‘Let’s have some new clichés.’ – Samuel Goldwyn

Have you noticed how quickly some words become clichés on social networks and light-weight news sites? Some are wonderful when they first appear. But they quickly spread like wildfire through memes and hashtags and fads. Soon enough, they become about as meaningless as the traditional “I’m fine” reply we give to those who say “How are you?” the first time they see us during the day.

Suddenly, those once wonderful words become little more than background noise and we no longer hear them.

Sometimes writers think up powerful phrases while writing a novel. Later they use them again, thinking they’re still fresh and new. Then, if they’re a good editor–or have hired a good editor–they’re shocked to learn that (without knowing it) they’ve used their unique phrase a hundred times in the novel. Readers notice this and become irritated; even if the readers don’t notice it, the phases have become meaningless clichés within the scope of the book.

Current words and phrases that are being turned into clichés are “Me, too,” “Be kind,” “Live a life of gratitude.” Some, like “Me, too” become part of a movement and help identify it and serve as signals to others that a person is writing or talking about an issue they find important to them.

Notions about living a life in thankfulness, gratefulness, and kindness have variously had transcendent spiritual and temporal connotations. The trouble is, everyone and their brother (talk about a cliché) is using them on Twitter, in Facebook memes, and elsewhere (armed with appropriate hashtag) so often that they’re becoming meaningless, not to mention sounding preachy.

When I see a celestial-looking photograph with the words, “If nothing else, be kind” a hundred times a week on Facebook, I’m frankly pretty damned tired of it. The idea has become so overused that its a horrid, preachy cliché even though it’s no less true today than it was the first time somebody said it.

I keep hoping for more online originality to keep things from getting trite and tiresome. I think the clichéd memes and tweets are doing more harm than good because nobody really sees them any more, and if they do see them, they’re no longer emotionally impacted by the sentiment.

Using the “same old, same old” (talk about another cliché) on Facebook and Twitter is easy. While it saves time, it’s also a waste of time. In fact, saying nothing would bring about a better result.



2 thoughts on “‘Let’s have some new clichés.’ – Samuel Goldwyn

  1. I have a list of words I overuse in my novels. It takes weeks to edit them out. The problem with Facebook, etc (one cliched term that is way beyond cliché is “social media” — at least your use of “social networks” is more accurate) is that anything, no matter how fresh, quickly becomes stale. There are just so many people sharing the same (insert your choice of pejorative word here). I’ve even ordered a couple of things I thought were interesting, but now I wish I hadn’t because when thousands of people talk about those things, it gives me the creeps. It turned out to be a short-lived experiment in buying. Never again.

  2. I use the “FIND” function in word to track down words I typically overuse. Sometimes, I think those Facebook ads show up even when I’m thinking about buying something but have yet to do it–or even look at examples on Amazon or Target or wherever,

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