For gray-eyed Destiny now weaves apace,
The first resounding note of war echoes across the land.
Movement flickered through it, like the swish of a bird across a clouded moon."
Did that sound painful and confusing to you?
Some people think that throwing around "meaningful" words such as "eternal", "chronicle", "destiny" and so on makes language sound more important, more imposing, more... something. It's the same with uncalled-for synonyms, words such as "utilize" in place of "use", "dialogue" as a verb, "said" (as in, "aforementioned") instead of "the", and so on, especially if they're used incorrectly. This can be used in both character dialogue and narration.
Of course, big words and metaphors can be used correctly and they can even be built into a very good writing style but that's not what this trope is about. This trope refers to passages that use bad metaphors and so many "meaningful" words that it reduces them to Narm. At that point, it's bad and meaningless.
Unfortunately, some writers just haven't gotten it yet. When this type of writing leaves the minds of melodramatic teenagers and enters mainstream TV and books, we all suffer. When it enters news media and politics, we're really in trouble.
On the powerless end of the Power of Language scale. Not to be confused with Koan, which is when the expression actually means something, or Ice-Cream Koan, which is when such phrases are meant to be meaningless. Contemplate Our Navels, Mind Screw, and Vagueness Is Coming frequently contain aspects of this and it's a requirement for Fauxlosophic Narration. A common staple of Purple Prose, Word Salad Philosophy, and Mixed Metaphor. Concepts Are Cheap is the worst outcome.
Before adding an example, please remember that it has to confuse more people than just you. Just because you don't get it doesn't mean others don't. A vague meaning doesn't make it an example of this trope.
- In Bleach, the incantations of Kidō spells make no sense at all by common standards. For instance: "Ye Lord! Mask of blood and flesh, flutter of wings, he who bears the name of man! Inferno and Pandemonium, the sea barrier surges, march on to the south! Hado number 31, Red Flame Cannon!" But that's fair enough as they are magical incantations and aren't supposed to convey any actual meaning.
- Code Geass often features vague proclamations about power and justice though other musings are fairly relevant and a couple even get a Call-Back later on.
- There's also an In-Universe example, where Lelouch (as Zero) threatens Jeremiah by mentioning "Orange", then uses his Mind-Control Eyes to make the man act uncharacteristically obedient. Lelouch later tells C.C. that the word was completely arbitrary and meaningless, but making it sound significant, combined with Jeremiah's shift in behavior, would make the Britannians attach all sorts of imagined meaning to it. It works perfectly, and Jeremiah's reputation is destroyed because his peers assume that "Orange" is a reference to some scandal or misdeed that he was trying to cover up.
- People afflicted with the MacGuffin in Paprika will start to talk like this. Then they get worse: Convinced that Instrumentality is at hand, they'll try to convince their non-afflicted companions with grammatically correct gibberish, marching, violence and finally suicidal behavior.
- Okabe Rintaro from Steins;Gate often throws around cool-sounding, but ultimately meaningless phrases like "Steins;Gate" and "El Psy Congroo" as part of his Hououin Kyouma persona. Later, his future self does the same thing while giving a pep talk to his past self as part of illustrating his point that all of his experiences thus far have not been meaningless. In particular, he named the world line where Kurisu is alive and the world is safe Steins;Gate.
- The 2008 Lyttle Lytton Contest featured this gem from The Amazing Spider Man #544 (the first part of One More Day):
"Tune your ear to the frequency of despair, and cross-reference by the longitude and latitude of a heart in agony."
- Upon reading this sentence Adam Cadre, who had been running a write-the-most-cringeworthy-sentence-you-can competition for the previous eight years, goes on a paragraph-long rant that starts with "Egad. That may well be the single worst sentence I have ever read."
- The heroes in JLA: Act of God tried to sound deep but ended up sounding strange and confusing.
Wonder Woman: Two "Gods" humbled by an act of God... with no one else to turn to. But together will our humbling be canceled or doubled?
- Quite a bit of this in Warrior #1, as i-mockery and Spoony repeatedly point out.
- Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): The ancient mantra of the Knuckles Clan became this in the comic: "The servers are the seven chaos. Chaos is power, enriched by the heart. The controller is the one that unifies the chaos". It came from the games, where it actually made sense, as it was saying (albeit in a somewhat cryptic way, mainly due to the wording chosen by the translatorsnote ) that the Chaos Emeralds can transform wishes into power, so one needs have control over their will and emotions to be able to master their powers. But in the Archie Sonic universe, Chaos Emeralds were far more numerous and disposable and had never been shown to react to will or emotions. The writers seemed to realize this (or perhaps they just didn't know the actual meaning...), as they tried to Hand Wave it by taking the first sentence a tad bit too literally and saying that it referred to seven Chao who were called the Seven Servers and had been transformed into seven Super Emeralds long ago. Too bad that this still left most of mantra unexplained and only resulted in it becoming even more confusing and nonsensical...
- In I'm Here to Help, Emerald is prone to this. One notable example is his apparently infamous quote to the future Mars: "I'm on the outside looking in, Mars, and I don't like what I see". The people of Crystal Tokyo apparently found this so interesting that they made it his defining quote, of sorts.
- In Oh God Not Again! Harry turns Dumbledore's own wisdom back on him when Dumbledore asks him for the truth.
Harry: The truth. It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.Dumbledore: That is most unhelpful and I suspect deliberately cryptic.
- The Typical Gundam SEED Destiny: "Your life is your own! We fight for what we believe in! Until it gives us blisters! Blisters of hope! Calluses of freedom!"
- In Harry Potter fanfic A Sad Story, the last line: "The chaos erupted and the world crashed around the two." We never find out what does this truly mean.
- A whole number is devoted to that in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. The governor of Texas is responding to the press.
Fellow Texans, I am proudly standing here to humbly see. I assure you, and I mean it- Now, who says I don't speak out as plain as day? And, fellow Texans, I'm for progress and the flag- long may it fly. I'm a poor boy, come to greatness. So, it follows that I cannot tell a lie.(Chorus) Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don't-I've come and gone and, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step, cut a little swathe and lead the people on.Now my good friends, it behooves me to be solemn and declare, I'm for goodness and for profit and for living clean and saying daily prayer. And now, my good friends, you can sleep nights, I'll continue to stand tall. You can trust me, for I promise, I shall keep a watchful eye upon ya'll...Now, Miss Mona, I don't know her, though I've heard the name, oh yes. But, of course I've no close contact, so what she is doing I can only guess. And now, Miss Mona, she's a blemish on the face of that good town. I am taking certain steps here, someone somewhere's gonna have to close her down.
- Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey parodies this twice, first when they propose to their girlfriends, then by having the title characters saying the lyrics to "Every Rose Has its Thorn", which could easily qualify as this trope by itself, when asked "What is the meaning of life?".
- The 1992 Eddie Murphy movie The Distinguished Gentleman parodies the use of this among politicians. In the film, Murphy plays Thomas Jefferson Johnson, a con man who runs for Congress, and after he wins, he gives this speech:
Johnson: We ran a positive campaign. We campaigned on the issue. The issue is change. Change for the future. The people have spoken!(the crowd cheers)Johnson: Ask not what your country can do for you! You have nothing to fear but fear itself! If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen! Live free or die! And, in conclusion, read my lips!
- Happens in a scene between Harry and Slughorn in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince film. Slughorn tells a poignant story about Lily giving him a pet fish, but the script has to take it just a little too far by having Harry say, "Or the fishbowl will always remain empty."
- Parodied in the film version of Idiocracy when the idiotic people of the future who have some sort of authority throw around unnecessarily large words, often misusing or mispronouncing them. "Lets see if we can't commencerate these proceedings." "This test will help find you a job while you are a particular individual in jail."
- Labyrinth, when Sarah asks the 'seer' with the bird on his head the way through the Labyrinth, his reply is along the lines of: "Sometimes the way forward... is also the way back."
- Justified in Mad Max: Fury Road: after the Bullet Farmer is blinded by shrapnel when Furiosa shot out his headlights, he undergoes a spectacular Villainous Breakdown and embarks on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, all the while proclaiming "I AM THE SCALES OF JUSTICE, CONDUCTOR OF THE CHOIR OF DEATH!"
- The 1998 film The Man in the Iron Mask had a doozy of one. In reply to a perfectly sensible lament of the Queen's, Aramis came out with a memorable bit of important-sounding nonsense.
Queen: "I have raised a son who destroys lives instead of saving them, and I have failed to save a son who died within an iron mask.
Aramis: "No! That mask was Louis' creation. Now we have a chance to make a miracle — to strip all masks away forever."
- Considering the extent of his plan is to replace the nasty-creep brother on the throne with his nice-guy brother, that last statement makes absolutely no sense.
- In The Matrix, the text on the computer in the beginning reads: "Wake up Neo. The Matrix has you." While this is technically correct, there is no plausible reason why any of the characters would feel the need to write that. It just sounds mysterious to the audience who doesn't yet know what the Matrix is. Perhaps Trinity's writing it in her blog. Then again, it might be deliberately planting the question "what is the Matrix?" in Neo's head.
- In the parodic mystery film Murder by Death, various spoofs of famous detectives have been told that someone will die at a specific time. The Miss Marple spoof insists that everyone join hands in preparation as "The chain is stronger when the links are unbroken". Yeah, that's sort of what make it a chain.
- The two thugs in the garage in Sin City try to sound smart by speaking in what they probably consider iambic pentameter.
- Soultaker gives us the line "Led Zeppelin was wrong. There is no stairway to heaven. And if there was, you certainly couldn't buy your way in." It's extra funny since there is an elevator. And a ladder.
Crow: Next you're gonna tell me Black Sabbath was wrong too.
- Southland Tales has a serious problem with this, since it's only the second half of the story. Most of the (absolutely crucial) exposition is in three comic book prequels, which explain everything from the idiom "Fluid Karma" to what's going on with the mysterious screenplay The Power that people keep quoting from with absolutely no context. What's not explained, however, is where Richard Kelly got his definition of "pimp" from.
- Parodied in Team America: World Police with the line,
"Maybe feelings are feelings because we can't control them!"
- The filmic adaptation of Winter's Tale opens with this fairly nonsensical voiceover:
What if, once upon a time, there were no stars in the sky at all? What if the stars are not what we think? What if the light from afar doesnt come from the rays of distant suns, but from the light of our wings as we turn into angels? Destiny calls to each of us, and there is a world behind the world where we are all connected, all part of a great and moving plan. Magic is everywhere around us, you just have to look. Look, look closely for even time and distance are not what they appear to be.
- From the low-budget sci-fi movie R.O.T.O.R.: "We're all prognosticators of the future. And since our particular purpose of vision belongs to the creed of law enforcement, we open inroads into tomorrow, in ways and means of those who would serve and protect justice and order."
- Mystery Men: The Sphinx speaks entirely in bizarre ice cream koans. It makes him seem terribly mysterious to everyone - with the exception of Mr Furious, who just finds it annoying (not that Furious isn't above cracking meaningless tough-guy platitudes about how angry and dangerous he is, either).
- An In-Universe instance occurs in Isaac Asimov's "The Encyclopedists": the planet Terminus is under the threat of annexation by more than one aggressive neighbors. The Galactic Empire sends an envoy who gives them what sounds like assurances that the Empire will not let this happen. However, when the Mayor of Terminus subjects the man's words to symbolic logic, striping away all the meaningless political babble, he's left with... absolutely nothing. The man, in several days of talk, said nothing of any actual substance and none of his audience noticed.
- Justified in Glen Cook's The Black Company series. In the Books of the South, an overly melodramatic description of a stone plain is used repeatedly. Later on, the characters go to the Plain and find that the crucified demon, the glowing runes in the stones, and the freaky weather that are shown through the Purple Prose are not bad metaphors, they're simply accurate descriptions.
- Parodied in the novel The Truth, in which William de Worde comments that the newspaper's tagline, "The Truth Shall Make You Free" (with the last word receiving typos as a Running Gag), sounds "very meaningful without, um, actually meaning anything."
- The banknotes in Making Money read "Doth Not A Penny To The Widow Outshine The Unconquered Sun". When asked what this means, Moist von Lipwig cheerfully admits he hasn't the slightest idea; he just threw together some words that sounded suitably impressive. Knowing Pratchett and his fondness for Genius Bonus and Fridge Brilliance, this may indeed be reference to biblical 'Widow's Gift', historical 'Widow's Penny' and mythological Mithras (impressive concepts on their own) garbled and piled with no connection whatsoever for comedic purposes.
