Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Cliché: a cash cow

Meaning: dependable source for value. Use examples.
Rewrite 1: a walking
Rewrite 2: your own personal money machine
Rewrite 3: a
domesticated2 drive-thru bank
Rewrite 4: the family cat made of
rolledvt11 coins
Rewrite 5: a dog that eats scraps but
craps cash

Comment: There are some interesting possibilities here for rewrites. Watch that last one – it might offend some.

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
• “
25 Cinematic Clichés I Never Wanna See Again,” by Robin Bougie, The Cultural Gutter.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Cliché: works like a dog

Meaning: hard, diligent worker
Rewrite 1: works like a
rottweiler gnawing on a leg
Rewrite 2: digging with all four legs and a tail
Rewrite 3: more
dogged than a terrier after a rat
Rewrite 4: focused like a
pointern2 on a pheasant
Rewrite 5: after a job like a
sheppard on a drug bust

Comment: I don’t know many dogs that actually do “work,” so maybe it’s the right time to rewrite this dog of a cliché. I tried to stick with dogisms for this cliché, focusing on breeds that work hard at their specialty.

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
Boing Boing: TV clichés catalogued by BoingBoing, “a directory of wonderful things.”

Monday, November 28, 2005

Cliché: on the same page

(entered for 11.28.05)

Meaning: in the same frame of reference or starting point. Use examples.
Rewrite 1: on the same map
Rewrite 2: using the same page
Rewrite 3: looking at the same
Rewrite 4: looking through the same window
Rewrite 5: standing in the same boat or on the same dock

Comment: The difficulty here is finding ample general reference points.

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
Sucker Swallows Clichés, October 2005 review of “Thumbsucker” (film) by the Yale Daily News, by Makda Asrat

Cliché: stuck out like a sore thumb

(entered for 11.27.05)

Meaning: very evident or easily seen.
Use examples.
Rewrite 1: stuck out1b like a missing tooth
Rewrite 2: stuck out like an extra thumb
Rewrite 3: as noticeable as a third leg
Rewrite 4: as easy to miss as a building with no windows

Comment: Lots of imaginative possibilities makes this a fun rewrite, especially if you’re looking at appendages or things on the face. It’s not quite so easy to rewrite based on other missing or excessive things.

More reading about clichés
What I found when I googled “clichés”:
• Cliches: The
Great Ear closers from The Playwriting Seminars. “…you had better change the words if you can't change actors.”

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Cliché: like a kid in a candy store

Meaning: like someone let loose where their desires can run wild. Use examples.
Rewrite 1: like a dad in a
hardware store
Rewrite 2: like a mom in a department store
Rewrite 3: like a kid in a Disney store
Rewrite 4: like a lion loose in a zoo

Comment: We need to be careful about reinforcing
stereotypes, which is all too easy to fall prey to in this cliché.

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
Thundering Cliches: “By the fiction editors of the Thrilling Detective Web Site… …here's the kinda stuff we'd be just as happy not seeing ever again.”

Friday, November 25, 2005

Cliché: flat as a pancake

Meaning: especially flat or thin. Origin and uses.
Rewrite 1: flat as a
Rewrite 2: flat as a snowflake
Rewrite 3: flat as a stamp
Rewrite 4: thin as the space between two dimes

Comment: There are a lot of flat, thin things, making this metaphor
rife with opportunities for comparison. Have some fun with it.

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
• “All Eyes Are On…” Broadcast Writing Cliches – Using a tired cliché can give viewers eye strain.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Cliché: rock the boat

Happy Thanksgiving!

Cliché Meaning: upsetting the status quo. Origins and uses.
Rewrite 1:
tilttv1* the game
Rewrite 2:
jiggle the pitcher
Rewrite 3:
juggle the glass
Rewrite 4:
splittv2a the plank

Comment: gives “disturb a stable situation” for meaning, but I see a wider application here in terms of the effects of disturbing the situation.

*Note: In rewrite 1 above, in addition to inclining the game, I meant the sense of “tilt” in which you cause the game to freeze up during play because you inclined or jiggled it too much. This denotation was more in-use with arcade games back in the 20th century.

More reading about clichés
What I found when I googled “clichés”:
List of movie clichés by genre. “Each cinematic genre generally has its own litany of clichés”

Cliché: another nail in the coffin

Meaning: one more thing to ensure something. Origins and uses.
Rewrite 1: another lock on the door
Rewrite 2: one more
knot1nb in the noose
Rewrite 3: one more second off the
Rewrite 4: another quarter in the

Comment: Although some would attribute this cliché to ensuring death, it can apply to many more situations. Thus, I’ve tried to broaden the examples.

