Clichés are a Dime a Dozen

Much has been written in The Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine about the intricacies of the human brain. From the sensitive cerebral cortex to the spongy frontal lobes, neurosurgeons and brain researchers have delved deeply into how and why the brain functions.

Because of their cutting edge research, these grey-matter miners yield key nuggets of information about epilepsy, Parkinson’s Disease, and other maladies that continue to plague humanity.

There is, however, one genetic marker, resistant to research, that has set up shop in the DNA molecules residing on the Big Double Helix. This serious speaking and writing faux pas works its hackneyed way through human bloodlines, cropping up in certain families. Geneticists call this mismatched pair of molecules OWP: Overused Words & Phrases.

We writing and public speaking teachers call it Cliché acide: Death of Audience.

My mother is a carrier of this gene, but unfortunately, because of large amounts of fried okra and grits she was fed as a Southern child, her DNA strand mutated, forever rendering her a cliché nightmare.

As children, we would look the other way as she approached the checkout counter at the U-Save Market.

Did you find everything you were looking for Mrs. Block?

No, I was up the creek without a way to get down.

Mom, you meant up the creek without a paddle.

This type of interplay continues to this very day.

We writing teachers, like those careful neurosurgeons, spend hours with our red pens as pick-axes, Chipping, Chopping, and at times, crudely Hacking at clichés, but instead of unearthing cures and progress, extracting insight and originality, our subterranean dig scoops up more of the same, day in and day out.

To emphasize to my students the disease that OWP is, I teach Shakespeare, lauding the Bard’s original use of language.

“OK, my pretties, my little 9th grade monkeys, today let us study the famous Queen Mab speech from Romeo and Juliet. Let us consider Mercutio’s metaphor that …”dreams are the children of an idle brain.”

Mrs. Sabraw, I don’t want to seem like, clueless, but like, didn’t Shakespeare have a lot more opportunity for original language, because, like, there weren’t as many writers or books, in like, say, his time?

The mine explodes. I am trapped once again. Oxygen is at a premium.

Extracting clichés is as hard as a rock, right Mom?

Mom. Mixed metaphors for another day, another essay.

About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
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14 Responses to Clichés are a Dime a Dozen

  1. lakeviewer says:

    Ouch! You’re not speaking to us, are you? WE spend our whole lives learning shortcuts and “real speech”, only to have English teachers underline the same with red ink.

    If only we could just quote Shakespeare when in need of the perfect phrase!

  2. Argentum Vulgaris says:

    Your poor mother, I have met such people and I shudder from the memories even now as I write.

    Never having had an English teacher to guide me against the sins of clichés, I do tend to use them, but my own cautious nature has prevented me from being one of “those.”


  3. Douglas says:

    While your mother may have been prone to cliches, the example you provided was one of mixed metaphor. But then what is a metaphor if not to mix? Sorry, could not resist the pun.

  4. Becksta says:

    I find the world today flooded with cliches, esp. in movies and television. Truley- how many movies/shows about high school drama, teen pregnancy, and elections can you make before it becomes old news?
    In my opinion, one is quite enough!
    Sometimes, however, I find it hard to break my cliche-using cycle and even harder to talk using ‘real language’. I guess you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!
    Oh no, there i go again…

  5. Goldlava says:

    Well, I myself am always a day late and a cliche short! (You can change popular cliches, to fit your needs no?) LOL– Well ask anyone I know, I always do! Or I make up my own. For example: You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken s—, no matter how much mayonnaise you use!

    in other words…a lemon is a lemon! Bored yet??

  6. Chourou says:

    As I’m in the world of journalism, I’d say this is a very important matter. We are always struggling to avert a kind of so-called mannerism, not only in writing article itself but the way of focusing and analyzing events or issues.

  7. Tim says:

    I have a question for you, if you’re interested. If you could create a metaphor for curriculum/schooling/education, what would it be?

  8. Anonymous says:

    I hate to admit this but “thank god for cliches!”
    As in “time flies.” Hmmm, great idea for a blog, thank you 🙂 Gotta run, time is running out…

  9. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the chuckle. I enjoyed your posting very much.

  10. addhumorandfaith says:

    Cliches are the building blocks on which my witty repartee is built! Save yourself — too late for me!

  11. Calidore says:

    “Jocularity! Jocularity!” My favorite M-A-S-H quote. You bring your world to life and I enjoy sharing in it.


  12. Christopher says:

    “…….Because of their cutting edge research……..”

    Cliches, like rodents, find ways of getting in, no matter how hard we try to banish them!!

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