As someone who collects quotations, I was pleased to get this for Xmas — and even more pleased to discover one quotation by me in it. (I once said that comedienne Ruby Wax “talked like a cement mixer from Brooklyn” — which was unfair to cement mixers btw). But the clueless compilers have managed to get my name wrong, not once, but twice! I’m “Naughton, Denis” in the index, and “David Naughton” on the page. Scholarship, like nostalgia, is not what it used to be. Sigh.
The problem with dictionaries of quotations is that they are often lazy compilations — consisting mainly of recycling of the hoary old annuals and leavening the mix with the froth of the last few years. There’s rarely any sign of intelligent editorial life. They all, for example, recycle the celebrated exchange between Bob Benchley and Dorothy Parker:
Benchley: Calvin Coolidge is dead!
Parker: How can they tell?
The only problem with this is that Benchley replied “He had an erection”, but this wonderful payoff line was judged too scandalous by quotation hunters and so was discreetly excised from the records, leaving Parker with the credit for the joke. Benchley’s widow went to her grave lamenting this slight upon her late husband’s wit.