The Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill

The Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill

3.5 2
by Dominique Enright
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

He was the greatest orator of his day, the greatest leader of the Second World War, the greatest statesman of his age, and the greatest Englishman of the twentieth century. perhaps of all time. The debt owed to Sir Winston Churchill by the free world remains immeasurable.

Born at the height of British imperial power, Churchill took his seat in Parliament in the

…  See more details below

Overview

He was the greatest orator of his day, the greatest leader of the Second World War, the greatest statesman of his age, and the greatest Englishman of the twentieth century. perhaps of all time. The debt owed to Sir Winston Churchill by the free world remains immeasurable.

Born at the height of British imperial power, Churchill took his seat in Parliament in the reign of Queen Victoria, and died when Lyndon Johnson was in his second year as US President. As a politician he twice crossed the floor of the House, and held almost every major Cabinet post, including two terms as Prime Minister. From 1940 he galvanized and united the British people on the brink of defeat and guided their war effort, almost single-handedly inspiring the nation and its allies, as well as the peoples of Occupied Europe and of the then neutral United States, first to resist and ultimately to crush the Axis powers. He wrote majestic histories, biographies, memoirs, and even a novel, while his journalism, speeches and broadcasts run to millions of words. He is one of the most quoted figures in the English language, and one of only six English writers to have received the Nobel Prize in Literature in its 100-year history.

Yet at the heart of this often intimidating colossus lay a man of vast humanity, enormous wit and boundless humour, much of it mischievous. His most famous speeches and sayings have passed into history and into everyday language, but many of his aphorisms, puns, bons mots, jokes -- often at his own or others' expense -- are less well known. This enchanting collection gathers hundreds of his funniest and wickedest quips in tribute to the exhilarating wit of this great-hearted, infuriatingly conceited, wildly funny, and brilliantly talented Englishman.

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781843175650
Publisher:
Michael O'Mara Books
Publication date:
09/01/2011
Series:
The Wicked Wit of series Series
Edition description:
Revised
Pages:
160
Sales rank:
315,499
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill


By Dominique Enright

Michael O'Mara Books Limited

Copyright © 2011 Michael O'Mara Books Limited
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84317-589-6



CHAPTER 1

Timeline of Winston Churchill's Life


1874 born 30 November in Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, to Lord Randolph Churchill, a politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Jenny Jerome, an American socialite

1879–88 attends school at St George's School in Ascot, Berkshire, followed by Brunswick School in Hove

1888 moves to Harrow School in April, where he starts his military career, joining the Harrow Rifle Corps upon his arrival

1893–4 Churchill enters Sandhurst Royal Military College on 1 September, graduating in December the following year

1895 receives his first commission as a Second Lieutenant on 20 February in the 4th Queen's Own Hussars. He travels to Cuba to observe the Spanish fight the Cuban guerrillas

1896–7 is promoted to Lieutenant and travels to India with his regiment. Sees action on the North-West Frontier. Also writes for The Pioneer and The Daily Telegraph

1898 is transferred to Egypt and joins the 21st Lancers, serving in the Sudan

1899 resigns from the British Army in May. First foray into politics, running and losing the by-election as the Conservative candidate for Oldham

1899 obtains commission to act as war correspondent for the Morning Post on the outbreak of the Second Boer War. He is captured and imprisoned while on a scouting mission, escaping a few weeks later. Churchill then rejoins the army on its march to relieve the British at the Siege of Ladysmith

1900 Churchill retires from the army and again stands for Parliament in the general election, winning the Oldham seat for the Conservatives

1902 joins the Imperial Yeomanry where he is commissioned as Captain in the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars

1904 changes allegiance from the Conservatives to the Liberal party after opposition to Joseph Chamberlain's trade tariffs

1905 as a Liberal, Churchill becomes Under-Secretary for State for the Colonies. He is also promoted to Major in the Hussars

1906 becomes MP for Manchester North West in the general election (1906–8). Publishes Lord Randolph Churchill and My African Journey

