In these days of online connectivity, everything is available at the `click of a mouse'. Some people boast of being so hardworking that they are at it `24/7'. And if you're not `up to speed' you'd be `left out in the cold'.
So how do we define a cliche? According to the authors, it not quite easy to do because one person's idiom is another person's hackneyed phrase and yet another person's cliche. One good test is if a phrase induces an inward groan... and possibly a roll of the eyes too.
Whichelow and Murray are TV and radio writers. They have grouped their collection of overused phrases into various chapters covering general, media, entertainment and political categories, although it must be said that some cliches are so aggressive that they can be heard in almost all situations. The classic one being, `at the end of the day'. Now you tell me if you have not heard this one mentioned by someone very recently... or perhaps it was you who used it!
The authors have listed many other lovely and familiar phrases but I'll just list down a few of my personal favourites for starters :-
Environmentally friendly : This is such a vague phrase to be virtually meaningless, but it puts a warm glow of self-satisfaction into most of us who like to feel we're doing our bit without actually changing any of our environmentally unfriendly ways.
Hearts and minds : Something politicians are always aspiring to win - haven't they got any of their own?
Your call may be recorded for training purposes : Yes, you often feel as though your experience at the hands of operators would be perfect illustration of how not to do it.
Quietly confident : Or `smug', as it used to be known.
The facts speak for themselves : Clever old facts, we say.
I can see where you're coming from : Why is this phrase so irritating? Is it because it is verbose or patronizing, or because you know that the speaker is just about to contradict you?
Having read the whole book, it seems to me that the authors may have missed out on a few other cliches... at least those that I would consider as such in my book. Among these are, `to be honest with you'. I've often heard this phrase used by someone who thinks he/she is bringing you into the inner circle by confiding something that is not being told to others.
`To be honest with you, we have spent more time preparing this proposal than our management allocated for.' Yeah, right... so you're honest with me only for this one. At other times you're not, is that it?
Another overused cliche is `the big picture'. I admit I'm guilty of saying this one too often in my discussions with my engineers when we come to minor disagreements. I use it when I need to overrule them on certain decisions without letting them know of the underlying reasons. Crafty, eh?
For better or for worse, cliches are almost impossible to avoid... so what's your favourite?