This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
This is different from other collections of quotations because it was compiled over many years for my own amusement. As a result, many of the sayings culled from my reading probably do not appear in other such dictionaries, including many of those dredged from newspapers and magazines. It would be obvious hypocrisy to say I had never plundered previous collections (see Appendix F), but where possible or convenient I have tried to verify wording and location existing dictionaries conflict on precise formulations or details of attribution, and many are surprisingly inaccurate even after several editions. The criterion for inclusion was highly subjective: it was not enough for a phrase to be old or appear in every major dictionary of quotations; it had to be apt, amusing, or authoritative; or controversial or combative; or just spectacularly absurd and delightfully in error: the sayings may belittle great artists, women, specified races, or sound ideas, or they may propound potty theories or fatuous prophecies - the grounds for inclusion throughout are not just vivid perception but elegance of diction, exemplary viciousness, or humour. Sometimes it was difficult to resist the temptation for a riposte – things like ‘but what about...’ or ‘he seems not to have realised…’ or ‘he could scarcely get away with that now’ and so on. Widely anthologised quotations have been excluded if they were seldom cited or had desiccated into clichés. As a result there are fewer than usual from Shakespeare, Dickens and the Bible. Missing also are many epigrams from Wilde which are merely inverted clichés because, as the English writer Richard Galienne (1866-1947) said, "Paradox with him was only Truth standing on its head to attract attention". Chunks of verse are also rare because they belong in an anthology of verse, seldom embody a witty or interesting truth, and few would want to cite them in normal conversation. In place of all that there is a wide selection from Americans like Mark Twain and H L Mencken because their sayings strike home with greater force. Similarly, there is a lot of Samuel Johnson, Thomas Macaulay and Shaw because they were not only opinionated to the point of arrogance, but their trenchant pronuciamentos were grounded in truculent but solid common sense. References to the original appearance of the saying are given (where known) to separate genuine utterances from wayward attributions (see Appendix C), and because not everything an author puts in a character's mouth is his own opinion. Hence also the frequent notes explaining the background. Where the circumstance or consequence of a quotation is relevant or amusing there is a note within |...| marks. This also includes occasionally the provocation for the saying or responses to it. The comments in =...= marks merely note the immediate context, or of what the statement was made. These background notes sometimes become rather bloated, as for instance to set the context for Horace Walpole’s conceit about London becoming an interesting ruin (HWalpole-10); or General Westmoreland’s long double-speak on the tribulations in Vietnam (WWestmoreland-1); or why Wellington was unlikely to have won Waterloos on Eton’s playing fields (Wellington-1) or the curious recurrence of opportunity as a demi-god with a forelock in front but bald at the back (Posidippus-2). There are sometimes enough background notes to make it possible just to browse through as a casual read - or at least that is the intention. If there are additional items of useful or amusing information about the background, those are also appended. In other words, this is the sort of reference work I like: used not just for a quick check and then discarded but to be browsed through, flitting here and there, and read for fun. Many common quotations have been said by several people, usually not explicitly quoting a predecessor, and in those cases I have tried to list the recorded instances of famous people having made the remark. For instance the reference to the only thing to fear is fear itself is here listed for Bacon-18 Montaigne-9 FDRoosevelt-2 Thoreau-9 Wellington-10. History being a tale of crimes and misfortunes seems to have been said in very quick succession by Goldsmith Gibbon and Voltaire. God being on the side of the large battalions likewise has been repeated throughout the centuries. Doing unto others as you would be done by has been repeated many times down the centuries including 1Anon-119. And Lincoln was by no means first to talk of government of, by and for the people. Sometimes it is more convenient to have them in one place, as with the watchmaker analogy for the creation of the universe under Paley-2. Otherwise wherever these have been spotted they are cross-indexed. Sometimes a remark by one person provoked a retort or reprimand from another, such as