The World in a Phrase: A Brief History of the Aphorism

James Geary


The World in a Phrase: A Brief History of the Aphorism

The World in a Phrase: A Brief History of the Aphorism

  • Title: The World in a Phrase: A Brief History of the Aphorism
  • Author: James Geary
  • ISBN: 9781582344300
  • Page: 448
  • Format: Hardcover



For lovers of words and seekers of wisdom, a lively history of aphorisms the shortest and oldest written art form and the intriguing people who have penned them, from the Buddha to Emily Dickinson.Starting with the ancient Chinese and ending with contemporary Europeans and Americans, The World in a Phrase tells the story of the aphorism through spirited and amusing bioFor lovers of words and seekers of wisdom, a lively history of aphorisms the shortest and oldest written art form and the intriguing people who have penned them, from the Buddha to Emily Dickinson.Starting with the ancient Chinese and ending with contemporary Europeans and Americans, The World in a Phrase tells the story of the aphorism through spirited and amusing biographies of some of its greatest practitioners Americans like Ambrose Bierce, Emily Dickinson, and Mark Twain and Dorothy Parker great French aphorists like Montaigne, La Rochefoucauld, and Chamfort philosophers like Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein as well as prophets and sages like the Buddha, Lao Tzu, and Jesus Though it s an ancient art form, the aphorism is as spritely and as apposite as ever Challenging and subversive, aphorisms deliver the short, sharp shocks of old forgotten truths They are literature s hand luggage they re light and compact, you can take them anywhere, and they contain everything you need to get through a rough day at the office or a dark night of the soul But than just a literary history, The World in a Phrase is a personal memoir of how aphorisms changed Geary s life and how, if not for an aphorism by W.H Auden, he might never have met his wife In our modern age of drive through culture, pre digested soundbites, and manufactured sentiment, The World in a Phrase explores how aphorisms still retain the power to instigate and inspire, enlighten and enrage, entertain and edify.


Recent Comments "The World in a Phrase: A Brief History of the Aphorism"

It is regrettably brief, both as a history and even more so as an anthology of aphorisms. Geary is a companionable writer, chatty, witty, and knowledgeable. His interleaving of personal history with the general history of the aphorism is entertaining but wisely and considerately limited to the start and end of the book. He defines aphorism narrowly, excluding proverbs, witticisms, and other short, excerpted quotes, however pithy, wise, or amusing. (The 5 laws of aphorism are it must be brief, de [...]

Would you like to drink deep from the wisdom of Seneca, Buddha, Emerson, Thoreau, and Twain? Buy a Bartlett's, or better yet go straight to the primary sources. Want to read a literary analysis rich in historical detail? That's not here either. Want to experience great minds as filtered through a second-rate one? Yeah, me neither. It was all I could do to finish this mediocre handling of a promising subject.

A rare non-audiobook, ebook version. Great survey piece and a great jumping off point into one or more of the many wonderful authors profiled within. Recommended.

I bought this at the New Agey bookshop in London that Alain de Botton has some kind of connection to, and by page 2 was well and truly hooked. Engaging, erudite, profound, expressing something I’ve felt deeply and often about the power of brief, surprising segments of talk to engrave themselves in your brain: p.7: “(A)phorisms (are) just the right size to hold the swift insights and fresh observations that are the raw data of the wisdom of the ages. Aphorisms are literature’s hand luggage. [...]

This is one of the wittiest and most charming books I have ever read. Geary has an unparalleled infatuation with the art form. His prose is equally as clever, acerbic, wise, and shocking as the aphorisms he shares from his lifetime spent gathering them. He ranges from the ancient sages like Lao-tzu, Jesus, and the Zen masters to more contemporary aphorists like Dr. Suess, and Barbara Kruger. The World in a Phrase makes for a great coffee table book, or next to the toilette as a long bathroom rea [...]

The book provides an interesting discussion of where aphorisms come from and how they work in history, all without sounding too academic. Granted, with that lack it loses some credibility; however, the author avoids the other extreme of sounding too much like simple storytelling, so the text hovers ambiguously and noncommittally somewhere in-between. Not as rewarding as I had hoped, and certainly fewer "quotable quotes" than a simple Google search could provide in far less time.

OK fun fly-weight volume about aphorisms, which are defined as sayings that are brief, direct, personal, philosophical, and contain an unexpected twist.Come to think of it, the book matches its subject, but Geary frankly doesn't do that good of a job with the history part. There seems to be a flatness about his writing, which, added to his stated and obvious predilection for Eastern religion, makes the book just OK when it could have been better in the hands of a better writer.

Eric gave me this book for Christmas. Not only does it contain witty aphorisms, but it also categorizes them in an interesting way. The author begins by defining what an aphorism is. Teachers can use this book to get their students to think or write in their journals. These aphorisms can also be used for discussion.

This book is a fascinating history of the aphorism, but you have to be in the mood for it. While I was reading it, I emailed James Geary about his inclusions, and we got into a lively discussion about the book. He's a fine writer/thinker. Nice man.

I love learning where phrases come from and how our language has developed over time. It's fun to read this and something on current slang at the same time.

This book interested me because I too am a collector of aphorisms. This entertaining little book offers lots of good sayings and interesting anecdotes.

There is much to say in defense of aphorism, though it best not be long. Geary culls juicy examples with wit and concision: e.g "the difference between a rut and a grave is depth."

Don't bother.

Good collection of aphorisms as well as a great introduction to the western/eastern philosophy. Read it to know what you should choose to read :)

An excellent starter course in the philosophical thinking encapsulated in a short readable chronological tale.

A quick review of some well-known aphorists. Not very in-depth, but interesting all the same.

Excellent, witty, informativea must read!

ne sto traducendo la prima metà. Simpatico, ma a tratti didascalico e ripetitivo.

A true intellectual delight, filled with morsels that can be eaten all at once or at separate moments.

for those who love the English language!

All minds quote says Emerson in "Quotation and Originality." So perhaps you should check out this small contemporary easy that investigates all things aphoric (?).


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    Published :2019-03-05T10:49:04+00:00