A Brief and Occasionally Accurate Guide to CricketBy James Irwin
December 29, 2010
Author’s Note: This has been written shortly after England retained The Ashes (it’s a real thing) in Melbourne. I am wearing a knitted cricket jumper and drinking tea. I’m doing my bit for the national stereotype.
A Brief History of Cricket
Cricket is an exquisite sport enjoyed by gentleman of fine taste, and tolerated by ladies of a discerning disposition. Invented, like all the best sports, in England it soon spread across the globe with the ever expanding Empire.
Originally devised by the Earl of Thannickshire to keep his staff occupied during the summer months, the eleven-a-side sport was soon picked up by the middle and working classes and played on the finest lawns across the country, every village green, and even in the streets by the orphaned ragamuffins of old London Town.
Unfortunately the great scoundrel epidemic of 1834 led to the imprisonment of up to seventy ne’er do wells, all of whom were exiled to Australia. These men quickly raised the popularity of the game in Australia, where they’ve been taking it far too seriously ever since.
Meanwhile merchant traders travelling to India and the West Indies taught the locals in all the major ports the game; a decision many regretted almost one hundred years later when the West Indies bowling attack was all but unstoppable. It was also taught to traders in China, but despite being able to understand mah-jong, the rules of cricket somewhat befuddled them.
Despite being the greatest game on Earth, the popularity of cricket was diminished by the invention of both rugby and football. The former being more entertainingly violent, the latter more easily understood by every nation on Earth.
Cricket took a further knock when the United States ended their Civil War and created violent versions of British sports to give the world baseball, FOOOOOTBALLLLL!, and basketball. For added measure they also took hockey, the game of choice for sexually confused private school girls, and added ice, Canadians, and Rambo-esque violence to sate any remaining bloodlust amongst the new nation’s sports fans.
In the modern age cricket is a marginalized sport that is often ignored in favour of more dazzling events, such as darts, snooker, and lawn bowls. However, it is one of the few English sports that has successfully blended old traditions with new technology and has recently seen a resurgence in England’s ability to win games. They have recently defeated Australia, in Melbourne, Australia. This is significant, because in its long and glorious history England vs. Australia is the only game of cricket that anyone really cares about.
The Ashes is a tournament held every eighteen months or so, hosted alternately by England and Australia. Each tournament is comprised of five tests (matches) and each match lasts for up to five days. If England are hosting it happens during the summer, but it’s played during Christmas if it’s in Australia.
The Ashes is almost as old as cricket itself, and was started because of the aforementioned habit of the Australians to take things far too seriously. The players essentially play for pride, because the actual trophy is a minute urn older than the jar of salad cream in my grandmother’s fridge. It contains, surprisingly enough, ashes, taken as a souvenir from the legendary ‘Hercules Test’ of 1844 which lasted twelve long months and ended in deserved draw.
The England-Australia rivalry is one of the greatest in any sport because it is fierce but good natured and rarely descends into violence. This is largely thanks to both sets of fans enjoying al fresco dining, the consumption of beer, and directing witty songs at each other.
Instances of Humour in Cricket
Cricket commentary is often rife with humour, as commentators spend five days alongside each other with admittedly very little going on in front of them. They can often be heard entertaining themselves by making lewd remarks about any young ladies in attendance, and satirize the faces of crowd members with the misfortune to be either unattractive or unusual in some way.
It has been known for cricket commentary to descend into absurd, existentialist games of I Spy which only ends when Shane Warne inevitably spies ‘B’ for ‘bosoms.’
For many enthusiasts the funniest thing that has ever happened in cricket is when Michael Holding of the West Indies stepped up to bowl to English batsmen Peter Willey. The commentator proudly announced that ‘the bowler’s Holding the batsman’s Willey.’
