Quotes from Babel-17

Samuel R. Delany ·  192 pages

Rating: (9.5K votes)


“ABSTRACT THOUGHTS in a blue room; Nominative, genitive, etative, accusative one, accusative two, ablative, partitive, illative, instructive, abessive, adessive, inessive, essive, allative, translative, comitative. Sixteen cases of the Finnish noun. Odd, some languages get by with only singular and plural. The American Indian languages even failed to distinguish number. Except Sioux, in which there was a plural only for animate objects. The blue room was round and warm and smooth. No way to say warm in French. There was only hot and tepid If there's no word for it, how do you think about it? And, if there isn't the proper form, you don't have the how even if you have the words. Imagine, in Spanish having to assign a sex to every object: dog, table, tree, can-opener. Imagine, in Hungarian, not being able to assign a sex to anything: he, she, it all the same word. Thou art my friend, but you are my king; thus the distinctions of Elizabeth the First's English. But with some oriental languages, which all but dispense with gender and number, you are my friend, you are my parent, and YOU are my priest, and YOU are my king, and YOU are my servant, and YOU are my servant whom I'm going to fire tomorrow if YOU don't watch it, and YOU are my king whose policies I totally disagree with and have sawdust in YOUR head instead of brains, YOUR highness, and YOU may be my friend, but I'm still gonna smack YOU up side the head if YOU ever say that to me again;
And who the hell are you anyway . . .?”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17


“Sometimes you want to say things, and you're missing an idea to make them with, and missing a word to make the idea with. In the beginning was the word. That's how somebody tried to explain it once. Until something is named, it doesn't exist.”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17


“You know what I do? I listen to other people, stumbling about with their half thoughts and half sentences and their clumsy feelings that they can't express, and it hurts me. So I go home and burnish it and polish it and weld it to a rhythmic frame, make the dull colors gleam, mute the garish artificiality to pastels, so it doesn't hurt any more: that's my poem. I know what they want to say, and I say it for them.”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17


“Do you follow the wrestling? Most people think it's illegal, but you can watch it there. Ruby and Python are on display this evening.”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17


“Neurotics, proceed with delusions of grandeur. Napoleon Bonaparte, take the lead. Jesus Christ, bring up the rear. Simulate severe depression. Non-communicative with repressed hostility.”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17



“Well, most textbooks say language is a mechanism for expressing thought. But language is thought. Thought is information given form. The form is language.”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17


“Do they have this word, I?’ “As a matter of fact they have three forms of it: I-below-a-temperature-of-six-degrees-centigrade, I-between-six-and-ninety-three-degrees-centigrade, and I-above-ninety-three.” The Butcher looked confused. “It has to do with their reproductive process,” Rydra explained. “When the temperature is below six degrees they’re sterile. They can only conceive when the temperature is between six and ninety-three, but to actually give birth, they have to be above ninety-three.”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17


“You know the way some Orientals confuse the sounds of R and L when they speak a Western language? That’s because R and L in many Eastern languages are allophones, that is, considered the same sound, written and even heard the same—just like the th at the beginning of they and at the beginning of theater.” “What’s different about the sound of theater and they?” “Say them again and listen. One’s voiced and the other’s unvoiced, they’re as distinct as V and F; only they’re allophones—at least in British English; so Britishers are used to hearing them as though they were the same phoneme.”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17


“He stopped, because he wasn’t sure what Cryptography had established, and because he needed another moment to haul himself down from the ledges of her high cheekbones, to retreat from the caves of her eyes.”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17


“there are two types of codes, ciphers, and true codes. In the first, letters, or symbols that stand for letters, are shuffled and juggled according to a pattern. In the second, letters, words, or groups of words are replaced by other letters, symbols, or words. A code can be one type or the other, or a combination. But both have this in common: once you find the key, you just plug it in and out come logical sentences. A language, however, has its own internal logic, its own grammar, its own way of putting thoughts together with words that span various spectra of meaning. There is no key you can plug in to unlock the exact meaning. At best you can get a close approximation.”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17



“I pass beneath a fixed white line of trees where dry leaves lie for footsteps to dismember. They crackle with a muted sound like fear. That and the wind are all that I can hear. I ask cold air, “What is the word that frees?” The wind says, “Change,” and the white sun, “Remember.”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17


“It’s easy to repeat; it’s hard to speak,”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17


“Neurotics proceed with delusions of grandeur. Napoleon Bonaparte take the lead. Jesus Christ bring up the rear.”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17


“And on the worlds of five galaxies, now, people delve your imagery and meaning for the answers to the riddles of language, love, and isolation.” The three words jumped his sentence like vagabonds on a boxcar.”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17


