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Oxymoronica: Paradoxical Wit & Wisdom From History's Greatest Wordsmiths Hardcover – March 2, 2004


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Oxymoronica: Paradoxical Wit & Wisdom From History's Greatest Wordsmiths + I Never Metaphor I Didn't Like: A Comprehensive Compilation of History's Greatest Analogies, Metaphors, and Similes + Viva la Repartee: Clever Comebacks and Witty Retorts from History's Great Wits and Wordsmiths
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (March 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060536993
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060536992
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Coining the titular word to describe quotations that contain seemingly self-contradictory elements, psychologist and amateur wordsmith Grothe (Never Let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You) gathers hundreds of examples—ancient, modern and everything in between—of such sayings. From Confucius’s "Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s own ignorance" to Yogi Berra’s "Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded" to Adrienne Rich’s "Marriage is lonelier than solitude," these bon mots offer pithy insights and sometimes clever advice. Grothe’s 14 chapters group the quotations by theme; in "Sex, Love, and Romance," for example, Louise Colet advises readers to "Doubt the man who swears to his devotion," while in "Oxymoronic Insults (and a Few Compliments)," Henry James reflects that George Eliot is "magnificently ugly…. in this vast ugliness resides a most powerful beauty which, in a very few minutes, steals forth and charms the mind." Potentially useful to public speakers and certainly bound to amuse word mavens, Grothe’s collection is good clean fun—with a bit of an edge: the last section offers "Inadvertent Oxymoronica," in which George W. Bush is quoted as saying "One of the common denominators I have found is that expectations rise above that which is expected."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Grothe is an inveterate collector of words and phrases. He is especially fond of paradoxical sayings, "ideas stood on their heads." He has been gathering such seemingly contradictory quotations as Carrie Fisher's "Instant gratification takes too long" or Yogi Berra's pithy "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded" for years. For him, these sayings are like oxymorons but with more depth. Thus, he coined the term, "Oxymoronica, n.; A compilation of self-contradictory terms, phrases, or quotations; examples of oxymoronica appear illogical or nonsensical at first, but upon reflection, make a good deal of sense and are often profoundly true." This book is an assemblage of his collection divided into 14 chapters ranging widely in subject and author from wit and wisdom through love and sex to insults, written by Ovid through Oscar Wilde to George W. Bush, with many thought-provoking stops in between. The collection can be dipped into frequently and offers much to think about upon first, second, or third readings. It will be useful for public speakers, debate classes, English assignments, and essays. There is an index of authors and broad topics, though finding a specific quote might prove challenging. There's even a Web site to submit new ideas or to join a discussion with like-minded devotees. The whole collection might be summed up by Berra, "I didn't say everything I said." Lots of fun and much to ponder.–Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library, Chantilly, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Dr. Mardy Grothe is a psychologist, management consultant, marriage counselor, and public speaker. He is the author of six "word & language" books: "Ifferisms," "I Never Metaphor I Didn't Like," "Viva la Repartee," "Oxymoronica," "Never Let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You," and "Neverisms" (published in May, 2011). A lifelong quotation collector, Dr. Mardy--as he is known to his fans around the globe--is routinely described as a "quotation maven" and is well on his way to becoming America's most popular quotation anthologist. He lives with his wife, Katherine Robinson, in Southern Pines, North Carolina.

Customer Reviews

You can open the book at random or read it sequentially and get the same pleasant experience both ways.
Matthew Dodd
I will not try to convince the skeptic (I was a skeptic myself), except to say that I am so glad that I experienced (so much more than "read") this book.
Dennis R. Ridley, Ph.D
Dr. Mardy Grothe has identified -- and expertly catalogued -- the oxymoronic element which is at the heart of so much of what we recognize as wit.
j-hay

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

85 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of my best friends had an aunt (let's call her Ginny) who, like Yogi Berra, could bring a lively conversation to a screeching halt with one brief comment. Aunt Ginny really was unaware of this (shall we say) unique talent. She was not trying to be funny, clever, etc. On the contrary, she offered what she considered to be a serious comment and everyone knew what her intended meaning was. For example:

"Quicker than you can count Jack Robinson."
"Deader than a door knob."
"She was born on a silver platter."

My personal favorite:

"He's on a treadmill to Bolivia."

