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Ifferisms: An Anthology of Aphorisms that Begin with the Word If

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October 2009
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A Book Review

Publishing Information

  •  Author: Dr. Mardy Grothe
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publisher
  • Year: 2009-10-29
  • Page count: 326
  • Price:$19.99 (CN)

What is an aphorism? It is a pithy observation that attempts to communicate a truth about human experience, often with a dash of wit and wisdom. Many of the great thinkers and writers have viewed the aphorism as a tool for expressing wisdom. For instance, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “If you would be loved, love and be lovable.”

Dr. Mardy Grothe has written a book about aphorisms that begin with the word if. His book, “Ifferisms”, includes nearly 2,000 aphorisms, each beginning with the word “if.” It contains aphorisms for a myriad of topics, such as  the human condition, human relations, wordplay, love, sex, romance, and more. It is a compendium of wit, wisdom, and wordplay.


In the introduction of his book, Grothe defines what he means by “ifferism.” It is an aphorism, beginning with the word “if.” He defines the aphorism as “a brief observation that attempts to communicate some kind of truth about human experience.”

He writes that the aphorism is also known as an adage or maxim.

And it is a personal observation inflated into a universal truth. For instance: “If man would learn from history, what lessons it might teach us.”

He writes that many aphorisms have gained such wide popularity that they have become proverbs or axioms or truisms.

He points out that the if-aphorism (ifferism) is a based on hypothetical thinking, something assumed to be true for the purpose of argument or investigation.

He also states that the if-aphorism is based on counterfactual thinking, in that what is imagined runs counter to the actual facts of life. When people use counterfactual thinking, they are engaged in “what if” thinking.

And he writes that the ifferism or if-aphorism is a conditional statement, written in the form of “if-then” statement. For instance, “If you can’t feed a hundred, feed one.” (Mother Teresa)

In the book, he includes nearly 2,000 aphorisms stated or written by great thinkers, philosophers, scientists, celebrities, writers, and so forth. For instance, he includes the following aphorisms that are words of wisdom:

 If your heart has peace, nothing can disturb you. —The Dala Lama

If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun. —-Katherine Hepburn.

If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or objects. —Albert Einstein.

If you want to write poetry, you must earn a living in some other way. —T.S. Eliot.


The book is organized into 18 chapters, each covering a different topic and listing aphorisms for that topic.

 At the beginning of each chapter, Grothe introduces the topic with an anecdote, or story, or explanation.

For many of the aphorisms, he provides perspective by telling the reader how the aphorism originated, or by providing biographical information, or by providing historical details about the person who created the adage.

In Chapter one, Grothe writes about the classic aphorisms. For instance, “If anything can go wrong, it will.”

In chapter two, he identifies if-aphorisms related to wit and wordplay, such as “If life is a bowl of cherries, what am I doing with the pits.”

In chapter six, he writes about aging and the stages of life, and the if-aphorisms associated with these topics. Examples: “If you rest, you will rust.”…If you can’t recall it, forget it.”… If I lived my life again, I’d make the same mistakes sooner.

In chapter 9, he identifies if-aphorisms related to human relations. Here are two he includes: “If you want to have a friend, be a friend…If you want people to speak well of you, do not speak well of yourself.”

In chapter 10, he identifies if-aphorisms about love, sex, and romance. For instance, he writes that Woody Allen stated that “If you smoke after sex, you are doing it too fast.”

In the final chapter, he identifies if-aphorisms related to writing. Here is one: “If a poet writes to save his soul, he may save the souls of others.”

The back matter of the book includes an index and source information, but there is no list of resources for further reading.

About the Author Audience

Dr. Mardy Grothe is a psychologist, management consultant, and public speaker. In his leisure time, he enjoys collecting quotes. Some would call him a quotation maven. He is also the author of several other books, including:

  • Oxymoronica, a book about oxymoron’s and paradox.
  • I Never Metaphor I didn’t Like, a book about similes, metaphors, and analogies.

 For more information about the author, or his books, or his aphorisms, visit his website at .


This book is anyone who aspires to use the English language creatively. It is for those who enjoy wordplay. It is for those who are interested in learning how to write aphorisms. This book would also be a useful reference for anyone who needs to use aphorisms in their writing, like speech writing.

If you are a lover of language, or desire to learn about aphorisms, you should read this book. It is entertaining, illuminating, witty, and filled with small chunks of wisdom.


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