Clichés Weren’t Born Yesterday, You Know

Happy Cliché Day to all. You could celebrate it by chasing rainbows, then a candlelight dinner followed by a moonlit walk on the beach. Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry? Unless it’s a dark and stormy night. Then you should just stay in by the fireside.

There’s plenty of indoor celebrating you can do, too. You could tell someone their lips as red as a cherry or that they are fresh as a daisy. You could bore them with talk of the good old days, all the while trying to keep up with the Joneses. Or just sit back, turn on the TV and watch a “very special episode” of a sitcom or drama on TV. Those are pretty hackneyed, too, you know.

The term cliché comes from the French verb clicher, to stereotype. A cliché originally meant a metal slug or plate with movable type set in it already, used to print common words. This saved time for the printer. It came to mean a common word or phrase that is used constantly, and thus becomes tired and boring.

And hackneyed, which also means  tired, used-up, and dull-as-dishwater (and by the way, dull-as-dishwater? another cliché!) – comes from the obscure old verb hackney, which means to use a horse for ordinary, general purposes. The hackney horse was a very sturdy trotting horse. And hackney was the English term for a horse-drawn carriage, probably from the London district of Hackney, where many horses were kept at pasture (before urbanization of course). A hackney came to mean a taxicab in the 20th century, and they are still called hacks in England.

A hack writer works rapidly and sloppily, and uses lots of clichés and tired old bits all shoved together, in order to meet deadlines and make money quickly. Example, used in a sentence: As NaNoWriMo rolls on I will resist the urge to NaNoHackMo.

So let’s all get on the same page, for time is of the essence-  we’ll all jump on the bandwagon and get this party started! Because though clichés are trite, they are kind of fun, too. That goes without saying.

Are there any particular clichés that annoy you, or ones that you can’t help using? Do tell!

Cliche Finder
Writing Cliches To Avoid from Suspense.net (good advice for people trying to write novels in a hurry, eh what?)
Lots of cliches at Bored.com 

The picture of the hackney is from Britannica.
The picture of cliches is from Pad Printing India – as you can see, they are still used in printing.

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7 thoughts on “Clichés Weren’t Born Yesterday, You Know

  1. Looked at the Cliches to avoid. zI think the one that is so bad to me is "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time". In today's world hardly anyone does the time for a crime. The other one is " at least it's three meals a day"

  2. And as you show, even cliches can be interesting.Did you know that the original phrase was "dull as ditchwater", but some time in the early 19th century in North America it became corrupted to "dull as dishwater". In the UK they still say "ditchwater", here it's "dishwater".Hm. Okay, that wasn't as good an example as yours. :)I've never heard of a taxi in the UK being called a 'hack'. The black ones are "taxis", the other ones are usually "cabs" or "minicabs".The official name of the black ones, however, is still Hackney Carriage.I hope NaNoWriMo is going well!

  3. The BB – I will have to ask my DH about whether he ever called a cab a 'hack' – I don't think he has, now that I think of it. I blame Wikipedia for this! NNWM is going along OK, though I keep thinking: wait, I really need to redo the opening! No, really.And I am probably a little grumpier than usual, but everyone is used to this (since 2006) so they are very nice.

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