Author spotlight: Ashleigh Brilliant

Born London, 1933. Mother Canadian. Father a British civil servant. World War II childhood spent mostly in Toronto and Washington, D.C. Berkeley PhD. in American History, 1964. Living in Santa Barbara since 1973. No children. Best-known for his illustrated epigrams, called “Pot-Shots”, now a series of 10,000. Email or visit

How To Be a Pedestrian
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   February 7, 2023

Until recently, the only way for most people to get to most places was on foot. Horses were too expensive, and trains, planes, and cars didn’t yet exist. “Shanks’ Pony” was a jocular way of referring to walking. But with the development of modern street-traffic, among the automobiles, trucks, buses, motorcycles, and regular bicycles, there […]

By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   January 31, 2023

In the days when I was leading a local crusade to ban the noisiest kind of so-called leaf-blowers (a cause which, at least here in California, has only recently found fruition in actions by the State), I had an unfortunate run-in with a gardener, who was using one of these devices on the property next […]

By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   January 24, 2023

Our society is obsessed with popularity contests of various kinds. There are competitions for being the most beautiful, making the most money, and having a best-selling product. But the most prevalent type of such contention is called an “election,” which, in effect, means being chosen by the most people, usually for an office or position […]

Finders Losers
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   January 17, 2023

Getting lost is nowadays becoming increasingly harder to do – even if you want to – because we now have electronic devices of all kinds to guide and direct us, and make it easier for other people to find us.  Not surprisingly, the people who were most likely to get lost in times past were […]

Close Encounters
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   January 10, 2023

A counsellor I once had habitually used the concept of enfolding in your arms metaphorically, to mean “accept” and “deal with.” If I told her “I’m having trouble,” she might say “Embrace trouble!” But she never said, “Hug trouble!” You’ll have a hard job finding the word “hug” either in the Bible or in Shakespeare – […]

By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   December 27, 2022

Most traffic signals have lights in red and green, signifying “Stop,” and “Go.” And there’s also usually another one, variously called yellow, amber, or even orange, which supposedly means “Caution” – although some drivers apparently interpret it as saying “Hurry! There’s still time!” Of course, you can’t stop and go at the same time. But […]

By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   December 20, 2022

“Sir, you are a liar, a thief, and a coward!” “What! You called him ‘Sir’?” “Why not? Courtesy costs nothing.” That old joke can probably be blamed for my first encounter with the concept of courtesy – a word which has many shades of meaning, involving politeness, respect, consideration, propriety, and making people feel relaxed […]

Hard to Please
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   December 13, 2022

No doubt you have often received invitations which say at the bottom “R.S.V.P.” – and you probably know that this means that you are being asked to respond. I’m not a great linguist, but I know enough French to be able to tell you that these letters stand for “Répondez S’il Vous Plaît.” The first […]

Cleanliness – Next to Godliness
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   December 6, 2022

Just about the last regular job I ever had, before my current career as a self-employed creator of illustrated epigrams, was way back in the 1960s, in connection with a “floating university” – an actual institution of learning on board a converted cruise ship (a program still functioning, on various vessels, under the name of […]

By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   November 29, 2022

The U.S. Marines have as their “Hymn” a song which at first celebrates their history, going back to the early 19th Century, with a reference to American military force being used (for the first time abroad) to subdue the piratical behavior of certain North African governments known collectively as the Barbary States (“The shores of […]

Where On Earth
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   November 22, 2022

There’s a saying in the Real Estate business that, in considering the value of a property, only three things really matter: Location, Location, and Location. But, if that means where a place actually is, many factors enter into play – such as what it’s near, and not near. We are often reminded that “it’s a […]

Fortune and Misfortune
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   November 15, 2022

Some people (it is often said) have all the luck – implying that not much is left over for the rest of us. The British, with their love of ironical humor, have an expression wishing someone “the best of British luck,” suggesting that the recipient of the wish has not much chance. But, in the […]

By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   November 8, 2022

I have been asked to write something about Jealousy. For me, this was a difficult but challenging assignment, because I have rarely felt jealous of anybody else, and, as far as I know, I myself have not generated that emotion in other people – although I suppose it isn’t the kind of feeling you readily […]

