This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.



Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Nuts and Bolts: the pathetic fallacy.

Now, goblins, eh? Terrible nuisance they can be, as I'm sure you know. Luckily they're also terrible cowards. If you ever get attacked by a herd of goblins all you have to do is put your hands above your head and shout urga-urga-urga very fiercely, and they'll all fall over backwards with fright and run away like greased rabbits.

Yep, goblins are rubbish and cowardly. Really pathetic.

And the only trouble is that everything I've just told you is a fallacy - in other words not even the slightest bit true.

So, all that goblin stuff was a pathetic fallacy, then.

Er...no.

The first thing to be clear about the pathetic fallacy is that it's nothing at all to do with people being cowardly, or stories that aren't true. Nothing.

It's nothing to do with goblins, either.

A lot of people think it is, but they're wrong.

The pathetic fallacy is when people tell you objects have human feelings, or are doing human things. Every time someone says miserable weather! then they are using the pathetic fallacy.

Poets do it a lot, and so do other writers (the moon sleeps with Endymion is Shakespeare, for example) but so does everyone. Using the pathetic fallacy is not a bad thing.

Be careful about telling people they've used the pathetic fallacy, though, because they can get really upset. No, really upset. Upset like a goblin. Honestly.
And with humans the urga-urga-urga thing seldom works.

Pathetic Fallacy. This phrase was made up by a strange man called John Ruskin. He used the words pathetic (which is from the Greek word pathetikos, sensitive) and fallacy (which is from the Latin fallere, to deceive) and has come up with something that, quite honestly, hardly anyone understands.

Pathetic, isn't it?

1 comment:

  1. Very glad indeed to have some light thrown on this! I am always a BIT unclear as to what it means.

    ReplyDelete