Karl Kraus: Half Truths and One and a Half Truths: Selected Aphorisms on Language

08 November 2019


  • Let language be the divining rod that finds sources of thought.

  • Language is the mother of thought, not its handmaiden.
  • I have decided many a stylistic problem first by my head, then by heads or tails.
  • When I don’t make any progress, it is because I have bumped into the wall of language. Then I draw back with a bloody head. And would like to go on.
  • A linguistic work translated into another language is like someone going across the border without his skin and donning the local garb on the other side.
  • One can translate an editorial but not a poem. For one can go across the border naked but not without one’s skin; for, unlike clothes, one cannot get a new skin.
  • Someone who can write aphorisms should not fritter away his time writing essays.
  • One cannot dictate an aphorism to a typist. It would take too long.
  • An aphorism never coincides with the truth: it is either a half-truth or one-and-a-half truths.
  • The most incomprehensible talk comes from people who have no other use for language than to make themselves understood.
  • Language is the only chimera whose illusory power is endless, the inexhaustibility which keeps life from being impoverished. Let men learn to serve language.
  • I master only the language of others. Mine does with me what it wants.
  • I have drawn from the well of language many a thought which I do not have and which I could not put into words.
  • The closer one takes a look at a word, the greater the distance from which it looks back.

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