Any writer worth their salt is told to avoid clichés like the plague. Yet sometimes this leaves authors caught between a rock and a hard place. Or the devil and the deep blue sea.
In short, avoiding clichés might leave one feeling like the cat got their tongue.
The funny thing about clichés is that they have been around so long, no one knows what they mean. We might know that it’s wrong to throw the baby out with the bath water, but what sort of flaky parent would?
The cliché comes from the old-time practice of an entire family using the same bathwater for their yearly bath. First, dad bathed. Then mom. Then the kids in descending order of age. Last came baby. By then, the well-used water had reached a level of murkiness that made losing the baby in its dirty depths more understandable.
Thank you, Lord, for modern plumbing.
Other cliché’s origins are murkier than the bathwater. The cat stealing one’s tongue either originates from the “Cat-o’-nine-tails” whip used for naval punishment–or the ancient Egyptian custom of liars’ tongues being fed to cats. Um, yum?
Now, you might be wondering if I am as mad a hatter–an expression derived from the mercury-induced insanity suffered by hatters creating hat felt in the 17th and 18th centuries.
I am not as crazy as a loon. To prove it, I have decided to offer up some suggestions for how to avoid clichés in one’s life.
Cat got your Tongue–this old phrase is very easy to modernize, and the possibilities are endless. To put it into mathematical terms, cat=animal and tongue=body part. Why not, “Does the dog got your kidney?” Or, “Does the unicorn have your earlobes?” Maybe, “Has the aardvark got your left clavicle?”
You’re welcome for providing this equation guaranteed to provide you with endless replacements for this tired old cliché.
What about “They lived happily ever after.” Why can’t they live prosaically ever after, or tiredly ever after?
Brave as a lion or weak as a kitten…has anyone else noticed a cat cliché trend? Anyhow, these tired old clichés will burst with new life after only a few minor changes. Exhausted as a newborn’s mother or flippant as a antelope.
While these new clichés might make little sense, that isn’t the point. Stop being as critical as a rhinoceros.
All clichéing aside, some phrases remain more than clichés. Jesus died to save sinners. Do unto others as you want to be done unto yourself. Love God and others. These phrases go beyond cliché and are simply truths.
Saying them will put you at no risk of having your tongue fed to a cat.
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, even Christ.” Ephesians 4:15
Have you ever rewritten a cliché? Share in the comments.