Although it might be argued that one man's platitude is another man's proverb, in general, most people would likely agree that what sets the two apart is that the former is an asinine, inane, jackass kind of thing to say, whereas the latter at least appears to be words of wisdom. Perhaps an example of each might help to show the difference between the two:
- Platitude: A penny saved is a penny earned.
- Proverb: You can't take it with you.
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. Most platitudes are insulting as well, because their simple-minded perspective concerning serious, sometimes catastrophic, situations is inappropriate and shallow. Telling a parent whose child is dying of cancer that the child's death is "God's will" is not comforting, even if it is true; instead, such a sentiment may cause the grieving parent to spindle, fold, and mutilate the idiot who spouts such a platitude.
People who have applied themselves, working hard to accomplish a goal that is important to them, may not appreciate some well-meaning fool's suggestion that "Hard work brings success," especially since it implies that those who have not succeeded are lazy. They may also not appreciate hearing a platitude like "Nothing succeeds like success," because such an asinine statement implies that the opposite is true also: "Nothing fails like failure."
Dealing with Platitudes
Over the centuries, people, tired of being insulted by the idiots who deliver platitudes as if they were boxes of chocolate, bouquets of roses, or flasks of whiskey, have come up with several ways of dealing with such inanity:
Most people, when confronted with a platitude, tend to ignore the statement for what it is, an asinine, inane, jackass kind of thing to say. These statements are about as meaningful as saying that Madonna is beautiful or that Hitler had a conscience such people reason and, therefore, any apparent solace that they might provide is also both foolish and false. Perhaps a better--solution is to reply with a platitude of one's own that means the exact opposite from that with which the well-meaning idiot's platitude means. For example, if an imbecile suggests that "Life is what you make it," the response that "Whatever will be, will be" is an appropriate rejoinder. Likewise, if a moron says, "Every cloud has a silver lining," a good reply might be, "Whatever can go wrong will go wrong."
Agreeing with Platitudes
Another way to deal with platitudes is to agree with the person who delivers such nonsense; in doing so, always add an exclamation point to your tone to show how fervently you concur. If the fool says, "Hard work brings success," say, "Whistle while you work!" If the numbskull says, "Life is what you make it," reply, "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade!" If a nincompoop claims, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions," say, "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread!"
The comic actor W. C. Fields demonstrated a third way of contending with platitudes and the pains in the ass who deliver them: recite them back, but with a twist. If a dolt says, "There comes a time in the affairs of man when he must take the bull by the horns and face the situation," Fields would repeat, "I’ll make sure I remember those words of wisdom: There comes a time in the affairs of man when he must take the bull by the tail and face the situation."