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Better slip with foot than tongue.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher, aphorist
Poor Richard (1734 ed.)
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We are of each an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all of the eclat of a proverb.

Jane Austen
Jane Austen (1775-1817) English novelist
Pride and Prejudice, ch. 18 [Elizabeth] (1813)
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It is all right to say exactly what you think if you have learned to think exactly.

No picture available
Marcelene Cox (1900-1998) American writer, columnist, aphorist
“Ask Any Woman” column, Ladies’ Home Journal (1945-11)
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Cox provided a variant of this aphorism in the 1959-01 issue of LHJ: "Anyone has the right to say what he thinks, if he thinks."
 
Added on 25-Jul-23 | Last updated 25-Jul-23
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LEAR: Mend your speech a little,
Lest you may mar your fortunes.

Shakespeare
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
King Lear, Act 1, sc. 1, l. 103ff (1.1.103-104) (1606)
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When a sensible man
has a good cause to defend, to be eloquent
is no great feat. Your tongue is so nimble
one might think you had some sense, but your words
contain none at all. The powerful man
who matches insolence with glibness is worst than a fool.
He is a public danger!

[ὅταν λάβῃ τις τῶν λόγων ἀνὴρ σοφὸς
καλὰς ἀφορμάς, οὐ μέγ᾽ ἔργον εὖ λέγειν:
σὺ δ᾽ εὔτροχον μὲν γλῶσσαν ὡς φρονῶν ἔχεις,
ἐν τοῖς λόγοισι δ᾽ οὐκ ἔνεισί σοι φρένες.
θράσει δὲ δυνατὸς καὶ λέγειν οἷός τ᾽ ἀνὴρ
κακὸς πολίτης γίγνεται νοῦν οὐκ ἔχων.]

Euripides (485?-406? BC) Greek tragic dramatist
Bacchæ [Βάκχαι], l. 266ff [Tiresias/Τειρεσίας] (405 BC) [tr. Cacoyannis (1982)]
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To Pentheus. (Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

When the wise man hath found a specious topic
On which to argue, he with ease may frame
An eloquent harangue. Your tongue indeed
Is voluble like theirs who reason well,
But in your language no discretion reigns.
He who possesses courage, sovereign power. A
And fluency of speech, if not endued
With wisdom, is an evil citizen.
[tr. Wodhull (1809)]

Whenever a wise man takes a good occasion for his speech, it is not a great task to speak well. You have a rapid tongue as though you were sensible, but there is no sense in your words. A man powerful in his boldness, one capable of speaking well, becomes a bad citizen in his lack of sense.
[tr. Buckley (1850)]

'Tis easy to be eloquent, for him
That's skilled in speech, and hath a stirring theme.
Thou hast the flowing tongue of a wise man,
But there's no wisdom in thy fluent words;
For the bold demagogue, powerful in speech,
Is but a dangerous citizen lacking sense.
[tr. Milman (1865)]

When wise men reason from sound principles,
They find it no hard task to reason well.
Thy tongue’s as fluent as the wisest man’s,
And yet thy argument is void of sense.
[tr. Rogers (1872), l. 253ff]

Whenso a man of wisdom finds a good topic for argument, it is no difficult matter to speak well; but thou, though possessing a glib tongue as if endowed with sense, art yet devoid thereof in all thou sayest. A headstrong man, if he have influence and a capacity for speaking, makes a bad citizen because he lacks sense.
[tr. Coleridge (1891)]

Whene'er a wise man finds a noble theme
For speech, 'tis easy to be eloquent.
Thou -- roundly runs thy tongue, as thou wert wise;
But in these words of thine sense is there none.
The rash man, armed with power and ready of speech,
Is a bad citizen, as void of sense.
[tr. Way (1898)]

Good words, my son, come easily, when he
That speaks is wise, and speaks but for the right.
Else come they never! Swift are thine, and bright
As though with thought, yet have no thought at all.
[tr. Murray (1902)]

Give a wise man an honest brief to plead
and his eloquence is no remarkable achievement.
But you are glib; your phrases come rolling out
smoothly on the tongue, as though your words were wise
instead of foolish. The man whose glibness flows
from his conceit of speech declares the thing he is:
a worthless and a stupid citizen.
[tr. Arrowsmith (1960)]

