Conquering Clichés, Part 1: Introduction
Conquering Clichés, Part 2: Ways to be Cliché
Conquering Clichés, Part 3: Why We are Cautioned Against Them
Conquering Clichés, Part 4: Using Them . . . or Not
The whole idea of clichés fascinates me! Basically, someone expressed an idea in such a unique, amazing, succinct way that everyone jumped on the bandwagon to use it. And *POOF*, suddenly it's not so unique. Just another overused expression that may or may not mean what you think it means.
I found a cliché dictionary1 at the library that claims over 3,500 clichés! While I'd never heard some of them before, there were more that I knew. Perhaps I was influenced by my mom who had a saying for every situation, but I think part of why clichés sneak so easily into our writing is because we all naturally use them in speech without even realizing we're doing it.
Learning to recognize clichés is the first step to conquering them---meaning, using them to your advantage rather than vice versa. In this post, I simply want to lay out a few examples of clichés.
Betty Kirkpatrick, in her book on clichés2 attempts to categorize them, which I find extremely useful. Here are some of her categories with my attempt to explain them:
Simile Clichés: All those overused comparisons (often using 'like' or 'as')
- Cold as ice
- Like two peas in a pod
- The early bird catches the worm
- What goes around, comes around
- When pigs fly
- Climbing on the bandwagon
- He's a good Samaritan
- The Green-eyed monster
- Leaps and bounds
- Thick and thin
- That time of the month
- The little girls room
Plot Clichés: Overused plot devices
- A villain monologuing before he kills the hero
- A spy operative going on "one last mission"
- The bully jock
- The friendly uncle who turns out to be the bad guy
- The coach who's a recoving alcoholic trying to make a comeback
- Don't make me come up there!
- I don't care who started it, I'm going to finish it!
- She turned to look (I have to cut this phrase more often than I care to admit!)
- I'm just sayin' (Yeah, I'm sure I'm not alone on this one! But since I'm not trying to sell my daily speech, I think it's okay.)
Rather, by understanding them and recognizing them, we are in control of the meaning of our words. We need to know what clichés are to use (or not use) them in an effective manner.
And as G.I. Joe would say (in a now extremely clichéd expression), "and knowing is half the battle!"
WORKS CITED1. Ammer, Christine, The Facts on File Dictionary of Clichés, New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2001.
2. Kirkpatrick, Betty, Clichés: Over 1500 Phrases Explored and Explained, n.p.: St. Martin's Griffin, 1999.
P.S. So there were 16 clichés in my first post, which no one guessed exactly, but being the magnanimous person I am ;) R. Garrett Wilson, was the closest with 14 as his official guess, but 15 suspected clichés. So I hereby declare him to be the winner of a candy bar of his choice. Congrats Garrett!