On brevity

You’re right, this is not something people regularly associate with me; at school, my precis used to start three times the length of the original.

John Howard set a new record for comments on this blog by posting a wikipedia link as his comment. I loved the comment and the link.

It brought a number of other examples of brevity to mind, examples I savour and enjoy. So I thought I’d share them with you.

1. Peccavi: “I have sinned”, Charles Napier’s legendary one-word message signalling the conquest of Sindh province. I believe it to have been a hand-carried message rather than a telegram.

2.  Adam/Had ’em : Ogden Nash’s delightful couplet On The Antiquity of Microbes.

3. On the Advantages of Sleeping Alone: Groucho Marx’s opening chapter in his book Beds, consisting of the chapter heading, a blank page, and a footnote from the editor indicating that the author had refrained from submitting any material for the chapter.

4. Quite right is all right, all right is quite right, but quite all right is all quite wrong: HW Fowler showing his scorn for the phrase Quite All Right.

5. The inane goddess (6): The ultimate cryptic crossword clue. Closely followed by Australian orgy (10). I first read them in Anthony Grey’s Crosswords From Peking, but I’m not sure whether they were of his making. He may have illustrated his points with the clues.

6. Satisfactory: Nero Wolfe at his best.

Any other brevity favourites out there?

10 thoughts on “On brevity”

  1. I am unable to confirm the details, so this is from memory: Victor Hugo sent a telegram to his publisher inquiring on the sales of his book. The telegram consisted of the single character “?”. In reply his publisher sent a telegram saying “!”

  2. How about Mahatma Gandhi’s reply on being asked what he thought about Western civilisation? He said: “Its a good idea.”

  3. ah no – the magic of Gandhi’s answer was the slightly less blunt, but far sharper : “I think it would be a good idea”

    JP – long time no speak. Man, that was a mad 6 year ride I had.

  4. all is cool. managed to ski 9 weeks of the season. Well 7 actually – broke my leg restoring a garden table the day before the Easter trip. Classic unemployed father accident. Memo to self : must find work. How’s corporate life?

  5. I’ve always rather liked the alleged answer given by a prospective employee to the question on the application form: “Please describe yourself in fewer than 100 words”. He answered “Concise.”

    I doubt he got the job, though.

Let me know what you think

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