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The quotes you hold in your hand first saw the light of day as four separate collections of 637 each. Five years ago, the four appeared as an anthology of the 2,548 best things anybody ever said with four introductions and four indexes of sources, authors, and key words. If you were looking for something on a particular subject or by a favorite wag, if you were trying to track down a half-remembered line, you had four places to look. In this new edition, the introductions and ref-
erence lists have been combined into one and the quotes are numbered from 1 to 2,548, not four times from 1 to 637. The streamlining will enable many readers, writers, and speakers to more easily feign a sense of humor where none exists.
Why 2,548 quotes instead of, say, 2,547? I didn't want to leave a good one out. Why not 2,549? I didn't want any padding. The goal was simply to compile the best (funniest) things ever said (or written), zingers that can be used in everyday life without the odor of pomposity. Look elsewhere for rosy words of uplift or inspiration, unless you are uplifted and inspired by lines more appropriate for performers than pontificators. A serious attempt was made to eliminate the chaff and retain only the wheat, which is to say that you should be able to open the book to any page and be glad you did.
Many of the quotes are clustered by subject, but the subjects aren't ordered according to the alphabet. It struck me as logical, for example, to follow remarks about Love with those about Sex, Wedlock, Self-Abuse, Kids, Drink, and Death, in that order. In most books of this kind, Sex is followed by such unrelated topics as Shakespeare, Sickness, and Socialism and there is no category for Self-Abuse at all.
I feel bad about most of the quotes attributed to celebrities, for in almost every case, I'm willing to bet, the wit was supplied by a publicist or gagwriter. As a rule, celebrities aren't funny without help. Many non-celebrities are funny, though, at least once in a while, which is why there are so many lines in these pages from unknowns who took the time to send me contributions. One is a man who calls himself Strange de Jim. Should he appear in the Index of Authors under Strange or de? Then there is Hal Lee Luyah, who appears five times. Is that a pseudonym or did his parents call him that to have something to shout on Easter Sunday?
I quote myself a few times, too, which comes under the heading Abuse of Editorial Privilege. I apologize for that and other character flaws.
A word about the antique line cuts, since nobody asked. They are taken from several dozen collections, most of them published by Dover, totaling around 15,000 images. It's not easy matching up a drawing with a quote. Imagine my joy when I found the perfect one for Number 424, Nietzsche's observation that "only sick music makes money today."
Have fun. I did.
Copyright © 2003 by Simon & Schuster, Inc.