Why Won’t This Phrase Die Already?

You know how a phrase gets stuck in common vernacular and won’t go away?  Usually those play around for a while and then finally thank god’n greyhound disappear.  But some go on and on and on and on, forever to drive us bonkers!

avoid a cliché

One that drives me nuts started creeping up about ten years ago in films.  After the second reference, I wanted to stab it to death.  And ten years later, it’s still running strong and making me more homicidal.  Because it quickly mutated from film to books, and I see it in vast numbers of manuscripts I edit:

“Let’s do this thing.”

Aaackkkk!  Makes me want to stab my own page.  I mean somewhere, surely somebody can be a bit more creative?  I know Hooeywood doesn’t have to be because schlock sells really well without anyone actually having to put any effort into it except spectacular special effects. But geez.

I know, we all descend into clichés every now and then.  I remember back in freshman year of college (yes, my memory reaches that far) in a composition class when I got a C because I used a cliché.  Of course I argued the point that yes, it most certainly was, but the cliché came into existence because it encapsulated, in a few words, a well-established meaning and was therefore useful.  She had been harping on me to tighten my prose all semester anyway (me?  Verbose?  Slaughter the thought!).

The prof wasn’t impressed.  “Make up your own,” she said.

And even in my young brain, this lodged. She was correct of course.  Still made me gnash my teeth at the time (tough for an 18-year-old to be wrong!  If only I had some of that surety today).

What I do love however are word-plays on clichés.  Love those!  Love when an author takes some piece of commonly used insanity and screws with it.  Making up her own clichés.  I love words and entangling them in ways that make me snort (and hopefully my readers 🙂

Because you know when you’ve done that you’ve just killed two ducks with one shot.  And that makes me smile on all levels.

I tell my writers to avoid clichés like the plague.  Now that works, as example and as pun.  A cliché to avoid a cliché.  I’m kind of amazed they often don’t get it, but then again, I know I can be obtuse.

But I swear if one more character in one more book or film or story of any ilk utters that first-referenced line, which I’m constitutionally unable to repeat, I’m throwing tomatoes.  Big fat overripe ones.  I literally cringe at it.  I think I heard Bruce Willis say it first, and I’ll confess, that might be the seed of the problem.  The ultimate cliché is an action-adventure blow-everything-up-every-second big-budget movie where the writing is abysmal but it makes a bazillion dollars anyway.

Eeek am I on a soapbox!  If I am ever to be on one, shouting to the rafters, it’ll be of course about words 🙂  

So, what are the phrases that make your blood run backward?  Your toes go spiral?  The hairs stand up in your nose?  The . . . okay, I’ll shut up now!

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