Cliché: A trite, stereotyped expression that has lost its originality and impact by long overuse.
An eager young woman I’ll call Jane handed me the first chapter of her book manuscript and waited expectantly for me to read. It began something like this:
Anna stood dripping in her soaking clothes. Rain was coming down in buckets, and she had no umbrella.
That’s all the further I needed to read. It was apparent that clichés would do Jane in.
“But aren’t clichés clichés because they are the best possible word pictures?” Jane asked.
No. Maybe at one time, but that picture has grown too worn and tattered with use. My challenge to Jane was to paint a new word picture. A fresh ones so good others would want to copy her.
Perhaps this assortment of colorful wording will move us all to fresh thinking:
- Abandoned as a drive-in theater at noon. – Dan Rather
- Absurd as using a guillotine to cure dandruff. – Clare Booth Luce
- About at much backbone as a chocolate éclair. – Theodore Roosevelt
- Bruised as a hockey goalie. – David Letterman, “Late Night”
- Clever as a dog reading Shakespeare on a high wire. – Dean R. Koontz
- Dark as the brooding thunderstorm. – John Greenleaf Whittier
- Face like pie out of the oven too soon. – William Faulkner
- Heart as warm as a desert storm. –OgdenNash
- Irrevocable as a haircut. – Readers’ Digest
- Jumped like a popcorn kernel bursting from a heated pan. – Dean R. Koontz
- Lazy as a toad in a damp hole. – Owen Ulph
- Quick as a dart of flame. – Pearl Buck
- Rained like bath time on Noah’s ark. – Ivan Doig
- Speechless as a stone. – Elizabeth Browning
- Thin as boardinghouse soup. – Jack Buck
- Voiceless as the funeral train. – T. B. Reade
- Warm as moonlight. – J.R.R. Tolkien
All kinds of possibilities await us! Just don’t use “The rain drowned my boots.” That was Jane’s invention.
“Avoid clichés like the plague!”