Word rant

The English language is one of the richest. Why then are we assailed with clichés? I am risking accusations of pedantry here but I get very irritated by clichés. Here’s my collection of words and phrases that I hate, from twitter and other social media, radio, and in general use. I spend so much time trying get the right words that it annoys me that people are so casual.

Does it have to be that xxs are always y, as in these examples?

  • Streets always mean?
  • Hearts always beating?
  • Victims always innocent?
  • Learning always curved?
  • The line always the bottom one?
  • Or being drawn under?
  • Pauses always pregnant?
  • Standards bog?
  • Meals square?
  • Shares fair?
  • Shifts always paradigmic?
  • Sighs always breathed?
  • Dashes always cut?
Learning Curve by Alanf777 via Wiki Commons

Learning Curve by Alanf777 via Wiki Commons

Why do writers use these expressions?

  • Eclectic – when they mean varied
  • Iconic – meaning special (as in the iconic Grand Canyon – doh?)
  • Back in the day – meaning before
  • Comfort zones – out of which one should be tempted or thrust
  • Up, as in heads up, up-skill, up-scale, up-cycle, run up the flagpole,
  • At all, as in ‘have you got a credit card at all?’ which implies you might have a small bit of one at least.
  • Ahead of – meaning in the future
  • Back, in ‘reply back’ (back is redundant, you can’t reply any other way)
  • Awesome – unless they are an American teenager, in which case they can just use it and alternate it with ‘like’.

156 stop signOkay I’m definitely a pedant. So to counteract the amount of pedantry in this post here’s a link to Selkie Moon’s blog in which she looks at the value of clichés in writing a first draft. Her post goes  to consider the advantages of turning them around in revision to dig deeper.

And here’s some goobledegoop that baffles me:

We are excited to announce the immediate availability of a new feature: Amazon Machine Image (AMI) Copy. AMI Copy enables you to copy your AMIs across AWS regions, thus making it easier for you to leverage multiple AWS regions and accelerate your geographical expansion and help increase application performance and availability.

And some spam stuff, which makes me wonder which language it’s translated from, or whether a word bank was randomly rifled.

I loved as much as you’ll receive carried out proper here. The cartoon is attractive, your authored subject matter stylish. nevertheless, you command get bought an edginess over that you want be handing over the following. unwell no doubt come more formerly again since precisely the similar just about very continuously inside of case you defend this hike.

And here’s some clarity that makes me laugh.

156 Necess tools


Do you have some favourite unfavourites?

You can subscribe and receive email notifications of future blogposts by entering your email address in the box at the top of the column on the right.


Filed under Writing

15 Responses to Word rant

  1. Eileen

    At the end of the day I’m over the moon about your blog to be honest. x

  2. Helen Ashley

    Language pedants unite! I’m right with you, Caroline. (Oh dear, now I’m wondering if ‘I’m right with you’ falls into the ‘over-used expressions’ category.) In poetry workshops we’re always warned off clichés, so I once wrote a cliché-ridden poem just for fun.
    When joining a two-lane slip-road, or similar, and faced with the sign: “Use both lanes”, I always reply: “I can’t, unless I straddle the white line.
    Then there’s the double-question, which I’ve noticed recently, e.g. “Does this bus go to Kingsbridge does it?”
    I, too, love the richness of English, and get enjoyment out of the ambiguities that it allows. In the greengrocer’s, a man called to the assistant: “Where can I find the thyme?”. My brain switched the spelling and I replied: “You can’t. There’s never enough.”

    • Caroline

      I get completed diverted by the signs that say ‘Keep two chevrons apart’ and wonder what chevrons are doing on the motorway, why they need to be kept apart and how to do it. What do non-English speakers make of such instructions?
      ‘Use both lanes’ is a bit like the holiday injunction to ‘stagger your journey’.
      I’ve not heard the double question, or at least not nopticed it.
      And I love your thyme/time story.

  3. Language is not static and I am flexible on how it is used. It is important to know the ‘rules’ before you subvert them but to be honest some of the best writers around step out of convention all the time.

    I don’t like pedantry because all too often it is simply a way of sneering at people, especially as there is so much correctly written dullness out there.

