Oxford Dictionary of Quotations by Elizabeth Knowles (Editor)

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Oxford Dictionary of Quotations by Elizabeth Knowles (Editor)

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Category: Reference
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Over 20,000 quoations covering centuries, with wit, wisdom and food for thought. A valuable reference book and source of inspiration. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? No
Pages: 1168 Date: September 2014
Publisher: OUP
ISBN: 978-0199668700

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I have known people to be just a little snooty about the fact that I have had a copy of the current edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations on my bookshelf for over forty years, suggesting that it was a book for people who hadn't read the original books. I long ago accepted that I would never have the time to read all the books I (might) want - or feel I ought - to read and I've found the dictionary an invaluable work of reference and source of inspiration for half a century. Where else would you find over 20,000 quotations, covering centuries, every subject, with wit, wisdom and food for thought? Yes - I know they're probably all there on the internet - somewhere, but I've got them in one volume on the shelf in front of me.

This is the eighth edition of the Dictionary (it was first published in 1941) and the last three editions have been edited by Elizabeth Knowles, a historical lexicographer. Physically it's a big book - you don't pack over eleven hundred pages into a small space - and as a hardback, built to last, with a couple of silk bookmarks, in different colours. Take a little time to read the section on how to use the dictionary - it doesn't just make life easier, it means that you can get a lot more out of it. It might appear slightly complicated at first - but it's rather like telling someone how to swim: it's much easier in practice.

I've often thought that if I had to chose a desert-island book I'd plump for this one (after, of course, the one with clear instructions about how to get off the island). It can be browsed endlessly, with each quotation delivering something different. When I first looked at this edition I'd found three quotations which my husband had to know about by the time I got to the bottom of page two - and he agreed. In case you're wondering about the value of replacing the seventh edition, there are more than seven hundred new quotations and over two hundred new authors.

The quotations come from varied sources - it's not just literary works which have been the source. There are special sections covering, advertising slogans, catchphrases, epitaphs, film titles. military sayings and songs, mottoes, newspaper headlines and leaders, official advice, sayings and slogans (political and otherwise) and even misquotations. I've settled many an argument by using one or other edition of this book, they've provided inspiration when it was sadly lacking elsewhere. Occasionally I wondered about the expenditure when money was tight - but I've never regretted it. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending this copy to the Bookbag.

I've deliberately not bombarded you with quotations - how can you pick half a dozen from twenty thousand? If you would like to see some examples have a look at the OUP website where you'll find a PDF giving some sample pages from the first chapter.

We've seen some other good reference books recently - you might like to have a look at Pocket World in Figures 2015 by The Economist and the inimitable Great Britain Concise Stamp Catalogue 2014 by Stanley Gibbons. You could shelve this alongside Chambers Biographical Dictionary by Chambers and Joan Bakewell.

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Buy Oxford Dictionary of Quotations by Elizabeth Knowles (Editor) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Oxford Dictionary of Quotations by Elizabeth Knowles (Editor) at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Oxford Dictionary of Quotations by Elizabeth Knowles (Editor) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Oxford Dictionary of Quotations by Elizabeth Knowles (Editor) at Amazon.com.


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Ashley Peterson said:

I have the 5th Edition, and I remember loving it when I got it 15 years ago. Flipping through it today, all the post it’s and haphazard bookmarks, was lovely. Or rather, it was lovely until I started wondering why Ruth Bader Ginsberg doesn’t make an appearance on the pages. Which led me to wonder whether the newest version might be a little more inclusive of women’s voices. I can’t find any reviews that draw this comparison between the editions and I am hopeful that you have a ready answer here. Please and Thank you for your time and reviewing expertise!

Sue Magee said:

Unfortunately I've 'loaned' my copy to someone and it's failed to come home again, so I can't comment on whether or not women are better represented. Hopefully, someone else reading this page will be able to tell us.