A cliché is a well-worn phrase that has become meaningless through overuse. Clichés are all around us. They may slip by unnoticed – in our speech, in our reading or in our writing. But once you tune-in to clichés, you find them everywhere. And the more you notice them, the more irritating they become.
In my everyday language, here are the clichés I find myself using:
- “I must say…” – Why? Why must I say it?
- “At the end of the day….” – Oh lordy, why not at the beginning?
- “To be honest….” – Because the rest of the time I am clearly lying?
- “Clearly,” – I said clearly so I don’t have to explain it to you or justify it in any way.
I must say, about the abuse of the word “clearly”, the worst culprits are politicians. At the end of the day, they clearly believe it gives the impression, that what they are saying MUST be undeniably correct which, to be honest, is unlikely.
I am a secret fan of Neighbours, the Australian soap opera. In a recent episode two of the women characters were about to give birth and I was really surprised by the authenticity of the labour scenes. (Many years ago, one Neighbours character called Daphne managed to deliver her first baby within 10 minutes of labour starting, without any blood or muck and, astonishingly, without even taking her knickers off!) My contented surprise was shattered, however, when one of the male characters uttered the immortal soap-opera phrase. “She’s in the hands of the doctors now.” Yuck. My cliché detector went into overdrive.
So here are a few of my least favourite TV clichés:
- “We need to talk.”
- “I’ll always be there for you.”
- “Leave it. She/he ain’t worth it.”
- “We’ve got 5 minutes/24 hours/1 week to save the world!”
Clichés are not a modern phenomenon, as demonstrated by an old Punch cartoon, first printed in 1885:
Let’s avoid clichés and banish them from our writing. They’ll always be trying to sneak back so we need to be vigilant. At the end of the day, there’s always a better way to say something – a way that is unique and original. To be honest, who wants to hear/read the same old worn-out phrases. Give them a rest. Clearly, we should/must/will do better.
Leave ’em. They ain’t worth it.
Wikipedia gives a definition of clichés here.