Rant #13.

13. Cliches.

Lucky rant number thirteen has been a long time coming. But I’ve been waiting for the perfect subject. And now I have it.

I got an email from my boss today.  It was a VERY long email (another pet peeve of mine).  And included was the following phrase about tomorrow’s “Equity and Diversity” meeting.

He wrote, “Really, the only critically important things to bring are your keen listening skills, open mind, and caring hearts.”

First, I thought, ‘What, are we at a WINGS seminar?  Who writes that?!’

But then I realized something even worse than the sentiment.  Those are three (count them) cliche phrases back to back.  #1. Keen listening skills. #2. Open mind.  #3. Caring hearts.

I need to go vomit.  Then I can finish this rant.

[pause….

…retching and vomiting sounds…

…then the sounds of me

returning from the bathroom…

…to the keyboard]

Ok.  So cliches.  Keep it simple.  There are two main types.

Type number one – simile/metaphor cliches:

Cold as ice. White as snow.  Light as a feather.  Blue as a robin’s egg.  Green as grass.  Big as a house.  Strong as a bull.  Sly as a fox.  That man is a bear.  He’s a post.  He’s a tool.  She’s a fox.  We’re burning daylight.  We’ve got company…

Type number two – thematic or item cliches:

The cheerleader dates the quarterback.  The punk has a mohawk.  The bad guy talks in a gruff voice.  There’s a chase scene in the third act.  The villain loses.  The underdog wins.  The first bad guy changes and helps the good guy defeat the more terrible bad guy at the end.

As egregious as all of those are (and horrific when watching movies – which are only cliches stacked on top of cliches), there’s nothing like the writer who thinks he can somehow change the cliche to make it not cliche.  Example:

“The sky was robin blue as he lifted the feather light girl.  He looked into her face which was fox-like.”

By changing the word order, the writer thinks he has avoided three cliches.  I wish I could say I’m making this up, that writers don’t do this, but I just helped edit a manuscript that was full of these.  When I brought them up (to the writer), he argued with me.  He said, “Those aren’t cliches.  I changed the word order.”

Hmm…what to say to that…what to say…I couldn’t think of anything.

But now I’ve got it.  I know.  I should have said to him,  “Why don’t you shut your trap before I punch your lights out.  Otherwise you’ll be knocked flat, stiff as a board, or maybe dead as a doornail.”

End of rant.

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