Tragically, listeners were unaware of the extra ‘e’ in Willey and many broke down in hysterics under impression that not only was the bowler sexually abusing the batsman, but neither the umpires nor commentators seemed particularly phased by events. Fortunately the mix-up was soon put clear, although by that point England had already lost and Holding was under investigation by the authorities.
On the pitch ‘sledging’ is commonplace, and refers the exchanging of cheap insults between batsmen and bowlers. Often this amounts to little more than childish accusations of homosexuality, ineptitude, or a baseless questioning of the opponents ability to satisfy his wife sexually. On one occasion an Australian batsmen asked England’s Ian Botham ‘how’s your wife and my kids?’ Botham, widely considered the Oscar Wilde of sport, replied ‘the wife’s fine, but the kids are retarded.’ Haha!
Understanding the Complexities of the Game
Cricket has come along way from its humble beginnings, but is very much the same game played by the Earl of Thannickshire’s man servants all those years ago. You may, after reading this, be inclined to try watching an actual game yourself. The following is intended as an instructional guide to aid your understanding and following of the action:
Cricket matches can be played on beaches, quiet streets, school playgrounds, village greens, and even in hotel rooms with two or more people, a chair, a shoe, and a rolled up pair of socks. However, your best chance of viewing a test match will be by visiting a cricket ground, which will boast a full sized pitch, a good bar, and more men in white than a lunatic asylum— and nearly as many lunatics.
Cricket can be quite simple to comprehend, because almost everything is called a ‘wicket’ and wicket rhymes with cricket, so it’s fairly easy to remember.
A cricket pitch is vaguely circular, with a dusty strip in the middle. This strip is called a wicket. At either end there are three stumps of wood (stumps) with two bits of wood perched along the top. These are also called wickets. Like basketball, the aim of the game is to score as many runs as possible by hitting a ball with a bat. Runs can be scored by running between the wickets, or by hitting a ‘boundary.’ This can be achieved by hitting the ball to the edge of the pitch along the ground for four runs, or over the edge of the pitch for a tantalising six runs.
But the bowlers (pitchers) will try to best the batsmen by ‘taking a wicket.’ This can be done either by hitting the stumps, by forcing the batsmen to block the ball with his leg (against the rules), or if a fielder catches the ball between the time the batsmen hits it and the time the ball hits the ground.
Unlike most sports which last, at most, a few hours and are divided into halves or quarters, cricket lasts from 11am to 6pm over five days. There are breaks for lunch at 1pm and tea at around 4pm. 11pm is, contrary to popular medical belief, a perfectly acceptable time to start drinking— although it is considered quite common to drink anything other than ale before lunch.
At lunch fans and players convene in the pavilion dining hall where a light lunch is served. The salmon at Lord’s is famous the world over, although the oxtail soup is not to be turned away lightly! Tea is exclusive to players only, as they enjoy a full Devonshire cream tea and Vera Lynn records in the Gentleman’s Lounge. Of course it is possible to purchase equivalent sweet treats within the ground. It is considered polite, after tea, to move onto either wine or spirit drinks.
Clapping is the standard and only accepted expression of approval within cricket grounds. Unlike American sports, cricket does not encourage horns, whistles, face paint, body paint, costumes, or any form of nudity. This is relaxed slightly during the Ashes, but that’s largely to accommodate visiting Australian fans. Make sure to only clap when something happens (when it does you’ll know), and when everyone else is.
Fortunately for you, the uninitiated, cricket is full of nonsense terms which, when used heavily in a sentence, will make sense to those around you; for example ‘Oh, gosh. That reverse sweep of the googly was rather exquisite— if only they’d fielded fewer slips and shifted the gully leg-side I dare say we would have had a fair shot at nipping the bugger’s wicket’ is little more than a string of made up words with ‘wicket’ thrown in at the end for context. It really is that easy.
You hear the term ‘that’s not cricket.’ This refers to cricket’s standing as a gentleman’s game, with cricket a synonym of ‘fair play.’ However, it can also be accurate said of any object, activity, or person who is not a game of cricket.
