16

I am looking for a term or and idiomatic expression to convey the concept of "empty, irrelevant" talk. I am thinking about those situations in which people want to express their ideas on facts about politics, economics, religions etc, but they have no real information about what they are talking about so they often repeat phrases they heard on TV programmes or comment using set phrases like: "that's the way things are".

He is always commenting on the US election campaign but what he says is just....(the expression I am looking for)

24 Answers 24

41

Similar to another answer, I'd suggest "blather".

Consider:

What are you blathering on about?

and your

He is always commenting on the US election campaign but what he says is just blather!

  • 2
    Or blabber(ing) (but that might be American English?) – poepje Mar 30 '16 at 7:20
  • 4
    I would more associate "blabber" with "blab" as in failing to keep a secret. – TecBrat Mar 30 '16 at 10:19
  • If you want a Scottish word, "havering" springs to mind. – Laconic Droid Mar 31 '16 at 14:20
  • I just re-considered what I said about "blabber" being equal to "blab". There's a set phrase of "Blabbering idiot" as well as "babbling idiot", so the telling of the secret isn't always the case. – TecBrat Apr 1 '16 at 13:55
18

The term prattle comes to mind (often) when announcers are trying to fill a 24 hour news cycle with 24 minutes of news. I think it would also apply to people repeating what they heard.

Definition from google: talk at length in a foolish or inconsequential way. "she began to prattle on about her visit to the dentist"

  • 6
    I have never heard the phrase “trying to fill a 24-hour news cycle with 24 minutes of news,” but wow that’s a great one. – KRyan Mar 29 '16 at 21:17
17

Well, there's the old favorite claptrap:

Absurd or nonsensical talk or ideas: such sentiments are just pious claptrap

Origin:

Mid 18th century (denoting something designed to elicit applause): from clap + trap.

Given the rather direct etymology it's almost a perfect fit to political jaw-flapping.

17

Noise

He is always commenting on the US election campaign but what he says is just....noise.

From Merriam-Webster Online definition 2.e

irrelevant or meaningless data or output occurring along with desired information

8

You may be looking for idle talk:

  • idle or foolish irrelevant talk.

The Free Dictionary

...what they say is just idle talk.

  • 2
    Seems to me that idle talk is used more for talk about idle or frivolous subjects, rather than being a way to talk about a subject which may not itself be idle at all. – KRyan Mar 29 '16 at 21:13
8

Platitudes is apropos.

  1. a flat, dull, or trite remark, especially one uttered as if it were fresh or profound.
  2. the quality or state of being flat, dull, or trite:

    the platitude of most political oratory.

(Dictionary.com)

and

a remark or statement, especially one with a moral content, that has been used too often to be interesting or thoughtful

(Google)

8

I'm surprised nobody suggested 'BS'.

He is always commenting on the US election campaign but what he says is just BS

I'd also suggest slightly modifying the sentence and using the word 'canned' (drop the word 'just' in that case.)

He is always commenting on the US election campaign but what he says is canned

You could even go for the combo:

He is always commenting on the US election campaign but what he says is canned BS. He's just full of ... facts.

Responding to @josh61, maybe 'fluff' is more what you're after:

He is always commenting on the US election campaign but what he says is just fluff

  • 2
    You can write the full form, the OP is not a native speaker and might not know it's short for bull shitting. – Mari-Lou A Mar 29 '16 at 17:43
  • 2
    I think that the problem with BS is that it might also refer to informed and precise talk about a subject whose view and content is just not shared by the listener. – user66974 Mar 29 '16 at 17:49
  • @Josh61 It might refer to that, but the word never means that—in the speaker’s opinion, it very much isn’t that (perhaps because the view and subject are not shared), and the word is being used to express the belief that the talk isn’t that. – KRyan Mar 29 '16 at 21:12
  • 1
    On the other hand, bullshit doesn’t quite seem right to me. For one thing, bullshit is not necessarily mindless repetition of stock phrases; it can alternatively be very cunningly crafted deceptive, or at least obfuscating, statements. – KRyan Mar 29 '16 at 21:15
  • 2
    I think you need to explain what BS stands for. It's ok on here. – Jasmine Mar 29 '16 at 23:33
8

I would say that to ramble is a good word.

  • Seems right. Jabber too. or yadda yadda yadda – Dan Shaffer Mar 30 '16 at 14:35
  • To ramble means to move aimlessly from one topic to another. However it does not mean that the person is saying something that is meaningless or uninformed. – MetaEd Mar 30 '16 at 19:33
8

Waffle

This seems to be more of a UK/Australian term. It is used when someone talks or writes at length without much substance. It can be intentional (to fill time) or unintentional (when one believes one is saying something of value). It is usually used as a verb:

Get to the point, don't waffle!

or

My teacher waffled on for half an hour without answering my question.

