Quotations about   communication

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For indeed it is possible that a man may think well, and yet not be able to express his thoughts elegantly; but for any one to publish thoughts which he can neither arrange skilfully nor illustrate so as to entertain his reader, is an unpardonable abuse of letters and retirement: they, therefore, read their books to one another, and no one ever takes them up but those who wish to have the same licence for careless writing allowed to themselves.

[Fieri autem potest, ut recte quis sentiat et id quod sentit polite eloqui non possit; sed mandare quemquam litteris cogitationes suas, qui eas nec disponere nec inlustrare possit nec delectatione aliqua allicere lectorem, hominis est intemperanter abutentis et otio et litteris. Itaque suos libros ipsi legunt cum suis, nec quisquam attingit praeter eos, qui eandem licentiam scribendi sibi permitti volunt.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Tusculan Disputations [Tusculanae Disputationes], Book 1, ch. 3 / sec. 6 (45 BC) [tr. Yonge (1853)]
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Source (Latin). Alternate translations:

Now it is possible, that one may have true Conceptions, and yet not be able to express his Notions in proper Terms; but for a man to commit his thoughts to writing for the publick, who can neither put them in due method, nor illustrate them with clear Proofs, nor by any delightful Ornaments entertain his Reader, is the part of one that at no rate abuses his own time, and the benefit of Writing. Here∣upon they read their own Books among themselves, nor doth any one else meddle with them, but they that expect allowance to write after the same loose fashion.
[tr. Wase (1643)]

For indeed it may be that a man may think well, and yet not be able to express his thoughts elegant; but for any one ot publish thoughts which eh can neither methodize, nor illustrate nor entertain his reader, is an unpardonable abuse of letters and retirement: they, therefore, read their books to one another, which were never taken up by any but those who claimed the same privilege of writing.
[tr. Main (1824)]

For it may very well happen, that a man may think rightly, and yet be unable to give utterance to his sentiments with sufficient elegance. But, for any one to consign his thoughts to letters, who can neither arrange them with method, nor make them intelligible by illustration, nor attract the reader with any delight, is the part of a man who rashly abuses both his leisure and literature. And, therefore, let them read their books themselves with their friends; nor let them be touched by any, except by those who are like to need the same indulgence for the same license in writing.
[tr. Otis (1839)]

One may think correctly, yet be unable to give elegant expression to what he thinks; and in that case for a man to commit his thoughts to writing when he can neither arrange them, nor illustrate them, nor attract readers by anything that can give them delight, is the part of a man who outrageously abuses both leisure and letters. Such writers read their own books with their intimate friends, nor does any one else touch them except those who crave for themselves like liberty of writing.
[tr. Peabody (1886)]

Even when they have their arguments in order, they don't express them with any flair. They waste their free time -- and do a discredit to literature -- when they commit thoughts to writing without knowing how to arrange or enliven them or give any pleasure to the reader. And so they just end up reading each other's books! No one pays attention to them except people who hope to qualify for the same writer's licence.
[tr. Habinek (1996)]

But it can happen that someone may have a good thought which he cannot express well.
[tr. @sentantiq (2016)]

It is possible for a man to hold the right views but be incapable of expressing these with any elegance; but that anyone should entrust his thoughts to writing, without the ability to arrange them or to express them with clarity, or to attract the reader by offering him some pleasure, is characteristic of a man who is making an ill-disciplined misuse of both leisure and writing. The result is these fellows read their own books to their own circle and no one touches them except those who wish to be permitted the same freedom in writing.
[tr. Davie (2017)]

Added on 19-Jul-21 | Last updated 19-Jul-21
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Good conversation can leave you more exhilarated than alcohol; more refreshed than the theater or a concert. It can bring you entertainment and pleasure; it can help you get ahead, solve problems, spark the imagination of others. It can increase your knowledge and education. It can erase misunderstandings, and bring you closer to those you love.

Dorothy Sarnoff
Dorothy Sarnoff (1914-2008) American opera singer, actress, image consultant
Speech Can Change Your Life (1971)
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Added on 8-Jul-21 | Last updated 8-Jul-21
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Now and in the time to be, I think it will pay for you to zero in on being precise with your language. Try to build and treat your vocabulary the way you are to treat your checking account. Pay every attention to it and try to increase your earnings. The purpose here is not to boost your bedroom eloquence or your professional success — although those, too, can be consequences — nor is it to turn you into parlor sophisticates. The purpose is to enable you to articulate yourselves as fully and precisely as possible; in a word, the purpose is your balance.

Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996) Russian-American poet, essayist, Nobel laureate, US Poet Laureate [Iosif Aleksandrovič Brodskij]
“Speech at the Stadium,” Commencement Address, University of Michigan (18 Dec 1988)
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Added on 1-Jun-21 | Last updated 1-Jun-21
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There is no such thing as conversation. It is an illusion. There are intersecting monologues, that is all. We speak; we spread round us with sounds, with words, an emanation from ourselves. Sometimes they overlap the circles that others are spreading round themselves. Then they are affected by these other circles, to be sure, but not because of any real communication that has taken place — merely as a scarf of blue chiffon lying on a woman’s dressing table will change color if she casts down on it a scarf of red chiffon.

Rebecca West (1892-1983) British author, journalist, literary critic, travel writer [pseud. for Cicily Isabel Fairfield]
“There Is No Conversation,” The Saturday Evening Post (8 Dec 1928)
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In the initial magazine appearance, the third sentence read, "There are interesting monologues." When reprinted in The Harsh Voice: Four Short Novels (1935), and subsequently, interesting was replaced with intersecting. More discussion here.
Added on 22-Mar-21 | Last updated 22-Mar-21
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Broadly speaking, short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) British statesman and author
The Times Literary Award luncheon, London (2 Nov 1949)
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Added on 8-Mar-21 | Last updated 8-Mar-21
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Of all the ridiculous expressions people use — and people use a great many ridiculous expressions — one of the most ridiculous is “No news is good news.” “No news is good news” simply means that if you don’t hear from someone, everything is probably fine, and you can see at once why this expression makes such little sense because everything being fine is only one of many, many reasons why someone may not contact you. Perhaps they are tied up. Maybe they are surrounded by fierce weasels, or perhaps they are wedged tightly between two refrigerators and cannot get themselves out. The expression might as well be changed to “no news is bad news,” except that people may not be able to contact you because they have just been crowned king or are competing in a gymnastics tournament. The point is that there is no way to know why someone has not contacted you until they contact you and explain themselves. For this reason, the sensible expression would be “no news is no news,” except that it is so obvious that it is hardly an expression at all.

Lemony Snicket (b. 1970) American author, screenwriter, musician (pseud. for Daniel Handler)
The Hostile Hospital (2001)
Added on 10-Feb-21 | Last updated 10-Feb-21
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Language is civilization itself. The Word, even the most contradictory word, binds us together. Wordlessness isolates.

Thomas Mann (1875-1955) German writer, critic, philanthropist, Nobel laureate [Paul Thomas Mann]
The Magic Mountain [Der Zauberberg], Part 6, “A Good Soldier” (1924) [tr. Woods]
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Alt. trans.: "Speech is civilization itself. The word, even the most contradictory word, preserves contact -- it is silence which isolates." [tr. Lowe-Porter]
Added on 9-Dec-20 | Last updated 9-Dec-20
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There is that great proverb — that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.

Chinua Achebe (1930-2013) Nigerian novelist, poet, professor, critic [Albert Chinualumogu Achebe]
Interview by Jerome Brooks, “The Art of Fiction,” #139, The Paris Review (Winter 1994)
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Referring to an African proverb, usually rendered, "Until the lion learns to write, every story will glorify the hunter."
Added on 30-Nov-20 | Last updated 30-Nov-20
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Marriage is nine-tenths talk.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Diary (30 May 1945)
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Added on 16-Nov-20 | Last updated 16-Nov-20
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At the very least, comsats and personalized transceivers will banish forever the exasperation of waiting on a corner for a friend while he mistakenly waits for you on another.

Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) British writer
“Man and Space,” Life Science Library (1964)
Added on 16-Oct-20 | Last updated 16-Oct-20
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I do so wish sometimes, that I could just pop home for an hour or two as easily in the flesh as in the spirit. No doubt the explorers of 2015, if there is anything left to explore, will not only carry their pocket wireless telephones fitted with wireless telescopes but will also receive their nourishment and warmth by wireless means & also their power to drive their motor sledges, but, of course, there will be an aerial daily excursion to both Poles then & it will be the bottom of the Atlantic, if not the centre of the earth, that will form the goal in those days.

