Phrase, Fable, and Allusion
When we quote we are generally repeating the words of a particular person, often to add force to our own argument. Quotations used like this, however, are only part of a central stock of proverbs, phrases, and sayings, which together add colour and vigour to our language, and which individually are packed with life and meaning.
Cracking the code
Anyone who uses the English language knows that it can sometimes seem like a mass of references to hidden meanings, and now Oxford has a book to help you read the cultural shorthand used in books, newspapers, and on the airwaves. The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable is the book you need to resolve those half-understood references:
- Why was Hillary Clinton called a carpetbagger from Arkansas?
- Who are the Windrush Generation?
- Who formulated the concept of a just war?
- What is the link between the loss of the Indianapolis and the film Jaws?
- How likely are you to find snakes in Iceland?
- Who had problems with the vision thing?
The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable answers these questions and many more; along the way it also provides fascinating pieces of serendipity - the identity of the famous soldier (Wellington) whose charger Copenhagen was the grandson of the noted racehorse Eclipse (Eclipse first, the rest nowhere as it was said), and the modern politician (Tony Blair) who chose Ivanhoe for his desert island book on Desert Island Discs
Who, What, Where, When?
Every day we take names from literature, mythology, popular culture, and the Bible to describe peoples, places, and events. So a miser is a Scrooge, a strong man is a Samson or a Hercules, a beautiful woman is a modern-day Helen of Troy. The Oxford Dictionary of Allusions gives the stories behind the names for our most commonly-used allusions, from Atalanta to Zorro, with usage illustrated by a wealth of quotations from authors and sources ranging from Charles Dickens to Bridget Jones's Diary
Read more about Quotations
See the Top 100 quotes, as selected by the Oxford Dictionary team