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The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations [Hardcover]

Elizabeth Knowles
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 15 1999 0198601735 978-0198601739 Fifth Edition
This major new edition of The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations offers the broadest and most up-to-date coverage of quotations available today. Now with 20,000 quotations arranged by author, this is Oxford's largest quotations dictionary ever. As well as quotations from traditional sources, and with improved coverage of world religions and classical Greek and Latin literature, this foremost dictionary of quotations now covers areas such as proverbs and nursery rhymes. For the first time there are special sections for Advertising Slogans, Epitaphs, Film Lines, and Misquotations, which bring together topical and related quotes, and allow you to browse through the best quotations on a given subject. In this new fifth edition there is enhanced accessibility with a new thematic index to help you find the best quotes on a chosen subject, more in-depth details of the earliest traceable source, an extensive keyword index, and biographical cross-references, so you will easily be able to find quotations for all occasions, and identify who said what, where, and when.

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The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations is as impressive, erudite, enjoyable, and educational a tome as you might expect from Oxford. It's the sort of undertaking the press does very well. The first such dictionary, as compiled by Oxford, was published in 1953, and it's been tweaking, modifying, and updating it ever since. This new edition, the fifth, offers well over 20,000 quotations from more than 3,000 authors. Responding to correspondence from their readers, Oxford has restored some material from past editions, such as the proverbs and nursery-rhymes section. There's a much more inclusive attention to sacred texts of world religions, and 2,000 quotations are brand new.

The quotations are arranged alphabetically, by author, so browsing provides insight into the authors quoted, more so than do compendiums that are organize by theme. There is also, however, a full thematic index, starting with Administration, Age, and America, and running the alphabetical gamut through to War, Weather, and Youth. And that is followed by a 283-page comprehensive keyword index. If you needed to fault Oxford with something, it might be the small print, but it certainly wouldn't be the thoroughness or cross-referenceability.

There's Kingsley Amis on hangovers ("His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum") and the sexes ("Women are really much nicer than men. No wonder we like them"). There's Woody Allen on immortality ("I don't want to achieve immortality through my work--I want to achieve it through not dying") and Fred Allen on committees ("A group of men who individually can do nothing but as a group decide that nothing can be done"). Spiro T. Agnew is on record as saying, "If you've seen one city slum you've seen them all." And Konrad Adenauer weighs in with "A thick skin is a gift from God."

There are pages of special categories, such as one of advertising slogans ("Let your fingers do the walking," "It's finger-licking good," and "Beanz meanz Heinz") and three pages of last words ("God will pardon me, it is His trade," from Heinrich Heine; "If this is dying, then I don't think much of it," by Lytton Strachey; and "It's been so long since I've had champagne," by Anton Chekhov). And there are pages of film lines, misquotations, epitaphs, telegrams, and toasts, too. Oxford's Dictionary of Quotations is a wonderfully reliable and inclusive quotation reference, and it's a lot of fun, as well. --Stephanie Gold

