How many times in my childhood did a playground battle of words end with “he told you!” (the British equivalent might be “burn!”). This was the point of no recovery – once the killer put-down had been delivered the only option for the vanquished was to summon what was left of their dignity and slink off to fight another day.
Such antics aren’t confined to the playground. Think of the millions of people who live in the world inhabited by Jerry Springer and Jeremy Kyle, and the millions more who take pleasure in watching the back and forth of “oh no he didn’t!” and “oh yes she did!” on daytime TV. Lest anyone think themselves immune to the pleasure of a good put down, how many people relished repeating the Dowager Countess’s latest zinger around the office coffee machine on a Monday morning?
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