brevity is the soul of wit

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brevity is the soul of wit

  1. Conciseness of expression is an essential characteristic of astute, perceptive, or witty remarks.
    • c. 1603, William Shakespeare, Hamlet, act 2, sc. 2:
      Polonius: My liege, and madam, to expostulate
      What majesty should be, what duty is,
      Why day is day, night night, and time is time,
      Were nothing but to waste night, day and time.
      Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
      And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
      I will be brief: your noble son is mad.
    • 1879, Samuel Butler, chapter 18, in Evolution, Old & New:
      The same complaint must be made against Mr. Matthew's excellent survey of the theory of evolution, as against Dr. Erasmus Darwin's original exposition of the same theory, namely, that it is too short. It may be very true that brevity is the soul of wit, but the leaders of science will generally succeed in burking new-born wit, unless the brevity of its soul is found compatible with a body of some bulk.
    • 1912, R. Austin Freeman, chapter 5, in The Mystery of 31 New Inn:
      "[I]f people would only settle their affairs in that way, a good part of the occupation of lawyers would be gone. Brevity is the soul of wit; and the fear of simplicity is the beginning of litigation."
    • 2001 March 5, Daniel S. Levy, "In Brief," Time:
      Brevity is the Soul of Wit. Talking to your infant is good, but uttering individual words might be better.
    • 2012 April 9th, Mike Stoslaka, "[1]," Star Wars: the Phantom Menace Review:
      Y'see, a guy named William Shakesman once said, "Brevity is the soul of wit." This just means don't waste my time.