The most sensible and intelligent of all nations in Europe lays down the rule, "Never Interrupt!" as the eleventh commandment. Noise is the most impertinent of all forms of interruption. It is not only an interruption, but also a disruption of thought.

I really cannot get the bold part. Would anyone please simply explain those?

Thanks in advance

source: Mastering the SAT Critical Reading Test

  • Fonns should be forms, as in the cited passage.
    – user6951
    Sep 22, 2014 at 18:50

1 Answer 1


(Original source -- SAT prep books, like the one you cite, usually excerpt things that are rather old. This is both because the style is difficult and, more importantly, because they are out of copyright and can be reprinted without paying royalties. Trust me, that's important; I used to write them!)

The author is Arthur Schopenhauer, a German philosopher of the 19th century. Keep in mind that this means you are reading not only something that's over a hundred and fifty years old, but also something that was originally written in another language. Translations often use unusual turns of phrase in order to achieve something like the effect of the original language.

The Ten Commandments "The eleventh commandment" is thus a reference to a very important rule, something that is almost as important as the first and most essential laws given in the Old Testament of the Bible, which would have been a basic text familiar to every educated person in the author's time.

"Lay down the rule" is a variation on "lay down the law" (the second definition on that page is the better one)

Another source claims that the reference to "the most sensible and intelligent of all nations in Europe" is a reference to France under Napoleon, who said "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake," but while this seems plausible I don't have a definitive reference for it. In any event, that gets more into literary criticism. The gist of the bold sentence is that not interrupting, and avoiding distracting noise, is a very important principle that is practiced by intelligent people as though it were a holy law.

  • Since 1966, the most common use of "the eleventh commandment" in American English has been by Republican Party politicians: "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican." (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… )
    – Jasper
    Dec 31, 2014 at 0:49
  • I'm not sure why you prefaced your answer with the comments about the age of the reference and the fact that it's a translation. References to the Ten Commandments are widely understood today, I doubt much less than they were 150 years ago. And the phrase "lay down the law" is still quite common.
    – Jay
    Dec 31, 2014 at 1:59

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