Quotations about   speech

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We open our mouths and out flow words whose ancestries we do not even know. We are walking lexicons. In a single sentence of idle chatter we preserve Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Norse: we carry a museum inside our heads, each day we commemorate peoples of whom we have never heard.

Penelope Lively (b. 1933) British writer
Moon Tiger (1987)
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Added on 2-Oct-18 | Last updated 2-Oct-18
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Man is a talking animal and he will always let himself be swayed by the power of the word.

Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) French author, existentialist philosopher, feminist theorist
Les Belles Images (1966)
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Added on 12-Feb-18 | Last updated 12-Feb-18
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Not everyone is worth listening to.

Alain de Botton (b. 1969) Swiss-British author
The Consolations of Philosophy, ch. 1 “Consolation For Unpopularity” (2000)
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Added on 12-Oct-17 | Last updated 12-Oct-17
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She speaks poniards and every word stabs

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Much Ado About Nothing, Act 2, sc. 1 (1599)
Added on 20-Jul-17 | Last updated 20-Jul-17
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Everyone stood still, not knowing what to say. Except me. I knew what I should say, which was nothing. And I kept saying it.

Robert B. Parker (1932-2010) American writer
Pastime (1991)
Added on 12-Apr-17 | Last updated 12-Apr-17
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Clarity in language depends on clarity in thought.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) American historian, author, social critic
Interview with Brian Lamb, C-SPAN (10 May 1998)
Added on 7-Apr-17 | Last updated 7-Apr-17
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He who knows does not speak.
He who speaks does not know.

Lao-tzu (604?-531? BC) Chinese philosopher, poet [also Lao-tse, Laozi]
Tao-te Ching, ch. 56 [tr. Wing-Tsit Chan]
Added on 6-Apr-17 | Last updated 6-Apr-17
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In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and in eternity.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) American lawyer, politician, US President (1861-65)
Annual Message to Congress (1 Dec 1862)
Added on 22-Mar-17 | Last updated 22-Mar-17
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Kind words also produce their own image in men’s souls; and a beautiful image it is. They soothe and quiet and comfort the hearer. They shame him out of his sour, morose, unkind feelings. We have not yet begun to use kind words in such abundance as they ought to be used.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) French scientist and philosopher
(Attributed)
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Often attributed without citation in 19th Century works, e.g., The Golden Rule and Odd-Fellows' Family Companion, Vol. 7 (1847).
Added on 13-Mar-17 | Last updated 13-Mar-17
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Talking is one of the fine arts — the noblest, the most important, the most difficult — and its fluent harmonies may be spoiled by the intrusion of a single harsh note.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table (1858)
Added on 13-Feb-17 | Last updated 13-Feb-17
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The tongue is not steel, yet it cuts.

George Herbert (1593-1633) Welsh priest, orator, poet.
Jacula Prudentum (1651)
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Added on 8-Feb-17 | Last updated 8-Feb-17
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A soft Tongue may strike hard.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Poor Richard’s Almanack (Oct 1744)
Added on 18-Jan-17 | Last updated 18-Jan-17
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Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist
New Statesman and Nation (15 Jul 1933)
Added on 13-Dec-16 | Last updated 13-Dec-16
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Tact teaches you when to be silent.

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) English politician and author
Endymion, ch. 61 (1880)
Added on 5-Dec-16 | Last updated 5-Dec-16
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No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous.

Henry Adams (1838-1918) American journalist, historian, academic, novelist
The Education of Henry Adams, ch. 31 (1907)
Added on 1-Dec-16 | Last updated 1-Dec-16
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Let us tenderly and kindly cherish therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak and write.

Adams - read think speak and write - wist_info quote

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
“A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law” (1765)
Added on 10-Aug-16 | Last updated 10-Aug-16
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Brevity is the best recommendation of speech, whether in a senator or an orator.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
(Attributed)
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In Tryon Edwards, A Dictionary of Thoughts (1891).
Added on 22-Apr-16 | Last updated 22-Apr-16
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I don’t care how much a man talks, if he only says it in a few words.

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Josh Billings: His Sayings, “Affurisms” (1865)
Added on 18-Mar-16 | Last updated 18-Mar-16
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Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.

Robert Frost (1874-1963) American poet
(Attributed)
Added on 19-Feb-16 | Last updated 19-Feb-16
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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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And when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcome
but when we are silent
we are still afraid.
So it is better to speak
remembering
we were never meant to survive.

Lorde - still afraid - wist_info

Audre Lorde (1934-1992) American writer, feminist, civil rights activist
“A Litany for Survival,” The Black Unicorn (1978)
Added on 1-Dec-15 | Last updated 1-Dec-15
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They taught me that the truth would make me free but failed to warn me of the kind of trouble I’d get into by trying to tell it — I remain duly grateful.

Margaret Atwood (b. 1939) Canadian writer, literary critic, environmental activist
“Attitude,” Commencement Address, University Of Toronto (14 Jun 1983)
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Added on 22-May-15 | Last updated 22-May-15
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I must say I’m not very fond of oratory that’s so full of energy it hasn’t any room for facts.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Arrowsmith, ch. 22, part 3 (1925)
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Added on 18-May-15 | Last updated 18-May-15
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An able man shows his Spirit by gentle words and resolute actions.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (15 Jan 1753)
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Added on 27-Apr-15 | Last updated 27-Apr-15
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I think the most un-American thing you can say is, “You can’t say that.”

