Thursday, February 23, 2006

Ruskin on masked words

"There are masked words droning and skulking about us....which nobody understands, but which everybody uses, and most people will also fight for, live for, or even die for, fancying they mean this, or that, or the other, or things dear to them: for such words wear chameleon cloaks--"groundlion" cloaks, of the color of the ground of any man's fancy: on that ground they lie in wait, and rend him with a spring from it. There were never creatures of prey so mischievous, never diplomatists so cunning, never poisoners so deadly, as these masked words; they are the unjust stewards of all men's ideas; whatever fancy or favorite instinct a man most cherishes, he gives to his favorite masked word to take care of for him; the word at last comes to have an infinite power over him,--you cannot get at him but by its ministry."

--John Ruskin, "Of Kings' Treasuries," in Sesame and Lilies

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