Webster’s defines cliché as “a trite phrase or expression that has become overly familiar or commonplace.” Let’s face it: the cliché has become a stereotype. He’s old as dirt and worth his weight in gold, yet we’re told to avoid him like the plague. Poor little cliché—he simply gets no respect. Is nothing sacred? Has he been hit with an ugly stick? Does he have a face only a mother could love?
Without clichés, we could never keep up with the Joneses, shop ‘til we drop, or bring home the bacon. That’s how the cookie crumbles, so let’s put two and two together, because the cliché must go on.
Now, don’t fly off the handle. Let’s go the whole nine yards and see if the grass is really greener on the other side of this argument. If the end justifies the means, there’s more than one way to skin a cliché. Whether you’re pro or con, don’t jump from the frying pan into the fire, or let the pot call the kettle “black” even though they’re two peas in a pod. We can complain until the cows come home, but we must wake up and smell the coffee. That’s precisely the way the cliché bounces.
I know someone’s going to take the wind out of my sails because they think I’m barking up the wrong tree. “Leave well enough alone,” they’ll say. “Don’t get your britches in a wad.” Some will accuse me of having a bee in my bonnet, ants in my pants, and butterflies in my stomach. They’ll get hot under the collar and tell me to bite my tongue and stop rocking the boat. No way, José! That argument doesn’t hold water. In fact, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him stop using his clichés.
The critics say it’s easy as pie—don’t touch a cliché with a ten-foot pole. I say, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Sometimes there’s just no better way to say it, so why reinvent the wheel? Clichés are as comfortable as an old shoe and if the shoe fits, wear it. After all, there are thousands of these little guys. They don’t grow on trees but they’re more fun than a barrel of monkeys. They’ve been through the school of hard knocks and have come out smelling like a rose, yet they fall flatter than a pancake.
Certainly, the cliché is overused. Writers, agents, editors, publishers, teachers—they all say the same thing, but here’s the rub. Some of these same proponents of “ban the cliché” cannot finish a complete thought without throwing in at least one or two. I saw this first-hand at a writer’s conference, when clichés tumbled hand over fist. Go figure.
So, where does the buck stop? The powers that be tell us not to push the envelope and, if we don’t play by the rules, we’ll pay through the nose. After all, the pen is mightier than the cliché. So, we must think outside the box and put our best foot forward. Otherwise, we’ll be up the creek without a paddle—or a publisher.
Am I beating a dead horse? This could be a piece of cake and one for the books, but I won’t hold my breath until pigs fly. Maybe clichés are not your cup of tea. I say, whatever floats your boat. After all, it’s every man for himself, and nice clichés always finish last. Can I get an amen?
If we stick to our guns and agree to disagree, we can kill two clichés with one stone. I won’t count my chickens before they hatch or judge a book by its cover, if you won’t burn your bridges when a cliché confronts you on the path of least resistance. It’s like pulling teeth to have a meeting of the minds, but better late than never. Is that clear as mud? If not, I’ll eat my hat.
Maybe you think I can’t see the forest for the trees. No sweat. It might cost me an arm and a leg, but it’s no skin off my nose. The bottom line seems to be: it’s okay to talk in clichés, but not write about them. Have I hit the nail on the head?
So, let’s cut to the chase, mind our p’s and q’s, and stop putting all our clichés in one basket. We can be stiff as a board or sharp as a tack, even if we’re wet behind the ears. The early bird gets the worm and a cliché a day keeps the doctor away, but we can’t hit the broad side of a barn if we bury our head in the sand.
I’m not suggesting we cut off our nose to spite our face, so here it is in a nutshell—clichés might stand out like a sore thumb, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. When the dust settles, we can strain at a gnat and swallow a camel or sweep clichés under the rug, but we’ll still be stuck between a rock and a hard place.
I don’t want to keep shooting myself in the foot, so let’s throw caution to the wind and get back to square one. All clichés are asking is to be given their day in court, especially since one cliché is worth a thousand words.
After all, it’s not over ‘til the fat cliché sings.