Laughing at the dictionary

Teddy Roosevelt laughing

Teddy Roosevelt laughing. Maybe he read my Dictionary of Humorous Quotations. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

One of life’s great pleasures for bookworms like me is the chance to visit a used bookstore. You’ve got the best of both worlds. There are infinite opportunities to seek out literature in every genre you can imagine, and you save money on the books. Sweet!

You stroll leisurely up and down the aisles, pulling out whatever attracts your attention from shelves, crates or tabletops. And if you’re really lucky, you come across a little-known, marvelous gem of a book. In my case, it’s the Dictionary of Humorous Quotations, edited by Evan Esar.

Originally published in 1949, this little paperback book contains a treasure trove of humorous quotations by people all over the world. It is full of sass and wisdom.

There are some of the people you’d expect to see, such as Dorothy Parker, Will Rogers, Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw and James Thurber, who are known for their humor. The book also has some surprises, such as Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill, as well as quite a few people of whom I’ve never heard. Thankfully, Esar put in a few words next to each person’s name so I know when they lived and who they were.

There isn’t room to put all of the quotations here, but I’ll share some of the best. (Hopefully, nobody will take offense, chase me down and whack me upside the head with a dangling participle. I only mean to amuse and I’ll insult each gender equally.) Enjoy!

John Steinbeck — Coney Island: where the surf is one-third water and two-thirds people.

Abraham Lincoln — He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas of any man I ever met.

Helen Rowland — Love, the quest; marriage, the conquest; divorce, the inquest.

Robert Louis Stevenson — He sows hurry and reaps indigestion.

Mark Twain — His money is twice tainted: ‘taint yours and ‘taint mine.

Edgar Allan Poe — I have great faith in fools; self-confidence my friends call it.

Oliver Herford — Diplomacy: lying in state.

Dorothy Parker — A girl’s best friend is her mutter.

Lord Palmerston — The best thing for the inside of a man is the outside of a horse.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt — When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.

Mary Heaton Vorse — The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.



Filed under Writing

22 responses to “Laughing at the dictionary

  1. You really should look further into Winston Churchill and his quotes! He was literally a master of trash talking, sort of like a wartime Muhammad Ali.

  2. Great post! I love the Lincoln quote. Who can’t relate to that? Thanks for the giggle. And yay used book stores! There is a place in Baltimore where you can go and leave used books and take as many as you want for free! You would love it. It’s called “The Book Thing.”

  3. Google Paul Keating, the ex-Australian Prime Minister…he’s up there with Churchill for brilliant trash talking.

  4. Jaclyn

    Love this post! The FDR quote is my favorite. I could use that one at work – I’ll have to remember it!

  5. Absolutely wonderful. What a find!

  6. Published in 1949 — and still making us laugh 63 years later. Loved Abe and FDR. 🙂

  7. Anybody who likes to hang out in used bookstores is OK with me. : )

    Great stuff. I’m definitely gonna steal that Eddie Allan Poe line!

  8. gun street girl

    Prospero’s Books in Manassas. Go right now! 😉

  9. nazarioartpainting

    Good post. I love the Abraham Lincoln quote: “Whatever you are, be a good one.”

  10. Too funny! Love the “taint yours, taint mine” and “mutter”!!!


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