Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Whether you read a newspaper, watch television or attend a meeting, cliches are in full bloom. Some days I wonder whether listeners could fully understand what a speaker is trying to convey without the use of cliches. To me, a cliche is the familiar, explanatory, colorful, confirming image. As a writer, I use them generously although they are frowned upon by writing instructors and some publishers.

Everyone understands what is meant by I 'draw the line' at using foul language. In other arenas, one might be willing to 'fight fire with fire.' Don't we envision similar characteristics when we hear the guy 'has two left feet' or he 'isn't the brightest bulb in the pack?' Certainly we know what it means to 'roll with the punches,' 'pass the buck,' know 'the naked truth' or have to 'eat crow.' I'd like to read some writing instructor's essay that draws equally dynamic mental images without using cliches.

When my author friend writes, "the road less traveled..." readers know she is about to relate one of her globe-trotting adventures. By using this familiar quotation as her cliche, both you and I have a clear image of who she is - without need for a lengthy explanation.

Because we have spent many hours chatting together, I am familiar with some of my frien's world travels, her interests in cultures, languages and arts. In addition to traveling, she is a woodcarver, sculptor and gardener - not to mention having taken courses in blacksmithing. When she writes, "Never one to follow the beaten path, I took the road less traveled..." even Robert Frost believes her and is anxious to read on.

For my own writing, I enjoy being 'armed to the teeth' with facts, names, dates and cliches in order to write about 'the big bang theory' or 'spaghetti on the wall.' Cliches may be the 'kiss of death' in a classroom, but I've gotten 'thumbs up' for the 'naked truth' with a 'vested interest' in telling a story and writing an essay or 'my name is Mudd.'

Wouldn't Robert Frost believe he had 'hit the mark' to be quoted so often? John Steinbeck's 'best laid plans' continues to strike a familiar chord. Even Star Wars' 'moment of truth' is the exact wording needed to emphasize a point, a surprise, an epiphany. 'Lest we forget' (Rudyard Kipling) is a cliche of powerful words. Always remember "The power of words properly understood and used is mankind's most precious gift" --a favorite quote of mine -- author unknown.

How do you think of cliches? Do you have a favorite? Tell me; I'd like to know.

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