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Tuesday, 24 May 2011

trite but true

What makes a cliché a cliché?  Partly, the truth within it.  It's just that we've said it so often that it becomes an automatic phrase, more about the words than the meaning.  As a writer I have an inbuilt 'cliché' detector - Beep!  Avoid at all costs! (There's one, right there.)  Trouble is, we strive so hard to find alternatives that they are then in turn overused and over familiar.  It requires a lot of creative thinking to find new ways of saying old truths.

A cliché is a phrase that becomes overused, eventually smelling slightly of cheese (or corn!).  And we're left desperately scrabbling for new ways, new ways of description when, at the end of the day (beep)*, when you really get down to it (beep) and round to it, there is nothing new under the sun (beep or not beep? Hmmm...). Because it seems there are truths that carry over generations, filter through trends and developments, and despite of - and because of - their truth, become trite.  So they need shaking out and freshening up.

We enter the tomorrows trying to find other ways of expressing yesterday's phrases.  This is a challenge when we want to communicate anything worthwhile and of meaning, trying to ditch the baggage (beep) and find a better way of saying it for a newer generation impatient with old phrases.


*I read recently that 'at the end of the day' is particularly maligned.


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3 comments:

Freya Morris said...

Thanks Lucy! I literally just wrote a cliche by mistake and thought something was wrong with it but couldn't put my finger on it. It's a cliche!

AHhhh - thank goodness for the delete button eh?

Nancy Wallace said...

I agree that cliches are best avoided. It's so hard when often a phrase becomes overused because it works well (or did once).

Perpetua said...

Not being a professional (or even aspiring) writer, I'm probably guilty of using cliches more often than I should, as a kind of verbal shorthand, I suppose. Memo to self - be more self-criticalw when writing.....

"The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people."- Richard Foster