Forgot your password?
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
  • default color
  • green color
  • red color


Oct 04th
Home Sections Humor & Satire “How to Insult with Class:” Lessons from the English
“How to Insult with Class:” Lessons from the English PDF Print E-mail
User Rating: / 5
Sections - Humor & Satire
Friday, 16 November 2007 01:23

Learning “How to Insult with Class” from the English and from Britain’s Foremost Scholar on Asian Studies

Our columnist, former Board of Investments Gov. Ben Sanchez, Jr., sent to this editor a collection of “Quotable Quotes,” to borrow the term of The Reader’s Digest. These quotes expressed the brilliant minds of wit and humor, especially among the English. Governor Sanchez called his e-mail, “When Insults Had Class.”

Governor Sanchez’s e-mail immediately made me recollect a day in 1970 when I met Malcolm Caldwell, Ph.D., in a private reception at the University of Singapore. Dr. Caldwell was teaching then in Singapore and people told me that he was probably the foremost English (or even Britain’s) scholar on Asian studies.

What established the immediate cultural bridge between Dr. Caldwell and me was a series of stories that I told those present at the reception at the University of Singapore. Except for Dr. Caldwell, it seemed that nobody among the motley crowd knew the much-celebrated encounter between Lady Nancy Astor and Sir Winston Churchill at the British Parliament. Lady Nancy was the American-born first woman member of the Parliament. It surprised me that even many of the college students (who I met) in Singapore, which was a former British colony, never heard much of the British wit and humor. Unless they were just simply respectful and allowed me to regale the people at the said reception, it seemed that only Dr. Caldwell and I knew the wit of the British, especially the English.

So, I started telling them of how witty Lady Nancy was. When she was campaigning for her seat in the Parliament, a heckler interrupted her speech. The heckler shouted, “Hey, Lady Nancy, if you are really that smart, do you know how many toes are there in a pig’s leg?” Immediately—without batting an eyelash—Lady Nancy answered, “Sir, why don’t you take off your shoe and count yourself.”

But poor Lady Nancy met her match in Sir Winston Churchill. One time, Lady Nancy and Sir Winston were engaged in a heated debate. All of a sudden, Lady Nancy said, “If I were your wife, Sir Winston, I would put poison in your coffee.”

Sir Winston immediately answered: “If you were my wife, Lady Nancy, I would gladly drink it.”

Dr. Caldwell and I became fast friends. We communicated by cable and by slow mail (as the Internet was not yet “invented” by Al Gore at that time). He visited the Philippines as my guest for the first time in 1971. He stayed at my residence and I took him to visit then Clark Air Force Base and Baguio City. I told Dr. Caldwell that perhaps I should christen him as “Malcolm Y,” a shade of the American activist, “Malcolm X.” Because Dr. Caldwell was always asking me, “Why?” Or he would ask, “Why not?”

And so during his stay in the Philippines for a week, “Malcolm Y” told me more of the British witty public figures. He cited his favorite witticism from Sir Winston was, “"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."

Another favorite of Dr. Caldwell was Oscar Wilde, who said, "He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends." Incidentally, Dr. Caldwell said to remember that Mr. Wilde was Irish. And if you want to insult a man whom you know comes from Wales or Scotland or Ireland, you simply ask him, “Where in England do you come from?” And “Malcolm Y” added, “Then you duck as soon as he replies.”

The materials that Governor Sanchez sent to me reminded me of Dr. Caldwell’s stories that completed nearly my education on the British wit and humor. Here are some of the most-memorable exchanges in British history, as quoted by both Dr. Caldwell and Governor Sanchez:


"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend... if you have one."
            –George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill


"Cannot possibly attend first night; will attend second, if there is one."

            –Winston Churchill's response to George Bernard Shaw


"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go."

            –Oscar Wilde


"You, Mr. Wilkes, will die either of the pox or on the gallows."

            –The Earl of Sandwich


"That depends, my lord, whether I embrace your mistress or your principles."

            –John Wilkes's response to The Earl of Sandwich


It must be the English in me, oops, the influence of Dr. Caldwell in me, when I replied in 2003 to an e-mail from Ms. Lourdes Corrales. She is the national treasurer and a national executive officer (NEO) of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA), I provided a BCC of my reply to Philippine Sen. Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr., as I was then his spokesman to the Overseas Filipinos.

Ms. Corrales called me in her posting in the as the “Filipino personification of the Devil” and that I should go back to hell. I simply replied, “Ladies, first.” Senator Pimentel said that my reply reminded him of George Bernard Shaw’s wit and humor.

By next installment, we will discuss more about my friendship with Dr. Caldwell.

(To be continued . . .)

Related news items:
Newer news items:
Older news items:

Last Updated on Saturday, 17 November 2007 03:35
Comments (1)
1 Friday, 27 August 2010 12:18
Thank you for the above article. It was well written and a lot of fun factors.

Churchill, the old rogue, was so naughty but so witty. This must be one of my favourite insult from him:

“'You are drunk Sir Winston, you are disgustingly drunk. 'Yes, Mrs. Braddock, I am drunk. But you, Mrs. Braddock are ugly, and disgustingly fat. But, tomorrow morning, I, Winston Churchill will be sober.”

Add your comment

Your name:
Your email:
Comment (you may use HTML tags here):

Quote of the Day

If a man will begin with certainties,he shall end with doubts;but if he will be content to begin with doubts,he shall end in certainties.-- Sir Francis Bacon, 1561-1626