Oxford University Press

Oxford University Press
The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

It was while looking up wording from The Golden Journey to Samarkand that I came across this sweeping indictment of mathematics, from a young scribe who lived only to the age of eight: “The most devilish thing is 8 times 8 and 7 times 7 it is what nature itselfe cant endure.”

You probably wouldn’t pick up this hefty volume and read it clear through, from Peter Abelard to Emile Zola. But it’s an invaluable reference when you’re burning to know just exactly what Hamlet said about Yorrick’s skull, or who came up with the succinct “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

You can also use it as a divination tool. Open to any page at random and, given that there are about 40 quotes on each spread, you’re likely to find something apposite for your situation.

Even if you don’t, what you read will keep you so entertained that you’ll be effectively diverted from whatever was bothering you before. One single page (353, if you must know) contains these wonderfully pithy remarks:

When in doubt, win the trick. (Edmond Hoyle)

Never explain—your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyway. (Elbert Hubbard)

It’s no disgrace t’be poor, but it might as well be. (Frank McKinney Hubbard)

If you really want to make a million . . . the quickest way is to start your own religion. (L. Ron Hubbard)

That man’s [Clark Gable’s] ears make him look like a taxi-cab with both doors open. (Howard Hughes Jr.)

Need a eulogy for a beloved friend? You could hardly do better than John Sparrow’s timeless couplet:

Without you, Heaven would be too dull to bear,
And Hell would not be Hell if you are there.

Treasures on every page, guaranteed.

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