The Quote Garden

 I dig old books.

 Est. 1998

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Quotations about Speaking

...sooner or later a man whose business requires him to keep his mouth open will get his foot into it... ~William Ellis, 1899

Learn to hold your tongue, and you will be in all languages, fluent, and on all topics, wiser than most. ~Robert Brault,

Refrain from uprooting your thoughts and flinging them into language; let be, they may grow fruit. ~Henry Stanley Haskins, "Thought," Meditations in Wall Street, 1940 speak, and to speak well, are two things. A Fool may talk, but a Wise Man speaks... ~Ben Jonson

He has achieved a high measure of self-mastery who controls the invisible conduit extending from his ear to his tongue. ~L. J. Muir, Muir's Thesaurus of Truths: A Volume of Master Quotations Arranged in Symposia, Selected and Classified by Leo J. Muir and Geo. Muir, Jr., 1937

The man's oratory could kill flies in midair... ~Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind, 2001, translated from Spanish by Lucia Graves, 2004

I've learned this — that just standing there with a blank look on your face is better than uttering words to that effect. ~Robert Brault,

Sometimes the grasp of the hand, the glance of the eye, is more eloquent than a thousand tongues. ~William Ellis, 1904

Watch your own speech, and notice how it is guided by your less conscious purposes... ~George Eliot, "Borne Along by the Tide," The Mill on the Floss, 1860

If you wouldn't write it and sign it, don't say it. ~Author unknown, 1940s

It's often very expensive to think out loud. ~Minna Thomas Antrim (1861–1950), Knocks Witty, Wise and —, 1905

The most important things are the hardest to say, because words diminish them. ~Stephen King, "The Body," 1982

Their conversation is like a gently wicked dance.... we watch their faces, their hands, their feet, and listen for truth in timbre. ~Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye, 1970

An energy crisis will never stop motor-mouths. ~Raven's Ravings, c.1979

Of those who say nothing, few are silent. ~Thomas Neill, as quoted in Robert Byrne, The Fifth and Far Finer than the First Four 637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said, 1993

A lot of orators mistake strong lungs for strong minds. ~Author unknown, c.1920

I like to think of myself as a finely-aged wine, and one thing that keeps a wine finely-aged is to put a cork in it. ~Robert Brault,

The kindest word in all the world is the unkind word, unsaid. ~Author unknown  [This thought and partial phrase goes back at least to the 1800s, but this particular wording is from the early 1970s. —tg]

If the Fool said naught whatever
He would be no Fool, but Clever.
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Pretence," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924

And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered. ~Khalil Gibran, The Prophet, 1923

Well, putting things candidly (as I generally do when nothing is to be gained by putting them otherwise)... ~John Hill, The Waters of Marah, 1883

...his very speech is gnarled
And twisted into knots as playing snakes;
His breath is like the words of other men;
His words, no air—but solid things drop down
Before him as he speaks, upon the ground...
~V. A. R., "The King's Death," Poems, 1867

The true genius shudders at incompleteness — imperfection — and usually prefers silence to saying the something which is not everything that should be said. ~Edgar Allan Poe

And don't talk too fast — you may say something you haven't thought of yet. ~Charles B. Thomsen

When you say a really good thing, stop. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1903, George Horace Lorimer, editor

The easiest way to save face is to keep the lower half shut. ~Strictly for Laughs, by Joey Adams, 1955

The teeth form a barrier to check wanton words. ~Aulus Gellius

Don't argue; the best argument has one weakness: it admits of reply. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1908, George Horace Lorimer, editor

I can remember rounding a corner and standing there agog while a mouthful of half-formed jabber just rolled backwards down my throat, forever unuttered. ~Bill Bryson, The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America, 1989  [describing his speechlessness as a talkative 7-year-old, upon first seeing the Grand Canyon —tg]

She resumed speaking, after a pause that testified eloquently to the depth of her emotion... ~Eugene Field, "The Mouse and the Moonbeam," 1888  [Mauve Mouse, sister of Squeaknibble. A little altered. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

Silence iz one ov the hardest arguments to refute. ~Josh Billings, "Affurisms: Mollassis Kandy"

