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I need no definition.
Flowing like water,
From port to port.

Hurting none,
I am mightier than the sword.
Many tremble beneath my power.
But I may be purged from afar.

Many uses,
Both good and evil.
I am undetermined until the thinking makes me so.

Spun in to anything,
I can motivate the masses.


What am I?

(Bonus points if you can name the reference(s))

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  • $\begingroup$ The line "I am mightier than the sword" was a dead giveaway of the answer. In the future, I would try to obscure or exclude standard aphorisms like that one. $\endgroup$ – GoldenGremlin Jan 30 '17 at 2:12
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    $\begingroup$ And keep riddling on here! The world needs more riddlers. $\endgroup$ – GoldenGremlin Jan 30 '17 at 2:29
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I think you are

Words

Explanation:

I need no definition

Everyone is familiar with words, that is, they need no introduction.

Also, language users can understand words even if they are unable to formulate an explicit dictionary definition.

Flowing like water,
From port to port.

This seems like a poet description of words coming out of people's mouths and into people's ears (from port to port).

Hurting none,

This is an allusion to the old adage "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me."

I am mightier than the sword.

This is an allusion to the adage "The pen is mightier than the sword." (This clue was a big giveaway.)

Many tremble beneath my power.
But I may be purged from afar.

I'm not sure about these lines. Maybe something about fear, stuttering, censorship, and/or electronic communication.

Many uses,
Both good and evil.

Martin Luther King Jr. used words; so did Joseph Stalin.

I am undetermined until the thinking makes me so.

It is in virtue of human thought that words have meaning. (At least some philosophers of language think so. For example, Paul Grice.)

Thought is also useful for disambiguating words, for instance, deciding if an occurrence of "bank" refers to a river or a financial institution.

Spun in to anything,

"Spinning a yarn" is an idiom meaning to tell a story.

Given the generativity of language, and the fact that language contains open classes of words, stories can be about anything.

I can motivate the masses.

Words can be used to persuade people. Rhetoric (on at least one meaning) is the study of this use of words.

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