Better know a Wikipedia article: Staircase wit

September 5, 2009 / Oh, yeah? Well let me tell you something about your mother…

“Staircase wit,” or l’esprit de l’escalier:

L’esprit de l’escalier or esprit d’escalier (staircase wit) is thinking of a clever comeback when it is too late. The phrase can be used to describe a riposte to an insult or any witty remark that comes to mind too late to be useful—when one is on the “staircase” leaving the scene of the encounter. The phenomenon is usually accompanied by a feeling of regret at not having thought of it when it was most needed or suitable. The French encyclopedist Denis Diderot originally described this situation in his Paradoxe sur le comédien. […]

The Seinfeld episode “The Comeback” humorously explores the concept of “staircase wit.”

Ah, George. Story of my life. Via the ever-wonderful Ask Metafilter. [ed.—Post #300.]

2 responses

  1. Kris

    Oh, Adrian, I’ve been thinking about this for a good two years now – knew the concept and couldn’t, couldn’t, couldn’t remember what it was called or how to find out. I kept hopefully googling ‘bowler hat insult’; and I’m not quite sure why I thought that was going to help.

    Now I need no longer ponder. Really, thank you. Font of much (some? occasional? No, I’ll go with much) wisdom, this blog.

    September 14th, 2009 at 7:48 am #

  2. Adrian Cooke

    I’ve always wanted to know this too, then just stumbled upon it. Gotta love the web :)

    September 23rd, 2009 at 10:59 pm #

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