Opening Statements

“Status Quote”

Posted Apr 1, 2007 11:31 PM CDT
By Jenny B. Davis

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Looking to cut through that legalese with a notable quotable? Then check out the latest edition of The Yale Book of Quotations, published last October by the university’s press.

It contains a bevy of bon mots more than 12,000 of them, in fact--addressing sports, culture, computers and, yes, law. Which is only natural since its editor is Fred R. Shapiro, an associate librarian and legal research lecturer at the Yale Law School. He also edited The Oxford Dictionary of American Legal Quotations.

Shapiro finds quotes for his books the old fashioned way, by reading them in opinions, treatises, articles and the like. Then he uses online research tools to trace the sayings to the right sources.

“A great quotation is discourse at its most intense and pithy,” he says. “A great quotation also ‘enters the language’--it changes the way we speak and even the way we think about the subject matter of the saying.”

How does he decide which quotes make the cut? “Primarily famousness,” he explains. “But I also took into account eloquence, wit, insightfulness and historical importance.”

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