Willy Robertson was the only soldier ever to rise from private to Field Marshall in the First World War. It was no surprise that he was refreshingly free from typical officer class stuffiness.
Some time afterwards, Robertson was asked to make a speech at a school prize day. The headmaster waffled on in his introduction. The Field Marshall rose.
“Boys,” he said, “I have a great deal to say to you but it won’t take long: so remember it. Speak the truth. Think of others. Don’t dawdle.”
Then he sat down.
Brevity counts for much. It is the soul of wit. It is wonderfully memorable.
US president Calvin Coolidge was famously taciturn but not without humour. At a dinner, a young woman seated next to him said she had bet a friend she could get him to say more than three words. Without looking at her, his reply was succinct.
One of my father’s favourite quotes was an unattributed truism. It describes, with admirably concise precision, how a powerful human emotion travels.
You can’t fight gravity. You can’t beat brevity.