phatic /FA-dik/. adjective. Speech or speech sounds that are intended to communicate emotions or affirm a social connection rather than convey information. For instance, the standard “How are you?” greeting for which no reply is necessary or expected. Trivial or purely formal speech. From Greek phatos (spoken).
“How they talked, on and on. Glass after glass, as they went through the bottles the winemaker opened one after the other, with total disregard for the spittoons placed here and there in the room for those who wanted to taste without fear of getting drunk; they drank methodically, accompanying the purely phatic rehashing of clearly imaginary memories with impressive amounts of liquid.” (Muriel Barberry)
“In short—and this will be explained below—sport is the maximum aberration of “phatic” speech and therefore, finally, the negation of all speech, and hence the beginning of the dehumanization of man or the “humanistic” invention of an idea of Man that is deceptive at the outset.” (Umberto Eco)
“The doctor’s long speeches—customarily phatic and ceremonially polite—say little but sing much.” (William H. Gass)
“Every night, the 10-Port cabin steward, Petra, when she turns down your bed, leaves on your pillow—along with the day’s last mint and Celebrity’s printed card wishing you sweet dreams in six languages—the next day’s Nadir Daily, a phatic little four-page ersatz newspaper printed on white vellum in a navy-blue font.” (David Foster Wallace)
“Who is the enemy? We fully trained soldiers asked ourselves in Vietnam. The corrupt Diem family? Francophobes among the Chinese? The lieutenant’s West Point professors? The phatic orators in Congress?” (Barry Lopez)
“It was he who wanted to talk! The driver was content to dispense with phatic thanks and chatter.” (Samuel R. Delaney)