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Est. 1998


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Quotations about Language

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We should have a great fewer disputes in the world if words were taken for what they are, the signs of our ideas only, and not for things themselves. ~John Locke

Language forces us to perceive the world as man presents it to us. ~Julia Penelope

The quantity of consonants in the English language is constant. If omitted in one place, they turn up in another. When a Bostonian "pahks" his "cah," the lost r's migrate southwest, causing a Texan to "warsh" his car and invest in "erl wells." ~Author Unknown

English is a funny language; that explains why we park our car on the driveway and drive our car on the parkway. ~Author Unknown

The reaction to any word may be, in an individual, either a mob-reaction or an individual reaction. It is up to the individual to ask himself: Is my reaction individual, or am I merely reacting from my mob-self? When it comes to the so-called obscene words, I should say that hardly one person in a million escapes mob-reaction. ~D.H. Lawrence

Lymph, v.: to walk with a lisp. ~From a Washington Post reader submission word contest

No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous. ~Henry Brooks Adams, The Education of Henry Adams, 1907

One man's frankness is another man's vulgarity. ~Kevin Smith

I personally believe we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain. ~Jane Wagner

Euphemisms are unpleasant truths wearing diplomatic cologne. ~Quentin Crisp

Slang is a language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands and goes to work. ~Carl Sandburg, New York Times, 1959 February 13th

'There is correct English: that is not slang.'
'I beg your pardon: correct English is the slang of prigs who write history and essays. And the strongest slang of all is the slang of poets.'
~George Eliot, Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life, Volume I, Book I—Miss Brooke, 1871

It's a strange world of language in which skating on thin ice can get you into hot water. ~Franklin P. Jones

In certain trying circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity furnishes a relief denied even to prayer. ~Mark Twain

At no time is freedom of speech more precious than when a man hits his thumb with a hammer. ~Marshall Lumsden

What words say does not last. The words last. Because words are always the same, and what they say is never the same. ~Antonio Porchia, Voces, 1943, translated from Spanish by W.S. Merwin

Language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run and out of which they grow. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

We have too many high sounding words and too few actions that correspond with them. ~Abigail Adams

Man is a creature who lives not upon bread alone, but primarily by catchwords. ~Robert Louis Stevenson

A good catchword can obscure analysis for fifty years. ~Wendell L. Willkie

Our major obligation is not to mistake slogans for solutions. ~Edward R. Murrow

If you can speak three languages you're trilingual. If you can speak two languages you're bilingual. If you can speak only one language you're an American. ~Author Unknown

Often it's just a short swim from the shipwreck of your life to the island paradise of your dreams, assuming you don't drown in the metaphor. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com

I like the word "indolence." It makes my laziness seem classy. ~Bern Williams

Dictionaries are like watches; the worst is better than none, and the best cannot be expected to go quite true. ~Samuel Johnson

Words signify man's refusal to accept the world as it is. ~Walter Kaufmann

The English language is nobody's special property. It is the property of the imagination: it is the property of the language itself. ~Derek Walcott

Language is the dress of thought. ~Samuel Johnson

Thanks to words, we have been able to rise above the brutes; and thanks to words, we have often sunk to the level of the demons. ~Aldous Huxley

The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand. ~Lewis Thomas

In English every word can be verbed. Would that it were so in our programming languages. ~Alan J. Perlis

Verbing weirds language. ~Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes

Language is the most imperfect and expensive means yet discovered for communicating thought. ~William James

I was reading the dictionary. I thought it was a poem about everything. ~Steven Wright

"Seize the day" drains dignity from "Carpe diem." ~Willis Goth Regier, Quotology, 2010, about translation

One can translate an editorial but not a poem. For one can go across the border naked but not without one's skin; for, unlike clothes, one cannot get a new skin. ~Karl Kraus, translated from German by Harry Zohn

[The translator] has done his cleverest and best with this that follows, but you might as well seek to translate a violet into verse as seek to render in language other than its own the delicate sentiment, the exquisite rhythm, of the... original. ~William Cleaver Wilkinson, Classic German Course in English, 1887

Some translators turn an author's words from gold to stone, and others befit them with wings which exalt the words to heaven. ~Terri Guillemets

Almost all words do have color and nothing is more pleasant than to utter a pink word and see someone's eyes light up and know it is a pink word for him or her too. ~Gladys Taber

There's always something that you can't pin down with words. Words fall flat all the time — look at the word dust around you. ~Dr. SunWolf, professorsunwolf.com

What are your Axioms, and Categories, and Systems, and Aphorisms? Words, words.... Be not the slave of Words... ~Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus: The Life and Opinions of Herr Teufelsdröckh, 1831

Words, too, have genuine substance — mass and weight and specific gravity. ~Tim O'Brien, Tomcat in Love

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as if it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink. ~George Orwell

Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. ~Mark Amidon

Any man who does not make himself proficient in at least two languages other than his own is a fool. ~Martin H. Fischer

If I could but entice you with sentences and tongue tie you with words. ~Jamie Lynn Morris

It is a safe rule to apply that, when a mathematical or philosophical author writes with a misty profundity, he is talking nonsense. ~Alfred North Whitehead

Language ought to be the joint creation of poets and manual workers. ~George Orwell

He who does not know foreign languages does not know anything about his own. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Kunst and Alterthum

