“The first man to compare the cheeks of a young woman to a rose was obviously a poet; the first to repeat it was possibly an idiot.” –Salvador Dali
There are simply too many clichés in the world. The language is filled with them. It is hard to get through a conversation without hearing one or saying one. Most of them started out as colorful ways to describe an experience and have, through years of endless repetition, become mildly annoying, harmless platitudes that move conversation along. For some strange reason certain clichés make me extremely angry. Most float through my mental filters without much of a struggle, but every once and a while there is one that disturbs me. Since the chances of me actually getting legislation past to outlaw these incipit expressions are remote at best I have decided to address them in a constructive way, instead of quietly fuming about them day after day. I have been compiling a list over the past few months of these along with descriptions of why they bother me in the hopes of understanding the pain that they cause me and hopefully inflicting this pain on others. I have also included helpful sarcastic responses to confuse the cliché user and possibly prevent the offending expression from being used again. So, as they say, away we go….
Cliché: “Throwing the Baby Out With The Bathwater”
What kind of sick freak thought this one up? As a parent of two small children, I find the idea that I might actually forget one of them and toss them into the river with dirt-ridden water to be entirely preposterous. I get that the creator of this one is trying to make the point that whatever the person is doing is a really ridiculous thing, but what sort of lunatic would toss a baby out with bathwater?!?! They are certainly tiny, but not nearly small enough to accidentally thrown away. Maybe the person is an evil, malicious hater of babies, but this is far from the most efficient way of getting rid of them.
Appropriate Response: Look down at your shoes shaking your head for one dramatic moment, then look up and shout “Well, it’s better than shooting it!” Turn and walk off.
Cliché: “I wear many hats”
AGHHGGHHHH!!! I can’t even think about this one without seething. Yes, I know it means doing more one role, but the metaphor confuses me. Do they mean at the same time? What kind of fool would wear 3 or 4 hats at once? It would be stupid looking. There have been a lot of asinine fashion trends throughout history, but I cannot recall a single fad that had anything to do with the person wearing a lot of hats at once. Is the point that the person has multiple heads? Am I meant to imagine the person in front of me morphing into a giant hydra like beast wearing a prefaded Red Sox cap, a turban and a Michael Coreleone style fedora? More than likely, the person who said it wants me to see them as a beaming icon of capitalism and industry, efficiently moving from task to task, a vaunted leader one moment, a regular lunch pail working stiff the next, a person who can be all things to all people, a technocratic “renaissance man”, a proud beacon of all that can be achieved in a 24 hour day with a little know-how and a fist full of gumption. I think I’d prefer the hydra.
Appropriate Response: Vomiting on the persons shoes
Cliché: “Give it 110 percent”
I am well aware that the test scores of American students in math and science have declined over the last 30 years, but the fact that Americans have no qualms about repeatedly asking each other to violate common sense and mathematical reason in this way is alarming. As if this wasn’t troubling enough, the cliché inflation that has taken place is now taking place is insane. During the 2010 baseball season, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said that pitcher Gavin Floyd would only pitch if he were at “200 percent”. 1972 Democratic Presidential Candidate George McGovern, the Godfather of Cliché Inflation, started this madness when he said he was “1000 percent behind” his Vice Presidential Candidate Thomas Eagleton seconds before he tossed him kicking and screaming off of the Presidential ticket. Of course, none of this compares to the all-time Cliché Inflation champion Atlanta Attorney George Lawson who asserted that he was “a million percent certain” that his client, Auburn Quarterback Cam Newton, did not take money. Where does it end?
Appropriate Response: Give an overly loud, awkward pretend laugh, and then shout, “If I ever see you again, I’ll break both of your legs!” Turn and walk off.
Cliché: “Too many Indians, Not Enough Chiefs”
This one has started to fade into cliché obscurity for everyone except people who write those grotesque books that quote Vince Lombardi a lot and compare great managers to Ghandi and Napoleon. It doesn’t get play in the real world anymore mostly because “too many indigenous peoples and not enough chiefs” really doesn’t have a great ring. Here’s the larger problem…Chiefs ARE Indians.
Appropriate Response: Look deeply offended and reply, “Are you trying to say that there are too many Indians? What kind of idiot racist would make a claim like that!”?
I’ve got a ton more of these but I’ll save them for a rainy day.