Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Quotes: Language.

A collection of quotations on various topics. The sentence in bold face is a plain statement of the quote that follows.

Human language is nothing but the croak and cackle of fowls.
Language 323 Hawthorne on language: “Language…--human language—after all, is but little better than the croak and cackle of fowls…sometimes not so adequate.” Mellow, Hawthorne in His Times.

British and Americans are two people separated by a common language.
Language 42 Someone once said that the British and Americans are two people separated by a common language. Childers, Wings of Morning.

The effect of a change in language of a label for a program.
Language 161 It called for a transformation of what is now a surplus disposal act into a Food-for-Peace Act designed to use American agricultural capacity to the fullest practicable extent to meet human needs the world over and to promote world economic development. Schlesinger, A Thousand Days

Foreign Service language consisted of clichés repeated at intervals, the passive voice to avoid responsibility and self-serving rhetoric.
Language 387 The recipe [for Foreign Service language] was evidently to take a handful of clichés ..repeat at five-minute intervals...stir in the dough of the passive voice (the active voice assigns responsibility and was therefore hazardous) and garnish with self-serving rhetoric. Schlesinger, A Thousand Days

He never uses short words and doesn’t know the meaning of the long words he uses.
Language 56 ...never uses a one-syllable word when he can think of a longer one, and never by any possible chance knows the meaning of any long word he uses.... Twain, Innocents Abroad.

She sang a Gaelic song; he did not understand the language but he recognized and laughed at her comic tones.
Language 123 Cathleen sung with much liveliness a little Gaelic song, the burlesque elegy of a countryman on the loss of his cow, the comic tones of which, though he did not understand the language, made Waverley laugh more than once. Sir Walter Scott, Waverley.

Sir Walter Scott’s rendering of the Scots’ dialect.
Language 234 Baron Bradwardine: If your Royal Highness had seen him dreaming and dozing about the banks of Tully-Veolan like an hypochondriac person, or, as Burton’s Anatomia hath it, a phrenesiac or lethargic patient, you would wonder where he had sae suddenly acquired all the fine sprack festivity and jocularity. Sir Walter Scott, Waverley.

They spoke Latin so fast that it was like being hit with a storm of genitive plurals.
Language 299 As for the Latin, it was talked at such a speed that the rafters rang with genitive plurals…. T. H. White, The Once and Future King.

Failure to value the precise meaning of words devalues ideas and human beings.
Language..... Cover..... If words are devalued, he [Newman] argues, so are ideas and so are human beings. Newman, Strictly Speaking.

The author values language that is lucid, graceful, and direct.
Language Cover --He [Newman] rejoices in language that is lucid, graceful, direct, civilized. Newman, Strictly Speaking.

The American language is remarkably uniform.
Language 272 The American language has indeed shown a spectacular uniformity. Boorstin, The Americans: Colonial Experience

The people define the standards of the American language.
Language 288 [Noah Webster said that] the real authority in matters of language was the American people...his standards he found in... “the general practice of the nation.” Boorstin, The Americans: Colonial Experience [A half truth.]

Technical terminology [or jargon] prevents specialists from explaining to other educated people what they have learned.
Language viii Every science and every branch of philosophy developed a technical terminology intelligible only to its exclusive devotees; as men learned more about the world, they found themselves ever less capable of expressing to their educated fellow men what it was they had learned. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy.

Technical terminology [or jargon] isolates the people who use it.
Language viii …civilization, which had hoped to raise itself upon education disseminated far and wide, would be left precariously based upon a technical erudition that had become the monopoly of an esoteric class monastically isolated from the world by the high birth rate of terminology. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy.

Voltaire nearly choked on all the consonants in the German language.
Language 217 Voltaire tried to learn German but gave it up after nearly choking; and wished the Germans had more wit and fewer consonants. . Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, Voltaire.

