Monday, September 15, 2014

Cliches Are Good for the Soul

Cliche: a phrase, word, or idea, that has lost its original effectiveness or power from overuse.
I know, I know, every writing expert admonishes writers NOT to use cliches. They are said to be the mark of a lazy writer. They are characteristic of inexperienced and/or unoriginal writers.

Well, I may not be a writing expert, but I am a reading expert and I've discovered that I'm as happy as a clam when I read a cliche every now and then. For me, they're as comfortable as an old shoe and as welcome as an old friend.

I find them to be deceptively simple, instantly recognizable phrases that are usually the most economical way to say what needs to be said. They add clarity, depth, and a little bit of charm to the words I read.

Why should writers be asked to waste time reinventing the wheel? Why spend hours searching for the perfect, witty words to say something when somebody came up with the perfect, witty way to say it eons ago?

For heaven's sake, these phrases have stood the test of time and proven they are the cream of the crop. Can you even imagine writing a phrase so perfectly constructed that it becomes common usage? I can't.

Isn't this discrimination? There are as many quotes in today's literature as there are Chins in a Chinese phone book, but you never hear of them making critics foam at the mouth like they do when they encounter a cliche.

Writers use quotes to give depth and reinforcement to their work, just like cliches. It's like the pot calling the kettle black, and I don't get the difference. Quotes are just cliches with acknowledgements. Maybe if I start enclosing my cliches with quotation marks, they won't rub my critics the wrong way.

And that's not all. There are proverbs, sayings, witticisms, anecdotes, and euphemisms. None of them seem to drive the experts nuts like cliches do. It's discrimination, any way you look at it.

Searching online I noticed one expert article after another entitled, "Avoiding Cliches Like the Plague." What the heck? It's okay for them, but not for us? I did, however, find one particularly witty cliche-critic who did practice what he preached. His title? "Avoid Cliches Like Erectile Dysfunction." Really?  How far does one have to go to create a catchy new phrase?

Despite all the negative hype, there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel for those of us who admire the familiar brevity of a cliche. Banding together on the Internet, cliche lovers offer a scintilla of hope that cliches might one day become a tad more welcome than a skunk at a yard party.

Cliche: Little facets of the truth.  
One of those cliche-admirers, Steve Lautenschlager, began an online list of cliches, which he called "...little facets of the truth." As his list of cliches grew, he discovered that "other people were oddly, strangely, obsessively, perversely, intrigued by cliches as well."

Glad to know I'm not alone.

If you are looking for a cliche (for whatever nefarious reason) be sure to browse through these websites:

My favorite cliche: as happy as a clam. (Just makes me feel good.)

My least favorite cliche:  no-brainer. (Because it's DUMB. Even thinking it's a no-brainer takes a brain.)

Favorite cliche quote: Not all my cliches are original. - Football Coach Chuck Knox

CHALLENGE: How many cliches in the above post? Do you have a favorite cliche? Least favorite?

DEDICATION: The above post is dedicated to Jennifer Lamont Leo, who strives to understand my addiction, but who is also rumored to be planning a cliche intervention for me.

NOTE: This is an updated repost from 2/14/2011.  

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