By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   November 1, 2022

“Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,Who never to himself hath said,This is my own, my native land!” My mother would often quote those lines – although, ironically, I am not sure now just which “native land” she could have been referring to. The lines are part of a much longer poem by Sir […]

Hunters and Gatherers
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   October 25, 2022

Despite my own attempts, through the jungles of information on Google, I’ve been unable to track down the originator of the term “hunter-gatherer,” as used to describe a lifestyle. But it appears to have been an invention of that branch of modern science which studies human origins and may fall under the rubric of Paleo-Anthropology. […]

By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   October 18, 2022

Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest is credited with the idea (often quoted in various forms) that military victory depends on “getting there first, with the most.” It might be added that what matters most in life generally is getting there at all. But in the 1950s, when trans-oceanic travel by sea was beginning to encounter […]

What They Say
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   October 11, 2022

In Shakespeare’s classic monologue about “The Seven Ages of Man” (from As You Like It) he ascribes the fourth Age to a Soldier, who is “Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,Seeking the bubble reputation, even in the cannon’s mouth.” That metaphorical bubble is a fitting image for the attractive but ephemeral concept of […]

Have a Heart
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   October 4, 2022

Contrary to what someone might think, a cardiologist does not collect cards – not even such collectibles as those my little Company produces. The word comes from the Greek kardia, meaning “heart,” which has given us such spin-offs as “cordial,” and the French and Spanish “Coeur,” and “Corazón.” Where I live, there is a local […]

Why Heaven?
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   September 27, 2022

“Ah, but a man’s reach must exceed his grasp – or what’s a Heaven for?” This quotation, from Robert Browning’s long poem, “Andrea del Sarto,” may be all anybody remembers of that work (if any of it is remembered at all). But the idea itself is certainly worth thinking about. Whether or not you truly […]

Too Much Love
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   September 20, 2022

Loving one another is OK – but let’s not overdo it. Can there be too much love? We’ve all heard of “smother love” – a kind of emotional swaddling that comes near to stifling the object of affection – particularly associated with over-protective parents. Some people are surprised to hear that my own parents, when […]

Not What You Think
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   September 13, 2022

“Fool me once, – shame on you –Fool me twice,Shame on me.” It may surprise you to realize in how many ways our lives, literature, and entire culture are based on misleading each other and our fellow creatures. To start with, there’s the matter of clothing, and all kinds of other things we put on […]

On the Move
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   September 6, 2022

One line I remember from the many years I spent listening to radio comedy was this: “You know I think the world of you . . . And you know what everybody thinks of the world these days.” Be that as it may, we can probably agree that, if anything is certain about what we […]

Where We Came In
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   August 30, 2022

There was once a common expression, “This is where we came in.” The meaning was originally quite literal. In the early days of movies – and at least into my childhood in the 1940s – when movies, especially new releases, were still something most people went out to, rather than seeing them at home – […]

Please Be Seated
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   August 23, 2022

Because of the way our bodies bend, the most comfortable position, when not prone, tends to be with the buttocks emplaced some distance above the ground (depending on the length of our legs) and our backs resting, if possible, against a vertical surface. This is known as “sitting,” and, for all the improvements, in housing, […]

By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   August 16, 2022

There used to be a comedian named Rodney Dangerfield (a name which is somehow funny in itself) who built his whole career on a five-word catchphrase: “I don’t get no respect.” This too had its own built-in funny-ness, because we tend to have less respect for people who use grammar incorrectly. But Dangerfield specialized in […]

By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   August 9, 2022

There’s only one reason why the following lines linger in my mind. They’re from a poem called “Daisy,” which we studied in English class, when I was at school in England. The poem, by Francis Thompson, describes his encounter with a little girl, who, to him, was clearly the personification of innocence. But the reason […]

Habits: MY WORST HABIT – AND HOW I GOT RID OF IT: (Warning: some readers may consider this disgusting.)
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   August 2, 2022

I used to pull or bite bits of skin from certain areas of the backs of my hands. Sometimes I would then just flick them away, but often I would chew and actually eat them. Those abused hand areas naturally became tough and red and ugly, and sometimes people would comment on this. My mother, […]

