Thursday, December 22, 2011

cliché: Kodak moment, a

Meaning: a wonderful, sentimental moment (sometimes meant satirically) (example 1, example 2)

Rewrite 1: a Kodachrome frame
Rewrite 2: a soft-focus moment
Rewrite 3: get all Kodacky on me
Rewrite 4: here's a picture shy on sincerity
Rewrite 5: a photo-op moment

Comment: The danger with this idiom is that with the demise of Kodak, the "Kodak moment" now may slip into obscurity or fall into a sense of the no-longer-relevant.
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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

cliché: knuckle under

Meaning: consent reluctantly/give in (example)

Rewrite 1: fold to the uppercut
Rewrite 2: give in to the grimmace
Rewrite 3: cave to the nipple pinch
Rewrite 4: succumb to sarcasm
Rewrite 5: fall to a twisted plot

Comment: Faced with a set of knucles clenched under your chin, you might reluctantly bow to someone's demand. I've rewritten this idiom in that vein, then taken it in some "other" directions for fun.
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Friday, December 16, 2011

cliché: knuckle sandwich

Meaning: a punch in the mouth (example)

Rewrite 1: fist brunch
Rewrite 2: bare knuckle salad
Rewrite 3: Bronx dental cleaning
Rewrite 4: five-finger lip enlargement
Rewrite 5: party punch served with a five-finger shot glass

Comment: The original was always so evocative and image provoking; I tried to keep these in a similar frame.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

cliché: knuckle down

Meaning: get busy/work harder (example 1, example 2)

Rewrite 1: fist press
Rewrite 2: full body face press
Rewrite 3: full court grapple
Rewrite 4: muscle pin it
Rewrite 5: gang tackle it

Comment: I think in this instance, "knuckle down" means to bear down upon or bear your weight on something. I've attempted to wrestle this one with as many grappling metaphors as I could manhandle without getting sweaty and pulling a sciatic nerve.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

cliché: know where you stand

Meaning: certain of your position (example)

Rewrite 1: know where your feet meet the peet
Rewrite 2: be one with your position
Rewrite 3: be certain of your soundings
Rewrite 4: stand firm with your roots
Rewrite 5: know where the wind can't blow you, the river can't move you, and the cattle can't run you over

Comment: This one, which took a few days to work on, can be both about current position and how you see things, so I tried to reflect both.

Have any clichés you're wondering about that I haven't attempted yet? Let me know and I'll give it a try. Give me a shout out on Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

cliché: know the score

Meaning: aware of the facts or numbers/understand (example 1, example 2, example 3)

Rewrite 1: know the count
Rewrite 2: recite the numbers
Rewrite 3: deliver the outcome
Rewrite 4: handle the stats
Rewrite 5: replay the highlights

Comment: This idiom is often about sports scores, but there is also a use that is about musical score. I have kept it to sports but I'll bet you can think of rewrites for music.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

cliché: know the ropes

Meaning: knowledge or experience (example 1, example 2, example 3)

Rewrite 1: know the knots
Rewrite 2: know the sea
Rewrite 3: know the roll of the ship
Rewrite 4: know when to duck, jump, and swerve
Rewrite 5: aware of the holes, lifts, and falls
Rewrite 6: know every branch on the tree

Comment: The origins of this idiom are acknowledged to be from the sea, but there are two ways to look at it: know the rigging or know how to get around on it in various sea weather. I try to suit both.

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Monday, December 05, 2011

cliché: knock out, a

Meaning: a beautiful woman (example)

Rewrite 1: a beauty brain freeze
Rewrite 2: an EMP (Eyes Might Pop-out)
Rewrite 3: a power outage
Rewrite 4: a lines-down and lights-out
Rewrite 5: an E-EFFEN-5!
Rewrite 6: a femme fatality

Comment: It was hard to write something that knocks you out without being a negative, which the original clearly is not.

