Elements of Wit: Mastering the Art of Being Interesting

3,11 valoración promedio
( 247 valoraciones por Goodreads )
 
9780399169106: Elements of Wit: Mastering the Art of Being Interesting

Got wit?

We’ve all been in that situation where we need to say something clever, but innocuous; smart enough to show some intelligence, without showing off; something funny, but not a joke. What we need in that moment is wit—that sparkling combination of charm, humor, confidence, and most of all, the right words at the right time.

Elements of Wit is an engaging book that brings together the greatest wits of our time, and previous ones from Oscar Wilde to Nora Ephron, Winston Churchill to Christopher Hitchens, Mae West to Louis CK, and many in between.

With chapters covering the essential ingredients of wit, this primer sheds light on how anyone—introverts, extroverts, wallflowers, and bon vivants—can find the right zinger, quip, parry, or retort...or at least be a little bit more interesting.

"Sinopsis" puede pertenecer a otra edición de este libro.

About the Author:

Benjamin Errett is the managing editor for features at the National Post, a Canadian national newspaper. He lives in Toronto. He thanks you for reading this far on his Amazon page and encourages you to add his book to your cart. He is fairly sure you won't regret it.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

*And P. G. Wodehouse, from whom this dedication is borrowed

INTRODUCTION

Why Wit?

There you are, in a big sales meeting. The client makes a weak joke in your direction and the boss looks your way. Say something. Say anything. Well, not just anything—you need something clever but innocuous, smart enough to show your intelligence without showing off, something funny but not a joke. You don’t want to be offensive, snide or holier than thou. If this were a game of tennis, you’d simply want to keep the ball in play. At this moment, what you need is wit.

Unfortunately, in the time it took to read those sentences, your window of opportunity has slammed shut. The pregnant pause gave birth to awkward silence, and a colleague coughed, or spoke up, or dropped a pen. The spotlight has shifted, at least for now. But this will happen again, one day. A moment like this will be presented to you and you alone. You can once more hope for a distraction. (Or maybe hire your coughing colleague to follow you around, hacking you out of difficult situations.)

Alternately, you can respond with just the right words at just the right time, putting the client at ease, impressing the boss, brightening the room and showing yourself to be in command of the situation.

OK, so maybe you don’t attend sales meetings. You’re self-employed. You avoid people who cough. Still, wouldn’t you choose the second option? Of course you would. But how?

This book is how. It’s also why, and most important, it’s who.

What if one of the Great Wits had been sitting in your chair in that moment of need? Say Oscar Wilde, green carnation in lapel and all, was prepared to offer a rejoinder on your behalf. Why, it would be like when Alvy Singer enlisted Marshall McLuhan to quiet a loudmouth in Annie Hall.

To be clear, the physical reanimation of the illustrious dead is sadly not the subject of this book. Instead, it’s a deep dive into the character traits of the Great Wits, those names seen most often at the end of aphorisms and quips, with one express purpose: To find out how they did it. What skills, talents, flaws and peccadillos fixed their wit in the popular imagination? And—this is where you, sitting in your little sales meeting, praying for inspiration, come in—how can a modern reader learn from these individuals?

In some cases, the lessons are almost entirely what not to do. There are Great Wits who led horrid lives, the wisecracks coming at the price of just about everything else. Can you subtract the substance abuse, the cruelty, the thwarted aspirations and the abject misery to leave behind a facility for sparkling epigrams? This book says, you know what? Sure you can.

A Brief Socratic Dialogue That Includes Finger Foods

We open on the Author’s sitting room. You sit side by side in tastefully upholstered wingback chairs. The fireplace is crackling away and there is still frost on your respective martini glasses. The Reader is briefly surprised by the transportive power of words—a moment ago you were thumbing through this book on the new and noteworthy table at the bookseller, but maybe that’s the Tanqueray talking. You regain composure and repeat your question.

READER: What’s the point of wit?

AUTHOR: The sharp end, the part that hurts.

READER: You know what I mean. What’s it for?

AUTHOR: It’s for intelligent conversation, sharp thinking, laughter, truth and human civilization. But what’s more important is what it’s against.

READER: Which is?

AUTHOR: Regurgitated thought, talking points, doublespeak, stagnation and dullness.

READER: So it’s for good things and against bad things? These days, who isn’t?

AUTHOR: Ah, but wit is the horse that best pulls that crowded bandwagon.

READER: And you’re saying she’s been put out to pasture by mistake?

AUTHOR: Exactly. But not by mistake, really.

READER: So what do we need to bring her back, aside from another drink?

