I use a lot of cliches. Sometimes, they are appropriate, but usually, they are overused and ineffective. Here is a sampling of some bad cliches that get under my skin. I bring logic, fierce wit, and, of course, a little self-righteousness, to tear these apart.
“Quitting Cold Turkey” – Hey! I happen to like cold turkey.
“Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time.” - Well, people don’t commit crimes because they don’t think they can do the time. They commit them because they think they can get away with it.
“It’s always darkest before the dawn.” - Sure, this means that it’s going to get worse before it gets better, or brighter days are just around the corner, but factually, it’s just as dark right before dawn as it is at any other time. Midnight, 2 AM, 4 AM–all the same amount of darkness.
“He’s in a better place now.” – If you want to comfort a grieving friend, don’t say this. It absolutely, 100% of the time does not help. A simple “I’m here for you” or “I love you so much” are appropriate.
“I’m so sorry for your loss.” – See above. It’s just overused, even if you’re being sincere. Say the same thing only differently, “My deepest sympathy to you and yours; may he rest in peace.” That’s a little better. Actually, it’s better to offer a meal or a hand around the house than words. A hug is nice, too.
“I could care less.” - Actually, you couldn’t. If you’re truly that apathetic, you are already at your lowest level of caring.
“Have a good day!” – Retail employees are admonished to say it, cordial co-workers feel obligated to say it, loved ones automatically say it. We all say it; but do we mean it? Even if you do, the weight of your intent is trumped by the triteness of your expression. Again, I do it, too. I have no solutions here.
“It’s plain to see.” – If one more poem or song uses this, I will simply have to kill someone. Although, what bearing does their ineffective word usage have on me? None. But words are all I have. Well, that and mac and cheese. God forbid we run out of mac or cheese.
“It takes one to know one.” – No, it just takes an intelligent, keen observer. Idiot.
“I was told” – This is less of a cliche and more of just an overused, annoying phrase that I hear a lot, especially at work (a la, “I was told we don’t do it like that anymore”). It takes the blame and responsibility off your shoulders by passively re-directing the source of your actions or thoughts. It makes it sound like someone else should be responsible for what you do or believe, which is totally inaccurate, as long as people still have capable minds and free will. Start taking responsibility, and stop saying that “you were told”.
“It goes without saying.” – Who has ever, EVER said this in the history of all mankind and language without still saying?
“I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I’m not.” – None of the people who quote this actually mean it. It’s usually insecure high school girls who are trying to justify the fact that some idiot guy ignores her. I’m just going to stop there because I could dissect this one for paragraphs.
“Good things come to those who wait.” – Not always. Usually, good things come to those who lie, cheat, and steal. But in the interest of being more positive: good things come to those who work hard. Mediocre things come to those who wait. Or nothing at all comes to those who wait.
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” – So, if my boss is being irrational or ignorant (let’s just say), I’m supposed to…go make lemonade? Oh, it’s a metaphor; I’m supposed to make the most of it. What if I were to get a different job? I guess that would be like taking the lemons and throwing them at your boss? I don’t know, I suck at making metaphors.
“Three’s a crowd” - I always thought that was a good thing. You know, “the more the merrier”. But whatever. I don’t exactly like a crowd, but if someone says to me, upon my joining their twosome, “three’s a crowd”, I’d be like, “alright, we’re set then!”
“Keep your nose to the grindstone.” – Ew. That sounds gruesome.
“A watched pot never boils.” – Well sure it does. Your triteness does not affect science. Come up with a better way to say “be patient” or “find something productive to do while you wait”. How about, “be patient” or “find something productive to do while you wait”? Should I re-phrase this in the form of another metaphor? I already told you I’m no good at them.
“Dead as a doornail.” – Alliteration aside, this is irrelevant because doornails are neither alive nor dead because they are inanimate objects. How about “dead as a dead person”? Oh, I guess that doesn’t have quite the same analogical component since you’re comparing death to death. Welp, I’ve got nothing then.
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” – You’d actually just float in the continuum of space, but I see your point. Metaphorically though this is poor because if you’re desiring to become a doctor and you don’t make good enough grades, you’ll likely just end up in a nursing home wiping butts. Does that sound like the stars to you?
“Rules are made to be broken.” – If you’re an anarchist, you may be able to rationalize this one. Even if you’re just a rebellious teenager, you might say this to justify breaking into a teacher’s desk to get test answers. But anyone who actually makes rules does not want them to be broken.
“The bottom fell out.” - This is a poor euphemism for raining because, to us, the sky is the top. Would it not make just as much sense to say, “the top fell through”?
“You only live once.” – And what about those who believe in reincarnation? Do they say, “well, we’re gonna get a do-over if we screw this up”?
“The greatest thing since sliced bread.” – Oh, so nothing that has been invented since sliced bread is worthy enough to replace this expression? It’s been 100 years. I’m pretty sure we can move on.
“Winning isn’t everything.”/”It’s not who wins or loses, it’s how you play the game.” False. Winning is the entire point of playing. If you wanted to just exercise your skills, go practice. Hippie.
“Today is my Friday.” – Again, false. Today is your Thursday, just like everyone else; you just took Friday off. Is it not as exciting to say, “I’m off tomorrow!”? Sounds exciting to me.
“White in color.” – Describing any object by saying the color and then saying “in color” is completely pointless and incredibly stupid. You don’t sound smarter and you don’t sound more descriptive. “It’s a red 1999 Pontiac Sunfire.” Well, yes, red is a color, but I’m having trouble understanding if you mean that it’s red in color or in diameter. Please specify.