Weekend Words: Sign

“When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.”

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, “Belshazzar’s Feast” (c.1636), oil on canvas, 168 x 209 cm, National Gallery, London (image via Web Gallery of Art)

This week, The New York Times reported that a 72-year-old woman named Jenny Heinz, “a longtime Metropolitan Opera and New York Philharmonic subscriber,” was turned away from a performance by the Budapest Festival Orchestra at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall when she refused to remove an 8-by-11-inch sign affixed to the back of her jacket that read: ‘NO! In the name of humanity we refuse to accept a fascist America.'”

A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign.

—Matthew 16:4 (KJV)

Signs may be but the sympathies of nature with man.

—Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Signs are taken for wonders.  ‘We would see a sign!’
The word within a word, unable to speak a word,
Swaddled with darkness.

—T.S. Eliot, “Gerontion”

If you had a million years to do it in, you couldn’t rub out even half the “Fuck you” signs in the world. It’s impossible.

—J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

He will lie even when it’s inconvenient: the sign of a true artist.

—Gore Vidal

The god whose oracle is at Delphi neither speaks plainly nor conceals, but indicates by signs.


Contradiction is not a sign of falsity, nor the lack of contradiction a sign of truth.

—Blaise Pascal

Digressions, objections, delight in mockery, carefree mistrust are signs of health; everything unconditional belongs in pathology.

—Friedrich Nietzsche

Give signs, sweet girl, for here are none but friends.

—Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus

The importance of an artist is to be measured by the quantity of new signs which he has introduced to the language of art.

—Henri Matisse

Chance is perhaps the pseudonym of God when he does not wish to sign his work.

—Anatole France

It’s a sure sign of summer if the chair gets up when you do.

—Walter Winchell

When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.

—Jonathan Swift, Thoughts on Various Subjects

Whoever comes to shroud me, do not harm
Nor question much
That subtle wreath of hair about mine arm;
They mystery, the sign you must not touch,
For tis my outward soul.

—John Donne, “Funeral”

Whenever you hear a man speak of his love for his country, it is a sign that he expects to be paid for it.

—H. L. Mencken

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