Soundbites and slogans join great quotes of the age

THE SOUNDBITE has been acknowledged as equally important in the history of the 20th century as the seminal political speech or the utterances of the greatest scientists and inventors.

The paperback edition of the Oxford Dictionary of 20th Century Quotations is published at the end of the year, and the compilers have "Gone to work on an egg", setting up a generous section on advertising slogans bound to irritate novelists, and parents already driven to distraction by children mimicking TV catchphrases.

Alas, Salman Rushdie's "Naughty but Nice" from his brief sojourn as a copywriter fails to make the Oxford. He has to be satisfied with the less catchy quote from his post- advertising days: "One of the things a writer is for is to say the unsayable, speak the unspeakable and ask difficult questions."

Elizabeth Knowles, the Dictionary editor, says: "It is possible to see different forms of source becoming dominant. In the first half of the century the major sources of quotation came from the written word in poetry, plays and novels, or the spoken word through the medium of major speeches on formal occasions. Latterly, the possible canon has widened to include what might be thought more ephemeral material - soundbites, online sources, films, television and advertisements."

Ms Knowles points out that through what seem ephemeral soundbites we can trace changes in manners and social mores, and track the "sound of the 20th century". She says: "`Evening all' is Sergeant Dixon's opening to Dixon of Dock Green, first spoken in 1956; a contrast to the 1990s aggression of "I'm Bart Simpson: who the hell are you?"

One of the most interesting sections deals with misquotations of the century. Ms Knowles says: "One of the features of popular culture is that quoted material is often modified by the quoter." So, if you thought someone really did say "Beam me up, Scotty" or "Crisis, what crisis?" or "The white heat of technology" or "Play it again, Sam" or "Me Tarzan, you Jane" you would be wrong. They were: "Beam us up, Mr Scott", and "Crisis, what crisis?" was a Sun headline, not a piece of prime ministerial rhetoric by James Callaghan. And even that might have been borrowed from a Supertramp album title. Harold Wilson actually talked about "The white heat of this revolution' and Humphrey Bogart said, simply: "Play it, Sam". And the immortal "Me Tarzan, you Jane" was neither in movies nor the books. The Tarzan film star Johnny Weissmuller said it in a magazine interview as a throwaway line.

``Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few'' Winston Churchill on the Battle of Britain, House of Commons, 1940

``That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind''

Neil Armstrong, 1969

``You cannot be serious''

John McEnroe to a Wimbledon umpire, 1981

"Eat my shorts"

Bart Simpson, 1990 and onwards

"Go to work on an egg''

British Egg Marketing Board, 1957

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable