Category Archives: Quotations

Wittiest Comebacks of All Time

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsWe’ve all been there. Someone makes a snide remark and you either you deliver a feeble response or walk away in silence, angry and annoyed — only to think of a witty comeback hours later. “I should have said…” The French even have a word for it — esprit de l’escalier, literally “the wit of the staircase” (it’s a perfect metaphor: you think of a snappy comeback after you have reached the bottom of the stairs). Better late, than never, right? However, some people who possess a razor-sharp wit can deliver a stinging comeback right on the spot — at the top of the metaphorical stairs! — leaving the offensive person speechless. Touché! Here are some of the wittiest comebacks of all time:

Lady Astor: “Winston, if you were my husband, I would put poison in your coffee.”
Winston Churchill: “Nancy, if you were my wife, I would drink it.”

Claire Booth Luce running into Parker: “Age before beauty!”
Dorothy Parker: “Pearls before swine!”

Member of Parliament: “Mr. Churchill, must you fall asleep while I’m speaking?”
Winston Churchill: “No, it’s purely voluntary.”

Elizabeth Braddock: “Winston, you are drunk!”
Winston Churchill: “You’re right, Bessie. And you’re ugly. But tomorrow morning, I’ll be sober and you will still be ugly.”

Drunk man: “I can’t bear fools!”
Dorothy Parker: Apparently your mother could.”

Actress: “I enjoyed reading your book. Who wrote it for you?”
Ilka Chase: “Darling, I’m so glad that you liked it. Who read it to you?”

George Bernard Shaw inviting Churchill to one of his plays: “Bring a friend, if you have one.”
Winston Churchill: “Please send tickets to the second performance, if there is one.”

4th Earl of Sandwich: “You, sir, will certainly die upon the gallows or of a social disease.”
Samuel Foote: “That depends, my Lord, upon whether I embrace your principles or your mistress.”

Member of the House, rubbing Longworth’s bald head: “Nice and smooth. Feels just like my wife’s bottom.”
Nicholas Longworth, Speaker of the House, after running his own hand over his head: “Indeed, it does!”

Read related posts: Top Ten Insults Using Archaic Words
Top Ten Literary Insults
There’s A Word for That: Espirit de l’escalier

For further reading:

In the Face of Suffering One Has No Right to Turn Away

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsIn the face of suffering, one has no right to turn away, not to see. In the face of injustice, one may not look the other way. When someone suffers, and it is not you, that person comes first. His very suffering gives him priority. When someone cries, and it is not you, he has rights over you even if his pain has been inflicted by your common God. To watch over a man who grieves is a more urgent duty than to think of God.

From a discussion of Cain and Abel in Messengers of God: Biblical Portraits and Legends (1976) by Eliezer “Elie” Wiesel (1928-2016), American Jewish writer and Holocaust survivor, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. He was a prolific author, having written 57 books; however, he is best know for Night, an unflinching but inspiring memoir based on his imprisonment at the age of 15, at the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps from 1944 to 1945. The memoir has sold over 10 million copies in America and has been translated into 30 languages.

Read related posts: The Thirteen Commandments
The Wisdom of Elie Wiesel

The Influence of Mothers

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsThere is a wonderful line in the play, Double Falsehood (published by Lewis Theobald in 1727 who edited a an unnamed play by William Shakespeare; however scholars believe it was an adaptation of The History of Cardenio, first performed in 1613, a collaboration between John Fletcher and Williams Shakespeare): “The voice of parents is the voice of gods, for to their children they are heavens lieutenants.” The metaphor speaks to the enormous influence that parents have on their children — not only by what they say (as the quotation suggests), but what they doBookshelf honors mothers throughout the world, who truly have the toughest job in the world, with the best quotations about the influence of mothers.

“The art of mothering is to teach the art of living to children.”
Elaine Heffner

“Children have never been very good at listening to adults but they have never failed to imitate them.”
James Baldwin

“I believe that what a woman resents is not so much giving herself in pieces as giving herself purposelessly.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh

“[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”
Jim Henson

“Live your life the way you want your kids to live theirs.”
Michael First

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Maya Angelou

“A mother’s children are self-portraits of herself.”

“If we don’t shape our kids, they will be shaped by outside forces that don’t care what shape our kids are in.”
Louise Hart

“Children should be taught not the little virtues but the great ones. Not thrift but generosity and an indifference to money; not caution but courage and a contempt for danger; not a desire for success but a desire to be and to know.
Natalia Ginzburg

Read related posts: What is the Toughest Job in the World?
The Legacy of Mothers
Best Quotes About Mothers
Favorite TV Moms of All Time
The Wisdom of a Grandmother

For further reading: Mom Candy: 1,000 Quotes of Inspiration for Mothers by Jena Pincott


Books Are the Windows Through Which the Soul Looks Out

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house. The plainest row of books that cloth or paper ever covered is more significant of refinement than the most elaborately carved étagére or sideboard.

