Tuesday, November 25, 2008

To cliché or not to cliché, that is the question...

At some point in time, everyone is guilty of employing clichés to get a point across (cliché #1: at some point in time, cliché #2: get a point across). Frankly, it's hard to avoid the suckers, which have so deeply ingrained themselves in our daily speech. Come on, I dare you (cliche#3: I dare you). Try going for a day or even a week without leaning on your cliché crutch.
LifeHacker.com recently highlighted a study by Oxford University that compiled the top 10 most irritating phrases, including; "At the end of the day," "24/7," "With all due respect" and the always popular "It's not rocket science." We asked TKA agents which phrases are akin to hearing nails on a chalkboard (cliché #4: well, you can guess this one), and received the following responses:
1. Deidre Knight: "Six in one hand, half dozen in the other" or "Out of the box" -- If you were in an actual box, you've got serious problems.
2. Pamela Harty: "Preaching to the choir" -- I didn’t know Pamela was a singer!
3. Lucienne Diver: "Fictional novel." -- Same as saying novel novel. Or maybe fictional fiction?
4. Melissa Jeglinski: "Through a series of events..." -- So, it's tough to write the perfect query letter - that's true. But take it from us, this stale standby is best left on the cutting room floor.
5. Elaine Spencer: "Coming of age novel" -- If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this, well I'd be guilty of another cliché and building my dream house in South Beach.
Actually, at the end of the day, I don't think it matters what you say, it's how you say it (cliché# I give up). Someone reassuringly repeating a familiar phrase can bring levity to a situation, hope to a good friend or encourage camaraderie among co-workers. Like, “It will all work out” or “When one door closes, another opens.” But admittedly, they don't all do that. I don't know anyone who’s been reassured by "we're not trying to reinvent the wheel" - my least favorite phrase. So what's your poison? What phrase is so completely nonsensical, it sets your teeth on edge? Or what phrase are you guilty of using on a regular basis?
Personally (cliché #1,098,877), I don’t think any of us will ever free ourselves completely from utilizing these handy platitudes – but perhaps, like salt, we should learn to use them sparingly.

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Blogger David said...

Wow! What a house!

Cliches annoy me, too, but I suppose that most of them become embedded in the lanugage because they're such convenient shorthand and express common feelings succinctly. Not that that excuses using lots of them, but I think that's why we often use them without even being aware of it.

I think I managed to write that without using any cliches.

As a former aerospace engineer, I'm really bugged by the "rocket science" one. I ranted about it on my own blog, here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008 at 10:35:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a writer and editor and I cannot stand the use of cliches that I find not only in my own writing, but also the writing of others--even those that are well respected writers. The fact is that people get lazy and when they get lazy they get sloppy and cliche is the first sign of sloppiness.

I have also blogged about the cliche use of sex scenes in books and short stories as a means to titilate the reader without actually moving the story forward or doing so in such a clumsy and cliched manner that it ruins the story (http://www.redroom.com/blog/james-buchanan/the-economy-and-books)

Anyway, nice post that has gotten me to think about some of the bad habits I may have.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008 at 10:50:00 AM EST  
Blogger Jia Gayles said...

Hi David & James,

I started out writing the post without using any clichés, but that was NO fun! I do agree that they make our language less impactful, but there are a few I find myself unable to part with. After writing this though, I’m definitely going to make an effort to lessen my usage.

Thanks for your comments!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008 at 12:09:00 PM EST  
Blogger Fran Caldwell said...

The latest one I've been hearing - about doing something crazy and referring to it as "drinking the Koolaid".

That really bothers me.

Saturday, November 29, 2008 at 11:44:00 AM EST  
Blogger Avily Jerome said...

I haven't heard the "drinking the koolaid" one. That's kinda funny, actually!

I don't really get bothered by cliches. Unless it's really obvious or really out of place.

One thing that does annoy me, and I don't know if it's a cliche but I hear it a lot is: "That's okay" followed by a story about how the speaker's situation or experience is that much more compelling or tragic than the one you just shared.
How does their bad experience make my bad experience "ok" ?!?!?!?

Another one that drives me crazy is "No offense, but...."
Because what follows is inevitably offensive!!!

Monday, December 1, 2008 at 5:02:00 PM EST  

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