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A lapalissade is an obvious truth—i.e. a truism or tautology—which produces a comical effect. It is derived from the name Jacques de la Palice, and the word is used in several languages.[1][2][3]


La Palice's epitaph reads[2][1]

"Ci-gît le Seigneur de La Palice: s'il n'était pas mort, il ferait encore envie."
("Here lies the Seigneur de La Palice: If he weren't dead, he would still be envied.")

These words were misread (accidentally or intentionally) as " ſerait [serait] encore en vie" ("...he would still be alive"), where the long s aids in the confusion. In the 16th century this misreading was incorporated into a popular satirical song, and in time many other variants developed, including "... que deux jours avant sa mort / il était encore en vie" ("... that two days before his death / he was still quite alive") and "... et quand il était tout nu, / il n'avait point de chemise" ("... and when he was stark naked / he didn't wear a shirt").

In the early 18th century Bernard de la Monnoye collected over 50 of these humorous "La Palice" quatrains, and published them as a burlesque "Song of La Palice". From that song came the French term lapalissade meaning an utterly obvious truth—i.e. a truism or tautology, and it was borrowed into several other languages. The French phrase "La Palice en aurait dit autant!" ("La Palice would have said as much!") is used to express that a statement is obvious.

Similar terms[edit]

In Spanish culture, an analog is a folkloric character Pedro Grullo [es] (Perogrullo) with his perogrulladas:[4] "Verdad de Pedro Grullo, que a la mano cerrada, la llama puño" (The truth of Pedro Grullo, when his hand is closed, he calls it a fist).[5]

In English, Captain Obvious indicates, somewhat pejoratively, that a speaker has said a self-evident truth. Other kinds of trite expressions are "platitude" and "bromide".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Georges Lebouc, 2500 noms propres devenus communs, p. 389
  2. ^ a b Michel Chabanne (14 June 2007), comment on Encyclopédie des Expressions: Une vérité de La Palice / Une lapalissade Archived 2009-03-03 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed 15 April 2009.
  3. ^ Simon Baker, Surrealism, History and Revolution, p.195
  4. ^ Guillermo Suazo Pascual, Abecedario de dichos y frases hechas, 1999, p.131
  5. ^ A dictionary of Spanish proverbs, 1834, p. 382