Table set with breakfast of fruit, tea, and cakes

Unlike most people I know, I’m not a fan of quotable quotes. More than one sentence is usually needed to fully express an idea. Plus, quotable quotes are often taken out of context and assumed to have a meaning that was never originally intended. And then there is the rampant problem of the misattribution of quotes on the Internet.

However, now that I have that disclaimer out of the way, I’d love to share some quotable quotes from a tiny book I just read. As I explained in a recent post about my travels in London, I made the impulsive decision while abroad to buy a stack of tiny books to take home on the plane with me. Some of these purchases were so small that I hesitate to call them books; but pamphlet seems too stuffy to describe them, while booklet, which is at least etymologically promising, seems too unprofessionally bound.

So let me use the word book. This one is a Penguin Classics collection of quotations by Oscar Wilde, an Irish writer who was born in 1854 and died in 1900. The book spared no pages on an introduction, so I cannot say what types of works the quotes originally came from. I know only that the venerable publishing house Penguin Random House—surely more reputable than the Internet at large—deems them to be penned by Wilde. So I trust that they were.

Following are a handful of my favorites from this little collection. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

“Language is the noblest instrument we have, either for the revealing or the concealing of thought.”

A good reminder that just because it’s convincingly spoken or printed doesn’t mean it’s true. And I am definitely on board with the idea that language is a noble instrument of expression. Perhaps like the piano.

“An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.”

Yep, thinking outside the box can be hazardous to one’s health. And also to the health of others. Beware!

“If one tells the truth, one is sure, sooner or later, to be found out.”

Ha! I love this one. I have experienced this, unfortunately. Also: knowing that Wilde was imprisoned for homosexuality adds tragic depth here.

“Only the shallow know themselves.”

Another gem. This one gives me comfort because I recently experienced a time of confusion in my personal life, during which I couldn’t quite figure myself out. . . .

“Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.”

Brilliantly put. It’s okay to follow your dreams: don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! On the flip side, you can’t expect others to follow you over that rainbow.

“The secret of life is never to have an emotion that is unbecoming.”

Hmm. Meditation might help with this. I have lately been listening to a guided meditation about keeping an even keel. Being even keeled is rarely, if ever, unbecoming.

On the other hand, this bon mot, like many of Wilde’s statements, is also a tongue-in-cheek criticism of society and perhaps should not be taken literally.

In case you were wondering, the title of this tiny book is Only Dull People Are Brilliant at Breakfast.

Are you brilliant at breakfast?