L’esprit de l’escalier (stairway wit) is the sense of thinking of a clever comeback when it is too late. The phrase can be used to describe a riposte to an insult, or any witty, clever remark that comes to mind too late to be useful—when one is on the “staircase” leaving the scene. The German word treppenwitz is used to express the same idea. The closest phrase in English to describe this situation is “being wise after the event”. The phenomenon is usually accompanied by a feeling of regret at having not thought of the riposte when it was most needed or suitable.
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