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Book Review: Neverisms by Dr. Mardy Grothe

Genre: Nonfiction, Quotes
Hardcover, Kindle: 384 pages
Publisher: Collins Reference
Publication Date: May 10, 2011
ISBN-10: 0061970654
ISBN-13: 978-0061970658
Author Website: Dr. Mardy Grothe

Neverisms: A Quotation Lover’s Guide to Things You Should Never Do, Never Say, or Never Forget is Dr. Mardy Grothe’s fifth book of quotations and one I enjoyed. The premise is that many famous (and not so famous) sayings begin with the word never. Technically called dehortations (its antonym is exhortation) these quips “convince people that they should not do something, or maybe never do it.” According to Dr. Grothe, dehortation is really too obscure (and occasionally too restrictive) a word to describe these witticisms so he coined the term “neverisms” to provide easy access to this quotations style for non-lexicographers.

Never give in. Never give in.
Never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty –
never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.
Never yield to force.
Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
– Winston Churchill

From a short, clear and concise explanation of the why and how of this collection of quotes, Dr. Grothe segues right into his collection of quotes gleaned over twenty years. From politics, to sports, to literature, to human relationships, these neverisms come from famous and not-so-famous individuals. Where possible, Grothe gives attribution, and best part of all, includes a short explanation of the origin or reason for the existence of the quote. Rather than letting the words lie barren and out of context, Grothe is careful to explain many (but not all) of the quotes, often interjecting his own reason for why he likes the quote.

“Never imitate.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Grothe reaches back all the way into the classics for the richness of Aesop and well-known proverbs like “Never judge a book by its cover;” assesses modern cultural proverbs like “never bring a knife to a gunfight;” and moves into the present with a thorough explanation of Rahm Emmanuel’s “Never let a crisis go to waste,” that elucidates its complex origin.

The collection betrays Grothe’s reading tastes, but there is such a large cross-section of quotes from sports figures, musicians, novelists, advertisers, entertainers, self-help gurus and politicians that is easy to find a favorite saying or new cocktail quip in these pages. My personal favorite that I rediscovered was science fiction writer Robert Heinlein’s “Never underestimate the power of human stupidity” from his novel Time Enough for Love or his unverified but popular quote “Love your government, but never trust its government.”

Others might enjoy this “neverism” from Steve Jobs at the debut of the Macintosh in 1984:

At 3:23, its hard to see, but the computer writes “Never trust a computer you can’t lift!”

There is a lot of wisdom here, some funny, some profound, but all organized and explained so well that the books is actually readable rather than just a resource.

“Never ask a woman her weight on a first date.”
– Michael Weatherly (Agent Tony DiNozzo, NCIS)

I didn’t like how Dr. Grothe was willing to include quotes for which he could not trace the origin, though he always makes it clear when he couldn’t – which was a nice thing to do, but it would have been better to simply leave them unattributed if included at all. And an index of people quoted at the back of the book (my copy is an ARC, so this may exist in the final version, I don’t know) would have been helpful not just in writing this review, but for anytime I want to go back to find a particular aphorism I enjoyed.

Neverisms is an interesting and well-constructed book of quotes that is readable, engaging, and approachable, and I recommend it if you like clever use of language, want some motivational help, or just love quotes.

“Never trust a man who has only one way to spell a word.”
– Anonymous