Author’s Note: A surprisingly high amount of this post is factual. Seriously.
Game attempt, old bean, but I confess that I remain utterly mystified about the game of cricket. I’ve come to accept that it’s simply one of those things that I just cannot understand, regardless of how patiently it’s explained to me. Like trying to teach my sister how to program the DVR to record from two separate channels simultaneously. It just ain’t gonna happen.
I’m not actually sure I can take any sport with a scheduled tea break seriously. It’s not helped when people – who are actually fans of the game – confess that, well, yes, it’s rather…boring. (Never tried to watch it, myself).
This post, however, is quite funny. Jolly good show, sir.
In truth cricket is like any sport: it can be outrageously dull or utterly thrilling. Often the length leaves vast swathes of time where nothing happens, but it also means that the drama can unfold with numerous twists and turns where the power shifts repeatedly.
‘Tea’ no longer actually includes tea. It’s all energy drinks and power bars, and this upsets me.
If you get a chance to watch Twenty20 cricket you should take it. It’s a shorter version of cricket which lasts no more than three hours and basically compacts all the interesting stuff into a fraction of the time by only allowing the bowlers to bowl a certain number of times.
Also, England are the world champions at that.
Jim -How could not mention ‘Horny Warney’ in your tags??
The inimitable Shane Warne is the best thing about cricket. I just have never been able to sit through a game though. It goes on for days and days and days and days…and that’s just not cricket!
It’s hard to write about Warne without stopping.
He’s a pundit now, and he is thoroughly entertaining.
I’m afraid cricket may be one of those things you have to be born into. My family was rather more into musicals and tap-dancing than sport of any kind, and so I’ve never been able to understand the obssessions people have with these various games. While from my p.o.v. spending several hours a day watching rugby/football/cricket seems like a bit of a waste of time, I do sometimes find myself wishing there was a way in for me – there must be SOMETHING about these things that keeps people hooked, I just can’t for the life of me figure out what it is.
I used to hate cricket it. It can be quite dull, but then all day every day for five days, sitting in the sun drinking ale and having picnics is all part of it, and holds arguably more appeal that the game itself…
Nice, James. Good job confusing the reader as to which is BS and which is British Empire Truth. Perfidious Albion. Something like that.
I still haven’t seen a game in person, but I’d go if I had the chance. Once, anyway.
When you talk about those 5-day games — those are Tests, aren’t they? I remain unclear as to how an ordinary game (for example, the TNB side against England) ends. I vaguely remember hearing on radio something like “300 runs and not out” which implied that after so many outs some side was out. Or in after tea. Or some damn thing.
But seriously — let’s say that a bunch of kids starts a pick-up game. How does it end (assuming it doesn’t end in Willy-holding, as one would expect for a bunch of Pommy Poofters).
My son created this trailer for a cricket film:
I asked him if he had to learn anything about cricket to make the trailer and he said, Fortunately, no.
Five day games are indeed Tests.
Each side has 11 players, the first five or so are specialist batsmen, there are a one or two ‘all-rounders’ who bat and bowl, the rest of the line up are bowlers. A team has an advantage if their bowlers are particularly efficient at batting.
Each side has tow innings/turns to bat. These are, in theory, endless. The end of each innings is after ten wickets have been taken, or if the batting side ‘declare’, where they essentially let the other team go in to bat accounting for the fact that a game can only be won after both teams have batted twice.
For example if we played England and after the first day England were 402-2 (402 runs, but at the loss of two wickets) they would probably declare. TNB would go into bat and miraculously manage 423 All out over two days of resillient batting. England would then resume batting and manage 354-7, leaving TNB needing something like 336 to win. If they manage 336 runs they have won, if they’re all out for anything less England have won. If by the end of day 5 they have less than 336 but still have batsmen waiting to bat then the game is a draw.
