10/27/14

"There is much more sham wisdom than there is sham wit"

"A JOKE is always a thought; it is grave and formal writing that can be quite literally thoughtless. This applies to jokes when they are not only quite verbal but quite vulgar. A good pun, or even a bad pun, is more intellectual than mere polysyllables. The man, the presumably prehistoric man, who invented the phrase, "When is a door not a door; when it's ajar," made a serious and successful mental effort of selection and combination. But a Prussian professor might begin on the same problem, "When is a door not a door; when its doorishness is a becoming rather than a being, and when the relativity of doorishness is co-ordinated with the evolution of doors from windows and skylights, of which approximation to new function, etc. etc."—and the Prussian professor might go on like that for ever, and never come to the end because he would never come to the point. A pun or a riddle can never be in that sense a fraud. Real wisdom may be better than real wit, but there is much more sham wisdom than there is sham wit."

~G.K. Chesterton: "The Romance of Rostand." (in The Uses of Diversity)

 1905 photo of Chesterton by photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882 - 1966).

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