Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Rhetorical fireworks for the Fourth of July

By Russ Castronovo
Ever since 4 July 1777 when citizens of Philadelphia celebrated the first anniversary of American independence with a fireworks display, the “rockets’ red glare” has lent a military tinge to this national holiday. But the explosive aspect of the patriots’ resistance was the incendiary propaganda that they spread across the thirteen colonies.

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What is a book? (humour edition)

As the Amazon-Hachette debate has escalated this week, taking a notably funny turn on the Colbert Report, we’d like to share some funnier reflections on books and the purposes they serve. Here are some selections from the Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations, Fifth Edition.

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What is a book?

In recent weeks, a trade dispute between Amazon and Hachette has been making headlines across the world. But discussion at our book-laden coffee tables and computer screens has not been limited to contract terms and inventory, but what books mean to us as publishers, booksellers, authors, and readers.

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Celebrating Victoria Day

Monday, 19 May is Victoria Day in Canada, which celebrates the 195th birthday of Queen Victoria on 24 May 1819. On 20 June 1837, at the age of 18, Queen Victoria took the throne as Monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, as the Empire was called at that point.

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Lincoln’s rhetoric in the Gettysburg Address

By Jeanne Fahnestock
Perhaps no speech in the canon of American oratory is as famous as the “Dedicatory Remarks” delivered in a few minutes, one hundred and fifty years ago, by President Abraham Lincoln. And though school children may no longer memorize the conveniently brief 272 words of “The Gettysburg Address,” most American can still recall its opening and closing phrases.

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Sagan and the modern scientist-prophets

By Lynda Walsh
Nobody questions Carl Sagan’s charisma. He was television’s first science rock star. He made appearances on the Tonight Show; he drove a Porsche with a vanity plate that read “PHOBOS,” one of Mars’s moons; journalists enthused over his “velour” voice.

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Getting to the heart of poetry

OUP recently partnered with The Poetry Archive to support Poetry by Heart, a new national poetry competition in England. Here, competition winner Kaiti Soultana talks about her experience.

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The legacies of Margaret Thatcher’s rhetoric

By Richard Toye
The death of Margaret Thatcher has already prompted an outpouring of reflections upon her place in history. One aspect of her legacy that deserves attention is her use of rhetoric and the way in which, to a great degree, she helped reshape the language of British politics as well as the substance of policy. Historians divide about when original Thatcherism really was.

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Do you know your references and allusions?

Are you an Athena when it comes to literary allusions, or are they your kryptonite? Either way, the Oxford Dictionary of Reference and Allusion can be your Henry Higgins, providing fascinating information on the literary and pop culture references that make reading and entertainment so rich. Take this quiz, Zorro, and leave your calling card.

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A comic quotation quiz

Moliere wrote in La critique de l’école des femmes (1663) that “it’s an odd job, making decent people laugh.” In the hopes that 2013 will be filled with delightful oddity and humor, we present this quiz, drawn from the Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations, 4th edition. Edited by the late Ned Sherrin, the dictionary compiles words of wit and wisdom from writers, entertainers and politicians.

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Celebrating Scotland: St Andrew’s Day

St Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, is rather a mysterious figure; very little is actually known about his life. Meanwhile, St Andrew’s Day, on 30th November, is well-established and widely celebrated by Scots around the world. The bestselling Oxford Dictionary of Quotations and the Little Oxford Dictionary of Quotations include quotes from a wide-range of people, on an even wider-range of subjects. Here are some contributions from some of Scotland’s most treasured wordsmiths.

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Remembrance Sunday

Remembrance Sunday, falling on 11th November in 2012 and traditionally observed on the Sunday closest to this date, marks the anniversary of the cessation of hostilities in the First World War. It serves as a day to reflect upon those who have given their lives for the sake of peace and freedom. We have selected a number of memorable, meaningful and moving quotes to commemorate the fallen.

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Monthly etymology gleanings for October, part 2

By Anatoly Liberman
Fowl, fox, and pooch. My cautious reservations about a tie between the etymon of fowl and the verb fly were dismissed in one of the comments. Therefore, a few additional notes on that word may be in order. The origin of fowl is uncertain, that is, controversial, not quite unknown.

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To let you appreciate what sort of consul he professes himself to be

On 2 September 44 BC, Cicero launched into the first of the most blistering oratorical attacks in political history, attacks which ultimately cost him his life. The following is an excerpt of the Second Philippic, a denunciation of Mark Antony, from the Oxford World’s Classic Political Speeches. Do we hear echoes of contemporary political rhetoric in these harsh tones?

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‘The glory of my crown': royal quotations past and present

By Susan Ratcliffe
With the celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee only a few days away, it is perhaps a good moment to look back at some other long-serving monarchs of the British Isles. Inevitably, those who rule for a long time come to the throne early: Queen Victoria was 18 at her accession, and was described by Thomas Carlyle on her Coronation as ‘Poor little Queen! She is at an age when a girl can hardly be trusted to choose a bonnet for herself, yet a task is laid on her from which an archangel might shrink.’ After her reign of 63 years, H. G. Wells thought differently: ‘Queen Victoria was like a great paper-weight that for half a century sat upon men’s minds, and when she was removed their ideas began to blow about all over the place haphazardly’.

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