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Friday, December 02, 2011

cliché: knock on wood

Meaning: superstitious act to avoid bad luck (example)

Rewrite 1: fist bump wood
Rewrite 2: high-five a tree
Rewrite 3: bonk an oak
Rewrite 4: knuckle a plank
Rewrite 5: back-hand some veneer
Rewrite 6: slap some ash

Comment: Not sure if in superstition these substitutions would be seen to work in the place of actually knocking on wood with your knuckles, but it would certainly work to freshen the language.

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Thursday, December 01, 2011

cliché: kiss and tell

Meaning: do in private then tell in public (example 1, example 2)

Rewrite 1: kiss and tweet
Rewrite 2: bed and blab
Rewrite 3: grab and brag
Rewrite 4: see and shill
Rewrite 5: expose-say!
Rewrite 6: blab-e-ography

Comment: This often describes an elicit affair or activity so many of these are kanted that way, but I also tried to add some that tilt toward other secret knowledge made public.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

cliché: king's ransom, a

Meaning: a lot of money (example)

Rewrite 1: a royal dowry
Rewrite 2: a CEO's buyout
Rewrite 3: a whistleblower's hush fund
Rewrite 4: a lobbyist's expense account
Rewrite 5: a child's nap bribe

Comment: This idiom originated with ulterior motives, so I tried to stay with that theme in rewriting it, even if playfully so.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Cliché: kick the bucket

Meaning: to die (example)

Rewrite 1: kick over the chair
Rewrite 2: knock over the bucket
Rewrite 3: choke on the rope
Rewrite 4: trip into the tight loop of a noose
Rewrite 5: lose the wiggle-room battle with a noose

Comment: This idiom originates from a reference to suicide - tying a rope to a tree, hanging one's self by the rope, standing on a bucket, and then kicking the bucket out from beneath one's self. I've made these rewrites mostly based on that reference.

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Check out "When is a Cliché Not a Cliché" on Blame it on the Muse (blog)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cliche: keep your nose to the grindstone

Meaning: work, fool! (example)

Rewrite 1: Keep your hand to the plow handle
Rewrite 2: keep your eye on the page
Rewrite 3: keep your back to the barricade
Rewrite 4: keep your mind too busy to wander
Rewrite 5: keep your knees planted in the garden

Comment: Some of this about focus,some of this is about commitment. I tried to capture both in this rewrite.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Cliche: keep your powder dry

Meaning: reserve your resources (example)

Rewrite 1: keep your wick dry
Rewrite 2: keep your shot handy
Rewrite 3: keep the pantry stocked
Rewrite 4: keep the pump primed
Rewrite 5: keep the inkwell filled
Rewrite 6: keep the Reserves nearby

Comments: I tried to vary from close to the metaphor to wide of the metaphor but close to the idea. See how you do in rewriting this classic.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cliche: keep your hair on

Meaning: be calm, don't over-react (example)

Rewrite 1: keep your wig on
Rewrite 2: keep your curls on
Rewrite 3: keep your fringe covered
Rewrite 4: keep your calm on
Rewrite 5: keep your cool on
Rewrite 6: don't lose your wig to your worries

Comment: Although this rewrite focuses more on hair and hair substitutes, there are surely more ways to rewrite this cliche. How else might you you say it conveying the same sense?

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cliche: keep your eyes open (peeled)

Meaning: be alert or watchful (example)

Rewrite 1: keep your sense of sight on the sense of action
Rewrite 2: be wide-eyed and super-detailed
Rewrite 3: watch with every eye you have
Rewrite 4: make sure the "eyes" have it
Rewrite 5: keep your senses on high alert

Comment: Making a direct translation into other idioms or metaphors for this cliche was difficult so I had to stretch it a little, but I think I accomplished my goal. Good luck on your attempts.

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An eye on poetry
(commission may be paid on purchase)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cliche: Keep your chin up!

Meaning: remain upbeat (example)

Rewrite 1: Chin into the wind!
Rewrite 2: Chin above the water!
Rewrite 3: Make your chin your prow through troubled waters.
Rewrite 4: Eyes open, nose parallel to the ground, and chin leading forward!
Rewrite 5: Lead with the chin for the win!