When a wise man chooses a sane basis
for his arguments, it is no great task to speak well;
but you have a glib tongue, as though in your right mind,
yet in your words there is no real sense.
The man who is influential by sheer aggressiveness, and knows how to speak,
proves to be a bad citizen -- for he lacks sanity.
[tr. Kirk (1970)]

When a clever man has a plausible theme to argue, to be eloquent is no great feat. But though you seem, by your glib tongue, to be intelligent, yet your words are foolish. Power and eloquence in a headstrong man can only lead to folly; and such a man is a danger to the state.
[tr. Vellacott (1973)]

Oh it's so easy for some to make speeches.
They pick a soft target and the words rush out.
Now listen you. Your tongue runs loose
Makes a plausible sound and might
Almost be taken for sense. But you have none.
Your glibness flows from sheer conceit.
Arrogant, over-confident and a gift -- yes --
A gift for phrases, and that makes you a great
Danger to your fellow men.
[tr. Soyinka (1973)]

A man who takes a fair basis for speaking,
a wise man, has no trouble speaking well;
you have a well-wheeled tongue, as though thinking,
but in the words you speak there is no thought.
A man empowered by daring and able to speak
becomes a bad citizen, devoid of reason.
[tr. Neuburg (1988)]

When some wise man has a fair cause
o present, to speak well is easy.
You have a tongue, glib like thought,
But no sense lies in your words.
The man that rashness prompts to speak
Proves an evil citizen and senseless.
[tr. Blessington (1993)]

Whenever a wise man sets out to argue an honest case
it's no great undertaking to argue well.
Your tongue runs smooth like a wheel, as if you were a man of reason,
but your words reveal no reason.
If he behaves recklessly, an able and articulate man
turns out to be a bad citizen because he lacks good sense.
[tr. Esposito (1998)]

When a prudent speaker takes up a noble cause, he’ll have no great trouble to speak well. You, on the other hand, have a tongue that runs on smoothly and sounds intelligent. But what it says is brainless. True, boldness can help a man speak powerfully, but he’ll turn out bad for the city because he'll have no sense.
[tr. Woodruff (1999)]

It's no great task to speak well, when a man's
Intelligent and starts well with good words.
But you: your tongue runs smoothly, as if you had
Some understanding. Yet your words are senseless.
A man like you, whose strength is that he's bold,
Who's good at speaking, too, can only make
a bad citizen -- for he lacks good sense.
[tr. Gibbons/Segal (2000)]

When a wise man has a good case to argue, eloquence is easy. As for you, though you think yourself clever and have a ready tongue, there is no intelligence in what you say. [A man whose power lies in brashness and who is a fluent speaker becomes a bad citizen if he lacks sense.]
[tr. Kovacs (2002)]

As for you -- your tongue is quick and your talk runs as if you had wit, but there is none in what you say. A man who confuses impudence with strength is a fool.
[tr. Rao/Wolf (2004)]

When a wise man is given the opportunity to speak, it’s no big problem to speak the truth. You, Pentheus, you are, of course an articulate man, or so you think, but your words lack logic. Audacity, strength and eloquence all on their own, make for a bad citizen -- a stupid one.
[tr. Theodoridis (2005)]

When a man who's wise in words starts his speech
from a proper course, it is no great task to speak well;
and you, spinning a tricky tongue, seem to make sense,
but there is no sense in what you are saying;
and a man who is bold, powerful and a clever speaker
makes for a bad citizen, if he has not the proper mind.
[tr. Valerie (2005)]

When a man of wisdom has good occasion to speak out and takes the opportunity, it's not that hard to give an excellent speech. You've got a quick tongue and seem intelligent, but your words don't make any sense at all. A fluent orator whose power comes from self-assurance and from nothing else makes a bad citizen, for he lacks sense.
[tr. Johnston (2008)]

When a wise man has an honest case to plead, then eloquence, I find, is very easy to achieve. You think yourself clever, and have a smooth tongue, but, your words are foolish. The man whose power lies in his conceit does not make a good citizen.
[tr. Robertson (2014)]

     It’s no great task for a wise man to speak well when the time comes, if he picks it carefully.      You hold yourself as if you’re one of these ready-tongued individuals. You’re not. Your words lack sense behind them.      Even the boldest speaker fails as a citizen when his words lack sense.
[tr. Pauly (2019)]

Wisdom from the wise surprises no one. But your clever tongue makes yuou seem wise when you have no understanding. Rash eloquence is society's disaster.
[tr. Behr/Foster (2019)]

Whenever a sophos man takes a good occasion for his speech, it is not a great task to speak well. You have a fluent tongue as though you are sensible, but there is no sense in your words. A bold and powerful man, one capable of speaking well, becomes a kakos citizen if he lacks sense.
[tr. Buckley/Sens/Nagy (2020)]

 
Added on 14-Feb-23 | Last updated 11-Jul-23
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By a pompous parade of words, some learned men have so managed it, that an unjust cause has often gained the victory, and reason submitted to sophistry and chicane.

