Magic Words: 101 Ways to Talk Your Way Through Life's Challenges by Alexandra Penney, Alexandra Penney |, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Magic Words: 101 Ways to Talk Your Way Through Life's Challenges

Magic Words: 101 Ways to Talk Your Way Through Life's Challenges

by Alexandra Penney, Alexandra Penney

A comprehensive collection of powerful phrases to help you face a variety of life’s challenges.

Travelers to foreign countries often carry handy phrase books to help them navigate uncharted territory. Now there’s a guide for getting through tough times in plain English–an essential selection of well-honed phrases to help you soothe and smooth


A comprehensive collection of powerful phrases to help you face a variety of life’s challenges.

Travelers to foreign countries often carry handy phrase books to help them navigate uncharted territory. Now there’s a guide for getting through tough times in plain English–an essential selection of well-honed phrases to help you soothe and smooth your way through any prickly situation.

Divided into three sections–Magic Words to say to yourself, to others, and for universal situations–this invaluable guide contains the verbal keys to the kingdom. Protect yourself in the midst of a tongue-lashing (“Are you actually yelling at me?”); politely remind an obnoxious cell-phone abuser to be courteous (“Don’t forget, you’re not in a phone booth”); or chant this mantra when things seem to be slipping over the edge (“If you want to gain control, you have to give up control”).

Life is full of little, and big, stumbling blocks. Whether you’re dealing with an over-inflated ego, meddling in-laws, or even creating the problems yourself, this sharp little handbook has all the Magic Words you need to get through the toughest of times.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Magic Words is a delightful celebration of who can be at our best.” —Walter Anderson, Chairman and Publisher, Parade

“A little powerhouse of a book . . . makes life’s little stumbling blocks more bearable by providing you with ‘magic words’—phrases you can say like mantras to guide you through tough times . . . So get off the fence, go after your dreams, and take your place at life’s banquet table.” —Bookpage
The Barnes & Noble Review
Magic words are catchphrases that encapsulate some timeless truth or way of handling a situation. Because they are short and pithy, you can call them up at a moment's notice and under duress. Many are funny wordplays, such as "I've decided not to decide" and "Let's quit while we're behind." Others remind you of something you already know, such as "Let it go" and "It's not the cure for cancer."

Coauthors and longtime friends Howard Kaminsky and Alexandra Penny had been sharing magic words with each other for years when they realized that they had plenty for a book. They divided the words into three types: ones to say to yourself, ones to say to other people, and universal words. Each phrase is illustrated by a short vignette that shows the magic words in action. The ones to say to yourself help you cool down or heat up, depending on what's happening. For example, "thimble time" reminds you to shield yourself from those little constant pinpricks, while "Sitting on the fence is fine for my cat" is a call to action. The words to say to others are for use on bores, abusive bosses, snoops, and others. Tell the worrywart in your life, "This stress belongs to you." When voices are raised, say, "Are you actually yelling at me?" The universal words are mantras for a whole attitude toward life. For example, "Handle with flair" applies at all times and in all places.

An enlightening, as well as fun, read, Magic Words will put the hurdles in your life into perspective and give you the verbal means to clear them. (Laura Wood)

Laura Wood is the Barnes & reference editor.

Publishers Weekly
Devised and gathered by two longtime friends, Kaminsky (ex-publisher of three major publishing houses) and ex-Self editor Penney (How to Make Love to a Man), "magic words" (resonant phrases and mantras one can repeat to oneself or to others) provide a handy way to access modern folk wisdom. Each phrase is illustrated with vignettes. Saying "it's thimble time," for example, reminds readers to protect themselves from small annoyances, just as a real thimble protects against pin pricks. "Why am I smiling when I feel angry as hell?" suggests that repressing feelings has its costs. "Get your ego out of it" borrowed from a psychiatrist advises backing off from certain confrontations. Asking "Are you actually yelling at me?" can work to defuse an abusive supervisor, while "I'm mystified" can smooth out an uncomfortable situation without rancor. "Let's quit while we're behind" encapsulates the decision to cut your losses, and "this is a pewter opportunity" implies that an imperfect chance may well be worth taking. In the realm of universal advice, "handle with flair" reminds readers to elevate the mundane, and "time is honey," the authors' final phrase, puts a jujitsu twist on the grim "time is money." As with most fable-tinged advice, these words may seem to contradict (there's advice on ultimatums and on second chances), but this remains an entertainingly effective package. (On-sale Nov. 6) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony
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5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)

Read an Excerpt


Can I Say "I Love You" Too Much?

Unless you have a compulsive disorder the answer to this Magic Word question is ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Most of us find it easy to say "Thank you." We say it without a second thought to complete strangers in supermarkets, at ball games, on the street, almost everywhere. And we say it to people we'll probably never meet again. Most of us even say "You're welcome" in response to a "Thank you." Now "I love you" is, we must admit, one word longer than "Thank you," and you don't necessarily want to say it to the supermarket checkout person. However, it shouldn't be that much more difficult to say to the people you truly care about.

We're generally able to muster the big three words at special events. It's as if "I love you" is a phrase that's supposed to be voiced only on those days that are circled on the calendar. We trot out the words at weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations. But when you really care about someone, they should be everyday words. Very important everyday words.

