Chapter 6. Muttering

Talking to yourself

When you’re talking to yourself there’s no reason to enunciate. As when praying, you don’t need to use a language that others can understand.

Almost in control

As if we’ve never learned not to utter whatever is in our heads, we endeavour. However, if it seems clever, out it comes.


Every year that goes by, I feel older and more grouchy, muttering to nobody grievances that matter only to me. But I want a better world, a utopia for a grouch, in which my complaints are answered by immediate improvements. In this world, whatever I mutter would write itself into practice, and everyone would be safer, happier, and nearly just as free.


Someone is muttering something mumbly, unmentionable, undecipherable, deliberately indistinct, for his lips are moving, as though he should say nothing but can not hold it back, something terrible, something conspiratorial, embarrassing, harassing, evasive, and deniable.

Famous mutterings

“Qualis artifex pereo.” (“What an artist dies in me.’) — Nero, 68 AD “E pur si muove.” (“And yet it moves.”) — Galileo Galilei, 1633 “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!” — White Rabbit, 1865 “My God, must I always wear a low-cut dress to be important?” — Jean Harlow, 1932 “Who's going to remember all this riff-raff in ten or twenty years time?” — Joseph Stalin, 1937 “And we’ll fight them with the butt ends of broken beer bottles because that’s bloody well all we’ve got!” — Winston Churchill, 1940 “I don’t care how long I have to live with this system, I will never accept it.” — Martin Luthor King, Sr., reported in 1950 “Nothing to be done.” — Estragon (“Waiting for Godot”), 1953 “Did I write this?” — Spike Milligan, 1969 “Christ, I miss the Cold War” — M (“Casino Royale”), 2006 “These bloody people. I can’t bear that man. I mean, he’s so awful, he really is.” — Charles, Prince of Wales, 2007