Friday - - Mind Games -

Many pearls of wis­dom have sus­tained man through the ages, mostly sug­ges­tions or com­mands ex­hort­ing him to do the right thing. “Speak softly and carry a big stick”, “Keep your friends close but your en­e­mies closer”, and “Take things one day at a time” are a few ex­am­ples.

The majority of such nuggets of ad­vice are in the form of apho­risms and proverbs that are in­tended to in­flu­ence, ad­vise or in­spire, and are usu­ally phrased pos­i­tively.

But as is ev­i­dent from pre­vi­ous Vo­cab col­umns, there will al­ways be one word­smith who is fond of do­ing things dif­fer­ently, or who has time hang­ing heav­ily on his hands, or both – which we think led Dr Mardy Grothe to com­pile a whole book of quo­ta­tions that phrase ad­vice in the form of nega­tives. He calls them ‘nev­erisms’.

Now we all re­mem­ber “Never give a sucker an even break” (W C Fields) and “Never send a boy to do a man’s job” (a 19th-cen­tury New York news­pa­per ad). Dr Grothe has amassed nearly 2,000 quo­ta­tions 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”. Per­haps hu­mans com­ply bet­ter when asked not to do some­thing. The book has many ref­er­enced and well-known lines such as “Never cross a bridge un­til you come to it”, “Never judge a book by its cover”, and among the hun­dreds of quoted peo­ple are Win­ston Churchill, Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King Jr, Har­vey Mackay, Richard Nixon, John Stein­beck, and James Thurber. Dr Grothe also re­lates the sto­ries be­hind many of them. For in­stance “Never un­der­es­ti­mate the power of a woman” started as an ice-cream company slo­gan pro­mot­ing home de­liv­ery.

Its chap­ters in­clude hu­man re­la­tion­ships, sports, business, the en­ter­tain­ment world, and oth­ers, and their head­ings are nev­erisms in them­selves:

Never Go to a Doc­tor Whose Of­fice Plants Have Died Never Let a Cri­sis Go to Waste Never Give In. Never, Never, Never, Never!

Never Ap­proach a Woman From Be­hind

Never Change Di­a­pers in Mid-Stream Never Judge a Book by Its Movie Never Cut What You Can Un­tie.

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