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The Oxford Dictionary of Allusions [Hardcover]

Andrew Delahunty , Sheila Dignan , Penelope Stock
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

7 April 2001
Allusions form a colourful extension to the English Language, drawing on our collective knowledge of literature, mythology, and the Bible to give us a literary shorthand for describing people, places, and events. So a miser is a Scrooge, a strong man is a Samson or a Hercules, a beautiful woman is a Venus or a modern-day Helen of Troy. We can suffer like Sisyphus, fail like Canute, or linger like the smile of the Cheshire Cat. This reference explains the meanings of the allusions in use in modern English, from Abaddon to Zorro, Tartarus to Tarzan, and Rubens to Rambo. The book is based on a reading programme that has identified the most commonly-used allusions, and quotations are included with most entries to illustrate usage, from a range of authors and sources, from Thomas Hardy to Ben Elton, Charles Dickens to "Bridget Jones's Diary".

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 468 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (7 April 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198600313
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198600312
  • Product Dimensions: 22.3 x 14.6 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,400,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Andrew Delahunty is a freelance lexicographer and has authored and contributed to a wide range of dictionary and reference works for adults and children. He lives in Birmingham, UK.

Product Description

Amazon Review

The Oxford Dictionary of Allusions provides concise guidance to thousands of references to literature, mythology and the Bible. If you've ever been puzzled by one, it's a good book to have. The allusions are mostly grouped by theme, while a few key subjects are given extended treatment in their own special entries--Adam and Eve, Hercules and The Trojan War, for example. In most cases, the explanation of an allusion's meaning is accompanied by at least one example of its use. In addition, there's a note of guidance at the head of each theme, and there are plenty of cross-references linking related topics. The entry on Heathcliff, for example, is included under the theme "Beauty: male beauty" and declares: "Heathcliff is the passionate gypsy hero of Emily Bronte's romantic novel Wuthering Heights (1847). He has long, dark hair and a rugged, wild attractiveness." Two examples follow.

This book will be particularly useful to students, teachers and others whose work requires them to understand references to literature, mythology and the Bible. It is also fascinating to delve into for anyone whose reading brings them across such references. It makes a fit companion to Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable and The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, complementing the areas of illumination offered by those two volumes. --David Pickering


UNEDITED UK REVIEW: "A brilliantly organized handbook of names, places and phrases...A highly readable text" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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4.0 out of 5 stars Useful reference 5 Dec 2013
By Lara
Allusions refer to a name or item that has especial meaning, often allegorical meaning. For instance, a Herculean task is understood to be enormous and taxing. Hercules is known to have been (in mythology) of superb strength.

The reference book is large and comprehensive. There are two alphabetical lists: the major part of the book, the Themes, and the small Special Entries. The latter is a list of names, such as Cinderella. There is in any case an Index at the back that gives the page reference for any name or theme on the reader's mind. If you wanted Gestapo, the Index shows you to search for it under the theme, Ruthlessness. (I have not researched to see whether any theme might give rise to legal action on the part of any listed, but I did try 'Avarice'. The authors are safe in that the entries are dead or mythical - Mammoth, Midas, Naboth's Vineyard.)

A writer alluding to someone or something will be helped by checking with this volume to ensure he is correct. A browser will find the entries quite fascinating to flick through.

In all, a useful, but not an essential work of reference. However, it is well set out and easy to use.
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars References, NOT Allusions 7 Sep 2008
By Nathan King - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
While this book has many interesting tidbits of information that may make their way into writing, they are most definitely not allusions. At best they are simply literary REFERENCES and therefore this book provides little beyond what you would find in a typical encyclopedia entry about the keyword. Who was Ahab, Frodo, Medusa, etc. Where is hell, olympus, or Narnia. What was manna and so on. Unfortunately, the examples follow the same pattern. Whereas an allusion is indirect and subtle, the examples in this book are direct and explicit references to the keywords (ie "He was crazy like Ahab," instead of something like a subtle quotation from Moby Dick suggesting the character of Ahab). I got this book mainly for the examples in order to see the different ways allusions have been used, but all the examples are simply examples of literary references, not allusions.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars waking our language 22 Mar 2008
By Nan Runyon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The day the Oxford Dictionary of Allusions arrived, I unwrapped it, poured a cup of coffee, and took it and my cup of coffee out to the patio where I opened it randomly. The first entry I saw was Worzel Gummidge. Now, I can use that. I am working on a character sketch of a locally known celeb of sorts, and have been searching for just the right word... the picture to put in the reader's mind. And there it is. Perfect. Never heard of it before.
Another entry that caught my eye as I flipped through the pages was Mrs. Malaprop. I have been teased for years. "Turn off the cat and put out the light", I said once when the family was going out the door. Nobody ever told me I was making malapropisms. I love our language, but sometimes it gets stale, repetitious . We become lazy, use the same old expressions, and forget the countless colorful idioms that can dance in our imaginations.
You cannot put this book down. You will find old favorite words you've forgotten and many new ones you may never have known. Your heart will be happier, your conversations more inspiring.
I'm going to get another cup of coffee and go back to painting the Forth Bridge. If you want to know what that means, buy this book and look it up.
9 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Limited 20 Oct 2002
By Bert Wiefels - Published on Amazon.com
The Oxford Dictionary of Allusions is limited in content. I would have preferred something more complete.
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