Quotations about   speaking

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It might be argued that a man who employs this kind of skill with words for immoral purposes can do great harm, but the same goes for everything good except for virtue, and it goes above all for the most valuable things, such as strength, health, and generalship. After all, moral use of these things can do the greatest good, and immoral use the greatest harm.

[εἰ δ᾽ ὅτι μεγάλα βλάψειεν ἂν ὁ χρώμενος ἀδίκως τῇ τοιαύτῃ δυνάμει τῶν λόγων, τοῦτό γε κοινόν ἐστι κατὰ πάντων τῶν ἀγαθῶν πλὴν ἀρετῆς, καὶ μάλιστα κατὰ τῶν χρησιμωτάτων, οἷον ἰσχύος ὑγιείας πλούτου στρατηγίας: τούτοις γὰρ ἄν τις ὠφελήσειεν τὰ μέγιστα χρώμενος δικαίως καὶ βλάψειεν ἀδίκως.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Rhetoric [Ῥητορική; Ars Rhetorica], Book 1, ch. 1, sec. 13 / 1355b (350 BC) [tr. Waterfield (2018)]
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Original Greek. Alternate translations:

But if it be urged that a man, using such a power of words for an unjust purpose, would do much harm, this is common to all the goods, with the exception of virtue; and especially in the case of the most useful, as for instance strength, health, wealth, and command: for by the right use of these a man may do very much good, and by the wrong very much harm.
[Source (1847)]

If, however, any one should object that a person, unfairly availing himself of such powers of speaking, may be, in a very high degree, injurious; this is an objection which will like in some degree against every good indiscriminately, except virtue; and with especial force against those which are most advantageous, as strength, health, wealth, and generalship. Because employing these fairly, a person may be beneficial in points of the highest importance; and by employing them unfairly may be equally injurious.
[tr. Buckley (1850)]

If it is objected that the abuser of the rhetorical faculty can do great mischief, this, at any rate, applies to all good things except virtue, and especially to the most useful things, as strength, health, wealth, generalship. By the right use of these things a man may do the greatest good, and by the unjust use, the greatest mischief.
[tr. Jebb (1873)]

If it is argued that one who makes an unfair use of such faculty of speech may do a great deal of harm, this objection applies equally to all good things except virtue, and above all to those things which are most useful, such as strength, health, wealth, generalship; for as these, rightly used, may be of the greatest benefit, so, wrongly used, they may do an equal amount of harm.
[tr. Freese (1924)]

And if it be objected that one who uses such power of speech unjustly might do great harm, that is a charge which may be made in common against all good things except virtue, and above all against the things that are most useful, as strength, health, wealth, generalship. A man can confer the greatest of benefits by a right use of these, and inflict the greatest of injuries by using them wrongly.
[tr. Roberts (1954)]

And if someone using such a capacity for argument should do great harm, this at least, is common to all good things -- except virtue -- and especially so in the case of the most useful things, such as strength, health, wealth, and generalship. For someone using these things justly would perform the greatest benefits -- and unjustly, the greatest harm.
[tr. Bartlett (2019)]

Added on 2-Apr-21 | Last updated 2-Apr-21
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Be both a speaker of words and a doer of deeds.

[Μύθων τε ῥητῆρ’ ἔμεναι πρηκτῆρά τε ἔργων.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad, Book 9, c. l. 442 (c. 750 BC) [tr. Leaf/Lang/Myers (1891)]
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Alt. trans.:

That thou might'st speak, when speech was fit, and do, when deeds were done,
Not sit as dumb, for want of words, idle, for skill to move.
[tr. Chapman (1611)]

Be both a speaker of words and a doer of deeds.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

A man of words, and a man of action, too.
[tr. Fagles (1990), l. 538]

Added on 24-Nov-20 | Last updated 25-Nov-20
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But I never was happy, never could make a good impromptu speech without several hours to prepare it.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Speech, Society of the Army of the Tennessee Annual Meeting, Chicago (12 Nov 1879)
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Twain made quips along this line several times, though there is no evidence he said the more frequently quoted "It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech." For more discussion, see here.
Added on 25-Aug-20 | Last updated 25-Aug-20
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Don’t express your ideas too clearly. Most people think little of what they understand, and venerate what they do not.

[No allanarse sobrado en el concepto. Los más no estiman lo que entienden, lo que no perciben lo veneran. Las cosas, para que se estiman, han de costar; será celebrado cuando no fuese entendido.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], #253 (1647) [tr. Maurer (1982)]

Alt. trans.: "Do not Explain overmuch. Most men do not esteem what they understand, and venerate what they do not see. ... Many praise a thing without being able to tell why, if asked. The reason is that they venerate the unknown as a mystery, and praise it because they hear it praised." [tr. Jacobs (1892)]
Added on 31-Mar-17 | Last updated 31-Jan-20
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I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.

Audre Lorde (1934-1992) American writer, feminist, civil rights activist
“The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action,” speech, Modern Language Association (28 Dec 1977)
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Added on 15-Feb-16 | Last updated 15-Feb-16
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You’ve never said anything as stupid as what people thought you said.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays, # 5 (2001)
Added on 4-Sep-15 | Last updated 4-Sep-15
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Consider not so much who speaks, as what is spoken.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Introductio ad Prudentiam, # 109 (1725)
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Added on 2-Jun-14 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
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A word spoken is past recalling.

John Clarke (d. 1658) British educator
Proverbs: English and Latine [Paroemiologia Anglo-Latina] (1639)
Added on 28-Apr-14 | Last updated 28-Apr-14
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Think before thou speakest.

Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) Spanish novelist
Don Quixote, Part 1, Book 4, ch. 3 (1605) [tr. Motteux and Ozell (1743)]
Added on 21-Apr-14 | Last updated 9-Jun-15
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Writing is closer to thinking than to speaking.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
Added on 6-May-13 | Last updated 13-May-16
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Speak properly, and in as few words as you can, but always plainly; for the End of Speech is not Ostentation, but to be understood.

William Penn (1644-1718) English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, statesman
Some Fruits of Solitude, Part 2, “Of Conduct and Speech,” #122 (1682)
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Added on 29-Aug-11 | Last updated 16-Jun-14
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Words, like glass, obscure when they do not aid vision.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]

Alt. trans.: "Words, like eyeglasses, obscure everything they do not make clear."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 13-May-16
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If thou thinkest twice before thou speakest once, thou wilt speak twice the better for it.

William Penn (1644-1718) English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, statesman
Fruits of Solitude, #132 (1682)
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See Cervantes.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 21-Apr-14
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