- In general Moist has uncanny skill bluffing with deliberate Meaningless Meaningful Words (he is a Con Man, after all). For instance, in Going Postal his dramatic removal of a sack over his head during his test to become the Postmaster, proclaiming that "The Unfranked Man may walk in darkness, but the postman loves the light!" It doesn't mean anything at all... he just knew it was dramatic enough that the Brotherhood of Funny Hats could never bring themselves to disqualify him for it. When used for evil, this trope proves to be his Berserk Button: when the Grand Trunk issues a press release that consists of nothing but doublespeak and impressively empty promises, Moist is so infuriated that he discovers he has been cursing loudly for several minutes without realizing it.
- The pass phrases in Guards! Guards! "The significant owl hoots in the night. The caged whale knows nothing of the mighty deeps." This is parody of Spy Speak (it had to be so outrageously complex because Spy Speak is ridiculous in its own right).
- In Interesting Times, Rincewind finds the enthusiastically shouted slogans of the Red Army to be this. After a while he joins in with lines like "Tuppence A Bucket, Well Stamped Down" and "How's Your Granny Off For Soap?" The fact no-one seems to notice he's making fun of them confirms his suspicions.
- Discussed in The Enchantress of Florence, where the traveller mocks the Emperor's use of the trope. He claims that "meaningful" maxims formulated by means of paradox often lead foolish men to think they've come up with wisdom. This offence almost got him killed by the vain Emperor, but the latter considered himself above such a thing and forgave him, which can be interpreted as an even greater act of vanity...
- In Everworld, Token Evil Teammate and arguable Big Bad Senna purposely uses this when talking with her "friends" in an attempt to manipulate them. Unfortunately for her, most of them aren't going to accept it, especially Jalil.
- In her essay "From Elfland To Poughkeepsie", Ursula K. Le Guin took many of these on. The worst, she claimed, was "Ichor", the 'infallible touchstone of the 7th rate'. For the record, "ichor" is properly the blood of angels or gods, not "blood in general" or "any liquid." Le Guin makes a point of noting this.
- In Harry Potter, during Dumbledore's funeral, Harry listens to Elphias Doge, mentioning things like "strength of mind" or "nobility of spirit", and thinks it doesn't mean very much. He then remembers some of the first words he ever heard Dumbledore speak, at the beginning of his 1st year — "Nitwit, blubber, oddment, tweak!" — has to suppress a smile, and wonders what's the matter with him. (Funny memories at funerals are not at all unusual.)
- In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the mice decide to claim that the Ultimate Question is "How many roads must a man walk down?" because it sounds deep without tying them down to any actual meaning.
- Jeeves and Wooster: P.G. Wodehouse uses quite a few of these for his character Madeline Bassett. The author describes it best through one of his characters:
She's one of those soppy girls, riddled from head to foot with whimsy. She holds the view that the stars are God's daisy chain, that rabbits are gnomes in attendance on the Fairy Queen, and that every time a fairy blows its wee nose a baby is born, which, as we know, is not the case. She's a drooper.
- Dragonlance: in Dragons of Summer Flame, a barely-trained wizard casts the most powerful spell in history by agreeing to "offer himself" in order to cast it (compared to Raistlin, who sacrificed his health and humanity in order to become a great wizard). It's not clear what exactly he meant, as he walks out of it healthy and completely unharmed.
- More Information Than You Require parodies this with the "shitty aphorisms", such as "Say what you will, but a chicken has a long and pointy face."
- George Orwell's archnemesis and the subject of his essay "Politics and the English Language." Read it.
- In Rupi Kaur's The Sun and Her Flowers, she muses "Like the rainbow/ After the rain/ Joy will reveal itself/ After sorrow", as if no one has ever equated rainbows to optimism before. That's it, that's the whole poem.
- In Twilight, Bella uses very melodramatic words to describe things. This was to make her sound smart, especially in contrast to the mediocre slang her classmates use.
- Thomas Wolfe's novels are made of this; when he isn't putting his Marty Stu heroes through the wringer, he has an unfortunate tendency to start going on and on about "O lost" and the "stone" and the "web" and the "river" whenever he wants to make the reader feel vaguely soulful. It worked on some people: Flannery OConnor quoted a remark by James Jones to the effect that when Jones read Wolfe's novels, he (Jones) realised that he'd been a writer all his life even though he'd never tried to write anything, and O'Connor went on to snark that Wolfe's fiction did a lot of damage of this kind but that Jones was a particularly egregious example.
- Mocked in a sketch on A Bit of Fry and Laurie, "Young Tory of the Year," showing a competition in which judges evaluate Young Conservatives on their ability to make stirring keynote speeches from meaningless buzzwords. Extra points for "displays of general prejudice and ignorance."
Presenter 1: I thought at one point that he was going to say something that made sense.
Presenter 2: He just managed to avoid that, didn't he? A tense moment.
- Perhaps the most famous example from Doctor Who's half-century run: "There's nothing you can do to prevent the catharsis of spurious morality!"
- In an episode of Babylon 5 where Londo is trying to teach Vir how to slant diplomatic dispatches, he invokes this trope.
Londo: And here: "The Minbari put great emphasis on art, literature and music." Say instead: "They are decadent people, interested only in the pursuit of... of dubious pleasures." The dubious part is very important. It doesn't mean anything, but it scares people every time!
- In a later episode a member of the court mentioned to Vir that they knew Londo had been involved in writing the reports specifically because they used this style.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer S4E22 "Restless", every word that the Cheese Man says.
- Cheers: At one point a city councilman looking for re-election enters the bar, hoping to drum up support. An irate Frasier tries to point out he's just spouting off meaningless gabble no matter what he's asked, but since Fras is the smartest person in Cheers, he's got no luck.
Frasier: But he didn't SAY anything!
- Heroes and its notoriously meaningless Fauxlosophic Narration at the start of each episode.
- Lampshaded in an episode of How I Met Your Mother in which Barney overuses and REALLY plays up (to the dismay of his friends) the word "legendary".
