OVER the years I have heard many strange conversations and fragments of conversations, simply by listening to people at the next table. There are clever ripostes to criticism, reactions to threats, backhanded compliments, pure witticisms and plain errors.
“Why didn’t I think more quickly?” How often have we thought of the perfect response to an insult or a criticism – but just seconds too late to get it in? And how many missed opportunities to respond with a quick witticism?
Here are some justified put-downs:
“I don’t like your taste in wine.” – “Well, I buy it because I like it, not because you don’t like it.” “That’s a stupid way to park.” – “Your L-plates have fallen off.” “It’s reserved. Can’t you read?” – “Yes, I’ve read Don Quixote in original Spanish. How about you?” “You’re wrong; in fact, it was Garibaldi.” – “Well done. You remembered that very well.”
When we are confronted by a menacing attitude, especially in an arrogant tone:
“How dare you talk to me like that?” – “Your flies are undone.” “Just a moment! Do you know who I am?” – “No; but I have a pretty good idea of what you are.” “Are you looking at me?” – “Why? Does it show?” “You dirty s**t!” – “Did you ever hear of a clean one?”
And then there are the backhanded compliments:
“I spent the whole morning sorting out some great photos of you, skipping the ones that show too much of your nose and your teeth, in case you want to show them to somebody else.” “I don’t care what other people say about you, I think you’re a trustworthy friend.”
On other occasions I have heard witty remarks, some of which may have been taken from a comedian’s script book:
“What line of work are you in?” – “I’m a proctologist.” – “That sounds a pretty crappy job to me.” “I’m going to see the doctor.” – “Which doctor?” – “Not at all. She’s a qualified GP.” “You know? I find that just about incredible.” – “Are you calling me a liar?” “Alligators can grow more than 10 feet.” – “But most that I have seen have only four.” “I’m proud of what I’ve achieved.” – “You’re a master of self-promotion.”
And, of course, misjudgements and misunderstandings in conversation:
“I’m speechless.” – “Really?” “The bridegroom was wearing a red bottom hole.” “That was so funny.” – “Look. I make the jokes; you just laugh at them, right?” “I’m afraid you’ve failed the breathalyser, sir.” “But, oshifer, I drive mush better when I’ve had a few drinksh.” “But you’ve just run into a lamp-post.” “Oh, I do zhat kind of thing all the time.”
Finally. The truly dreadful. This disgraceful comment is attributed to Baron George Young: “Homeless? Are they the sort of people you step over when you come out of the opera?”
David Worboys’s opinions are his own and are not necessarily representative of those of the publishers, advertisers or sponsors.