Winston Churchill has been quoted possibly more in the modern era than any other statesman or politician. His perspective is always refreshing and his wit inimitable. Many people, from all stations in life, have been on the wrong end of his sarcasm and many of us have been enlightened by his incisive “one liners”. I have a book written on his wit but, this week, a friend and reader sent me a list of some of Churchill’s lessons to live by. As a short collection, I consider it an honour to be able to publish them in this week’s blogs. Thank you Jon.
Enjoy, and I hope it encourages you to seek out more Churchillisms.
“Diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they ask for directions”
“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks”
“Fear is a reason. Courage is a decision”
“A nation that forgets its past has no future”
“If you’re not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at forty, you have no brain.”
“Success consist of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
“A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt: long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.”
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
“One man with conviction will overwhelm a hundred who have only opinions.”
“Life can either be accepted or changed. If it is not accepted, it must be changed. If it cannot be changed, it must be accepted.”
“We content that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.”
“I’d rather argue against idiots, than have one of them agree with me.”
“In the course of my life, I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet.”
“Life is fraught with opportunities to keep your mouth shut.”
“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”
Churchill has been accused of carefully crafting his “one-liners”, and I’m sure some them were designed to fit certain circumstances, or people, but they are also many examples of his instant wit. I give you three examples:
1. While sitting on the stage with Roosevelt and Stalin at Yalta, one of his aides noticed Churchill’s fly was open. He handed his boss a written note to that effect. The reply came straight back, “dead birds don’t fall out of their nests.”
2. Wandering along the halls of Parliament in his dotage, smoking his usual cigar, he turned a corner and walked straight into a Papal Legate who was visiting, burning a hole in his cassock. He stopped, apologized and then said, “Sir, do you realise that we have just made history. This must be the first time a protestant has set fire to a catholic.”
3. One of his more famous comments, which I’m sure he had been contemplating for a long time, concerned Lady Astor – they despised each other. Churchill was drunk and Lady Astor said, Sir, you are disgustingly drunk. Churchill replied, “Madam, you are disgustingly ugly.” He then paused and added, “But, in the morning, I shall be sober”.