A cliché is a phrase or opinion that has been used too often. But more than a figure of speech, it is also a diatribe that is ‘used and abused’ so often, that it clearly lacks originality. It proves you know a language, but just enough to copy phrases you have heard often, without any original thought.
Those sitting in ‘ivory towers’ often look down upon those who use clichés. ‘Cute as a button’, ‘as easy as a pie’, ‘painted yourself in a corner’, ‘testing waters’, ‘out of your own pocket’, these and many other clichés rule our tongue. And as soon as you use them, you regret not knowing better.
Clichés truly feel like putting a peg in a square hole. They often never define the situation correctly. They are just a lazy way to express, devoid of nuances. They immediately create a fixed situation in the mind of the listener, and don’t allow you to explain the subtleties.
But then who decides what is a cliché? Who are the language police? Why is it so wrong to use them, when almost all languages have clichés? And what is this pressure to be original when you can express what you want with a cliché? Unless you plan to compete with Shakespeare, there is no harm in taking a short cut and getting the message across as simply as possible.
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Also, sometimes, clichés are the perfect way to say something. When your team is killing you with boring ideas, you cannot be eloquent to motivate them to think outside the box. When your boss is not paying your conveyance allowance, you have to tell him that you cannot afford to pay out of your pocket. When you have to fix meeting a friend day after tomorrow, that’s what you are going to say. What else are you going to call it? When you catch your partner cheating on you red-handed, you would not mind using the cliché. You would not search for eloquence in the emotionally tense situation.
So, when some academic stalwart ‘gives you a hard time’ for using a cliché, tell them ‘to get over it’. ‘If the hat fits, you gotta wear it.