Briefly Noted: Give Me My Ears Back


The cover of Lend Me Your Ears: Oxford Dictionary of Political Quotations (Oxford) features a photo of President Barack Obama, his large aural appendages silhouetted in light. Unfortunately, the visual joke is false advertising: The book largely fails to treat its subjects with the skepticism one would expect from editor Antony Jay, best known for co-writing the satiric '80s TV shows Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister.

George Orwell, Dorothy Parker, and H.L. Mencken are all present and accounted for, but the quotes from politicians—notably the live variety—tend toward empty rhetoric. Will Obama really be remembered for saying "we reject as false the choice between safety and our ideals"? 

As a bonus in this collection, the editor has highlighted some juicy misquotations and misattributions: The similarities between laws and sausages aren't in Bismarck's papers, Sarah Palin can't see Russia from her house, and the capitalists didn't sell Lenin the rope with which to hang them. —Katherine Mangu-Ward