Mental Floss

Weekend Word Wrap: the fewer words, the better

David K. Israel

I think it's high time I incorporated a little Shakespeare into these Word Wrap posts. Here are a few lines from Hamlet (Polonius speaking to the Queen) I often quote when asked what I think the essence of humor is:

Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit, And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief: your noble son is mad"¦

Yes, indubitably brevity is the soul of wit (and lingerie, according to Dorothy Parker, but that's for a whole other post). Think about how short some of the funniest quips are:

pic_groucho.jpg /

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it." - Groucho Marx "I took a test in Existentialism. I left all the answers blank and got 100." "“ Woody Allen "I was walking down the street wearing glasses when the prescription ran out." - Steven Wright "In Beverly Hills...they don't throw their garbage away. They make it into television shows." "“ Woody Allen "If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn't be a bit surprised." - Dorothy Parker "Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering - and it's all over much too soon." "“ Woody Allen "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana." "“ Groucho Marx

By comparison, here's a quip with a long setup:

Interestingly, according to modern astronomers, space is finite. This is a very comforting thought-- particularly for people who can never remember where they have left things." "“ Woody Allen

I used Woody because I used him in the shorter examples, too. Yes, he's still a comic genius, but the lines he'll always be remembered for are the short ones, in my humble opinion.

Have a favorite quip, witticism or quote you're particularly fond of? Or do you want to show us how witty you can be with an original? It's the interactive part of the Wrap folks! Lay "˜em on us.