Books Magazine

Cliché

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
Although with us all the time, it's just particularly noticeable at New Year, rife in fact if you go looking for it, the cliché - ridden to exhaustion (just like Santa's reindeer) across the columns of myriad newspaper supplements, life-style magazines and online blogs, panting as it pours forth its well-worn platitudes:  'Out with the old, in with the new!', 'No time like the present', 'Make like starting over', 'New Year, New You!' and so forth. Brain disconnected from mouth, you can hardly see its lips move. Pitiful. Time to resolve to put the cliché out to pasture, methinks; (ho ho ho).
As I commented on another blog, I wonder at what point a fine phrase becomes a catch-phrase? By the time that happens, it's already sliding inexorably into overuse and cliché - and yet it started out as a pretty smart and original thing to say before becoming this victim of its own ubiquity. And what makes some fine phrases so wise and resonant that they get elevated to the status of proverbs rather than being bagged and tagged as clichés? It's fascinating the way language works. It's an ever-evolving medium and as the takt of communication speeds up, so the cycle from coining a phrase to mass-circulation to worn-out token becomes ever shorter. Simples; (ho ho ho again).
Anything can become clichéd, a word, a phrase, a metaphor, an idea. It doesn't even have to be language (written or spoken). It can be musical - think Eurovision and those awful song-by-numbers concoctions, or formulaic pop tunes built on tried and tested riffs. It can also be visual - a lot of the constructs of the original Surrealists like Magritte have become standard fare nowadays (see below); or a fashion accessory such as a beauty-spot, long lashes or bright red lips.


Cliché

Cliches can be visual 2

Not that I'm dismissing cliché entirely. It serves function as a kind of short-hand in the exchange of ideas and opinions, but over-reliance can lead to a laziness of mind. Originality is a scarce commodity, appreciation of it therefore a curse as well as a blessing. "Imitative anarchy" (as Saul Bellow once described it) both flatters and debases and yet, on balance, "better to accept the inevitability of imitation and then to imitate good things" (from 'Mr. Sammler's Planet'). The moral, if there is one: choose your clichés with care.
Surely our bounden duty as wordsmiths is to challenge trite and lazy expression. Adele has already cleverly concocted a poem out of clichés this week, so I'm swerving, an oblique strategy which seeks to subvert a bunch of over-used lines and by misusing and juxtaposing them in unexpected ways, breath fresh life into flagging phrases. It's a bit of a rushed job (and might be subject to change when I've a chance to reflect) but I hope it works in its own weird way. I've not written a lipstick poem before and briefly toyed with the idea of handwriting it in lipstick and then scanning it in, but as I have neither lipstick nor time, here it is in standard format:
Not No. 7 (avoidance of cliché)
As they mill at the Feast of the Makeover,
anyone feeling like a fish out of lipstick
can splash out to cash in with Ruby Woo
by surely you-know-who...
or other brands are viable too
like Hellbent, Cherry Lush,
Secret Escort and Slick,
in a wriggling carmine-rash fashion frenzy
of glossed-over puckered-up smackerel.
They giggle as they tinker,
suckers for that 'new look you'.
They daub and smear, they pout like trout,
they're hooked, line and sinker;
but collar-kissable darlings, to be fair,
gasping for air
with not much between the gills,
these mercurial beauties,
to get quite so giddy over bright red lippy.
Thanks for reading, S ;-) Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook

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