Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Monday night question

Or, not a good saying

Why does the saying 'it goes without saying', and the 'it' that 'goes without saying' never actually go without saying?

Does the answer to this go without saying? Or could it actually be said that the thing that is said to 'go without saying' must actually go with some saying, so that to say 'it goes without saying' is to say something false - or, that is, to lie?

What is the answer? Can you say it without going 'it goes without saying'?

Quick, tell me! Before a roaming grammar hoodie splits my infinitive!


TimT said...

Come to think of it, 'it goes without saying' does make a nice opening gambit for speeches, ie:

It goes without saying - so I won't.


There is an anecdote about such-and-such that hardly needs repeating, so I shan't.


Unsuited as I am to public speaking, I will step down.

TimT said...

Come to think of it, do philosophers ever think 'it goes without thinking'?

Come to think of it, do philosophers ever think 'come to think of it'? And what do they think of it?

I guess it goes without saying.

Alexis, Baron von Harlot said...

Courtesy of my good friend, Wikipedia:

Paralipsis, also known as praeteritio, preterition, cataphasis, antiphrasis, or parasiopesis, is a rhetorical figure of speech wherein the speaker or writer invokes a subject by denying that it should be invoked. As such, it can be seen as a rhetorical relative of irony. Paralipsis is usually employed to make a subversive ad hominem attack.

The device is typically used to distance the speaker from unfair claims, while still bringing them up. For instance, a politician might say, "I don't even want to talk about the allegations that my opponent is a drunk."

The most common English construction is the phrase "not to mention," as in "She is talented, not to mention rich." This construction is so common that it has lost much, if not all, of the device's rhetorical power. "Not to mention" no longer serves here as a device to separate the speaker from the claim of richness, but is just another way of saying "and." Another is the clause "if I don't say so myself" which is mistaken from the affirmative "if I do say so myself," meant to show the speaker's modesty.

Proslepsis is an extreme kind of paralipsis that gives the full details of the acts one is claiming to pass over; for example, "I will not stoop to mentioning the occasion last winter when our esteemed opponent was found asleep in an alleyway with an empty bottle of vodka still pressed to his lips."

TimT said...

Aha! So I may have been suffering from paralapsis paralysis? Thank you for that enlightening quotation!

By the way, thank you for not commenting on the fact that I titled this 'Monday night question' when it was actually Tuesday night. It felt like a Monday, you know.

Anonymous said...

Come over to the dark side and start splitting infinitives now! You don't know what you're missing! It's pure freedom!

TimT said...

To Boldly Go Where Many Have Boldy Gone Before!

Anonymous said...

The split infinitive has many founding fathers and mothers. It is indeed a noble tradition.

I think I might have to start dangling my modifiers more often, just to get that counter-cultural rush.

Maria said...

It goes without saying conjures up a picture of a little animal called an "It" hurrying off somewhere, without speaking. And "to come to think of it" - well then it conjures up a group of philosophers turning up to a certain designated place for the special purpose of holding hands and thinking of aforementioned little critter.

OK, for me, anyhoo.

TimT said...

It really depends on what sort of a creature this 'It' is. Is it more of a Stephen King It or an Edith Nesbit It?

TimT said...

I wonder how many books have started with the word 'it'. It's the sort of thing to easily slip your attention... an underacknowledged word in the lexicon of writers the world over.

Anonymous said...

It is indeed.

TimT said...

Quite so, Notts! Quite so!

Email: timhtrain - at -

eXTReMe Tracker

Blog Archive