A cliché a day will keep me away
Years ago I wrote a column about the use, misuse and overuse of clichés. As a fan of original thought and creative use of the language, I’m not a huge fan of clichés although I admit that I use them and I’ve even been accused of being one.
Clichés are things you say when you can’t think of something original to say … do you know what I mean?
Sportscasters, politicians and bad writers probably abuse clichés more than your average bear. I’m not sure Donald Trump has ever used a complete sentence in a political speech. The Donald has done very well just stringing together a series of clichés, slogans and slurs. Hillary probably uses a lot of clichés, but I’ve never listened to my own wife so why would I listen to Bill Clinton’s?
The cliché that’s bothering me the most these days is, “It is what it is.” Wow, that’s deep … or is it just stupid? Of course it is what it is — what else could it be? If we’re having a conversation and you tell me it is what it is that tells me that you either are not listening or you just don’t care enough to think of an actual response.
I know this because I’m guilty of saying it myself. More than once while trying to remember if I’ve updated my fantasy football roster or something else that matters to me, I noticed that the person who had been talking to me suddenly stopped and I had no idea what had been said. I would shrug, give them my best “what are you going to do” look and say, “Well … it is what it is.”
Did you see what I did there? Combining a cliché gesture with a corresponding a cliché phrase is advanced brain free lazy conversation. Ha … and my wife says I suck at communication.
Social media has created a set of clichés of it’s own that are equally mindless and annoying, chief among them is “LOL” meaning “laugh out loud.” I write humor meant to actually make people laugh out loud so I find it more than a little irritating when I receive a text that says, “I just woke up. LOL.” That is funny stuff but I do worry about anyone who wakes up laughing out loud.
If people laughed outloud even half as much as they claim to on social media, we would be a society of cackling fools. Worse, there are many variations on laughing out loud; you can ROTFLOL “roll on the floor laughing out loud” or you can LAMO “laugh my backside off” (so to speak); some even claim to ROTFLMAO all at the same time, even though almost no one ever actually does that. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anyone rolling on the floor laughing their backside off ….for crying out loud!
Some clichés just annoy me like the old standard “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.” It’s been my experience that more often than not you can in fact judge a book by its cover. In the real world things are usually what they seem to be. To paraphrase Cheech and Chong from back in the seventies, “If it look like dog poop and it smells like dog poop and it tastes like dog poop, it’s a good thing you didn’t step in it” … or something like that.
I think the most dangerous cliché I’ve ever heard is “better safe than sorry.” While I believe that would make a great advertising slogan for condoms, it’s lousy advice for life. It seems to me that being safe is a pretty sorry way to live. I’m rarely safe and I’m often sorry but I have a short attention span so I’m almost never bored.
When I was a young sailor my Chief told me to do something, even if it’s wrong. I don’t know if that’s an official cliché but if it’s not it should be. It’s more of a lifestyle to me than a cliché so maybe life is a cliché but stupid is as stupid does, the grass is always greener on the other side and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree so you just never know.
You know what they say … it is what it is.
Rick Seley is an award-winning humor columnist. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.