WINSTON CHURCHILL’S BITING WIT AND AMAZING SENSE OF HUMOUR

lawzmag.comSir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill had a biting wit and an amazing sense of humour. I have over the years strung together a potpourri of some of his helplessly uproarious witticisms and have immense pleasure in sharing them with my readers.

 ON HIMSELF :

“It was the nation and the race dwelling all round the globe that had the lion’s heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar. I also hope that I sometimes suggested to the lion the right place to use his claws.”

“We are all worms. But I do believe that I am a glow-worm.”

“Eating my words has never given me indigestion.”

While addressing the US congress in 1941: “I cannot help reflecting that if my father had been an American and my mother British, instead of the other way around, I might have got here on my own.”

“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 being told by a curvaceous female fan at the unveiling of his sculpture “Mr Churchill, I want you to know that I got up at dawn and drove a hundred miles for the unveiling of your bust”, Winston replied, no doubt with a twinkle in his eye: “Madam, I want you to know that I would happily reciprocate the honour.”

When Nancy Astor said to Churchill: “If I were your wife I would put poison in your coffee.”, Winston riposted with: “Nancy, if I were your husband, I would drink it.”

On being accosted as he left a House of Commons bar by Bessie Braddock who said to him: “Winston, you’re drunk!” he replied with “Madam, you’re ugly. But tomorrow I shall be sober.”

“My most brilliant achievement was to persuade my wife to marry me.”

When Field Marshall Viscount Montgomery said to him: “I neither drink nor smoke and am a hundred percent fit”, Churchill’s reply was: “I drink and smoke and I am two hundred percent fit.”

“Always remember Clemmie, that I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.”

Shortly after Churchill left the Conservative side of the House of Commons for the Liberal, he was taking a certain young woman down to dinner, when she looked at him coquettishly, and remarked with the audacity of her kind,” There are two things I don’t like about you, Mr.Churchill.” “And what are they?” asked Churchill.”Your new politics and moustache.” said the lady. “My dear Madam, pray do not disturb yourself. You are not likely to come in contact with either.” replied Churchill.

One morning, when Churchill was in his tub, his valet heard his voice above the splashing. The valet asked him,” Were you speaking to me Sir?” “No,” replied Churchill annoyed at the interruption, “I was addressing the House of Commons.”

One evening Churchill was sitting on his bed and shouting for his hotwater bottle. The valet appeared. Churchill asked him where the hotwater bottle was. The valet replied, “You are sitting on it Sir; not a good idea.” Churchill smiled and replied, “It is not an idea but a coincidence.”

Churchill grew increasingly physically frail in the last months of his long life. Near the end he was seen waiting for a friend in a corridor of the House of Commons (from which he himself had retired). He was bent double on his stick and seemed oblivious to everyone around him. Two current Tory MPs were passing and exhibited all the compassion and loyalty for which that great party is noted. One said to the other, sotto voce: “They say the old chap’s gone quite crazy.”

Quick as a flash, Churchill was heard to mutter: “They say he can’t hear as well”

ON OTHERS :

To Rab Butler, referring to Nelson his cat “This cat does more for the war effort than you do. He acts as a hot water bottle and saves fuel and power.”

On Lord Charles Beresford: “He is one of those orators, of whom it is well said,” Before they get up, they do not know what they are going to say; when they are speaking, they do not know what they are saying; and when they have sat down, they do not know what they have said.”

Regarding the French leadership and Britain’s resolve: “When I warned them that Britain would fight on alone whatever they did, their Generals told their Prime Minister and his divided Cabinet: “In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.” Some chicken! Some neck!”

On another Conservative Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin: “He occasionally stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened.”

On Britain’s first Labour Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald: “We know that he has, more than any other man, the gift of compressing the largest amount of words into the smallest amount of thought.”

On Joseph Chamberlain’s other son Neville, the Conservative Prime Minister 1937-40 and champion of appeasement of Nazi Germany, Winston had much to say. Here are some examples: “An old town clerk looking at European affairs through the wrong end of a municipal drainpipe.”

When it was remarked that Chamberlain’s efforts to persuade Clement Attlee to accept the Munich agreement was akin to a snake dominating a rabbit, Churchill responded with: “It’s more like a rabbit dominating a lettuce!”

