eloquent silence, an

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eloquent silence, an

Speechlessness that speaks louder than speech. “Often there is eloquence in a silent look,” wrote the Roman poet Ovid in his Artis Amatoriae (The Art of Love), a three-volume how-to text for lovers (ca. 1 b.c.). Cicero, Tasso, and La Rochefoucauld were among the many who echoed the sentiment, although not all in the service of love. In English, the playwright William Congreve said (Old Batchelour, 1693, 2:9), “Even silence may be eloquent in love.” It was already a cliché by the time Thomas Carlyle (On Heroes and Hero-Worship, 1840) wrote, “Silence is more eloquent than words.” A newer synonym, dating from the second half of the 1900s and rapidly becoming a cliché, is deafening silence. It is used especially to refer to a refusal to reply or to make a comment. The Times had it on Aug. 28, 1985: “Conservative and Labour MPS [Members of Parliament] have complained of a ‘deafening silence’ over the affair.” See also actions speak louder than words.
See also: eloquent