The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
The book begins with a preface explaining the term quotation. The dictionary has been compiled from extensive evidence of the quotations that are actually used in the way they have been listed. This book is not—like many quotations dictionaries—a subjective anthology of the editor's favourite quotations, but an objective selection of the quotations which are most widely known and used. Popularity and familiarity are the main criteria for inclusion, although no reader is likely to be familiar with all the quotations in this dictionary. The quotations are drawn from novels, plays, poems, essays, speeches, films radio and television broadcasts, songs, advertisements, and even book titles. It is difficult to draw the line between quotations and similar sayings like proverbs, catch-phrases, and idioms. For example, some quotations (like “The opera ain’t over till the fat lady sings”) become proverbial. These are usually included if they can be traced to a particular originator. Catch-phrases are included if there is evidence that they are widely remembered or used. Quotations are also cross-referenced. For example, on looking up Napoleon's quotation about Britain being a nation of shopkeepers, one also finds Adam Smith, who said it first. Quotations about absolute power are cross-referenced to Lord Acton, and from him to William Pitt the Elder, who said something similar.
The dictionary has been jokingly called the Oxford Dikker of Quotaggers using the Oxford "-er".
The first edition in 1941 was compiled by a committee drawn from the staff of the OUP under the editorship of Alice Mary Smyth (later Alice Mary Hadfield). She recounts some of the details of choosing and processing quotations in her book on the life of Charles Williams (one of the committee). Later editions of the Dictionary were published in 1953 and thereafter, the 6th edition appearing in 2004 (ISBN 0-19-860720-2), the 7th in 2009 (ISBN 0-19-923717-4), and the 8th in 2014 (ISBN 0-19-966870-1), all edited by Elizabeth Knowles.
- Smith, Preface
- Hadfield, p. 114-115
- Hadfield, Alice Mary. An Introduction to Charles Williams. London: Robert Hale Ltd., 1959.
- Smyth, Alice Mary, ed. The Oxford Book of Quotations. [First Edition.] London: OUP, 1941.
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