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PhiNotPi's avatar

What do you call a well-known phrase?

Asked by PhiNotPi (12259 points ) December 6th, 2011

What do you call it when there is a phrase that is so common that one can almost fill in what words come next? I think that there is a single word for it, but I don’t know what it is.

Examples (try to guess these words):
Actions have ___.
Merry ___!
Happy ___!
You are my ___ friend.
Hello, nice to ___ ___.
What ___ is it?

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Answers: consequences, Christmas, birthday/Halloween, best, meet you, time.

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25 Answers

Sunny2's avatar

Trite? No. There’s a word for it. If I don’t think about it, perhaps it will pop up.

Sunny2's avatar

Platitude!

PhiNotPi's avatar

@marinelife Idioms tend to have figurative meanings that is usually unrelated to the literal meaning of the words, and there is nothing figurative about “happy birthday.”

PhiNotPi's avatar

I think that @lloydbird got it right.

Sunny2's avatar

I agree. It’s cliche. My brain failed me. Is that a mistake? Yep. Should I regret it. Nope.

KoleraHeliko's avatar

@PhiNotPi I think there is something figurative about that. You can’t literally have a day. Happy or otherwise.

I’m glad @PhiNotPi got what they were after, but now I’m thinking about this, and cliché doesn’t seem specific enough. Cliché can refer to a whole range of weird things, not just phrases. I do apologise for reopening a wound which appeared to be sealed.

lloydbird's avatar

@KoleraHeliko How does proverb fit you then?

Notwithstanding any satisfaction elsewhere here. ;-)

lloydbird's avatar

And not forgetting the word saying.

KoleraHeliko's avatar

@lloydbird Well..proverb implies some kind of advice or moral being imparted. “What time is it?” doesn’t really do that for me.

Maybe we should make up a word.

lillycoyote's avatar

I don’t know if there is one word describing all your examples. I think you have some idioms, like the greetings and I believe and some of the others would be aphorisms as @SmashTheState said, or possibly adages.

PhiNotPi's avatar

@KoleraHeliko @lillycoyote An example of an idiom would be “in the doghouse”. When one is “in the doghouse”, others are annoyed with you because of something that you did. That person is not inside of anything and there is absolutely no “doghouse” anywhere. In short, the definition has no obvious connection with the phrase, and if you have never heard it before, you would have no clue what it means.

The happy birthday does have to do with being happy, and it does have to with a birthday. Even if someone has never heard the words “happy birthday” before, by knowing what the words “happy” and “birthday” mean, one could easily deduce what the whole phrase meant.

The fact that one cannot “have” a day is the same as the way that one cannot “be” tall. Despite this, English, along with many other languages such a French, use their word for “be” to describe someone who is tall. Those who don’t use their word for “have” to descibe someone as having tallness, but one cannot own tallness either. In my opinion, “having” a good day is a standard convention of English.

I think that I have spent too much time on this point, so I am going to drop this point after now.

PhiNotPi's avatar

@KoleraHeliko How about “platium” or “triche” or “soverb” or “praying”

zensky's avatar

As the old saying goes… it’s a Cliché.

KoleraHeliko's avatar

@PhiNotPi Hmph.

I like platium. I take it the pronunciation would be something like ‘play-she-um’?

KoleraHeliko's avatar

@zensky I thought that ‘platium’ was in response to me saying “Maybe we should make up a word.”.

PhiNotPi's avatar

It was a response to make up a word. Good luck trying to look them up in a dictionary.

zensky's avatar

OIC. Then very cool.

KoleraHeliko's avatar

That settles it, then. To urban dictionary it goes!

zensky's avatar

Defdef.

(My own addition, it means most definitely)

Amynoel's avatar

This is super old. Don’t know how I got here. But y’all are funny. How bout just a good old fashioned expression? Hmmm?

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