15

Often times someone will tell a long winded story, and then someone will reply with something like "So basically you just had a bad day."

Another, I think better example is when someone will talk a lot about existentialism, and then someone else will reply with "So basically 'to be or not to be, that is the question.'"

Or another example, someone will talk about Cuban-American relations after the cold war, and someone will reply with "So basically America plugged their ears and pretended Cuba didn't exist."

I don't think the word 'oversimplify' is good enough, because it can actually increase the importance of something. For example "So basically if you don't recycle, everyone will die of global warming."

  • 1
    Should I edit this question, to rectify its teenage language structure, or should I leave it alone to retain the reflection of the asker's level of English? – Blessed Geek Feb 22 '15 at 15:59
  • 1
    @BlessedGeek I don't think it's worth worrying about – shadowtalker Feb 22 '15 at 16:10
  • 1
    tl;dr might be related (in written communication). It can lower the importance of the text even without an actual summary. – jfs Feb 23 '15 at 11:26
  • "Everyone will die" is still an oversimplification--"simpler" doesn't mean "less important." – Kyle Strand Feb 24 '15 at 4:37
  • 3
    @BlessedGeek "teenage language structure"? – Kyle Strand Feb 24 '15 at 4:37

11 Answers 11

24

Trivializing or trivialization doesn't explicitly describe the act, but it describes the effect you're talking about.

This is in conjunction with WS2's answer: you reduce (or maybe minimize, as per Centaurus) the story to the point where it is trivial.

  • 1
    I'm starting to think that "guess the top-rated answer from the title of the question" would be a good game to play on this site. I got this one right! – Kyle Strand Feb 24 '15 at 4:35
12

What you are talking about here is reduction, as expressed in reductionism or reductionist.

Reduction is a perfectly valid process, not only in mathematics - reducing a mathematical argument to its simplest form - but in things such as philosophy etc.

But the examples you give are of things, which I would assert are perversely reductionist.

The Oxford Dictionary Online does note that it is often DEROGATORY. Hence it may be possible to leave out the perversely, above, and sufficient to say the arguments are reductionist.

  • 5
    Reductio ad absurdum is the extreme example of this. – Robusto Feb 22 '15 at 14:24
  • 1
    Plus of course reductio ad absurdum is a standard technique in critical thinking/reasoned argument. – FumbleFingers Feb 22 '15 at 14:25
  • 1
    @Robusto Reductio ad absurdum is certainly an example of a mathematical use of reduction. It does not imply perversity, so much as being a proof. You reduce the argument to a point where it is demonstrably absurd, and by so doing prove that the original statement is false. – WS2 Feb 22 '15 at 14:27
  • 2
    @WS2: That's the original, technical meaning, but the term itself has gained a wider currency as a placeholder for any manifestation of that fallacy in practically any discipline. – Robusto Feb 22 '15 at 14:30
  • 1
    OK. Well, in any case, +1. – Robusto Feb 22 '15 at 14:52
10

The rhetorical device known as bathos is defined as

an abrupt transition in style from the exalted to the commonplace, producing a ludicrous effect.

[Wikipedia]

  • 2
    the only actual answer here – Fattie Feb 24 '15 at 4:25
  • This also shows up as an (underused) adjective, "bathetic." Perhaps the best term (combining two answers) would be "bathetic reductionism," since bathos isn't necesssarily reductive, and reductionism isn't necessarily bathetic. – Kyle Strand Feb 24 '15 at 4:39
  • I think this is a very interesting answer but I have sure as the fiery hounds of Bathos never heard that word before. Is it even real? – Code Whisperer Feb 25 '15 at 16:36
  • @itcouldevenbeaboat Maybe try reading more highbrow criticism of lowbrow fiction. – Kyle Strand Mar 5 '15 at 3:00
9

minimize - to treat or describe (something) as smaller or less important than it is Merriam-Webster

  • "I don't mean to minimize his contributions, on the contrary."
  • "During the interview, he tried to minimize his flaws."

minimize - "to represent as having the least degree of importance, value, or size: minimized the magnitude of the crisis." TFD

  • Minimize for me already has the connotation that it's only for optimization, i.e. minimize costs. Also it doesn't address the simplification part of my question. Trivialize would work as well, and it doesn't have the connotation. – jamesnicolas Feb 22 '15 at 14:14
  • @jamesnicolas You're right, "minimize" has the connotation of optimizations, especially when it refers to costs. But it also applies to trying to treat what someone says as less important. (see definitions). – Centaurus Feb 22 '15 at 14:21
  • @jamesnicolas not necessarily. "Don't minimize what I'm saying" would be a valid response here, if less apt than "trivialize" – shadowtalker Feb 22 '15 at 16:25
6

How about 'cut down' ?

