Published in Education Times (Times of India), 7th October 2003
Some people in this world are gifted with the ability to come up with brilliant quotes and one-liners (some original, some not quite so) on the spur of the moment. In most cases the not-so-original quotations might induce the “turning in the grave” phenomena for the originators.
I present to you some of the more memorable one-liners I have heard, which, at some point or other, will surely be useful to you in your life:
Don’t talk while I’m interrupting!
This admonition is guaranteed to stop that pompous fellow at your party from butting in on every one of your anecdotes to narrate some of his own. Ideally he should get the hint quite easily, and if he is the decent sort he will stifle his protests and unwillingly join in the laughter. If he doesn’t get it, though, you are welcome to cosh him on the head – a violent, but sometimes necessary, measure.
If you can you can. If you cannot you cannot.
Not quite the one-liner you would adopt as the philosophy of life, but in spite of being blatantly obvious, this quote apparently possesses some idealistic value and no doubt makes perfect sense to some people (like my disillusioned brother-in-law) who claim to swear by it.
But actually it only goes to show that its originator disagreed with Buddha’s philosophy of The Middle Path.
There’s no such thing as more or less. If it’s more it’s more. If it’s less it’s less.
This is perfectly true, and should especially be avoided by writers for fear of being accused of verbiage. ‘More or less’ is indeed a redundant expression, and should certainly be rendered null and void.
What goes up must come down
These were probably the exact words voiced by Mr. Newton when the famed apple fell so unceremoniously on his head. Until then he had not quite realized the “gravity” of the situation.
However my colleague coined this under very different circumstances. You see, the elevator at his workplace was designed to move in a direction exactly opposite to what he desired. I believe it is specially equipped with some artificial intelligence for this purpose. So one day when the elevator was exercising its usual ingenuity, he said reassuringly to himself, “Don’t worry! What goes up must come down!”
I’m a one-woman man
So many men say this to their wives to reassure them of their non-womanising nature. It is a feeble one-liner to convince their spouses that, should a leggy, noodle-strapped beauty flutter by, their eyes wouldn’t veer even once in her direction. Unhappily for one man, though, his wife was faster than him in catching on. She instantly quashed his quip by retorting, “But how many men are you?”
Thing? What thing?
This is an exceptionally useful tool for bosses to unsettle their subordinates, and meant to discourage everyone in their vicinity from saying “thing” when they can’t remember the exact word, for e.g. “give me that thing”, “remember to do that thing” etc, all the while being extremely careful not to specify what exactly the ‘thing’ entails.
While doing so the boss conveniently ignores the fact that he himself forgets every word he’s looking for.
Am I right or am I right?
This is one of the most effective ways of stamping out any argument. It gives the opposition no choice but to agree with you. I have used it as a clincher to an argument innumerable times with great success.
Unfortunately my friends do not allow me to get away with it. As soon as I utter the fatal words, they discard their social mannerisms, and wagging their finger at me in staunch disapproval, say straight to my face, “You are wrong”. At this moment I have noticed that it is useless to point out to them that I had not given them that option at all, they simply get more violent for some reason.
Great minds think alike
Often two people in a conversation voice the same thought at precisely the same moment, leading one of them to say, with great condescension, ‘Great minds think alike.’ Each is miffed that the other stole the words from his mouth, so both parties resort to this phrase to console themselves.
In reality this occurrence is nothing more than a coincidence, and an onlooker might well be tempted to state, ‘Great Idiots think alike too’, which is a perfectly acceptable corollary to this statement.
What will happen will happen
A variation on the theme of Que Sera Sera, this sentence allows Individuals to disown their responsibilities and leave the consequences of their actions to providence instead.
By itself it is a fairly reasonable thing to say, but in conjunction with Murphy’s Law – ‘Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong’, it foretells gloomy scenarios.
No news is good news
Working professionals all over the world cling feverishly to this one-liner in the hope that the client has really found nothing objectionable with the material they have delivered. Until such time the awaited news arrives, the executives pass into a phase of blissful ignorance.
Better late than never
This is most often said by the guest who turns up for your party in the wee hours of the morning when the invitation cards clearly stated 8 pm. You may want to wring his neck but with admirable constraint you refrain from doing so and maintain the gracious-host persona that so becomes you. But for a particularly obnoxious guest whom you don’t want hanging around your celebrations and wish to dispose of anyway, the best option is to retort, ‘In your case, better never than late.’
So with each passing day we mortals add to our ever-increasing repertoire of unquotable quotes and one-liners. And remember what Samuel Johnson said - “Every quotation contributes something to the stability or enlargement of the language”. So quote on, ladies and gentlemen – it’s never too late to start.