From Library Journal

Knowles, whose previous works include The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase, Saying, and Quotation, has produced another stellar book. Over one tenth of the book's 20,000 quotations (from over 3000 sources) are included for the first time. Like The Oxford Dictionary of Twentieth Century Quotations (LJ 3/15/99), one of the sources for this fifth edition, this book includes special categories of quotationsAborrowed titles, last words, film lines, misquotations, closing lines, film titles, and military sayings. After a long absence, proverbs and nursery rhymes are included, and quotes from and about the sacred texts of world religions make their first appearance here. Each quotation contains cross references to others by or about the individual and also includes his or her birth and death dates and profession. Quotations from the same individual are separated by literary form, while those in foreign languages appear in both their original language and in English. A superb thematic index and an extensive keyword index allow the reader to find the source of even partial quotations. The book does have a slight bias toward British quotations, which is logical, given its provenance. Smaller public libraries may prefer quotation dictionaries with predominantly American sources, but the superior organization, comprehensiveness, and special features here will supplement the holdings of most academic and larger public libraries nicely. An essential purchase.ALeah Sparks, Annapolis, MD
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best choice for Brits Oct. 7 2003
The question for most people looking to purchase a book of quotations is whether to get Bartlett's Familiar Quotations or The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. So perhaps it would be a good idea to compare them and see which might better meet your needs.
Both are important works of reference; both are authoritative. Bartlett's latest edition, the 17th is from 2002 while this, the latest Oxford, is from 1999 with a reprint with corrections from 2001. So both are relatively up to date. Bartlett's is a slightly larger book with perhaps 300 more pages; however the number of actual quotations is not that different. Both books quote over 3,000 authors and contain over 20,000 quotations.
The most significant difference between them, to my mind, is that in the Oxford, English authors are favored both in terms of number included and entries by, which is to be expected since the Oxford is an British publication while Bartlett's is an American publication. A quick check shows that British mathematician and philosopher Bertram Russell, for example, has more entries in the Oxford than he does in Bartlett's, whereas both Mark Twain and the Baltimore sage, H. L. Mencken, have more entries in Bartlett's than they do in the Oxford. France's Voltaire commands just about the same space in either book.
The next most important difference is that the quotations are presented alphabetically by author in the Oxford while Bartlett's presents them chronologically beginning with the oldest. Both sources give author's dates. Personally I find the alphabetical arrangement preferable because it often saves me a trip to the alphabetical "Index of Authors" in Bartlett's that I have to make before finding the author I am interested in.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Complaint with format, not content Nov. 2 2003
I have used previous editions of the Oxford book o' quotations and, until this edition, I considered this book a must-have for anyone that relies upon reference sources for quotations, as I do as a magazine editor.
While probably trivial to most, the decision to place page numbers in the gutter rather than on the top-outside corners of each page, as in previous editions, is truly a pain. Think about it; most readers will search for quotes by topic, to which the excellent index will refer the reader by page. Tucking such (small) folios in the gutter is irritating when attempting to locate something quickly.
Truly, this is a minor complaint, but I find myself using the previous edition and hope the next edition will rectify this flaw in the current edition's functionality...
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Essential Reference for Any Home Library Oct. 8 2003
The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations is more than simply a collection of words people have spoken. It's a summary of the best of our spoken and written language - the Greek and Latin authors, Dante, The Bible, Shakespeare, the English Poets, Winston Churchill, and just about every other essential literary or historical work of the last two thousand years. In a sense, the ODQ is not so much a collection of famous sayings as it is a single volume summary of western literature you can use to track down a line from a poem or novel as well as a phrase from a famous speech. This is an essential reference work for anyone interested in literature or history and should be part of any home library alongside such frequently used books as a dictionary or encyclopedia.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable volume Nov. 9 2002
This is one to have at hand right there by your desk all the time, ready to dip into whenever you get stuck looking for the source of a famous quote. Or one to have in the bathroom, for entertainment during long sessions on the toilet. Or on the bedstand for some light nighttime reading. The updated version seems good enough, though perhaps some might detect a bias towards the English when it comes to the newer entries (but then, it is an English publication). I was also disappointed with a few ommissions (I looked for Keith Waterhouse and Terry Johnson, both British comedy writers, and both sadly absent), but then you can't please all of the people all of the time (...hang on a sec... hmm, looks like that's a garbled version of something Abe Lincoln said... Gee, this thing is useful!). The listings at the top corner of each page are a little annoying, since they give the Christian name first, thus making it slightly more difficult to find something alphabetically, but this is just one minor fault in an otherwise excellently presented publication.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great quote book... Oct. 22 2002
By A Customer
I highly recommend this worthy publication. I consider it a much better "quotations book" than the current (17th) edition of Bartlett's, because of its superior balance and more representative content. The organization is by author, although it does have an excellent and very extensive index, as well as a (rather small) topic-oriented content section.
If you need and/or enjoy "quote books" you simply must have this one.
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5.0 out of 5 stars If it ain't here, it ain't been said! Aug. 14 2001
The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations is absolutely the ultimate reference book of quotations. Pithy, sensitive, ridiculous, literary, outrageous, political - no matter! If someone said it and it was worth recording, The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations recorded it. With 1136 tightly printed pages, this mine of information is an absolute life line as a work of reference, to resolve arguments, or just for the pleasure of seeing what somebody said about somebody else (like one British politician describing another... "He's like a shiver, looking for a spine to run up.")
The quotations are arranged alphabetically, by author, so browsing by author is simple. To browse by theme, there is a full thematic index, and also a comprehensive keyword index. It is a cross-referencing masterpiece! Additionally, the reader will find special categories such as advertising slogans, last words, lines from films, epitaphs, misquotes, and much much more.
Dictionaries can be fun. A thesaurus can be a treasure. But The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations is an absolute god-send. Your bookshelf is not complete without it.
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