  4. Helen Ashley

    Sorry Nicola, I don’t mean to be sneering. I like the fact that language is not static and, as a poet, stepping out of convention is something I have to do to make a poem, rather than a piece of prose.
    I feel I suffer from not learning enough about grammar in my schooldays. I love the way words tell us so much about their origins if you let them, and I’m sure I’d find them even more fascinating if I knew the correct rules of grammar. I’m trying to learn Anglo-Saxon, but need to understand more about grammatical terms if I’m going to get anywhere.

  5. Nicki

    I don’t know if this counts as a cliche but the worst for me recently has been the obligatory start of every sentence with the word ‘So’ for no apparent reason – either used imperatively or as though there has already been a clause that needs qualifying (there never has). I suppose there is more leeway with the spoken word, but I do find these fashions irritating. Before that everyone discussed their ‘journey’ (as in their journey through life e.g. Lenny Henry’s journey to appreciating Shakespeare), and earlier still anyone interviewed ‘welcomed’ this that and the other. I should probably not listen to Radio 4 so often! Having said all that, I’m probably equally guilty of writing enough cliches of my own but I would avoid the three I’ve just mentioned!

    • Caroline

      I havent noticed the so starts, but you are right the cliche of the journey is overworked.And I think radio does a few more as well.
      There is a programme that will check the frequency of the words you use in writing I believe. It wouldnt necessarily pick up the cliches, but I might stop writing ‘this’ without any reference points.
      Thanks for this.

  6. Hi Caroline, I don’t know whether to laugh, cry or simply be embarrassed. I hope I’m not guilty of using too many cliches, but I’m sure the “odd” one pops up occasionally. I like the idea of letting them sneak into a first draft and then editing them out later. I think some of the ones you have mentioned need that kind of second glance and refinement.
    I also love gobbledegook. It’s one of my favourite words, if not things. Now when I check back, I realise that you have written ‘gobbledegoop’. I like that too. Is that your own invention? With a slightly different twist?
    I agree with the ‘credit card at all’ statement. Why can’t they just leave it at credit card?
    Nicki mentioned ‘so’ at the beginning of a sentence. I don’t like hearing people (general public) answering with ‘so’ at the end of a sentence as if it gives credence and extra meaning to what they have just said.
    I’m also not keen on the ‘yeah no’ statements. I overheard a colleague talking on the phone the other day. He went one better with ‘yeah yeah no no’.
    I must admit though, that I write better than I speak. The opportunity to refine the words makes sure of that. I’m not certain that I would be able to utter an intelligible statement in response to an impromptu television interview if approached.
    Oh, and I think the same robot has been leaving comments on my post also!
    Thanks for a fun, but serious, post. 🙂

    • Caroline

      Oh dear, I think some judgemental aspects are inherent in this post. People must feel free to write what they wish without being afraid of my disapproval.
      And I dont know whether I made up goobledegoop, or just mistyped. There comes a point when words get all mixed up anyway. Say any word often enough and it looses sense and appears to be wrongly spelled. spelt?
      I hadnt noticed the So starter, or the yeah. no, thing. I was at a talk recently where they man just kept saying ‘so much so’ and then would rush on. ‘The Norman tower is very imposing, so much so that we need to finish in a few minutes.’ I could only wait for the next time and missed all the interesting stuff in between. Verbal tics becopme earworms.

  7. I discovered only yesterday that the word cliché originally came from the world of printing. If a sequence of words was likely to turn up with any regularity then the printers would have it set in a permanent form that they could then simply slip in. The piece of metal and the type it contained were called a cliché.

  8. I love your sensible and entertaining rant on clichés and clarity, Caroline! Your article is a must-read guide on writing clearly; I also appreciate your visual message not to insult readers with pedantic over-simplification. Your examples provoke awareness of writing pitfalls every author is told to avoid (No clichés. Use words correctly. Write clearly. Don’t insult your readers’ intelligence.), and you present them with humor.

    Thank you, and I highly recommend this entry to aspiring authors as a reference. Kudos, Caroline. 🙂

    • Caroline

      Thanks Jess for your contribution. I had fun writing it so I’m glad the humour came across.
      Please come back and make more comments.

  9. Pingback: #MondayBlogs Round Up (02 March 2015) - Indie Imprint

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *