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!   

66 comments:

  1. That's a difficult one. Like said, sometimes cliches become such a part of everyday language... but like you said, it does make for a poor read when all you see are overused words and phrases.

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    1. Ana, surely you can come up with one cliche. They're a dime a dozen!

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  2. Oh, Debra, this is great! I know I'm guilty of using cliches from time to time; aren't we all?
    Here are a few I know I've said: His elevator doesn't go to the top floor; a dime a dozen; making a mountain out of a molehill; back in the day. All I can think of right now that you haven't already mentioned. Gotta leave room for others!
    Blessings, my friend!

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    1. I started to use that first one in the post: his elevator doesn’t run to the top floor, and today I told my daughter not to make a mountain out of a molehill ;-) Blessings “backatya!”

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    2. I remember when I was an online rookie and thought LOL meant lots of love. *sigh* (there's another one).

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  3. I will never use "cascading" in front of waterfall again. What a fun post. Of course now, because I want to use a cliche, they've all "headed for the hills." ;)

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    1. Jayne, it was like free candy day, getting to use all the clichés you want. I was hoping and praying it wouldn’t make anymore sick as a dog ;-)

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  4. I think it's more of what I hear everyday in our house and at work :P...it's really funny Debra..

    "There are plenty more fish in the sea; there'll be another one; it'll feel better when it stops hurting"...oh geez! There's another one in my language~I'll ask Fher to translate it for me :P

    I think I'll have fun today ~ listening and reading them all here...

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    1. Melissa, here’s how we say it in the U.S. - there’s more than one fish in the sea. This is when a girl is hung up on just one guy and the mother is hoping she’ll play the field a bit more before tying the knot.
      Are you playing the field?

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    2. LOL! I wish I could Debra :P

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    3. I know, I know...
      you can't play the field
      because you are pure
      as the driven snow ;-)

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  5. Brand new and everywhere: "epic fail." If it isn't cliche yet it needs to be.

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    1. Tracey, "epic fail" is a cliche - or destined to become one. For sure.

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  6. How about, the lights are on, but nobody's home; the apple doesn't fall far from the tree; he's one sandwich short of a picnic?

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    1. Eva, "The lights are on but nobody's home." That's a good one. Also, he's one fry shy of a Happy Meal ;-)

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  7. It was a dark and stormy night and I was up the creek without a paddle. God helps those who help themselves, so I worked my fingers to the bone and kept my nose to the grindstone. Even though I'm not fit as a fiddle, I jumped through hoops and cut the rug. Tomorrow I'll be stiff as a poker. If you haven't walked a mile in my shoes, you don't know jack-sh**, but hey, all's well that ends well and I love you to pieces.

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    1. Crack me up girl! I thought I’d die laughing! You take the cake and are second to none. You know the Lord never gives you more than you can handle, so keep a stiff upper lip and know that this too shall pass. The Bible says it; I believe it; that settles it! No need to get bent out of shape or cry over spilled milk because when one door closes another opens. And don’t forget, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Rotflmao!

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    2. Wow. You strut standin' still! Preach it, sister!

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    3. Oops, I have spilled the beans. Now everybody knows I tell it like it is! Amen sister Becky! Let it all hang out!

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  8. What can be fun, and what can satisfy a writers desire to write the occasional (or a lot) cliche, is to have a character who thinks in cliches all the time. It can be fun. hahaha

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    1. Anna, in a novel I was writing a character said, “There he was, dead as a doorknob.” When I read this in my writers’ group, a woman was quick to note, “Isn’t that a cliché, ‘dead as a doorknob?’ I explained that in dialogue you could get by with using clichés if that’s what your character would say.

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  9. Ya know what, Debra:
    Do what you love and the money will follow. is my ode. (LoL) I'm living proof of that! Every way I eran my abundance now, comes from following my gifts. I grew up constantly being told:
    You can't do that! How will you support yourself doing that?