- In an early episode of Robin Hood Robin and Marian have this rather baffling conversation:
Marian: You wander around as if nothing could hurt you. As if arrows would bounce off you. I do not think Ive ever seen you hurt.Robin: Oh, I have been hurt.Marian: Tell me.Robin is silent.Marian: See? You think it is strong not to feel. But if you cannot admit you feel, how can you understand when others feel? How can you be a whole man?
- This writing style is consciously incorporated into a speech in the world of The West Wing:
Will: "...prove that self-determination is the watchword of all mankind."Toby: "The watchword of all mankind"? I don't know what that means.Will: Don't worry, neither will anyone else.
- For example, this exchange between Will and Toby:
- Parodied in The Sopranos. Most of the characters do this from time to time but the most egregious perpetrator, by far, is Little Carmine. He would frequently misuse or mispronounce big words in an effort to sound smart or eloquent. Even characters on the show recognized his stupidity.
"We're in a f**king stagmire.""You're very observant: the sacred and the propane.""There's no stigmata connected with going to a shrink"
- The various tech companies seen on Silicon Valley love to spout out buzzword filled videos and literature to try and seem as if they're doing something to help the world when it's really just an ego trip for everyone involved or desperate attempts at gaining funding. By contrast, it's the socially awkward Richard's plain and somewhat stilted presentation that makes the most impact (helped greatly by the fact that Pied Piper is a revolutionary compression algorithm).
- Happens a couple times in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
- When it's revealed that Sixth Rangers Bobbi and Mack have a secret agenda of their own, they're conflicted over whether or not to include Bobbi's on-and-off lover Hunter in the loop, since she didn't want to keep secrets from him. Mack convinces her to leave Hunter out for the time being, saying something along the lines of "We have to do what we have to do; maybe in the next world we can all be friends again," making their plans sound absolutely nefarious. But if you rewatch that episode with the knowledge of what they were up to. They were working for a rogue faction of SHIELD that sought to depose Coulson as director since they thought him unstable. His pep-talk made absolutely no sense.
- In Game of Thrones Daenerys briefly used a catchphrase that the bickering noble houses were spokes on a wheel and she intended to break the wheel. After a while Tyrion points out that she intends to rule as an absolute monarch by right of descent from the man who put that system in place and to maintain rule through the existing aristocracy and directly asks what she means by breaking the wheel; she doesn't give him an answer, and quietly stops using it. She starts using it again in the finale, and it's made clear that the reason she couldn't explain it is that she honestly doesn't see a distinction between "liberated by Daenerys", "conquered by Daenerys", and "destroyed by Daenerys".
- Out of universe, of course, book-Daenerys never says this phrase or anything like it, it's an invention of the showrunners. Book-fansites like the owners of semi-official Westeros.org mocked when the TV show started using it in Season 4, accusing that the showrunners just thought it was a cool line that sounded important but had no real higher meaning planned out.
- The Chronicles of Life and Death by Good Charlotte isn't a meaningless title, but it's not as profound as it sounds. The band obviously thought otherwise and released two different versions of the album, titled Life and Death, each with cover art and a bonus track unique to that version.
- A live recording of Dar Williams' "It's Alright" includes her explanation of what inspired the song, which was, among other things, a friend telling her that she (the friend) had watched some program that said that "a warrior is really 100% vulnerable". Williams repeats this (several times, even) as if it's a great revelation, but while it sounds kinda deep, it's also vague enough as to not mean much of anything.
- Green Day:
So what ails you is what impales youI feel like I've been crucified to be satisfied
- As of the American Idiot/21st Century Breakdown era, Billie Joe Armstrong has an unfortunate habit of throwing around pretty words that don't seem to fit in well with the song's meaning and gratuitous references to Christianity (especially crucifixion). For example, take this snippet from "Restless Heart Syndrome":
- Reading a lyrics sheet of almost any song from these two albums is like tossing Word Salad. Many songs have large sections of lyrics that just don't make sense even in context. It's as if Dr. Seuss wrote the lyrics, only instead of making up nonsense words to fit rhymes, he makes up nonsense sentences.
- As the lead singer of Yes, Jon Anderson built a successful career on writing and singing meaninglessly 'profound' lyrics: "Dawn of light lying between a silence and sold sources...." The only thing worse than hearing Jon Anderson sing these is hearing Steve Howe try to sing them.
- To be fair to Anderson, he treated his lyrics as another instrument, so he usually chose them primarily for how they sounded over what they actually meant. But yes, many of his lyrics ended up fitting very squarely into this trope.
- To quote Mike Patton:
"[Lyrics] come from my head, my ass, my toilet, my pillow, places like that.""I think that too many people think too much about my lyrics. I am more a person who works with the sound of a word than with its meaning. Often I just choose the words because of the rhythm not because of the meaning."
- "These Things" by She Wants Revenge seems to be about a love/hate relationship falling apart... but it's hard to tell as it seems to be made up of random phrases that the songwriter thought sounded poetic.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic absolutely skewers the trope, as it applies to big business (see Real Life below), in his song "Mission Statement". The best part is that he's using the buzz words and jargon correctly and coherently, it just boils down to an incredibly Captain Obvious set of mission statements like "We'll make the most money by selling things we have to sell".
- The Smashing Pumpkins' song "To Sheila" is a beautiful song that unfortunately has some very questionably pretentious lyrics that sound as if Billy Corgan just threw together a bunch of words that sounded nice and contributed to a certain conjured image. Just read the first verse alone and try to interpret it:
Twilight fades / on blistered avalon
The sky's cruel torch / on aching autobahn
Into the uncertain divine
We scream into the last divine
- Jeff Williams' songs for RWBY are somehow more coherent than expected from something that emerges from readthroughs of the script - at times whole lines of dialogue are made into lyrics - but two opening themes are guilty of this, volume 1's "This Will Be The Day" ("I don't wanna hear your absolution\Hope you're ready for a revolution\Welcome to a world of new solutions\Welcome to a world of bloody evolution") and volume 6's "Rising" (bordering on Word Salad Lyrics: "The lightning doesn't take advice from anyone\The willow doesn't need to learn to stand\As sun seeks day\We'll find our way\And we'll catch that dream together someday soon\We're rising like the moon")
- Austin Walker of the Giant Bomb podcast "The Giant Beastcast" will get on you for being lazy if you describe a game as "interesting" without further explanation.
