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Oxford Concise Dictionary of Quotations
Revised Edition
Oxford University Press
1997, 595 pp., $20.50, ISBN 0-19-280070-1

The Wiley Book of Business Quotations
Henry Ehrlich
John Wiley & Sons
1998, 430 pp., $42.50, 0-471-18207-9

Reviewed by Rachel Kramer

Speechwriters and journalists know the value of a well-chosen quote. Some are largely contextual, as George Leigh Mallory's "Because it's there". Some are well-known while their origins are not, as Phineas T. Barnums's, "There's a sucker born every minute", while others are lesser-known quotes from famous people, as Charles de Gaulle's, "How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?". Still others have been remembered while their sources have long been forgotten, as the anonymous author of "Black is beautiful."

For a tidy collection of literary and historical quotations, Oxford University Press offers a revised dictionary of over 9,000 quotes ranging from Homer, Shakespeare and the Bible, to "sound-bites of today's politicians and pop stars." The back cover further boasts new appendices bringing this newest edition "fully up to date".

The new appendices are indeed fun and interesting. There are now a handful of 'Popular Misquotations' a la "Play it again, Sam". The selected 'Sayings of the 90s' - not as hip as one might anticipate - are primarily political with nary a Seinfeld reference ("These pretzels are making me thirsty!").

'Slogans' includes wartime and political propaganda like that found on a poster showing a long queue outside an unemployment office circa 1978, "Labour isn't working", as well as advertising slogans like the UK Hat Council's 1965 advert, "If you want to get ahead, get a hat".

The entries appear in alphabetical order by author, and include birth and death dates. Within each author entry, quotations are arranged by alphabetical order of the titles of the works from which they are taken. Quotes from books, plays, and poems are distinguished from those which comprise part of a published volume or collection. A date in brackets indicates first publication in volume form of the work cited.

A keyword index provides the page number of particular quotes and their authors. It also indicates the number of the quote on the page, each being numbered for that purpose.

The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Quotations is a pleasant, compact and entertaining source of literary and historical quotations.

"There's no business like show business" is not a quote from The Wiley Book of Business Quotations. While it contains, "more than 5,000 insights, opinions, and witticisms about doing business today," these are not the "Let them eat cake's" of the quotation world. Largely drawn from the press and speeches of business leaders, these quotes are clever, topical, alarming and amusing, but not very familiar. Ehrlich himself offers, "Many of the entries in this book haven't been read since the magazines disappeared from your dentist's waiting room."

"A longtime speechwriter for some of the world's most influential corporations", editor Henry Ehrlich knows as well as anyone how handy an appropriate business quote can be to business people, writers and politicians.

Neatly ordered by topic and sub-topic, this collection is also indexed by organization and by individual speaker. The topics tend toward Wall Street with titles like 'The Global Economy', 'Banking and Insurance', 'Business and Marketing', 'Corporations', 'Customers' and 'Competition'.

In case it wasn't clear that this book reflects the thoughts and opinions of the pin-stripe set, the topic 'Executive Diversions' is divided only into 'Golf' and 'Alternatives to Golf'. Within 'Golf' are nine categories including the cute and clever 'The Grass Ceiling'. 'Alternatives to Golf' offers only 'Dogs', 'Football' and 'Shooting'. Yikes.

One of the zestier categories is "Diversity and Sexual Issues". Mingling witty, progressive quotes with jarringly offensive ones, this section even manages to include a quote or two that attempts to span the range, as Richard J. Ferris's (president of United Airlines), "It is now possible for a flight attendant to get a pilot pregnant".

Each quote is accompanied by its author and its context. While some entries are entertaining a la carte, as President Herbert Hoover's, "Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt", and Mark H. McCormack's, "If Thomas Edison had gone to business school, we would all be reading by larger candles", many rely on their authors and context for their value. While that value is greatest to businesspeople, speechwriters and journalists, the modern relevance, humour and insight of The Wiley Book of Business Quotations make it valuable addition to any corner office.

Published in Sources, Number 45, Winter 2000.


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