    Funny! I seem to be doing alright. I love being able to prove them wrong.
    --
    Chris

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    1. Chris, I’ve heard that clichés become clichés because they’re true. No doubt that “Do what you love and the money will follow” is a truism, just like “The only constant is change,” and “It’s the journey that counts” and hundreds of other sayings that endure because they speak truth. And you are living proof of someone who’s making a living following his bliss!

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  10. To some point, this can be good advice. But "at the end of the day", an overused cliché is something everyone is familiar with. As a writer, we can fall prey to using idioms completely unfamiliar with the majority of our readers. At this point, we've lost the audience, especially to a classic pun. So if we use them sparingly, that can be the "ace up our sleeves". So what am I essentially trying to say? We don't always need to use a cliche phrase because there are plenty of expressive "fish in the sea", but "in a pinch" and we are "behind the 8-ball", and don't want to confuse our readers. It's sometimes "better to be safe than sorry".

    Isn't that truth "stranger than fiction"?

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    1. Jeffrey, oh yes, better safe than sorry. A writer worth his weight knows that editors and publishers have bigger fish to fry and won’t give you the time of day - even though you may think you’ve gotten by with murder – if your work is littered with hackneyed phrases. Don’t think you can pull the wool over their eyes, because they will catch you red-handed in a New York minute and drop you like a hot potato! No joke!

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  11. Looking for cliche' free articles is like looking for a needle in a haystack :)) I am just putting in my two cents :)) Loved your article and the idea behind it too.
    I have written a post on writers today, you might like it...http://www.bkhush.com/dev/content/life-series-articles-and-posts

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    1. Sulekkha, I love your two cents worth! Such articles ARE like looking for a needle in a haystack ;-)
      It’s not every day you get to break the grammar rules with impunity, so let’s jump on board and have a blast! I’ll be right over in the blink of an eye and check out your article.

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  12. my bad…
    the only constant is change…
    speak of the devil…

    So funny because I say these words a LOT! Cliche alright.

    Tomorrow is another day.
    This, too, shall pass.

    Maybe "life" itself is a cliche after all?

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    1. Irene, yes; they are universal, everywhere, like white on rice! Old habits die hard, don't they? Using clichés in speech is as unavoidable as death and taxes. Just keep trying to be an original in a world of copycats, and remember that, if at first you don’t succeed, try try again ;-)

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  13. Mine is 'wax poetically'. I was devastated to learn it was a cliche. I also loved, 'it is what is. Thanks for ruining if for me. Boohoohoo.

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    1. Brenda, we birds of a feather must stick together. Why don’t we declare a cliché day, whereby we say ‘to hell with’ the rules and use ‘wax poetic’ all we please, and ‘it is what it is’ and all the other trite phrases we can think of (and also end sentences with prepositions!) A rule free grammar day would be the cat's meow!

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  14. i love cliches and this is the first i've learned that i'm not supposed to use them -- haha! 'got the t-shirt' (as in: i've been through what you're describing myself) is a favorite of mine. i used to have a greek friend who was always accidentally twisting up my figures of speech so she'd say, "I got your t-shirt!" and only i would know what she was talking about ;-)

    other personal faves are: "you don't always get what you want, but...you might just get what you need", "the lord works in mysterious ways", "i got yer (fill in the blank) right here, buddy", "for everything there is a season"...

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    1. Linda, ignorance is bliss. I’m sorry to have burst your bubble, my friend, but clichés are old hat. Those who can’t see that are blind as bats. But I’m glad you got my drift here. You live and learn. That’s a hoot, “I got your t-shirt!” To you and your friend it was a no-brainer, but the others were left in the dark. But if it feels good, do it! Whatever floats your boat or strikes your fancy! Go for it!

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  15. I'm guilty of using a few of the above, but my most hated one is, "It is what it is."

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    1. Rachel, when people say, “It is what it is,” they aren’t really saying anything to speak of. I mean, isn’t everything what it is? Seriously.

