November 3rd is Cliche’ Day, a day to celebrate cliches! Is it something to celebrate though? A penny for your thoughts on this! Do let me know in the comments. And to be honest, I am writing this cliched post too late in the day. But time flies after all, and at the end of the day, what matters is that the post is here, right?
I know I am guilty of using way too many cliches! Is it because I am lazy (I am certainly at least a little bit lazy, maybe more)? Or because I am short of time? Or I love that cliched phrase? I am not sure why I do it, but time and again, I find myself using yet another overused, hackneyed cliche. Anyway, getting to the point of this post, here are 13 random things related to cliches. Cliches themselves, word origins, and those random things I mentioned.
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To be Honest, I’m Not Sure I Have 13 things, but I’ll Try!
A cliche is a trite or hackneyed phrase or expression. It broadly refers to anything lacking freshness or novelty to make it interesting (source).
The word comes from the French cliché, which is a technical word for “stereotype block.” It is the past participle of clicher which means “to click.” If you hear it right, you can see that the word is onomatopoeic – an echo of the sound of a mold striking metal (source).
Stereotype and Cliche
While the word “cliche” is related in origin to the word “stereotype,” their modern meanings are quite distinct. Cliche refers to hackneyed ‘anythings’ while “stereotype” refers to a generalized belief about a particular category of people, that is not necessarily true or fair.
Thought-terminating Cliches and Platitudes
Thought-terminating clichés are a specific type of cliches. They are words and phrases so simple and backed by folk-wisdom that they have the effect of cutting off or discouraging further meaningful conversation. Hence, they are also known as thought-stoppers or semantic stop-signs.
Some examples include:
- “When you get to be my age…”
- “Do as I say and not as I do…”
- “One day, you’ll understand…”
Tomorrow is another day after all. You have heard this one before, right? Or “it is what it is.” These are all platitudes, almost meaningless statements used in conversations to avoid unpleasantness. Oftentimes, they become thought-stoppers too, since these platitudes simply ignore the issue at hand instead of attempting to solve it.
Other Types of Cliches
Depending on the phrasing, cliches can be one of many types (source). Some example types are given below:
- Allusion Cliches. Cliches which, well, allude or make an indirect reference to something else. For example, “method in madness” alludes to Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
- Doublet Cliches. Like “alive and kicking,” “fair and square,” “hale and healthy”
- Euphemism Cliches. Like using “delicate condition” instead of pregnancy, or “downsizing” instead of layoffs or job cuts (like happening currently)
- Idiom Cliches. One example is “drowning one’s sorrows” This might happen if downsized unexpectedly, while it should definitely not be done when in a delicate condition (for various reasons, obvious and otherwise)
- Simile Cliches. To continue the drinking examples, one suited here would be “drink like a fish!”
Cliches from Famous Authors
Shakespeare has lent many quotes, words, phrases, and inevitable, cliches to the language. Here are a few:
- “Break the ice” (The Taming of the Shrew)
- “Heart of gold” (Henry V)
- “Kill with kindness” (The Taming of the Shrew)
- “Melted into thin air.” (The Tempest)
- “Mum’s the word.” (Henry VI)
- “What’s done is done” (Macbeth)
- “Wild goose chase.” (Romeo and Juliet)
- “The world’s my oyster” (The Merry Wives of Windsor)
- and there are many more from the bard!
And what about “Catch-22”?
Clichés are not just words or phrases. Sometimes they are ideas, characters, or people themselves. Like the ‘damsel in distress’ or ‘superhero’ characters in books, movies, and shows. Ideas too can be cliches.
Quotes About Cliches
To be honest (sorry!), I love these cool (some cliched too) quotes about cliches!
