Bill Casselman

At the Wording Desk

Increase your English vocabulary with fresh synonyms for the noun platitude.

Polly, the platitudinous platypus, proffers polysyllables of preposterous plenitude.


The constant use of clichés and platitudes indicates a speaker or writer who is stupid or lazy. My least favorite old chestnut is now rife. I was in a 40-seat restaurant and three seats were occupied. So I attempted to engage the more alert-looking waitress in conversation. The other beldam was slouched in a dark corner of the back kitchen with several needles sticking out of one arm while the other upper limb was attempting to insert a vacuum-cleaner tube into a private portion of what was left of her anatomy. I mentioned the current American presidential election and the inappropriate candidacy of Donald Trump. “It is what it is,” sighed the waitress. Of course, it was eight in the morning and Gloria had been on the job for 2 long, arduous minutes.

What a graceless slug! Customers could see through Gloria’s blouse. But they didn’t want to.

If I had said, “Your mother was just skewered on a spit over a slow fire and then eaten by several mail carriers,” then Gloria would have replied, “It is what it is.” That sentence, as a response, is meaningless, semantically void. What such a platitude says to the hearer is, “I’m too tired, bored or stupid to respond to you.” Now, when I encounter that particular hackneyed sentence, I am wise enough to end the conversation, for I perceive that my interlocutor was either born dead or attained that state quite recently. And if not, I, casting myself in a rare subsidiary status, shall be most happy to hone the scythe of the Grim Reaper as he prepares his ghastly soul-harvest.

The unending din of broadcast news delivered by moronic writers and announcers who could not wipe their asses if such advice were not on the Teleprompter now condemns radio listeners and TV viewers to a trite stew of shopworn thought throughout the day and night. Small beer, indeed. Therefore synonyms for the terms platitude and cliché ought to be known and be to hand for anyone describing contemporary utterance.

Lack of original expression is the central semantic weight of nouns like banality, maxim, boiler-plate, stale slogan and truism, as well as adjectives like cobwebby, moth-eaten, cookie-cutter, barren, arid and humdrum.  

But now and then less known vocabulary items should be used too. Jejune and vapid are apt. Ieiunus in Latin meant ‘hungry, fasting’ and such was the prime sense when the word entered the English vocabulary as jejune in the seventeenth century. But the chief current meaning of jejune is ‘not satisfying as thought or speech, insipid (having no taste), scanty, meagre.’

Latin vapidus is the adjective of the Latin noun vapor whose basic meaning was steam, but in Latin vapor was also the essential, inner, animating spirit of a being or thing or process. When this life-stirring vapor had escaped an entity, had skittered out like fetid air from a balloon, then that entity was vapidus ‘flat, unfresh, stale.’ So too are clichés of thought, speech and writing. When met, they are to be vilipended.

But the chief reason to avoid platitudes is: they are usually dead wrong. Let’s examine a few sclerotic banalities and withered bromides. My comment comes afterward in bold type.

Good things come to those who wait. So does death.

Time heals all wounds. I like the switcheroo: Time wounds all heels.

Forgive and forget. Why? When vengeance is such fun!

Everything happens for a reason. If that were true, where, as night falls, would poor Illogic rest its tiny microcephalic head?

Winners never quit. Balderdash! Thoughtful winners quit all the time. Observe the wise and graceful retirement of champion sports figures who quit while they are at the top of their game.

What doesn’t kill me will only make me stronger. Really? So the car accident did not kill you. It only left you a drooling quadriplegic with the I.Q. of a peach pit.

Hard work always pays off. Ask Bernie Sanders.

God has a plan for you. You’re born, you live, you die and go to the boneyard. Hallelujah!

God never gives us more than we can bear. So leprosy, dick cancer, crotch rot and bad breath are tolerable? Good to know, moron.

Bill Casselman copyright 2016

July 25, 2016

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