But it can be used as a noun as well:

The essay was full of waffle.

4

It's not been suggested by anyone, and it has an onomatopoeic quality to it.

Drone echoes the sound blah, blah, which Oxford Dictionaries define as: Used to substitute for actual words in contexts where these are felt to be too tedious or lengthy to give in full It also reminds me of Charlie Brown's teacher who never actually spoke a single coherent word, but only in wah wahs.

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drone
speak tediously in a dull monotonous tone.
synonyms: speak boringly, go on and on, talk at length, intone, pontificate, spout, sound off, jaw, spiel, speechify, bloviate.

Example: “The voice of the teacher droned on monotonously about some mathematical formula, but the normally attentive teenager had other things on his mind.”

  • This is actually what I thought the original poster was asking for, based on the title. I'm glad you mentioned it. But it sounds like s/he's not going for the literal "blah blah blah" as much as the concept of meaninglessness. If it HAD been the former, I would have suggested "walla", which I've heard used in theatrical contexts when you want to convey the concept of background crowd noise or speech. – Jenn D. Mar 31 '16 at 18:31
3

Consider, blatherskite

: (chiefly North American) foolish talk, nonsense

Origin

Mid 17th century: from blather + skite, a Scottish derogatory term adopted into American colloquial speech during the American Revolution, from the Scottish song Maggie Lauder, by F. Semphill, which was popular with American troops.

ODO

: nonsense, blather

Merriam-Webster

He is always commenting on the US election campaign but what he says is just blatherskite.

  • 1
    I was just going to say "blather", but it's so similar to this one... – TecBrat Mar 29 '16 at 15:05
  • @TecBrat I feel like blather is still commonly used while blatherskite is more quaint. Either way, I would upvote blather if you listed it separately. – Todd Wilcox Mar 29 '16 at 15:26
  • @ToddWilcox Done – TecBrat Mar 29 '16 at 15:35
3

Poppycock

empty talk or writing, nonsense

Merriam-Webster

It's a non-rude, slightly humoristic word that fits well with the OP's original sentence.

  • Poppycock is from the Dutch for soft shit so I'd say it's not exactly non-rude. But it's about the best suggestion here, in my opinion, precisely because of its original meaning. – frank May 12 '16 at 17:18
  • I didn't know the original meaning in Dutch, but I never heard it in a rude context in English. It's more of a somewhat humorous remark, I'd say. – legrojan May 13 '16 at 7:40
  • I think that when the English colonists first took it over, it retained a somewhat blunt and semi-humorous aspect, as several Dutch words with a similar origin did. Among them are 'poop deck' and 'hush puppies'. But now I am going off-topic.... – frank May 13 '16 at 8:24
3

I'm surprised that no-one's suggested babble - this is a word which can be applied (without insult) to the sort of meaningless (to anyone else) pre-speech vocalisations that babies/toddlers make ("goo goo ga ga aboo bah", etc), and can also be applied as an insulting term for an adult's speech, implying that what they are saying is meaningless.

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/babble

eg "What in God's name are you babbling about, sir?"

2

I suggest Rhetoric.

In the arena of politics, I feel this fits best because what is said is usually carefully crafted phrases with no real meaning. The language is often designed to influence or persuade without making actual commitment.

: language that is intended to influence people and that may not be honest or reasonable

: the art or skill of speaking or writing formally and effectively especially as a way to persuade or influence people

Meriam Webster Dictionary

"He is always commenting on the US election campaign but what he says is just rhetoric."
Or if the person often repeats phrases, you could extend to "... the same old rhetoric.".

  • I don't see it in the definition, but I've always seen the connotation to imply that for some known reason, this type of content is to be expected from the speaker. – Jammin4CO Apr 5 '16 at 20:13
2

single word - vacuous:

  1. lacking in ideas or intelligence: a vacuous mind.

  2. expressing or characterized by a lack of ideas or intelligence; inane; stupid: a vacuous book. - Dictionary.com

expression - hot air:

Informal. 1. empty, exaggerated, or pretentious talk or writing: His report on the company's progress was just so much hot air. - Dictionary.com

2

Regurgitate/regurgitation might cover the “repeat phrases they heard on TV programmes” part of your description but you’d probably need to add something to capture the “set phrases” and/or “inconsistent” parts:

What he says is just “[a series of] regurgitated [phrases//factoids//non-sequitors/sequuntur]."

What he says is just “[a series of] {boring/nonsequitous/inconsistent} regurgitation."