Who answers Evil Speaking with a Flood
Of Evil Speech, would wash off Dirt with Mud.
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Evil-Speaking," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924

Many talk as easily as they breathe, and with quite as little thought. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882

Saying the wrong thing is misfortune; but trying to explain it is disaster. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1903, George Horace Lorimer, editor

In every relationship there are situations you need to talk through — and situations where you need to be through talking. ~Robert Brault,

Among provocations the next best thing to good preaching is bad preaching. I have even more thoughts during or enduring it than at other times. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1837

Free speech is a blessing to men, without it no race can advance; but talkers should pause now and then, and give other fellows a chance. ~Walt Mason (1862–1939), "The Poor Listener"

Keep the golden mean, between saying too much and too little. ~Publilius Syrus, 1st century BCE, from the Latin by D. Lyman, 1856

Let a fool hold his tongue, and he will pass for a sage. ~Publilius Syrus, 1st century BCE, from the Latin by D. Lyman, 1856

Men talk little when vanity does not prompt them. ~François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613–1680)

Don't try to manage a cup of coffee, a sandwich and a piece of pie and the word 'insurmountable' at the same time. It can't be did. ~Percy Keese Fitzhugh, Roy Blakeley: Lost, Strayed or Stolen, 1921

A profound man thinks more easily than he talks; a shallow one talks more easily than he thinks. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882

Either be silent, or say something better than silence. ~Publilius Syrus, 1st century BCE, from the Latin by D. Lyman, 1856

It's usually when a man speaks without thinking that he says what he thinks. ~The Philadelphia Record, 1901

Lucy put out her hand as if to ward his words away... ~Florence Bone (1875–1971), The Morning of To‑Day, 1907

It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it. ~Maurice Switzer, 1906  [ —tg]

Many preachers shine in the pulpit who lose their brilliancy in common conversation. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882

And always remember that it is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood... ~Karl Popper, "A Long Digression Concerning Essentialism: What Still Divides Me from Most Contemporary Philosophers," 1974

I'm not a dull speaker, I'm a bad speaker, I'm a wretched speaker. The tape of my unprepared speech differs from my written prose as much as the worm differs from the perfect insect — or, as I once put it, I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, and I speak like a child.... My hemmings and hawings over the telephone cause long-distance callers to switch from their native English to pathetic French. At parties, if I attempt to entertain people with a good story, I have to go back to every other sentence for oral erasures and inserts. Even the dream I describe to my wife across the breakfast table is only a first draft. In these circumstances nobody should ask me to submit to an interview if by "interview" a chat between two normal human beings is implied. ~Vladimir Nabokov  [This is not actually a full quotation that you will find anywhere. It is a mash-up from two different sources but both by Nabokov, part from a 1977 BBC interview with Robert Robinson and the remainder from Nabokov's 1973 foreword to Strong Opinions. They do, however, share an overlapping sentence. And this, my dear Mr Nabokov, fits my INFJ personality to a T! —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

A dog is not considered a good dog because he is a good barker... A man is not considered a good man because he is a good talker. ~Chuang Tzŭ: Mystic, Moralist, and Social Reformer, "Hsü Wu Kuei," translated from the Chinese by Herbert A. Giles, 1889

Don't tell your Friends about your Indigestion:
"How are you!" is a Greeting, not a Question.
~Arthur Guiterman, 1920

Fie, what a spendthrift is he of his tongue! ~William Shakespeare, Tempest, c.1611  [II, 1, Antonio]

I cannot choose: sometime he angers me
With telling me of the mouldwarp and the ant,
Of the dreamer Merlin and his prophecies,
And of a dragon and a finless fish,
A clip-wing'd griffin and a moulten raven,
A couching lion and a ramping cat,
And such a deal of skimble-skamble stuff
As puts me from my faith. I tell you what;
He held me last night at least nine hours
In reckoning up the several devils' names
That were his lackeys: I cried 'hum,' and 'well, go to,'
But mark'd him not a word. O, he is as tedious
As a tired horse, a railing wife;
Worse than a smoky house: I had rather live
With cheese and garlic in a windmill, far,
Than feed on cates and have him talk to me
In any summer-house in Christendom.
~William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part I, c.1597  [III, 1, Hotspur (Henry Percy)]

