le mot juste

Bowra

Maurice Bowra was an Oxford don legendary for his social activities, his malicious wit, and his bullhorn voice. Once, in the 1930s, he met an elegant German who was visiting England to participate in a kind of charm offensive on behalf of the Nazi regime. (This was common in those days: Hitler had people working hard to gain the approval of Oxford and Cambridge dons.) At one point in the conversation, Bowra stood up and told the man, “I know what you are. You are a Nazi.” And then he added, “I look forward one day to using your skull as an inkpot.” 

I am in awe of the ingenuity Bowra manifested that day, and will keep his lapidary phrase hidden away in my bosom in case I should require it. Someone writes a slashing review of one of my books? Dear X, I look forward one day to using your skull as an inkpot. Someone cuts me off on the interstate? I lean out the window: I look forward one day to using your skull as an inkpot. It’s absolutely perfect. 

June 6, 2021

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