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But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.
I am always sorry when any language is lost, because languages are the pedigree of nations.
Language [is] the leading principle which unites or separates the tribes of mankind …
[Greek is] doubtless the most perfect [language] that has been contrived by the art of man.
Ignorant people think it is the noise which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain't so; it is the sickening grammar that they use.
The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.
[Greek is] a musical and prolific language, that gives a soul to the objects of sense, and a body to the abstractions of philosophy.
He [Churchill] mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.
Don't swear, boy. It shows a lack of vocabulary.
If Miss means respectably unmarried, and Mrs respectably married, then Ms means nudge, nudge, wink, wink.
They spell it Vinci and pronounce it Vinchy; foreigners always spell better than they pronounce.
Waiting for the German verb is surely the ultimate thrill.
When I survey the Plan [of a Dictionary of the English Language] which I have laid before you, I cannot, my Lord, but confess, that I am frightened at its extent, and, like the soldiers of Cæsar, look on Britain as a new world, which it is almost madness to invade. But I hope, that though I should not complete the conquest, I shall at least discover the coast, civilize part of the inhabitants, and make it easy for some other adventurer to proceed farther, to reduce them wholly to subjection, and settle them under laws.
But let me laugh awhile, I've mickle time to grieve.
Life does not cease to be funny when people die, any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.
I was irrevocably betrothed to laughter, the sound of which has always seemed to me to be the most civilised music in the world.
When I came back to Dublin I was court-martialed in my absence and sentenced to death in my absence, so I said they could shoot me in by absence.
Justice delayed is justice denied.
This is a court of law, young man, not a court of justice.
Courtroom, n. A place where Jesus Christ and Judas Iscariot would be equals, with betting odds in favor of Judas.
The people can change Congress but only God can change the Supreme Court.
The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.
A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer.
… mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent …
I am further of opinion that it would be better for us to have [no laws] at all than to have them in so prodigious numbers as we have.
It is emphatically the province and duty of the Judiciary to say what the law is, not what the law should be.
[Whenever] the offense inspires less horror than the punishment, the rigor of penal law is obliged to give way to the common feelings of mankind.
[The] operation of the wisest laws is imperfect and precarious. They seldom inspire virtue, they cannot always restrain vice.
There is hardly a political question in the United States which does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one.
But the wisdom and authority of the legislator are seldom victorious in a contest with the vigilant dexterity of private interest.
Laws are like sausages. It's better not to see them being made.
[It] is the interest as well as duty of a sovereign to maintain the authority of the laws.
One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils in this world are to be cured by legislation.
A Locrian, who proposed any new law, stood forth in the assembly of the people with a cord round his neck, and if the law was rejected, the innovator was instantly strangled.
A jurisdiction thus vague and arbitrary was exposed to the most dangerous abuse: the substance, as well as the form, of justice were often sacrificed to the prejudices of virtue, the bias of laudable affection, and the grosser seductions of interest or resentment.
With the utmost deference for these excellent civilians, I cannot but consider this confusion of the judicial and legislative authority as a very perilous constitutional precedent.
The science of the laws is the slow growth of time and experience …
The books of jurisprudence were interesting to few, and entertaining to none: their value was connected with present use, and they sunk forever as soon as that use was superseded by the innovations of fashion, superior merit, or public authority.
Whatever is secret must be doubtful, and our natural horror of vice may be abused as an engine of tyranny.
A sentence of death and infamy was often founded on the slight and suspicious evidence of a child or a servant: the guilt [of the defendant] was presumed by the judges [due to the nature of the charge], and paederasty became the crime of those to whom no crime could be imputed.
[The] discretion of the judge is the first engine of tyranny …
But a law, however venerable be the sanction, cannot suddenly transform the temper of the times …
[A] thousand quarrels must arise under a law, and among men, whose sole umpire [is] the sword.
Government can easily exist without laws, but law cannot exist without government.
The law functions as formal embodiment of a moral code, not as free-standing substitute for it.
