Dissecting clichés and jargon (ten random)

To start, I will refrain from the cliché – the top ten list.  I want to get started on the right foot.  It just so happened to be ten I chose for this post.

Clichés are what they are, precisely because they have been overused.  That is the definition. People use these sayings to look smart and articulate, when in truth, they are simply plagiaristic, lacking originality and have no useful purpose except to confuse the recipient with nothingness.

There are sometimes where a cliché or two is fine.  However, the persistent use of them makes for contrived conversations.

Let’s look into some well used clichés and jargon and try to see what they really mean:

“Award winning cuisine”

Oh really?  This overused piece of falsehood is an all time goodie; a cheap choice of words to give the illusion of an achievement that was never up for competition.  I ask you, who is giving out these “awards?”  The term is used so much that the only logical answer is that the chef’s kids gave a gold star from their school project for their parent’s restaurant.  Awe…how sweet!  Wow…how convenient as well!  I never knew Pasta Primavera was a candidate for high honors?  I guess the perfect amount of pesto added to the dish was the magic formula to capture the trophy!

Speaking about awards, have  you ever once seen a trophy or certificate from a certified rating authority displayed at all these restaurants when the authority is not cited on their marketing material?

“When life throws you lemons… make lemonade!”

I do not like to start the day with lemons.  It’s a very sour fruit.  Even if you get a few lemons, how many people normally say, “Hey, I think I would like to make a delicious lemonade just by looking at these lemons?”  I think not!  When I get handed a lemon, I put it down and think it would be nice to squeeze some juice out of it on my salmon, or slice a wedge to put in my tea.  What never pops into my mind is a sour drink that makes my mouth pucker.

Come to think of it, this cliché is backward thinking.  Why is lemonade even superior to lemons?  I would argue the reverse.  How many times have you gone to the lemon section of a supermarket thinking you were going to buy a few to make homemade lemonade?  At best, you might cut up a few to enhance the fresh water you put in a decanter with ice.

Please throw this cliché into the produce dumpster.

“An arm and a leg”

I don’t know about you, but I really like my arms and legs.  I am not even prepared to give up one, let alone one of each!  However, when evaluating the cost of a purchase, suddenly we are willing to trade body parts to obtain material things?  First, how superficial can we be?  I do not care how much I might want that Maserati, but what good would it be without an “arm and a leg” to drive it?  At the very least, changing lanes and signaling would be problematic.

Why not go further and offer up a “liver and a colon?’  I submit that if you want something so bad, then you should be willing to up the ante so the true value of the goods and services received is accounted fairly.

I say the higher the goods and services received, the more crucial your body part ought to be sacrificed.  Try it out and let me know if you can make a fair deal on the next yacht you purchase. Hey, at least you will gain more buoyancy with the absence of some of your vital internal organs.

“Friends are forever”

Not to burst your bubble, but friends are certainly not forever.  First, not to sound unsympathetic or harsh, friends unfortunately die off.  So, there is a factual misstatement with this doozy of a cliché.

Also, although at the time you think your friends are forever, you realize as you get older, you really only have a small core group of friends that are forever.  There were plenty of friends you once had that you thought would last forever, yet turned out to be phonies, narcissists, users or back stabbers.  With friends like that, who needs enemies (Ok…you got me as that was a lazy cliché I tried to slip in)!

Let’s stop making declarative statements because of some handy clichés.   That statement, although well-intentioned, is as cheesy as the song at most people’s weddings, “That’s what friends are for!”

“Another nail in the coffin”

Are we back in 100 – 1600 A.D?  Do you know of a local blacksmith specializing in producing nails for coffins?  Not to sound morbid, but I do not remember the last time that a coffin has been nailed shut?  And to what end?  Is there a security risk?  Will the corpse decide they are done resting and want to end the hibernation?  Is there an epidemic of people looking to dig graves and open coffins?  The last wake I attended, the lid on the coffin was gently closed, attached to a gold metal hinge.  I must have missed the Home Depot #4-size-nail-selection used to keep that cover locked shut.

The thought of this cliché is overly dramatic.  I often hear it used at a baseball game.  For instance, the home team might be winning 3-2 in top of the ninth, and the away team hits a two out, grand slam home run to take a 6-3 lead.  Mr. Sunshine next to you then says, “Well, that’s the nail in the coffin!”

