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 Remarkable Rebuttals

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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: Remarkable Rebuttals   Sun 17 Feb 2013, 13:45

Just read this wonderful reply to Terry Deary's comment that libraries should be closed because they damage the book industry

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/9869559/Terry-Dearys-attack-on-libraries-branded-ignorant-twaddle.html

And the reply

http://www.marcmorris.org.uk/2013/02/a-letter-to-terry-deary.html

What other examples are there of rebuttals that have gone down in history for their sheer brilliance.
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PostSubject: Re: Remarkable Rebuttals   Sun 17 Feb 2013, 19:44

John Paul Jones' answer to HMS Serapis when asked to surrender his ship,Bonhomme Richard,"I have not yet begun to fight"

General McAuliffe, commander of the US Airborne forces at Bastogne is reputed to have replied "Nuts"*, when asked to surrender by the Germans.

* the official version for public consumption, the actual answer was probably cruder.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Remarkable Rebuttals   Sun 17 Feb 2013, 20:15

Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin's rebuttal to the rather impudently phrased charge that he had been party to a big hoax and the moon-landings never actually occurred was pithy, and all the more eloquent for its lack of verbiage:

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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Remarkable Rebuttals   Mon 18 Feb 2013, 09:19

A very famous rebuttal is often used these days as a witty and accurate riposte to the assertion that divine entities exist. Pierre-Simon Laplace was supposed to have answered, upon being asked by Napoleon why his remarkable mathematical theories in astronomical physics did not include provision for a god, "I had no need for that hypothesis".

There is no direct record of any such exchange alas - we do not know how closely Napoleon followed his brilliant fellow countryman's career and work, if at all. However there is mention in a friend's letter of a very similar comment by Laplace when addressing the Newtonian allowance for divine intervention (Newton felt that the imperfections in the universe were evidence of where mathematics failed and god stepped in). Laplace deplored this way of thinking and did much to prove that what Newton had given up on mathematically could in fact be calculated to a point of QED. It is still therefore a comment that would indeed have angered the religious set, but not quite the refutal of god's existence as it is presented - rather a diminishment of that god's role.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Remarkable Rebuttals   Mon 18 Feb 2013, 09:54

Nobody knows where this originated - certainly not from a brilliant French mathematician. It was probably a spotty Harvard undergraduate who first scrawled on a lavatory wall:

God is dead. -Nietzsche, 1882
Nietzsche is dead. -God, 1900.

I prefer the version above which gives the dates.
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PostSubject: Re: Remarkable Rebuttals   Mon 18 Feb 2013, 10:25

George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill "Am enclosing two tickets for the first night of my new play; bring a friend....if you have one"

and Churchill's reply;

"Cannot attend first night; will attend second night.....if there is one"
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PostSubject: Re: Remarkable Rebuttals   Mon 18 Feb 2013, 10:58

One could almost have an entire thread devoted to Churchill's acerbic put-downs ... he did however meet his match in De Gaulle:

"I get angry when I am right. Churchill gets angry when he is wrong. We are angry at each other much of the time."
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PostSubject: Re: Remarkable Rebuttals   Mon 18 Feb 2013, 11:06

During his first trial, Oscar Wilde's duel of wits with Edward Carson, the greatest cross-examiner of his day, showed the utter brilliance of Wilde's epigrammatic repartee. So many examples from the transcript, but here are a couple:

Mr. Carson: "Your slim gilt soul walks between passion and poetry." Is that a beautiful phrase?

Wilde: Not as you read it, Mr. Carson. You read it very badly.


Later - Carson by now was pretty annoyed; he went on to quiz Wilde about his generosity when entertaining young men.

Mr. Carson: Did you drink champagne yourself?

Wilde: Yes; iced champagne is a favourite drink of mine - strongly against my doctor's orders.

Mr. Carson: Never mind your doctor's orders, sir.

Wilde: I never do.
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PostSubject: Re: Remarkable Rebuttals   Mon 18 Feb 2013, 11:46

But these aren't rebuttals, are they? Or am I missing something?

Employing an argument to counter a proposition is not the same thing surely as simply employing wit to put someone in their place?

E.J.Dionne's editorial after George W.Bush had declared that anyone in the House who did not support his invasion of Iraq was "unpatriotic" was, to me at least, a perfect example of a brilliant rebuttal precisely because it used the very criteria defined by the proposer to demonstrate its inherent flaw as an argument. Dionne in his editorial demonstrated how Bush must be forced to conclude by his own logic therefore that Abraham Lincoln, while still a congressman, was therefore the most unpatriotic politician the USA had ever produced.

