Samuel Butler: Thought and Language

| November 10, 2012

The whole power of spoken language is vested in the invariableness with which certain symbols are associated with certain ideas. If we are strict in always connecting the same symbols with the same ideas, we speak well, keep our meaning clear to ourselves, and convey it readily and accurately to any one who is also fairly strict. If, on the other hand, we use the same combination of symbols for one thing one day and for another the next, we abuse our symbols instead of using them, and those who indulge in slovenly habits in this respect ere long lose the power alike of thinking and of expressing themselves correctly. The symbols, however, in the first instance, may be anything in the wide world that we have a fancy for. They have no more to do with the ideas they serve to convey than money has with the things that it serves to buy.

via Essays on Life, Art and Science by Samuel Butler: Thought and Language.