CLICHE: ``A trite expression or idea.''
CLICHED: ``Trite; hackneyed.''
-- American Heritage
Some of these are classics. Others (niche cliches?) might more accurately be called newspaper or media jargon because you'll never see or hear thesephrases anywhere else. What normal person says ``densely wooded area'' or
``blueprint for growth'' in everyday -- or any -- conversation?
This modest collection, more like a starter kit, comes from present and former colleagues, 40 years or reading, 20 years of editing, and the ACESdiscussion board. But of course it's just the tip of the iceberg. To coin a phrase.
armed with a search warrant
back to the drawing board/square one
battle with cancer
blueprint for growth
calls it quits
changed his/her life forever
charred rubble (which someone is often sifting or combing through in search of clues)
choked with emotion
cope/deal with grief (``Counselors will be on hand to help students ...'')
crisis proportions (see OVERKILL)
densely wooded area
(American) dream turns to nightmare
emotional roller coaster
epidemic proportions (see OVERKILL)
every parent's worst nightmare
firestorm/storm of protest/controversy
fled on foot
hammer out (an agreement, contract)
in the wake of (unless you're writing about
kick off (unless you're writing about
laid to rest
leafy suburb (and its cousin tree-lined
Mother Nature's wrath
outpouring of support
packing xx-mph winds
rain fails to dampen (anything, but often
spirits at a parade or
rushed to the hospital
sent shock waves
shocked and saddened/dismayed
showed no emotion
step down (for resign)
step up (efforts)
struggling to make sense of (a tragedy)
tree-lined streets (especially quiet ones)
wellspring of ...
white stuff, the (usually dumped on a
He/she/they knew something was terribly
If xyz has his way, ....
In what has become ...
Move over, xxx.
Plans for xyz took a step toward reality ...
They are (he/she is) not alone.
Welcome to ...
What began as ... turned into...
What he/she/they didn't know was that...
(well, duh ¯)
storm-tossed (-ravaged, etc.)
war-torn (-ravaged, etc.)
the fatal shooting death
the drowning death
strangled to death
Schools to state: Show us the money
Show us the money, the teachers' union
Sweepless in Seattle
Meatless in Monroe
Jeepless in Seattle
And the newest offenders: ``Final answer'';
``Who wants to (fill in the
* * * * * *
EXCERPTS FROM THE DISCUSSION BOARD, which I
put together to use as a
handout (with full credit to ACES, of course!).
This is nowhere near everything
-- it's missing a lot of the sports-focused
entries, for example -- and you
probably have it all in archives anyway, but I'm
sending it along in case it's
There's the inevitable horror story
involving some heinous crime against a
child and the equally inevitable hed: EVERY
And the ubiquitous holiday season hed: 'TIS
THE SEASON (at a previous
paper, the copy chief set a limit on the times
this would see print per year:
STEPPED UP....as in ``the teams STEPPED UP
and played better'' or ``the
campaign has STEPPED UP its efforts.''
SENDING A MESSAGE....I hate this one.
Everybody, it seems, is sending
messages. What kind of message does this act/this
decision) send? This act/this
decision will ``send the wrong message.'' What
ever happened to ``setting an
example'' or ``setting a bad example.''
An old one but a terrible one: CALLS IT
QUITS. I never have heard a person
at a press conference at which they are resigning
say ``it's quits.'' What
about ``Smith resigns''?.....Also, why is it also
when somebody quits, they
Before they call it quits or step down, they
``kick off.'' Nothing just
starts or begins anymore.
I'm with you. A United Way campaign STARTS,
it doesn't kickoff!!
Here's one taken out of a lead recently here
- ``harken back to a more
innocent time.'' Two problems - harken back - and
even worse, the whole concept
of a more innocent time. anything more than 20
years ago was a ``more innocent
time.'' i recently read where the pre-AIDS era
was ``a more innocent time.''
yep, all those drugs, swingers' clubs and
unprotected sex with strangers -
sounds REAL innocent to me!
It just gets worse: ``Harken back'' itself
is an error. The verb meaning to
revert to an earlier time is ``to hark back.''
``Harken,'' a variant spelling of
``hearken,'' means ``to listen carefully'' or
``to heed.'' Both verbs are so
dated that we should probably just remove them
from copy whenever they occur.
How about every nickel-and-dime car accident
or other event being described
as something that ``changed their lives (or the
town or the cops) forever''?
it's unbelievably overused.
maybe it's because i live in the seattle
area, but a number of papers here
seem irrationally infatuated with making endless
lead and headline puns on the
execrable movie ``sleepless in seattle.'' just
last week, a good eight years
after the flick's release, i read the headline
``meatless in monroe,'' about a
new vegetarian restaurant. and ``sweepless in
seattle,'' about a local sports
team's failure to sweep the season series against
an ostensibly lesser opponent.
and ``jeepless in seattle,'' from an advertorial
insert, about the decline in
Jeep (TM) sales in the last year here. isn't
there some state-mandated statute
of limitations on imitating bad movies?
and in other movie cliches ... ``IF YOU
BUILD IT THEY WILL COME''
Management finally outlawed that particular gem
at a former workplace of mine.
and let's not even talk about plays on
``SHOW ME THE MONEY!''
In Arizona some of us on the copy desk
loved ``Raising Arizona'' plays
(and that's a 13-year-old movie!) I wrote two
myself, I'm somewhat ashamed to
say: ``Grazing Arizona'' and ``Raving Arizona.''
what about... ``in the wake of''? ``In the
wake of the Columbine massacre''
is the most common, with ``massacre'' being
overused as well. But I've seen this
phrase in stories on every topic possible. The
only thing in the wake of
something else had better be in the water.