Some people use language to persuade and teach; others use it to capture an experience in words; others use it as a mere convenience.
Language 108 Thornton Wilder: I have learned to watch the relation to language on the part of...those communities directed toward persuasion, edification, instruction; and those engaged...in fixing some image of experience; and those others for whom language is nothing more than a practical convenience.... Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

Every individual speaks a different language.
Language 169 Frank O’Connor: …everybody speaks an entirely different language…. Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

The basic strong English sentence should be Saxon; ornament is achieved through Romance languages or Latin.
Language 894 It is a tacit rule of the [English] language to make the frame or skeleton of Saxon words, and, when elevation or ornament is sought, to interweave Roman, but sparingly; nor is a sentence made of Roman words alone without loss of strength. Emerson, English Traits.

Man’s corruption eventually corrupts his language.
Language 22 The corruption of man is followed by the corruption of language. Emerson, Nature.

Example of playing with words.
Language 664 Russell Baker on Nixon and the Vietnam War: “President Lyndon B. Nixonger.” [reference to Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s Secretary of State.]

Example of expression of prejudice in language.
Language 215 Frank: “Of course, I could not eliminate all lice and Jews in one year’s time….” Conot, Justice at Nuremberg.

Problems in translating German during the Nuremberg trial of the Nazis.
Language 354 Since, in German, the verb does not appear until the end of the sentence, the interpreters were reduced to desperation trying to untangle the clauses and phrases, and essential points frequently vanished in translation. Conot, Justice at Nuremberg.

In contracts and wills, the English language becomes obscure and unintelligible.
Language 539 Why is it that our common language, so easy for all other uses, becomes obscure and unintelligible in contracts and wills…. Montaigne, Selected Essays.

Example of playing with words.
Language 318 Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek (The American GIs who find their own words for everything, called them Sunset Sam and Shanker Jack)…. Sevareid, Not So Wild a Dream.

Example of playing with words.
Language 345 “And so we bid goodbye to bee-utiful, exotic India, land of mystery and dys’ntery.” Sevareid, Not So Wild a Dream.

Addison suggesting a guard against allowing French phrases to enter the English language.
Language 499 …certain men might be set apart as superintendents of our language, to hinder any words of a foreign coin from passing among us; and in particular to prohibit any French phrases from becoming current in their kingdom, when those of our own stamp are altogether valuable. Addison, 9/5/1711. The Spectator.

Example of playing with words.
Language 161 Lincoln rattled off a lingo changing letters of words, so that “cotton patch” became “potten catch” and “jackass” became “jassack,” giving tricky twists to barnyard and tavern words. Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years. [Pa did the same: “flutterby,” “scutterbotch,” “skereal.”]

Example of playing with words.
Language 100 Demos: ...those drug store intellectuals/ Who sit around and drawl such stuff as this:/ A shrewd lad, Phaex!...got acquitted too...what style...how practical, synthetical, epigrammatical, dynamical, polemical toward the hypercritical! Aristophanes, Knights.

We need to be more careful of what we say and how we say it.
Language and critical thinking 5 If we were more careful about what we say, and how, we might be more critical and less gullible. Newman, Strictly Speaking.

British expressions for various foods.
Language and food 173 It might be added also that the British unduly handicap themselves with the names they apply to some foods--bloaters, pilchards, scrag end, bubble-and-squeak, toad-in-the-hole, nosh, fry-up, faggots, roly-poly pudding, stodge, black pudding, spotted dog. Newman, Strictly Speaking.

Words lose their effect from over use.
Language and overused words 29 “Massive” doesn’t even mean large anymore...goes by without registering...means nothing. Newman, Strictly Speaking.[Another example would be “impacts” as a verb, which should be “affects.”]

Our politics might improve if the language of politics improved.
Language and politics 5 It is at least conceivable that our politics would be improved if our English were.... Newman, Strictly Speaking.

A recurring expression by politicians.
Language and politics 34 Why do American politicians invariably say “I would hope”? Newman, Strictly Speaking.

