'Staying sharp' and other literary zingers

George Weigel

When I began writing columns, in the Paleolithic Period, I collected quotable quotes in a plastic box. I recently came across a gaggle of zingers that went unused. It seems a shame not to share them, writes George Weigel.

On the perils of succumbing to political correctness: “The fate of the last of the Gadarene swine was not noticeably better than that of the first” (Charles Stuart, Christ Church don, as remembered by Raymond Carr, deploring his Oxford colleagues’ argument that the college couldn’t be “left behind” in changing traditional practices).

Getting the conversation started properly: “How doth truth prosper in thy parts?” (an old Quaker greeting).

The evils of French revolutionary weights and measures: “If God had wanted us to use the metric system, he’d have given us 10 apostles” (an angry worker, struggling with metric tools).

Rarely an argument lost: “He can persuade most people of most things, and above all he can persuade himself of almost anything” (W.E. Forster on William Gladstone).

The limits of openness: “The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid” (G.K. Chesterton [of course]).

Beyond having a career: “But yield who will to their separation / My object in living is to unite / My avocation and my vocation / As my two eyes make one in sight. / Only where love and need are one, / And work is play for mortal stakes, / Is the deed ever really done / For Heaven and the future’s sake” (Robert Frost, “Two Tramps in Mud Time”).

Telling look-a-likes apart: “[Anthony] Eden is the sheep striving to look like a man, [Harold] Macmillan the man affecting to look like a sheep” (SHAEF officer explaining to General Eisenhower’s staffers how to distinguish between two future British prime ministers).

Staying sharp: “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when one contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries to comprehend a little of this mystery each day. Never lose a holy curiosity” (Albert Einstein).

FULL STORY Zingers, previously unused (EPPC)

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