Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Cliches

The Hindu Business Line : `Survival of the fittest'... `at the end of the day': " Tired of `level playing field' in news stories? Cheer up that you aren't alone. It ranks as the top cliché in Indian media. `In the red' is at rank two; the opposite, `in the black', is three ranks down.

At the end is not `at the end of the day', which hogs the third spot, but `survival of the fittest'. These, according to Factiva Insight June 2006, which has compiled `top 20 clichés' from stories in Indian media.

Cliché means "a phrase or opinion that is overused and shows a lack of original thought," according to Concise Oxford English Dictionary. French cliché is "printer's jargon for `stereotype'," says Online Etymology Dictionary.

"Appearance of cliché in writing or speech can indicate a lack of creativity, innovation, or sincerity on the part of the author/orator, who most likely cannot come up with something of his or her own," instructs Wikipedia. For instance, the details of a deal may be `shrouded in mystery' (rank 19); or a lobby may `leave no stone unturned' (rank 8) to get its view heard. One hears of `last-ditch effort' (rank 7) not just at `the eleventh hour' (rank 9).

Using hackneyed phrases is no `freak accident' (rank 17). Go in `hot pursuit' (rank 18) of alternatives to clichés, even as `time is running out' (rank 15), rather than `call it a day' (rank 14). `Up the ante' (rank 16), therefore!

As told `time and again', `fly by night' won't help, if you want to laugh `all the way to the bank'. Nor is waiting with `bated breath' of any avail. `Better late than never' that you became aware of the formula lines.

Happily, we aren't alone in the use of sapped-out words. Factiva's analysis presents the list of `top 20' for media around the world. Down Under, what comes at the very beginning is `at the end of the day', with 2,183 press citations from about 6,000 articles. `In the red' and `in the black' occupy the next two slots, followed by `level playing field' and `unsung heroes'.

Phrases that are not common with the Indian list include: about face, wealth of experience, concerned residents, split second, clean bill of health, carnival atmosphere, dog eat dog, and time after time.

Interestingly, the top four Australian slots match with the rankings in the UK. `Firing on all cylinders' seems to be a British favourite, though at rank 18. The last rank goes to `survival of the fittest', matching with our list.

There are hardly any surprises from the `volume analysis' of the US media, with the same phrases turning up across the Atlantic, as if there is a homogenisation of writing. However, `outpouring of support' is a new one on the US list, at rank 10.

`Avoid Clichés Like the Plague', exhorts Chip Scanlan in an article on www.poynter.org. "There's no reason why we shouldn't do a cliché-check as well as a spell-check," he writes.

"I read a business story that said a computer company was trying to win `the hearts and minds' of consumers. If the writer had said, `hearts, minds and modems,' what a difference it would have made," wonders Scanlan.

"Speech is often riddled with clichés because people speak faster than they think and because they speak in phrases rather than in words," reads a quote of John Bremner that Scanlan cites. We pick up the phrases over the years and don't stop to think what the words mean, explains Bremner. "At their creation, the phrases were original and bright. Down the years, they have become worn-out by use. What we need are new clichés."

Time we begin to `think outside the box' instead of going for the `low hanging fruit'! "

1 comment:

Dharumi said...

Avoid Clichés Like the Plague'//
that was nice - one goes; but another comes!