As in "he cut her speech down to a simplified version of several complex points"

Although this can have a wider meaning. But the words have both a specific meaning and a general hint of the negative aspects of reduction as in 'cut it out' or 'cut from the team' and down as in lower or lesser in both senses.

Or else the more colloquial expression "dumbing down".

Although dumbing down does not always mean a shorter version , just one that is more accessible to a wider range of people including those without much intelligence!

  • 1
    "Cut Down" is great (with sayings like "cutting down to size" lurking in the background) probably the best on the list so far IMO. "Dumbing Down" is good, but it slights the person doing the dumbing down and implies that there is much more worth to the original statement. So, for me, at least, it doesn't imply the original statement is trivial - probably the opposite. – WetSavannaAnimal Feb 22 '15 at 21:38
  • 1
    Also, more, colloquially "play down" – shadowtalker Feb 23 '15 at 15:32
3

This is an example of when someone takes the opportunity to

downplay

Something someone else says

3
  • to give short shrift

Per Wiktionary:

A quick rejection, especially one which is impolite and undertaken without proper consideration.

In fact, I actually like the definition that Google puts at the top of the search page for the phrase even better:

rapid and unsympathetic dismissal; curt treatment.

Merriam-Webster and OED, however, favor the older definition from which this meaning is derived:

a brief space of time allowed for a criminal to make his confession before execution

(OED)

1 : barely adequate time for confession before execution

(Merriam-Webster)

  • 1
    Err, the other only actual answer here... – Fattie Feb 24 '15 at 4:25
  • +1, with a note: The Concise OED (2011) gives your Google result as the primary definition and marks your OED definition as archaic. – Tyler James Young Feb 25 '15 at 16:26
1

Underplay could work. One could also use truncate but it should be accompanied by an adjective such as

a blunt truncation

or

a dismissive truncation

  • 1
    Also (and probably more common, e.g. in the news): "downplay" – shadowtalker Feb 23 '15 at 15:33
  • I'm also not sure "truncate" is appropriate. That means "to shorten," but in the sense of cutting them off. Maybe you retold the story to someone else, but left out the ending and thereby made the whole thing seem trivial -- you truncated the story -- but even then it too literally describes the restatement and connotes something different. – shadowtalker Feb 23 '15 at 19:43
0

Condescend con·de·scend \ˌkän-di-ˈsend\ verb -MW

1,a : to descend to a less formal or dignified level

I believe the OP was looking for a retort (to an accusation of superfluousness) along the lines of:

Do not condescend to me that existentialism is simply 'to be or not to be'.

-1

I think a good word for doing something like that is 'minimizing'

  • Why do you think it's a good word? Could you provide an example where this term fits? I've heard of minimizing a problem and a situation, but not a long-winded story or somebody's introspective/political/philosophical discourse. – Mari-Lou A Feb 23 '15 at 10:15
  • @Mari-LouA this answer isn't any different from any of the others, least of all mine (which is top-rated right now). It's the same idea: to minimize whatever the other person is saying. – shadowtalker Feb 23 '15 at 19:41
  • Top rated? The post which has the highest number of votes is this answer. I wish to add that I read your answer in the review queue and I was totally unaware that Centaurus+ had already provided the same expression and given an explanation with clear references to back up his answer. – Mari-Lou A Feb 23 '15 at 19:44
  • @Mari-LouA that's my answer – shadowtalker Feb 24 '15 at 2:51
-1

It's a good starting point to look at hyperbole word and look at its opposites, that would be one of the words you need. Per Wikipedia, "some opposites of hyperbole are meiosis, litotes, understatement, lackluster, prosaic, dull and bathos". Understatement is a universal word, but depending on a context, litotes, meiosis and others could be used.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperbole

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.