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
Cliché Challenge: “How various clichés of our times are faring based on the number of references on Google.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Cliché: under a microscope

Meaning: a very close look. Use examples.
Rewrite 1: at the
atomica4 level
Rewrite 2: under a
watchmaker’s eye
Rewrite 3: with a
proofreader’s eye
Rewrite 4: at the
printer-dotn1c level

Comment: Here, we are trying to convey a very minute or highly magnified level to look deeply into something.

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
Explain this cartoon. “Use examples from your own writing.” (A class exercise.)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Clické: send up a trial balloon

Meaning: to try something out to test it. Use examples.
Rewrite 1: shove it off a cliff and see if it fliesvis6
Rewrite 2: windvt6 it up and see if it runs
Rewrite 3: see how it fares in some market research
Rewrite 4: plug it in and see if it goes10a

Comment: You should be able to come up with plenty of “trial balloons” to test.

More reading about clichés
What I found when I googled “clichés”:
• Clichés about the French language.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Cliché: play the hand you're dealt

Meaning: use what you have or are given. Use examples.
Rewrite 1: play the
cards in your hands
Rewrite 2: play the
dice you’ve rolled
Rewrite 3: play your
position on the gameboard
Rewrite 4: stick with the gifts under your tree

Comment: You might be tempted to stay with game metaphors, but there are plenty of other situations in life where you must use what is at hand, like “use every advantage life deals you.”

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
BusinessBalls: Etymology of Cliches: “free expressions, words, phrases, origins and derivations…”

More reading about cards
• Idioms that use “

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Cliché: last but not least

Meaning: my last example but not the least-important one. Use examples.
Rewrite 1: finally, and just as important,
Rewrite 2: bringing up the end and equally important
Rewrite 3: lastly, but not as least on the list,
Rewrite 4: of equal importance even if it’s the last on the list,

Comment: Here is a cliché that at its inception was probably the best it could be expressed, which makes rewriting or recasting more difficult. There is an equally effective alternative to place the “not least” statement at the beginning of the statement. For instance, you might say: “Here is my list, offered in no particular order of importance. First…” or “I offer the following not in order of importance. First…”

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
A Crop of Clichés: “Clichés, phrases, one liners, sayings, similes, adages, proverbs in gardening and farming.” [Author revised from original entry to better reflect what you will find here.]

Friday, November 18, 2005

Cliché: off kilter

Meaning: off form or condition; missing the mark. Use examples.
Rewrite 1: off his
keen edge or his edge has gone softa5
Rewrite 2: off her
Rewrite 3: he’s wide of his
Rewrite 4: she’s working from the wrong recipe

Comment: Ever wonder what “kilter” is in other countries? Go to and scroll down to “Translations” to see the word in 14 languages.

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
Judicial Cliches on Terrorism: Washington Post article on what “have become judicial cliches to be invoked in arguments about how the global struggle against terrorism is to be prosecuted.”

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Cliché: jump the gun

Meaning: get out ahead of the official start. Origins and uses.
Rewrite 1: beat the whistlen5
Rewrite 2: lead the starting pistol
Rewrite 3: start without the refereen2
Rewrite 4: push the stopwatch*

*This one is a little less clear since it's a "stop" watch and not a "start" watch. You could use "timer" or "official clock" but you would probably have a similar challenge.

Comment: This one needs some sense that you are launching or starting ahead of the agreed official start time. It isn’t about being "ahead of your time."

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
Book of Cliches – “Phrases to say in times of trouble.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Cliché: home is where you hang your hat

Meaning: home is where you go at the end of your day. Use examples.
Rewrite 1: home is where you put to rest the
struggles of the day
Rewrite 2: home is where you can
claim* all the things therein
Rewrite 3: your troubles stop at the
doorstep to your home
Rewrite 4: you can “go to the office” but you can “stay at home”
*See under “Idiom”

Comment: This cliché has a
nostalgic feel to it and it most often reflects the special place “home” is in all of our lives. Thus, the rewrites try to pick up on that feel.

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
Clichés used in Narcotics Anonymous: Phrases from a hard life’s experiences? Push button to retrieve additional phrases.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Cliché: a chip off the old block

Meaning: someone who closely resembles another person. Origins and uses.
Rewrite 1: a
chipn5b out of the old cookie
Rewrite 2: a
twig off the old tree
Rewrite 3: a
stone out of the solid earth
Rewrite 4: a
thread out of fine cloth

Comment: My sense is that this is usually used in referring to someone who resembles someone else of quality or solid
character, but it doesn’t have to. I avoided some similar “size” comparisons that could have negative connotationsn2, like “crumb” or “crust”, but using them could easily refer to someone of less character, on either side of the comparison.