The Author swallows the last drops of his martini, fetches your empty glass, passes you a plate of deviled eggs and walks over to the well-stocked beverage cart.

READER: Less vermouth this time, please.

AUTHOR: Of course. Now what I mean to say is that wit hasn’t simply been gently forgotten. It’s been misunderstood, redefined and twisted into a meaningless word. Its definition is now barely defined.

READER: So who’s made wit so meaningless, what did it used to mean, where did we go wrong, when was this alleged golden age of wit and why should we care?

AUTHOR: You forgot how.

READER: How will you answer my previous questions?

AUTHOR: The insecure made it meaningless; it once meant good sense that sparkles; we killed it by accusing it of cruelty and memorizing bad jokes instead; it was ascendant during the Enlightenment, but perhaps also during the 1920s; and we should care because it’s the best possible use of our brains.

READER: The best possible use of our brains? What about curing diseases? Repartee isn’t much use against the Ebola virus.

AUTHOR: OK, “best” may be a subjective term there. But wit, if we return to its original definition—and perhaps dress it up a bit for the twenty-first century—can get us to all sorts of discoveries.

READER: And that original definition is good sense that sparkles?

AUTHOR: In brief, yes. That’s how the seventeenth-century French thinker Dominique Bouhours defined “bel esprit,” literally “beautiful spirit.” Or as thinkers like Johnson, Hazlitt and Coleridge defined it in England at about the same time, it’s the rapid combination of disparate ideas to create delight. Our definition is even simpler: Wit is spontaneous creativity.

The Reader helps self to a third martini and a fistful of gherkins.

READER: So you’re saying wit is creativity?

AUTHOR: Wit is the ability to be creative on the fly, to combine ideas in conversation, to make connections quickly and with joy, and in doing so make life worth living.

READER: Wit is necessary, sparkly, the opposite of jokes and similar to creativity? I can see why you say it’s misunderstood.

AUTHOR: The three-martini introduction probably isn’t helping. Shall we return to the book?

READER: (Hiccups and nods appreciatively.)

Defining Our Terms

Wit is, for our purposes, spontaneous creativity. Note that this definition doesn’t specify that wit is true, or that it’s funny. We might add the words “to create delight” on the end of that definition, but on some level all creativity is delightful to a thinking mind.

How did we get to this definition? As we’ve seen, there were some brilliant Enlightenment thinkers who set out inspiring meanings for the word “wit.” The problem is, they were too good. They made wit sound like the best thing ever, the ultimate compliment and the pinnacle of human achievement. Soon, that meant everything good was wit; any good idea, clever remark or clear thought. Wit, as C. S. Lewis writes in his essay on the word, “suffered the worst fate any word has to fear; it became the fashionable term of approval among critics.” This led to it being further twisted, its meanings conflated until it was “semantically null.” Now it has come to rest as a vague subset of humor, used to describe certain movies or books but rarely in any specific way.

That didn’t totally happen with the word “wit” when used to describe a person. If you refer to someone as a Wit, your meaning will generally be understood. Now, we arrive at the concept of creativity from the Enlightenment definitions of wit as an attribute, but we can also get there as we talk about the Wit as a person—though by a very different path.

There is a small body of research from the 1960s on the character of the Wit, much of it coming from a mysterious U.S. military research group known as Serendipity Associates. The U.S. Air Force, it seems, was very interested in harnessing the power of the Wit. It funded a series of papers by this group to examine who wits are and how they behave. In 1963’s “The Wit in Large and Small Established Groups,” the Air Force found that “deliberate wits are associated with higher morale and greater role clarity and efficiency in small groups.” A year later, in “The Wit and His Group,” a study of two six-person groups found that wits “expressed a positive self-image,” and that groups containing wits “evaluated the group experience favorably” and “did better on a problem-solving task than others.”

And in 1965’s “Wit, Creativity and Sarcasm,” researchers made the jump to creative thinking, finding that wit and creativity were positively correlated, and that while the Wit was not an effective leader in a group, having one around generally made everyone better at problem solving. With no real evidence to support this idea, I’d like to think that NASA used this research to choose the members of the Apollo missions, and that when the Navy assembles a team of SEALs for a perilous mission into enemy territory, it always includes at least one happy warrior. This would explain the presence of lovable doofus Chris Pratt in the otherwise lovable-doofus-free Zero Dark Thirty.