However, bowlers bowl in ‘overs’ which is made up of six deliveries. It is possible to restrict each innings to a certain number of overs. This happens in Twenty20 cricket, which is a much shorter game of about three hours. There is only one innings per side in this version.
I enjoyed that trailer, but then I enjoy stories about sports doing more than just entertaining fans…
Thanks. But I’m still wondering about kids playing in vacant lots (if there is such a thing). So then what this means is that when kids play, they play until they don’t feel like playing anymore, because the official rules generally require a long match? Or are the kids likely to set some arbitrary number of overs. Or is the nature of cricket that it just isn’t played like that?
Football (non-US meaning) of course can be played ad lib. I’m trying to get a feel for how the (to me) elaborate structure of cricket determines whether it can be played casually or not.
Well, the thing with cricket is that played causually it’s kind of like tossing a football around. There are elements of the game proper, but it’s largely non-competitive.
Whilst with soccer you only need two people and markers for goals to play a competitive match, a game of cricket can’t really occur with less than five on each side or a defined boundary or an umpire.
However, a casual variation can be played with a bat, ball, and the minimum of a batsman and bowler. Players taking it in turns to bat, bowl and field. I used to do this with my brother and father in our old garden. We had stumps set up, and you batted until you were caught or bowled, and switched. So it’s not properly competitive, but the aim of scoring runs and taking wickets is still there.
It’s just a bit of fun really, because our sporting culture isn’t so rigidly definied by success and competition as it is in other countries. It’s one of the few sports that doesn’t have a method for resolving a draw…
I’ve never watched cricket but I’ve played it. I’m not very good, obviously, having been born north of the border in the Land of the Terminally Sport Challenged. The best thing about cricket is the lingo and the reaction of foreigners to loud Englishmen bellowing these obscure phrases in response to everyday situations.
One of the reasons I like the game is because it’s one of the few sports I have any talent for.
It happens less and less often now, but I like having to explain facebook updates to my dear American friends on occasion. I’ll post things that will leave them utterly stumped…
“I’m not very good, obviously, having been born north of the border in the Land of the Terminally Sport Challenged.”
But, David, what about curling and golf? Surely the Scots trump everything in those sports.
Curling isn’t a proper sport, and certainly not mainstream (although one of those great underdog sports where millions of people will stay up until 3am to watch Team GB compete in the winter Olympics) and gold is dominated by Europeans. Although the world number one until recently was Lee Westwood. I don’t know if he still is, but he knocked Tiger Woods off recently.
Having said that Scotland are nearly good at football and rugby at the moment.
Tossing the caber has always been a terrific sport to watch…..don’t know whether it’s done outside Scotland. I thought curling was a big sport in Canada; it, too, is fun to watch and must be weirdly fun to play. One wonders how the creator of curling came upon the notion of it. Several stories circulate about the origin of golfing, usually jokes, of course.
I doubt that very much. Only in Scotland could throwing huge logs be considered ‘sport.’ Then again this is the country that calls haggis ‘food.’
Curling is actually quite enjoyable to watch in a strange sort of way.
I should also point out, unless I cause offence, that I love Scotland. Even though every time I’ve been I’ve become violently ill on arrival. It’s still very pretty, and the accent in one of the more pleasant to be heard across Britain.
“Scotland are nearly good at football and rugby at the moment.”
Well that’s just not true. Not even nearly true.
Yes, I suppose we have golf. And curling (although I’m sure 90% of the world’s population has never heard of it). And tennis (well, one guy who occasionally plays well).
it was a very loose use of the word ‘nearly.’
Also I got the outcome of the Wales-Scotland rugby match from the 6 Nations confused. I remembered Scotland winning that game, when in fact they lost quite badly.
Still, the football team isn’t that bad. Certainly better than it’s been since they got to the Euro 2000 qualifying play offs…
“…England vs. Australia is the only game of cricket that anyone really cares about.”
