from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Commonplace , also called commonplace , empty phrase or phrase , is a mostly derogatory term for an undoubted expression or idiom that has worn out so much that its original meaning fades into the background in favor of being used as rhetorical automatism. The utterance of platitudes can involve a strong claim to represent the views of the majority, public opinion, or common sense .


According to general opinion, the term is a loan translation for Latin locus communis , generally valid sentence, generally known expression ' ; In ancient times, this meant memorized sentences. The dates of the introduction to the German language range from the 15th century to the 18th century. Wieland is said to have coined this term in 1770.

Other authors suggest an influence of the English common place .

The term commonplace used to describe a topos ( Greek τόπος topos , German 'place, place' ), that is, a point of view and a trick in rhetoric that can be used again and again . For each case at hand, there are a number of aspects that must be taken into account in order to do justice to its complexity. Finding these points of view facilitates the topics established by the Greek philosopher Aristotle : This assumes that the unlimited number of individual cases can be subordinated to a limited number of general points of view, and that, conversely, certain ways of viewing and representing a variety of Can apply in individual cases.


The commonplace often only seems to express a generally shared and stable prejudice , and its use to express a lack of critical distance from the situation, state of affairs and oneself. However, it is questionable whether the truism used corresponds to one's own convictions (which would be prejudiced and uncritical) or whether it is precisely a abandonment of one's own inwardness in favor of acceptance through conformity, as Adorno diagnoses in the jargon of authenticity for a special case. Depending on whether the required tone of voice is met and inclusion is granted, this use of platitudes can also be perceived as mere platitudes .

But platitudes are not always rated negatively: “Word templates have a great advantage: They facilitate the exchange of our internal and external experiences. But sometimes they also become independent. Each of us carries our beloved platitudes with us and lets our fellow human beings participate in it. ”Since language is not only helpful for people to develop and communicate new thoughts, but also to establish and continue social contacts, opportunities arise imagine where platitudes have a positive function ( pragmatics ). For example, repeating a truism in certain situations can express compassion and comfort. The commonplace can be used rhetorically to legitimize it (cf. Argumentum ad populum ).

Not only individual phrases , phrases and schemes can take on the character of platitudes, but also entire conversational situations: If, for example, the presenter of a television program asks a prominent guest the rhetorical question of how he assesses the audience or the city, this only serves as a hook, to give the guest the opportunity to praise and admire the audience or the city. The whole situation is mostly used to exchange trivialities and formal compliments.

Flaubert's dictionary of platitudes

When searching for platitudes, one quickly comes across the dictionary of platitudes by the French novelist Gustave Flaubert (1821–1880). This German version is a transmission, not a translation, as the publisher's editorial team explains in the preface. In the original French title Dictionnaire des idées reçues , the phrase idées reçues appears, which means traditional ideas - traditional patterns of thought and expression. Among them there are also platitudes, but also clichés , puns and jokes as well as former flashes of inspiration that have congealed into folk stupidity. So it is by no means exclusively a collection of platitudes.


  • We learn not for school, for life.
  • About taste can not be argued.
  • Investing in education is investing in the future.
  • Software must be tested sufficiently so that it runs as error-free as possible.
  • A broken childhood is not a free ticket to murder and manslaughter.
  • In the end everything will be fine.
  • Money alone doesn't make you happy either.
  • One cannot generalize that. / You can't lump everyone together.
  • Everyone has to decide for themselves.
  • Et would still have joot ever.

See also


  • Gustave Flaubert: Dictionary of platitudes. Haffmans, Zurich 1998, ISBN 3-251-20280-4 (original edition: Dictionnaire des idées reçues. 1911).
  • Irene Meichsner : The logic of platitudes. Demonstrated on helmsman's topos and ship metaphor. (Treatises on Philosophy, Psychology and Pedagogy 182) Bonn 1983.
  • Wolfgang Pfeifer: Etymological dictionary of German. 2nd Edition. dtv, Munich 1993, ISBN 3-05-000626-9 .
  • Friedrich Kluge: Etymological dictionary of the German language. 24th edition. de Gruyter, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-11-017473-1 .
  • Hermann Paul: German Dictionary. History of meaning and structure of our vocabulary. 10th edition. Niemeyer, Tübingen 2002, ISBN 3-484-73057-9 .

Web links

Wiktionary: commonplace  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: commonplace  - explanations of meanings, word origin, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Kluge, 2002, p. 344.
  2. ^ Pfeifer, 1993, p. 421.
  3. Paul, 2002, p. 394.
  4. Kopp, 1996.