Thomas Orde-Lees (1877-1948) British naval officer, arctic explorer, mountaineer, writer
Diary entry, HMS Endurance (10 Jan 1915)

Written while the ship was trapped in the ice during Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Some versions of the quotation refer to "2012," rather than 2015.

While the reference to "pocket wireless telephones" makes this quotation suspect, Orde-Lees has extensive diary material published, and this appears to be genuine.
Added on 13-Oct-20 | Last updated 16-Oct-20
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The influence exercised over the human mind by apt analogies is and has always been immense. Whether they translate an established truth into simple language or whether they adventurously aspire to reveal the unknown, they are among the most formidable weapons of the rhetorician.

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) British statesman and author
“The Scaffolding of Rhetoric” (Nov 1897)
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Commonly abridged, "Apt analogies are among the most formidable weapons of the rhetorician."
Added on 10-Jul-20 | Last updated 10-Jul-20
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An intellectual is a man who says a simple thing in a difficult way; an artist is a man who says a difficult thing in a simple way.

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) German-American author, poet
Notes of a Dirty Old Man (1969)
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Added on 14-Feb-20 | Last updated 14-Feb-20
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Assumptions are the termites of relationships.

Henry Winkler (b. 1945) American actor, director, producer, author
Commencement Address, Emerson College (1995)
Added on 30-Oct-19 | Last updated 30-Oct-19
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I really love language; it allows us to explain the pain and the glory, the nuances and the delicacies, of our existence. Most of all, it allows us to laugh. We need language.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
“The Art of Fiction,” Paris Review, #116, Interview with George Plimpton (1990)
Added on 28-Feb-19 | Last updated 28-Feb-19
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Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
“Papyrus to Paperbacks: The World That Books Made,” Washington Post (30 Dec 1979)
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Added on 15-Feb-18 | Last updated 15-Feb-18
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Remember, gentlemen, an order that can be misunderstood will be misunderstood.

Helmuth von Moltke (1800-1891) Prussian soldier
Comment as Chief of the Prussian General Staff, Battle of Sedan (Sep 1870)
Added on 22-Nov-17 | Last updated 6-Dec-17
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Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.

William Arthur Ward (1921-1994) American aphorist, author, educator
(Attributed)
Added on 20-Nov-17 | Last updated 20-Nov-17
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Every man hears only what he understands.

goethe-every-man-hears-understands-wist_info-quote

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe, #385 [tr. Saunders (1892)]
Added on 25-Jan-17 | Last updated 25-Jan-17
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It is chiefly through books that we enjoy intercourse with superior minds, and these invaluable means of communication are in the reach of all. In the best books, great men talk to us, give us their most precious thoughts, and pour their souls into ours.

William E. Channing (1780-1842) American moralist, author, cleric, Unitarian theologian
“Self Culture,” lecture, Boston (Sep 1838)
Added on 28-Apr-16 | Last updated 28-Apr-16
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KEATING: Now, language was developed for one endeavor, and that is? Mr. Anderson? Come on! Are you a man or an amoeba? Mr. Perry?
NEIL: Uh, to communicate.
KEATING: No! To woo women!

Tom Schulman (b. 1951) American screenwriter, director
Dead Poets Society (1989)
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Added on 2-Jun-14 | Last updated 18-Sep-20
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What do you tell a man with two black eyes? Nothing, he’s already been told twice.

Elmore Leonard (1925-2013) American novelist and screenwriter
Darryl, Be Cool (1999)
Added on 8-Apr-14 | Last updated 8-Apr-14
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Sex is a conversation carried out by other means.

Peter Ustinov (1921-2004) English actor, author, director
Interview, in Wendy Leigh, Speaking Frankly: What Makes a Woman Good in Bed (1978)
Added on 2-Jan-14 | Last updated 2-Jan-14
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The problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) British playwright and critic
(Spurious)

Not found in Shaw's writings. Most likely originated by William Hollingsworth Whyte, "Is Anybody Listening?" Fortune (Sep 1950). More discussion here.
Added on 11-Feb-11 | Last updated 20-Oct-16
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The speed of communications is wondrous to behold. It is also true that speed can multiply the distribution of information that we know to be untrue.

Edward R. Murrow (1908-1965) American journalist
Speech, The Family of Man Award, The Protestant Council of New York (Oct 1969)

His last public speech.
Added on 3-Mar-09 | Last updated 15-Apr-17
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A person on hold tends to remain on hold.

Other Authors and Sources
John Maguire, “The Law of Social Inertia”
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 13-Apr-14
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