Comment: Although I usually try to vary the subjects of my metaphors, in this case I thought I'd maintain the chin as the single focus and vary the idioms around it. How else might you rewrite this cliche?

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Growing idiomatically
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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cliché: keep your fingers crossed

Meaning: hope for your wanted outcome (example)

Rewrite 1: keep your fingers x'd
Rewrite 2: keep your fingers locked
Rewrite 3: keep your fingers tied
Rewrite 4: keep your knuckles knotted
Rewrite 5: keep your digits tangled

Comment: A variant is "cross your fingers," so you could also play with that in this rewrite.

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Twisted words and phrases
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Friday, July 15, 2011

Cliché: keep an eye on you

Meaning: constantly watch or monitor you (example)

Rewrite 1: keep a lens focused on you
Rewrite 2: know where you are even when you don't know where you are
Rewrite 3: know you better than yesterday's most embarrassing memory
Rewrite 4: be on you like spot on a dog
Rewrite 5: stay on you like lint on a suit

Comment: This idiom can be about being on the watch for an up-and-coming new star or on the lookout for a troublemaker, or someone in between. I've taken the latter because it seemed more fun. What can you do with this one?

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Speaking brilliantly of parts
(commission may be paid on purchase)

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Cliché: keep it down

Meaning: be quiet! (example)

Rewrite 1: tap it down
Rewrite 2: keep it low
Rewrite 3: keep it under a decible
Rewrite 4: put a silencer on it
Rewrite 5: soundproof it
Rewrite 6: mute it

Comment: "It" is noise, "down" is volume. Stow it, buddy. Any creative way to say it is better than "Keep it down."

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Writing in idioms
(commission may be paid on purchase)

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Cliché: just around the bend

Meaning: around the next curve in the road (example)

Rewrite: beyond the dip in the road
Rewrite: up past the light and to the right
Rewrite: next stop past the turnpike
Rewrite: just yonder a bit
Rewrite: up the road a piece

Comment: This is often a visual cue in absence of measured distance, so almost any noticable change in landscape will do. The last two are more nebulous but probably reasonable alternatives.

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Speaking plain American
(commission may be paid on purchase)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cliché: jockeying for position

Meaning: racing/competing for position (example 1, example2)

Rewrite 1: jockeying for show, place, or win
Rewrite 2: dancing for last couple standing
Rewrite 3: elbowing for a place in the line
Rewrite 4: fighting over bargains at the sale
Rewrite 5: toe-stretching for tallest

Comment: This really boils down to competition, and there are many ways to win. How would you reword it?

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Write like a good sport
(commission may be paid on purchase)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cliché: a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

Meaning: the longest, most arduous task still has a beginning (example)

Rewrite: a walk of a thousand steps begins with the first footfall
Rewrite: a cross-country drive begins as a drive down the street
Rewrite: a day at the shoppe begins by stepping out of the house
Rewrite: a read of a thousand pages begins with a single word
Rewrite: a lengthy shopping list still begins with the first item
Rewrite: cleaning a big mess begins by mopping the first spill

Comment: Part of preserving the essence of this Chinese proverb is repeating its sensibility and rhythm.

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More Chinese wisdom
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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cliché: jump on the bandwagon

Meaning: get with what is popular (example)

Rewrite: leap onto the stage
Rewrite: get your name on the winner's list
Rewrite: get all military in the march
Rewrite: take the top spot in the parade
Rewrite: show your groove on the holiday float

Comment: Part of this idiom is about support, part of it is about grabbing your moment in the spotlight. 

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Writing with wit
(commission may be paid on purchase)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cliché: jump in with both feet

Meaning: do something quickly and completely (example)

Rewrite: leap in with both feet
Rewrite: jump in with all fours
Rewrite: commit without counting toes
Rewrite: leave no toe behind
Rewrite: plant both heels firmly into it

Comment: I tried to keep the foot metaphor alive in the idiom. How would you rewrite this?

