OUP's dictionary in a major new edition
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.
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
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
No. 2, January 1999
edition & archives
Copyright 1999 www.cosmopolis.ch Louis Gerber All rights