Monday, October 15, 2012

Preaching to the Choir

You’ve heard it said that any writer worth his weight in gold should avoid clichés like the plague. I hope I’m not preaching to the choir here but, if I am, at least we’re on the same page.

If I had a penny for every cliché I’ve read or used I’d be filthy rich. So would William Metz, who once said, “What’s a young writer to do? Perhaps he can’t recognize the clichés because they are so much a part of his daily language. He is, to be sure, between the devil and the deep blue sea… he must learn to nip in the bud the trite phrase, the overused word.”  

The funniest article I’ve read on the subject is Richard Bang’s “Avoid Clichés like the Plague,” where he confesses to being guilty as sin of having committed the worst literary crimes known to man when he authored travel brochures and used such phrases as “come to know the exotic flora, fauna, and people…” He even called the Blue Nile “The Mount Everest of Rivers.”

OMG, that article just cracked me up!  His advice is this: “If you absolutely can’t resist writing ‘lush’ before ‘forest,’ or ‘hearty’ before ‘breakfast,’ or ‘cascading’ before ‘waterfall,’ keep practicing until you can resist.”

On passé sayings… does anybody remember being up the creek without a paddle…that today is the first day of the rest of your life…that it takes one to know one…that if you build the field they’ll come…that spring is God’s way of saying ‘hello’…

Have you ever known someone whose ass was grass...who fell out of the ugly tree and hit all the branches on the way down…whose dog didn’t hunt…who made like a banana and split… who wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed (or pencil in the box)? 

On to current lingo… it is what it is…at the end of the day… shoot for the moon; even if you miss you’ll be among the stars…an aha moment…a light bulb moment…too much on my plate… on steroids… my bad…do what you love and the money will follow…the only constant is change…speak of the devil…

Today I’m totally happy to announce a free-for-all cliché day. In the comments leave your favorites, old or new.  While. You. Have. The. Chance. - btw, memes and idioms are fair game too. Whatever. And have more fun than a barrel of monkeys!   

Monday, October 1, 2012


Today my students and I are writing on the word ‘ostracize.’ I’ll go first.

I’ve always had a heart for the outcasts, the underdogs, the ugly ducklings. When I was growing up there was a boy in our church named Harold, a loner who was tall and lanky as Ichabod Crane. His face was so pockmarked that the other kids said it had more holes than a golf course.

One day I saw him sitting at the end of a pew all by himself and wondered if I should go sit beside him… but I didn’t really want to go that far, I mean, what would people think?

So I came up with another plan to inform him that someone knew he existed. I pulled a stick of Spearmint Gum from my prized pack, marched straight down the aisle to where he sat, and held it out to him. How embarrassing when he shook his head ‘no,’ he didn’t want it.  

Fast forward 10 years to the school pariah at ENCSD where I taught P.E. Cassie was so obese that all the other children made fun of her. She waddled when she walked and was clumsy and inept at sports and most everything else she attempted. 

No one gave her the time of day. Whenever we played competitive games like kick ball or held relay races, none of the team captains chose her. She was left standing alone while all the others stood together on their individual teams, gearing up for the fun.   

And so I made Cassie my official pet and assigned her the role of captain so she’d get to choose team members instead of being automatically swept to the sideline. When we lined up to go back inside the building I placed her in front of the others and said, “Follow Cassie, the leader.”

This psychology actually works. Children are not oblivious to the treatment others receive, and they tend to follow suit when another is well esteemed. When they were with me on the playground the other kids began showing respect for Cassie, and eventually stopped poking fun and ridiculing her altogether.


Then there was the Christian blog group that ostracized me because, apparently, only pontificating was tolerable, and if you didn’t preach to the choir they didn’t want you. Their motto seemed to be, “You tell me what I know and I’ll tell you what you know.”     

When have you encountered ostracism?
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