“When he’s connected up to your nervous system, you’ll be able to make him whistle, hiss, roar, flap his wings, and spit sparks, though it may take a few days to assimilate him into your body picture. Don’t be surprised if at first he just burps and looks seasick. Take your shirt off, please.”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17



“All the misunderstandings that tie the world up and keep people apart were quivering before me at once, waiting for me to untangle them, explain them, and I couldn’t. I didn’t know the words, the grammar, the syntax.”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17


“An individual, a thing apart from its environment, and apart from all things in that environment; an individual was a type of thing for which symbols were inadequate, and so names were invented . I am invented. I am not a round warm blue room. I am someone in that room; I am—”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17


“Growing older I descend November. The asymptotic cycle of the year plummets to now. In crystal reveries I pass beneath a fixed white line of trees where dry leaves lie for footsteps to dismember. They crackle with a muted sound like fear. That and the wind are all that I can hear. I ask cold air, “What is the word that frees?” The wind says, “Change,” and the white sun, “Remember.” —from Electra”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17


“She cut through worlds, and joined them—that’s the important part—so that both became bigger.”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17


“You know what I do? I listen to other people, stumbling about with their half thoughts and half sentences and their clumsy feelings that they can’t express—and it hurts me. So I go home and burnish it and polish it and weld it to a rhythmic frame, make the dull colors gleam, mute the garish artificiality to pastels, so it doesn’t hurt anymore: that’s my poem.”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17



“You know what I do? I listen to other people, stumbling about with their half thoughts and half sentences and their clumsy feelings that they can’t express—and it hurts me. So I go home and burnish it and polish it and weld it to a rhythmic frame, make the dull colors gleam, mute the garish artificiality to pastels, so it doesn’t hurt anymore: that’s my poem. I know what they want to say, and I say it for them.”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17


“Mollya suddenly floated back from the wall with an expression of recognition and brought her hands together. She blurted something in Kiswahili, and Rydra laughed. “That’s right,” she said. To Ron’s and Calli’s bewilderment she translated: “They’ll move toward each other and their paths’ll intersect.” Calli’s eyes widened. “That’s right, at exactly a quarter of the way around our orbit, they should have flattened out to a circular plane.”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17


“Silver latticed with red fire glimmered through industrial smog. Three figures formed: the women’s sequined skeletons glittered toward them, casting hollow eyes. Kittens clawed the Customs Officer’s back, for strut work pylons gleamed behind the apparitional bellies. “The faces,” he whispered. “As soon as you look away, you can’t remember what they look like. When you look at them, they look like people, but when you look away—” He caught his breath as another passed. “You can’t remember…!” He stared after them. “Dead?”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17


“We raised them in, oh, such a carefully controlled nutrient environment, speeding the growth rate by hormones and other things. But the beauty of it was the experiential imprinting. Gorgeously healthy creatures; you have no idea how much care they received.” “I once spent a summer on a cattle farm,” Rydra said shortly. The”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17


“All the misunderstandings that tie the world up and keep people apart were quivering before me at once, waiting for me to untangle them, explain them, and I couldn’t. I didn’t know the words, the grammar, the syntax. And”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17



“the rhythm which was barely intricate to most ears in the commons was to him painful because it was timed to the processes of his body, to jar and strike against them…and she was surprised he had held up this long. “All right, Cord, to be lord of this black barrack, Tarik’s, you need more than jackal lore, or a belly full of murder and jelly knees. Open your mouth and your hands. To understand power, use your wit, please. Ambition like a liquid ruby stains your brain, birthed in the cervixed will to kill, swung in the arc of death’s again, you name yourself victim each time you fill with swill the skull’s cup lipping murder. It predicts your fingers’ movement toward the blade long laid against the leather sheath cord-fixed to pick the plan your paling fingers made; you stayed in safety, missing worlds of wonder, under the lithe hiss of the personafix inflicting false memories to make them blunder while thunder cracks the change of Tarik. You stick pins in peaches, place your strange blade, ranged with a grooved tooth, while the long and strong lines of my meaning make your mind change from fulgent to frangent. Now you hear the wrong cord-song, to instruct you. Assassin, pass in…”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17


“You’re Transport.’ ” She shrugged. “I’m neither. But even so, I was tripled. I know about that.” “Customs don’t triple,” he said. “Two guys and myself. If I ever do it again it’ll be with a girl and a guy. For me that would be easier,”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17


“In a hundred years they may both be sciences. Fine. But today a person who learns the rules of art well is a little rarer than the person who learns the rules of science. Also,”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17