Pardon me, but I don’t really care about that game! Seriously, James, the only game I care about is South Africa vs Australia.
Ok, got to finish reading now….
I started out writing this as Englishly as I possibly could, and incredibly biased.
In fact I’m slightly embrassed not to mention South Africa, especially as quite recently it seemed that England were going to have to play them forever…
What I love about this, is the dry British sensibility, that the entire point of view of the piece never supposes for a moment that the reader ever has the inclination or need to actually set foot on the pitch.
(but perhaps, to replace divots.)
(oh, sorry, wrong English Sport)
Divots exist, unoffically in cricket. As the game progresses the pitch is subject to wear and tear, which helps the spin bowlers move the ball.
The two main types of bowling are fast, where the ball is thrown fast and straight, or spin where the ball is slower and swings after it hits the ground. Like this:
I know next to nothing about cricket, although I see the appeal in settling in for an 8 hour sporting event on tv. Talk about leisure!
The only thing I know about cricket is that David Boon was reported to have downed 52 cans of VC Bitters on the flight from Australia to the UK. I don’t think it was ever confirmed. Great legend, though. Leave it to the Aussies to come up with something as glorious as that.
It’s especially pleasant at the ground itself, out in the sunshine. I’d love to visit the West Indies on one of the winter tours. It’s not as traditional, obviously, but the weather is better and there are barbecues in the stands.
That’s impressive, but 52 cans of VC equate to about five pints of proper beer…
My knowledge of cricket comes almost entirely from the Bollywood movie Lagaan. But I did once have someone show me a clip with the commentator’s remarking on a distant passing bus that was actually very funny, so it sounds like it’s worth watching just for this. Here in France, I wonder if I’ve been subconsciously discouraged from showing interest in cricket.
At the same time, it can remind me a bit of Owen Wilson’s description of the game Hot box in Fantastic Mr. Fox.
It is worth it for the commentary, if you like funny old men discussing trivial observations. Apparently there are parts of France where cricket is being played quite passionately. I saw a mini-documentary during the last Ashes series.
Hot Box is child’s play next to cricket!
Saw that movie recently, and yes, it was definitely a sendup of cricket. Brilliant one, I might add.
Nice, Nathaniel. You and I both went to The Fantastic Mr. Fox when trying to understand this post.
Can all the parents in the room please raise their hands?
Never seen a cricket match/game. Your post has sparked an interest though. Cheers.
I’m trying to convert people, but less violently than the Crusades attempted to convert people to Christianity…
Ahahahaha. I so love you for always making me laugh out loud! Young Sir, you do my heart well on this cloudy day.
Cloudy? It’s incredibly foggy over here in east England.
Always a relief to know a joke has been well received, cheers!
As a fan of anything involving lewd remarks, your cricket commentary section really appealed to me. But then the game complexities bit went straight over my head. You know I’m terrible at maths, Irwin. (:
I’m just awful at maths, but the nice old men explain everything so you don’t have to work it out for yourself.
The complexities are essentially the dull context for the lewd remarks…
I’m going to be honest and confess that I did not read this and I can’t say that I will. I am commenting because I love you and your writing deserves at least one more comment.
Now, if you were to write something on football, I’d be all over that shit!
I might be biased, but you definitely should (read the post). It’s only very vaguely about sports, and there is a bit about football in there as well! Honest.
But thank you for commenting anyway.
I did a football post over the summer, and meant to do more but the truth is I find it nearly impossible to write about sports. It frustrates me, but for some reason I can’t do it very well.
Irwin, how Veddy English of you!
I loved this. Halfway through, my grin widening, I decided that you were parodying/exampling the nature of humour itself…..a monumental, daunting job, but somebody’s got to do it (Jonathon Swift did a fine and equally Veddy English job of it, after all).
In your parodies of English, Australian and USAmerican sports behaviours—-always with your careful Brit Wit—-you achieved what no one has ever done: Taught me the modus operandi and rules of several sports.
