While the most celebrated examples of repartee have come from well-known historical figures or celebrities, many remarkable replies have been authored by little-known people in the seclusion of their homes or the privacy of their offices. A perfect example occurred last year
in the home of Ken and Lynnette Logsdon. Ken is a subscriber to Dr. Mardy's Quotes of the Week, a weekly e-newsletter I send out every Sunday morning to many thousands of people all around the world. When he found out I was working on a book on repartee, he wrote to tell
me how much he admired a clever comeback he'd recently heard from wife Lynnette. The Logsdons have an art collection that they dearly love, but which is not esteemed as highly by their teenage daughters. When the family was gathered in the living room one day, 16-year-old Emily
was seen examining the paintings. Finally, she looked over at her mother and asked, "When you die, can we sell all these?" Stunned by the bluntness of the question, Ken's mouth dropped open and he was stumped for words. But not Lynnette. She replied:
It was the perfect rejoinder, and one especially appreciated by 18-year-old Katy Logsdon, who'd been observing the conversation. She honored her mother's comeback with the ultimate teenage compliment, simply saying, "Ouch!"
I was so impressed with Lynnette's reply I decided to feature it in the "Relationship Repartee" chapter of my book. Now that the book has been published, her extraordinary reply is no longer a private and personal story to be told only at family gatherings, but can be enjoyed
by fans of repartee all around the world. Lynnette, by the way, is a risk management R.N. at the University of Missouri-Columbia Student Health Center. Her husband Ken has a home-based greeting card business, "Post-a-Quote" (check it out at: www.postaquote.com).
If you have authored a fabulous reply, or witnessed one, please send it along. I have a panel of friends who help me select the best ones, which I'll preserve for posterity in this section of the site. Please don't go into a lot of detail,
though, and include a brief biographical description (2-3 sentences) as well.
Below you'll find examples of Real Life Repartee.
John George (David Challener reply)
Wayne Levine (Austin Levine reply)
John Marquart (Suzanne Marquart reply)
Dr. Ron Mundy
Linda Wilkins (Kevin Wilkins reply)
On a recent flight, I was seated next to a Delta Captain who was deadheading home to Seattle. As we were powering down the runway and the wheels left the ground I leaned over and said, "I understand the principles of aerodynamics perfectly,
yet I always marvel every time a plane leaves the ground." He replied:
"So do I. There is more to air than meets the eye!"
When I was in high school, many years ago, I dated a young lady who was only 5'2" tall. Since I was 6'4" there was quite a discrepancy. As we were dancing one night, she continued to make comments about my height. Finally, I said,
"I don't like your attitude!" Immediately she replied:
"Well, I don't like your altitude!"
A Professor of Biology at San Jose State University for 30 years, Charles W. Bell is now retired and living in Salt Lake City, Utah with his sweetheart of 52 years. Long interested in linguistic oddities, he and his wife have also been singing performers since their high school days.
Many years ago, a citywide blackout caused the lights to go out in a class I was taking at City College of New York. The class continued and, an hour later, a student arrived, excusing his tardiness by saying he had walked all the way from Flushing.
Without missing a beat, another student in the class offered this wonderful reply:
"It looks more like you're flushed from walking."
Martha Davey is a retired high school science teacher who lives in New York City. Heavily into international dancing, English historical dancing, and American contra and square dancing, she spends a lot of time at dance camps and festivals.
When I was in graduate school, I solved a fairly difficult mathematical problem in what seemed to me to be a clever way. As I showed it to my officemate, David Challener, I added with humorous overstatement, "Sheer genius!" He replied:
Oh, sheer—you mean, as in insubstantial?
Thin? Easy to see through?"
David and I each obtained our Ph.D. degrees at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is now at IBM doing work in privacy and security. I am at a university in New Mexico pursuing an academic career.
A client for whom I'm doing a writing project told me that we shouldn't appear to be jumping on a bandwagon. I riposted:
"There's nothing wrong with jumping on a bandwagon—
as long as you're the first to do it!"
I was attending a party with a friend who was bored. She asked me, "Why are we here?" I replied:
"Well, some say it's because of evolution,
while others favor a creationist theory."
Don Hauptman, a direct marketing copywriter and consultant in New York City, has had a lifelong passion for wordplay. The author of Cruel and Unusual Puns (1991) and Acronymania (1993), he writes an article for every
issue of Word Ways, the quarterly journal of recreational linguistics.
The other day, I was poring over some coursework when my husband popped his head in the study and said, "I'll make us some coffee later." I replied:
"The sooner the later the better!"
Annie Johnston is an IT professional who lives in Edinburgh, Scotland with her husband Lewis. They are fascinated by the clever use of language and love reading "offbeat" poetry (especially Charles Bukowski). They also enjoy
microlight flights, beach and forest walks, exploring castles, and the movies.