1908 promoted to the Cabinet as President of the Board of Trade. Becomes MP for Dundee (1908–12)

1908 marries Clementine Hozier on 12 September

1909 Diana, the first of his five children, born on 11 July.

1910–11 promoted to Home Secretary

1911–15 becomes First Lord of the Admiralty. Supports development of naval aviation and tanks, and construction of newer and larger warships

1915 as one of the architects of the disastrous Gallipoli landings, he takes much of the blame, and is demoted in Asquith's all-party coalition

1915–6 spends time on the Western Front. Appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of the 6th Battalion Royal Scots fusiliers

1917 appointed Minister of Munitions

1919 Churchill becomes Secretary of State for War and Air. Staunch advocate of foreign intervention while in the War Office, hoping to strangle Bolshevism while it was still in its infancy

1921 becomes Secretary of State for the Colonies, and is a signatory of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, establishing the Irish Free State

1922 loses his seat as MP for Dundee in the general election

1924 becomes MP for Epping in the general election (1924–45). Rejoins the Conservative Party, and is appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer under Stanley Baldwin

1929 Conservative government is defeated in general election, beginning Churchill's 'Wilderness Years'

1930–9 spends much of his time campaigning against Indian independence and warning of the threat of fascism and Germany's rearmament. Publishes My Early Life, Thoughts and Adventures, Marlborough: His Life and Times, Great Contemporaries and Step by Step

1939 on 3 September Britain declares war on Germany. Churchill is appointed First Lord of the Admiralty and member of the War Cabinet once again; the Fleet simply informed: 'Winston is back'

1940 on 10 May Chamberlain resigns as Prime Minister. Churchill is supported as his replacement. Refuses to consider an armistice with Germany, his use of rhetoric hardening public opinion

1941 the Soviet Union enters the war after Germany invades. The Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. Britain declares war on Japan. Germany and Italy declare war on the USA

1942 Churchill approves the policy of saturation bombing of German cities

1943 the Allies drive Germany out of North Africa and invade Sicily and mainland Italy

1944 6 June: D-Day

1945 Victory in Europe. Churchill's government is defeated in the general election. Japan surrenders after two nuclear bombs devastate Hiroshima and Nagasaki

1946 gives his 'Iron Curtain' speech in Missouri

1951 re-elected as Prime Minister

1955 resigns after a series of strokes start to limit him mentally and physically

1964 stands down at the general election

1965 dies after a severe stroke on 24 January, aged ninety

CHAPTER 2

Be killed many times: Politics


The political arena is famously a battleground where the weapons are words, and many are the insults that flow back and forth across the parliamentary floor.

* * *

'The world today is ruled by harassed politicians absorbed in getting into office or turning out the other man so that not much room is left for debating great issues on their merits.'

* * *

'Politics are almost as exciting as war, and quite as dangerous. In war you can only be killed once, but in politics many times.'

* * *

On the qualities required by a politician: '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.'

* * *

'I always avoid prophesying beforehand, because it is much better policy to prophesy after the event has already taken place.'

* * *

'Balfour is wicked and moral. Asquith is good and immoral.'

* * *

'When I was called upon to be Prime Minister, now nearly two years ago, there were not many applicants for the job. Since then perhaps the market has improved.'

* * *

To an MP who repeatedly interrupted one of his speeches: 'The honourable gentleman should really not generate more indignation that he can conveniently contain.'

* * *

'No one pretends that democracy is perfect or allwise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.'

* * *

'The high belief in the perfection of man is appropriate in a man of the cloth but not in a prime minister.'

* * *

WSC's definition of a parliamentary candidate: 'He is asked to stand, he wants to sit, he is expected to lie.'

On the difference between a candidate and an MP: 'One stands for a place – the other sits for it.'

* * *

'The Conservative Party is not a party but a conspiracy.'

* * *

'Tory democracy is a democracy which supports the Tories.'

