The Cliche

This page was first published on the 18th of February, 2017 and last updated on the 3rd of April, 2017 by Patrick Carpen.

A cliché is an expression which has lost its original freshness and power through overuse.

These expressions may include similes, metaphors, proverbs and other literary devices. Originally, these expressions enriched writing and speaking; however, because of their merits, they were overused and now become clichés.

However, no particular expression can be universally labeled a cliché. For example, what may be a cliché in Guyana might be a fresh use of language in Trinidad, and vice-versa.

The cliché may also change from time to time. That is, an expression that is a cliché today may no longer be considered a cliché ten years later. Or an expression that is a cliché today might not have been a cliché ten years ago.

The general rule is to try to make your writing sound original, fresh and lively by avoiding using those expressions that, according to your observations, have been overused.

Here are some expressions that may be considered clichés in the Caribbean:

Make hay while the sun shines.

Burn the candle at both ends.

Ghost of a chance.

This day and age.

Words fell on deaf ears.

Put your hands to the plough.

Break the ice.

Turn a blind eye to.

Root of the matter.

Face the music.

Part and parcel.

In a nutshell.

Burn the midnight oil.

Leave much to be desired.

Wealth of meaning.

Rank and file.

Must of necessity.

Please note that there is nothing wrong with using clichés in writing if you see it fit or cannot find a better expression. The idea is that “variety is the spice of life as well as language”.  Freshness and originality make writing come alive.

Identify the cliché in each of the following sentences. Replace it with an interesting equivalent expression. Page 102.

  • Taken from “A Comprehensive English Course for CXC”.
  1. The class decided to pull together in order to bring honor to the school.
  2. The two neighbors made an effort to bury the hatchet after several years of conflict.
  3. In the search for the missing boy the police left no stone unturned.
  4. The team played remarkably well in the final match and their efforts were crowned with success.
  5. In this day and age, one cannot afford to be extravagant.
  6. The father trembled life a lead when he heard about his son’s misfortune.
  7. Meddlesome people like to poke their noises into other people’s affairs and often get into trouble.
  8. He hit the nail on the head with that remark he made.
  9. The principal advised the students to take the straight and narrow path or face the consequences.
  10. As the exam approached the students of our class decided to burn the midnight oil.

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