On Aneurin Bevan: “He will be a great curse to this country in peace as he was a squalid nuisance in time of war.” and “I can think of no better step to signal the inauguration of the National Health Service than that a person who so obviously needs psychiatric attention should be among the first of its patients.”

On Labour leader and Winston’s successor as Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, Churchill again had much to say. For example: “A sheep in sheep’s clothing.”

On Herbert Morrison, Labour deputy Prime Minister: “A curious mixture of geniality and venom.”

On his friend, Lord Beaverbrook: “He is a foul weather friend.”

On the deeply religious, teetotal, austere and clean living socialist Chancellor of the Exchequer, Stafford Cripps, after being told of Cripps’s decision to give up smoking: “Too bad – that was his last contact with humanity.” and on another occasion: “He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.”

On US Secretary of State J.F. Dulles: “He is the only bull I know who carries his own china closet with him.” and “Dull, Duller, Dulles.”

On being asked by a Canadian journalist if he had any complaints about America: “Toilet paper too thin. Newspapers too fat.”

“The Almighty in his infinite wisdom did not see fit to create Frenchmen in the image of Englishmen.”

Churchill was a great admirer of Napoleon. He kept in his bedroom at Chartwell two small sculptured heads— one of Napoleon and the other of Nelson. One day, when Lord Moran was looking at Napoleon’s head, Churchill remarked, “Ah, what was the most beautiful countenance from which genius ever looked upon mankind. He was a very wonderful man. I put him after Julius Caesar. Yes, he is at the top.”

During one of Churchill’s visits to the United States during WW2, he spent the night in the White House. Churchill loved to retire late, take a long, hot bath while drinking a Scotch, and smoke a cigar and relax. On this occasion, he climbed out of the bath and naked, but for his cigar, walked into the adjoining bedroom. He was startled to see Abraham Lincoln standing by the fireplace in the room, leaning on the mantle. Churchill, always quick on the uptake, blinked and said, “Good evening, Mr. President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage.” Lincoln smiled softly and disappeared.

ON POLITICS :

Asked for a definition of a parliamentary candidate: “He is asked to stand, he wants to sit, he is expected to lie.”

“Reconstructing a Cabinet is like solving a kaleidoscopic jigsaw puzzle.”

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

Interrupting an aging fellow member of Parliament: “I must warn him that he runs a very grave risk of falling into senility before he is overtaken by age.”

After being interrupted himself: “I do not challenge the honourable gentlemen when the truth leaks out of him from time to time.”

On the occasion of a Liberal MP crossing the floor to join the Socialists; “It is the only time I have seen a rat swimming towards a sinking ship.”

“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.”

“Politics is like waking up in the morning. You never know whose head you will find on the pillow.”

Churchill had an innovative idea to add to boxes of 10 inch long condom-like protective rubber sheaths designed to go over the barrels of British rifles when fighting in the arctic: “I want a label for every box, every carton, every packet, saying “British. Size: Medium”. That will show the Nazis if they ever recover one of them, who’s the master race.”

On being told to flatter General de Gaulle, Churchill suggested: “I’ll kiss him on both cheeks – or if you prefer on all four!”

When President Roosevelt wheeled (in his wheelchair) into the guest bathroom to find a naked Churchill emerging from his bath, Churchill said unashamedly: “The Prime Minister has nothing to hide from the President of the United States.”

In 1906, Churchill invented a term to get around a ban in the House of Commons on the word “lie”. He spoke of another member’s “terminological inexactitude.”

“Trying to maintain good relations with the Communists 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.”

EPIGRAMS :

“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling.”

“Good cognac is like a woman. Do not assault it. Coddle and warm it in your hands before you sip it.”

“A single glass of champagne imparts a feeling of exhilaration. The nerves are braced, the imagination is agreeably stirred, the wits become more nimble. A bottle produces the contrary effect.”

“A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”

“Without tradition art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation it is a corpse.”

“You will never get to the end of the journey if you stop to shy a stone at every dog that barks.”

“Virtuous motives, trammeled by inertia and timidity are no match for armed and resolute wickedness.”

“The worst quarrels only arise when both sides are equally in the right and in wrong.”

 “Where does the family start? It starts with a young man falling in love with a girl. No superior alternative has yet been found.”

 “There are two things that are more difficult than making an after-dinner speech: climbing a wall which is leaning toward you and kissing a girl who is leaning away from you.”

“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”

-ANOOP BOSE

Advocate, Supreme Court of India

 

 

 

 

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