Clichés Because They’re Repeatedly Accurate

Too often, a judgment or commentary on an event or action is dismissed because it’s a cliché, but often clichés are applicable precisely because human nature tends to repeat itself, particularly in how we make mistakes.

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, swinging for the fences comes from baseball and is a term for trying to hit a home run every time at bat. It’s usually accompanied by busting a gut (another cliché), and for most hitters, it doesn’t work nearly as well as making contact with the ball with a solid swing.

This sort of excessive effort isn’t confined to baseball or even to sports. Singers making an additional effort to hit that high note usually work against themselves because extra effort tightens muscles in the throat and squeezes off the note (if I’ve remembered correctly what my wife the opera singer has told me), which makes it even harder and creates a strained and often ugly sound.

It’s also true in writing where the excess often results in “purple prose.”

“Repeating a big lie often enough that people believe it” is a cliché, given the examples of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and, of course, Trump, who lies and exaggerates to such a great degree that almost everything he utters in public is at best a great exaggeration and at worse an outright falsehood (lately, especially, most likely the latter).

True professionals in any field make the most difficult of tasks appear easy, even when they’re not, and when excessive effort destroys technique, the result is almost always a diminution in results, or, as put in another cliché, “trying too hard.” It’s much better to stay “in the groove.”

Wince at time-worn clichés, if you must, but don’t dismiss their applicability to a situation just because someone used a cliché.

3 thoughts on “Clichés Because They’re Repeatedly Accurate”

  1. KevinJ says:

    Professionals do best when, rather than straining, they’re “in the zone.” (Another cliche, of course.)

  2. Darcherd says:

    Also, the use of cliches by a writer can be effective in writing dialog to add a bit of realism, since people do, in fact, use them a lot in their daily speech.

    Of course, the cliches used better be appropriate to time and place of the written events. It wouldn’t do for an innkeeper in Candar to talk about ‘swinging for the fences’. 🙂

    1. Postagoras says:

      Mr. Modesitt does a good job in Ordermaster when Khelaya says “Can’t take blooms and fruit from the same tree, Fundal.”

      It’s a good saying and fits the context.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *