From “Night Train to Lisbon” by Pascal Mercier. English Version © 2004 Translated from the original German pg 25
The context is a book within the novel (the fictional book is theoretically in Portuguese, which is translated into English (via German, I suppose) for the reader’s benefit).
“When I read a newspaper, listen to the radio or overhear what people are saying in the café, I often feel aversion, even disgust at the same expressions, phrases, and metaphors repeated… They’re so horribly frayed and threadbare, these words, worn out by being used millions of times. Do they still have any meaning? Naturally, the exchange of words functions, people act on them, they laugh and cry, they go left or right, the waiter brings the coffee or tea. But that’s not what I want to ask. The question is: Are they still an expression of thoughts? Or only effective sounds that drive people here and there because the worn grooves of babble incessantly flash?”