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
Los Angeles Clichés: “Canards and clichés, L.A. through the N.Y. Times looking glass.”

Monday, November 14, 2005

Cliché: what a zoo – or – this place is a zoo

Meaning: a place of disorder and chaos. Use examples.
Rewrite 1: this place must be run by
Rewrite 2: this is the
Chucky Cheese for adults
Rewrite 3: it’s like a fire drill run by
Keystone Cops
Rewrite 4: this reminds me of a kidn3 on a sugar buzzn4b

Comment: If you’ve never been to a
Chucky Cheese, you ought to get to one. Kids run wild between dozens of games and tables full of pizza and birthday cakes. It’s the perfect example of a place in chaos, just what you need to rephrase this cliché.

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
Grand List of Fantasy Clichés: “…like the SF list that inspired it, [this list] is intended only to list various clichés common to the fantasy genre.”

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Cliché: take a long walk off a short pier

Meaning: leave and don’t come back, or get lost. Use examples.
Rewrite 1: take a slow walk through fast traffic
Rewrite 2: take a walk and forget where you started from
Rewrite 3: take a
jogis2b through a rottweiler’s yard
Rewrite 4: have a good
runn21 through a bad neighborhood

Comment 1: There is in this cliché a hint of someone who doesn’t like to whomever the comment is addressed, more as a
curse than a blessingn3. It’s about leaving and being careless about where you go.

Comment 2: In rewrite 2 above, I end the sentence with a
preposition (from). Before I receive a host of e-mails in complaint, you should know that the requirement* to never end a sentence with a preposition is a guideline based on a myth. So says Copy Editor, a newsletter for professional editors. Furthermore, since clichés are based on the vernacular, moving the preposition into the body of the sentence (e.g., take a walk and forget from where you came) would sound awkward and forced.

usage note

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
Business Jargon Protest Mugs Copy Contest: “Short lines to protest the ridiculous jargon and clichés that permeate business language...”

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Cliché: no pain, no gain

Meaning: progress requires effort and sacrifice. Origins
Rewrite 1: no aches, no results
Rewrite 2: to break the
recordsn4 you have to bust7 some buns*
Rewrite 3: learning to walk requires some
rug burns** along the way
Rewrite 4: we had to burn some fingers to light the first fires

*scroll down to “buns”
**see “abrasion”

Comment: There are few direct corollaries to the original cliché. But the message can be stated just as eloquently without them.

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
Animé Clichés: Common character attributes an animé cartooning.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Cliché: lock, stock, and barrel

(Entered for Nov. 11, 2005. I entered this at 11:30 pm EST on 11.11.05!)

Meaning: the whole thing. Use examples.
Rewrite 1: cup, saucer, and spoon
Rewrite 2: spoon, fork, and knife
Rewrite 3: trunk, branches, and leaves
Rewrite 4: bulb, lamp, and shade
Rewrite 5: the whole gun, including the trigger

Comment: There are lots of possibilities, but you have to be
selective when naming the parts. For instance, in rewrite 4, there are other parts of a lamp, but the ones that seem to connect everything into a single whole are the bulbn3, the lamp itself, and the lampshade. And you don’t want to go overboardi in naming parts. Three parts seems like plenty, and citing more than three becomes laborious.

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
Movie Clichés: It’s as its title describes. And Movie Clichés: From Harris Online. And Film Clichés: “A funny list of movie clichés.”

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Cliché: good things come to he who waits

Meaning: those who wait are well rewarded. Origin.
Rewrite 1:
regret the wait but relishv2 the reward
Rewrite 2:
patience is rewarded with prizes
Rewrite 3: no one regrets speed more than he whose reward is rushed
Rewrite 4: the longer the wait the more cherished the prize

Comment: A wise saying with few

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
Christian Clichés: “Christians often use clichés among themselves and even with non-Christians, but there may be a need to give thought to the meanings of these oft-repeated phrases.” And The Christian Clichés, from a separate source. Scroll down to get to the actual list.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Cliché: the blind leading the blind

Meaning: someone leading others who have similar limitations. Use examples.
Rewrite 1: the
deaf singing to the deaf
Rewrite 2: the
mute pontificating to the deaf
Rewrite 3: a
glutton giving a pep talk to a dietern2
Rewrite 4: an
adulterer promoting monogamy to an adulteress

Comment: You might imagine all the really strange things people with limitations could try to do for others who have equal limitations.

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
TV Sitcom Clichés: From “The Web's largest collection of clichés, euphemisms, sayings and figures of speech.”

