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The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

What is a “quotation”? It is a saying or piece of writing that strikes people as so true or memorable that they quote it (or allude to it) in speech or writing. Often they will quote it directly, introducing it with a phrase like “As——says” but equally often they will assume that the reader or listener already knows the quotation, and they will simply allude to it without mentioning its source (as in the headline “A rosè is a rosè is a rosè,” referring obliquely to a line by Gertrude Stein).

 


This dictionary has been compiled from extensive evidence of the quotations that are actually used in this way. The dictionary includes the commonest quotations which were found in a collection of more than 200,000 citations assembled by combing books, magazines, and newspapers. For example, our collections contained more than thirty examples each for Edward Heath’s “unacceptable face of capitalism” and Marshal McLuhan’s “The medium is the message,” so both these quotations had to be included. As a result, 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.

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