Further research solidified the link to creativity—it’s “the best single significant predictor of wit,” Dr. John F. Clabby wrote in 1980’s “The Wit: A Personality Analysis”—but from that point, the mention of wit in psychology research all but stops. At about the same time, there’s a marked increase in the study of creativity. Studies of how and why creativity happens were refined into concepts with names like divergent thinking (generating many different ideas) and conceptual blending (bringing those ideas together), both of which have a more than passing resemblance to the old “rapid combination of disparate ideas.”

The research interest in creativity intensifies after 1990, as that’s when U.S. student scores on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking stopped improving. In the field of IQ testing, there’s something called the Flynn Effect, in which average IQ scores creep up by about three points a decade. No one’s sure exactly why this happens, but the most interesting and broad explanations have to do with the effects of modern life on our minds: We have to be smarter just to work our smartphones.

The Torrance Tests had similar findings, but only until 1990. At that point, scores start decreasing; year after year, people actually become less creative. Why 1990? It’s unclear, and while it almost certainly has nothing to do with the fact that Dances with Wolves beat Goodfellas for the best picture Oscar that year, we will make a passing mention of that travesty anyway.

As of 2010, scores were still falling, hence a Newsweek cover story titled “The Creativity Crisis.” Why is this happening? The usual culprits of TV and video games are often blamed, as is the education system with its standardized tests. But as with the Flynn Effect, no one’s really sure. The one certainty about this news is that if you’re a social scientist looking to have your research funded, it can’t hurt to highlight the word “creativity,” and maybe throw in some neurobiology while you’re at it.

And therein lies the problem with talking about creativity: It’s a huge subject with many working theories and even more definitions. The act of creation is exactly what a sculptor does, for instance, but creative thinking is just as necessary for genetic researchers and CEOs.

A worthy parsing of what creativity means comes from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychology professor who wrote a book called, creatively enough, Creativity. As he explains, there are “three different phenomena that can be legitimately called by this name.” In inverse order, he discusses people who’ve dramatically changed the culture, people who “experience the world in novel and original ways” and then the group we’re most interested in here:

The first usage, widespread in ordinary conversation, refers to persons who express unusual thoughts, who are interesting and stimulating—in short, to people who appear to be unusually bright. A brilliant conversationalist, a person with varied interests and a quick mind, may be called creative in this sense. Unless they also contribute something of permanent significance, I refer to people of this sort as brilliant rather than creative—and by and large I don’t say much about them in this book.

We’ll say plenty about them in this book, and the distinction Csikszentmihalyi makes is an important one. By his definition, some of the Wits we’ll meet are merely brilliant, some are creative and some are both. But what of those who may have created something of permanent significance but were much more dazzling in conversation? Or how about our contemporaries, those whose work can’t yet be tested for permanence because they’ve only just finished it? We’ll stick to creativity in our definition, and if this book helps you become spontaneously brilliant instead of spontaneously creative, we’ll assume you won’t demand your money back.

So think of wit as a backdoor into creativity, then. It’s not the sort that will help you create a Fortune 500 company, a poem that speaks to a generation or the next dance craze, at least not by itself. But it will help you make the most of daily conversations and interactions and feel more at home in the world. And who knows? That could be the first step toward something bigger.

A Question of Timing

But what about the spontaneity part of our definition?

Calling it spontaneous creativity would seem to put a premium on wit in conversation, since wit on the printed page is impossible to certify as impromptu. By spontaneity, we mean creativity that appears to happen at the speed of thought and in the moment. The key words here are “appears to happen.” Are stand-up comedians witty? The best are, sure, even though we know they’ve painstakingly honed their material. Wit can shine on the printed page, though even at this late stage in the history of books, it takes many months for them to pass from writer to reader. In a movie or television show, the wittiest dialogue may have been improvised—it’s a badge of honor for actors to ad-lib a great line—but it’s far more likely to have been scripted and rehearsed with great care. And even on talk-show interviews, we know the best quips have been drawn out of the guests in green-room interviews, with the hosts prompted to say, “So I hear you’re having trouble with your pet iguana” as though it’s a perfectly natural subject of conversation.

We should also note that wit need not even be in language: In art and especially graphic design, visual wit is among the highest of ideals. To borrow the title of an excellent book on the subject, wit in this context—as perhaps in all contexts—should create “a smile in the mind.” Take, for instance, the FedEx logo. Even if you’ve never used the courier, you can probably see its trademark font and colors in your mind’s eye. But did you ever notice the arrow hidden between the “E” and the “x”? This nearly subliminal message—a perfect symbol for its service—is famous in design circles for being hidden in plain sight. And...

"Sobre este título" puede pertenecer a otra edición de este libro.

