'Brevity is Soul of Wit'

…brevity is the soul of wit,
The phrase ‘brevity is the soul of wit’ owes its origin to this celebrated play of the ‘Bard of Avon’. But the phrase gained currency and now it has become a part and parcel of the host of standard English proverbs. But due to this generalization being applied to this phrase, the original context has been somewhat distorted. While the character of Polonius (in the play ‘Hamlet’), who utters these words is of very high opinion about his ‘wit’ yet he is the least witty and the least brief of all the characters. Sigmund Freud even went on to call him “the old chatterbox”, in his essay ‘With and its Relation to the Unconscious’.
For understanding the essence of the phrase ‘brevity is the soul of wit’ let us first try to comprehend what wit really means. The meaning of wit has undergone periodic change. In the Renaissance the word ‘wit’ meant wisdom or ‘intelligence’. Coming to the seventeenth century, it came to mean ‘fancy’, implying the kind of thought and language used in the metaphysical poetry, composed by the likes of John Donne.
Sometimes the word ‘wit is now used synonymously with ‘humour’ but this is only partially true. In the modern times the word ‘wit’ connotes intellectually amusing utterances. So we can safely say that with is human with a tinge of intellectual element, that is, a mixture of humour and wisdom.
Alexander Pope, while defining a true wit, has remarked “What oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed”. This brings us to the association of the element of brevity with the concept of wit. Even in our daily life we often stand witness to the situations like – sometimes a person cracks a joke but nobody laughs, while at other times only a statement consisting only of a few words clicks and is able to evoke roars of laughter. This is where the role of brevity in wit comes in. Pithy and precise statements can exercise the desired influence. As opposed to this, humour gets lost in the downpour of words. Verbosity can never be the basis and soul of wit.
So be careful, next time you say something to make someone smile, make it brief!


surjit said...

I agree with your views:
...'humour gets lost in the downpour of words...'
Not only humour but every piece of conversation requires brevity.
"A short saying often contains much wisdom." (Sophocles)
"The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do."
Thanks for sharing.
God bless.

Amritbir Kaur said...

Thanks for sharing your wise words. Also for providing valuable sayings and thus, adding more weight to my post.

Nate said...

Bravo.... I say, well done old chap! Ok so I'm not english, but you taught me something. thank you!


Nate said...

Excellent... I say, well done old chap! Ok so I'm not english but you taught me something. thank you