Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Satisfactions of Little Bill and Mrs Porter

In an essay by Christopher Ricks I read this:
'Cole Porter's wife, asked if her jewels are real, asks back: 'Real what?''
Mrs Porter declines the conventions of the question - after all, diamonds are not the only real thing - and asks instead the prior question, the one concealed by the turn of speech. I find this quite absurdly satisfying.
In Clint Eastwood's film Unforgiven, there is this:
'Strawberry Alice: You just kicked the shit out of an innocent man.
Little Bill Daggett: Innocent? Innocent of what?'
Again I am absurdly satisfied. Little Bill insists on the specificity of innocence because, to him, every man is guilty of something and, therefore, ripe to have his shit kicked out, no matter what he might have just done or failed to do.
I feel a list coming on - of responses that expose prior assumptions. They make me happy.


  1. What about Little Bill, "I don't deserve this." Will Munny, "Deserve's got nothing to do with it." What a fantastic film.

  2. Noel Coward's 'Why must the show go on?' also fits.

  3. "Edwin and Morcar, the earls of Mercia and Northumbria, declared for him: and even Stigand, the patriotic archbishop of Canterbury, found it advisable--"'

    `Found WHAT?' said the Duck.

    `Found IT,' the Mouse replied rather crossly: `of course you know what "it" means.'

    `I know what "it" means well enough, when I find a thing,' said the Duck: `it's generally a frog or a worm. The question is, what did the archbishop find?'

  4. At the risk of exposing my tragic geekiness:

    Luke Skywalker: "I'm looking for a great warrior."
    Yoda: "Great warrior? Wars not make one great."

    And, with an extra stroke of my figurative beard:

    Luke Skywalker: "All right, I'll give it a try."
    Yoda: "No. Try not. Do or do not - there is no try."

  5. This reminds me of a true story related by another blogger who I can't remember of an incident that happened in a Taco Bell restaurant in LA. Behind him in line was a man from Mexico.
    He asked the man: "So, is the food here like what you have in Mexico?"
    The reply: "Yes, it's just like the Taco Bells in Mexico."

    File under: authenticity.

  6. From the Seinfeld episode "Yada Yada":

    Elaine: (Raising hand) I've yada yada'd sex.

    George: Really?

    Elaine: Yeah. I met this lawyer, we went out to dinner, I had the lobster bisk, we went back to my place, yada yada yada, I never heard from him again.

    Jerry: But you yada yada'd over the best part.

    Elaine: No, I mentioned the bisk.

  7. Devil's dictionary:
    A writ by which a man may be taken out of jail when confined for the wrong crime.

  8. What do you think of Western Civilization, Mr. Gandhi?
    I think it would be a good idea.
    A well known one, but a good one nonetheless.

  9. ........not to mention.......
    thereby mentioning it.

  10. Shakespeare's newly crowned King Henry V's withering dismissal of the grasping Falstaff:

    "I know thee not old man."

    For me, the most powerful line in English literature. (Even if it is filed away slightly deeper than the collective musings of a rubber sci-fi puppet.)

    Indeed, Henry IV parts 1 and II can be seen as one long and magnificent exercise in the exposure of prior assumptions.