I have a question about a word I’d never come across until the other day: sally. It seems the perfect word for what I’m trying to describe: to quip as a form of diversion. That is, to use humour as a defence mechanism.
If you look at the usage of this word, sally (in the form I want to use it) is a noun. I want its verb form. However, when you look at definitions for the verb form, they make no mention of its usage to quip as a diversion, only to make a military sortie or to set out from a place to do something.
Google searches reveal its verbal usage as above: he sallied forth, she sallies out. But I couldn’t find any examples of it as quipping in verb form.
So, my question is (when quipping as a defence mechanism, specifically) can one sally?
‘I sally.’ ‘He sallied.’
’She is sallying again.’
I think you are right to be cautious about using “sally” in figurative, non-military contexts. I have never in all my puff heard it used as a verb in the sense of making a witty remark. “Venture a sally” or something similar might be acceptable, but anything like “he sallied” would strike a very false note.
For defensive quippery, I suggest perhaps “parry” (if in response to a humorous thrust by someone else), or use the noun “witticism”, which suggests that it isn’t really very funny. I suspect that trying to pack the meanings of both jocundity and defensiveness into a single word might be too much.