FACT CHECK: Did Mark Twain Pen This Quote On Kindness?
An image shared on Facebook claimed that author Mark Twain wrote, “Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
This quote is apocryphal and does not appear in any of Twain’s writings.
While Twain authored many famous quotations, this oft-shared maxim on the power of kindness is not a Twain original. Nowhere in his written body of work does such a phrase appear. (RELATED: Did Mark Twain Compare Politicians To Diapers?)
Furthermore, scholars have noted that the saying doesn’t even sound like Twain. “If the aphorism in question indicates a sentimental, nostalgic, or otherwise optimistic attitude towards humanity, it probably didn’t come from Twain,” the Center for Mark Twain Studies wrote in 2017 when debunking this quote.
The expression has been in existence since the 19th century, according to the website Quote Investigator, with slight variations in some of the earlier references, like using the word “dumb” instead of “blind.”
Christian Nestell Bovee often receives credit for the quote. “Kindness: a language which the dumb can speak and the deaf can understand,” he wrote in his 1857 book “Thoughts, Feelings, and Fancies.”
Quote Investigator found instances of the saying being circulated in newspapers within years of this book. The first known attribution to Twain was printed in 1942.
“Currently, there is no substantive evidence that Mark Twain wrote or said a version of this expression,” the site concluded. “He was connected to the saying decades after his death.”