My Top Ten List of One-Liners

Cartoon Figures Laughing

Are you a fan of jokes?  Humorous anecdotes?  Yes?  Me too!  I’m crazy for jokes, puns, humorous stories, children’s charming statements, and most especially,  one-liners.

My appreciation for one-liners is in their compactness and humorous punch, their auditory appeal, and the instant response they call up in me:  a belly-laugh.   There is a prime selection that I never tire of  (of which I never tire?*), no matter the number of times I read them or hear them.  They just make me laugh all over again.  It’s delicious.

My personal favorites are a product of my family culture, handed down from my maternal grandmother, maternal uncle, and my mother.  They were a witty bunch.  These deep-source one-liners (I just coined that phrase, by the way), from my family of origin, may certainly have their roots in broader culture.  But they came to me in my childhood, either directly or through story — and their value is in the timelessness and the way they so cleverly encapsulate the absurdities of life.  They are applicable to diverse situations and individuals – proof of their versatility.

Other one-liners came to me through popular culture, friends, or unfortunate circumstance.

Here’s  The List.

10.  If you get through this you can play any bar in Chicago.

Origin:  My friend Karen and I were singing at the wedding reception of one of my teachers many years ago.  The sound system was poor, children climbed up on the mini stage with us and tugged at our dresses, or fought at our feet as we sang.  Most folks appeared unaware of our presence in the room.  At the end of the evening, a quiet gentleman approached us and gently offered the above assessment.  We mumbled our thanks.  He will never know the longevity and meaning of his statement.  I have used it for many years now with my early childhood education students, to buoy them and lighten their anxiety when they have to teach a song to their classmates or present a lesson plan.

9.  The church is drier than my mother’s pork chops.  This statement was emailed by my musician friend, Nicki Denofrio (check out her blog, to the choir as a warning prior to a rehearsal, along with a suggestion to bring a bottle of water.  And this is miles away from her best material.  Sheesh.

8.  I could eat that and hold one foot in the fire.  Stated by Winona Judd in an interview (media source unknown).  My personal application of this masterful observation:  at meal settings when paella, sweet potato fries, raspberry scones, or triple chocolate cookie balls are presented.


7.  Wash up as far as possible, wash down as far as possible, and then wash possible.  Shared with my siblings and me by my super uncle, Herbert Victor Juul — the most sublime uncle any child could ever be blessed to have in one’s life.  Yes, you  must do a complete job, musn’t  you?

6.  It’s gone to God, to hell with it.  My best memory is of my mother stating this when a food product was spilled or dropped on the kitchen floor.  She heard that from her mother.  I invite my siblings to check the accuracy of my memory on this one.  Y’all?

Cartoon of Family at Dinner Table

5.  He likes work so much he’ll lie right down beside it.  Uttered by my maternal grandmother, Nana — Kathryn Juul — the consummate grandmother;  no specific anecdotal reference, but the statement is self-explanatory, no?

4.  You should remember your prayers as well.  Uttered by my grandmother in response to any enthusiastically-shared naughty joke or bawdy anecdote.  Not atypical for a Catholic family.

3.  I’ll never make me own outa you.  Uttered by my grandmother when one engaged in less-than-socially-acceptable behavior.  Not complete dis-ownership, but robust enough to get your attention.

Stick Figure Silhouettes of Children

2.  Make yourself useful as well as ornamental.  Again, uttered by my grandmother, as an admonition to more directly participate in the task at hand.  This was the get-with-the-program message.

1.  If you can dance like that you’ll never have to work for a living.  And yes, my personal favorite, from Nana — perhaps a tongue-in-cheek observation of a Quixotic aspiration.

Row of Cartoon People Laughing

*This is a shout-out to my brother Mike, who shared a one-liner with me years ago, by Winston Churchill, to convey his perspective on the grammar rule regarding ending sentences with prepositions:  “That is foolishness up with which I shall not put.”

OK!  Your turn!  What’s your favorite one-liner?  Share!  No dilly-dallying!



7 thoughts on “My Top Ten List of One-Liners”

  1. When asked by another, “How are you”?
    My answer is, “I couldn’t be better if I were twins”

  2. Thank you for thinking so highly of my pork chop comment to have included it in your list. But alas, I was merely speaking a truthful analogy; apparently, my wit is also as dry as said chops o’pork.

    Excellent list, et al. Love it.

  3. A great group; I don’t know how you were able to limit yourself to just ten. One of the best was from Herb (I think; he was probably quoting his mother): “During times of happiness it is thoughts of tragedy that sustain us.”

    There could be a book there – from the lips of Kathryn Juul alone.

  4. Yes and yes again, Mike! Having shared it often, it should have been included. I shall create a Part II Top Ten based on these additions. And you are absotively right about a collection of sayings by Kathryn Juul.

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