I was golfing with my 13-year-old son Austin recently. As he was teeing up, I said, "Austin, remember not to kill the ball." He's a wise guy, like his dad, and replied with smug affect:
"If you try to kill the ball,
the ball will kill you."
Wayne Levine, wife Ria, children Emma and Austin, two cats, and two dogs live in Oak Park, California, where Wayne serves as director of the West Coast Men's Center. Much of Wayne and Ria's time is spent shuttling Austin to ice
hockey events and tee times.
While reading an article recently, my wife Wendy turned to me and said, "Americans spend over one billion dollars annually to find the perfect partner." My reply was:
"Well, yes, but how much is then spent
trying to make their partner perfect?"
Originally from Tucson, Milton Lewin now lives in Irvington, New York, chasing after his two young kids and listening to as much music as he can. He works in Manhattan, running a fund that invests in small companies.
My new favorite quote comes from my wife Suzanne. Walking out of a Publix supermarket during a recent trip to Florida, I jokingly accused her of going there just to flirt with the "old guys." She immediately replied:
"I'd rather be flirting with the old farts
than farting with the old flirts!"
A Texan by birth, Suzanne Marquart is retired and living in Connecticut after a career as a Pan Am stewardess, elementary school teacher, and IBM advertising person. She also takes care of Guiding Eyes Puppies.
This reply came to me awhile back when I returned to Winnipeg from my weekly trip to Northern Manitoba as a flying doctor. My roommate left a note saying that the place was a mess, that none of the dishes from the week had been done, and that she
would get to it later. I left my own note, which said:
"I came, I saw, I concurred."
Dr. Ron Mundy is a physician with a rural practice in British Columbia. He lives in Sechelt, B.C., a ferry ride up the coast from Vancouver. While most of his time is spent in clinical practice, he is fascinated by language's effect on thinking, and vice versa.
Over the internet, I exchange witticisms, often in the form of egregious puns, with an old school friend (we're both in our seventies). Our e-mailings generally go on until one of us gives up. After such a conclusion, my friend recently commented, "Still one round behind."
I could not resist replying to this gentleman of the old school:
"And my legs aren't so bad either."
Liz Oldaker and her husband live on a farm in Culpeper, Virginia, where she paints and he hybridizes irises. She adds: "Our marriage of 55 years is a divine polarity as we tend to disagree on most issues. We read obsessively (he, biography and history; I, British murder mysteries).
Other than arguing, we enjoy travel and even hiked the Inca Trail."
I teach an English class that has a particularly energetic and intelligent group of tenth graders (age 15-16). We often enjoy lively exchanges during the course of a lesson, with a lot of good-natured, off-the-cuff banter. After a polite "put down" of one of the pupils in the class,
a girl in front looked at me and said:
"Gee, sir, you're sharp; even when you're being blunt."
Andrew Renard is an English Language teacher at a large co-ed school in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Several years ago, my 25-year-old daughter had a 36-year-old male friend who was enchanted with her. She thought he was too old to consider romantically and had no interest in him. Whenever I saw him, he would ask about her and if she was dating anyone. Finally, I said to him:
"Aren't you too young to make an old fool of yourself?"
Jan Shannon and her husband and two dogs live in Austin Texas. At age 49, she has recently become a full-time student.
I manage an indoor rock climbing gym in Philadelphia. While recently working out with someone who was demonstrating poor balance (unusual for her), I asked what she was thinking. When she said, "My mind is definitely somewhere else," I replied:
"If you cannot bring your mind here
take the rest of you to where your mind is."
Kathleen Walker lives in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, where she tends to her three koi, gardens for roses and tomatoes, and makes her own pesto.
While dining at a Chinese restaurant recently, we overheard the waiter review the menu with the diners at an adjacent table this way: "We have pork chow mein, we have chicken chow mein, we have shrimp chow mein, and we have beef chow mein." My husband Kevin
looked at me and quipped:
"It sounds like chow mein is their main chow."
Linda and Kevin Wilkins are California natives. Kevin's great love of the English language was passed on to him by his father and he, in turn, is passing it on to their 11-year-old son, Brandon. Linda, a Manager of Administration for 11 years, sends a daily e-mail "Thought for the Day"
to all employees in the company.
I was at an in-law family gathering recently when talk turned to happenings at their church. When I stated that I didn't attend church, my sister-in-law loudly replied, "No comment!" I said:
"Your no comment speaks volumes."
Jody Zlock works in the superintendent's office of her school district in Johnson City, New York. She has two daughters in college. Her interests include New York State wines, reading, and painting whimsical birdhouses.