The Great Diss

Every week while scrambling for material for my half-hearted gossip column, I wonder whether this would be the week that no celebrity has made an ass of himself/herself. Luckily for me, every week someone steps up. The pity is that column allows me to document my wide-eyed shock at the daft things people say, and almost never the chance to applaud something deliciously bitchy. Forget wit, in the year that I have been scouring our English papers I have not read any exchanges even remotely memorable. 

So I was interested in this NY times piece on the better form of insult. The best one listed goes like this: While on the subject, I believe it was writer/critic Clive James who is said to have remarked, when a man punched Sinatra in the face one night outside the stage door, “That’s the first time the fan hit the shit."

I used to love Dorothy Parker no holds barred for her apocryphal putdowns but I am a little more restrained now. I agree with Ann Magnuson (more or less) when she says:

She spoke for her time and you're quite right to gush/And I hope you'll excuse me if I think her a lush./I mean, to diss "Winnie the Pooh" you had to be some kind of a grump/
Though wouldn't we all love to hear her trash "Forrest Gump"?

My all-time favourite is the exchange between the  fourth Earl of Sandwich and the radical John Wilkes. I chortled over it as a teenager and still adore it. The Earl said to Wilkes: "Sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" Wilkes replied: "That, sir, depends on whether I first embrace your lordship's principles or your lordship's mistresses."



Delightful post - and (nasty creature that I am) I love those insults! This reminded me of one of my favourites: a king of England - I've forgotten which - who said about John Donne's work: "Dr Donne's poetry is like the peace of God: It passeth all understanding."

January 10, 2009 at 8:44 PM  

Dug out an old Vir Sanghvi column for you:

The remark about Morarji Desai should be counted among the Guardian's finest achievements.


January 10, 2009 at 9:40 PM  

I loved Dorothy Parker too as a kid. Now, somehow, can't trace any of her books.

January 11, 2009 at 10:32 AM  

Dustedoff: thanks and you have a lovely blog

Interlocuter: Fantastic Vir! (secretly surprised by him)

Banno: There is a very nice Portable Dorothy Parker making the rounds in Delhi. Say if you want and I can courier it to you.

January 15, 2009 at 12:00 AM  

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