Los mejores resultados en AbeBooks

1.

Errett, Benjamin
Editorial: Perigee Books 2014-10-07 (2014)
ISBN 10: 0399169105 ISBN 13: 9780399169106
Nuevos Paperback Cantidad: 1
Librería
BookOutlet
(Thorold, ON, Canada)
Valoración
[?]

Descripción Perigee Books 2014-10-07, 2014. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Paperback. Publisher overstock, may contain remainder mark on edge. Nº de ref. de la librería 9780399169106B

Más información sobre esta librería | Hacer una pregunta a la librería

Comprar nuevo
EUR 4,34
Convertir moneda

Añadir al carrito

Gastos de envío: EUR 5,06
De Canada a Estados Unidos de America
Destinos, gastos y plazos de envío

2.

Errett, Benjamin
Editorial: Penguin Group USA (2014)
ISBN 10: 0399169105 ISBN 13: 9780399169106
Nuevos Cantidad: > 20
Librería
Paperbackshop-US
(Wood Dale, IL, Estados Unidos de America)
Valoración
[?]

Descripción Penguin Group USA, 2014. PAP. Estado de conservación: New. New Book. Shipped from US within 10 to 14 business days. Established seller since 2000. Nº de ref. de la librería VP-9780399169106

Más información sobre esta librería | Hacer una pregunta a la librería

Comprar nuevo
EUR 7,20
Convertir moneda

Añadir al carrito

Gastos de envío: EUR 3,37
A Estados Unidos de America
Destinos, gastos y plazos de envío

3.

Benjamin Errett
Editorial: Penguin Putnam Inc, United States (2014)
ISBN 10: 0399169105 ISBN 13: 9780399169106
Nuevos Paperback Cantidad: 1
Librería
The Book Depository
(London, Reino Unido)
Valoración
[?]

Descripción Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2014. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Got wit? We ve all been in that situation where we need to say something clever, but innocuous; smart enough to show some intelligence, without showing off; something funny, but not a joke. What we need in that moment is wit--that sparkling combination of charm, humor, confidence, and most of all, the right words at the right time. Elements of Wit is an engaging book that brings together the greatest wits of our time, and previous ones from Oscar Wilde to Nora Ephron, Winston Churchill to Christopher Hitchens, Mae West to Louis CK, and many in between. With chapters covering the essential ingredients of wit, this primer sheds light on how anyone--introverts, extroverts, wallflowers, and bon vivants--can find the right zinger, quip, parry, or retort.or at least be a little bit more interesting. Nº de ref. de la librería AAS9780399169106

Más información sobre esta librería | Hacer una pregunta a la librería

Comprar nuevo
EUR 10,89
Convertir moneda

Añadir al carrito

Gastos de envío: GRATIS
De Reino Unido a Estados Unidos de America
Destinos, gastos y plazos de envío

4.

Errett, Benjamin
Editorial: Penguin Group USA (2014)
ISBN 10: 0399169105 ISBN 13: 9780399169106
Nuevos Cantidad: 11
Librería
Pbshop
(Wood Dale, IL, Estados Unidos de America)
Valoración
[?]

Descripción Penguin Group USA, 2014. PAP. Estado de conservación: New. New Book.Shipped from US within 10 to 14 business days. Established seller since 2000. Nº de ref. de la librería IB-9780399169106

Más información sobre esta librería | Hacer una pregunta a la librería

Comprar nuevo
EUR 7,54
Convertir moneda

Añadir al carrito

Gastos de envío: EUR 3,37
A Estados Unidos de America
Destinos, gastos y plazos de envío

5.

Errett, Benjamin
Editorial: TarcherPerigee (2014)
ISBN 10: 0399169105 ISBN 13: 9780399169106
Nuevos Paperback Cantidad: 10
Librería
Murray Media
(North Miami Beach, FL, Estados Unidos de America)
Valoración
[?]

Descripción TarcherPerigee, 2014. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Never used!. Nº de ref. de la librería 0399169105

Más información sobre esta librería | Hacer una pregunta a la librería

Comprar nuevo
EUR 9,25
Convertir moneda

Añadir al carrito

Gastos de envío: EUR 1,68
A Estados Unidos de America
Destinos, gastos y plazos de envío

6.

Benjamin Errett
Editorial: Penguin Putnam Inc, United States (2014)
ISBN 10: 0399169105 ISBN 13: 9780399169106
Nuevos Paperback Cantidad: 10
Librería
Book Depository hard to find
(London, Reino Unido)
Valoración
[?]

