Shakespeare once said, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Anatole France observed, “Silence is the wit of fools.” Being strong on the former and never known for the latter, let me share some observations on the word itself.
“Wit” can mean mental sharpness and can also be used to describe creative humor. With these definitions, let us look at some root-plus words. To wit: the many uses of sharpness of thought and humorous rejoinders. Those practicing legal-ese are strong proponents of “to wit.”
Often in our daily dealings we have to cross verbal swords with a halfwit. This proves frustrating, for such people do not listen, are closed-minded or are just lacking insight into the most common of problems. I am reminded of the person who once observed that one cannot do a battle of wits with someone who is unarmed.
Then, of course, there is the person who lacks basic sensibility: a nitwit. Here is someone who does not seem to possess even basic intelligence, mother wit. Having to deal with such a one on a regular basis can drive one to his wit’s end. Continued exposure can cause one to lose one’s wits. Avoiding such exposure can aid you in keeping your wits about you at all times.
When pressured by the times in which we live, the truly successful of us can live by our wits, hoping this will eventually lead to making a living. There are even some of us who write with creative wit, bringing a bit of humor into (readers’) lives.
A witless being can demonstrate the quality by being completely unaware of what is happening or by not appreciating true humor when hearing it. He is the brother to the halfwit and the nitwit.
The witty person, on the other hand, can contribute amusing observations and lighten the daily load.
Now none of these is to be confused by the similar sounding whit, meaning a particle.
This discussion leads me to share the following: When asked about his fancy get-up, the owlish lawyer replied, “To wit: to woo.”