Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Divinipotent About Cliché Day

“At the beginning there was the Word — at the end just the cliché.”
~ Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

Divinipotent Daily is pleased as Punch, which is to say she is as pleased as a psychopathic killer puppet. And who could be more pleased than that?

The reason for this clam-like happiness: the Internet holiday authorities point out it's not only Election Day in the U.S. — it's Cliché Day! (Interesting coincidence, that.) To give this occasion its due, Divinipotent Daily plans to wake up, smell the coffee and go out and have more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Since monkeys in a barrel surely have less fun than, say, monkeys swinging through the trees, this goal is within reach. Hooray!

“Our writers are full of clichés just as old barns are full of bats. There is obviously no rule about this, except that anything that you suspect of being a cliché undoubtedly is one and had better be removed.”
~ Wolcott Gibbs

Some people — we're talking about you, Wolcott Gibbs — have chips on their shoulders about clichés. Divinipotent Daily believes that sort of elitist attitude just won't cut the mustard — and since mustard cuts like butter when the butter has been left out in a warm place for an hour or two, that should be considered quite an indictment.

Some years ago Divinipotent Daily's favorite editor, let's call her Prudence, told her a story about seeing a Broadway production of a Shakespeare classic with a middle-aged man who had lost his mind and his young trophy wife ("The TW"). The play was The TW's first brush with the Bard, and when it ended, everyone asked her what she thought. Her response: "The acting was good, but there were way too many clichés." Prudence wanted to read The TW the riot act, but ultimately decided that silence was golden. But we digress.

The great English author Evelyn Waugh maintained that "to be oversensitive about clichés is like being oversensitive about table manners." Most people in today's United States have never even seen table manners outside of an old movie where people with butlers hold formal dinners, or perhaps this educational film from the 1950s. Doesn't the taboo about clichés deserve equal treatment?

"Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague."
~ William Safire

The late Mr. Safire was barking up the wrong tree. Clichés save time — and as an arch conservative such as William Safire must have known, time is money! Anyone who eschews clichés misses out on a whole kit and kaboodle of handy phrases that alleviate the burdensome task of figuring out how to say what one actually means. No less an authority than Matthew Vaughn, the husband of former supermodel Claudia Schiffer and producer of films this writer almost certainly will never see, goes farther, maintaining:  

"You need clichés. Clichés are what people respond to."

As Divinipotent Daily was writing this her friend and fellow writer Mary Ghiorsi, a cliché savant, pointed out that the phrase "Just because it's a cliché doesn't mean it isn't true" has become a cliché itself, and then added, "that is so meta." Yes, it certainly is.

Interestingly, yesterday (November 2nd) was the date the world celebrates Plan Your Epitaph Day. Guess what Divinipotent Daily chose:

Last but not least — many thanks to the wonderful Web site known as The Phrase Finder, without which this post would be little more than a twinkle in Divinipotent Daily's eye.


  1. Thank you for pointing out the existence of Cliche Day. This being election night in New Jersey, I will now be especially attuned to the cliches that reporters will use to describe all the breathtaking action, and those that the candidates will use in their respective speeches claiming victory and conceding defeat. But this will have to wait until The People Have Spoken.

  2. We have a similar cliché-fest across the state line here in New York. Two states, united by common football teams and failed political dialogue. Kinda makes me get all misty. You?