- Parodied by the Every Episode Ending of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, in which the chairman throws around words like "Destiny", "Eternity" and "Doom" simply to announce the end of the show in the most obscure manner possible.
Humph: So, ladies and gentlemen, as the Hamster of Time spins round on the Wheel of Eternity, and the Lorry Driver of Eternity makes a mental note to scrape it off later...
- Used deliberately at the end of Urinetown: The Musical. "I See a River, Flowing for Freedom" is a great catchphrase for a new revolution, until you face the fact that all the water is gone, and the townsfolk keep telling themselves that "I See a River Just In You" means they won't die of dehydration.
- Parodied in Waiting for Godot: "Given the existence as uttered forth in the public works of Puncher and Wattmann of a personal God quaquaquaqua with white beard quaquaquaqua outside time without extension who from the heights of divine apathia divine athambia divine aphasia loves us dearly with some exceptions for reasons unknown but time will tell and suffers like the divine Miranda with those who for reasons unknown but time will tell are plunged in torment plunged in fire whose fire flames if that continues and who can doubt it will fire the firmament that is to say blast hell to heaven so blue still and calm so calm with a calm which even though intermittent is better than nothing but not so fast and considering what is more that as a result of the labors left unfinished crowned by the Acacacacademy of Anthropopopometry of Essy-in-Possy of Testew and Cunard it is established beyond all doubt all other doubt than that which clings to the labors of men that as a result of the labors unfinished of Testew and Cunnard it is established as hereinafter but not so fast for reasons unknown that as a result of the public works of Puncher and Wattmann it is established beyond all doubt that in view of the labors of Fartov and Belcher left unfinished for reasons unknown of Testew and Cunard left unfinished it is established what many deny that man in Possy of Testew and Cunard that man in Essy that man in short that man in brief in spite of the strides of alimentation and defecation wastes and pines wastes and pines and concurrently simultaneously what is more for reasons unknown in spite of the strides of physical culture the practice of sports such as tennis football running cycling swimming flying floating riding gliding conating camogie skating tennis of all kinds dying flying sports of all sorts autumn summer winter winter tennis of all kinds hockey of all sorts penicillin and succedanea in a word I resume flying gliding golf over nine and eighteen holes tennis of all sorts in a word for reasons unknown in Feckham Peckham Fulham Clapham namely concurrently simultaneously what is more for reasons unknown but time will tell fades away I resume Fulham Clapham in a word the dead loss per head since the death of Bishop Berkeley being to the tune of one inch four ounce per head approximately by and large more or less to the nearest decimal good measure round figures stark naked in the stockinged feet in Connemara in a word for reasons unknown no matter what matter the facts are there and considering what is more much more grave that in the light of the labors lost of Steinweg and Peterman it appears what is more much more grave that in the light the light the light of the labors lost of Steinweg and Peterman that in the plains in the mountains by the seas by the rivers running water running fire the air is the same and then the earth namely the air and then the earth in the great cold the great dark the air and the earth abode of stones in the great cold alas alas in the year of their Lord six hundred and something the air the earth the sea the earth abode of stones in the great deeps the great cold on sea on land and in the air I resume for reasons unknown in spite of the tennis the facts are there but time will tell I resume alas alas on on in short in fine on on abode of stones who can doubt it I resume but not so fast I resume the skull fading fading fading and concurrently simultaneously what is more for reasons unknown in spite of the tennis on on the beard the flames the tears the stones so blue so calm alas alas on on the skull the skull the skull the skull in Connemara in spite of the tennis the labors abandoned left unfinished graver still abode of stones in a word I resume alas alas abandoned unfinished the skull the skull in Connemara in spite of the tennis the skull alas the stones Cunard tennis the stones so calm Cunard unfinished..." It takes a full five minutes in the film adaptation.
- The flavor text of Bronze Calendar, from Magic: The Gathering's Unglued joke set, is "Every page holds a month, every date a numeral." According to Mark Rosewater, it "makes fun of a certain style of flavor text where we sound lyrical but aren't really saying anything."
- Made even less meaningful because the card's art (intentionally) shows a colander, not a calendar.
- In The Battle for Middle-earth, the heroes have standard slogans they will say when they are selected. Particularly Arwen's: "Their treachery betrays them" makes no sense, but to a lesser extent also Glorfindel's "Something is a-foul" and others.
- "Betrays" in this case most likely means "reveals their disguised intentions", making the expression akin to "They show their true colors."
- Bayonetta: Father Balder, the (apparent) Big Bad, delivers such a speech to Bayonetta in the penultimate chapter, repeating himself three whole times. The Reveal is actually easy to understand: ( Bayonetta is effectively half of God Herself, magically transported to the future. Only by meeting her past self could she recover from the Laser-Guided Amnesia and awaken.) However, Balder buries this information under so many Meaningless Meaningful Words that he is borderline incomprehensible. Interestingly, Luka actually lampshades this shortly after he finishes.
- In BlazBlue, this constitutes the entirety of Arakune's dialogue, with sentences like, "If there was an endless fountain of souls, there would be no more hunger, but souls will lose their significance." This was intentional, however, as none of the other characters know what he's talking about, and this behavior was the result of him losing his sanity by being in the Boundary realm for too long. It sounds intellectual, but devoid of any normal human logic.
- In Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, Genesis is constantly quoting from a play called Loveless. It contains lines like:
When the war of the beasts brings about the world's end
The goddess descends from the sky
Wings of light and dark spread afar
She guides us to bliss, her gift everlasting
- It's fair to also add that in the original Final Fantasy VII, Cid claims to have seen the play, and quotes from it. The version he saw didn't suck as much.
- In light of Dirge of Cerberus, mentioned below, though unconfirmed, this could very well be related to the role Omega Weapon plays in the story, for its prime directive is to, when all life on the Planet is threatened, absorb The Lifestream once Chaos rounds up all living beings and send them there to be dissolved, and then departs for a new planet to continue the cycle. (Sephiroth in Advent Children gives a similar line near the end, but the intent was to follow Jenova's lead and drain various worlds of their life essence.) This is most likely additionally linked to the game's superboss Minerva (who Genesis believes to be the goddess of his favorite theatrical work), as supplemental materials imply she is the physical embodiment of the Lifestream and its judgments, thus making her Gaia's will.
