Conduct is more convincing than language.

John Woolman


Note:  For the purposes of this page, we're also including quotations on "words."

Sometime we will have to stop overevaluating the word.  We shall learn to realize
that it is only one of the many bridges that connect the island of our soul with
the great continent of common life. . . the broadest, perhaps, but in no way the most refined.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Without language, one cannot talk to people and understand them; one cannot share their hopes and aspirations, grasp their history, appreciate their poetry, or savor their songs.

Nelson Mandela
Long Walk to Freedom

Talking about one's feelings defeats the purpose of having those feelings. Once you try to put the human experience into words, it becomes little more than a spectator sport. Everything must have a cause, and a name. Every random thought must have a root in something else.

Derek Landy
Death Bringer

Don't tell me anymore. You should have your dream, as the old woman told you to. I understand how you feel, but if you put those feelings into words they will turn into lies.

Haruki Murakami
after the quake


Words can destroy.  What we call each other ultimately
becomes what we think of each other, and it matters.

Jeanne J. Kirkpatrick


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You can't eat language but it eases thirst.

Bernard Malamud


When you have spoken the word, it reigns over you.
When it is unspoken, you reign over it.

Arabian proverb


What is lofty can be said in any language.
What is mean should be said in none.


Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have
power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds
of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.

Patrick Rothfuss
The Name of the Wind

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.

George Orwell

The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

If you talk to a person in a language he or she understands,
that goes to his or her head. If you talk to someone
in one's language, that goes to one's heart.

Nelson Mandela


Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if
I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of
my words. My language trembles with desire.

Roland Barthes


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As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words
are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: you liberate a city by
destroying it. Words are to confuse, so that at election time
people will solemnly vote against their own interests.

Gore Vidal

Language, she said, was just our way to explain away the wonder
and glory of the world. To deconstruct. To dismiss. She said
people can't deal with how beautiful the world really is. How it
can't be explained and understood.

Chuck Palahniuk


Language does have the power to change reality. Therefore, treat your
words as the mighty instruments they are - to heal, to bring into
being, to remove, as if by magic, the terrible violations of childhood,
to nurture, to cherish, to bless, to forgive--to create from
the whole cloth of your soul, true love.

Daphne Rose Kingma

A person with a scant vocabulary will almost certainly be a weak thinker.
The richer and more copious one's vocabulary and the greater one's
awareness of fine distinctions and subtle nuances of meaning, the more
fertile and precise is likely to be one's thinking. Knowledge of things
and knowledge of the words for them grow together. If you do
not know the words, you can hardly know the thing.

Henry Hazlitt
Thinking as a Science

Language exerts hidden power, like the moon on the tides.

Rita Mae Brown

Probably the most common use made of language is for the purpose of imparting information, to inform someone of something, to explain something.  The teacher instructs the class clearly, "Always print your name in the upper right-hand corner of your assignments."  Ask teachers how many times papers come back with names on the left-hand side, the middle of the page or not written on the page at all.  How often have you asked for black coffee and had the waiter immediately ask, "With cream and sugar?"  Having language, obviously, has nothing to do with communication.  Communication requires dialogue.  Most of us constantly find ourselves engaging in monologues.  The great philosopher Martin Buber was very much concerned with human monologue/dialogue.  He writes of technical dialogue, the type of communication in which we give information, requiring no feeling.  He then moves on to monologue disguised as dialogue, in which one individual speaks to the total indifference of the other.  He illustrates this with what he calls lover's talk, in which both parties alike often enjoy their own glorious souls and precious experience. . . .

Buber continues by defining true dialogue.  He sees it as one in which the speaker has the other person's individuality and special needs in mind.  He states that in this type of communication "one sees in the passing parade, not a crowd or a mass, but a collection of individuals, each of whom,  without exception, can be seen as a person."  Buber wants the major goal of all true dialogue to be the welfare of the loved ones, and the enhancement of their fulfillment, and continued sustenance and unending respect for their potential.  It is another way of saying that, "I want what I say to stimulate you, to bring you peace, to help you to grow to your ultimate potential.  I want what I say to bring us totally together.  You have dignity and therefore my interaction with you must offer you all that you deserve, the total me at the moment."  Wouldn't it be wonderful to have such communication with those we love?  How splendid, rewarding, and nourishing it would be.

Leo Buscaglia

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To speak well supposes a habit of attention which shows itself
in thought; by language we learn to think and,
above all, to develop thought.

Carl Victor de Bonstetten

Be aware of the words that go into your mind, both conscious and
unconscious, because words and ideas can be great tools for your
mind to use in coming to appropriate decisions.  Remember that
a statement spoken in spiritual consciousness can contain great
spiritual power.  Speaking powerful words of love changes things
and outer circumstances as well as consciousness itself.

John Marks Templeton
Worldwide Laws of Life


Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment
which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words.
Their meaning can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the hearts.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Some Words on Words
Norman Cousins

Whatever success The Saturday Review may have had was directly connected to its respect for the place of ideas and the arts in the life of the mind.  This emphasis takes on special significance in the light of the sleaziness that has infected the national culture in recent years.  There seems to be a fierce competition, especially in entertainment and publishing, to find ever-lower rungs on the ladder of taste. . . .

There is the curious notion that freedom is somehow synonymous with gutter jargon.  At one time people who worked in the arts would boast to one another about their ability to communicate ideas that attacked social injustice and brutality.  Now some of them seem to feel that they have struck a blow for humanity if only they can use enough four-letter words.

The debasement of language not only reflects but produces a retreat from civility.  The slightest disagreement has become an occasion for violent reactions.  Television has educated an entire generation of Americans to believe that the normal way of reacting to a slight is by punching someone in the face.

* * * * *

Norman Cousins was a long-time editor of The Saturday Review.  These words probably were written in the 1980's.


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Words lead to deeds. . . . They prepare the soul, make it ready,
and move it to tenderness.

Raymond Carver
No Heroics, Please

The words we choose can build communities, reunite loved ones, and
inspire others.  They can be a catalyst for change.  However, our words
also have the power to destroy and divide:  they can start a war, reduce
a lifelong relationship to a collection of memories, or end a life.

Simon S. Tam


Thereís often a distressing disconnect between the good words we speak
and the way we live our lives. In personal relations and politics, the mass
media, the academy and organized religion, our good words tend to float
away even as they leave our lips, ascending to an altitude where they neither
reflect nor connect with the human condition.
We long for words like love, truth, and justice to become flesh and dwell
among us. But in our violent world, itís risky business to wrap our frail flesh
around words like those, and we donít like the odds.

Parker J. Palmer




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