BLATANT [BLEYT-nt]: tastelessly conspicuous


My personal definition for the word blatant would be: the opposite of subtle.   That’s the point of the word blatant.  It’s out there in front for everyone to see.  There is no sense of humility.   It is a means of being public.   It is a way of being at the center of things, where people can’t ignore it. It’s the choice of putting your feelings on a billboard beside a busy highway or writing a letter to the editor of a weekly newspaper.

There is no way of avoiding blatant activity.  It is intended to catch your attention without too much trouble.   If it takes you a minute to stop and think about it, the message has missed its intention.

I think of such things as blatant racism, for instance, where someone says something or does something to make it “blatantly clear” that they do not like people of other races and have no qualms about saying so in public.  It is a way of doing something “in the face” of political correctness.     A racial joke, a displayed racial symbol (such as a noose or a watermelon), or the use of a racial slur is a blatant act of racism.

A blatant lie is one about which there is no doubt.    If someone says that President Obama hates poor people or is only concerned with Black people, it is a blatant lie.  Similarly, if someone says that ultra-right wing conservatives in the Congress are really concerned about the rights of poor people, that, too, is a blatant lie.   For a Republican in Congress to say that he and his colleagues have not been speedbumps to passing social legislation, it is a blatant lie.  And to say that ultra-liberal Democrats do not want universal health care with a single payer method is similarly a blatant lie.

For a man to expose himself to women in public is a blatant act.  There is no question that the person has an intention of being rude and gross.   It is not a subtle act, as opposed to a woman accidentally walking into a men’s room and facing a row of occupied urinals.

Bryan Garner,  however, suggests that there is a real difference between the words blatant and flagrant.   He says,

…What is blatant stands out glaringly or repugnantly; what is flagrant is deplorable and shocking, connoting outrage.  A perjurer might tell blatant lies to the grand jury to cover up his flagrant breach of trust.”                                                                                                    (p.108,  Garner’s Modern American Usage)

I have to say that I find his attempt to distinguish these two terms to be vague.  It may be that one (blatant) is intentional, while the other (flagrant)  is accidental.     But I don’t think that’s Garner’s point.

In any case, it is clear that blatant is a word that means that someone does something to get attention and appears to have little or no concern about whether the result is embarrassing, infuriating, or repugnant.  I suspect you get the point.


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