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Never Let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You
by Mardy Grothe
ISBN 0142000574 / 9780142000571 / 0-14-200057-4
Publisher Penguin Books
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When John F. Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country," he wasn't just stirring the hearts of millions of young Americans, he was also engaging in a little-known form of wordplay called chiasmus. Dr. Mardy Grothe has plumbed the depths of this form for years and catalogued hundreds of examples from ancient times to the present, in Never Let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You (title courtesy of Joey Adams). All it takes is a repeated statement with two elements transposed between them--e.g., fool and kiss--and you get a powerful, often humorous, rhetorical prop. Collected in chapters like "Chiasmus for Lovers" and "Chiastic Compliments and Insults," the wisdom of the ages shines in gems such as Cicero's "It is as difficult for the good to suspect evil as it is for the evil to suspect good." Even better is Grothe's running commentary on the form and its masters and the often-biting humor found in the classics, for instance Dr. Johnson's "Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good." Fortunately for us, the good doctor wasn't referring to Never Let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You, which is as fun to read as a reference as it is to refer to a reader. --Rob Lightner [via]