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In Praise of Quotation & Aphorisms

[The most profound or exciting idea you come across in your reading will often seem lifeless when you return to it after an interval, just words printed on paper. Memorizing it by rote will sometimes bring back some of the old lustre, but to really bring it to life you must acquire it; that is you must remember it in such a way that you can call it up almost as effortlessly as you call up everyday words when you open your mouth to speak. The way to acquire an idea is to try to commit it to memory—preferably in your natural speaking style, or at least in words that feel comfortable to you—and then attempt to dig it out of memory shortly afterwards, saying it either out loud, or to yourself. By repeating this exercise at longer intervals you should be able to acquire without much effort what, initially, you had only memorized. You will then find these “acquired” ideas springing to your mind when you need them; and they will come embodied in words should you want to express them.]

He is a benefactor of mankind who contracts the great rules of life into short sentences, that may be easily impressed on the memory, and so recur habitually to the mind.

Samuel Johnson

It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations.

Sir Winston Churchill

The wisdom of the wise and the experience of the ages are perpetuated by quotations.

Benjamin Disraeli

I always have a quotation for everything. It saves original thinking.

Dorothy Sayers

Aphorisms give you more for your time and money than any other literary form.

Louis Dudek

Someone who can write aphorisms should not fritter away his time writing essays.

Karl Kraus

An aphorism is the pithy packaging of deep wisdom. It is the consequence of a long process of analysis. It forces the reader to wrestle with it and to be creative with it.

A proverb is a short sentence based on long experience.


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