Lapalissade

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A lapalissade is an obvious truth—i.e. a truism or tautology—which produces a comical effect. It is derived from the name Jacques de la Palice, and the word is used in several languages.[1][2][3]

Origin[edit]

La Palice's epitaph reads[2][1]

"Ci-gît le Seigneur de La Palice: s'il n'était pas mort, il serait encore en vie."
("Here lies the Seigneur de La Palice: If he weren't dead, he would still be alive.")

These words were misread (accidentally or intentionally) as "...il ſerait [serait] encore en vie" ("...he would still be alive"), where the long s aids in the confusion. In the 16th century this misreading was incorporated into a popular satirical song, and in time many other variants developed, including "... que deux jours avant sa mort / il était encore en vie" ("... that two days before his death / he was still quite alive") and "... et quand il était tout nu, / il n'avait point de chemise" ("... and when he was stark naked / he didn't wear a shirt").

In the early 18th century Bernard de la Monnoye collected over 50 of these humorous "La Palice" quatrains, and published them as a burlesque Song of La Palice. From that song came the French term lapalissade meaning an utterly obvious truth—i.e. a truism or tautology, and it was borrowed into several other languages. Since that day, when you say something very obvious, your interlocutor answers : "La Palice would have said as much !" (in French : "La Palice en aurait dit autant !").

Similar terms[edit]

In Spanish culture, an analog is a folkloric character Pedro Grullo [es] (Perogrullo) with his perogrulladas:[4] "Verdad de Pedro Grullo, que a la mano cerrada, la llama puño" (The truth of Pedro Grullo, when his hand is closed, he calls it a fist).[5]

In English, one might reference "Captain Obvious" as having spoken a self-evident truth. Other kinds of trite expressions are "platitude" and "bromide".

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Georges Lebouc, 2500 noms propres devenus communs, p. 389
  2. ^ a b Michel Chabanne (14 June 2007), comment on Encyclopédie des Expressions: Une vérité de La Palice / Une lapalissade Archived 2009-03-03 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed 15 April 2009.
  3. ^ Simon Baker, Surrealism, History and Revolution, p.195
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ A dictionary of Spanish proverbs, 1834, p. 382