The Allure of the Cliche’


                    Freidrich Nietche’ “ If there is something to pardon in everything, there is also something to condemn.”  

As a writer, I take seriously the teachings of the finer artists that came before me.   I try hard, really hard, to avoid use of “the forbidden cliché.”  Brian Klem puts it like this in his Writer’s Digest article:  “Clichés drive me bonkers, especially when it comes to writing. They are boring and abused and about as fun to read as the instruction manual of a Dustbuster.  Writing is supposed to be a creative process, and there’s nothing creative in rehashing some trite phrase that is so old it was probably used by Moses as he parted the Red Sea.”   You will find them in all books on writing  “Cut every cliché you come across,” advises author and editor, Sol Stein. “Say it new or say it straight” (Stein on Writing, 1995). The Rebel in me is like “Rules schmules!”…. About now, I hear the tiny voice of my internal conflict: “Lisa….. go ahead, try it.”   True to a writer’s instinct, I cannot help but embrace the rebellion that makes me so attracted to the cliché!   Its magnetism is uncanny, like the allure of forbidden connections, a flirtation between a popular cheerleader and that hunky boy who takes auto-shop and doesn’t even take a foreign language?!?!  They sneak glances…. it’s exploration may be worthwhile.  There is a story in the forbidden story.  Yes, I am a Capulet and the Cliché a Montague. Perhaps we just dance around the cliché’ with an opinion piece about cliché’s?   Then, slowly, very gingerly, I’ll un-wrap the cliché in front of you for all to see!

       First, some history about the Cliché, defined as “a trite or overused expression or idea, if it were a song if would be “Call me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen. According to Wikipedia: The word cliché is drawn from the French language. In printing, a cliché was a printing plate cast from movable type. This is also called a stereotype. When letters were set one at a time, it made sense to cast a phrase used repeatedly, as a single slug of metal.”Cliché” came to mean such a ready-made phrase. Others say, a”cliché” comes from the sound made when the molten stereotyping metal is poured onto the matrix to make a printing plate.
The point I want to argue is, wherever it started, as over-used as they may be, if you want to bring your readers to a place, the very same place; have them relate-simultaneously, a cliché’s will do it!   Overdone could be just the nuance you are trying to create?   

     Cliches’ that immediately come to mind are : “don’t assume, to assume is to make an ass out of U and Me.”   I don’t need to tell you I believe this one to be true in the pit of my being!    I would imagine you are calling forth a humiliating episode about now?  I once asked a new coworker, who worked as the head of women’s health and reproductive classes at the college a question nodding to her belly, she had quite a pooch showing out front, an obvious baby bump-Not! …. DOH!  The words froze when I heard her response, completely uncharacteristic of my extemporaneous self, I couldn’t utter a thing.  My skin flushed red like the mercury in an old thermometer. 

     Some clichés are like your childhood wubby or whatever you call that rag of a blanket you used to drag around. This one, I find that endearing.  Alfred Lord Tennyson’s said “tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”   So terribly romantic!!!  If you are sixteen and your heart has had to retract from a size of unimaginable inflation, to encapsulate all the love you’d filled it with for your first boy or girlfriend, perhaps you relate? We just had a moment created by a cliché.’  And after you are back from revisiting the memory of your first heartache, might I just add……Tennyson obviously never lay crying in a heap on a lovers doorstep until the sun went down, or had to get a restraining order on some icky stalker type?  I often wonder if they should have shown me that scene in Romeo and Juliet in the 8th grade?

      Cliché’s are often warm and familiar too. Some can be as comforting as a warm grilled cheese and cup of tomato soup placed in front of you by your mom.  This one is… “Never in the world does hatred cease by hatred; hatred ceases by love.”  The Buddha,   Yes I realize that one may teeter on a “quote,” as it is not overly used, and perhaps should be.  Still worth mentioning.  I just stopped for a second to put that one in my toolbox alongside my hammer and tape measure.
So in light of all that I really should have learned by now, this one, just doesn’t get enough credit.  “Always wear clean underwear, in case you’re in an accident.”  How can this not be calling forth a fresh idea?  As a reader, You are either thinking of all the places you stashed a fresh pair, or of the moments in your life, when you needed clean undies, BECAUSE of an accident. Perhaps you have even had to ditch them…..”yes accidents do happen.”   If you’ve interpreted this cliché  in a woman’s tone of voice, you understand what I’m getting at. 

Perhaps tis true, “you cannot teach an old dog new tricks,” I am an older writer. We tend to cling tight to the cliché because we don’t fight for originality as we once did.  Maturity and simplicity start to rule our lives; more than even the expert scholars whose books we cherish.  We have replaced our need to be profoundly original, and maybe too, we have just quit trying so hard.   The self righteousness in us somehow softens and the pain of a lesson seems to be “just what the doctor ordered.”  

  For more cliche advice I recommend