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More on idioms
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Friday, June 17, 2011

Cliché: jack of all trades and a master of none, a

Meaning: average talent with no special skills

Rewrite 1: a mean hauler of sails who can't tie off a knot
Rewrite 2: he can swing a mean hammer but can't hit a nail
Rewrite 3: all tool belt and no tools
Rewrite 4: good at coloring inside the box but can't stay in the lines
Rewrite 5: Mr. Handy, Mr. Thumbs

Comment: A "jack" was an average seaman while a "master" was a highly skilled craftsman on a ship, so this idiom originates with the early sea service. A jack might be good at doing general duties on ship, but he wouldn't be rated a master until he could do extraordinary work. I started by trying to rewrite these to give some sense of those skills or lack of said, then generalized from there.

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Sounding like a sea dog
(commission may be paid on purchase)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cliché: it's a game of inches

Meaning: a sport or effort with minimal gains or losses

Rewrite 1: it's a game of small advances
Rewrite 2: it's a game of not-quite-theres
Rewrite 3: it's a contest of minor gains
Rewrite 4: it's a match of major disappointments
Rewrite 5: it's a sport of near misses

More possible rewrites:

Rewrite 6: a game of barely movable objects
Rewrite 7: a game of well planted heels
Rewrite 8: a game of well defended options
Rewrite 9: a game of steel-staked positions
Rewrite 10: a game of hard fought lines
Rewrite 11: a contest of won'ts
Rewrite 12: a match between wills

Comment: This was a tough rewrite for me, trying to find new ways to recast the "inches" in a meaningful way. In the end, I decided to redefine the end-product and not the measurement. In the send batch of rewrites, I wrote about less sports-related efforts. Where would you have taken this?

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Speaking of sports
(commission may be paid on purchase)

Friday, April 08, 2011

Cliché: in the bag

Meaning: achieved; achievement certain (example)

Rewrite 1: bagged it, dude!
Rewrite 2: tagged, dragged, and bagged
Rewrite 3: locked in
Rewrite 4: glued and screwed
Rewrite 5: water tight

Comment: I went from hunting metaphors to security and craftsmanship metaphors. Let's see what you can do with it.

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(commission may be paid on purchase)

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Cliché: it's a lemon

Meaning: useless; doesn't work (example)

Rewrite 1: squeeze it, you might get lemonade
Rewrite 2: two more and you can make a meringue pie
Rewrite 3: it has a hint of citrus
Rewrite 4: this thing's so sour it's turning lemon yellow
Rewrite 5: if this isn't a lemon, it's the most yellow lime I've ever seen

Comment: Rather than paralleling the "it's a ..." construction, I tried to work with ways of expressing a lemony quality to say the same thing. 

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Speaking of Lemony Things
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Monday, March 21, 2011

Cliché: it takes two to tango

Meaning: conflict or other relations requires two (example 1, example 2)

Rewrite 1: it takes two to duet
Rewrite 2: it takes two to tangle
Rewrite 3: it takes two to shake hands
Rewrite 4: it takes two to share
Rewrite 5: it takes two sides to go to war

Comment: Some of my examples oversimplify relationships for the sake of providing an example, but you can easily modify the example or the statement to suit the situation.

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Idioms for younger writers
(commission may be paid on purchase)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cliché: it isn't rocket science

Meaning: it isn't so advanced (example)

Rewrite 1: it isn't particle physics
Rewrite 2: it isn't quantum computing
Rewrite 3: it isn't galactic entanglement
Rewrite 4: it isn't advanced calculus
Rewrite 5: it isn't superstructure engineering

Comment: This is about using the complex to imply the simple. It doesn't have to be science - what about advanced crochet technique or organizational chart engineering?