By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   July 26, 2022

One of my more popular epigrams (at least popular with me) says “A good friend is worth pursuing – But why would a good friend be running away?” In the case of this article, the good friend is Happiness, the pursuit of which, according to our hallowed Declaration of Independence, is a God-given right. So, […]

No Nudes and Good Nudes
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   July 19, 2022

In 1913, a show of “Modern Art” was held at the 69th Regimental Armory in New York City. One of the most controversial exhibits was by French artist, Marcel Duchamp, and was entitled Nude Descending a Staircase. To many viewers, this piece was quite shocking. In view of the title, you might think that the […]

What’s Good For You
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   July 12, 2022

The Guinness Brewing Company of Dublin, Ireland became famous by providing its customers with one thing they needed in addition to beer. That was INFORMATION. Conversation in bars often degenerated into arguments over facts, particularly facts concerning extremes – of such matters as speed, or altitude, or age. This of course was the origin of […]

Letter of the Law
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   July 5, 2022

Nowadays, it’s hard to avoid being a criminal, because, whatever you try, there’s bound to be a law against it – perhaps several laws, some of which may be in conflict with the others – that’s how lawyers make their money. Many such legal eagles are in fact known as “criminal lawyers.” Their avowed purpose […]

Take It All Off
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   June 28, 2022

One of the best known, not to say notorious, celebrities of the 1920s and ‘30s was a buxom blonde actress and writer named Mae West. One of her best-known lines came in the 1933 film, I’m No Angel, in which, in a starring role, she says to her maid, “Beulah, peel me a grape,” which […]

Nurses and Curses
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   June 21, 2022

Many of the titles of Ernest Hemingway’s best-known novels are derived from earlier literature. The Sun Also Rises comes from the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes, (one of the most pessimistic parts of the Bible, which begins by saying that “Everything is meaningless”). For Whom the Bell Tolls comes from a sermon by the English […]

To Wit to Woo
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   June 14, 2022

In the history of courtship, no words have resonated more profoundly than two lines by that great poet, Ogden Nash: Candy is dandy,But liquor is quicker. However, we must admit that, over the ages, many other techniques of wooing have been developed. For example, there are music and song, as celebrated by that other immortal […]

By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   June 7, 2022

Alexander the Great cast a giant shadow over History, conquering most of the known world in his short lifetime (356-323 B.C.). On his way eastward, he visited the city of Sinope (on the north coast of modern Turkey), and there encountered its most notorious inhabitant, a crusty old philosopher named Diogenes. Knowing this man’s reputed […]

Has it Got Legs?
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   May 31, 2022

Here is a riddle for you: What goes ninety-nine CLOP, ninety-nine CLOP, ninety-nine CLOP…? Answer: A centipede with a wooden leg. I don’t want to go into all the biological reasons concerning the numerous varieties of centipedes, showing that, even apart from the wooden leg, this story can’t be true. What I do want to […]

Ages and Ages
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   May 24, 2022

How old? The answer to that question is usually expected to be in terms of years – that is, of Earth journeys around the sun. We owe that idea to a Polish monk named Copernicus (1473-1543 AD). But even before Copernicus, in those good old days when the sun still went around the earth, the […]

By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   May 17, 2022

Different parts of our bodies have come to be associated with a variety of emotions and characteristics. Love supposedly springs from the heart, integrity is in the backbone, and inquisitiveness in the nose. But, when it comes to truly deep-seated feelings, for some reason, we commonly attribute them to our intestines. And it’s not only […]

By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   May 10, 2022

Most of us need help of some kind, at least occasionally, and there are, of course, many different ways of seeking it. In an emergency, we immediately think of sending out an “S.O.S.” Contrary to popular belief, those letters do not stand for “Save Our Ship” or “Save Our Souls” – nor, for that matter, […]

That’s Entertainment
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   May 3, 2022

Believe it or not, the original meaning of “to entertain” was “to hold together.” But, when you come to think of it, that isn’t so far from what it still means today. People are held together by watching the same show, enjoying the same songs or jokes, admiring the same performers, feeling the same emotions […]