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Reviewed by Melinda Hills for Readers' Favorite
Quotation is not something to which most people give much thought, but it is amazingly pervasive across many aspects of our lives. Why Do We Quote? The Culture and History of Quotation by Ruth Finnegan is a marvelously in depth look at what quotation is, where and when it originated, how it is perceived and what it really even involves.
Full of academic research as well as widely held public opinion, Why Do We Quote? looks back at the history of language – the spoken as well as the written word. Surprises are plentiful as ancient Middle Eastern and Oriental practices are mentioned along with those of the Greeks and Romans so many of us are familiar with from school days. Even before the invention of the printing press, collections of quotations were popular in England, enjoyed by a rather broad audience over hundreds of years.
Another interesting aspect to this work is the consideration of oral tradition among tribal groups and how that is similar to other vocal quotations through song and performance even today. It also addresses the common phrases used so often as proverbs, adages and good old-fashioned sayings designed to help define proper behavior.
Although Why Do We Quote? The Culture and History of Quotation is a bit heavy at times, it is obvious that Ruth Finnegan loves delving into the subject matter. Her use of a wide variety of resources, including the Mass Observation Panel of commentators through the University of Sussex, provides plenty of authority to the discussion of a concept that is broader and more complicated than simply knowing when to use quotation marks for a school essay. The work is amazing and the author has a lot of interesting, wonderful things to say.