Speech is silver, silence is golden

Posted by ESC on June 11, 2003

In Reply to: "Silence is golden." posted by EE on June 11, 2003

: Am I right that there is more to this expression with something like "Speech is silver but silence is golden." or something like that?

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).

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