The Phantom Tollbooth
by Norton Juster
The Phantom Tollbooth Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"I'm the Whether Man, not the Weather Man, for after all it's more important to know whether there will be weather than what the weather will be." (2.11)
The Whether Man gives a catchy lesson on homonyms (words that have different meanings but that sound the same, like pair/pear, too/two, and whether/weather). His lesson is also a tongue twister – try saying this aloud three times fast! Do you agree with him that "it's more important to know whether there will be weather than what the weather will be," or do you think that it's "more important to know…what the weather will be" first?
"Very serious, very serious," the gateman said, shaking his head also. "You can't get in without a reason." He thought for a moment and then continued. "Wait a minute; maybe I have an old one you can use." (3.23)
We need reasons to do lots of things. According to the gatekeeper, you need a reason to "get in" to Dictionopolis. One thing stands out here, though. In real life, we think of reasons as concepts rather than things. We can't see them, or hold them in our hands. We think them. In Dictionopolis, reasons are real objects, like coins or bracelets, or in this case, "a small medallion on a chain." (3.24)
"We're not interested in making sense; it's not our job," scolded the first [cabinet member].
"Besides," explained the second, "one word is as good as another – so why not use them all?"
"Then you don't have to choose which one is right," advised the third. (3.60-62)
The attitude toward language described here is a little bit different from the one you might hear about in an English class, where you've got to learn the exact meanings of words, and always use the right one in the right place. These cabinet members, on the other hand, don't think words should "mak[e] sense." They're not looking for exactly the "right" words. Instead, they're trying to make sure no words feel left out. Aw, that's kind of nice.