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Up to the very present day, the irons, the steels, direct and rule and change life as no Alexanders, no Caesars, no Jengis Khans or Mussolinis have ever done. You can see the things that arise out of iron from the first iron spear-head and the first axe to the steel rail, the battleship and the motor. You can see them tempting and obliging and compelling men to change their ways of life and their relations to one another. There were no particular iron-minded peoples. It was a matter of quite secondary importance to everyone but the gangs and individuals concerned, what collection of people first got hold of the new thing. . . . But the new history is not simply an account of the general material life of mankind. . . . Its subtler and more important business is the study of the development of socially binding ideas through the medium of speech and writing. How did language, speech and writing arise? . . . The old-type historians have done nothing to show how the imposition of a language or a blending of languages gives a new twist and often a new power to the community's mental processes. . . . A language is an implement quite as much as an implement of stone or steel; its use involves social consquences; it does things to you just as a metal or a machine does things to you. It makes new precision and also new errors possible. H. G. Wells, In Search of Hot Water
The evolution of language has been almost as unconscious as that of an embryo. He (man) grasps, necessarily without reflection, this fascinating but gnarled product of evolution, neither he nor his relatives and teachers considering at all whether the technique of communication he is learning is modern. He is in the position of a person who has just discovered he can ride a bicycle and rushes off to buy the first he can find, irrespective of whether it is new or of the latest design. It is a bicycle and gets him along somehow, that is enough. He takes it, with all its defects. The language he learns is the unconsidered end-product of an evolution from the sound-communications of ape-like ancestors. The immemorial words change less quickly than the entities they represent, until to-day we find words often extremely misleading assistants in complex thinking. A colossal quantity of philosophizing upon every side of life is entirely vitiated because persons use words quite unsuited to describe the things they are discussing, as if men must always sculpture with a hatchet because that was (perhaps) the first instrument used for the purpose. J. G. Crowther, Outline of the Universe