* * *

'The Tory fault – a yearning for mediocrity.'

* * *

'Reconstructing a Cabinet is like solving a kaleidoscopic jigsaw puzzle.'

* * *

'Headmasters have powers at their disposal with which Prime Ministers have never been invested.'

* * *

WSC: We have all heard how Dr Guillotine was executed by the instrument he invented – Sir Herbert Samuel: He was not.

WSC: Well, he ought to have been.

* * *

'It would be a great reform in politics if wisdom could be made to spread as easily and as rapidly as folly.'

* * *

Of the Labour Party in 1945: 'They are not fit to manage a whelk stall.'

* * *

On being interrupted by a political rival: 'I do not challenge the honourable gentleman when the truth leaks out of him from time to time.'

* * *

Of WSC's (then) fellow Conservatives: 'They are a class of right honourable gentlemen – all good men, all honest men – who are ready to make great sacrifices for their opinions, but they have no opinions. They are ready to die for the truth, if only they knew what the truth was.'

* * *

'Some men change their party for the sake of their principles; others change their principles for the sake of their party.'

* * *

On a fellow Liberal MP joining the Socialist Party: 'It is the only time I've ever seen a rat swimming towards a sinking ship.'

* * *

'To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.'

* * *

'I see it is said that leaders should keep their ears to the ground. All I can say is that the British nation will find it very hard to look up to the leaders who are detected in that somewhat ungainly posture.'

* * *

'When I am abroad, I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the government of my own country. I make up for lost time when I get home.'

* * *

According to legend, during the late 1920s or early 1930s, at a time when Churchill was speaking out against those who argued that the League of Nations and the power of civilized negotiation would secure peace, and calling for greater expenditure on defence, he addressed the St George Society. His theme was how a contemporary St George would save a maiden from the dragon.

'St George would be accompanied, not by a horse, but by a delegation. He would be armed not with a lance, but by a secretariat ... he would propose a conference with the dragon – a Round Table conference – no doubt that would be more convenient for the dragon's tail.

'Then after making a trade agreement with the dragon, St George would lend the dragon a lot of money.' He continued in this vein for a bit, until 'The maiden's release would be referred to the League of Nations of Geneva, and finally St George would be photographed with the dragon.'

* * *

'The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.'

* * *

'There is not one single social or economic principle or concept in the philosophy of the Russian Bolshevik which has not been realized, carried into action, and enshrined in immutable laws a million years ago by the white ant.'

* * *

'Trying to maintain good relations with a Communist is like wooing a crocodile. You do not know whether to tickle it under the chin or beat it over the head. When it opens its mouth, you cannot tell whether it is trying to smile or preparing to eat you up.'

* * *

'Politics is like waking up in the morning. You never know whose head you'll find on the pillow.'

* * *

On being repeatedly interrupted during a speech to the Commons: 'The honourable gentleman ... has arrogated to himself a function which did not belong to him, namely to make my speech instead of letting me make it.'

* * *

Some time after he ceded the premiership to Eden, Churchill was sitting in an armchair in the Members' Bar of the House of Commons. He was alone. Three young Tory MPs entered and, failing to see the old boy slouched in his armchair, began to chatter loudly. It soon became clear that the Member for Epping was the subject of their talk.

'You know,' one remarked, 'it's very sad about old Winston. He's getting awfully forgetful.'

'Shame, isn't it?' said another. 'He's really very doddery now, I gather.'

'Not only that,' added the third, 'but I've heard that he's going a bit – you know – ga-ga.'

'Yesh,' rumbled a deep voice from the nearby armchair, 'an' they shay he'sh gettin' terribly deaf, as well!'

