Brewer's Quotations: A Phrase and Fable Dictionary

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Editorial Reviews

Zom Zoms
Ebenezer Cobham Brewer was a nineteenth-century British compiler of reference books e.g., "Dictionary of Phrase and Fable". Cassell in the U.K. is publishing a series of new works bearing the Brewer name "Brewer's 20th Century Music", "Brewer's Politics". This latest volume presents the "most commonly misquoted, misattributed . . . and most disputed sayings," along with an account of each saying's origin and misuse Rees is the deviser and presenter of BBC Radio's quiz show, "Quote . . . Unquote", through which he has become an authority on the popular use of language. From his editorial commentary we learn that quotation and attribution are far more complex than is generally realized. Sayings mutate in form and meaning, are attributed to whomever suits the quoter's purpose, and settle incorrectly into quotation books. This book is a browser's delight. Selection ranges throughout history and the globe, with a heavy leaning toward British sources. Rees provides quotations' offspring of book and film titles, along with parodies and other adaptations. Contemporary quotations are well represented. "Do your own thing" turns out to have originated with Emerson. "Love me, love my dog" originated with St. Bernard the theologian, not the St. Bernard after whom the breed was named. The work is arranged by names of people quoted. Since sayings are often misattributed or misquoted, the best way to find them is through the index of keywords, where each quote is indexed in correct and misquoted wording "Magill's Quotations in Context" Harper & Row selects quotations from world literature and provides surrounding text. Earlier history or subsequent evolution is not considered. Of "I have promises to keep," "Brewer's" gives examples of how President Kennedy frequently and variously misquoted it. "Magill's" offers a traditional explication. "Brewer's Quotations" is unlike traditional quotation dictionaries that purport to offer exact sources and offer thematic access. The tracing of each saying's usage brings to mind the children's game, "Telephone", in which messages become delightfully scrambled or creatively enlarged as they are passed along. Entertaining and authoritative, this is a good addition to the basic collection.
**** Cited in Sheehy and BCL3. The compilation of some 2,000 quotations, arranged alphabetically by source from John Adams to Mae West, corrects misattributions and misquotations, highlights sayings that are commonly misunderstood, and traces the origins of familiar catchphrases and expressions. For readers who absolutely must be right all the time. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780304343973
  • Publisher: Cassell P L C
  • Publication date: 3/1/1995
  • Pages: 448

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