“For many enthusiasts the funniest thing that has ever happened in cricket is when Michael Holding of the West Indies stepped up to bowl to English batsmen Peter Willey. The commentator proudly announced that ‘the bowler’s Holding the bowler’s Willey.’ ”
“On one occasion an Australian batsmen asked England’s Ian Botham ‘how’s your wife and my kids?’ Botham, widely considered the Oscar Wilde of sport, replied ‘the wife’s fine, but the kids are retarded.’ ”
“Clapping is the standard and only accepted expression of approval within cricket grounds. Unlike American sports, cricket does not encourage horns, whistles, face paint, body paint, costumes, or any form of nudity. This is relaxed slightly during the Ashes, but that’s largely to accommodate visiting Australian fans. Make sure to only clap when something happens (when it does you’ll know), and when everyone else is.”
Can’t forget this:
“That reverse sweep of the googly was rather exquisite— if only they’d fielded fewer slips and shifted the gully leg-side I dare say we would have had a fair shot at nipping the bugger’s wicket’ . . .”
Irwin, do I dare say that your writing’s “cricket”?
Me now off for some scones with clotted cream.
This is one of the nicest comments I’ve ever received (sorry everyone else).
The writing equivalent of cricket is what I’ve always aspired to be!
Oh, scones! I love scones! How do you pronounce it though?
Thank you, Irwin; you well earned the praise.
Re pronouncing “scones,” the best sound (and “sound”) explanation I know is one offered by our esteemed TNB intellect, Uche Ogbuji; to wit, say “scone” as you’d say “sconce.”
A USAmerican can get tongue-lash trying to pronounce all of this correctly:
“I sat alone on the cold, hard Stone of Scone, me with my shivering bones, whilst eating a tasty ton of crumpets and frozen scones.”
Uche is quite correct, although I believe in your part of England the other pronounciation is more popular. i.e. as though it rhymes with ‘bone.’
That is a mine-fieild that sentence. I gave it a go, and I always end up pronouncing scones incorrectly… very tricky that one.
Interesting, Irwin; I’ll be eager to test the “scone” pronunciation out in Darlington when I get back. The city’s filled with diverse dialects which are anything from Geordie and Scots to Yorkshire and East Midlands, even though it’s sited in Durham. I’m gonna take a digital voice recorder and go out gathering language samples since I always regret not being able to duplicate the sounds or remember where each speaker hails from.
It’s only a general ‘rule’, but in northern dialects it tends to be that one, and the ‘proper’ pronounciation in the south.
One of my housemates is a Gerodie, although his accented has been softened by living in Stockton. I think he pronounces it properly. It’s a weird thing where it’s partially up to regional dialect, and partially to your own preference.
that would be “the bowler’s Holding the BATSMAN’s Willey”….right?
woops. Yes, thanks.
I mean… er… that’s what it says… and… um… always has done…
I shall be enjoying this piece early next year. Meanwhile, happy new year, yo.
I was hoping you’d appear Steve.
I vaguely recall you writing about Shoreditch. I’m visiting the area on the 25th with my comedy group (we’re doing a show at The Workshop) and it’d be nice to meet up if you were around.
Argh! The 25th is the birthday of two of my best friends (and one’s a 40th this year) – but they might be celebrating later rather than on the Tuesday, in which case I’ll come down. Top!
Oh, that’s a shame. You should, as a birthday treat, take them to a substandard student comedy show…
Tonight’s the night! My friends’ thing is going ahead, I hope your thing is fun and successful etc.
Thanks for the entertaining education, Irwin! What little I know, I know from the book Netherland. Have you read it? Much cricket involved. Also, I always got cricket confused with croquet … and croquettes and crochet and lacrosse.