- In Dirge of Cerberus, Hojo goes on several extended and overwrought rants about all the horrible stuff he's going do to the human race now that he's back. Their only saving grace is that they're delivered oozing with Ham and Cheese by both characters' voice actors.
- In Armed & Delirious, the main character Granny often rambles in meaningless dialogue that sounds like it means something, but never does. Not that the rest of the game's surreal environment helps any.
- Mr. Champloo of Disgaea 3 speaks almost entirely in Ice Cream Koans involving cooking metaphors. Sometimes these actually make quite a bit of sense (in context anyway), but other times they are completely meaningless. Only Almaz tends to notice this.
- During the final few hours of Grandia II, most of the heroes continuously say things like "True power... true justice is in the heart" and talk an awful lot about "the power of the human heart".
- The Kingdom Hearts series is full to the brim with such dialog, particularly with regard to its primary villains, some of whom go entire games without having a single line that isn't a monument to this trope.
- In Kingdom Hearts II, a villain tells you that "if light and darkness are eternal, then surely we Nobodies are the same. Eternal!" Ouch. It wasn't so much what was said, but the delivery, and especially the way the word "eternal" was emphasized and drawn out, as if it somehow had special meaning. Of course the heroes tell him to shut up and take his beating.
- His statement can be generalized to mean: If two opposite things have a similar aspect then something unrelated must share the same aspect. The heroes also point out that, even if the concept that he is associated with is eternal, that doesn't mean he himself is immortal.
- This gem is a shining example:
Seize all hearts and consummate the great heart. All hearts to be one, one heart to encompass all.
Realize the destiny: the realm of Kingdom Hearts. The great darkness sealed within the great heart.
Progeny of darkness, come back to the eternal darkness. For the heart of light shall unseal the path.
Seven hearts, one Keyhole, one key to the door. The door of darkness, tied by two keys.
The door of darkness to seal the light. None shall pass but shadows, returning to the darkness.
Ones born of the heart and darkness, hunger for every heart until the dark door opens.
- Knights of the Old Republic:
- Lampshaded and parodied in The Sith Lords, when Atton mocks "Jedi talk".
Atton: Just so you Jedi know, the whole "cryptic routine" isn't mysterious, it's just irritating. If you really can see the future, you should be at the pazaak table.
Exile: But to know the future, one must know yourself.
Atton: What was that, some kind of joke? That's what I'm talking about. "Jedi talk". You two should start your own little Jedi Academy.
Exile: But to teach, one must be willing to learn.
Atton: All right, all right! Cut it out, I get it, I get it! The last Jedi in the galaxy, I get the comedian who runs around in her underwear. Not that I'm complaining, mind you.
- Incidentally, when most Jedi speak this way, it comes across as this. Typically it's actually a Jedi Truth or a Cassandra Truth that's been very cunningly disguised, apparently for no reason except that the Jedi are pretentious assholes.
- Lampshaded and parodied in The Sith Lords, when Atton mocks "Jedi talk".
- This is usually how Dr. Higginbotham from Little Big Planet 2 communicates.
"Huge Spaceship is not a spaceship; it is a broken thought on a petal wing."
- Invoked in the Gainax Ending from Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. The protagonist Raiden is extremely confused by the multiple plot twists that happened in the climax and can't tell what actually happened, if his girlfriend actually existed or if he has free will rather than being a puppet from a mysterious organizations or who exactly is himself as a result. His comrade Solid Snake tells him not to get carried away with words and come up with his own answers. The player never gets the answer but Raiden ends satisfied.
- Played for Laughs in Persona 4. while discussing the school trip to Gekkoukan High, Kanji muses that "Man is just an animal, trying to find ways to kill time through his days." The others note that what he said makes no sense, and Yukiko gets a chuckle out of it.
- Pokémon Vietnamese Crystal, a poorly translated bootleg of Pokemon Crystal Version, is full of examples of this.
NPC: IT IS SAID THERE IS A SPIRIT IN THE FOREST. DON'T SERVE THE DEVIL!
Pokemon Trainer: WENT THROUGH THE CAVE JUST NOW. STILL SPIRITFUL.
Message when a Pokemon gets a critical hit: HIT TO KEY!
Rocket Grunt: IT IS REVENGE!
- The original Silent Hill's intro begins with the cryptic phrase "The fear of blood tends to create fear for the flesh." One possible interpretation is that it refers to Alessa reaching adolescence while in a crippled state, and her horrified confusion caused by the strange changes her body is undergoing. note It correlates with one of the game's main inspirations: Stephen King's Carrie.
- Lampshaded in Silent Hill 3. If you examine a movie poster in Heather's bedroom, she remembers a line of dialog from it. "The sun always rises. It's corny, but it's true. But if you close your eyes, it always feels like night." Heather then goes on to comment that she always liked that line, but now she thinks it sounds stupid.
- In Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, Kaufman goes into a long rant about sex during one of the session scenes that follows along the lines of "You're probably thinking 'why haven't we talked about sex yet? I thought you psychiatrists are supposed to be obsessed with sex.' It's not us, it's you. Sex is death. The flying leap into the abyss, the losing of one's self, the tiger in space! To deny sex is to deny death itself! You're either getting enough, or not. And you are obviously not getting enough... let's see this through."
- Borderlands 2 features a unique gun whose flavor text is "Bison bison had had had had had bison bison bison shi shi shi". It looks like a word salad, but in reality, it's a reference to how repeating eight times "buffalo" results in a gramatically correct English sentence, an English grammar puzzle where inserting the right punctuation on a sentence that repeats "had" 11 times makes it actually readable and meaningful, and a Chinese poem that, when read out loud, sounds like "shi shi shi shi shi shi".
- In Disco Elysium, since the Player Character is a cop, you actually get several chances to weaponize this. You can intimidate the citizens you encounter into compliance by threatening them with big legal-sounding words and implied consequences for failing to obey you, even if what you're saying is actually just borderline nonsense with no rooting in any actual laws.
Authority: You're well versed in the kind of threatening legalese that implies criminal liability but in fact has no meaning whatsoever.