The meaningless language of politics.
Language and politics 65 Politics has a way of bringing on meaningless language. Newman, Strictly Speaking.

Language formulas are at least accepted and safe; deviation might not be understood and risks controversy.
Language and politics 66 The politician who tries to get away from the formula reply risks creating impatience and boredom...may be...a certain safety in language by formula.... Newman, Strictly Speaking.

Example of redundancy.
Language and redundancy 35 A serious crisis is the only one to have...like “true facts.” Newman, Strictly Speaking.

Our language reflects our society.
Language and society 1 ...the state of the language is a commentary on the state of our society. Newman, Strictly Speaking.

The prevalence of “y’know” in people’s speech.
Language and speaking 14 The prevalence of “Y’know” is one of the most far-reaching and depressing developments of our time, disfiguring conversations wherever you go...attend meetings at NBC and elsewhere in which people of high rank and station [sic], with salaries to match, say almost nothing else. Newman, Strictly Speaking.

“Y’know” is an escape from expressing precisely what you mean.
Language and speaking 14 Some people collapse into “y’know” after giving up trying to say what they mean. Newman, Strictly Speaking.

The attempt to speak succinctly would make conversations more interesting, would substitute facts for bluster, would promote the practice of organized thought and occasional silence, all of which would be blessings.
Language and speaking 18 Most of us will never speak...succinctly or concretely; we may, however, aspire to; for direct and precise language, if people could be persuaded to try it, would make conversation more interesting, which is no small thing; it would help to substitute facts for bluster, also no small thing; and it would promote the practice of organized thought and even of occasional silence, which would be an immeasurable blessing. Newman, Strictly Speaking.

Sports interviews are rituals.
Language and sports 152 The answers [in sports interviews] are purely ritualistic, but nobody minds. Newman, Strictly Speaking.

Example of a sports cliché.
Language and sports 153 “Putting it all together” [in sports] was identified as the key to success a few years ago, and it has swept all other explanations before it. Newman, Strictly Speaking.

What is the effect of sports broadcasting on Americans’ use of English?
Language and sports 155 There is no way to measure the destructive effect of sports broadcasting on ordinary American English, but it must be considerable. Newman, Strictly Speaking.

TV exalted pictures at the expense of words.
Language and television 11 Television...exalted the picture and depreciated the word. Newman, Strictly Speaking.

Social sciences take clear ideas and make them hard to understand.
Language and the social sciences 146 A large part of social scientific practice consists of taking clear ideas and making them opaque. Newman, Strictly Speaking.

In spite of incorrect pronunciation of certain words, Harry Truman had no problem making his points.
Language and usage 6 Harry Truman used to say “irrevelant” and stress the third syllable in “incomparable”; but Mr. Truman never had any trouble getting his points across. Newman, Strictly Speaking.

“Convince”: an example of incorrect usage.
Language and usage 32 You may convince that; you may convince of; you may not convince to. Newman, Strictly Speaking.

The use of deadened language in the Watergate hearings.
Language and Watergate 7 Certainly...those involved in Watergate had had far more education than the national average; yet one of the things that Watergate hearings revealed was a poverty of expression, an inability to say anything in a striking way, an addiction to a language that was almost denatured, and in which what little humor did occur was usually unintentional. Newman, Strictly Speaking.

Example of metaphorical use of language and the polite way to say the same thing.
Language 775 Buck: “are you the duck that runs the gospel-mill next door?” Buck: “…you are the head clerk of the doxology works next door.” Preacher: “I am the shepherd in charge of the flock whose fold is next door.” Preacher: “The spiritual advisor of the little company of believers whose sanctuary adjoins these premises.” Buck: “You see, one of the boys has gone up the flume….” Preacher: “Ah—has departed to the mysterious country from whose bourne no traveler returns.” Buck: “Now if we can get you to help plant him….” Preacher: “Preach the funeral discourse…assist at the obsequies?” Twain, Roughing It

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