Staircase Wit, Marxism and Poisoned Coffee

Staircase Wit, Marxism and Poisoned Coffee

In his book Paradox on the Comedian, Denis Diderot uses the phrase l’esprit de l’escalier to describe a situation with which we are all maddeningly familiar. During a dinner, something was said to Diderot that rendered him speechless “until at the bottom of the stairs”. In English that phrase is often translated as staircase wit.

When Denis had descended the staircase, leaving the house hosting the dinner, his anger and confusion at whatever was said to him had passed. This allowed him to become fluent once again and gave him the ability to come up with a brilliant response. Unfortunately it was all too late, the moment had passed and our alliterative hero was unable to use his rapier reply.

Groucho Marx was famous for his ability to conjure a witty come-back: Go and never darken my towels again; Next time I see you, remind me not to talk to you; I have had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it. However, his words were written in a script and our lives are not scripted.

William James, the American philosopher and thinker, was asked how we should behave in life. His response was simple, thoughtful and kind, “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does”.

As we do not have the sharp mind of a comedic writer-actor or a famous philosopher, when we find ourselves in difficult times we struggle to find the right thing to say. In an emergency, when our child is struggling at school, when our closest friends and family need medical or social care, we can find it hard to form the words to say the simplest thank you.

That’s where Thank and Praise can help. Leave a message for a nurse, a teacher, a fireman, a carer or anyone else that you feel truly grateful to and we will do our utmost to make sure that message gets to them.

To send a note of gratitude you can either put a message up on our Facebook group or go to our website. If you would like us to set up a Thanking Wall for your organisation please either email us at or call us on +61 451 591 236.