“In a hundred years they may both be sciences. Fine. But today a person who learns the rules of art well is a little rarer than the person who learns the rules of science.”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17


“An individual, a thing apart from its environment, and apart from all things in that environment; an individual was a type of thing for which symbols were inadequate, and so names were invented. I am invented.”
― Samuel R. Delany, quote from Babel-17



About the author

Samuel R. Delany
Born place: in New York City, The United States
Born date April 1, 1942
See more on GoodReads

Popular quotes

“Ah, hi. It’s Carter. I wonder if you might want to go out to dinner, or maybe the movies. Maybe you like plays better than movies. I should’ve looked up what might be available before I called. I didn’t think of it. Or we could just have coffee again if you want to do that. Or… I’m not articulate on these things. I can’t use a tape recorder either. And why would you care? If you’re at all interested in any of the above, please feel free to call me. Thanks. Um. Good-bye.”

“Damn you, Carter Maguire, for your insanely cute quotient. You should be annoying. Why aren’t I annoyed? Oh God, I’m going to call you back. I know I’m going to call you back. I’m in such trouble.”
― Nora Roberts, quote from Vision in White


“You know any single girls in their twenties that would go for Bish?" I asked Caleb.
"Sure, I know plenty. But would Bish go for it? He doesn’t seem to
be attracted to anything that walks, talks, eats or breathes except my sister.”
― Shelly Crane, quote from Accordance


"It's okay," Rafe said again. "They've got you."
The helicopter spun, whipping us around. Pain shot through me as Rafe's weight almost wrenched my shoulders out of their sockets, and my hold on his wrists broke. Corey lost his grip on my leg. I heard him shout and Daniel shout and the girls join in, and I kicked, trying to get my leg back up where someone could grab it.
The helicopter tilted again. I started to slide, Daniel sliding with me. And I knew we were going to fall. Rafe, me, Daniel, we were all going to fall.
"Hold On!" I shouted to Rafe.
"It's okay," he said, and I wasn't even sure he spoke aloud, didn't see his lips moving. "It's okay."
He let go.
I clawed the air, screaming.
I didn't even see him drop. The helicopter banked and I caught only a blur of treetops spinning past and when I looked around, there was no Rafe. No sign of him at all.
Corey and Daniel dragged me back into the helicopter. Someone got the door closed. I don't know who. I was crying and shaking so hard I couldn't see, couldn't hear, couldn't think.
As I huddled on the floor, I felt Daniel behind me, his arms around me. Kenji pushed onto my lap, and I buried my face in her fur, gripping handfuls and sobbing against her.

― Kelley Armstrong, quote from The Calling


“Adaon smiled gravely. “Is there not glory enough in living the days given to us? You should know there is adventure in simply being among those we love and the things we love, and beauty, too.”
― Lloyd Alexander, quote from The Chronicles of Prydain Boxed Set


“There are no nudists in cold places.”
― Tsugumi Ohba, quote from Death Note, Vol. 12: Finis


Interesting books

Everything's Eventual: 14 Dark Tales
(72.8K)
Everything's Eventua...
by Stephen King
Flutter
(18.3K)
Flutter
by Amanda Hocking
No One Belongs Here More Than You
(29.3K)
No One Belongs Here...
by Miranda July
Tales of Mystery and Imagination
(10.2K)
Tales of Mystery and...
by Edgar Allan Poe
Nights at the Circus
(8.1K)
Nights at the Circus
by Angela Carter
The Mating
(24.3K)
The Mating
by Nicky Charles

About BookQuoters

BookQuoters is a community of passionate readers who enjoy sharing the most meaningful, memorable and interesting quotes from great books. As the world communicates more and more via texts, memes and sound bytes, short but profound quotes from books have become more relevant and important. For some of us a quote becomes a mantra, a goal or a philosophy by which we live. For all of us, quotes are a great way to remember a book and to carry with us the author’s best ideas.

We thoughtfully gather quotes from our favorite books, both classic and current, and choose the ones that are most thought-provoking. Each quote represents a book that is interesting, well written and has potential to enhance the reader’s life. We also accept submissions from our visitors and will select the quotes we feel are most appealing to the BookQuoters community.

Founded in 2023, BookQuoters has quickly become a large and vibrant community of people who share an affinity for books. Books are seen by some as a throwback to a previous world; conversely, gleaning the main ideas of a book via a quote or a quick summary is typical of the Information Age but is a habit disdained by some diehard readers. We feel that we have the best of both worlds at BookQuoters; we read books cover-to-cover but offer you some of the highlights. We hope you’ll join us.