Cliché

What are the Meaning of Clichés?

Cliché is a phraseOpens in new window, or an expression of a common thought or idea that has lost its potency, originality, to the point of being trite as a result of long overuse. At some point in time such expression was at its noveltyOpens in new window and considered potent and meaningful.

The Origin of Cliché

The word cliché is of the descent of French language. Its primary literal denotation thoroughly informs its meaning today: the word cliché was taken from a concept in printing, specifically a stereotype, or an electrotype block used in reproducing text and images that was consequently used repeatedly to make multiple printed copies. From this rigorous process came the idea of a reuseable expression.

Practical Examples of Clichés

In the English language, clichés are used in various forms. They do the job of an adverb—that is, to modify a verb, an adjective, or another adverb—and thus, are called adverbials. Similarly, they can be deployed as noun phrases—that is, substituting the name of a person, place, object, event, or other abstract qualities. Clichés are also deployed as adjectives to modify nouns and noun phrases; however, adjectival clichés are classified in their ability to modify a wide range of nouns, either attributively or by supplying their copular predicates.

A.  Clichés as Noun Phrase

  1. An accident waiting to happen — This is a common Cliché used to reference an inevitable situation.
  2. Acid test — A definitive test that presumes the successfullness of something or someone.
  3. All and sundry — Denoting everyone. e.g., Andy made his intentions about Sandra known to all and sundry (everyone).
  4. The apple of sombody’s eye — Used to reference someone or something that one regarded with great esteem. e.g., Andy eventually got married to the apple of his eye, Merrilyn
  5. Ample opportunity — This cliché literarily means great opportunity. e.g., the 21st century generation has had ample opportunity to learn from the legacies of our heroes’ past.
  6. A bed of roses — A comfortable and seamless situation e.g. marriage is no bed of roses.
  7. Back-of-the-envelope calculation — This cliché emerges from the notion that back of envelopes provide adequate space for many sorts of writings including calculus ranging from vague figures to precise figures. e.g., Andy offered brief back-of-the-envelope calculations showing that Alex would probably reach the peak of his carreer by the time he turns 36.

B.  Adjectival & Modifying Clichés

  1. All systems go — This cliché signifies everything is ready or in good order—everything is good to go. e.g., With my husband on leave, and the children on long-term holiday, it is all systems go for the family’s vacation.
  2. After somebody’s own heart — Agreeing with one’s tastes, views, or preferences; used to denote some similarity to the interlocutor’s interests, views etc., with those of the person alluded to. e.g., Andy has found a girl after his own heart—she merely shares his interests and philosophy.
  3. Absolutely fantastic — This cliché serves as a high approval for certain things, events, ideas, or any abstract quality. e.g., The service-man has done an absolutely fantastic job in returning the refridgerator back to its working condition.
  4. Alive and kicking / alive and well — Used to denote something in active and thriving condition. e.g., The chants of the fans show that their unwavering support is still alive and kicking.
  5. Bright-eyed and bushy-taile — This cliché works adjectivally and adverbially to characterize alacrity – the eargerness and readiness to the prospect of something. e.g., I’ve been downtrodden in the past 3 days, but today I’m so willing to get back on track — I’m all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
  6. Cannot be overstated/overemphasized/underestimated — This is a cliché with a hyperbolic way of stressing the importance of something. e.g., Andy’s commitment to his mega-wealth project cannot be underestimated, especially seeing him go through several sleepless nights. | The role of private investors in the growth of local industry cannot be overstated/overemphasized.
  7. Cut and dried — This cliché denotes; absolutely cleared, straightforward and well understood thing. e.g., We are faced with a situation that has lingered from ancient times up to the present, obviously the solution isn’t cut and dried.
  8. (stand) at a crossroads — This cliché signifies a situation that requires some important decision. e.g., Today, Africa stands at a crossroads, a decisive time when its future hangs in the balance.
  9. Dead and buried/dead and gone — These two clichés are often used to denote thing that are completely finished, things that are literally dead. e.g., All my past memories of her are literally dead and gone.
    That issue is already dead and buried.
Further Readings:
Wikipedia | ClichéOpens in new window
Merriam-Webster Dictionary | Definition of ClichéOpens in new window
Orin Hargraves | It's Been Said Before: A Guide to the Use and Abuse of ClichesOpens in new window
Margery Sabin (1987) | The Life of English Idiom, the Laws of French Cliché: The Dialect of the Tribe. Oxford University Press US. pp. 10–25. ISBN 9780195041538.