Figure Name wit
Source Kellog (1880) ("wit")
Earliest Source
Type None
Linguistic Domain

1. WIT.-Wit is a word once used to name our intellectual powers-powers by which we perceive, learn, understand, think. In Hamlet's reply to Guildenstern, "I cannot make you a wholesome answer, my wit's diseased," the word is so used. In our infinitive phrase, to wit, the etymology of the word (A. S. witan, to know) determines its meaning. The supreme act of the intellect is thinking. To think is to detect an agreement or a disagreement between our mental pictures, or ideas of things, and to judge them to agree or to disagree-the intellect affirming or denying one of the other. This relation may be between ideas that lie wide apart from each other, that are seemingly unrelated to each other. The union of such ideas in a thought excites surprise and pleasure in the reader or listener. It may even excite laughter, which is an expression of this pleasure by the muscles of the face. Indeed, to produce laughter, the laughter of derision or the laughter of good-feeling, seems to be the purpose and the effect of what we now call wit. Of the thought which causes it, we say that it is witty, or that it is humorous. Wit, then, in our modern use of the word, denotes a power in the thinker to detect hidden
or pleasing relations between ideas, and it names a quality of discourse which expresses these relations. In rhetoric, we may say that WIT is a quality of style resulting from the union of seemingly unrelated ideas-a union producing surprise and pleasure. (Kellog, 161)


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Last Editor Ioanna Malton
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