We’ve all been in that situation where somebody, for whatever reason, has pissed us off or insulted us and we had no comeback. Invariably, minutes or hours later, an absolute gem of a rejoinder comes to us. Of course, by the time we think of one it’s about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike. In some ways, it’s even more frustrating to come up with a rapier-like riposte too late than to never come up with one at all.

I was reading in the paper today about a few people blessed with the ability to not only come up with a good response on the spot, but to make an art form of it. Probably the most famous is Winston Churchill’s response to Bessie Braddock when she said, “Sir, you are drunk!” Churchill replied, “Madam, you are ugly. In the morning, I shall be sober.” Gold.

Another good one, closer to home, the late New Zealand prime minister Robert Muldoon, commenting on the migration of Kiwis to Australia said, “It’s raising the IQ’s of both countries.”

Let’s pop back to Churchill for a moment, as he was arguably the greatest sharp retort expert ever. Nancy Astor once opined, “Sir, if you were my husband, I would give you poison.” Churchill’s pause-free response was, “If I were your husband I would take it.”

And a very special one from Anon, Australia (it’s real origins lost in the mists of urban legend). A parliamentarian says, “Ladies and gentlemen, I am a country member!” The resounding response was, “We remember!”

The thing to remember is that when someone is annoying you, the best thing is to have ammo ready. Practice makes perfect and someone like Churchill didn’t have a skill like his from birth. He spent years making snide comments to all and sundry until he became an expert. We can be very petty creatures, us humans, and for that reason alone there are few things that will give you the kind of pleasure that a shredding comeback will. Consider it a sport and get practicing.