What is the greatest sentence you have read or heard ?

For me it’s the last sentence of Lincoln’s First Inaugural. Let me quote the whole paragraph for context.

The sentence consists of two memorable phrases “mystic chords of memory” and “better angels of our nature” joined by a wonderful double-metaphor: the chords both stretch in space and “swell the chorus” with music. The sentence has a lovely balance and rhythm but is also rich with historical resonance; it was uttered at the moment of supreme crisis in US history. It’s prophetic but tinged with tragedy and irony: Lincoln’s own assassination and legend were crucial to the national reconciliation he predicted.

There have been other important sentences in world history, and some just as beautiful, but I can’t think of anything that combines beauty and importance in quite the same way.

Nobody loves me but my mother, and she could be jiving too! B.B. King

Dunno if it’s the best, but I’ve always liked the opening line to Gibson’s Neuromancer:

“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

Those who can write
have a lot to
learn from those bright
enough not to.

  • Piet Hein

“Shut up,” he explained. --Ring Lardner

“The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t” -Douglas Adams

Romans 8:38-39

38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

An actor referring to his agent:

“Hello,” he lied.

“I hadn’t meant to kill the cat.” – Spider Robinson, Telempath.

For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

– Attributed to Ernest Hemingway

“Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so.”

– Bertrand Russell

I want to wear you like a wriggling, screaming flesh condom.
Cracked.com photo caption.

It’s tough to match the standard Lincoln set. Another great example is the end of his Second Inaugural Address, in which he goes on and on, yet never lapses from absolute clarity:

The sheer humanity of this utterance never fails to impress me.

I’m also fond of this sentence often attributed to Dorothy Parker, both for its sentiment and for its admirable construction:

eta: Oops, the second example meets the thread’s challenge only by means of a semicolon.

I have always adored this sentence from Fritz Leiber’s “The Man Who Never Grew Young.”

“I have seen King Cheops men take down the Great Pyramid and return the stones to the hills.”

You’ll have to be a computer font wonk to get this. I worked for a typesetting equipment manufacturer with a full-on font department. The head of the department, John Matt (now deceased) had this sign over his desk:

Trip the italic flag and oblique off.

I’ve never forgotten it. R.I.P. John.

Rodney King - “… we’re all stuck here for a while.”

I teared up, back in 1992 during the riots, when Rodney King said “can we all get along?” Millions were listening to hear what he had to say. He had every reason to call for vengeance and violence. But he didn’t.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow; learn as if you were to live forever.”

MK Ghandi

“To love another person is to touch the face of God.” – Les Miserables :slight_smile:

“We shall find peace. We shall hear the angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.”

Uncle Vanya, Anton Chekhov