- “A cliche is everything you’ve ever heard of.” – Janet Fitch
- “Use it or lose it is a cliche because it is true.” – Julian Cope
- “It is a cliché that most clichés are true, but then like most clichés, that cliché is untrue.” – Stephen Fry
- “Most of my cliches aren’t original.” – Chuck Knox
- “What is good today may be a cliche tomorrow.” – Alexey Brodovitch
- “Avoid cliches like the plague.” – Gary Provost
- “Cut every cliché you come across” – Sol Stein
How and When to Use Cliches
Despite the negative ideas around cliches, and all those writing gurus talking about avoiding cliches like the plague, cliches are cliches because people still continue to use them. People, including writers, that is! And many succeed in using them without being called out on those uses. So how and why do these writers use cliches:
- They use them in parodies. When you make fun of a cliche, it is all OK and works well too!
- Cliches help to strengthen a characterization. When writers have characters spouting cliches and platitudes, it helps them show the character as unoriginal or lazy or something similar (depending on what the writer is attempting)
- Writers use cliches to throw a twist in the tale! So we see the cliched plot in the book, the TV show, or the movie, and we expect the usual. Then the writer turns the tables on us, so to speak (and to use a cliched phrase too), and delights us!
Also, if you have given it some thought, and that cliched phrase is the best thing that fits there, go ahead and use it. But if you want to give it some more thought, then write something new instead. Who knows, it might turn out to the next cliche!! You could give the old cliche a new life by turning it around completely, be it a phrase or an idea!
Is Cliche a Cliche?
Is the word cliche itself a cliche? What do you think? I believe I have a penny (or two) for your thoughts!
Other Words for Cliche aka Synonyms
If your answer was yes to the above question, then you might want to consider using one of the below words instead of cliche when the need arises! To be honest, I know I should have used a few of these in this post!
- hackneyed (I have used it a few times already in this post)
- and many more….(this is in itself kind of a cliche, like using etc!)
Apparently, there are Cliche Handbags!
When looking at cliche all over the you-know-what, I discovered that there are cliche handbags for sale! But I could not figure out what they actually meant. To be honest, I am not much of a purse or handbag person at all, and am an ignoramus in that area.
So, asking you my dear readers, do you know what a cliche handbag is? If yes, please enlighten me 🙂
And Last, But Not the Least: Cliched Books
These books about cliches promise to be great reads! To be honest, I am yet to read them (as was obvious from the ‘promise to be’ phrase earlier), but the little I have read in the previews let me know that I will like them, at the least, and devour them, at the most.
- Cliché: A Thriller of Epic Foreshadowing (An Archer Cross Thriller Book 1). From its hilarious made up one-line reviews (“It over promises and under delivers… masterful in so many ways!” – James Patterson) to the fact it is a “thriller” (haven’t read one for ages), this is simply waiting to be read
- What Was a Cliche Before It Became One?. This one is for young readers to understand and learn about cliches but older audiences will enjoy it too (like I am doing now)
- Just Be Cliché. A self help book from its description. The concept intrigues me, so I am going to check it out soon.
- Cliches: Over 1500 Phrases Explored and Explained. I used this book as a reference to some of the aspects of this post. Lots of cliches here, as you can see from the title.
- Dictionary of Cliches: If You Wonder about the Origins of All Those Old Saws–from First Blush to Bite the Dust–You’ll Find This Book the Cat’s Meow! I will get this book just for its clever cliched title!
- A Trillion Cliches Every Dad Will Do. A fun prompt filled journal for dads
- Why Do We Say It?: The Stories Behind the Words, Expressions, and Cliches We Use. I checked it out and started reading it (of course, I had to!) and I am enjoying it already. A book to dip into whenever we wish and get something out of it every time!
h/t, References, and Further Reading
- LiteraryTerm’s page on the cliche
- Check out Prowriting Aid’s comprehensive list of cliches!
- Wikipedia’s pages on Cliches and Thought-terminating Cliches
- This page that helps you find the right cliche!
And Now, the End of This Post
Dear reader, hope you enjoyed this post. To be honest, I was a little worried I might not finish it on time (well, I didn’t!) and then worried that it might join my draft-bin. But here it is, waiting for your thoughts and comments and more!