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“I always have a quotation for everything – it saves original thinking.” So said the gentleman detective Lord Peter Wimsey in Dorothy L Sayers’ Have His Carcase (1932) – providing us with a handy quotation. But before you start believing everything you hear, make sure you know whether or not a quotation was actually said. […]more
I have been Editor of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations for over 15 years, and the interest of the work is as keen as ever. The joy of ODQ is that its content (based firmly on what is being quoted) is unpredictable and uncontrollable: no-one, however cleverly they craft a current soundbite, can ensure that […]more
‘Famous last words’ in the literal sense means someone’s final remarks before they die, but the phrase is often said as an ironic comment on an overconfident assertion that may later be proved wrong. A classic example of the two senses combined is the case of the Union general John Sedgwick, whose last words immediately […]more
We all find at times that we reach for the words of others to express just what we want to say. Gleaming red berries through the fog of a September morning may remind the more literary of John Keats’s ‘season of mists, and mellow fruitfulness’. The Indian summer of 2011, on the other hand, inspired […]more