Descripción Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2014. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. Got wit? We ve all been in that situation where we need to say something clever, but innocuous; smart enough to show some intelligence, without showing off; something funny, but not a joke. What we need in that moment is wit--that sparkling combination of charm, humor, confidence, and most of all, the right words at the right time. Elements of Wit is an engaging book that brings together the greatest wits of our time, and previous ones from Oscar Wilde to Nora Ephron, Winston Churchill to Christopher Hitchens, Mae West to Louis CK, and many in between. With chapters covering the essential ingredients of wit, this primer sheds light on how anyone--introverts, extroverts, wallflowers, and bon vivants--can find the right zinger, quip, parry, or retort.or at least be a little bit more interesting. Nº de ref. de la librería BTE9780399169106

Más información sobre esta librería | Hacer una pregunta a la librería

Comprar nuevo
EUR 11,02
Convertir moneda

Añadir al carrito

Gastos de envío: GRATIS
De Reino Unido a Estados Unidos de America
Destinos, gastos y plazos de envío

7.

Benjamin Errett
Editorial: Penguin Random House
ISBN 10: 0399169105 ISBN 13: 9780399169106
Nuevos Cantidad: > 20
Librería
INDOO
(Avenel, NJ, Estados Unidos de America)
Valoración
[?]

Descripción Penguin Random House. Estado de conservación: New. Brand New. Nº de ref. de la librería 0399169105

Más información sobre esta librería | Hacer una pregunta a la librería

Comprar nuevo
EUR 8,09
Convertir moneda

Añadir al carrito

Gastos de envío: EUR 2,95
A Estados Unidos de America
Destinos, gastos y plazos de envío

8.

Benjamin Errett
Editorial: Penguin Putnam Inc, United States (2014)
ISBN 10: 0399169105 ISBN 13: 9780399169106
Nuevos Paperback Cantidad: 1
Librería
The Book Depository US
(London, Reino Unido)
Valoración
[?]

Descripción Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2014. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Got wit? We ve all been in that situation where we need to say something clever, but innocuous; smart enough to show some intelligence, without showing off; something funny, but not a joke. What we need in that moment is wit--that sparkling combination of charm, humor, confidence, and most of all, the right words at the right time. Elements of Wit is an engaging book that brings together the greatest wits of our time, and previous ones from Oscar Wilde to Nora Ephron, Winston Churchill to Christopher Hitchens, Mae West to Louis CK, and many in between. With chapters covering the essential ingredients of wit, this primer sheds light on how anyone--introverts, extroverts, wallflowers, and bon vivants--can find the right zinger, quip, parry, or retort.or at least be a little bit more interesting. Nº de ref. de la librería AAS9780399169106

Más información sobre esta librería | Hacer una pregunta a la librería

Comprar nuevo
EUR 11,12
Convertir moneda

Añadir al carrito

Gastos de envío: GRATIS
De Reino Unido a Estados Unidos de America
Destinos, gastos y plazos de envío

9.

Errett, Benjamin
Editorial: Perigee Books 10/7/2014 (2014)
ISBN 10: 0399169105 ISBN 13: 9780399169106
Nuevos Paperback or Softback Cantidad: 10
Librería
BargainBookStores
(Grand Rapids, MI, Estados Unidos de America)
Valoración
[?]

Descripción Perigee Books 10/7/2014, 2014. Paperback or Softback. Estado de conservación: New. Elements of Wit: Mastering the Art of Being Interesting. Book. Nº de ref. de la librería BBS-9780399169106

Más información sobre esta librería | Hacer una pregunta a la librería

Comprar nuevo
EUR 11,65
Convertir moneda

Añadir al carrito

Gastos de envío: GRATIS
A Estados Unidos de America
Destinos, gastos y plazos de envío

10.

Errett, Benjamin
Editorial: TarcherPerigee
ISBN 10: 0399169105 ISBN 13: 9780399169106
Nuevos PAPERBACK Cantidad: 1
Librería
Qwestbooks COM LLC
(Bensalem, PA, Estados Unidos de America)
Valoración
[?]

Descripción TarcherPerigee. PAPERBACK. Estado de conservación: New. 0399169105. Nº de ref. de la librería Z0399169105ZN

Más información sobre esta librería | Hacer una pregunta a la librería

Comprar nuevo
EUR 12,80
Convertir moneda

Añadir al carrito

Gastos de envío: GRATIS
A Estados Unidos de America
Destinos, gastos y plazos de envío

Existen otras copia(s) de este libro

Ver todos los resultados de su búsqueda