A definition is the enclosing a wilderness of idea within a wall of words. ~Samuel Butler (1835-1902), Note-Books

If the English language made any sense, lackadaisical would have something to do with a shortage of flowers. ~Doug Larson

I would never use a long word where a short one would answer the purpose. I know there are professors in this country who 'ligate' arteries. Other surgeons only tie them, and it stops the bleeding just as well. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Our language is funny — a fat chance and slim chance are the same thing. ~J. Gustav White

He swore at us in German (which I should judge to be a singularly effective language for that purpose)... ~Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), 1889

Words want to be free! ~Anonymous

Sarcasm I now see to be, in general, the language of the Devil; for which reason I have, long since, as good as renounced it. ~Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus, Book II, chapter 4

Oaths are but words, and words but wind. ~Samuel Butler (1612-1680), Hudribas

There is a certain age at which a child looks at you in all earnestness and delivers a long, pleased speech in all the true inflections of spoken English, but with not one recognizable syllable. There is no way you can tell the child that if language had been a melody, he had mastered it and done well, but that since it was in fact a sense, he had botched it utterly. ~Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Whenever ideas fail, men invent words. ~Martin H. Fischer

For I am a bear of very little brain and long words bother me. ~Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne)

Human speech is like a cracked cauldron on which we bang out tunes that make bears dance, when what we want is to move the stars to pity. ~Gustave Flaubert

Sometimes hold it half a sin
      To put in words the grief I feel;
      For words, like Nature, half reveal
      And half conceal the Soul within.
But, for the unquiet heart and brain,
      A use in measured language lies;
      The sad mechanic exercise,
      Like dull narcotics, numbing pain.
In words, like weeds, I'll wrap me o'er,
      Like coarsest clothes against the cold;
      But that large grief which these enfold
      Is given in outline and no more.
~Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam A.H.H., 1833

Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words best of all. ~Winston Churchill

COMROGUE. A jocular perversion of the word comrade, by way of calling a man rogue. ~Robert Nares, A Glossary; or, Collection of Words, Phrases, Names, and Allusions to Customs, Proverbs, &c. Which Have Been Thought to Require Illustration, in the Works of English Authors, Particularly Shakespeare, and His Contemporaries, 1822  [What a neat word from the 1600s, I think I'll start calling my friends by this. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

Learning preserves the errors of the past, as well as its wisdom. For this reason, dictionaries are public dangers, although they are necessities. ~Alfred North Whitehead

Every American child should grow up knowing a second language, preferably English. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960

Swearing was invented as a compromise between running away and fighting. ~Peter Finley Dunne, Mr. Dooley's Opinions, 1900

A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged, it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and the time in which it is used. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

W (double U) has, of all the letters in our alphabet, the only cumbrous name, the names of the others being monosyllabic. This advantage of the Roman alphabet over the Grecian is the more valued after audibly spelling out some simple Greek word, like "epixoriambikos." Still, it is now thought by the learned that other agencies than the difference of the two alphabets may have been concerned in the decline of "the glory that was Greece" and the rise of "the grandeur that was Rome." There can be no doubt, however, that by simplifying the name of W (calling it "wow," for example) our civilization could be, if not promoted, at least better endured. ~Ambrose Bierce

Heinrich Heine so loosened the corsets of the German language that today every little salesman can fondle her breasts. ~Karl Kraus, translated from German by Harry Zohn

The existing phrasebooks are inadequate. They are well enough as far as they go, but when you fall down and skin your leg they don't tell you what to say. ~Mark Twain

Language is by its very nature a communal thing; that is, it expresses never the exact thing but a compromise — that which is common to you, me, and everybody. ~Thomas Earnest Hulme, Speculations, 1923

I hate women because they have brought into the currency of our language such expressions as "all righty" and "yes indeedy" and hundreds of others. ~James Thurber, "The Case Against Women"

Let's not become so worried about not offending anybody that we lose the ability to distinguish between respect and paranoia. ~Larry King, about political correctness, How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere: The Secrets of Good Communication

The PC [political correctness] movement exists not in order to improve the well-being of those whose oppression it purports to combat. Rather, its purpose is to wrap its proponents in a kind of verbal comfort-blanket. ~Erik Kowal, as posted on wordwizard.com

The Ancient Mariner would not have taken so well if it had been called The Old Sailor. ~Samuel Butler

A different language is a different vision of life. ~Federico Fellini

If a language is corruptible, then a constitution written in that language is corruptible. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com

"Children, don't speak so coarsely," said Mr. Webster, who had a vague notion that some supervision should be exercised over his daughters' speech, and that a line should be drawn, but never knew quite when to draw it. He had allowed his daughters to use his library without restraint, and nothing is more fatal to maidenly delicacy of speech than the run of a good library. ~Robertson Davies, Tempest Tost

When a German dives into a sentence, you won't see him again until he emerges at the other end with the verb between his teeth. ~Mark Twain

The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary. ~James D. Nicoll (b.1961), "The King's English," rec.arts.sf-lovers, 1990 May 15th

Conversation is the slowest form of human communication. ~Author Unknown

Learn a new language and get a new soul. ~Czech Proverb

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. ~George Orwell

The word "good" has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man. ~G.K. Chesterton

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Last modified 2015 Aug 31 Mon 15:38 PDT

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