Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Changes in Platitudes, Changes in Attitudes
Platitudes A platitude is "a trite, meaningless, biased or prosaic statement that is presented as if it were significant and original. The word derives from plat, the French word for "flat." Most platitudes are meant to encourage a person, but, because they are simplistic (and an asinine, inane, jackass kind of thing) to say), they more often annoy. This is not to say that truth is absent in a platitude. Most contain a least a hint of a parable, proverb, or a kernel of knowledge gained through experience, but a platitude can usually be refuted with simple opposition. This does not keep people from misusing platitudes to sway opinions and to sound profound. A dull tool of public discourse, a platitude carries little cogent understanding. The tone of a platitude seems to carry weighty content while, in truth, the statement lacks specific substance. Consider the platitude, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." Isn't a counter for this statement another overused platitude, "Out of sight, out of mind"? People understand the meaning implied in both statements while applying their own knowledge and judgment to their application, yet either platitude can be seen as false or true. Or how about contemplating the nullification involved with these two platitudes: "Nothing ventured, nothing gained" versus "Fools jump in where angels fear to tread." When contrasted, both statements seem overly simplistic in their advocacy. Wouldn't it seem to "venture," people must "jump in"? Many a fool has taken a risky venture. Here are a few other platitudes: "Nothing succeeds like success." What does this statement speak of failure? Doesn't failure and dogged determination contribute to success? Opposition to this statement should logically be "Nothing fails like failure." That negative philosophy would merely encourage the quitter. Logically, success follows numerous failures. "Life is what you make it." This platitude is unusually absurd. Who would not reply, "Of course!" Doesn't living include every breathing moment, and we all must make this journey. The statement also does not speak of reliance, a key ingredient to living. Individuals do not possess total control of their most vital functions. "Whatever will be, will be." A fateful statement can be a platitude successfully challenged by free will. Yet, more fundamentally, who could dispute the understanding that once things have occurred, these things possess "being"? This platitude does not take into account the creation of events. It is often used in hindsight. "Every cloud has a silver lining." Some tragedies do not have redeeming qualities. This statement is often used in desperation to make someone in grief see something positive while, in truth, the speaker cannot offer any logical gain in the circumstance. The tooth fairy applies to the "cloudy day"? "How are you?" Humans are conditioned to present meaningless niceties as means of acknowledgment. Who really cares about receiving an answer to this platitude and who really listens to the reply, even if explicit and consequential? The typical response is, "Fine, how are you?" Why ask an insignificant question? “You were really lucky!” This platitude is typically used by someone talking to another suffering from an accident or a near-fatal encounter. The accident victim may have permanent, terrible injuries, but this offhand condolence is meant to make them feel better. Perhaps inquiry about the current state of the victim followed by an offer of specific assistance would seem more appropriate. "It could have been a lot worse." Of course, it could have been a lot better, too. Judgments in a time of need seem so shallow. What the speaker really isn't saying but believing is, "Oh, hell, you are in really bad shape." In this trite evaluation, death is implied as the only other consequence. And to add insult to injury, top it off with "Get well soon." "The customer is always right." Anyone working with the public sees the irony in this platitude. The customer is not always right. A business that ran with this operational procedure would be bankrupt. Frauds, thefts, and lies cost retailers millions as it is. This platitude can be applied to various customer services but suffers in truth without a limiter, instead using "always." Just for fun, here are some new platitudes I thought might be useful: "What never comes around, never goes around." "Blood is redder than water." "Cold hands, warm harder." "Don't bite the fork that feeds you." "Good fences make invisible neighbors." "If it ain't broke, don't touch it." "Still waters don't run." "What's done is usually less than expected." "Stop, look, and whistle."