Books are the windows through which the soul looks out. A home without books is like a room without windows.

No man has a right to bring up his children without surrounding them with books, if he has the means to buy them. It is a wrong to his family. He cheats them! Children learn to read by being in the presence of books. The love of knowledge comes with reading and grows upon it. And the love of knowledge, in a young mind, is almost a warrant against the inferior excitement of passions and vices.

Let us pity these poor rich men who live barrenly in great bookless houses! Let us congratulate the poor that, in our day, books are so cheap that a man may every year add a hundred volumes to his library for the price of what his tobacco and beer would cost him. Among the earliest ambitions to be excited in clerks, workmen, journeymen, and, indeed, among all that are struggling up from nothing to something, is that of owning, and constantly adding to a library of good books. A little library, growing larger every year, is an honorable part of a young man’s history. It is a man’s duty to have books. A library is not a luxury, but one of the necessities of life.” [Emphasis added]

From Sermons by Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), American clergyman, journalist, and social reformer who passionately advocated for the abolition of slavery, supported the theory of evolution, and supported Chinese immigration in the U.S. Beecher was so eloquent that President Abraham Lincoln sent him to Europe on a speaking tour to build a compelling case for the abolition of slavery. He lectured widely and was a prolific writer for several journals; his only novel was Norwood published in 1868.

The Art of Literature

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsLiterature was born not the day when a boy crying wolf, wolf came running out of the Neanderthal valley with a big gray wolf at his heels: literature was born on the day when a boy came crying wolf, wolf and there was no wolf behind him. That the poor little fellow because he lied too often was finally eaten up by a real beast is quite incidental. But here is what is important. Between the wolf in the tall grass and the wolf in the tall story there is a shimmering go-between. That go-between, that prism, is the art of literature.

From Lectures on Literature (1980) by Russian author Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977), best known for his novels Speak, Memory (1951), Lolita (1955), and Pale Fire (1962).

A Mashup of Minds: Kim Kardashian and Soren Kierkegaard

alex atkins bookshelf cultureWhat happens when you mashup the thoughts of Kim Kardashian, the poster girl of superficiality, narcissism, banality, self-promotion, and consumerism, with Soren Kierkegaard, the poster boy of existentialism, Christian ethics, and Christian love? You get the humorous and insightful tweets of KimKierkegaardashian, a parody account. It’s a fascinating juxtaposition on so many levels: Kardashian the iconic beautify gracing countless magazine covers, with an insatiable thirst for publicity (and more than 51 million Twitter followers!); as opposed to Kierkegaard the pensive, withdrawn hunchback, who preferred being alone with his thoughts. Despite these dramatic differences, they both have something to say about the human condition. However, in the twitter universe the beauty or value of those ruminations is with the beholder. Here are some sample tweets that make the Danish philosopher relevant again and add a hint of intelligence to Kim’s vacuous tweets:

When I was very young, a barb of sorrow was lodged in my heart. I wanted everything short and low-cut. My look’s a little sleeker now.

New merch available now. Because you are like children, Christianity permits you for the time being to enjoy these early things.

What our age lacks is not reflection, but passion. And so my leather legging addiction continues.

Glamour, menswear, top hat… I stick my finger into existence and it smells of nothing.

Each individual fights for himself, with himself, within himself, in order to free himself before God. I’m gonna be sooo sore tomorrow!

God grant me peace from my foolish earthly desires, my wild longings, the anxious hungers of my heart. I’m craving fro yo so badly.

Just got the best spray tan! There is indescribable joy which glows through us unaccountably.

I scarcely recognize myself. My mind is  like a turbulent sea. I was testing new mascara!

The unhappy person is one for whom the content of life lies outside the self. Can’t wait to go to Miami this weekend!

Why bother detoxing? You bring to your asceticism the same passion for minute trivialities that guided your addiction to pleasure.

Read related posts: Words Related to Trump
How Do We Spend Our Time During a Lifetime?
The Difference Between a Happy Life and a Meaningful Life
The Paradox of the American Dream
The Wisdom of George Carlin

For further reading:


Doublets: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

atkins-bookshelf-quotations“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say”

From the collection of essays titled Letters and Social Aims (1876) by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), American essayist, poet and leader of the transcendentalist and American romantic movements. The quotation is a condensed version of the original longer quotation: “What you are stands over you the while, and thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary.”

“Actions speak louder than words”

Although the roots of this idiom date back to the 1400 BC (the writing of the Bible), it was Abraham Lincoln who popularized it in 1856: “‘Actions speak louder than words’ is the maxim; and, if true, the South now distinctly says to the North, ‘Give us the measures, you take the men.'” (From The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume II).

Read related posts: Doublets: Genius
Doublets: Youth and Maturity
Doublets: You Cannot Run Away From Yourself
Doublets: The Lessons of History
Doublets: Reading a Great Book
Doublets: Tolerance
Doublets: The Role of Religion
Doublets: Things Left Unsaid

For further reading:

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