As a gardener, I wonder if flowers really can't speak or just exercise unfailing good judgment in the matter. ~Robert Brault,

The man was on his knees, trying to retrieve each of his ugly words that were now scattered on the floor. But, of course, it was too late. ~Dr. SunWolf,

A straightforward, open-hearted, and sincere answer, is better than all the silly, shuffling, insincere replies in the world. ~Religious Tract Society, London, Yes! and No!, 1835

Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact—from calling on us to look through a heap of millet-seed in order to be sure that there is no pearl in it. ~George Eliot, Impressions of Theophrastus Such, 1879

Let papers speak and beards be silent. ~Spanish proverb

Calvin:  Sometimes when I'm talking, my words can't keep up with my thoughts. I wonder why we think faster than we can speak.
Hobbes:  Probably so we can think twice.
~Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes, 1995

Does it seem sometimes that you are always the one to break an embarrassing silence — and always by saying something more embarrassing than the silence? ~Robert Brault,

Never miss a good chance to shut up. ~Will Rogers (1879–1935)

I tend to babble when I'm nervous. I tend to babble when I'm not nervous. So any way you slice that cake, I'm babbling. ~Nine Perfect Strangers, "Ever After," 2021, written for television by David E. Kelley, based on the 2018 book by Liane Moriarty  [S1, E8, Frances]

The attitude, the tone, is all. Let our eyes not look away, but meet. Let us not look east and west for materials of conversation, but rest in presence and unity. A just feeling will fast enough supply fuel for discourse, if speaking be more grateful than silence. When people come to see us, we foolishly prattle, lest we be inhospitable. But things said for conversation are chalk eggs. Don't say things. What you are stands over you the while, and thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary. A lady of my acquaintance said, "I don't care so much for what they say as I do for what makes them say it." The main point is to throw yourself on the truth... ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Social Aims"

Mr. Coolidge, at times, "withdraws" into silence almost as a turtle draws back into his shell... One story tells of a bet made between two men, one of whom was to sit next to the President at a large dinner, that he would not say three words during the entire meal. Towards the end of the evening, getting desperate because Mr. Coolidge had not yet spoken at all, the man next him told of the bet, ending: "He bet ten dollars you wouldn't say three words, but I bet you would." Mr. Coolidge, according to the story, considered the matter for some moments, then turned a little towards his companion. "You lose," he said. ~Myron M. Stearns, "Gentlemen, the President! A Study of Calvin Coolidge," 1925

There is never an embarrassing silence that can't be turned into a regrettable conversation. ~Robert Brault,

The difference between a smart man and a wise man is that a smart man knows what to say, and a wise man knows whether or not to say it. ~Frank M. Garafola, as quoted in The Reader's Digest, 1994

You know how sometimes the last sentence you said, like, echoes in your brain, and it just keeps sounding stupider? And you have to say something else just to make it stop? ~My So-Called Life, "Father Figures," 1994, written by Winnie Holzman  [S1, E4]

I have often regretted my speech, never my silence. ~Publilius Syrus, 1st century BCE, from the Latin by D. Lyman, 1856

No man would listen to you talk if he didn't know it was his turn next. ~E. W. Howe, 1910

You don't suppose that my remarks made at this table are like so many postage-stamps, do you, — each to be only once uttered? If you do, you are mistaken. He must be a poor creature who does not often repeat himself. Imagine the author of the excellent piece of advice, "Know thyself," never alluding to that sentiment again during the course of a protracted existence! Why, the truths a man carries about with him are his tools; and do you think a carpenter is bound to use the same plane but once to smooth a knotty board with, or to hang up his hammer after it has driven its first nail? I shall never repeat a conversation, but an idea often. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Talk is cheap because supply exceeds demand. ~Author unknown, as quoted in Robert Byrne, The 637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said, 1982

Never argue with a fool — onlookers may not be able to tell the difference. ~W. Gilmore Simms, Egeria, 1853, and anonymous sign from the early 1960s  [mash-up quote —tg]

