Columnist and author Bob Greene once commented: “The way I see it, every one of us in the writing business starts off with precisely the same tools, the 26 letters of the alphabet. All we can do is try to arrange those 26 letters in a different way than anyone else has before.”
Whether speaking or writing, that’s the same challenge we all face every day – taking those 26 letters and arranging them in a seemingly infinite variety of ways, forming the words we need to express our thoughts.
About words, Nathaniel Hawthorne, 19th century American author wrote: “Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”
A century later, teacher and humorist Leo Rosten, author of one of my all-time favorite books, The Joys of Yiddish, described words as: “the most powerful narcotic, the most potent stimulant, the most remarkable hallucinogen ever devised. Words teach, they sing, they hurt, they sanctify. They also degrade, inflame, mislead and—lie…”
My favorite description of words came from famous Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, who died in 1953 at the age of 39. For example: “The first poems I knew were nursery rhymes, and before I could read them for myself I had come to love just the words of them, the words alone…I cared for the shapes of sound that their names, and the words describing their actions, made in my ears; I cared for the colors the words cast on my eyes…I fell in love—that is the only expression I can think of—at once, and am still at the mercy of words…the shape and shade and size and noise of the words as they hummed, strummed, jigged, and galloped along.”
That’s what creates memorable and powerful quotations, combining words in such a way that they continue humming, strumming, jigging and galloping along forever. Climb aboard, as we begin our journey through the two million quotations we’ve collected.