To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.
Laws too gentle are seldom obeyed; too severe, seldom executed.
No poet ever interpreted nature as freely as a lawyer interprets truth.
I don't want a lawyer to tell me what I cannot do; I hire him to tell me how to do what I want to do.
Every Federal Judge is a lawyer. So are most Congressmen. Every invasion of the plain rights of the citizen has a lawyer behind it. If all lawyers were hanged tomorrow, and their bones sold to a mahjong factory, we'd all be freer and safer, and our taxes would be reduced by half.
A countryman between two lawyers is like a fish between two cats.
Laziness travels so slowly that poverty soon overtakes him.
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
and poverty will come on you like a bandit
and scarcity like an armed man.
Lazy hands make a man poor,
but diligent hands bring wealth.
That indolent but agreeable condition of doing nothing.
I understand there's a guy inside me who wants to lay in bed, smoke weed all day, and watch cartoons and old movies. My whole life is a series of stratagems to avoid, and outwit, that guy.
All leaders strive to turn their followers into children.
It is hard to look up to a leader who keeps his ear to the ground.
It is frequently a misfortune to have very brilliant men in charge of affairs; they expect too much of ordinary men.
There go my people. I must find out where they are going so I can lead them.
He who thinks he leads, and has no one following him is only taking a walk.
"Cheshire-Puss," she began, "would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don't care much where—" said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.
When I want to know what France thinks, I ask myself.
I must follow them. I am their leader.
You have lost a useful commander, and you have made a very wretched emperor.
Men's evil manners live in brass; their virtues we write in water.
It has been sagaciously conjectured, that the artful legislator indulged the stubborn prejudices of his countrymen.
There is nothing but that frail breastwork of earth between the people and destruction.
It is the fate of those who toil at the lower employments of life, to be rather driven by the fear of evil, than attracted by the prospect of good; to be exposed to censure, without hope of praise; to be disgraced by miscarriage, or punished for neglect, where success would have been without applause, and diligence without reward.
Among these unhappy mortals is the writer of dictionaries; whom mankind have considered, not as the pupil, but the slave of science, the pioneer of literature, doomed only to remove rubbish and clear obstructions from the paths of Learning and Genius, who press forward to conquest and glory, without bestowing a smile on the humble drudge that facilitates their progress. Every other author may aspire to praise; the lexicographer can only hope to escape reproach and even this negative recompense has been yet granted to very few.
Lexicographer, n. A writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge, that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words.
The liar at any rate recognizes that recreation, not instruction, is the aim of conversation, and is a far more civilised being than the blockhead who loudly expresses his disbelief in a story which is told simply for the amusement of the company.
Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.
So much of contemporary liberalism seems to be never having grown up.
[Liberalism] is hostile to law [and has a preference for] policy without law.
The search for a moral equivalent of war continues to define American liberalism to this day.
You can't go from a $2,000-a-night suite at La Mirage to a penitentiary and really understand it and come out a liberal.
Liberality is not giving much but giving wisely.
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
The effect of liberty to individuals is, that they may do what they please; we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations.
The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
There can be no liberty unless there is economic liberty.
There's only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.
You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for independence.
It is in the township that the strength of free peoples resides. Municipal institutions are for liberty what primary schools are for science; they place it within reach of the people … Without municipal institutions, a nation is able to give itself a free government, but it lacks the spirit of liberty.
The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
History has scarcely deigned to notice [Libius Severus's] birth, his elevation, his character, or his death.
A man said to the Universe, "Sir, I exist!"
"However," replied the Universe, "the fact has not created in me a sense of obligation."
The basic fact about human existence is not that it is a tragedy, but that it is a bore.
Men fear silence as they fear solitude, because both give them a glimpse of the terror of life's nothingness.
[The Forgotten Man] is the clean, quiet, virtuous domestic citizen who pays his debts and his taxes and is never heard of out of his little circle. … [He] works and votes—generally he prays—but his chief business in life is to pay.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
There are two ways to slide easily through life: to believe everything or to doubt everything; both ways save us from thinking.
Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker is sorry.
Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.
I advise you to go on living solely to enrage those who are paying your annuities. It is the only pleasure I have left.
The first half of our life is ruined by our parents and the second half by our children.
The game of life is not so much in holding a good hand as playing a poor hand well.
What the meaning of human life may be I don't know; I incline to suspect that it has none.
Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.
Do not despair of life. You have no doubt force enough to overcome your obstacles. Think of the fox prowling through wood and field in a winter night for something to satisfy his hunger. Notwithstanding cold and hounds and traps, his race survives. I do not believe any of them ever committed suicide.
If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.
It is not doing the thing we like to do, but liking the thing we have to do, that makes life blessed.
And remember, no matter where you go, there you are.
What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.
In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants and the other is getting it.
Never abandon life. There is a way out of everything except death.
Fancy living in one of these streets, never seeing anything beautiful, never eating anything savoury, never saying anything clever!
We are born crying, live complaining, and die disappointed.
The act of self-denial seems to confer on us the right to be harsh and merciless toward others.
Men of thought seldom work well together, whereas between men of action there is usually an easy camaraderie.
How little can we foresee the consequences either of wise or unwise action, of virtue or of malice! Without this measureless and perpetual uncertainty the drama of human life would be destroyed.
… men work simply in order to escape the depressing agony of contemplating life—that their work, like their play, is a mumbo-jumbo that serves them by permitting them to escape from reality.
Life may not be exactly pleasant, but it is at least not dull. Heave yourself into Hell today, and you may miss, tomorrow or next day, another Scopes trial, or another War to End War, or perchance a rich and buxom widow with all her first husband's clothes. There are always more Hardings hatching. I advocate hanging on as long as possible.
Life is short, but death lasts forever.
How little it takes to make life unbearable … A pebble in the shoe, a cockroach in the spaghetti, a woman's laugh.
The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast.
Life is a hideous thing.
At the door of life, by the gate of breath,
There are worse things waiting for men than death.
Don't believe the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.
When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.
When you have got an elephant by the hind leg, and he is trying to run away, it's best to let him run.
Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn't people feel as free to delight in whatever sunlight remains to them?
I value kindness to human beings first of all, and kindness to animals. I don't respect the law; I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper, and old men and women warmer in the winter, and happier in the summer.
Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.
Life is a long lesson in humility.
Be master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for the big, worthwhile things. It isn't the mountain ahead that wears you out—it's the grain of sand in your shoe.
A bad habit never disappears miraculously; it's an undo-it-yourself project.
Why shouldn't things be largely absurd, futile, and transitory? They are so, and we are so, and they and we go very well together.
Music is essentially useless, as life is.
If I had to live my life again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner.
In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.
I think you should live your life so that the maximum number of people will attend your funeral.
The Europeans … are less unhappy than we, but they are not happy. Human life is everywhere a state in which much is to be endured, and little to be enjoyed.
[All] of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon—instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.
If thou wouldst live long, live well;
For folly and wickedness shorten life.
The unexamined life is not worth living.
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And—which is more—you'll be a Man, my son!
You can never begin to live
Until you dare to die.
A stout heart, a clear conscience, and never despair.
Life is subject to change without notice.
Life's tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.
You thought it was hard? If kindergarten is busting your ass, I got some bad news for you about the rest of life.
No, you can't go getting mad at people because they're shitty. Life will get mad at them, don't worry.
Just worry about living, dying is the easy part.
Life is pain … Anyone who says differently is selling something.
Life isn't fair, it's just fairer than death, that's all.
Wish not so much to live long as to live well.
The path of least resistance leads to crooked rivers and crooked men.
You live and learn. At any rate, you live.
Don't be so hard on yourself; don't put pressure on yourself; life is just a chain of experiments and results … you'll be perfect when you're dead.
Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.
Life is short. Why make it any shorter by taking care of yourself?