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Spruce up your idioms
(commission may be paid on purchase)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cliché: isn't all it's cracked up to be

Meaning: it's disappointing (example)

Rewrite 1: isn't the egg the goose gaggled over
Rewrite 2: isn't the omellette the chef's commotion stirred up
Rewrite 3: isn't the pile-up the four-mile backup promised
Rewrite 4: isn't the gift all the wrapping presents
Rewrite 5: isn't the raise the boss's praises implied

Comment: "Cracked up" means "praise" in its original though seldom-used form, but it's difficult to find another way to repeat that, so I went for other things that "crack up" that might create a similar intention. Thus, the egg references and the pile up. Can you think of another way to bring back the original sense of praise in this idiom?

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Playing devil's advocate this once
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cliché: it's no use crying over spilled milk

Meaning: don't sweat the little things you can't change (example)

Rewrite 1: no use crying over burnt toast
Rewrite 2: no use moaning over crumbled crackers
Rewrite 3: no use stressing over 404 error page returns
Rewrite 4: no use pouting over pennies down sewer drains
Rewrite 5: no use mourning chipped fingernails

Comment: I tried to retain the flavor of life's little disappointments, which is what the original intones.

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Picking up more idioms
(commission may be paid on purchase)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cliché: Is it soup yet?

Meaning: is it ready? (example)

Rewrite 1: soup poured?
Rewrite 2: done cookin'?
Rewrite 3: table set yet?
Rewrite 4: still in the oven?
Rewrite 5: pie still cooling?

Comment: I've maintained the food or eating metaphor, but there should be plenty of others you could use. For instance, building: Walls up? Decorating: Paint dry? Programming: Code up?

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Food on your keyboard
(commission may be paid on purchase)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cliché: skating on thin ice

Meaning: taking a big risk (example)

Rewrite: swimming in deep waters
Rewrite: walking on ice
Rewrite: upstaging a diva 
Rewrite: running with scissors
Rewrite: skipping a stiff rope

Comment: This cliché was the suggestion of Jacques. Thanks, Jacques! I tried to come up with different risky scenarios without sounding too rediculous.

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More on metaphors
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Friday, February 11, 2011

Cliché: in your dreams

Meaning: a challenge of disbelief (example)

Rewrite: in your mind's eye
Rewrite: in the world of make-believe
Rewrite: as the fantasy flies
Rewrite: with your imaginary friends
Rewrite: when you're on meds

Comment: This is usually said as a taunt, so think more in terms of sarcasm.

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More on dreams
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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cliché: about as pleasant as a trip to the dentist

Meaning: anxiety inducers

Rewrite 1: about as pleasant as a trip to the principal's office
Rewrite 2: about as fun as a trip to the emergency room
Rewrite 3: all the joy of an appointment with the IRS
Rewrite 4: with the anticipation of a call from a telemarketer
Rewrite 5: with the calm of being surrounded by pickpockets

Comment: My thanks to author @jaypapasan for suggesting this challenging idiom, which may or may not rise to the definition of cliche. Jay says it attracts 77k hits on Google, a respectable showing. However, I couldn't find it on any searches that identified as a classic written cliche. Rather, it showed up as more of a cultural cliche, an idea that keeps popping up in references, which is that nothing is a fearful as a trip to the dentist. So perhaps our job here isn't so much to rewrite an idiom as to suggest there may be equal or worse things to fear as a visit with Dr. Tooth. 

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To make us all feel better about that trip to the dentist
(commission may be paid on purchase)

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Cliché: in the nick of time

Meaning: just in time (example)

Rewrite 1: in the tick of a tock
Rewrite 2: before the zeroes clicked over
Rewrite 3: before the bell buzzed
Rewrite 4: before a spark becomes a flame
Rewrite 5: before he could hit "send" 

Comment: The last couple of examples are more moments than time, yet I think they equally apply.

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More on idioms
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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Cliché: in the hot seat

Meaning: difficult position (example)

Rewrite: in the frying pan
Rewrite: in the flood plain
Rewrite: in a war zone
Rewrite: on the nail head
Rewrite: over an open manhole
Rewrite: holding a live wire

Comment: I tried to not just concentrate on "hot" situations, but also included difficult circumstances.

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Words of conflict
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