When we strongly encourage people to do something, it's called an exhortation. But what is the proper term for strongly discouraging people?
"Never ruin an apology with an excuse."
"Never trust the advice of a man in difficulties."
"Never judge till you have heard the other side."
One candidate, of course, is admonition, which has two meanings: (1) gentle reproof, and (2) strongly-worded cautionary advice or warning. But there are other possibilities as well.
You may be interested in learning that the proper technical term is dehortation, the opposite of exhortation. Perhaps the best term, though, for an emphatic piece of dissuasive advice that begins
with the word "never" is neverism. You won't find the term in any dictionary because I coined it it myself for this collection of nearly two thousand quotable cautionary warnings. With the whimsical and witty
intermixed with the serious and profound, contributors range from Aesop, Aristotle, and Marcus Aurelius to John Wayne, Mae West, and Mark Wahlberg. I also tell the fascinating "back stories" behind scores of
classic quotations as well as the history of hundreds more that have never before appeared in a quotation anthology. The image on the cover of the book brings to life a modern proverb: "Never bring a knife to a gunfight."
Many people think the saying originated in the Wild West days of frontier America, but it first emerged in 1987 (I tell the story in the "Classic Neverisms" chapter of the book). Organized by topics such as Wit & Wordplay,
Politics & Government, Sports, Stage & Screen, and The Literary Life, this is a book about quotations as well as a book of them.
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An aphorism attempts to communicate a truth about the human experience, always in a succinct or pithy manner, and often with a dash of wit. A number of years ago, I began
to notice that many of history's most memorable aphorisms were introduced by the word "if." It occurs in many biblical passages, such as "If a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand."
It happens routinely in intellectual history, as when Samuel Taylor Coleridge observed, "If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us." It also shows up in some of the wittiest things
ever said, as when Rita Mae Brown wrote, "If the world were a logical place, men would ride side-saddle." Or when Molly Ivins wrote about a Texas politician, "If his IQ slips any lower, we'll have to water
him twice a day."
In this book, I present nearly 2,000 quotations that begin with the biggest little word in the English language: "if," Playing off the term aphorism, I've coined the term ifferism to
describe such sayings. Technically, ifferisms are examples of hypothetical, counterfactual, or conditional thinking (I explain these terms in a simple, down-to-earth manner in the introductory chapter). In
chapters on sex, love, sports, politics, advice, gender dynamics, and more, you will find observations from all the usual suspects—Twain, Wilde, Shaw, Emerson, and Franklin—as well as scores
of contemporary wits and wordsmiths. And alongside history's most famous sayings, you will also find—and often learn the fascinating story behind—such modern classics as "If you build it,
they will come" and "If anything can go wrong, it will."
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In I Never Metaphor I Didn't Like, I have fixed my attention on the three superstars of figurative language: analogies, metaphors, and similes. In the first chapter, I explain the nature
of these literary devices in down-to-earth and easy-to-understand ways (the way I wish they had been explained to me when I was in high school). In the rest of the book—in chapters on sex, politics,
sports, aging, stage & screen, the literary life, and more—I take readers on a guided tour of history's greatest analogies metaphors, and similes.
Describing one thing by relating it to another thing is the essence of what is known as metaphorical thinking. It's what Shakespeare was doing when he wrote "All the world's a stage." It's what
Rudyard Kipling was doing when he wrote, "Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind." And it is what countless writers, poets, politicians, comedians, and other clever people have done when
they've made a connection between two things that, at first glance, don't appear to have much in common with each other. Robert Frost once said that "An idea is a feat of association, and the height of it is a good
metaphor." This book contains some of the most remarkable feats of association in human history.
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Viva la Repartee is an anthology of clever comebacks and witty replies from some of history's cleverest and most quick-witted people. The book contains
over 600 examples of repartee, and the often fascinating stories behind them. All of the usual suspects have been rounded up, like Winston Churchill's famous
reply to Nancy Astor ("And if you were my wife, I'd drink it!") and Groucho Marx's legendary quip to a man who said he had ten children because he loved
his wife ("I love my cigar, but I take it out of my mouth every now and then"). You'll also find wonderful ripostes and rejoinders from Oscar Wilde, Mark
Twain, Mae West, Dorothy Parker, Dolly Parton, and many, many others.
Even though I've been interested in repartee for more than forty years, I only began to systematically collect examples of such wit-under-pressure about
ten years ago. I've found them in books, magazines, newspapers, films, and television programs. Many were described—often with great relish—at cocktail
parties and in personal conversations. As friends and colleagues learned about my project, they began to tell me their favorites. As my collection of
comebacks grew into the thousands, I began organizing them into categories (political, literary, sports, etc.). The target audience for the book is people who
enjoy great wit and wordplay, especially when cleverness is displayed under pressure or when the chips are down.
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This is the second of my "word & language" books and, so far, the most popular book I've produced (it sold 100,000 copies in the first year of publication
and was the best-selling quotation book on amazon.com in the year 2005). Happily, it continues to sell well today. This particular book is devoted to paradoxical
and oxymoronic quotations—those very special observations that use a contradiction in terms or a contradiction in ideas to arrest our attention or tickle our funny
bones. Examples of oxymoronica have tantalized the minds of people for centuries, showing up in such popular sayings as "less is more" and "Be careful what you wish for, it might come true."
Somebody once said, "A paradox is a truth standing on its head to get our attention." This book presents over 1,400 quotations that fit that description. Many of the quotes
appear false upon first reading, but are profoundly true or perception-altering upon reflection. Still others are downright hilarious. A few examples:
"To lead the people, walk behind them." Lao Tzu
"A yawn is a silent shout." G. K. Chesterton
"You'd be amazed how much it costs to look this cheap." Dolly Parton
Inspired by words like exotica and erotica, I coined the word oxymoronica more than ten years ago to describe quotes like these. Surprisingly, there's never been a book quite
like this one. Robert Byrne, the author of all those wonderful "Best Things Ever Said" books said about Oxymoronica:
"You don't need military intelligence to enjoy this quirky, surprising, and educational tour through a previously uncharted region of the English language."
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This book was my first foray into the "word and language" genre and the first popular book ever published about chiasmus (ky-AZ-mus), the fascinating literary device that lies behind some of the most memorable
quotations of all time, including Cicero's "One should eat to live, not live to eat," Mae West's "It's not the men in my life, it's the life in my men," and JFK's "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do . . ."
Every now and then, a book takes an obscure word or concept and attempts to move it into the world of popular usage. That's what I'm trying to do with this book. Even though almost all people are familiar with
the phenomenon of chiasmus, only the most literate people are familiar with the word. My goal is to make chiasmus a household word, in that same way that oxymoron, also an obscure
word a few decades ago, is now known by virtually all literate people.
This is primarily a book of quotations, all of them examples of chiasmus. The first chapter introduces the concept and describes some details about chiasmus, including the fascinating etymology of the word and
how every quote in the book can be "marked with an X." The rest of the book presents quotations, organized into categories, like "Political Chiasmus," "Chiasmus on Stage & Screen," and "Chiasmus for Lovers."
If you're a word and language and quotation lover, I think you will like this book.
The noted poet X. J. Kennedy is the author of numerous volumes of poetry as well as three popular college textbooks on writing, literature, and poetry. Kennedy had this to say after reading my manuscript:
"After Mardy Grothe's heroic labors, will we ever be the same again? The word chiasmus being new to me, I was dumbfounded to find that this powerful rhetorical device so permeates our lives and,
in the work of great writers from East to West, circles the globe. Mardy Grothe, a knowing guide, wears his learning lightly. I can't imagine that anyone else will ever explore this profound and regaling topic in such depth and breadth.
For anyone who gets high on words, this book will be better than two double bourbons."
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This book, which I co-authored with fellow psychologist Peter Wylie, was written to guide readers through some of the predictable "people problems" they can expect to run into as business partners, business owners, CEOs,
and managers of executive teams. The book argues that struggle is inevitable whenever people work together and presents a number of concepts, techniques, and strategies designed to help people more effectively cope with
interpersonal problems at work. Dr. Dorree Waldbaum, co-director of the Institute for the Advanced Study of Psychotherapy, said of the book:
"With humor and wisdom … they illustrate how to prevent and cure potential disasters. It is the one book in the field I would take to a desert island and recommend to my clients."
The book is out of print, but copies are still available from online booksellers.
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This book, also co-authored with Peter Wylie, was written for every employee who ever had a "problem boss." It describes just about every type of problem boss imaginable, from the ineffective to the downright deviant.
It offers guidelines, tests, and exercises to help readers evaluate their particular situation and determine the type of problem boss they have. The heart of the book is the presentation of twelve separate survival strategies
that employees can use to cope with different types of bosses. Susan Kain, the Financial Editor at Goldman Sachs said about the book:
"A very interesting and readable book that kept me flying through its pages. It's loaded with practical advice and it's written in a lively and punchy style."
The book is out of print, but copies are still available from a number of online booksellers.
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This is the second edition of my very first published book (first edition, 1987), also co-authored with Peter Wylie. Even though the book was titled "Problem Employees," the book may be more accurately described as a guide to help
managers promote improved employee productivity and a happier, more satisfying work place. The heart of the book is a ten-step Performance Improvement Process that begins with "Analyzing Your Employee's Performance" and ends with
"What Do I Do if None of This Stuff Works?" The trade publication Training News said of the book:
"They know their subject. A rewarding experience … an outstanding job."
Copies of the book are available online.
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