The Yale Book of Quotationsby Fred R. Shapiro
Pub. Date: 10/30/2006
Publisher: Yale University Press
This reader-friendly volume contains more than 12,000 famous quotations, arranged alphabetically by author. It is unique in its focus on American quotations and its inclusion of items not only from literary and historical sources but also from popular culture, sports, computers, science, politics, law, and the social sciences. Anonymously authored items appear in
This reader-friendly volume contains more than 12,000 famous quotations, arranged alphabetically by author. It is unique in its focus on American quotations and its inclusion of items not only from literary and historical sources but also from popular culture, sports, computers, science, politics, law, and the social sciences. Anonymously authored items appear in sections devoted to folk songs, advertising slogans, television catchphrases, proverbs, and others.
For each quotation, a source and first date of use is cited. In many cases, new research for this book has uncovered an earlier date or a different author than had previously been understood. (It was Beatrice Kaufman, not Sophie Tucker, who exclaimed, “I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich. Rich is better!” William Tecumseh Sherman wasn’t the originator of “War is hell!” It was Napoleon.) Numerous entries are enhanced with annotations to clarify meaning or context for the reader. These interesting annotations, along with extensive cross-references that identify related quotations and a large keyword index, will satisfy both the reader who seeks specific information and the curious browser who appreciates an amble through entertaining pages.
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I am not finished reading--it's hard to know what finished would be--but I am sure this work deserves the full five stars. I started reading it straight through, but kept getting delightfully sidetracked, remembering another quotation, like an old acquaintance. The editors have done a tremendous amount of research, especially in tracking down many early attestations, especially for modern American texts. This is such a solid reference book that it can't hurt to note that there is no Platonic ideal collection. Though what's included is massive and well-selected, part of the fun is to see what is absent too. Sure, I recall Jimmy Durante saying 'I got a million of 'em' (included), but I did not find his 'Everybody wants to get into the act' under his name it turns out that it is included, but listed under Radio Catchphrases I could have found the saying that I heard on TV in the keyword index, so a cross-reference at Durante would have been helpful. Though the front matter clearly delineates the format, one could question omitting known political speech writers credit in political quotations, for example, in Agnew's unhappy phrase 'nattering nabobs of negativism.' William Safire will be not amused.The evidence for attributing 'damned lies, and statistics' to Disraeli, rather than Courtney or another, seems to me rather questionable. For example, YBQ cites a 1895 statement of a letter writer who thought Disraeli said it but in a 1894 book Price Collier attributed the saying to Walter Bagehot. Absent: 'the whole nine yards.' This appeared in Vietnam GI slang in 1966. By then 'Montagnards' were slangily called ''yards.' In 1966 Navy Chaplain and anthropologist R. Mole published a book on Nine Tribes of Montagnards in I Corps area (the north of South Vietnam). To get all of them as allies, perhaps, gave rise to the phrase for the full compliment, the whole nine yards. But there is admittedly no consensus on this yet. As Saul Lieberman reportedly said in introducing G. Scholem's lectures on Kabbalah, 'Nonsense is nonsense, but the study of nonsense is scholarship.' (Though other tradents report that he said 'history,' not 'study.') In any case, this is a fine reference work.
¿Don¿t look back,¿ said baseball great Satchel Paige. ¿Something might be gaining on you.¿ That something, or someone, might be the scrupulous Fred R. Shapiro. In ¿The Yale Book of Quotations,¿ aided by scholars and connoisseurs, he tracks 12,000 pithy and apposite remarks to their original sources, drawn from over three thousand politicians, pundits, poets, and proselytizers: Spinoza and Gertrude Stein and Snoop Doggy Dogg, Austen and Sanger and Thurber, Lorenz Hart and Horace and Groucho, not to mention me and you. (Check out ¿Modern Proverbs.¿) Specific references, often providing extra background, are furnished for every quote, which range in heterogeneous variety from the elegant (¿We are all strong enough to bear the misfortunes of others¿) to the arrogant (¿What an artist dies with me!¿---not Dali, Nero). This magisterial collection repeatedly uncovers the exact phrasing and true deviser of many a famous saying. Who¿s responsible for ¿Don¿t ask, don¿t tell¿? Or ¿Whatever is not nailed down is mine. Whatever I can pry loose is not nailed down¿? Or ¿Millions long for immortality who don¿t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon¿? If Truman wasn¿t the first to say ¿If you don¿t like the heat, get out of the kitchen¿---and he wasn¿t---who was? And who never said, ¿There is scarcely anything in this world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper¿? The thoroughgoing Keyword Index makes it a cinch to find out. (See pages 787 and 657.) Yale University Press has produced an exemplar of modern bookmaking, at a reasonable price: splendid layout and typesetting grace every one of these 1068 pages. Man of letters Joseph Epstein contributes a smart and racy foreword, and portraits or photographs enliven the entries. (Will you recognize young Mae West when you see her?) ¿If, with the literate, I am / Impelled to try an epigram, / I never seek to take the credit: / We all assume that Oscar said it.¿ Well, Mrs. Parker, Mr. Wilde tops out at 123, but you¿re looking good with 49. Come, gentle readers, and check out the 11,828 others.
A good quotations collection will give the definitive wording of quotations, provide information as to the quotations' sources and eliminate spurious sources, and be interesting enough to read or browse in its own right, even when no particular quotation is sought. The Yale Book of Quotations does all of these things, and it does them better than its nearest competitors (Bartlett's Familiar Quotations and The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations). The Yale Book of Quotations is the first new comprehensive collection in many years, and it has benefited from a rethinking of the quotations selected, the use of modern databases to track quotations back to their origins, and comparison with those original sources to assure accuracy. The immediately noticeable difference is a selection that is more likely to appeal to a modern American audience. Bartlett's has pages of quotations from Dryden, most of which inspire neither recollection nor pleasant surprise. Yale has 12 quotations from Dryden, which is enough to include all the genuinely familiar Dryden quotations. On the other hand, Yale has 23 quotations from George W. Bush, many uttered after Bartlett's was last updated. Yale includes extensive selections of proverbs and sayings, political slogans, television catchphrases, and other familiar lines. In general, although Yale's use of literary quotations is comprehensive (there are, for example, 455 quotations from Shakespeare), the quotation selection tends to be relatively less literary and more inclined toward quotations of contemporary interest. It may be for this reason that, frankly, Yale is just a lot more fun to browse. Less dramatic, but perhaps ultimately a better indicator of usefulness, is the impressive level of research that went into compiling the Yale Book. Have you ever wondered who said 'There ain't no such thing as a free lunch'? Yale cites to several authors who used versions of this line, the earliest of which ('such a thing as a 'free' lunch never existed') was in the Reno Evening Gazette on January 22, 1942. It is unlikely that such an obscure source could have been located without modern databases. It was indeed Horace Greeley who said 'Go West, young man' Yale spends a quarter of a page discussing this quotation, which it notes is one of the great examples of the prevalence of misinformation about famous quotations (both Bartlett's and Oxford get it wrong). The Yale Book of Quotations offers a level of scholarship and reliability that is simply not otherwise available.