A rebuttal, unlike a refutation, does not have to prove the proposer wrong, simply counter the proposition with sufficient strength to rob it of whatever sheen of uncritical infallibility it might have seemed to possess. It is an ancient rhetorical tool, and because of its subjectivity therefore one of the few which has survived - albeit in the main in the less intellectually rigorous world of political debate.

But then as I said - maybe I've been reading my dictionary all wrong all these years ...
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Remarkable Rebuttals   Mon 18 Feb 2013, 11:50

Don't fret, nordmann. You are right and we are wrong.
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PostSubject: Re: Remarkable Rebuttals   Mon 18 Feb 2013, 13:12

I am only surprised that he still needs a dictionary.
In my family my response of, "Mmm" is rebuttal enough of a kick up the buttle but unremarkable, I do concede.
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PostSubject: Re: Remarkable Rebuttals   Mon 18 Feb 2013, 14:12

But then, speaking against myself as it were - if a put-down is by implication a proposition that its victim is of lesser wit or stature, then a witty riposte could be termed a rebuttal of that proposition, the counter-argument also implied rather than stated through the use of the superior wit employed in the riposte's construction.

So I take back my earlier objection ...
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Remarkable Rebuttals   Mon 18 Feb 2013, 16:04

Do you think he means we can go back to telling funny stories?

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PostSubject: Re: Remarkable Rebuttals   Mon 18 Feb 2013, 16:09

God I hope so Temp, I was enjoying them. jocolor
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PostSubject: Re: Remarkable Rebuttals   Mon 18 Feb 2013, 16:18

I think he means the smart arse is OK after all - perhaps not. I got lost at the counter arg...... my screen width goes daft after that.
I have a reposte to report. unremarkable yet two months later I'm still wondering how i ccould have countered it.
Scene - well known used/smart walkers watering hole pub in the dales... the sort that that puts food on slates and mock enamel plates.
So we also order 2 children's fish meals.
The fish of both servings have many bones - inedible, in fact.
WE tell the serving girl.
With a sweep of her dyed raven locks she retorts, :Wull id wood 'ave bones woun't it|? Its reeel fish.'
I could only point out that we had real children and so we left no real tip, either. I ought to have done better than that though.
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PostSubject: Re: Remarkable Rebuttals   Mon 18 Feb 2013, 16:47

@Priscilla wrote:
I got lost at the counter arg...... my screen width goes daft after that.

You managed to get as far as counter arg...?

I've noted elsewhere that His Enormousness's prose style at its baffling best is very similar to that of Henry James: by the time you've made it to the end of one of his sentences, you've completely forgotten what the beginning was about.

I was looking for nice examples of put-downs from Parliament, when I came across this which I rather liked. The House of Lords, unlike the Commons, has no Speaker to shout, "Order! Order!" at rowdy members who are hurling insults at one another. But any Lord can make a motion "that the Standing Order on Asperity of Speech be read by the Clerk".

The Clerk of the House then, slowly, reads the following:

To prevent misunderstanding, and for avoiding of offensive speeches, when matters are debating, either in the House or at Committees, it is for honour sake thought fit, and so ordered, That all personal, sharp, or taxing speeches be forborn, and whosoever answereth another man's speech shall apply his answer to the matter without wrong to the person: and as nothing offensive is to be spoken, so nothing is to be ill taken, if the party that speaks it shall presently make a fair exposition or clear denial of the words that might bear any ill construction; and if any offence be given in that kind, as the House itself will be very sensible thereof, so it will sharply censure the offender, and give the party offended a fit reparation and a full satisfaction.

"Asperity of Speech" - I do like that expression. So can we shout, "Watch your asperity of speech, sir!" at offenders here?















Last edited by Temperance on Mon 18 Feb 2013, 19:48; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Remarkable Rebuttals   Mon 18 Feb 2013, 17:11

@Temperance wrote:
"Asperity of Speech" - I do like that expression.

Me too!

It reminds me of the sort of expressions I used to pick up from the "Towards More Picturesque Speech" section of the much-maligned 'Readers' Digest' magazine whilst waiting in Brighton General Hospital's Out-Patients' Dept, aged 14 years and with a pastered broken leg, every Saturday for about two months in the 1970s. The well-thumbed copies of RG were old even then, but I did occasionally note down things - or just tear the pages out. And some of their unusual turns of phrase, words and expressions stuck - indeed some have occasionally served well and stood me in good stead ever since.
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