Language is a mirror of society. Phrases track social developments, become part of the culture, and then drop out of favor and out of use as conventions change.
I thought about this yesterday when I heard a report on the Occupy Wall Street protests. A protester being interviewed was complaining about how unfair our system is and how he isn’t getting the support from the government and corporations that is his just due. My initial, admittedly knee-jerk, unsympathetic reaction was: “Let’s have a pity party!” — and then I found myself wondering when I last heard that phrase.
When I was younger, if you whined about something a listener would often curtly dismiss your complaint by sarcastically saying it was time for a “pity party.” The clear message was, suck it up, stop bitching, and keep at it, because feeling sorry for yourself wasn’t going to get you anywhere. That attitude seems to be a lot less common these days. Now, no one wants to be viewed as judgmental or unsympathetic. So, we tolerate people who whine and wallow in self-pity, and commiserate rather than criticize their defeatist attitude.
As a result, comments about “pity parties” have gone the way of the dodo. In my view, it’s not a good development.