Hey buddy!  It’s only a game!  Also, they can come back…right?  Finally, keep life and death for more serious matters!

“Customer-focused attention”

These three vomit-words are used to say absolutely nothing.  The user of this cliché wants to sound smarter than thou, while at the same time spouting out verbal air; a complete cloud of emptiness permeates the recipient as if they were eating sugar-free cotton candy.  “I got a taste…no I didn’t; I think I just got a taste, nope again!” Emptiness prevails, like the distant memory you had a Chinese dinner an hour ago.

Is it that hard to say “caring service?”  Wouldn’t that sound more authentic than this corporate verbal gymnastic cliché?

These flaccid clichés were designed to fool the public into thinking they are getting something which they are not.  I believe if you can’t say it straight, don’t mention it.  You certainly don’t mean it.

“Customer focused attention” truthfully translates to “We don’t care about our clients.”

“At the eleventh (11) hour”

Oh boy.  Now we are getting into high gear with clichés.  With this overused saying, we are now into uneducated time-counting.  The last time I looked at the clock, there were 24 hours in the day.

This whopper of a cliché is used to express someone’s (or a group’s) last-minute decision-making to do something.  For instance, some might say they are “in the 11th hour of negotiations.” Besides giving away your leverage in the negotiations by saying this asinine statement, it is factually confusing!

What time is the eleventh hour?  To a simple man like me, I would have to say it is 11am?  Why is that time the most critical time in the day?  I would think if you were to ascribe a time on the clock to reflect the last moment of a day’s existence, wouldn’t you use the 23rd hour?  It is the hour before the clock strikes 12.  Although that is another cliché, I indulge to use it for illustrative purposes!

“Tough cookies”

Cookies are either soft or crunchy.  Well done meat is tough; cookies are never tough!  My daughters love cookies and they have never once complained about a tough cookie.  The worst is they are stale.

This gem of a cliché is not only confusing, but is void of any meaning of emphasizing a point. One uses this cliché to express to another person who they need to deal with their issues.  When someone says “I am sorry I can’t get you a third bicycle, tough cookies,” what in the world is that suppose to mean?  If I had my druthers, I would finish the end of that statement with “go deal with it!” I think that is more descriptive how I feel than dolling out “hard to chew” cookie analogies? You agree?

“You can’t have your cake and eat it to”

Yes you can!  Yes you can!

In fact, I just had a delicious cake in front of me, and lo and behold, I ate it as well.  Yummy!  I never thought for a moment that I had to make a threshold decision whether to look at it or eat it!  I did both and I am comfortable I made that prudent and rational decision.

And when is life a zero sum game?  Is life a game of checkers, or can it be three-dimensional chess?  Are there nuances to decision-making?  Do we have the ability for complex problem solving that goes beyond either or?

When I hear this lame cliché, I just want to cut a cake into pieces and donate it to the people starving in Somalia.  There…I have made a third and more unselfish decision.

“There is no place like home”

This is a very presumptuous cliché.  Not everyone has a wonderful home.

There are homes that are filled with tension and strife.  Many times, people say they want to “get the hell out of their house.”  This is all too common.

Additionally, many homes are barely adequate to really enjoy.  For many, a nice vacation has much more appeal and amenities than staying in their regular dwelling.  I rarely hear someone in a one-studio apartment in the inner cities look forward to coming back to their “enlarged jail cell” from an executive suite in Aruba.

I challenge everyone one to drop the clichés and show your own originality.  We all have it in us, but sometimes we are afraid to try for fear or being judged.

Remember, the author of the clichés we use were once originals, and they made their words iconic.

3 replies »

  1. Brilliantly funny. How many people think or can write like this. Try to direct a comedy with woody Allen Larry david and jerry Seinfeld. You belong on their team.


  2. Cliches and platitudes are ways unthinking people can feel like they’ve added value to a conversation.

    However, you’re misreading the eating cake and having it too. You can eat the cake but the more you then the less you can have (as in outside your digestive system). And if you want to have the cake and display it to your friend, then you cannot eat that same cake (or at least the parts you desire to eat).


    • An interesting take on a classic cliche! You are really dissecting the meaning here. I think the general meaning is that you cannot have most things both ways in life. However, I welcome your interpretation and insight in how we can wean ourselves off these cliches!


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