I’ve not, although I’ve heard of it, seen it, and considered reading it before looking at the pile of books I already own that I’ve yet to read…
Croquet sounds like it could be a French version of cricket. It isn’t though, of course. I’m still immensely disappointed that over the summer I missed the opportunity to have tea, sandwiches, and play croquet at an open lawn party held by a local vicar. Nobody would go with me, and I didn’t want to crash the place on my own.
Even more disappointing is that if I’d known I’d be doing stand up again by the end of the year I would have gone purely for the anecdotal value…
It was also taught to traders in China, but despite being able to understand mah-jong, the rules of cricket somewhat befuddled them. – – – You, sir, are really damn funny. Also, mah-jong is stupid hard.
What the hell is salad cream? Is it anything like Branston Pickle? You Brits and your weird fucking food. (Though I would, again, like to thank you for HP Sauce.)
I really wanted to laugh at the Willey joke but I just don’t understand the rules of
WhackbatCricket well enough to follow.
I enjoyed reading about Cricket more than I thought I would. Nice, Irwin!
Thank you Gloria! I like it when people say things like that.
I’ve never played mah-jong. Our family had a board, or something, and it never got used because… well… what the fuck are you supposed to do?! How does it work?! Can’t we play Mousetrap instead? Or just watch the television…?
Salad cream is nothing like pickle! It’s kind of like tangy mayo, but better than it sounds. I haven’t had it in ages. Salad cream basically serves the same purpose as mayo— a sauce for salad.
I can’t tell if you’re joking or not about the willey joke. But if not it’s quite simple. One side fields (same sort of thing as baseball) and one side bats. The bowler bowls (pitches) to the batsman. So often in commentary the commentator will say who’s batting and who’s bowling because they change. There are two batsmen on the field at a time taking in turn, and a variety of bowlers who change around at intervals.
Do you want to know a secret? I don’t actually know an awful lot about cricket. My knowledge is just north of being basic.
But then this piece is only vaguely about cricket…
I wasn’t joking about willey. Couldn’t follow. Do you know what I’m talking about when I joke that it’s like Whackbat? From The Fantastic Mr. Fox? If not, you’re missing out. Some of the strangest, most complicated (and funniest) stuff ever.
That game was mentioned in an earlier comment. I actually went to the cinema to see it with friends, except they all sat down before I did and the film had started when I came in and I had to sit by myself…
I’m going to take you at your word, James, that this is mostly factual. I’m easily fooled, since I may have seen a full sixty seconds of cricket altogether, and that was mostly, it seems to me, in James Bond movies or the like, where two villains would meet at a match and plot world domination, with occasional cuts to the action on the field.
The Ian Botham bit brings to mind a humor piece I read years ago, when I was a kid. It was entitled “The Wit of Winston Churchill,” and there were a number of (fictional) vignettes like the one I’ll now paraphrase.
An aristocratic young woman sat next to Churchill during a state dinner. Churchill held forth on a variety of topics, and the young woman finally turned to him and said, “Mr. Churchill, I care as little for your political views as I do your table manners.” Churchill regarded her with an eyebrow arched at a debonair angle and said, “Fuck you, bitch.”
That’s a funny fictional anecdote, but the problem is it’s never going to top the genuine wit and wisdom of Churchill.
There are some well known ones, but my favourite is lesser know.
Churchill, a relatively senior MP, is in the toilets of the House of Commons and goes to leave without washing his hands. A younger opposition MP turns to him and says ‘At Eton we were taught to wash our hands after we’d been to the lavatory.’
Churchill turns to him and says ‘Well at Harrow we were taught not to piss on our hands.’
Eton and Harrow, incidentally, are private schools with a certain rivalry.
[…] I’ve been meaning to post here at TNB for a while now. Today seems like as good a days as any… it’s not like it’s a public holiday or anything. It’s actually one of those rare days in the calendar where absolutely nothing of historical interest has ever happened in all the thousands of years of human existence… Well, there was that trivial little incident in 1776, but I’ve bored you enough with the history of cricket. […]