Express yourself with the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

Winston Churchill quoteAs readers and spectators, we are drawn to quotations that speak to us and resonate with us; we are inspired by the speech of a great leader, amused by the witticisms of a famous figure and touched by the lyrical visions created by poets, authors and wordsmiths.

Words obviously mean a lot to us here at Oxford, so to celebrate the publication of a major new edition of the bestselling Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, we thought we would share some of our favourite quotations with you:

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogroves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
‘Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgeson, 1932-98) Through the Looking Glass (1872) ch. 1

Alex M., Higher Education Sales and Marketing: I love the way Carroll brought so much meaning and direction to the Jabberwocky poem. It’s 99% nonsense, but it creates such a thrilling adventure in my mind.

The world is like a Mask dancing. If you want to see it well you do not stand in one place.
Chinua Achebe (1930-2013) from an Igbo proverb, Arrow of God (1988) ch. 4

Susannah, Sales Operations: Sound advice in excellent character voice. What I love most about this quotation is how it reads differently out of context, which is in part what it’s about.

Every picture tells a story.
Advertisement for Doan’s Backache Kidney Pills (early 1900s)

Natalie, Reception: The reason why I chose this quotation was because I am obsessed with taking pictures; I am currently travelling and it’s good for my family and friends to be able to see my pictures and what I am up to. Also in years to come, when I look back on them, I’m sure I will be able to match a story to most of the pictures.

I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work…I want to achieve it through not dying.
Woody Allen (Allen Stewart Konigsberg, 1935­ – ) Eric Lax, Woody Allen and his Comedy (1975) ch. 12

Stephen, IT Service Desk: Who wouldn’t prefer to physically live forever rather than just have your works or deeds do so?

Wherever you go, go with all your heart.
Confucius (K’ung Fu-tzu 551-479 BC), Shu Jing pt. 5, bk. 9, ch. 6

Peter, Managing Director: I love the sentiment that whatever you do, at work or in life, do it to your utmost ability and with passion.

There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot on Treasure Island.
Walt Disney, attributed, Laurence J. Peter Quotations for Our Time (1977)

Samantha, Primary Education Publishing: I love this quotation not only because I am a big Disney fan but also because I think with reading the treasures are so many and varied.

What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.
Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) in Slate Magazine 20 October 2007

Nicola, Marketing Operations: There are so many quotations I could have chosen, but this one resonates with me because it is acutely observed and sparingly written. And it is an excellent rebuttal to the alleged issues, myths and incorrect information that swirl around the Internet.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) in Catholic Digest August 1960

Lara, ELT Sales: The first time I read this quotation, it switched a light on in my brain. A lot of the negative thoughts we have are negative thoughts we’ve allowed ourselves to have.

Do nothing in haste, look well to each step, and from the beginning think what may be the end.
Edward Whymper (1840-1911) Scrambles Amongst the Alps (1871)

Derek, Higher Education Sales: Gen Y/Millennials are widely known as the instant gratification generation, and in hindsight, I am now well aware of such a pattern in my younger years. This quotation is a reminder that one should always have an end game with many steps along the way, that cheap thrills can have massive setback implications, and that I should never lose sight of what I truly want in life.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana (1863-1952) The Life of Reason (1905) vol. 1, ch. 12

Sam, Permissions: I first became aware of this quotation when I saw it on a mouse mat advertising an archive and it’s stuck with me ever since. Sadly, we have seen time and time again just how true Santayana’s words are; I think this quotation should be tattooed on the forehead of all politicians as soon as they enter office.

“Cake or death?” Cake, please.
Eddie Izzard (1962 – ) imagining how a Church of England Inquisition might have worked, Dressed to Kill (stage show, San Francisco, 1998)

Steph, Higher Education Marketing: This should be self-explanatory, but I think regardless of the question, the correct answer should always be ‘cake’.

We are not interested in the fact that the brain has the consistency of cold porridge.
Alan Turing (1912-54) A. P. Hodge Alan Turing: the Enigma (1983)

Angela, Marketing Operations: I’ve always liked this quotation because it was a really amusing way to explain a really complex concept. Theories on artificial intelligence and the presence of a thinking mind just don’t come naturally to me otherwise.

The report of my death was an exaggeration.
Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens, 1835-1910) in New York Journal 2 June 1897

Alex C, Higher Education Publishing: It’s the all-time best comeback for when someone mistakenly prints your obituary!

Still glides the Stream, and shall for ever glide;
The Form remains, the Function never dies.
William Wordsworth (1770-1850) ‘The River Duddon’ (1820) no. 34 ‘After-Thought’

Ann, Sales Operations: This is a poem my grandfather would recite and one that’s stayed with me. I like the way Wordsworth challenges our perception of what is permanent and transient, a beautiful poem on immortality

Do you have a favourite quotation? Please share with us, we would love to hear from you. Simply reply to this blog post with a comment and list the quotation, source and why you like it so much.

9780199668700Available now!
Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
Eighth Edition (Major New Edition)

One thought on “Express yourself with the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

  1. ‘Curiouser and curiouser!’ cried Alice (190:12)
    As a lover of all things Wonderlandian, I can’t go past Alice’s catchphrase. I love Alice in Wonderland for all its nonsensical whimsy, its tea parties and all the wonder it inspires. This quote in particular reminds me to always seek out the curiosities of life.

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