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  16. Hi Debra! This is fun...a watched pot never boils. You can drag a horse to water.... Skinny as a rail. Stubborn as a mule. Ugly as a bucket of worms. Scared the shit out of me ;) Head over heels in love. Lucky duck. Pretty as a picture. I could eat a horse. Life's a bitch. Life sucks and then you die. Hold your horses.
    Okay, enough!!!! I try to avoid these but some are irresistible. This is the best southern saying I've ever heard. "I was so mad at him I wanted to spray him with shit and shoot him for stinkin'!"
    Hehe;)

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    1. Leah, you are a riot! But laughter is the best medicine, you know - and the best things in life are free. About that horse… sometimes you can’t even lead a horse to water, let alone make him drink; in which case you swallow your pride and keep on truck’n. Life’s too short to waste time spinning your wheels, or trying to push a Mack truck uphill, so look out for number one. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip.
      Those who are head over heels in love whisper sweet nothings.
      See you later alligator, and don’t anything I’d do!

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  17. "She/He's not the brightest candle in the forest" is a favourite of mine. It doesn't really make sense, but always cracks me up.

    Been missing your words, and glad to be back here with your wonderful perspective and sense of humour!

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    1. Kristen, I haven’t heard “he’s not the brightest candle in the forest,” but I have heard “he’s not the brightest light on the Christmas tree.”
      What goes around comes around.
      Don’t be a stranger.
      Check you later.


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  18. I'm guilty.....I just recently used the cliche, "it is what it is." I grew up with a step-father from Arkansas whose favorite southern cliche was, "as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs," and he did frequently use "she/he was beat with an ugly stick." I find myself using Mom's old standby..."don't sweat the small stuff." I will definitely be more conscious about using cliches in my writing. Cute post! :)

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    1. Pamela, we’re all guilty as sin ;-) Monkey see, monkey do. Leaving clichés out of our speech is easier said than done. I have heard “as nervous as a long-tailed cat…” My dad used to say he’d been “busy as a one armed paperhanger!” Here’s one I hope to stop saying: “a bad hair day.”
      Fancy meeting you here!
      Hang in there!


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  19. Guilty!

    Don't mistake the forest for the trees. You get what you ask for. This too shall pass.

    But the one I'm so tired of hearing is "at the end of the day..."

    Oh well, at the end of the day :), all these cliches are just words. After all, they do make our conversations lighter and wittier :)

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    1. Anne, just a cotton pickn’ minute; when all is said and done, you have not because you ask not…
      I beg to differ; it’s ‘you can’t see the forest for the trees’ ;-)
      Kiss (keep it simple…!



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  20. So true! I'm still guilty on occasion. The one I'm watching evolve is the use of "ery" ... ending nouns with it a la: "wifery" "jerkery" "!@#$$ery" It reminds me of "not" after sentences in the 80s. "She's such a great actress ... Not!" Thanks for the reminder!

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    1. Terri, those 80’s sayings (and 90’s)… Not! (I’m still tempted to say that at times).

      In your dreams! Psyche! And now, she thinks she’s ALL THAT.

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  21. Dearest Debra, I am guilty of using cliches whenever the spirit moves me. If it serves to add emphasis, makes a piece funnier, or helps me connect to my readership, I'm using them. It is what it is. (My favorite cliche!) hee hee! Besides, whoever said following the rules was fun? Not me! :)

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    1. Bella, I’m one who goes against the grain too. If it feels good do it. I wouldn’t throw anyone under the bus for breaking freakin’ grammar rules; no way Jose! Feel free to use clichés like they’re going out of style and just play it by ear… Might as well, can't dance. (ever heard that one? An oldie but a goodie ;-)

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  22. Oh dear this made me laugh!!!:) So well written and so dead on! :)

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    1. Thanks a million Colleen, you’re a doll!
      I just hopped over and read about the straw that broke the camel’s back. Carpe Diem!

