For this week’s Wednesday Words – hosted, as ever, by Emma at Crazy With Twins, here – I’ve been thinking over a couple of closely-related questions. Firstly, just how short, how pithy, can a quotation be, while still carrying paint-blistering impact? And, secondly, how little of a person’s writing or speech can you quote, and yet still portray that person’s character?
Well, in previous Wednesday Words posts, I’ve referred to Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain (1835 -1910) and also to Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965.) Now, if you’ve read Tom Sawyer or any more of Mark Twain’s works, you’re bound to remember his inimitable wit and humour. Similarly, there are many accounts of Churchill’s rousing speeches – one that comes to mind is the time he addressed the people of Portsmouth on the day following a severe air-raid in World War Two when the city was still burning. It was followed by a moment of hush, and then a spontaneous cheer.
But, for today, my questions are not about how much, but how little. Let’s see. Remember, Mothers Day has only just passed, and also International Women’s Day. (You’ll see how that connects, in a moment.)
One story goes that someone asked Clemens what he thought men would become, in a world without women. His reply?
“Scarce, sir. Mighty scarce.”
And another anecdote runs that a man explained to Churchill that he had been charting the progress of women’s suffrage from around 1910 to the (then) current time. He then ventured to add something like “And, Mister Churchill, if this trend continues, then by the year 2000, women will rule the world!”
Churchill looked at the other man quizzically before replying.