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No. 2, January 1999
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Copyright 1999  www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.


Quotations
OUP's dictionary in a major new edition
Get Quotations from Amazon.com

Quotations are a popular way to underline what one means. Politicians, historians and "ordinary" people use them. But who has said what, when and in which context? The easiest way to find the answers to these questions is The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations with over 20,000 quotations (2,000 of them completely new).
 
According to their cultural background, quotations can be associated with different contents. For instance, "The night of the long knives" refers to the massacre of Ernst Roehm and his SA associates by Hitler on 29-30 June 1934. Subsequently, in Great Britain it became associated with Harold Macmillan's Cabinet dimissals of 13 July 1962. But the origin of "The night of the long knives" can be traced to before 1934 since people warned the public of such a massacre before Hitler came to power in January 1933, a fact OUP's dictionary does not mention.
 
Quotations are only as good as the person who uses them. In 1941, German poet August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben wrote the famous lines that later became the lyrics of the German national anthem. Deutschland über alles, "Germany above all", is not only the most famous part of it, but also the most misunderstood one. As he wrote his poem, Germany was not a nation-state yet and so his appeal was for Germans to unite. Subsequently, "Germany above all" became a slogan of nationalism and imperialism and was completely discredited after Hitler's downfall. As democratic Germany reintroduced the poem as its anthem, there was great uproar abroad where this was falsely interpreted as a step back to nationalism though it only meant the reaffirmation of Germany's unity. Of course, space is limited even in a dictionary of 1136 pages. Still, OUP should have added a few words to explain the poem's meaning.
 
Errors seem to be rare in Quotations. There is one regarding Paul Klee, "Swiss painter". Klee's parents were German but he grew up in Switzerland, where he spent most of his life and where he died. Klee tried to become a Swiss citizen towards the end of his life (during the period of Nazi-Germany). Swiss nationality procedures are strict and time'consuming and so he died a foreigner. Even in Switzerland, Klee is often considered a Swiss painter. I remember having called the French speaking national TV-station TSR so they would correct their announcement of an exhibition by "Swiss painter Paul Klee".
 
The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations is a standard work and the fruit of a 50-years experience in the field by OUP. It gives insights into famous speeches and expressions. A last example: The name "The Iron Lady" was given to Margaret Thatcher in the mid-seventies by the Soviet defence ministry newspaper Red Star, which accused her of trying to revive the cold war. Get Quotations from Amazon.com.

www.cosmopolis.ch
No. 2, January 1999
current edition & archives
Art  Film  Music  History  Politics  All Previous Articles
Links  For Advertisers  Feedback  German edition  Travel

Copyright 1999  www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.