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Quotations about Language

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, 13 February 1959
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
Sometimes 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, www.robertbrault.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
Language is the most imperfect and expensive means yet discovered for communicating thought.
~William James
Be not the slave of Words.
~Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus, Book I, chapter 8
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
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
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
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
Words want to be free!
~Author Unknown
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
Words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the Soul within.

~Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "Im memoriam A.H.H.," 1850
Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words best of all.
~Winston Churchill
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
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
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
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, www.robertbrault.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
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