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, goodgirlbad.com) 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?
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.
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.
*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!