Avoid this cliche-ridden column like the plague
One day, I will tell my four-year-old son that “there’s no place like home” and he will think I’m a genius.
The rest of you, however, will feel a sudden and overwhelming urge to pummel me in the face with a box of Hallmark cards and smugly present me with a “get well soon” card from the same batch.
But why are we taught to avoid clichés like the plague? What’s wrong with using the odd well-worn phrase?
Words, like a fine wine or Jennifer Aniston, get better with age. We fiddle with them and shape them until we find combinations that resonate with us and please the ear.
Then, once they’ve been committed to print more than five times, we declare them abominations that must be banned from future use.
We don’t do this to cake recipes, which instead get lovingly handed down so future generations can subtly humiliate other parents at school fetes with their baking prowess.
The internet, in addition to being the place where babies allegedly come from, generates thousands of new clichés – and cake recipes - every year.
Photos of dead terrorists with sarcastic captions, pictures of cats doing “people things” and anonymous 40-year-olds bullying preteen singers via YouTube comments are three such examples.
But for every stale Rebecca Black joke that is born, there is a cliché that is undeniably awesome. Slow-motion bullets, people sliding motorbikes to get under out-of-control trucks, Jake Gyllenhaal appearing in weird movies, card tricks and people turning up as Ghostbusters to fancy dress parties immediately spring to mind.
Others, however, we could do without.
These include: People saying “that’s what she said” (unless, of course, “she” did actually say that), shaky-cam horror films, people pretending to like Muse, beginning columns about clichés with clichés, and every single thing that has ever emerged from the moustache-garnished misery-pit that is Dr Phil’s mouth.
Somewhere in between the two groups are those little phrases that make us groan, but continue to find their way into our conversations anyway.
I’m talking about those “early bird catches the worm”-type catchcries that politicians and primary school rugby coaches are so fond of.
We cringe when we catch ourselves using them because they make us feel momentarily unoriginal and detached from the quirky, indie gig-attending person in our Hipstamatic Facebook profile picture.
But they also make us feel connected to the world around us in a strange way.
Many leaders, despite being incredibly well-read and articulate, will use clichés in a time of crisis to help restore some sense of normalcy.
They’re both familiar and comforting, having followed us through childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
If I had $3 for every time someone made a joke about having a dollar for every time a particular thing happened, I would be three times richer than all of them by now.
Also, someone, somewhere, has probably just made a dollar from that sentence.
Many of our fondest memories are most likely clichés – perfect Christmas lunches, blurry parties, romantic getaways, or even just a few kind words jotted down on a lame greeting card.
Life, most would agree, is just one of those things that’s been done to death. Whoa. Just wait ‘til my fake kid hears that one.
And now, over to you guys, what’s your favourite/least favourite cliché?
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