Lucy Vickery

Empty words

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In Competition No. 2977 you were invited to submit a selection of meaningless, pseudo-profound statements.

Bullshit was defined in a 2005 essay by the philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt as being characterised by a lack of concern for the truth, as distinct from a deliberate intent to deceive (i.e. lying). Which makes this the ideal comp for the post-truth era.

Or is it? Brian Murdoch wasn’t so sure: ‘Given the great pseudo-profundities of the past (“Credo quia impossibile” [Aquinas, T.], “Dasein hat sein zu sein” [Heidegger, M.], “Brexit means Brexit”,’ he writes, ‘what else is there to say?’

Quite a bit more, it seems. The invitation drew a large and accomplished entry. I’m not sure if any of you looked for inspiration to the New Age Bullshit Generator, an online resource for those with a New Age product or service to hawk, which at the click of a mouse offers up such gems as ‘By unfolding, we grow. Being is the healing of balance, and of us.’

But yours were better — and the most successful of all were those that, despite being more or less devoid of any real meaning, nonetheless managed to retain a faint ring of plausibility. The authors of the statements below are rewarded with £5 for each one printed.

The camel of forgetfulness knows more than the python of curiosity.

Better an eternal triangle than a vicious circle.

He sees farthest who farthest sees.

Corbyn is to Attlee as the Fun Boy Three were to Rachmaninoff.

Basil Ransome-Davies

A pessimist should hope for more than hope.

Bread is just cake with no sense of adventure.

Proximity is but distance viewed in close-up.

Mike Morrison

It is sometimes wiser to circle the square than to square the circle.

Frank Osen

Only an executioner sharpens his own axe.

Only foolish virgins light their lamps by the waters of Babylon.

Adversity’s marmalade lies heavy on sorrow’s toast.

John Maddicott

In the syntax of the universe there are no semi-colons.

Pete Alefounder

One man’s i.e. is another man’s e.g. but no man’s etc.

J. Seery

Linguistic strategies operate at the intersection of Chomskean analysis and Joycean improvisation.

Imputation is the essence of reputation.

Chris O’Carroll

The determination of time brings consolidation of infinity.

Interconnectivity is the hypothetical imperative.

D.A. Prince

Cosmology is the universe in an atom.

Josh Ekroy

Mince pies are to Christmas what boots are to the Duke of Wellington.

Gordon Macintyre

The flower of perhaps is growing in the garden of uncertainty.

Larry Lefkowitz

In the restaurant of logical reasoning, there is no such thing as a confirmed reservation.

Planned happenstance can derail the most unexpected event.

John O’Byrne

Luck is not made, it is manufactured by the yard.

Psychology applies a pocket calculator to the problem of instinct.

Bill Greenwell

In a world of meaning, nothing means what it says.

Albert Black

No one knows what no one knows.

A ceiling keeps things in, a roof keeps things out.

Katie Mallett

No snail by wishing can become an elephant.

John Whitworth

Half of the universe knows when the other half sleeps.

Shirley Muir

The older the actuality, the deeper the sensibility.

Mae Scanlan

Quintessence belies the protean absolute.

W.J. Webster

No. 2981: fashion statement

You are invited to submit a poem of up to 16 lines about a politician and an item of clothing. Please email entries to by midday on 11 January.