Ah, the art of the quip. Many opponents have fallen due to the judicious placement of a well-constructed turn of phrase.
“Wit has truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words.” – Dorothy Parker
On the other hand, many opponents have not. Whether the fault is in your lack of wit or theirs, one must always be prepared for a quip to fall flat.
There’s a very specific kind of humiliation that comes from losing a battle of wits because the opponent, and the audience in general, responds more to catch phrases and other empty jests. If you’ve witnessed any presidential debate of the last several decades, you surely know what I mean.
Unless you are trained and experienced in the use of the quip, you can be certain of frequent misfires. Even with an instinctive talent and years of verbal sparring, there is still significant possibility of a quip fizzling or blowing up in your face.
In general, you should never enter a battle if you are not prepared to lose. Yes, I understand the heady flash that comes from putting everything on the line with one delicate but powerful burst of verbal secret weapons. If you can’t handle the worst case scenario, forget grabbing for the glory. I’m trying to purchase this beautiful piece of waterfront property, and I’m sparring with the agent. I REALLY want this real estate, and I’ve been looking for almost a year before finding it, so I would kill to own it. Can I take the negotiations to my advantage, or can I royally screw this deal? Sometimes you have a lot riding on the quip.
In a verbal sparring match, the winner is sometimes decided simply because the loser can’t come up with anything else. Wit can achieve this, but so can shock and pathos. Avoid putting yourself in a situation where you win the battle but lose the crowd.
Then again, sometimes a quip in passing is fun, too. There need be nothing nasty about a quip, especially if your intended target is conversant with irony and sarcasm. Hey, if it’s the right person, let’s say your realtor, a quip might lead to everlasting love of the perfect waterfront real estate property! Now that would be brilliant.
Some people feel that a quip is a sign of disrespect or disregard. This is not necessarily the case. I mean it is possible that a person quip out of these emotions but it is just as likely that they are only being playful. There is nothing wrong with some quick wit as a matter of fact many relationships not only survive in the midst of the action but seem to thrive on the feedback of others.
Let’s face it, some professions lend themselves to being the butt of a quip, such as maritime attorneys or perhaps just attorneys / lawyers in general. Living in Lafayette, LA, I’m very familiar with at least one maritime attorney based in Lafayette who serves the workers at the waterfront. Sure it’s pretty easy to put lawyers down, but the fact of the matter is that they can also be very helpful. If you’re ever in a offshore rig or vessel accident, it could be your lawyer who made sure you received the compensation you needed / deserved. During all the days you are out of work, fretting about money, undergoing weeks of rehab, your lawyer will be the one that’s out there dealing with the insurance companies and finally filing papers for a trial. You probably want to out of court – it’s faster than a trial. It’s true the lawyer takes his fee of 35% of your settlement which I am sure some people would make a quip or two about, but at the end of the day he will be worth every penny and you’ll be grateful you found him/her. I still might make a quip about lawyers, but in the back of my head I acknowledge my appreciation for the hard work lawyers put in to help us out.