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A fresh look at clichés

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Recently a friend gave me a copy of It’s Been Said Before: A Guide to the Use and Abuse of Clichés by lexicographer Orin Hargraves. I was intrigued to read it because I had been wondering about clichés for some time. Clichés are commonplace linguistic forms or formulas that serve a predicable function, much like idioms (under the weather) or stock transitional phrases (on the one hand). Clichés can be helpful when a writer needs to establish or invoke a commonly accepted idea in a way that is well-codified and easy to understand. Those same features, codification and simplicity, can also make commonly used phrases appear trite. Nevertheless, we rely on them. We may use them when we are writing on a deadline (hence their prevalence in workaday journalism) and we may use them when we are speaking extemporaneously and can’t always aim for thoughtful originality. We may use them because we are lazy or don’t really care about the piece we are writing. Whatever the reason, clichés fill the. . .

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News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

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