vulgarity is now to the go-to response in verbal battle, especially on Twitter.
Of course, exhibiting wit in 140 characters – much less waging an argument – is challenging, so it makes sense that the un-clever resort to shit-slinging.
Obviously, trying to out-Andrew-Dice-Clay Andrew Dice Clay makes you look like a psychopath yourself, so, of course, the judicious adult response to scatological insults is no response.
Unfortunately, judiciousness and I-and-I don’t even have a passing acquaintance. I’ll admit my skin is lens-cleaner thin. For the world of me, I cannot stand to let some cretin tripping on the Kool Aid reduce me to some emblematic body part. Being compelled to respond, I’ve come up with a system to counter foul-fingered trolls who call me “a pussy” or invite me to “suck their dicks.”
Rather than going Medieval on them in the Pulp Fiction sense, I go what you might call “quaint,” wielding minced, old-fashioned oaths inspired by (but not lifted from) those Shakespearean Insult Kits you can find on-line.
For example, let’s say I tweet something like “Does America really want a 79-year-old President in the situation room during a massive cyber attack?” and some Oscar Wilde wannabe responds with “Fuck you, pussy. Hillary’s a liar. It’s proven.”
Instead, of tooth-for-tooth vulgarity, I might respond with “Clever use of synecdoche, you ear-wax-witted nincompoop.”
The key is to throw the assailant off guard. Chances he doesn’t know what synecdoche is, which should give him pause, and even if he does, whatever he responds is going to make him seem ridiculous.
Here’s a quick list of quaint pejoratives: pettifogging, rapscallion, miscreant, bobolyne, scullion, lubberwort, jackanapes, scapegrace, ninnyhammer, poltroon, blatherskite, fopdoodle
Hey, I’m a school teacher, look them up, you lubberwort-eating jackanapes. It’s Friday, going on happy hour, so I’m off to Chico Feo to banter with the wits and all that jazz.