We met Theresa years ago when she was a hostess at a restaurant we went to a lot. She was smart, funny, and warm. We quickly became friends. Now she owns her own small restaurant. Like Theresa, the place is Italian. The food is great and the prices are reasonable. That's why it quickly became a success. It's nice to have a friend with a hot restaurant, because it sure helps when you want to get a reservation.

About the time Theresa opened her restaurant, she met Malcolm. Malcolm, who's an accountant, helped Theresa set up the restaurant's books. Pretty soon the two saw that they had more in common than debits and credits, and before Theresa's Cucina celebrated its first anniversary, the two were married. They're well suited to each other and very much in love. The only problem is that Theresa used to wish Malcolm was more expressive about his feelings. He's from an old New England family where expressions of affection were always kept under wraps.

Theresa's family punctuates almost every sentence with a hug and a kiss. "I guess it's the Mediterranean influence. When I was a kid and my mother would send me out for a quart of milk, she'd say to me, 'Be careful and remember I love you.' We always said 'I love you' to each other. That's just the way we were. It's not an easy thing for Malcolm to say, but I need it. Just the way a dog has to be petted, I need an 'I love you' every day. I decided I had to wage an all-out campaign to recondition Malcolm. I knew he'd never be like my family, but I had to move him a bit from his New England roots.

"I started to leave Post-its all around our apartment saying, 'I love you.' Some were in English, some Italian, even a couple in Chinese (I got one of my waiters to write it out for me in Mandarin). I put them everywhere: in his sock drawer, under his toothpaste, on the rearview mirror of his car. Occasionally, I would spell it out on the bathroom mirror in shaving cream. I knew he liked it, but it took a while for him to respond. Then one day as Malcolm was leaving to go to work he said it. Of course, he prefaced it by saying, 'By the way—.' It made my day. Now hardly a day goes by without an 'I love you, hon.' I don't know why it makes me feel so good, but damn it, it does."

If you want to make someone you love feel good, just say those three words. They always work.


It's Thimble Time

Each of us remembers our mother taking out a basket of clothes that needed mending and spending an hour or so sewing. Like many children, we were fascinated by the little metal thing that she put on one of her fingers. The thimble. We particularly loved the word. Thimble. It's right up there among the all-time cutest words. Many years later, that word led us to these Magic Words. They've served us and our friends very well.

Jocelyn, an old friend who's an editor at a home furnishings magazine, told us the following,

"This is about Amy and me. I'd say she's one of my closest friends. We met in our sophomore year at college. We're married to guys who were in the same fraternity. Our husbands play tennis together each week. Amy and I attend the same reading group and investment club. Our houses are a block apart. And, every summer, we share a house on the Cape for two weeks. I think you'd say that makes for a pretty close friendship. I care for her immensely and I know she feels the same way.

"Amy does one thing that drives me crazy. She has a perfect figure. Or as near perfect as a woman in her forties can have. And she knows it. She also works out like she's trying for the Olympics. My body is an entirely different story. I'm not fat, but I'll admit to "full-figured." I've always been that way. My husband, Gary, likes me the way I am, and that's the most important thing. I watch what I eat and I exercise. Doesn't change a thing. I have a certain body type and Amy has another. I've discussed this with her maybe a thousand times. She says she says she understands completely. Then why does she always make little remarks about the differences in our bodies? Things like, 'Those pants look great on you, Jocelyn. I wanted to buy them, but they didn't have them in my size.' Meaning: only the larger sizes were available. Or: 'I signed up to run in the 10K race in two weeks. I wish we could do it together someday.' Meaning: Your weight will probably never permit that. This is from a woman I care for immensely. I realize that she can't help it, since I've pointed out to her what she's doing many times. Amy's not saying something terrible, but it annoys the hell out of me. So whenever she does it I say, 'It's Thimble Time.' It's as if I wrap an imaginary thimble around myself and I'm completely protected from the occasional little jabs that Jocelyn sometimes gives me. Why let a little a pinprick ruin a great relationship?"

A thimble is just the right size to protect you from small annoyances. When Robert's wife boasts, as she does too often, "I could have qualified for the Olympic ski team if I hadn't married Robert," Robert puts on the thimble and sees the statement for what it is: an attempt by his occasionally insecure wife to sound important.

A friend's niece, Carrie, told us that on her first job, she was the official coffee girl. Every morning, as she poured coffee into one man's cup, he said, "That's the way I like it. Black and bitter." "He was relentless in his repetition," says Carrie. "I began to dread the moment when he'd hold out the cup. He always said it. It was such a petty thing, but it made me grit my teeth." She tried Thimble Time. "I made it a game. He'd hold out his cup and I'd say, 'Black and bitter.' We'd each try to get it in first, and I actually began to look forward to the moment I'd pour out the coffee. The joke turned him into a friend."

The first time Howard noticed his mother's thimble, he asked her what it was for. She told him that one little jab won't hurt, but if you keep jabbing the same place, you'll have a very sore finger. Maybe Thimble Time isn't for the big things, but much of life is made up of those small ones.

Meet the Author

Howard Kaminsky was the president and publisher of three major publishing houses: Warner Books, Random House, and William Morrow/Avon. Also the author of several screenplays, four novels (cowritten with his wife, Susan), and numerous magazine articles, he lives in New York City and Connecticut. Alexandra Penney’s four bestsellers include the mega-hit How to Make Love to a Man. In addition to serving as editor in chief of Self magazine, she has written lifestyle columns for The New York Times Magazine and contributed regularly to numerous others. Currently launching a national magazine for women called Real, she lives in New York City.

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