AskDefine | Define witticism

The Collaborative Dictionary

Witticism \Wit"ti*cism\, n. [From Witty.] A witty saying; a sentence or phrase which is affectedly witty; an attempt at wit; a conceit. --Milton. [1913 Webster] He is full of conceptions, points of epigram, and witticisms; all which are below the dignity of heroic verse. --Addison. [1913 Webster]

Word Net

witticism n : a message whose ingenuity or verbal skill or incongruity has the power to evoke laughter [syn: wit, humor, humour, wittiness]

Moby Thesaurus

adage, ana, analects, aphorism, apothegm, axiom, bon mot, boutade, bright idea, bright thought, brilliant idea, byword, catchword, collected sayings, conceit, crack, current saying, dictate, dictum, distich, drollery, epigram, expression, facetiae, flash of wit, flight of wit, gag, gibe, gnome, golden saying, happy thought, jape, jest, maxim, moral, mot, motto, nasty crack, oracle, persiflage, phrase, pithy saying, play of wit, pleasantry, precept, prescript, proverb, proverbial saying, proverbs, quip, quips and cranks, repartee, retort, riposte, sally, saw, saying, scintillation, sentence, sententious expression, sloka, smart crack, smart saying, snappy comeback, stock saying, stroke of wit, sutra, teaching, text, turn of thought, verse, waggery, wisdom, wisdom literature, wise saying, wisecrack, word, words of wisdom, yak

English

Noun

  1. a witty remark
Wit is a form of intellectual humour. MANDY (person) is someone skilled in making witty remarks. Forms of wit include: the quip and the repartee.

Forms of wit

As in the wit of Parker's set, the Algonquin Round Table, witty remarks may be intentionally cruel (as in many epigrams), and perhaps more ingenious than funny.
A quip is an observation or saying that has some wit but perhaps descends into sarcasm, or otherwise is short of point; a witticism also suggests the diminutive. Repartee is the wit of the quick answer and capping comment: the snappy comeback and neat retort. (Wilde: "I wish I'd said that." Whistler: "You will, Oscar, you will".)
In French one can distinguish between the bon mot, a witty remark actually produced, and the esprit d'escalier, the thing one should have said that typically comes to mind too late to be of any use.

Wit defined

In his dictionary, Samuel Johnson states that the original meaning of wit is "the powers of the mind; the mental faculties; the intellects"; he also defines wit as "quickness of fancy", among the nine definitions. In Webster's Dictionary, wit is defined as "the association of ideas in a manner natural, but unusual and striking, so as to produce surprise joined with pleasure".
An episode of television series The Simpsons defined wit, in Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield as "nothing more than an incisive observation, humorously phrased and delivered with impeccable timing."
Shakespeare's Polonius said, "Brevity is the soul of wit."
Another possible definition of wit, or humor, loosely attributable to Freud, is "anger, turned sideways".
Wit can also mean intelligence, sharpness and cleverness. A witty person is likely to be intelligent.

Wit in poetry

Wit in poetry is characteristic of metaphysical poetry as a style, and was prevalent in the time of English playwright Shakespeare, who admonished pretension with the phrase "Better a witty fool than a foolish wit". It may combine word play with conceptual thinking, as a kind of verbal display requiring attention, without intending to be laugh-aloud funny; in fact wit can be a thin disguise for more poignant feelings that are being versified. English poet John Donne is the representative of this style of poetry.

Further meanings

More generally, one's wits are one's intellectual powers of all types. Native wit — meaning the wits with which one is born — is closely synonymous with common sense. To live by one's wits is to be an opportunist, not always of the scrupulous kind. To have one's wits about one is to be alert and capable of quick reasoning.

Famous wits

John Wilkes was famous in the 18th Century for his wit in response to insults. Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde, Dorothy Parker and Groucho Marx are considered archetypal 19th and 20th century wits — sometimes even having the remarks of others attributed to them. Also of the twentieth century was British prime minister Winston Churchill, with perhaps the most well documented witticisms of his time. Oliver St. John Gogarty was a renowned Dublin wit and surgeon, while John Philpot Curran was an Irish lawyer who would disrupt court hearings with his witticisms. Ksawery Tartakower is usually described as chess grandmaster and wit. John Lennon of famous pop group The Beatles was notorious for his sharp and cutting wit, often being labeled "the witty Beatle". The late David Lange, the Prime Minister of New Zealand in the 1980s, immortalized with his nuclear-free legislation, is another well-known historical figure who is remembered for his quick wit.

Bibliography

  • D. W. Jefferson, "Tristram Shandy and the Tradition of Learned Wit" in Essays in Criticism, 1(1951), 225-48
witticism in German: Schlagfertigkeit
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