Cover image for Never let a fool kiss you or a kiss fool you : chiasmus and a world of quotations that say what they mean and mean what they say
Never let a fool kiss you or a kiss fool you : chiasmus and a world of quotations that say what they mean and mean what they say
Grothe, Mardy.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Viking, 1999.
Physical Description:
xvi, 126 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


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Material Type
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PN6081 .G76 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Pardon me -- do you know what chiasmus means? Here's a hint: Mae West used chiasmus in her signature line "It's not the men in my life; it's the life in my men." So did John F. Kennedy: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

Language maven Dr. Mardy Grothe discovered that many of the world's great wags and eloquent orators have been virtual masters of chiasmus -- Churchill, Wilde, Shaw, Ben Franklin, Samuel Johnson, and Shakespeare, to name just a handful. In this unprecedented and quotable collection, he assembles the best examples of chiasmus ever written or spoken. Not since the oxymoron, the palindrome, or An Exaltation of Larks has there been a whole new category of wordplay so likely to fire the public imagination. In the tradition of Woe Is I and The Transitive Vampire, Never Let a Fool Kiss You ... will make chiasmus a household word and help you wax profound in the company of the greatest wits of all time.

Author Notes

Mardy Grothe, Ph.D., is a psychologist, marriage counselor, and management consultant. Coauthor of three books, he has been extensively interviewed on radio and television, on topics from problem bosses to the art of the insult. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.



Chapter One Chiastic Wordplay Chiasmus has enjoyed a special place in the hearts of those who have a fascination with words at play. It seems fitting that language maven William Safire should compose a chiastic motto to guide his column-writing efforts: "Better a jerk that knees than a knee that jerks." This is chiastic wordplay at its best. Safire couldn't have crafted a better way of saying he'd rather be seen as a dirty fighter than as an ideological automaton.     Arguably the best toast ever created, combining punning with chiasmus, goes all the way back to Edwardian England in the 1890s: "Here's champagne for our real friends, and real pain for our sham friends." Nobody appreciated the playful use of language more than famed lexicographer Dr. Samuel Johnson. One of his peers, John Gay, had shopped his play The Beggar's Opera around to London theaters, only to have it rejected again and again. Finally he took it to producer John Rich, who saw the play's potential and helped make it a huge success. The legendary wordsmith's comment was soon being repeated all over London: "It made Rich gay and Gay rich." More chiastic wordplay follows. * * * "The two greatest highway menaces are drivers under twenty-five going over sixty-five and drivers over sixty-five going under twenty-five." --Anonymous " Beauty sounds as ugly as ugliness sounds beautiful." --Max Beerbohm "A scout troop consists of twelve little kids dressed like schmucks following a big schmuck dressed like a kid." --Jack Benny "Architect, n . One who drafts a plan of your house, and plans a draft of your money." --Ambrose Bierce "The gambling known as business looks with austere disfavor upon the business known as gambling." --Ambrose Bierce "You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance." --Ray Bradbury , advice to writers "In the Halls of Justice the only justice is in the halls." --Lenny Bruce "They have to be extra careful with those two-way words. I mean, they can prick their finger, but they can't finger their prick." --George Carlin , on the effect of censors on performers "Have you noticed that your shit is stuff and their stuff is shit?" --George Carlin "Errol Flynn died on a 70-foot boat with a 17-year-old girl. Walter has always wanted to go that way, but he's going to settle for a 17-footer with a 70-year-old." --Betsy Maxwell Cronkite , on husband, Walter "As a young man I used to have four supple members and a stiff one. Now I have four stiff and one supple." --Henri-Eugène duc d'Aumale "Whether a man's lust for big-breasted women is a hunger for mountains or his hunger for mountains is a lust for big-breasted women is a moot question." --Brendan Francis "I'd Rather Have a Bottle in Front of Me (Than a Frontal Lobotomy)." --Randy Hanzlick , song title "Man can be destroyed but not defeated. Man can be defeated but not destroyed." --Ernest Hemingway "Punctuation is made for man, not man for punctuation." --Philip Howard "I don't suffer fools, and I like to see fools suffer." --Florence King "Recreational wordplayers wonder why we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway." --Richard Lederer "In what other language do people play at a recital and recite at a play?" --Richard Lederer , on "Crazy English" "In some parts of Ireland, the sleep which knows no waking is always followed by a wake which knows no sleeping." --Mary Wilson Little "The telephone is the greatest nuisance among conveniences, the greatest convenience among nuisances." --Robert Lynd "In the blue grass region, A paradox was born: The corn was full of kernels And the colonels full of corn." --John Marshall , describing Kentucky "I despise the pleasure of pleasing people that I despise." --Lady Mary Wortley Montagu "The story of the whale swallowing Jonah ... borders greatly on the marvelous; but it would have approached nearer to the idea of miracle if Jonah had swallowed the whale." --Thomas Paine "There are painters who transform the sun into a yellow spot, but there are others who, thanks to their art and intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun." --Pablo Picasso "Better a witty fool than a foolish wit." --William Shakespeare in Twelfth Night "Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things." --Jacquelyn Small "If you talk to God, you are praying; if God talks to you, you have schizophrenia." --Thomas Szasz "We usually call our blunders mistakes, and our friends style our mistakes blunders." --Henry Wheatley "A monk asks a superior if it is permissible to smoke while praying. The superior says certainly not. Next day, the monk asks the superior if it is permissible to pray while smoking. That, says the superior, is not merely permissible, it is admirable." --George F. Will Copyright © 1999 Mardy Grothe. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Introduction: "Pardon Me, Do You Know What Chiasmus Means?"p. ix
Chapter 1 Chiastic Wordplayp. 1
Chapter 2 Chiastic Maxims to Guide Your Lifep. 9
Chapter 3 Chiastic Comparisonsp. 16
Chapter 4 The Battle of the Sexes, Chiasmus Stylep. 23
Chapter 5 Chiastic Compliments and Insultsp. 29
Chapter 6 Chiasmus on Stage and Screenp. 37
Chapter 7 Political Chiasmusp. 45
Chapter 8 Chiasmus in the World of Sportsp. 54
Chapter 9 Chiasmus in Advertisingp. 60
Chapter 10 Chiasmus for CEOsp. 66
Chapter 11 Chiasmus for Book Loversp. 74
Chapter 12 Chiasmus for Loversp. 82
Chapter 13 Chiasmus in Marriage and Family Lifep. 91
Chapter 14 Chiastic Insights from Great Philosophersp. 98
Chapter 15 Chiastic Reparteep. 104
Chapter 16 Implied Chiasmusp. 113
Indexp. 121