French poet and critic
You have surely noticed the curious fact that a certain word, which is perfectly clear when you hear or use it in everyday speech, and which presents no difficulty when caught up in the rapidity of an ordinary sentence, becomes mysteriously cumbersome, offers a strange resistance, defeats all efforts at definition, the moment you withdraw it from circulation for separate study and try to find its meaning after taking away its temporary function. It is almost comic to inquire the exact meaning of a term that one uses constantly with complete satisfaction.
The American Poetry Review, March 1, 2007
Posted on April 5, 2007
Leaf through a dictionary or try to make one, and you will find that every word covers and masks a well so bottomless that the questions you toss into it arouse no more than an echo.
Collected Works of Paul Valery: Vol. 14: Analects, 1970
Posted on November 14, 2000
Syntax is a faculty of the soul.
Odds and Ends, 1970
Posted on May 1, 1998