Garrison Keillor (b. 1942) American entertainer, author
(Attributed)
Added on 18-Dec-14 | Last updated 18-Dec-14
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There should be a reason for speech but not for silence.

Other Authors and Sources
French proverb
Added on 6-Nov-14 | Last updated 6-Nov-14
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Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
Proverbs 17:28
Added on 30-Oct-14 | Last updated 30-Oct-14
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It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
(Spurious)

This quotation, and close variants, are frequently attributed to Twain or Abraham Lincoln, but appears to have first been phrased this way by Maurice Switzer, Mrs. Goose, Her Book (1906): "It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it." Another point of origin is in the Bible, Proverbs 17:28: "Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding." See here for more information.
Added on 23-Oct-14 | Last updated 23-Oct-14
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I am very little inclined on any occasion to say anything unless I hope to produce some good by it.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) American lawyer, politician, US President (1861-65)
Speech, Union Meeting, Washington (6 Aug 1862)
Added on 16-Oct-14 | Last updated 16-Oct-14
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I will begin to speak, when I have that to say which had not better be unsaid.

Cato the Younger (95-46 BC) Roman politician, statesman, orator [Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis, Cato Minor]
In Plutarch, “Cato the Younger,” Parallel Lives [tr. Dryden (1693)]
Added on 11-Sep-14 | Last updated 11-Sep-14
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I may be arrested, I may be tried and thrown into jail, but I never will be silent.

Emma Goldman (1869-1940) Lithuanian-American anarchist, activist
“Address to the Jury,” Mother Earth (Jul 1917)
Added on 17-Jul-14 | Last updated 17-Jul-14
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A man’s character is revealed in his speech.

Menander (c. 341 - c. 290 BC) Greek comedic dramatist
Fragment, 72 [tr. Allinson (1921)]
Added on 9-Jun-14 | Last updated 9-Jun-14
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Consider not so much who speaks, as what is spoken.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Introductio ad Prudentiam, #1314 (1731)
Added on 2-Jun-14 | Last updated 2-Jun-14
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Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Social Aims,” Letters and Social Aims (1876)
Added on 19-May-14 | Last updated 19-May-14
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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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For it is a mad world and it will get madder if we allow the minorities, be they dwarf or giant, orangutan or dolphin, nuclear-head or water-conversationalist, pro-computerologist or Neo-Luddite, simpleton or sage, to interfere with aesthetics. The real world is the playing ground for each and every group, to make or unmake laws. But the tip of the nose of my book or stories or poems is where their rights end and my territorial imperatives begin, run and rule. If Mormons do not like my plays, let them write their own. If the Irish hate my Dublin stories, let them rent typewriters. If teachers and grammar school editors find my jawbreaker sentences shatter their mushmilk teeth, let them eat stale cake dunked in weak tea of their own ungodly manufacture.

Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) American writer, futurist, fabulist
Fahrenheit 451, “Coda” Afterword (1979 ed.)
Added on 21-Apr-14 | Last updated 21-Apr-14
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No sinner is ever saved after the first twenty minutes of a sermon.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Hannibal Courier-Post (6 Mar 1835)
Added on 29-May-12 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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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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Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty. To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.

Louis Brandeis (1856-1941) American lawyer, activist, Supreme Court Justice (1916-39)
Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927) [Concur]
Added on 9-Sep-10 | Last updated 16-Jun-14
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That is as well said as if I had said it myself.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
A Complete Collection of Polite and Ingenious Conversation, Dialogue 2 (1738)
Added on 19-May-10 | Last updated 12-Apr-17
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You are eloquent enough if truth speaks through you.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 861 [tr. Lyman (1862)]
Added on 19-Nov-09 | Last updated 20-Feb-17
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We must know what we think and speak out, even at the risk of unpopularity. In the final analysis, a democratic government represents the sum total of the courage and the integrity of its individuals. It cannot be better than they are.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) First Lady of the US (1933-45), politician, diplomat, activist
Tomorrow Is Now (1963)
Added on 11-Jun-08 | Last updated 2-Apr-15
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Speak the truth and shame the Devil.

François Rabelais (1494-1553) French writer, humanist, doctor
Le Quart-Livre des faicts et dicts héroïques du bon Pantagruel, Prolog (1552)
Added on 13-Sep-07 | Last updated 19-Apr-18
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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)
    (Source)

See Cervantes.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 21-Apr-14
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Action is eloquence.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Coriolanus, Act 3, sc. 2, l. 76 (1609)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 24-May-16
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Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.

Groucho Marx (1890-1977) American comedian [b. Julius Henry Marx]
(Attributed)

Quoted by Ever Star, "Inside TV," Greensboro Record (3 Nov 1954). Also attributed to Ambrose Bierce, Henry Ward Beecher, and Lawrence J. Peter. More research and discussion here.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 9-Mar-15
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