Aphorisms by Evan Esar

Evan Esar, an anthologist and collector of jokes and quips, described himself as a ‘humorologist.’ “I am not interested in dull stuff like the psychology of laughter,” he is quoted as saying in his 1996 New York Times obituary. “I am interested in classifying humor, in the nature and evolution of humor. I am a man of science.” His scientific pursuit of humor led him to classify laughter as deriving from five categories: wordplay, caricature, blunders, wit and nonsense. In the introduction to 20,000 Quips & Quotes, he wrote: “Where there is insight in citation, or wisdom winged with wit, especially from the world of letters, I have quoted liberally. For a good epigram not only makes a point, but a point to ponder.” Esar’s own sayings offer plenty of points to ponder, here accompanied by related sayings from authors no doubt featured prominently in his collections…

Think twice before you speak, and then you may be able to say something more insulting than if you spoke right out at once.

Think once before you give, twice before you accept, and a thousand times before you ask. —Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

Admiration: Our feeling of delight that another person resembles us.

Admiration, n. Our polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves. —Ambrose Bierce

Success is the good fortune that comes from aspiration, desperation, perspiration,and inspiration.

Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration. —Thomas Edison

Character is what you have left when you’ve lost everything you can lose.

Character is fate. —Heraclitus

Statistician: A man who believes figures don’t lie, but admits that under analysis some of them won’t stand up either.

Doubt everything at least once, even the proposition that twice two is four. —Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

An epigram is the marriage of wit, and wisdom; a wisecrack, their divorce.

There’s a hell of a distance between wisecracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words. —Dorothy Parker