I always told my English students to avoid using cliches in their writing. I accused cliches of sounding predictable and boring. I encouraged my young aspiring writers to strive for fresh words and intelligence in their writing styles. Don’t misunderstand me here - I thoroughly believe that avoiding cliches in writing is still good advice. And working to find new ways to say old ideas is still worthy of the challenge it requires. But I guess it’s also true that cliches are cliches for a reason. (I also instructed my students to never start sentences with "and" but some grammar rules are acceptable to bend in certain situations.)
A cliche is a phrase that is used so frequently that it becomes trite and ineffective. The thing that makes cliches hang around for years and years, however, is the fact that, quite simply, they are true. Let’s examine one cliche, just for fun.
"Never say never." A pretty broad statement. I bet you can already think of several times in your life, probably in the past month even, that you found yourself doing something you said you would NEVER do. (And if you are like me, you probably said it with the word "never" in capital letters too.)
I said I would never teach English. I taught for five years.
I also said I would never have children. I now have five, almost six!
During my college years I enjoyed being hip to new musicians and listening to the latest releases from the most popular bands. I frowned upon adults who knew nothing about modern music and I vowed that I would never be out of the music loop. Now I keep the radio stations turned off and the same bands I listened to in college loop through my new little yellow Ipod. I can no longer recognize the faces I see on music videos. Furthermore, my first reaction upon seeing most so called modern day musicians is to wonder why their parents let them out of the house so alarmingly under dressed.
I said I would never lick my finger and wipe my child’s face. I recently found myself doing just that. I apologized quickly to my daughter, but come on - there was a big smear of banana on her face.
I said I would never spend exorbitant amounts of money on a veterinarian’s bill for my pets. But several summers ago I stood in the vet’s office and handed over a large sum of money to repair my dog Bosco’s torn tendon. (Who has ever heard of a dog tearing her tendon anyway?)
In my defense, however, I once made a "never" statement way back in high school that I have managed to salvage to this day. I said I would never marry a dairy farmer. I did not.
When my husband and I purchased our latest vehicle, I was enthralled with the cleanliness of a new automobile. I boldly (and foolishly) proclaimed, "We will never eat in this suburban." Reality quickly set in when hunger struck and no one wanted to waste time waiting for three preschoolers to slowly finish their Happy Meals when we had places to be and were running on our usual schedule - late.
I also said I would never own a minivan. I am currently driving the aforementioned dirty suburban, but never say never. I hear they have a minivan now with a sun roof for every passenger.