“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” - John Keating
When you have lived as long as I have, you have encountered a lot of clichés. Some of them are as big as life and others are as old as the hills. Some of them may cost an arm and a leg and others put you out there on thin ice.
According to Gary Blake and Robert W. Bly in “The Elements of Technical Writing,” a cliché is “an expression, idea or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, even to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel.”
Since I was raised on a farm, I always notice barnyard clichés. Farmers know better than to take the bull by the horns. They understand the futility of beating a dead horse. They sometimes eat like a horse as long as they don’t fight like cats and dogs when they sit down at the table.
Farmers know you never want to count your chickens before they are hatched because, sooner or later, all of those chickens come home to roost. They know better than to go on a wild goose chase because at any time it could begin raining cats and dogs. And no matter how long they look at what the cat dragged in, eventually curiosity killed the cat.
I certainly don’t want to bore you by jumping the gun so let’s cut to the chase and take a trip down memory lane, even if it is an uphill battle. We all know that the squeaky wheel gets the grease whether or not it passes the sniff test. I would never want to rock the boat or have the pot call the kettle black. But if we ran it up the flagpole, at least we might be able to get on the cliché bandwagon.
But clichés are not for everyone. Some people do not like going back to the drawing board. A cliché for them is like facing the perfect storm. They would rather take a tiger by the tail or beat around the bush instead of facing their worst nightmare, another cliché. For them, the bottom line is always as clear as mud but that’s a whole other story.
But what would we do without clichés? They help us describe those who have nothing in the attic but cobwebs or those who are not the brightest crayons in the box or whose cups are not all in the cupboard. Fortunately, we rarely see anyone whose gates are down, the lights are flashing but there is no train. “In other words,” as they say, “that person is dumber than a box of hammers.”
You probably feel as though you have been on a wild goose chase. I must admit this has been a tough row to hoe. Time and time again I have tried to think outside the box as I have shared this cliché tip of the iceberg. When the rubber meets the road, don’t get bent out of shape as I seek 15 minutes of fame. Garbage in; garbage out.
Clichés are as American as apple pie, baseball and hot dogs. They are all in a day’s work. I really don’t have an axe to grind and I won’t pull the wool over your eyes, nor will I pull any punches. I say, “Live and learn; live and let live.”
So I will keep my fingers crossed and never say never and try not to step on anyone’s toes. Whether you like them or not, clichés are here to stay and are often a dime a dozen. Get the lead out and proceed full steam ahead. This has been one fine kettle of fish.
Think about it.
Dr. Don Meyer is President of the University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville. Responses can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org; Official page: Facebook.com/DrDonMeyer; Follow on Twitter: @DrDonMeyer; Archives at: valleyforge.edu/thinkaboutit.