GEORGE B. BRYAN
The Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations. Ed.
Tony Augarde. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Pp. 371
The editor alerts the reader in the preface that this
book of quotations differs from others in that the selection
of entries results not from editorial caprice but from
cataloguing more than 200,000 quotations from "novels,
plays, poems, essays, speeches, films, radio and television
broadcasts, songs, advertisements, and even book titles (p.
v)." For this reason, he contends that this collection of
quotations is objectively determined, but one assumes that
there was a subjective element in the choice of the initial
200,000 quotations. No such book, however, could be expected
to include all the most used proverbial expressions that
color twentieth-century speech. One misses, for example, the
oft-quoted "It ain't over till it's over" but finds "The
opera ain't over 'til the fat lady sings." The entries are
arranged alphabetically by author and are presented in the
Hesketh Pearson (1887-1964)
Misquotation is, in fact, the pride and privilege of the
learned. A widely-read man never quotes accurately, for
the rather obvious reason that he has read too widely. Common Misquotations (1962) ch. 6
As further aids to the reader, there are a How to Use
this [sic] Dictionary section and a key-word index.
A perusal of this index produces many a smile of recognition
of well-turned phrases.
The paremiologist will find this book useful in finding a
source of an expression that has become proverbial through
repetition and familiarity. Some of these locutions have
become part of our cultural inheritance because of stylistic
"He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches."
"Man is the only creature that consumes without
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
"Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent
"Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun."
The full text of this
article is published in De
Proverbio - Issue 5:1997 & Issue
electronic book, available from amazon.com and other leading Internet booksellers.
The book is designed efficiently and attractively and
ought to find its place on the shelves of all those who love
words and ideas. Scholars will see the necessity of making
further inquiry into the histories of some of the quotations
(those that restate pre-twentieth-century material), but
this book is an admirable starting place.
George B. Bryan
Department of Theatre
Royall Tyler Theatre
University of Vermont
Burlington, Vermont 05405