Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The immortal quote

There is no shorter path to immortality than writing a really, really, fantastic quote.  The person who coined the phrase "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" will be remembered forever. Why, I was fondly remembering John Capgrave just the other day, good old John Capgrave, and it has been vast hundreds of years since he jotted down that pithy piece of advice! Aye, the quote is so old that it originally looked like this:

It is more sykyr a bryd in youre fyste
Than to have thre in the sky above

"Hey," You wonder in an only mildly interrupting way "How, in the excitement of dashing off a really splendid bon mot, do I know if it's just pretty clever or if it's a quote for the ages. How do I know if I've struck pay dirt, achieved immortality, and can finally relax and stop trying to say wise and witty things which so wear me out?"

I am here to provide you with a litmus test for your clever sayings. It is not enough for you to think you have hit upon something witty to the point of legendary. You must observe at least three of the following signs to be assured that people will be echoing your statement for millennia to come.

1. You are already famous. Sorry, this one sets the bar kind of high at the outset. It may be a little like this (adapted version of a) Steve Martin joke: I will tell you an easy way to make a million dollars! First, get a hundred million dollars... And, actually, the principle of the thing is pretty much the same.

2. When you say your brilliant, pithy quote people act as if they've been hit by a bolt of lightning. Then they either say "Wait. Say that again." or "That's really quite good. No, seriously, that is quite good!"

3. After a reasonable gestation period you start to find your quote being attributed to Mark Twain or possibly Lady Gaga. Hold tight, eventually the quote will be re-attributed to you, unless, of course, you stole it yourself. If that's the case you should try to limit your time with Lady Gaga for awhile.

4. You are killed in what is clearly a miraculous act of God just moments after speaking your for the ages quote.

5. Your quote clearly seems to fix the world for the better. But beware, the bar is high on this one, only two quotes have ever met this standard, one by Chuang Tzu and one by Groucho.

Remember, you only need for three of these conditions to be true, but it has to be at least three. Bartlett awaits.

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