- A Modest Destiny: Morris, Full Stop. What can you expect, he's insane and the pope.
Morris:' Our shadow threatens to be our shadow no longer!
Ruby: Say what?
Morris: Parallel becomes tandem. Single file we march, but our matter cannot coexist!
Ruby: Do you have to be insane to become Pope, or does becoming Pope cause you to become insane?
Morris: Errraaarghh! Train hit train! Go boom!
- In Koan of the Day, the guru tries to define love.
- In this strip, down a bit closer to the bottom, Penny Arcade addresses this sort of dialogue in their usual way.
- In The Bright Sessions:
Dr. Bright: That's what Wadsworth would always say: "what's impossible today is yesterdays news tomorrow.
Dr. Bright: Exactly.
- Many of the horse_ebooks tweets end up being these.
- Similarly to horse_ebooks, Jaden Smith has been criticized rather widely for his profound tweets:
- The subreddit I'm 14 And This Is Deep
- In Dungeons & Dragons, when Eric has been made Dungeon Master, his friends receive this nugget of esoteric wisdom: "You will find it, unless it finds you first. It is far off, though in truth it is very near" — to which the other kids reply, "Boooo!"
- An episode of Family Guy has Brian write a typical meaningless book full of these on a dare. Even the title (Wish It. Want It. Get It.) fits. The book is an instant bestseller, and the success goes to Brian's head. He's eventually invited to The Real Time with Bill Maher, where Maher thoroughly hands him his tail. First, he analyzes the title of the book, pointing out that "wish" and "want" are, pretty much, synonyms. And neither the title nor the book explain how to get from "wish"/"want" to "get", invoking the Missing Steps Plan trope. Further, when Brian tries to bullshit his way through it by claiming he's only tapping into the people's zeitgeist, another panel member asks Brian if he even knows what "zeitgeist" means (for the record, it's "the intellectual fashion or dominant school of thought that typifies and influences the culture of a particular period in time"). Unable to answer, Brian blurts out that he wrote it in a few days and, when Maher tells him everything he thinks about him, ends up peeing on the floor, causing Maher to shoo him out.
- Hadji from Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures is usually a fountain of Koans, but even he has his moments of this:
Hadji: Every great fiction held strongly in human belief is the mistaken image of some great truth.
Jessie: What the heck does that mean?
Hadji: To be completely honest, I'm not entirely certain. But you must admit it does sound profound!
- In King of the Hill, Hank's father in law is a Montana rancher who speaks exclusively in these. Naturally, Hank eats it up.
Bobby: Dad, grandpa's not making any sense.
Hank: That's old cowboy talk, Bobby. Someday you'll realize it's the only thing that does make sense.
- Kaz from Neo Yokio likes to sound deep and thoughtful... not that there's much weight behind his words.
Kaz: Sorry guys, but I can barely navigate the hellish vortex between breakfast and dinner, let alone the labyrinth of the field hockey field.
- Zak of The Secret Saturdays: Sweet sounds of nature's beautifuliss majesty.
Zak: [Fisk gives him a weird look] What? It's a word...in British.
- The Simpsons:
- An episode brilliantly parodies the use of this in election speeches.
- An even better example from the executive session discussing the eponymous new character in The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show (also cp. the "Real World" folder):
Krusty: So he's proactive, huh?
Network Executive: Oh, God, yes. We're talking about a totally outrageous paradigm.
Writer #3: Excuse me, but "proactive" and "paradigm"? Aren't those just buzzwords that dumb people use to sound important? Not that I'm accusing you of anything like that. (pause) I'm fired, aren't I?
Roger Meyers, Jr.: Oh, yes.
- South Park's Chef Aid special revealed that Chef was responsible for teaming Elton John with Bernie Taupin because John's own lyrics just didn't cut it, or as Chef put it, "a retarded monkey could write better lyrics".
Elton John: I really thought I had it with "Cheddar Cheese Girl".
- The Supernews sketch "Texting Your Way Through Work"note has the corporate buzzword variety.
- Every other sentence that comes out of the mouth of Xavier: Renegade Angel, intentionally.
They say when you die you shit your pants, but not me. I'm gonna shit my heart.
- The latest buzzword du jour is "disrupt", with countless companies claiming that their products will "disrupt" the status quo and change the way people live their lives. Most don't offer much in the way of explanation beyond the fact that they are "disruptive" because they are new.
- An old American cliche back from when the country was both more religious and still New Deal was "The Brotherhood of Man Under The Fatherhood of God". Consequently such windy cliches became known as "Bomfog".
- The blurbs on the back cover of books, discs, and everything else tend to have a lot of this. Apparently your new novel explores "themes of friendship and loss". Well, some of the characters certainly are friends... and some of them lose things...
- Sadly, this applies to every single corporate buzzword. Ever.
- One might argue that that it is the inherent characteristic of buzzwords that almost always are scientific terms used in improper context. E.g. synergy.
- Speaking of which, this IBM commercial is a Take That! to that concept. The employees devise a "corporate meeting" version of BINGO, because they're bored to tears with such meaningless meetings that are clogged full of those annoying buzzwords.
- See also MIT's 1996 Al Gore Buzzword Bingo.
- Dilbert did it first. An episode of the cartoon also took "Synergy" head-on.
- Best practices, in business, retail, food service...anywhere.
- Any time the word "paradigm" comes up, and not in an ironic way. Nine times out of ten, if you asked the person who just used the word to define it, you'll either get more empty blather, an admission that they don't really know what it means, an insistence that it's one of those words you can't really define but you just know what it means, or a long paused followed by "I guess it basically means ... 'thing.'"
- Just for the record: The American Heritage Dictionary defines paradigm thus: 1. One that serves as a pattern or model. 2. A set or list of all the inflectional forms of a word or of one of its grammatical categories. (The paradigm of an irregular verb.) 3. A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline.
- The one common exception is in the software development/computer science fields, where it has a distinct, clearly-defined meaning similar to the above (used to refer to the competing design methodologies). Have fun telling the meaningless from the meaningful in a reasonably large company.
- Its close sister is "thinking outside the box", which usually sprouts from the same speech. "New Paradigm" basically means "Here's another box I want you to think in."
