I received this list of what were termed glorious insults. They are attributed to a number of famous people from days gone by. It takes a certain skill to pull off witty repartee when responding to an initial verbal attack. Note the lack of profanity.
I guess good stand-up comedians are some of the best at this sort of give and take in the modern world.
The exchange between Churchill & Lady Astor:
She said, "If you were my husband I'd give you poison."
He said, "If you were my wife, I'd drink it."
A member of Parliament to Disraeli: "Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease."
"That depends, Sir," said Disraeli, "whether I embrace your policies or your mistress."
"He had delusions of adequacy."
- Walter Kerr
"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."
- Winston Churchill
"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure."
"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary."
- William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).
"Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it."
- Moses Hadas
"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it."
- Mark Twain
"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.."
- Oscar Wilde
"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend... if you have one."
- George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill
"Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second... if there is one."
- Winston Churchill, in response.
"I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here."
- Stephen Bishop
"He is a self-made man and worships his creator."
- John Bright
"I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial."
- Irvin S. Cobb
"He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others."
- Samuel Johnson
"He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up."
- Paul Keating
"In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily."
- Charles, Count Talleyrand
"He loves nature in spite of what it did to him."
- Forrest Tucker
"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?"
- Mark Twain
"His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork."
- Mae West
"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go."
- Oscar Wilde
"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts... for support rather than illumination."
- Andrew Lang (1844-1912)
"He has Van Gogh's ear for music."
- Billy Wilder
"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it."
- Groucho Marx
One of my military instructors impressed on us the importance of tact. "Tact" he said, "is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way the person will look forward to the trip." In sales or customer service knowing what to say and how to say it are great assets.