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  23. so nice words and as always great post:)

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    1. Thank you Zarnab. hugs!
      ♥ ♥ ♥

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  24. Great post! Very applicable to anyone that writes! haha I just included what could be considered a cliche in the post I published today on my blog. "this too shall pass" ;)

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    1. Amen sister! I'll go check it out.

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  25. Since I'm in the education field, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree is probably a daily cliche for me. My mother always used to say, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." Live and learn is another. Love this post because it really made me think about what I say all the time. Here's a blogging cliche, "Thanks for stopping by!"

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    1. Lynne, my mother said the same thing. So did Thumper’s parents. Remember that scene from Bambi? http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=fvwp&NR=1&v=jJUP1UU6gok
      I need to post this again on my FB wall for all those political junkies being mean as the devil to each other :-(
      Other blogging clichés are:
      Join the conversation. And the blogosphere is crawling with ‘social media experts.’
      Thanks for stopping by! LOL.


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  26. One of my absolute peeves is "it is what it is". I loathe that phrase, almost as much as I loathe hearing/seeing people use double negatives!!

    Colloquialisms are a different critter, however. I find them to be rich in humor and depth and sharp wit. Mountain wisdom lurks in them, quite often, and there is a cadence and a lyrical quality to those old sayings. Of course, I'm partial to southern colloquialisms, because that's where I was raised. They conjure up the misty mountains, and the slow, liquid heat of summer days. And there I go...off on a tangent of hazy childhood memories!

    So, perhaps I can deal with hackneyed phrases on a selective basis. I use them occasionally when I write, and they're almost always southern in tone and flavor. Yep, sure as shootin', they are! :)

    - Dawnie

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    1. Dawn, you gotta love those colloquialisms.
      Can’t carry a tune in a bucket… give me some sugar.
      Jerk a knot in… I wouldn’t be caught dead in that outfit...Til the cows come home…Well, if that don't beat the band!Bless your heart… Full as a tick… make a preacher cuss…Can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip…
      You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear… knee high to a grasshopper…
      They are fun to use in dialogue.
      Double negatives? I don’t use no double negatives ;-)

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  27. Hi, Debra! Lots of great cliches listed here, my favorite ones lately are from the 'net, especially LOL and all the variations of smiley faces. ;p is my current go to!

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    1. mine is *sigh* and 'luv'n it!'

      ;-D

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  28. ha..how about "this is a great post!"

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    1. Annmarie, how about, "thank you for stopping by!"
      Or, "I'm speechless!"

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  29. 'There's nowt sa queer as folk' is one used in Manchester, and I hate.....'Sorted!' when they mean Okay. Then there's, 'Bob on' which is, that's correct, or 'He's played a blinder' meaning he's done something really well, 'Get yer mad up' which is become angry, and finally although there are loads more 'that drive me up the wall' ;))) finally, using 'Dead or Well' meaning extra, as in 'Dead good or Well good'!!!!
    Sheesh now you've got me going Debra!!

    ;)))
    Hugs Jane x

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    1. Very interesting, dear Jane, as these are phrases I’ve never heard in the U.S. These must be colloquialisms common to your area. I have heard “drive me up the wall” though. Some of our old standards are, “mad as a hatter; pretty is as pretty does; beauty is only skin deep; pay the piper; on pins and needles; a far cry;” and on and on I could go “til the cows come home.” Hugs backatcha!

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  30. I'm playing catch up, Debra and just read this. Thoroughly enjoyed it of course. I'm thinking of the cliches that become fashionable with news anchors. The current favorite in India: 'give you a sense of what happened'.....It never makes sense to me!

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    1. Corinne, I hope that the news anchors in India are a notch above some here in the main stream media. Currently they’re aiding in the Benghazi cover-up (don’t know if you’ve heard about it). It’s a big deal to those of us who want the truth. Okay, so here’s basically what they are saying here, “At the end of the day… it fell between the cracks.” Honest to God, that’s what one reporter had to say about the scandal. “It fell between the cracks.” This after 4 American citizens, including our ambassador, were murdered. How could anything this HUGE fall between the cracks?

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