So large a part of human life passes in a state contrary to our natural desires that one of the principal topics of moral instruction is the art of bearing calamities. And such is the certainty of evil that it is the duty of every man to furnish his mind with those principles that may enable him to act under it with decency and propriety.
I long ago come to the conclusion that all life is six to five against.
No one really listens to anyone else, and if you try it for a while you'll see why.
A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he gets to know something.
When I read Shakespeare I am struck with wonder
That such trivial people should muse and thunder
In such a lovely language.
The cruelest thing that has happened to Lincoln since he was shot by Booth was to fall into the hands of Carl Sandburg.
H. L. Mencken suffers from the hallucination that he is H. L. Mencken—there is no cure for a disease of that magnitude.
Nobody can read Freud without realizing that he was the scientific equivalent of another nuisance, George Bernard Shaw.
The trouble with the publishing business is that too many people who have half a mind to write a book do so.
No author is a man of genius to his publisher.
I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.
When a thing has been said and well said, have no scruple; take it and copy it.
I suppose every old scholar has had the experience of reading something in a book which was significant to him, but which he could never find again. Sure he is that he read it there, but no one else ever read it, nor can he find it again, though he buy the book and ransack every page.
The tools I need for my trade are paper, tobacco, food, and a little whiskey.
I never desire to converse with a man who has written more than he has read.
When told not to end a sentence with a preposition, Churchill replied, "This is nonsense up with which I will not put."
A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.
I hate vulgar realism in literature. The man who would call a spade a spade should be compelled to use one. It is the only thing he is fit for.
Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke.
I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.
He that I am reading seems always to have the most force.
Liverpool, though not very delightful as a place of residence, is a most convenient and admirable point to get away from.
[Lloyd George] did not seem to care which way he travelled providing he was in the driver's seat.
I can't say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days.
The Greeks invented logic but were not fooled by it.
When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.
You should have seen her face then. Gratitude? Lord, what do you want with words to express that? Words are only painted fire, a look is the fire itself. She gave that look, and carried it away to the treasury of heaven, where all things that are divine belong.
Los Angeles is like San Diego's older, uglier sister that has herpes.
People who throw kisses are hopelessly lazy.
The greater love is a mother's; then comes a dog's; then a sweetheart's.
It has been wisely said that we cannot really love anybody at whom we never laugh.
If I'm such a legend, then why am I so lonely? Let me tell you, legends are all very well if you've got somebody around who loves you.
The wise want love; and those who love want wisdom.
Many a man has fallen in love with a girl in a light so dim he would not have chosen a suit by it.
Let there be spaces in your Togetherness.
I never loved another person the way I loved myself.
As soon as you cannot keep anything from a woman, you love her.
Those who are faithful know only the trivial side of love: it is the faithless who know love's tragedies.
Love is like war: easy to begin but very hard to stop.
The quarrels of lovers are the renewal of love.
The great secret of happiness in love is to be glad that the other fellow married her.
Love and eggs are best when they are fresh.
The most disgusting cad in the world is the man who, on grounds of decorum and morality, avoids the game of love. He is one who puts his own ease and security above the most laudable of philanthropies.
A man always remembers his first love with special tenderness. But after that he begins to bunch them.
To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.
There is always something ridiculous about the emotions of people whom one has ceased to love.
Love is the wisdom of the fool and the folly of the wise.
It is easier to love humanity as a whole that to love one's neighbor.
Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.
Then fly betimes, for only they
Conquer love that run away.
Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.
If you would be loved, love and be lovable.
"You are the greatest lover I have ever had."
"Well, I practice a lot when I'm alone."
I sighed as a lover, I obeyed as a son.
One minute is a lover high atop a tree, the next minute down among the briars is he, now up, now down, as a bucket in a well.
There is a great deal of talk about loyalty from the bottom to the top. Loyalty from the top down is even more necessary and much less prevalent.
Of course not, but I am told it works even if you don't believe in it.
Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes.
It is idle to play the lyre for an ass.
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Last updated: May 14, 2021