About Neverisms: A Quotation Lover's Guide to Things You Should Never Do, Never Say, or Never Forget

Neverisms Published May 2011
Hardcover: 384 pages
List Price: $15.99
ISBN: 0061970654

Neverisms is an anthology of nearly 2,000 quotation that all begin with the word "Never." They all fit into a category of human discourse that Willard R. Espy once described as "Dissuasive advice given with authority." I've been fascinated by these kinds of cautionary warnings for many years, and I'm hoping you will enjoy learning more about them as well.

History is filled with strong attempts to discourage people from a certain practice or to dissuade them from a course of action. And many of them begin with the word never:

“Never judge a book by its cover.”
“Never swap horses in mid-stream.”
“Never look a gift horse in the mouth.”

Instead of recommending that people do something, sayings like these strongly urge people not to do—indeed, never to do—something. The precise term for these kinds of sayings is dehortation, the antonym of exhortation. If you've never heard of the word dehortation, you have a lot of company. It's an obscure word that has never been a part of everyday usage. The same is true with its companion verb dehort, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines this way:

“To use exhortation to dissuade from a course or purpose;
to advise or counsel against (an action, etc.).”

When we exhort, we're encouraging people to do something. When we dehort, on the other hand, we're warning people not to do something. Dehortation is a form of negative persuasion, or dissuasion. We can summarize it all in an analogy:

“Exhortation is to dehortation as persuasion is to dissuasion.”

Another word for these attempts at dissuasion is admonition, which has two separate meanings: (1) a gentle reproof, and (2) a cautionary warning. The first sense of the word shows up, for example, when a teacher admonishes a student for being careless or a boss admonishes an employee for being late to work. The second sense is captured in the following "usage note" from the editors of the American Heritage Dictionary:

“Admonish implies the giving of advice or a warning
so that a fault can be rectified or a danger avoided.

Admonition is also a perfectly acceptable term for any cautionary warning that is introduced by the word never, as in these proverbial sayings:

“Never send a boy to do a man's job.”
“Never cross a bridge until you come to it.”
“Never make a mountain out of a molehill.”
“Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.”

For more than twenty years, though, my pet term for these kinds of quotations has been neverisms. A few years ago, I did something similar when I created the term ifferism to describe an aphorism that begins with the word if. That neologism worked out fairly well, and I'm hoping that neverism will also be given a warm welcome.

The intended audience for this book is the same as for my other books—it's for quotation lovers as well as for people who enjoy wordplay and ideaplay. If this description fits you, I think you'll enjoy the book. And if you know such a person, it could be the perfect gift for the word and language lover in your life.

Table of Contents

I rarely buy a book without first perusing the table of contents. If you're similarly inclined, this should help:

Chapter 1: Never Go to a Doctor Whose Office Plants Have Died (Wit & Wordplay)
Chapter 2: Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste (Words to Live By)
Chapter 3: Never Give Advice Unless Asked (Advice)
Chapter 4: Never Put Off Till Tomorrow What You Can Do Today (Classic Neverisms)
Chapter 5: Never Underestimate the Power of a Woman ("Never Underestimate" Neverisms)
Chapter 6: Never Trust a Computer You Can't Lift ("Never Trust" Neverisms)
Chapter 7: Never Give In. Never, Never, Never, Never! (Multiple Neverisms)
Chapter 8: Never Persist in Trying to Set People Right (Human Relationships)
Chapter 9: Never Approach a Woman From Behind (Sex, Love & Romance)
Chapter 10: Never Change Diapers in Mid-Stream (Marriage, Home & Family Life)
Chapter 11: Never Mention a No-Hitter While It's in Progress (Sports)
Chapter 12: Never Get Caught in Bed with a Live Man or a Dead Woman (Politics & Government)
Chapter 13: Never Coddle a Malcontent (Business & Management)
Chapter 14: Never Have Your Dog Stuffed (Book, Song & Movie Titles)
Chapter 15: Never Judge a Book by Its Movie (Stage & Screen)
Chapter 16: Never Answer an Anonymous Letter (Oxymoronic & Paradoxical Neverisms)
Chapter 17: Never Cut What You Can Untie (Metaphorical Neverisms)
Chapter 18: Never Use a Long Word When a Short One Will Do (The Literary Life)

How to Get the Book

Let me briefly describe three ways for you to get a copy of the book.

1) Your Local Bookstore

Most discerning bookstores will have Neverisms in stock, so a visit to your favorite bookseller may be the easiest way to get your hands on a copy. If they don't have it, ask them to order a copy. This is a service bookstores are more than willing to provide to their book-loving customers, so take advantage of it. To identify a local Independent bookstore near you, visit IndieBound.

2) Online Bookstores:


Barnes & Noble

3) Your Local Library

If you're a little short on cash right now, no problem! You can be reading Neverisms within a few weeks. Simply call or go to your local library and ask them to order a copy or two for the library's collection. Tell them to reserve the book for you, and they'll notify you when it comes in. I've been able to get my hands on scores of books this way over the years. This is one of the many fantastic services provided by public libraries; yet very few people are aware of it. And it's paid for by your tax dollars, so take advantage of it. By the way, even if you decide to buy a copy of the book, I'd appreciate your asking your local library to order a copy anyway.


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