Actually, perhaps my favorite word (from @jimm101 's good answer) to use with “regurgitated/regurgitation” in your context would result in:

“What he says is just [a series of] regurgitated platitudes.”
(from ‘Information Management for Development Organisations’ by Mike Powell, via ‘Google Books’}

And

“What he says is just [a] regurgitation of platitudes.”
(from ‘The Southern Partisan, also via ‘Google Books’)

Regurgitate
Transitive verb
1 formal to repeat facts or ideas that you have heard or learned without understanding them or thinking about them for yourself
(from ‘MacMillan Dictionary’)

For two food words that have slang meanings similar to the "’empty, irrelevant, talk” part of your question that would go well with “regurgitated” to capture the (imo, important [see below]**) “often repeat phrases” part of it and which would create a perhaps fitting “double-entendre” image to help reinforce your message, you could consider “regurgitated tripe” or “regurgitated baloney”:

*… but what he says is just regurgitated tripe/baloney.”

(here’s an example of the use of “regurgitated tripe” in a political context from ‘Sex and Murder’ by Douglas Allen Rhodes and there’s one here for “regurgitated baloney” from the ‘Daily Labor Report’, both via ‘Google Books’)

tripe n.
1. the first and second divisions of the stomach of a ruminant, esp. oxen or sheep used as food.
2. Slang. something, esp. speech or writing, that is false or worthless.
[1250–1300; ME < OF]

baloney or boloney n.
1. Slang. foolishness; nonsense.
2. BOLOGNA .
--- interj.
3. Slang. nonsense.
[1915–20, Amer.]

(both definitions, with emphasis added, from ‘RANDOM HOUSE KERNERMAN WEBSTER'S College Dictionary’)

**(I see the "often repeat phrases" part of you question as important because it's what makes it different from the questions cited as possible duplicates)

2

How has "drivel" not been submitted?

2

Yammer.

The politico yammered on about his plan's free services and lower taxes.

Urban Dictionary - Yammer to speak incessantly about nothing.

Merriam-Webster - customers yammered on for what seemed like days about the billing mistake

1

Jargon could be used although it doesn't imply that he was attempting to make sense, just that you couldn't make sense of what was said/read.

  • 1
    Welcome to the forum! It's useful to give references and a definition to support your answer. You might get down-voted if you don't. – jimm101 Mar 29 '16 at 13:53
1

Well believe it or not you could actually use the word blah and make complete sense. Other words that can be used are: rant, claptrap, bombast

0

I want to suggest the use of the word barbaric or barbarian. The source of barbaric applies more directly to this example. Greeks used to mime the unintelligible speaking of northern foreigners as 'bar bar bar bar'. This eventually lead to bárbaros, and later barbaria in Latin and eventually barbarian. The similarity to the 'blah blah blah' is obvious.

  • And it led to some great lyrics. – Hot Licks Mar 30 '16 at 18:42
  • Barbaric neither implies nor connotes empty or meaningless. – frank May 12 '16 at 17:20
  • Referencing something as a Barbaric culture implies that it is a meaningless or useless culture from their perspective. To refer to a group as technological barbarians also implies there tech is useless or meaningless. – PCSgtL May 17 '16 at 17:05
-1

I would suggest recycling of old tropes

trope: a common or overused theme or device (M-W)

in the sense that commentators tend to fall back on well-used clichés when they have nothing new to say, in order to try (usually unsuccessfully) to convey the impression that they are knowledgeable or up-to-date about a subject.

-1

If slight readjustment is acceptable:

He is always commenting on the US election campaign but he's just talking off the top of his head.

off the top of one's head ‎(not comparable) Adverb[ial] ...

(idiomatic) In an extemporaneous manner; without careful thought, preparation, or investigation.

[Wiktionary]

  • 2
    A non prepared, off the top of one's head thought may well be accurate though and not irrelevant. – ypercubeᵀᴹ Mar 30 '16 at 6:53
-3

I'll give you an example: Instead of saying "enough blah blah blah” or "I don't wanna hear your blah blah blah” you can say "Enough small talks" or "I don't wanna hear your Small talks".

You can say "bullshits" or "Rubbish" but it's pretty rude.

  • 2
    Both "small talk" and "bullshit" are almost always mass nouns, not count nouns. – AakashM Mar 30 '16 at 9:23
  • Agreed; this doesn't sound right to me as a native speaker. It could be "enough small talk", or "I don't wanna hear your BS". Also, "small talk" isn't perjorative, in general; I can't imagine anyone coming out and saying "I don't want to hear your small talk". It would just be odd. – Jenn D. Mar 31 '16 at 18:35

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