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date: 12 April 2024


  1. A phrase is born into the world both good and bad at the same time. The secret lies in a slight, an almost invisible twist. The lever should rest in your hand, getting warm, and you can only turn it once, not twice.
    Isaac Babel 1894–1940 Russian short-story writer: Guy de Maupassant (1932)
  2. One picture is worth ten thousand words.
    Frederick R. Barnard: in Printers' Ink 10 March 1927
  3. A definition is the enclosing a wilderness of idea within a wall of words.
    Samuel Butler 1835–1902 English novelist: Notebooks (1912) ch. 14
  4. He who understands baboon [will] would do more towards metaphysics than Locke.
    Charles Darwin 1809–82 English natural historian: Notebook M (16 August 1838) in P. H. Barrett et al. (eds.) Charles Darwin's Notebooks 1836–1844 (1987)
  5. In language, the ignorant have prescribed laws to the learned.
    Richard Duppa 1770–1831 English artist and writer: Maxims (1830)
  6. Language is fossil poetry.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803–82 American philosopher and poet: Essays. Second Series (1844) ‘The Poet’
  7. Where in this small-talking world can I find
    A longitude with no platitude?
    Christopher Fry 1907–2005 English dramatist: The Lady's not for Burning (1949) act 3
  8. The chief merit of language is clearness, and we know that nothing detracts so much from this as do unfamiliar terms.
    Galen ad 129–199 Greek physician: On the Natural Faculties bk. 1, sect. 1
  9. Merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.
    W. S. Gilbert 1836–1911 English writer of comic and satirical verse: The Mikado (1885) act 2
  10. The true use of speech is not so much to express our wants as to conceal them.
    Oliver Goldsmith 1728–74 Irish writer, poet, and dramatist: The Bee no. 3 (20 October 1759) ‘On the Use of Language’
  11. There's a cool web of language winds us in,
    Retreat from too much joy or too much fear.
    Robert Graves 1895–1985 English poet: ‘The Cool Web’ (1927)
  12. It is hard for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs.
    Thomas Hardy 1840–1928 English novelist and poet: Far from the Madding Crowd (1874)
  13. I believe that political correctness can be a form of linguistic fascism, and it sends shivers down the spine of my generation who went to war against fascism.
    P. D. James 1920–2014 English writer of detective stories: in Paris Review 1995
  14. Language is the dress of thought.
    Samuel Johnson 1709–84 English poet, critic, and lexicographer: Lives of the English Poets (1779–81) ‘Cowley’; see Pope, Wesley
  15. The mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that ‘w-a-t-e-r’ meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, joy, set it free!
    Helen Keller 1880–1968 American writer and social reformer, blind and deaf from the age of 19 months: The Story of My Life (1902) ch. 4
  16. Good heavens! For more than forty years I have been speaking prose without knowing it.
    Molière 1622–73 French comic dramatist: Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (1671) act 2, sc. 4
  17. 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 it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.
    George Orwell 1903–50 English novelist: Shooting an Elephant (1950) ‘Politics and the English Language’
  18. Different persons growing up in the same language are like different bushes trimmed and trained to take the shape of identical elephants. The anatomical details of twigs and branches will fulfill the elephantine form differently from bush to bush, but the overall outward results are alike.
    W. V. O. Quine 1908–2000 American philosopher: Word and Object (1960)
  19. One of our defects as a nation is a tendency to use what have been called ‘weasel words’. When a weasel sucks eggs the meat is sucked out of the egg. If you use a ‘weasel word’ after another, there is nothing left of the other.
    Theodore Roosevelt 1858–1919 American Republican statesman, 26th President 1901–9: speech in St Louis, 31 May 1916
  20. Slang is a language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands and goes to work.
    Carl Sandburg 1878–1967 American poet: in New York Times 13 February 1959
  21. If a lion could talk, we could not understand him.
    Ludwig Wittgenstein 1889–1951 Austrian-born philosopher: Philosophical Investigations (1953) pt. 2
  22. The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.
    Ludwig Wittgenstein 1889–1951 Austrian-born philosopher: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922)