I found the phrase “less is never more” in Maureen Dowd’s article “An Irish Catholic wake-up,” dealing with vice-presidential debate on October 11 in October 13’s NY Times. It comes in the following statement:

“Biden was trying to do what Romney did well: come across as a senior partner chastising a junior associate who screwed up. For this vice president, though, less is never more. He mugged condescension as if he were the star of a silent movie. But who ever accused Uncle Joe of subtlety?”

Does “less is never more” mean it’s better to overdo than underdo, or is it vice versa? What does it imply in particular to Joe Biden case? Is it a fancy turn of word, or just a cliche?


We have a Japanese adage, 過ぎたるは及ばざるが如しliterally meaning "Too much is as bad as too little," which I presume to be similar to "Less is never more."

  • In case my edit gets rejected, it's "Maureen Dowd".
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Oct 14, 2012 at 9:52
  • @AndrewGrimm Feel free to edit the name in my answer, then! (:
    – Zairja
    Commented Oct 14, 2012 at 10:02
  • @Zairja I have to edit at least 6 non-whitespace characters in order for my edit to be considered, so feel free to do it yourself. :)
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Oct 14, 2012 at 10:08
  • Zairja's answer addresses this question nicely - the common expression is "less is more". Maureen Dowd gave it a twist. Commented Oct 14, 2012 at 13:01

1 Answer 1


This is a reference to the phrase less is more:

That which is less complicated is often better understood and more appreciated than what is more complicated; simplicity is preferable to complexity; brevity in communication is more effective than verbosity.

Reading the line before the quoted paragraph gives further context:

Biden overcompensated with a volcano of verbosity and gesticulating.

The Vice President is known for his gaffes, as well as a folksy demeanor. By saying "less is never more," Dowd is saying that Biden's bluster is an asset–to be calm or overly restrained in his speech would be out of character and probably render him a less effective speaker in some sense. However, in the recent debate he may have overdone it to the detriment of his ticket's poll ratings.

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