Quotations about   ridiculous

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Among other things I think humor is a shield, a weapon, a survival kit. Not only has this brief span of ours been threatened by such perils not of our making such as fire and flood, Tyrannosaurus Rex, the black death, and hurricanes named after chorus girls, but we have been most ingenious in devising means for destroying each other, a habit we haven’t yet learned how to kick.

So here we are several billion of us, crowded into our global concentration camp for the duration. How are we to survive? Solemnity is not the answer, any more than witless and irresponsible frivolity is. I think our best chance lies in humor, which in this case means a wry acceptance of our predicament. We don’t have to like it but we can at least recognize its ridiculous aspects, one of which is ourselves.

Ogden Nash (1902-1971) American poet
Commencement address at his daughter Linell’s boarding school

Quoted in Douglas M. Parker, Dana Giaoia, Ogden Nash: The Life and Work of America's Laureate of Light (2005).
Added on 4-Sep-20 | Last updated 4-Sep-20
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The greatest height of heroism to which an individual, like a people, can attain is to know how to face ridicule; better still, to know how to make oneself ridiculous and not to shrink from the ridicule.

Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936) Spanish philosopher and writer [Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo]
The Tragic Sense of Life [Del Sentimiento Trágico de la Vida], Conclusion (1913) [tr. Flitch (1921)]
Added on 6-Nov-15 | Last updated 6-Nov-15
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From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step.

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) French emperor, military leader
Comment to the Abbé du Pradt (10 Dec 1812)

During the retreat from Moscow, a repeated comment during a discussion with one of his ambassadors. Quoted by Archibald Alison, History of Europe from the Commencement of the French Revolution in 1789, to the Restoration of the Bourbons in 1815, Vol. 16, ch. 73 (1842). See also Paine.

Alt. trans.:
  • "There is but one step from the sublime to the ridiculous."
  • "There is only one step from the sublime to the ridiculous."
  • "From the sublime to the ridiculous there is but a step."
Added on 21-Aug-14 | Last updated 18-Nov-21
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The sublime and the ridiculous are often so nearly related, that it is difficult to class them separately. One step above the sublime, makes the ridiculous; and one step above the ridiculous, makes the sublime again.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809) American political philosopher and writer
The Age of Reason, Part 2 (1794)
Added on 14-Aug-14 | Last updated 14-Aug-14
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Look for the ridiculous in everything and you will find it.

Jules Renard (1864-1910) French writer
Journal (Feb 1890)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 28-Aug-14
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Human beings reveal their character most clearly by what they find ridiculous.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Elective Affinities (1809) [tr. Hollingdale (1971)

Alternate translations:
  • "Men show their characters in nothing more clearly than in what they think laughable."
  • "There is nothing in which people more betray their character than in what they laugh at."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 22-Oct-21
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