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Cliché: you make a better door than a window

Meaning: you’re blocking my view. Use examples.
Rewrite 1: I could see [the TV or whatever] if you’d open the door in your back
Rewrite 2: when did you grow that door in your back?
Rewrite 3: what if people were windows – think I could see through you right now?
Rewrite 4: did you just grow a foot wider, or are you actually standing in my way?

Comment: This cliché isn’t as much about writing as it is speaking to someone. Still, there are a lot more creative ways to tell someone you can’t see through them.

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
Big Fat List of TV Clichés: “…basically a situation used often in writing plotlines. Sometimes, such situations get used so often, it comes to the point where you actually expect it to happen.”

Monday, November 07, 2005

Cliché: with one hand tied behind my back

(entered on/for Nov. 07, 2005)

Meaning: I’ll do this thing while giving myself a disadvantage.
Use examples.
Rewrite 1: while
hopping on one foot
Rewrite 2: with my good eye closed
Rewrite 3: while standing on my head
Rewrite 4: while turning one-handed

Comment: This one can be fun to rewrite – think of something really
ridiculous and then twisttiv2 it one more time, as I did in rewrites 2 and 4.

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
The Most Annoying Workplace Clichés: “15 most annoying clichés as identified by the Accountemps survey of 150 senior executives.”

Cliché: too many chefs spoil the broth

(entered for Nov. 06, 2005 at 11:55 pm EST)

Meaning: too many people involved will mess things up.
Use examples.
Rewrite 1: too many artists spoil the
Rewrite 2: too many generals spoil the
Rewrite 3: one more
handyman and the walls will fall
Rewrite 4: one
politician too many spoils the campaign

Comment: The must be many more examples of too much of something spoiling another thing. What would too many teachers spoil? Too many
bullies2a? Too many doctors? What would be an absurd example? Have fun with it!

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
• From “The Web’s Largest Collection of Cliches, Euphamisms, Sayings, and Figures of Speech.”

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Cliché: put that in your pipe and smoke it

Meaning: take that, examples
Rewrite 1: take a bite of that and see how easy it is to swallow
Rewrite 2: chew on that one for a while
Rewrite 3: wrestle with that for a bit
Rewrite 4: step in that and see how it feels

Comment: There’s a “do this and see how you like it” quality to this cliché, maybe even a tinge of revenge.

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
Adverjism: Is there a copywriter’s bible of advertising clichés as must-includes? British sourced.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Cliché: know which side your bread is buttered on

(entered for Nov. 4, 2005)

Meaning: find a strategic advantage
Rewrite 1: know which trees give the best fruit
Rewrite 2: know which end of the ship sinks last
Rewrite 3: know your lenders and your borrowers
Rewrite 4: know the best mileage and the biggest tank

Comment: This is an exercise in
comparative strategic one-upmanship*.
*also spelled as oneupmanship.

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
A user’s guide to journalistic clichés: “…a cut-out-and-keep glossary of journalistic clichés.” Australian sourced by “Crikey.”

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Cliché: he’s all thumbs

(entered for Thursday, Nov. 3, 2005)

Meaning: he is clumsy
Rewrite 1: he’s all toes
Rewrite 2: he has a hand full of thumbs
Rewrite 3: he has the agility of a brick glove

Comment: This one’s about awkwardness and creating the visualization of someone with physical limitations.

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
Top 10 Game Clichés: “After nearly 200 issues of gaming goodness, we've noticed that the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Cliché: dot the I's and cross the T's

Meaning: make sure everything is in order or proofread for errors
Rewrite 1: check for signatures and
Rewrite 2: check for tools and supplies
Rewrite 3: lock the doors and pull the
Rewrite 4: cross the eyes and
flosstv the teeth

Comment: While I am tempted to try to find additional letter checks, the ones I can think of are already clichés, like “mind your p’s and q’s”. Same for b’s and d’s, although not as often-used. The last rewrite isn’t strictly about assuring order or that something is error-free, but it is a play on the original that used in the right way could be seen as a humorous reference.

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
Circle of Clichés: “Tom Payne’s guide to the words that reviewers and publishers love too much.” Scroll down to see a more compact list.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Cliché: until the cows come home

Meaning: waiting for something to take its own sweet time
Rewrite 1: until the leaves fall from the trees
Rewrite 2: until it’s covered in
bureaucratic red tape
Rewrite 3: until the spots fall off a Dalmatian
Rewrite 4: after the paint dries and the bumpers rust
Comment: None. There are lots of things that take their own sweet time from which to choose.

More reading about clichés
What I found when I
googled “clichés”:
Phrases with Origins: “Clichés, phrases, one liners, sayings, similies, adages…”