Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations

by Ned Sherrin (Oxford University Press, 4th ed. 2009): 560pp, £5.49 (pbk), ISBN 978 0 19 957006 5.

Reviewed by Michèle Clarke

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First published in 1995, this book, initially reviewed in our September/October 2003 newsletter, is now in its 4th edition. Of course, sadly, its author is now dead and the foreword to this edition is by Alistair Beaton. Apparently Sherrin never included any of his own witticisms, but Beaton includes one. When he went to visit the broadcaster on his deathbed, Sherrin barked out an order for champagne:

'Large one for you, small one for me.' I poured as requested. He raised himself from the pillows, screwed up his eyes, stared at his glass, and said, 'Not that f****** small.'

There are some gems in this book, always useful for additions to talks, speeches or writing. Of particular relevance is a quotation by the publisher Michael Joseph. Although he was talking about publishers, it resonates with a copy-editor as well:

You cannot or at least you should not try to argue with authors. Too many are like children whose tears can suddenly be changed to smiles if they are handled in the right way.

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