In the world of verbal warfare there’s nothing more devastating than the conversation ending blast of a cutting, yet humorous, comeback. One of my favourites is this exchange between Australian spin bowler Shane Warne and South African batsman Darryl Cullinan:
Warne: “I’ve waited two years for another chance to humiliate you.”
Cullinan: “Yeah? Looks like you’ve spent most of it eating.”
And this from Winston Churchill, a dab hand at glib and stinging rebukes, who was attending a dinner party when Lady Astor sneered, “If you were my husband, I’d serve you poison.” Unfazed, Winnie shot back, “Madam, if I were your husband I’d drink it.”
And years ago, while living in a block of flats with walls so thin they might as well have been made of lace, I overheard the following comments during a domestic chat taking place next door:
Husband: “Why can’t you see things from my point of view? You’re so narrow minded that when you walk, your earrings bang together!”
Wife: “Ha! To see things from your point of view mate I’d have to stick my head up my backside!”
My sniggering interrupted their conversation, so they spent the next hour yelling nasty, but quite funny, things at me through the paper thin walls. Needless to say, invites to future dinner parties at their place vanished faster than money in the Queensland Treasury.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve wished I’d said something clever at the right time, instead of saying exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time; which is something I do quite often… apparently.
The closest I’ve ever come to scathing wit was recently when I humiliated someone who had publicly insulted me. I was cutting, brilliant, and applauded by amused onlookers as I walked off. Unfortunately I was also asleep at the time, dreaming of an argument that I’d lost early last year, and it’s taken my keen intellect nearly twelve months to come up with a snappy comeback. ‘O, thankyou Mr. Brain,’ I muttered before nodding off again.
It’s magical when the right words come together at the right time, and I’d love to end this column with something knee slappingly funny, but for the life of me, I just can’t think of anything. Although I’m sure the right words will pop into my head soon; probably in two months’ time, at two a.m., and too late.