Tuesday, 27 May 2014

12 Clichés You Should Avoid Like Swine-Flu

A beautiful sunset, which comes at ... ?
(photo by Paul Moody)


Noun. Mid-19th century.
[French, use as noun of past participle of clicher to stereotype, perhaps of imitative origin.]

1 Historical. A metal stereotype of electrotype block. M19

2 figurative. A stereotyped expression, a hackneyed phrase or opinion;
a stereotyped character, style, etc. L19

clichéd, cliché'd adj. hackneyed, full of clichés E20

A biohazard sign

Avoid Clichés Like the Plague ...

... is a cliché popular in articles about clichés which, although clearly a joke, is such a clichéd joke that it's no longer even remotely funny, which is ironic, because therefore it well illustrates why clichés should be avoided like the proverbial plague. I like Sol Stein's advice: "Say it new or say it straight." Why? Because as Oxford Dictionaries caustically observes, a cliché "betrays a lack of original thought," which really hits the nail on the ... um .. I mean ... it goes without ... no ... uh ... it keeps your powder close and your hatched eggs closer. Or something. I give up. Writing without using clichés is really difficult. Here's a list of twelve clichés that make you sound like a right proper numpty (I was going to write a list of ten, but that in itself seemed like a bit of a cliché):

At the end of the day
A favourite of politicians, footballers and idiots. Don't use it.

To think outside the box
A hackneyed phrase to describe creative thinking that ironically betrays a complete lack of creative thinking.
If you've ever written this on a CV as a personal quality, you've just emphatically demonstrated your complete inability to do so. Nice one.

It is what it is
What else could it be? You are what you are, mate. And do you know what that is?

Touch base
I get uncomfortable when anyone says they want to touch base with me, as it's never clear which number base they want to touch.
I may be mixing my metaphors on this, but it's still stupid, so avoid it like the ... um ... Algarve?

If anyone ever tells you they've been working 24/7, they're lying and you're legally allowed to punch them in the face. In some jurisdictions. I think. Better check your local bylaws before carrying that out.

With all due respect
A pointless preamble to someone saying something really disrespectful, although to be fair it does set you up for a hilarious riposte: "With all due respect, mate, you're a complete moron."

To be fair
Yeah I've stuck this one in because I just found I'd written it in the entry above. Writing without clichés really is difficult.

I'm not being funny but ...
You're right, you're really not being funny.
This is often used as a precursor to saying something racist, bigoted, or otherwise thoroughly objectionable.

Anyone that says this is an idiot. Plain and simple. Dust yourself down and carry on.

You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?
It's overused, it's trite, and it's nauseatingly grotesque. Anyone that says this is cordially invited not to talk to me but to walk to the other side of the room.

Going forward
Politicians are ridiculous.

D'you know what I mean?
This is one of the most pointless, inane and downright insulting clichés in the English language, because it's usually prefaced by an utterly unambiguous (and often fatuous) statement, like "I just thought the film was a bit violent. D'you know what I mean?" Well of course I do; how could I possibly not? At the other end of the measuring tape (cliché cunningly avoided), some say this after not saying anything: "I just thought the film was a bit ... urgh ... d'you know what I mean?" Nope, I don't, and I don't think you do either.
Portrait of William Shakespeare

Note: Why is Shakespeare So Full of Clichés?

Sometimes, when one goes back and reads something a little late in the day, they can be disappointed at how predictable, hackneyed and full of clichés it is. This can happen when someone reads Shakespeare, the Bible, Sherlock Holmes, Jane Austen, or any seminal works or authors. This is because it's often overlooked by cliché haters like myself that, originally, many clichés were actually brilliant. One of my favourites is "to skate on thin ice," a brilliantly clear cautionary metaphor that perfectly illustrates the precariousness of one's folly, though it doubtlessly has become a cliché. Unfortunately, this type of memorable metaphor is so beyond most of us that we just use the old ones, and use them and use them until their source is generally forgotten. When we do finally go back and read the original, we're left with a vague sense of disappointed familiarity.

What clichés really yank your chain?

Are there any you're willing to turn a blind eye to?

Do please turn around and give your comments 110% in the box below.


  1. Okay I admit I'd say three of the above listed but when I hear anyone say the others all that comes to mind is "what a lot of bull"
    Oh wait there's another one

    1. I'm not being funny, but once you start looking our language is chock-full of clichés, do you know what I mean?

  2. Replies
    1. Ha! Brilliant. I'm going to think inside the box at the start of the day ....

  3. Then there's.....at this moment in time.
    Oh, and then there's the adding of 'like' into a sentence where it doesn't belong.
    That one, like, really irks me, like!!

    1. Like! Aaagh! Yes of course! That's become more, like, some kind of verbal tic. Most infuriating indeed, Jingles.

  4. So glad you only pointed 12. As it is I'm already grinding teeth...

    At the office many of those spread faster than swine-flu. Trust me! And if you complain you'll have to endure more "You need to think outside the box and give your 110%" arghhhh

    I'm with Jingles in the "like" . "Like, I don't know. Is, like, kind of..." please!!! I won't be here 24/7. Can we move on????? ;) (I believe that "like" is in some other place of the brain and if I stop grinding teeth I can listen the marbles inside their heads trying to find their way home to what was, or should, be said.

    Yes, faster and more certain than swine-flu.

    1. The business world is a breeding ground for buzzwords and meaningless cliché. Trade unions should address the issue, as it's damaging to workers' mental health, morale and vocabularies.

  5. I'm not being funny but in galway it's : yanowaamsane!