HJackson-1. Sometimes it is just a comment as in WChurchill-18. These are either cross-referenced or sometimes included under the original quotation. In some cases there is need for an extended explanation, as with 1Anon-107 JArbuthnot-1 d’Argenlieu-1 WChurchill-21 Emerson-18 Plautus-5 Posidippus-2 Roche-1 Ryan-1 Wellington-11 HWalpole-10 CDWarner1 Westmoreland-1. Collections of quotations, including this one, are biased in favour of the concise apothegm and witty wisecrack. Occasionally somebody produces a passage that deserves to be noted, quoted and relished even though it cannot be represented by a pithy aphorism so there are a few longer items for example: 1Anon-62 Boothroyd-1 Brann-1 TSEliot-1 Fermor-1 Fermor-2 PFleming-1 PFleming-2 PJennings-1 Kinglake-1 Levin-2 Maugham-7 BRussell-1 Shaw-1. Partly through the change of meaning in some words, a few statements by writers of the past now have unexpected, sometimes smutty, meanings and produce a childish giggle. These are indexed under Inadvertent meanings. Highly intelligent and experienced men often make amazingly nonsensical prophecies. Sometimes they have just been overtaken by events they could not have predicted, but they are also frighteningly ready to pronounce on subjects beyond their expertise and so make themselves ludicrous. Those are indexed in Appendix E. Another recurrent feature is a conviction the country is going to the dogs, conditions are rapidly deteriorating and we are all doomed. Such warnings and invitations to depression are indexed under Gloom.
Scorn and invective lend themselves to enjoyable quotations (as Noel Coward ruefully acknowledged, see Coward-4). They are indexed separately in Appendix A by subject in addition to the normal indexing. It is more important to be amusing than to be right or fair (Stoppard-13), so well-phrased and provocative sayings are included even if (or because) obviously misguided. Bitchy and carping barbs have been included if the attack is amusingly phrased with no regard for the accuracy, justification or fairness of the denigration, much less its political correctness. Articulate or witty admiration is less common but is indexed in Appendix B. Quotations occasionally so suit some people they continue to be misattributed despite mounting evidence they never uttered the words. As Louis Menand wrote in the New Yorker of 19 February 2007 “quotable quotes are coins rubbed smooth by circulation”. Most people now know Sherlock Holmes never said "Elementary my dear Watson", and the film Casablanca does not have Humphrey Bogart say "Play it again, Sam" so those are not in here except in Appendix C where some of the more famous or interesting misquotations are listed. Voltaire's defence of what he hates was right and wrong, see Voltaire-1. The accurate quotation is usually shown, with later approximations noted in brackets. Conversely there are some quotations included here because they reveal the people as rather different from their popular image. Lincoln for instance, prepared to accept slavery. People are occasionally apt to quote themselves and if detected the variants are listed under the same number, eg: Voltaire-23 Wellington-14 and several of Einstein’s sayings. Sometimes old sayings sound remarkably similar to current comments or complaints. They are indexed under Plus ça change. Ideally all the people quoted should have their dates of birth and death, their full names, nationalities and their occupations; the entries should have dates and specific sources plus the foreign language original where appropriate. Unfortunately I did not always unearth all this information. Where most such reference works put “attrib” after quotations whose origin has not been found, I have left a blank in the hope of filling the gaps as research continues. Similarly, several of the quotations under 1Anon are not so much anonymous as by authors so far untraced, at least by me. In all those senses this is a work in progress: I continually look for additional information, for details of people and their sayings and for explanations of what they said and why. It can never be finished. Conventions Mac, Mc and M’ are treated as if they were all Mac for alphabetical inclusion. Names with von de and the like have the prefixes omitted for indexes unless they are integrated into a single word as with O’Malley Hyphenated surnames in the index are separated by · rather than – to differentiate the separation of names from references When there are several people with the same surname the name is prefaced by initials and in some cases by a Christian name when there might be confusion such Alan Bennett and ArnoldBennett Quotations from reference and other works without specified author are under 1Anon Dates of quotations are publication dates unless specified otherwise, and dates in brackets indicate the date of citation rather the origination of the words.