Wit is a quality that is easily desired, but no so easily obtained. Those who do have it have gained heavy acclaim. Since the beginning of time, mankind has argued and debated against one another, and while some conflicts are won in wars, many of them are won in words. Here are ten of history’s best comebacks, retorts, repartee, insults, or whatever else you’d like to call them. From quotes of Winston Churchill to Oscar Wilde, these are surely people to tell tales about.
10. Bottoms Up Comeback
An English Comeback
Nancy Astor was an American socialite who married into the wealthy English family of Astor. She actually was the first woman to be elected to Parliament, which makes her humiliation all the sweeter. She was invited to 1912 a dinner party located in the Churchill estate , but, unfortunately for her, she became extremely annoyed at a drunk and politically incorrect Winston Churchill. Finally, she exclaimed the following: “Winston, if you were my husband, I’d put poison in your coffee.” Unaffected by her sudden outburst, Churchill moderately and quickly replied with a great comeback:
“Nancy, if you were my wife I’d drink it.”
9. Ready, Aim, Fire!
The Best Presidential Comeback
The next situation involves the 30th US president, Calvin Coolidge. He was a relatively quiet man and was known for his brevity, though the few words he had made quite an impression, especially with this wonderful comeback. After an after-dinner recital, an acclaimed and heavily respected opera singer was invited to the White House. But apparently performing for the president was quite a frightening experience and her performance left much to be desired. During the performance, one of the White Houses’s guests leaned over and whispered to Coolidge: “What do you think of the singer’s execution?” Coolidge calmly replied:
“I’m all for it.”
8. Well, you asked.
The Obvious Comeback
Mohandas Gandhi is associated with civil rights and nonviolence, but most definitely not wit. As the following story will show you, Gandhi didn’t have to fight with his fists, but simply had to use his words. After gaining fame for a campaign to promote colonial India’s independence, Gandhi traveled to London and met with British authorities. The British were wonderfully curious about this strange little man, and Gandhi was constantly bombarded with questions from the press and photographers. One day, a reporter cried out, “What do you think of Western civilization?” And in a monumental moment that would define Gandhi’s reputation, he replied:
“I think it would be a good idea.”
7. Keep Your Seats in an Upright Position
The “Greatest” Comeback
Muhammad Ali once took a flight on Eastern Airlines in the 1970s. A flight attendant was making her final checks on the passengers, but noticed Ali failed to fasten his seat belt. She kindly asked him to do so, but Ali replied quite arrogantly, “Superman don’t’ need no seat belt.” Not intimidated by the boxer’s reputation and fame, the flight attendant replied:
“Superman don’t need no airplane either.”
6. Smell You Later!
The Wildest and Best Comeback by Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde was widely known for his wit and intelligence in plays, but he was no stranger to it in real-life. After one performance of one of his plays, Wilde went on stage and welcomed a warm reception. Many people applauded and threw a copious amount of beautiful flora, but one unsatisfied person threw a rotten cabbage at the playwright. Wilde picked it up and replied with a straight face:
“Thank you my friend. Every time I smell it, I shall be reminded of you.”
5. War of Words
This is America Comeback
Henry Ward Beecher was an abolitionist who liked to speak his mind. When the Civil War took its start, Beecher traveled throughout the US attempting to gather up support and favor for Lincoln and his Emancipation Proclamation. He said that the Union would beat the Confederates in sixty days during his travels; and when he made a trip to England, this was used against him. At that time, war was still a very sensitive topic among the British, due to the Americans winning the Revolutionary War. While he was speaking in Manchester, one hostile man cried out: “Why didn’t you whip the Confederates in sixty days, as you said you would?”
He hesitated only for a second, but then replied:
“Because we found we had Americans to fight this time, not Englishmen.”
4. Wake at Your Own Risk
Churchill’s Honest Comeback
Winston Churchill makes this list again. In his early career, he was at a meeting and another member was giving a long-winded speech. Churchill began to close his eyes and fall asleep. At the sight of this, the member became visibly angry and shouted: “Mr. Churchill, must you fall asleep while I’m speaking?” Instead of making attempts at an apology or a cover-up, Churchill simply replied:
“No, it’s purely voluntary.”
3. Face the Truth
The Best Self-Effacing Comeback
Abraham Lincoln was not the most attractive presidents but he was in a sense, almost fascinatingly ugly. During a debate, Lincoln was accused by his more hostile opponent of being two-faced. Lincoln managed to accomplish what few men have done before, he defended himself without insulting the other man, and even poked fun at a flaw of his all in the same sentence. Lincoln calmly turned to the crowd and said:
“If I had two faces, do you think I’d be wearing this one?”
2. The Ugly Truth
The Classic Comeback from the King of the Comebacks
Winston Churchill makes this list again for a third time, proving him to truly be one of the world’s wittiest people. Attending a party in London, Churchill once again was drunk and intoxicated. An obviously extremely astute woman from Parliament, like Nancy Astor (the first entry), apparently was irritated by Churchill’s mannerisms. When she finally had enough, she came up to him and yelled: “Winston, you’re drunk!” He may have been drunk but that apparently didn’t affect his cognitive functions as he merely replied:
“You’re right Bessie, and you’re ugly. But tomorrow morning, I’ll be sober.”
1. Properly Equipped
The Might-Not-Have-Happened Comeback
This final comeback needs no explanation nor introduction. One only needs to read the interview excerpt for him/herself to understand its greatness.
“FEMALE INTERVIEWER: So, General Cosgrove, what things are you going to to teach these young boys when they visit your base?
GENERAL COSGROVE: We’re going to teach them climbing, canoeing, archery, and
FEMALE INTERVIEWER: Shooting! That’s a bit irresponsible, isn’t it?
GENERAL COSGROVE: I don’t see why, they’ll be properly supervised on the
FEMALE INTERVIEWER: Don’t you admit that this is a terribly dangerous activity to be teaching children?
GENERAL COSGROVE: I don’t see how. We will be teaching them proper rifle
discipline before they even touch a firearm.
FEMALE INTERVIEWER: But you’re equipping them to become violent killers.
GENERAL COSGROVE: Well, Ma’am, you’re equipped to be a prostitute, but you’re not one, are you?
Written by Johnny Dunn