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The precious gift of repartee

The precious gift of repartee
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the Prime Minister of England was a short and fat man. But his word was razor sharp. Once Churchill and his friend were walking on a sidewalk. They...

Elmer Wheeler once said “words are like bullets, once fired they can’t be retrieved”. Many times someone could make a comment or a snide remark that would make others laugh at us. How do we turn the tables on the other person and make him look like a fool? The answer is a retort. An apt retort does the same job as a rapier (a sharp pointed sword).


At times we have to fight a war with words. Wit and a sense of humor would in such time go a long way in disarming the offender who is bearing down hard. An exasperated speaker was once being heckled by a boorish audience member. Whatever the speaker would say, the audience would object and quite vigorously so. Finally the speaker said “There are two types of speakers.


One who does not agree to what fools say and the second type who agrees”. With a smile, the speaker looked straight into the eyes of the boorish audience member and said. “I belong to the second category and agree to what you say”. A ready wit goes a long way! We need 72 muscles to frown and only 21 to smile. Smile, make others smile and see how the world treats you.

Winston Churchill – the Prime Minister of England was a short and fat man. But his word was razor sharp. Once Churchill and his friend were walking on a sidewalk. They reached a spot where only one person could pass. Trying to hurry, Churchill's friend said “I do not allow fools to pass me” Churchill responded “I do” and gave way.

A friend of Churchill had a body type exactly opposite to that of Churchill. He was thin and very tall. Seeing his scrawny frame, Churchill remarked “My friend, you are so lean. Looking at you one would think that England is facing a famine!” Looking at the more than generously endowed Churchill, his friend remarked “looking at you that person will know the reason”. For once, Churchill was speechless.

There was once a lady politician who opposed Churchill tooth and claw. At the end of an animated argument, she once exclaimed “Mr. Churchill! I neither like your politics nor your lip”. The entire parliament roared in laughter. Churchill simply responded “Let me assure you madam neither of them will bother you in any way. Now or ever”.

The same lady once exasperated with Churchill burst out saying “Mr. Churchill. If you were my husband I would poison your coffee”, to which Churchill retorted, “Madam if you were my wife, knowing that there is poison in the coffee, I would drink it”.In another incident, Churchill was once giving a roaring speech. But unfortunately it was in an area where his party was not very much liked. During the speech, he was being bothered by a heckler.

Irritated by the antics of the heckler, Churchill shouted “You are fit for the slums”. The heckler stood up and said “Mr. Prime minister, you can’t say that. Take it back”. Churchill said “You are right. I take back my words. You are not even fit for the slums”. The heckler watched with his mouth open as the tables were deftly turned on him.

Once when he was giving a speech, a cabbage came whistling towards Churchill. He deftly dodged it and said “It looks as if the opposition leader has just lost his head”. Churchill once very famously said “You can bear a manly man, you can bear womanly woman but you can’t bear a boily boy”. A friend of the first President of USA George Washington saw the president polishing his own shoes.

Shocked by the sight, the friend asked, “Mr. President, do you polish your own shoes?” To which Washington responded by saying “Yes I do polish my own shoes, whose shoes do you polish?” Once, a doctor had a mechanic visiting him. The doctor said, “Get under the table, I will examine you”. Since mechanics have to get under the car to examine them, the doctor tried a sly remark on similar lines. Unfortunately for him, the mechanic was made of sterner stuff. He smiled and said “Nice one, doctor. But it is not easy to treat the same model from the time of Adam and Eve like your human patients. We have to treat different models every year”.

The doctor neatly turned the tables on the mechanic saying “That’s right but can you examine the car with the engine running? I am sure you can’t do that”. This effectively shut the mechanic up. This one is attributed to Albert Einstein, who was once on an England tour. He was delivering lectures on his theory of relativity. Einstein always engaged the same car and the driver, who took him to various venues.

One day the cab driver said “Sir, your lectures are becoming very monotonous. You always start by saying, ladies and gentlemen, I am Albert Einstein. I want to tell you about my new theory of relativity. You are becoming very predictable. I know your speech by heart. I can play your role very easily”. Einstein said “I agree. It is getting very monotonous to me too. I got an idea. The next venue where I am lecturing, no one recognises me. Why don’t we exchange places? You can play the role of Einstein and I will play the role of the cabbie”. The cabbie agreed and they exchanged their dresses.

It was the venue of the lecture. Einstein stood at the entrance of the hall and watched admiringly as the cabbie held the floor eloquently. The cabbie was in full flow and lectured the same way as Einstein. No one in the crowd had an iota of doubt about the identity of the speaker. Such was the power of the cabbie’s oration.

At the end of the lecture, an elderly man stood up and said “Mr. Einstein, I should say that it was an excellent lecture. I have been wrestling with a complex mathematical problem for the last six months. Will you have a look at it? I am sure you can come out with the answer in a couple of weeks”. Einstein now was really alarmed. “The show is up” he said to himself. But the cabbie was super smart. He picked up the paper that was given to him and gave it a cursory glance. “Such a simple problem, my cab driver can solve it”.

Saying this, he gestured Einstein to come over. With a flourish he handed over the paper to Einstein.Einstein promptly solved the problem and gave it to the mathematician. The mathematician did not know what hit him. A problem that puzzled him for six months has been solved by Einstein’s driver!

By:Dr M Anil Ramesh

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