Wednesday, October 7, 2015

World War Wednesdays: The Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill

     Whew! Were there enough 'W's in that title for you? This week's topic features one of my top two most beloved historical figures: Sir Winston Spencer Churchill. Basically, I'll take every possible opportunity to talk about the iconic British Bulldog, and he has been the topic of much of my own research and writing. I've actually heard on good authority that it is now considered backward in the historical community to favor Churchill when researching and writing on the Second World War, and if that's the case then as per usual I would hate to be forward. If any of my readers this week tend not to favor Churchill, I hope this post causes you to find some place in your heart for him on a personal level. I have tried my best to compile just some of the numerous reasons why he is one of the biggest inspirations in my life, and say what you want about the old bugger but he was never short on inspiration!

     About a year ago, I was in the gift section of Chapters and stumbled upon a book called "The Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill" by Dominique Enright. Basically, she had compiled a series of recollections and quotations which featured instances of Winston Churchill's remarkable ability to say the most perfect thing at all the most perfect times. While most people get themselves involved in discussions, leave them, and are struck with the frustration of having thought of the perfect response a day later, Churchill always seemed to be able to strike with a paralyzingly witty remark which nullified any retort the other person could ever think of. I like to think that his almost constant state of drunkenness had only a minimal part to play in this. After combing through the Enright book I've made this compilation of my own favorites of these examples of The Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill.

On Politics
     When asked what qualities a politician required, Churchill replied, "The ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen".

     When an Ulster Member shouted 'Contemptible' during an Irish Home Rule debate in the House: "If I valued the honourable gentleman's opinion I might get angry".

On Words
     In one of the many documents that came his way throughout his career, a civil servant had gone out of his way to be grammatically correct, and had clumsily avoided ending a sentence with a preposition. Churchill scribbled in the margin: "This is the sort of English up with which I will not put."

     In September 1943, General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson was selected to take the Greek island of Leros with a small number of troops. Churchill encouraged him, saying, "This is the time to play high. Improvise and dare." Later, he wrote: "He improvose and dore."

     After a march of over a hundred miles during a 1907 tour in Africa, Churchill turned to his private secretary Eddie Marsh and said, "So fari-- so goodi!"

On Himself
     When a woman came up to him and declared that her baby looked just like him, he responded with "Madam, all babies look like me."

     On his seventy-fifth birthday, November 30, 1949: "I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is ready for the ordeal of meeting me is another matter."

     "My idea of a good dinner is, first, to have good food, then discuss good food, and after this good food has been elaborately discussed, to discuss a good topic- with me as chief conversationalist."

On Nations
     At the Yalta Conference in 1945, Churchill was persuaded to follow Roosevelt's tribute to Soviet leader Josef Stalin, objecting all the while "But they do not want peace."He got to his feet and proposed a toast "to Premier Stalin, whose conduct of foreign policy manifests a desire for peace." Then, in a whispered aside out of earshot from the interpreter, "A piece of Poland, a piece of Czechoslovakia, a piece of Romania..."

     In 1943, Churchill sent Anthony Eden on a mission to bring Turkey into the war. After receiving a telegram from Eden reporting "Progress slow. What more can I tell Turkey", Churchill responded with, "Tell them Christmas is coming!"
Churchill and his wife, Clementine Hozier
On Women, Marriage, and Family
     "My wife and I tried two or three times in the last few years to have breakfast together but it was so disagreeable we had to stop."

     At a reception in Richmond, Virginia, in the USA, his hostess, an ample lady, led Churchill, the guest of honour, to the buffet table. When she offered him some cold chicken, he asked if he could have a breast. As she helped him to a particularly succulent-looking piece his hostess informed him genteelly that "We Southern ladies use the term 'white meat.'" The next day a corsage arrived for her with a card from Churchill which read, "I would be most obliged if you would pin this on your 'white meat.'"

     At a reception during a speaking tour in Canada he was seated next to a straight-laced Methodist minister when a young waitress came up to them with a tray of glasses of sherry. Churchill first took a glass, and when she turned to the minister, he was appalled at having been offered alcohol: "Young lady," he announced, "I'd rather commit adultery than take an intoxicating beverage." Churchill then beckoned the girl, "Come back, miss- I didn't know we had a choice."

     Leaving the Commons bar one evening, it is said that Churchill ran into another woman MP, the formidable Bessie Bradddock. "Winston," she said icily, "you're drunk." Churchill drew himself up: "Madam, you're ugly. But tomorrow I shall be sober."
Churchill and American General Eisenhower
On Drink
     In reply to Field Marshal Montgomery's smug statement, "I neither drink nor smoke and am a hundred percent fit," Churchill said, "I drink and smoke and I am two hundred percent fit."

     "Always remember, Clemmie (his wife), that I have taken more out of alcohol than it has taken out of me."

     "When I was younger I made it a rule never to take strong drink before lunch. It is now my rule never to do so before breakfast."

    These few quotes and anecdotes barely scratch the surface of what came out of both Churchill's mouth and pen during his lifetime. I hope it gave you a chuckle or two and added some wisdom to your day, because I truly feel that it wouldn't hurt any of us to have a little more Churchill in our lives!

Thanks for reading,

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