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Re: Silence is golden/Part 2

Posted by ESC on April 13, 2001

In Reply to: Re: Silence is golden posted by ESC on April 13, 2001

: : Can anyone give me the origin of the phrase, Silence is golden? Thanks.

: SILENCE IS GOLDEN -"It is best not to speak. Now also used in the sense that quiet is a priceless gift. The proverb has been traced back to 1865, and was first attested in the United States in 'Changes' by H.W. Nevinson."From the "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).

: I think the saying is probably older. Here are some related entries from "A Dictionary of American Proverbs" by Wolfgang Mieder, Stewart A. Kingsbury & Kelsie B. Harder. There must be some ancient association between speech and silver. "Speech is silver. Silence is golden." "Words are silver and silence is gold." "The tongue of the just is a choice silver, the heart of the wicked is little worth."

: Then there's William Shakespeare, "Romeo and Juliet." "How silver-sweet sound lovers' tongues by night, Like softest music to attending ears!"

And here is another reference that gives an earlier origin:

SPEECH IS SILVER, SILENCE IS GOLDEN - "The value placed upon saying less, rather than more, as reflected in this proverb can be traced as far back as the early Egyptians, who recorded one such saying: 'Silence is more profitable than abundance of speech.' The current proverb was rendered for the first time in the Judaic Biblical commentaries called the 'Midrash' (c. 600), which gave the proverb as 'If speech is silvern, then silence is golden.' The poet Thomas Carlyle quoted this version in German in 'Sartor Resartus' , and soon after, the American poet James Russell Lowell quoted the exact wording of the modern version in the 'The Bigelow Papers' . Perhaps more familiar in the shortened version 'Silence is golden,' the saying has been quoted in print frequently during the twentieth century. One witty adaptation in Brian Aldiss's 'The Primal Urge' seems particularly appropriate to modern times: "Speech is silver; silence is golden; print is dynamite.'." From "Wise Words and Wives' Tales: The Origins, Meanings and Time-Honored Wisdom of Proverbs and Folk Sayings Olde and New" by Stuart Flexner and Doris Flexner (Avon Books, New York, 1993).