I am curious to know what Aunt Ginny would make of Grothe's book. (She died many years ago.) She would no doubt agree with many observations but perhaps not see the humor in any of them. Grothe has selected what he calls "oxymoronical" material from his vast collection of quotations. With regard to the term, his definition: "Oxymoronica, n.; A compilation of self-contradictory terms, phrases, or quotations; examples of oxymoronica appear illogical or nonsensical at first, but upon reflection, make a good deal of sense and are often profoundly true." As other reviewers have correctly noted, many of the quotations which Grothe has assembled are hilarious, others insightful, still others cynical. All of them qualify as "oxymoronica."

Among those forgotten or of which I was previously unaware, my personal favorites include:

"Meetings are indispensable when you don't want to do anything."
John Kenneth Galbraith

"Hatreds are the cinders of affection."
Sir Walter Raleigh

"I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?"
Benjamin Disraeli

"What you get free costs too much.
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64 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Dodd on November 8, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I am sure if someone had told me before I read this book that it was an easy-to-read, entertaining, and informative combination of a simple quote book, many cultural and historical references, and a scholarly and literary analysis of paradoxes and oxymorons, I would not have bought it. Well, I sure am glad nobody told me exactly what the book was about because I not only bought it and read it, I thought it was an outstanding book.

"Oxymoronica," a new term introduced by Dr. Mardy Grothe and the title of this book, was defined inside the front cover as "any variety of tantalizing, self-contradictory statements or observations that on the surface appear false or illogical, but at a deeper level are true, often profoundly true."

In keeping with that definition, the book contained over 1,400 oxymoronic and paradoxical quotations from ancient times to today, organized into fourteen categories, most of which you would expect to find in any standard book of quotations (i.e. advice; insults; politics; sex, love, and romance; marriage, home, and family life). Complementing the wit and wisdom of the quotations was Grothe's historical and cultural research and his ability to present and put into a logical, often humorous, context the quotations so that I could reflect on and appreciate their profound meanings. You can open the book at random or read it sequentially and get the same pleasant experience both ways.

I had many profoundly personal moments of reflection on people and events in my life throughout the pages of this book:

"Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's own ignorance." Confucius

"You can't make anything idiot-proof because idiots are so ingenious." Ron Burns

"The child is father of the man.
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79 of 84 people found the following review helpful By JLind555 on May 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
There's something about oxymorons that bring us up short even as we laugh over the sheer absurdity of it all. Even the name of this little book is an absurdity in itself: "Oxymoronica"?? Reading this volume helps us to stop and think about some of the gems and malapropisms that have enlivened the English language, both planned and unplanned. Here you'll find some of the more classic Berra-isms and the wit and wisdom of Shakespeare, Aristotle, and Confucius, just to name a few. The book is well organized into different areas of life such as politics, art, romance and sex (some of the more delicious examples of oxymoronica fall into this category), marriage and literature. The book makes you reminisce on some of the choicer oxymorons of your own experience; one of my favorites came from a lawyer friend of mine, who, hearing that an upcoming court hearing was being delayed because the judge-from-hell was ill, said "Gee, I hope it's nothing trivial." "Oxymoronica" is full of hilarious examples that match or top that one. Its wisdom should be absorbed slowly, savored bit by delicious bit. To use a classic oxymoron, it's a terribly funny book.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Dennis R. Ridley, Ph.D on April 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Word lovers find an immediate friend in Dr. Mardy Grothe, for in his latest book, Oxymoronica-Paradoxical Wit and Wisdom from History's Greatest Wordsmiths, he has labored long to prepare a banquet for their absolute delight. Psychologist and business consultant may be his profession - and a demanding profession it is - but Dr. Grothe always finds time for his chief passion, which is the love of language. In this book, he shares the fruits of many years of collecting quotations, concentrating on those of a peculiar type-the paradoxical and oxymoronic-comprehended in his newly coined term "oxymoronica."
This book is no quick read. When you discover a fine wine, do you gulp it down? Or do you prefer to savor it, to prolong the pleasure, knowing that even when at last you have finished, you can return for many more unhurried sessions. Such is the experience of reading this book. You may open it at random (if you are an unsystematic reader like me) and discover a treasure like this one from Groucho Marx: "The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made." Then you might laugh, but more often than not you start thinking and finding out there was something true about the thought, something that almost escaped your attention until the paradoxical twist brought it out.
What also impresses you is the broad range of the quotations, historically and culturally, from Confucius to George Carlin, arranged in fourteen different categories encompassing many if not most areas of your experience. What you find here is a tour de force, leading at least this reader to a conclusion - which itself is a paradox - that you will better understand yourself and your experience through paradox. I will not try to convince the skeptic (I was a skeptic myself), except to say that I am so glad that I experienced (so much more than "read") this book. Try it! Just maybe a few depth charges in your mind will clear your head!
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