Pablum

[ pab-luh m ]
/ ˈpæb ləm /

Trademark.

a brand of soft, bland cereal for infants.

noun

(lowercase) trite, naive, or simplistic ideas or writings; intellectual pap.

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

VOCAB BUILDER

What does pablum mean?

Pablum is a noun referring to ideas, speech, writing, or other media that are bland or simplistic or that lack any real intellectual substance or value.

The term pablum comes directly from the brand name Pablum, which manufactured a children’s cereal known for being bland and easily digestible.

Example: Celebrity news is the sort of pablum that distracts people from the actual issues happening in our world.

Where does pablum come from?

The brand name Pablum was probably based on a shortening of the word pabulum, which is a scientific term that essentially means “food.” The Pablum brand of cereal was first sold by the company in the early 1930s. Later, at least by the 1950s, people started using the word pablum for any kind of plain cereal similar to the original Pablum (like how people say Xerox or Kleenex or Scotch tape even when they’re not using those exact brands, much to the frustration of corporate lawyers).

But then something else happened with pablum. Its meaning was extended even further to refer to dumbed-down writing and other forms of media or communication. The first records of this use are from the late 1980s. This is now the most common use of the word pablum. It is typically used when criticizing stuff that lacks substance—the intellectual equivalent of cold mush. It is used especially to refer to generic political speech or the type of TV and movies made to appeal to the largest possible audience.

Did you know ... ?

What are some synonyms for pablum?

What are some words that often get used in discussing pablum?

 

How is pablum used in real life?

When someone calls something pablum, they mean it has no real thinking behind it and that most people will consume it without thinking about it—just like a bland bowl of cereal. It can be used to describe just about anything, but it’s especially used in the context of politics and pop culture.

 

 

Try using pablum!

Which of the following is least likely to be called pablum?

A. a simplistic blog post that lacks a purpose
B. a talk show that focuses on celebrity drama
C. a well-researched essay that introduces innovative ideas
D. a generic speech by a politician that doesn’t propose anything

British Dictionary definitions for pablum

Pablum
/ (ˈpɑːbləm) /

noun

trademark a cereal food for infants, developed in Canada
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012