- "Paradigm" is used a lot in the social sciences, where it essentially means theoretical "fads" (for example, in the late 1800s in psychology, structuralism was all the rage - in the 1950s, it was behaviourism). Knowing the paradigm that was in place while a study or experiment was performed is important for understanding it and its limitations, so it has a real meaning in these fields.
- People who weren't paying attention in classes tend to mix up paradigm, method and environment.
- Anything new in a corporate environment is described as "exciting," and those involved are always "excited." Company drew up a new mission statment? Exciting! What do you think of the upcoming merger? I'm excited! Did you hear Sheila got a new plant on her desk? How exciting! Excitement is apparently the only emotion middle-management types are capable of feeling.
- Advertising copy is equally bad. No, your new vegetable slicer is not "revolutionary," nor is it "extreme."
- One might argue that that it is the inherent characteristic of buzzwords that almost always are scientific terms used in improper context. E.g. synergy.
- Really bad lawyers using Latin to hide the fact they don't know what the Latin means.
- It's become pretty common for grandiose words to become co-opted as an enthusiastic intensifier, such as "awesome," "radical," and "epic." These words are all commonly used to describe minor subjects far removed from their original intention.
- As with the example from The Simpsons above, pretty much any election campaign in any country will see copious abuse of meaningless buzzwords, rhetoric and catchphrases from at least one, often both sides. Australians actually got sick of it in the 2010 election, where the catchphrase 'Moving Forward' lasted about a day.
- A favorite of network slogan/mottos, which are generally designed to try and create a vague sense of camaraderie and connection, without actually making any promises or going over an easy soundbite. "Now, more than ever" is an excellent example of this, leading to many asking "What now more than ever?!"
- 'Consume' is quite a popular substitute for 'use' in IT departments.
- According to some, postmodernism. Exhibit 1. Or indeed, any use of "post-" as a prefix (postironic, postfeminism etc). The problem is how the writer has reached the conclusion that we're all "post" a certain movement, and "when" exactly that leaves us now. Some well-educated people use postmodernism as synonym of 'deconstruction' even though the latter has been used since ancient times, sometimes to the point of Deconstructor Fleet. It makes you wonder if some 'experts' ever heard of Aristophanes, Villon, Cervantes or Rabelais.
- This can be worked around by applying theory retroactively to older works. If you see anything called proto-feminist, proto-postmodern or what have you, then it is basically this.
- Any time a variant of the Sokal hoax has been pulled again, you know the field is guilty of this trope. It can even be done purely for teh lulz: Math babble generator - - Computer Science babble generator Unfortunately, the non-expert has no chance to distinguish this trope and genuine math.
- The Postmodernism Generator uses a computerized list of buzzwords to string together random sentences. The results manage to sound suspiciously like a Postmodern literary essay yet are utterly meaningless.
- Just about any term used by politicians. Whose "values"? What is "traditional" anyway - is it a tradition of 20 years ago or of 100? The same word can mean different things coming from different politicians. In 1984, Colorado Senator Gary Hart gave a strong showing in the race for Democratic nominee for President by running on a platform of "new ideas." However, the vagueness of the phrase, and his constant repetition thereof, made it so that his campaign sunk when Walter Mondale told him during a debate: "When I hear your new ideas I'm reminded of that ad, 'Where's the beef?'"
- Speaking of ads, many perfume ads use this. Since TV doesn't lend itself to senses beyond vision and sound, advertisers can't get the scent of their perfume across; instead, they use meaningless Purple Prose and celebrities instead.
- Happens a fair amount in academic articles and/or proposals. Even if you know the subject matter, it's very easy to find yourself asking "what the hell does that even mean?"
- The term "Real American," despite being popular in rural conservative circles, is inherently meaningless because simply being born within the United States or gaining citizenship makes you as "real" an American as any other, regardless of your lifestyle or political leanings. It's more used in cases of trying to invoke No True Scotsman.
- Fans of Avant-garde Music may find that The Contemporary Classical Composer's Bullshit Generator produces results that are strikingly familiar.
- TV Tropes itself contains an high percentage of articles where the word "said" is used before a noun, when a perfectly ordinary "the" would have communicated the point just fine, and been less awkward. The "said (noun)" construction appears to be gaining ground on the Internet in general, in an apparent attempt to make a statement sound either educated or sardonic, with varying results.
- The American philosopher Daniel Dennet coined the term "deepity" for a very specific kind of Meaningless Meaningful Words. A deepity is a phrase that can be interpreted on two different levels: a level that is true but trivial, and a level that is false but would be very important if it were true. The self-evident obviousness of the first interpretation is supposed to trick you into accepting the second interpretation as well then. The most frequently cited example of a deepity is "love is just a word." On one level, yes, the word "love" is a word. But on another level, it's claiming that the emotion of love does not exist, which is plainly false but would be very important if it were true.
- Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff was prone to derail her words into incoherent rambling which was quickly dubbed as "Dilmese". Examples include "Brazil's self-sufficiency was always insufficient", "We're not gonna put a target. We'll leave it open. When we reach a target we'll double the target." and "If today is Children's Day, yesterday I said that child... the children's day is mother's day, father's day and teachers' day, but is also the day of the animals. Whenever you look at a child, there is always a hidden figure, which is a dog behind, which is something very important."
- The word "win" became popular among admen during a brief period in the late 2010s, as exemplified by IKEA's "Win at Sleeping" advert. It likely reached a sort of nadir with Durex's claim that their products could help you "win an orgasm".
- Following the UK's vote to leave the European Union in 2016, the phrase "the will of the people" was used relentlessly by Brexit-supporting politicians and their supporters to justify pushing ahead with it in spite of any harm it might cause to national prosperity. Given that the Leave vote only won by a relatively meagre 4% in the first place (and that the total Leave vote only accounted for approximately a third of the British population), this already hollow phrase became more and more so as the Brexit negotiations dragged on over the next few years.
- Boris Johnson's Conservative government became known for its repetitive use of short, vague slogans, having seemingly won an election on the back of "Get Brexit done". Johnson was criticised for doubling down on this tactic during the COVID-19 Pandemic, repeatedly mentioning that the government was "following the science", that the public should "stay alert", and that their approach to tackling the pandemic was "world-beating".