When you are arguing with a fool just remember the fool is doing the same thing. ~"Idle Thoughts of an Idle Thinker," Collier's, 1904  [By the 1960s, the phrase had evolved to: "When you are arguing with a fool, make sure he isn't doing the same thing." —tg]

Oh, the things that go through my mind that I never say. Oh, the things I say that never go through my mind. ~Robert Brault,

UNHAPPY.  The man who knows it all with nobody to tell it to. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut. ~Ernest Hemingway, as quoted in A. E. Hotchner, The Good Life According to Hemingway, 2008

The "duh" is silent. ~Rachel Maddow, 2017 July 17th, The Rachel Maddow Show

Sometimes there are words said and regretted that need to be said and regretted. ~Robert Brault,

...Shall I go on?
Or have I said enough?...
~John Milton, "Comus, A Mask"

And there is monologue disguised as dialogue, in which two or more men, meeting in space, speak each with himself in strangely tortuous and circuitous ways and yet imagine they have escaped the torment of being thrown back on their own resources. ~Martin Buber (1878—1965), translated from German

There is no such thing as conversation. It is an illusion. There are intersecting monologues, that is all. ~Rebecca West, "There is No Conversation," 1934

As a matter of fact, have you never noticed that most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of a witness? ~Margaret Millar, The Weak-Eyed Bat, 1942

A dialogue is not made up of two monologues. ~Howard E. Short, quoted in United Church Herald, 1967

Now, you indicate to me that you really see that as communication going back and forth rather than simply individual expression. But communication is assumed to be a dialogue between people, not two monologues. ~Quoted in Howard Stein, A Time to Speak, 1974

Basically you are like two parallel lines which never meet. Dialogue seems to be impossible. All is monologue — you are talking to yourself and the other is talking to himself. Two monologues together look like a dialogue only in appearance. ~Osho, The Revolution: Talks on Kabir, 1979

Two monologues do not make a dialogue. ~Noel de Nevers, c. 1989

But real dialogue is here continually hidden in all kinds of odd corners and, occasionally in an unseemly way, breaks surface surprisingly and inopportunely — certainly still oftener it is arrogantly tolerated than downright scandalizing — as in the tone of a railway guard's voice, in the glance of an old newspaper vendor, in the smile of the chimney-sweeper. ~Martin Buber, translated from German

That peoples can no longer carry on authentic dialogue with one another is not only the most acute symptom of the pathology of our time, it is also that which most urgently makes a demand of us. ~Martin Buber (1878—1965)

But monologue disguised as dialogue is the great dissembler that masquerades as the interhuman. ~Maurice Friedman, Martin Buber's Life and Work, 1981

I hope there were no listeners within earshot, as I am sure the dialogue, or, more properly speaking, the two monologues, they would have heard — (for we spoke both together, neither of us paying the slightest attention to what the other was saying!) — must have been supremely ridiculous! He poured forth a perfect rigmarole of sentimental heroics; whilst I was equally voluble in angry remonstrance! ~Illustrated News, 1863  [Credit: —tg]

Speech is thinking aloud. Soliloquy is thinking aloud to one's self... Since the soul is conversant with its own reasonings, why speak?... In the normal state of soul, when life is oppressed, when the vastest issues break like angry oceans in the spirit — then thoughts seem bent on uttering themselves. Soliloquy is natural to Hamlet as turbulence to the seas. His conversations are monologues. He takes other men's words as points of departure. He deals in dissertations, not conversations... If Hamlet fell into soliloquy as naturally as stars fall with flash-light to the earth at night, yet is he still more the brooder than the soliloquizer... Hamlet's mood is to think, to dream, rather than speak in whispers even. ~William A. Quayle, "The Soliloquies of Macbeth and Hamlet," The Poet's Poet and Other Essays, 1897

If ten commandments make a decalogue, one commandment makes a monologue, doesn't it? ~John Kendrick Bangs, The Genial Idiot, 1908

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published 1998 Mar 18
revised May 2015, Jan 2021
last saved 2024 May 27