I have been obliged to take great pains with every thing I have written, and I often write chapters over and over again, besides innumerable corrections and interlinear additions. I am not stating this as a merit, only that some persons write their best first, and I very seldom do. Those who are good speakers may be supposed to be able to write off what they want to say. I, who am not a good speaker, have to correct laboriously what I put on paper. I have heard that Archbishop Howley, who was an elegant writer, betrayed the labour by which he became so by his mode of speaking, which was most painful to hear from his hesitations and alterations — that is, he was correcting his composition as he went along.
However, I may truly say that I never have been in the practice since I was a boy of attempting to write well, or to form an elegant style. I think I never have written for writing sake: but my one and single desire and aim has been to do what is so difficult — viz. to express clearly and exactly my meaning; this has been the motive principle of all my corrections and re-writings. When I have read over a passage which I had written a few days before, I have found it so obscure to myself that I have either put it altogether aside or fiercely corrected it; but I don’t get any better for practice. I am as much obliged to correct and re-write as I was thirty years ago.
As to patterns for imitation, the only master of style I have ever had (which is strange considering the differences of the languages) is Cicero. I think I owe a great deal to him, and as far as I know to no one else.
(John Henry Newman, Letter to John Hayes. In: Letters and Correspondence of John Henry Newman during His Life in the English Church, Vol. 2. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1890, pp. 426–427).
Style is what makes a work memorable and unmistakable. We remember the false judgments of Voltaire and Gibbon and Lytton Strachey long after they have been corrected, because of their sharp, polished form and because of the sensual pleasure of dwelling on them. They come to one, not merely as printed words, but as a lively experience, with the full force of another human being personally encountered — that is to say because they are lucid, elegant and individual.
(Evelyn Waugh, “Literary Style in England and America.” In: A Little Order. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1980, p. 108).
In many cases, though the ideas may be familiar enough, we might find it difficult to match Creole proverb with English equivalent. “It’s the old pot that makes the good soup,” might well be the motto for a Conservative association. “If your petticoats fit you well, don’t try to put on your husband’s breeches,” reminds us of one of Mrs. Lynn Lynton’s scolding diatribes; and “eating once doesn’t wear out the teeth” makes us think of Oliver Twist and his impertinent demand for more. In some of these sayings there seems to lurk a sombre irony. “It is when death comes that you think about your life;” “He who kills his own body works for the worms;” “The leprosy says it loves you, while it is eating your fingers.” There is something here, deeper and more mordant than is common in proverbial philosophy. Those who are proud of low aims and ignoble ambitions, may find a word for them in the homely saying, “Chickens don’t boast what good soup they make.” A delightful laxity in the law of slander seems to be indicated in the brief sentence “The tongue has no bones,” while, on the other hand, a strictness in the legal code is hinted at in this, “He who takes a partner takes a master.” A patriotic if mistaken zeal is shown in the protest against the custom of the rich planters who Send their sons to be educated in Europe, “He went to school a kid, and came back a sheep.” That we should learn by the misfortune of others seems to be the moral of this saying: “If you see your neighbor’s beard on fire, water your own.” “Behind the dog’s back it is ‘dog’, but before him it is ‘Mr. Dog,’” reminds us at once of a certain barrack-room ballad:
Oh, it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’
Tommy go away,
But it’s “Thank you, Mr. Atkins,” when
the band begins to play.
Good people who are over-sanguine as to the immediate accomplishment of all their little plans are quietly assured that “When the sky falls, all the flies will be caught.” Two pithy sayings deal with the root of all evil: “Money is good, but it’s too dear;” “Money has no blood relations.” Fair-Weather friends are hit off rather neatly in the next: “It’s when the wind is blowing that folks can see the skin of a fowl.”
(“Creole Proverbs,” The Living Age, Vol. CCXVI, 1898, pp. 471–472).
Perhaps the most famous paradox discovered by the Greek philosophers is that of ‘the liar’. A Cretan says that all Cretans are liars: if what he says is true, then it is false. More simply, consider: ‘This sentence is false.’ If it is true it is false, if false, true. The ancients took this paradox seriously, since if the concept of truth is inherently contradictory, as the paradox implies, then all discourse, all argument, all rational decision-making, takes place in a void. One ancient philosopher, Philetas of Cos, in his despair at finding a solution, committed suicide. More recently, the great logician Alfred Tarski used the paradox to argue that truth can be defined in a language only through a ‘meta-language’ with an outside vantage-point. In Tarski’s view ‘This sentence is false’ is not a possible sentence. But I have just written it!
(Roger Scruton, “The Russian Way of Lying,” The Spectator, March 2017).
Political correctness is about denial, usually in the weasel circumlocutory jargon which distorts and evades and seldom stands up to honest analysis.
It comes in many guises, some of them so effective that the PC can be difficult to detect. The silly euphemisms, apparently harmless, but forever dripping to wear away common sense.
(George MacDonald Fraser, “The Last Testament of Flashman’s Creator: How Britain has Destroyed Itself,” Daily Mail, January 5, 2008).
Political correctness is more than a ridiculous set of opinions; it’s also — and primarily — a tool of government coercion. Not only does it tilt any political discussion in favor of one set of arguments; it also gives the ruling class a doubt-expelling myth that provides a constant boost to morale and esprit de corps, much as class systems did in the days before democracy. People tend to snicker when the question of political correctness is raised: its practitioners because no one wants to be thought politically correct; and its targets because no one wants to admit to being coerced.
(Christopher Caldwell, “The French, Coming Apart,” City Journal, Spring 2017).
The word that is written is a thing capable of permanent life, and lives frequently to the confusion of its parent. A man should make his confessions always by word of mouth, if it be possible.
(Anthony Trollope, The Claverings. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1866, p. 183).