[Gli uomini letterati, per pompa di parlare, fanno ben spesso che il torto vince, e che la ragione perde.]

Giovanni della Casa
Giovanni della Casa (1503-1556) Florentine poet, author, diplomat, bishop
Galateo: Or, A Treatise on Politeness and Delicacy of Manners [Il Galateo overo de’ costumi], ch. 29 (1558) [tr. Graves (1774)]
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(Source (Italian)). Alternate translations:

But, we see that Learned men have suche art and cunning to persuade, and such filed wordes to serve their turne: that wrong doth carry the cause away, and Reason cannot prevaile.
[tr. Peterson (1576)]

Men of letters, with their parade of high-flown language, very often make the wrong to prevail and the right to succumb.
[ed. Harbottle (1897)]

We find that learned men, through their grandiose talk, very often manage to have the wrong side win and reason lose.
[tr. Eisenbichler/Bartlett (1986)]

 
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It’s very important to decode your own messages, like saying “I feel angry” instead of kicking the cat, and people who learn to do this find they are misunderstood less often and, as a fringe benefit, are clawed by fewer cats.

Merle Shain (1935-1989) Canadian journalist and author
Some Men Are More Perfect than Others (1973)
 
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There are silences harder to take back than words.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
“Vectors: 56 Aphorisms and Ten-second Essays,” Michigan Quarterly Review, # 3 (Spring 1999)
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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 (1.1.13) / 1355b (350 BC) [tr. Waterfield (2018)]
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(Source (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)]

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 (1924)]

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 (1926)]

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 1-Feb-22
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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 [Ἰλιάς], Book 9, l. 442 (9.442) (c. 750 BC) [tr. Leaf/Lang/Myers (1891)]
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Phoenix, on what he was sent to teach Achilles as a child to become. (Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

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)]

To shine in councils and in camps to dare.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

Both elocution and address in arms.
[tr. Cowper (1791)]

An orator in words and a performer in deeds.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

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

A speaker of words and one accomplished in action.
[tr. Lattimore (1951)]

A man of eloquence and action.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]

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

To be both a speaker of words and a doer of actions.
[tr. Merrill (2007)]

To be a speaker of words and a doer of deeds.
[tr. @Sentantiq (2016)]

 
Added on 24-Nov-20 | Last updated 8-Dec-21
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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.
 
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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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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)
 
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Consider not so much who speaks, as what is spoken.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English physician, preacher, aphorist, writer
Introductio ad Prudentiam, Vol. 1, # 109 (1725)
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A word spoken is past recalling.

John Clarke (d. 1658) British educator
Proverbs: English and Latine [Paroemiologia Anglo-Latina] (1639)
 
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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)]
 
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Writing is closer to thinking than to speaking.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist, philosopher, essayist, poet
Pensées [Thoughts], 1791 entry [tr. Auster (1983)]
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I could not find an analog in other translations of the Pensées.
 
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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 writer, philosopher, politician, statesman
Some Fruits of Solitude, Part 2, “Of Conduct and Speech,” #122 (1682)
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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 writer, philosopher, politician, statesman
Fruits of Solitude, #132 (1682)
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See Cervantes.
 
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Words, like glass, obscure when they do not aid vision.

[Les mots, comme les verres, obscurcissent tout ce qu’ils n’aident pas à mieux voir.]

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist, philosopher, essayist, poet
Pensées [Thoughts], ch. 22 “Du Style [On Style],” ¶ 25 (1850 ed.) [tr. Lyttelton (1899), ch. 21, ¶ 15]
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(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Words, like glass, darken whatever they do not help us to see.
[tr. Attwell (1896), ¶ 304]

Words, like eyeglasses, obscure everything they do not make clear.
[Source]

 
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