On Aphorisms

Aphorisms by John Robert Colombo

Here is an appreciation written by James Geary, anthologist and specialist in aphoristic expression, posted on his website < www . jamesgeary . com/blog > on April 18, 2007.

I thought I had a serious aphorism addiction problem, until I came across the work of Canadian author and anthologist John Robert Colombo. He has compiled such books as The Penguin Dictionary of Popular Canadian Quotations (2006), Colombo’s All-Time Great Canadian Quotations (1994), and The Dictionary of Canadian Quotations (1991), among others. In Canada, he has been called John “Bartlett” Colombo for his quotation collecting abilities. He is also something of a theorist of the aphorism. In the prefaces to books of his own aphorisms, he has defined the aphorism as “the expression, composed in a stylish yet concise manner, of a notion as well as an emotion.” Like me, he also believes aphorisms are the oldest form of literature on the planet: “It is often said,‘The oldest things in the world are poetry and pottery.’ To these two survivals may be added a third: the aphorisms of the ancients. Whether ancient or avant-garde, aphorisms have served as the guide of Everyman through the ages.” He has even coined an incredibly apt term for the aphorism, one that captures the grand sweep these sayings have had since antiquity with the modern penchant for brevity in communication: aphorisms, he says, are “epicgrams.” Colombo is a prolific aphorist himself.

Neatly said!

All the Aphorisms of JRC

Here are a few specimens to be found in the pages of All the Aphorisms of John Robert Colombo, a large-size collection of 3,000+ sayings:

“In politics, an alliance is a dalliance.” “Light travels faster than sound; people appear bright until you hear them speak.” “Belief systems are essentially relief systems.” “Every builder knows that you must excavate (dig down) to elevate (raise up).” “If you want to say something badly enough, you will say it badly enough.” “A woman wants a man to perform an involuntary act. A man wants a woman to perform a voluntary act.”

“Indifferences” and “Imponderables”

Since the publication of that book, I have published “Indifferences” which consists of 1,500 new aphorisms, and in the works to appear later in 2011 is “Imponderables,” yet another 1,500 new aphorisms. I know of no other Canadians writer who is so prolific … when it comes to writing and compiling books … and composing aphorisms!

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