CHAPTER 3

Terminological Diversions: Words


Churchill's love of words revealed itself above all in the way he enjoyed playing with them. On one occasion it ensured that he lost a game of golf. Violet Bonham-Carter described a round of golf he was playing against her father, the Prime Minister Herbert Asquith. Churchill, who could play a good game when not diverted – but was easily diverted – was well ahead of Asquith until he spotted a shrub with orange berries. Violet Asquith, as she then was, told him it was buckthorn, 'the olive of the north'. 'He rose', she wrote, 'like a trout to the fly of any phrase and his attention was immediately arrested and deflected from the game. "The olive of the north – that's good. The buckthorn of the south – that's not so good" and during the remaining holes he rang the changes on every possible combination and permutation of this meagre theme, which took his mind and eye completely off the ball.' To Asquith's delight Churchill didn't hit another ball that afternoon and lost the game.

* * *

On receiving another honorary degree: 'Perhaps no one has ever passed so few examinations and received so many degrees.'

* * *

'Men will forgive a man anything except bad prose.'

* * *

'This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.'

* * *

'We must have a better word than "prefabricated". Why not "ready-made"?'

* * *

Referring to the Government's denial of the exploitation of Chinese coolies in South Africa: 'Perhaps we have been guilty of some terminological inexactitudes.'


Surveying the destroyers sent to Britain by the USA under the Lend-Lease Agreement set up in 1940, Churchill gazed at the barely seaworthy vessels and mumbled to himself gloomily, 'Cheap and nasty.' 'Pardon me?' asked Roosevelt's envoy, standing next to him. Quick-thinking, the Prime Minister amended his remark: 'Cheap for us, and nasty for the Germans.'

* * *

'I do not think any expression of scorn or severity which I have heard used by our critics has come anywhere near the language I have been myself accustomed to use, not only orally, but in a stream of written minutes. In fact, I wonder that a great many of my colleagues are on speaking terms with me.'

* * *

On Sir Alfred Bossom, a member of the Conservative Party: 'Bossom? What an extraordinary name. Neither one thing nor the other!'

* * *

By 1953, Churchill was becoming somewhat deaf. The Italian government, as is still its wont, had just fallen, and the ousted Italian premier, a friend of WSC's told him, was planning to retire and read the works of Anthony Trollope.

There was a long silence. Then: 'Tell me more about that trollop,' said Churchill.

A few years later, an MP called Bernard Braine was speaking during a debate in the House of Commons. WSC couldn't see him and asked his neighbour, Julian Amery, a Conservative MP and son of WSC's old friend Leo Amery, who it was speaking. 'Braine,' answered Amery. 'James?' 'No, Braine.' 'Drain?' said Churchill. 'He can't be called Drain. Nobody's called Drain.'

Finding a scrap of paper, Julian Amery wrote the name down. 'Ah, I see,' Churchill said. '... Is he well named?'

* * *

'The essential structure of the ordinary British sentence ... is a noble thing.'

* * *

On the use of the passive: 'What if I had said, instead of "We shall fight on the beaches", "Hostilities will be engaged with our adversary on the coastal perimeter"?'

* * *

'The Times is speechless and takes three columns to express its speechlessness.'

* * *

'I think "No comment" is a splendid expression. I am using it again and again. I got it from Sumner Welles [the American diplomat and writer].'

* * *

In a memo to the Admiralty after repeated reports of British shipping losses: 'Must we have this lugubrious ingemination of the news of our shipping losses?'

* * *

On a tour of Africa in 1907: 'So fari – go goodi!'

* * *

'Short words are best and the old words when short are best of all.'

* * *

On a Member's statement that economic planning was baloney: 'I should prefer to have an agreed definition of the meaning of "baloney" before I attempt to deal with such a topic.'

* * *

There is a story that on a parliamentary paper that was being circulated, someone scribbled in the margin against a statement with which he disagreed the words 'Round objects!' He was probably congratulating himself on his wit, and thinking how the PM would appreciate his droll comment, when the paper made its way back to him – beside his words was scrawled in Churchill's handwriting: 'Who is Round? And why does he object?'


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill by Dominique Enright. Copyright © 2011 Michael O'Mara Books Limited. Excerpted by permission of Michael O'Mara Books Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >