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

Hardcover edition: 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins

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.

Praise for the Book

Prior to the publication of Neverisms, we received some heartwarming advance praise from a number of writers, wordsmiths, and other luminaries in the "word and language" community.

Never miss a chance to tour the nooks and crannies of the English language with Mardy Grothe as your guide. This new collection of specialized quotations is engrossing. Never boring! Never a dull moment!

—Robert Byrne, compiler of The 2,548 Best Things Anybody Ever Said

Never underestimate Mardy Grothe's ability to write an entertaining book of quotes in a given format! (Can he find enough quotes beginning 'never' to fill a 350-page book? Never doubt it!). I especially appreciate the back stories—the first appearance and history of well-known neverisms.

—A. Ross Eckler, author of Making the Alphabet Dance

Never miss the chance to read a book that's both enlightening and entertaining. Neverisms is that kind of book. I loved every minute of the many hours I spent wandering through this wonderland of wit and cautionary wisdom. Neverisms may or may not transform your life, but it will surely give you many of the essential rules of thought and conduct for moving forward in today's world and even for making yourself a better, more fully realized human being.

—Leonard Roy Frank, editor of Random House Webster's Quotationary (1998)

Never leave a book by Mardy Grothe unread.

—Anu Garg, founder of Wordsmith.org and author of A Word A Day

A wondrous trip through Neverland that never fails to dazzle and delight.

—James Geary, author of The World in a Phrase: A Brief History of the Aphorism

Who knew that so many fascinating, instructive, and often witty quotations begin with 'never'? Dr. Mardy Grothe knew, and has gathered a superb collection of these observations. Neverisms is not only pleasing as a compilation of quotations but fascinating as social history and a first-rate primer on forceful self-expression.

—Ralph Keyes, author of Euphemania and The Quote Verifier

Never ever miss a chance to read a Mardy Grothe quotations book. There's nothing negative about Neverisms. The book positively demonstrates that learning what not to do powerfully teaches us what we should do.

—Richard Lederer, author of The Gift of Age, and many, many word and language books

Never in a million years did I enjoy a book more.

—Craig Wilson, USA Today

What fun it would be to be a fly on the wall of Dr. Mardy Grothe's mind.

—Barbara Wallraff

I've collected and read hundreds of books of quotations and I rate Dr. Mardy Grothe's Neverisms as one of the best.

—Bob Deis, This Day in Quotes

This book tickles my funny bone every time I open it … yummy back stories enrich the neverisms like creamy butter.

—Barbara McNichol, Add Power to Your Pen

Table of Contents

I don't know about you, but I hate to buy a book without 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)