The year that Buttercup was born, the most beautiful woman in the world was a French scullery maid named Annette.
—The Princess Bride’s opening line
And many years after Buttercup was born, the slowest lawyer in the world was a South Dakota defense attorney named Mick West. (You should know, I just made that name up, though the rest of this little story is mostly true, which is not at all like being mostly dead.)
I was working an injury case with Mick as defense counsel for the insurance company, and he was dragging his feet getting things done. We had a chance to get the claim settled before trial, but I needed him to move more quickly. I asked him to take an offer to the plaintiff, and for reasons I still don’t know, when I signed the email (where any other day I would be entirely professional), I said, “Thanks, Mick. Have fun storming the castle.”
Mick wrote back the next day to say he’d made progress in negotiations with the plaintiff. Surprised at his quick movement, I had to ask. “How did you manage that?”
“Well, I just told them that they ‘fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never to get involved in a land war in Asia. And only slightly less well known is this: never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!‘ “
“I see, ” I said. “I did not realize that you were Sicilian, nor that you had ‘spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.’ ”
Negotiations stalled out again, and I gave Mick another $5000 in settlement authority, hoping with this last move we might be able to come to an agreement.
“Well, ” he said, “Why didn’t you list that among our assets in the first place?“
He settled the case and we avoided a trial. And I was happy to discover that through the simple use of Princess Bride quotes, I could ensure quick work from my attorney in the future. When I got his bill, I shot off a short email: “Have you ever considered piracy? You’d make a wonderful Dread Pirate Roberts.”
The Princess Bride surely ranks among the most beloved books and movies of all time, and arguably up there with Monty Python and the Holy Grail among the most quoted (indeed, even in full conversation). The book, published in 1973 by William Goldman, purports to be an abridged version of a story by the fictional S. Morgenstern and features Goldman’s running commentary alongside the delightful tale of the lovely Buttercup and a farm boy named Westley (though she simply calls him “farm boy”) who does whatever she demands with an “As you wish.” As things go, Westley is kidnapped by the Dread Pirate Roberts and believed dead, and Buttercup faces an un-wished-for marriage to Prince Humperdinck. As part of a political plot concocted by Humperdinck and his aide, Count Ruger, three mercenaries named Vizzini, Fezzik and Inigo Montoya kidnap Buttercup, prompting Westley to reappear as a masked man in black. From there, it’s all the Cliffs of Insanity, the Pit of Despair, and Rodents of Unusual Size. Plus, I’m told, some kissing. The book was made into a film in 1987 starring Robin Wright (yes, Claire Underwood) and Cary Elwes, along with André the Giant, Mandy Patinkin and Wallace Shawn.
Those who love The Princess Bride have watched or read it multiple times, each time pocketing a new quotable line (which is handy, in case you need to motivate your attorney). With that in mind, we offer ten (more) great quotes from The Princess Bride.
(Boldface portions above are quoted from the movie.)
Vizzini: HE DIDN’T FALL? INCONCEIVABLE.
Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Buttercup: We’ll never survive.
Westley: Nonsense. You’re only saying that because no one ever has.
Inigo Montoya: Is very strange. I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it’s over, I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.
Westley: Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.
Vizzini: And YOU: friendless, brainless, helpless, hopeless! Do you want me to send you back to where you were? Unemployed, in Greenland?
Buttercup: You mock my pain.
Man in Black: Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.
Vizzini: You’re trying to kidnap what I’ve rightfully stolen.
Prince Humperdinck: I killed you too quickly the last time. A mistake I don’t mean to duplicate tonight.
Westley: This is true love – you think this happens every day?
Man in Black: I do not envy you the headache you will have when you awake. But for now, rest well and dream of large women.
Photo by Les Haines. Creative Commons, via Flickr. Post by LW Lindquist.
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