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Clichés

  • Clichés are like a cat's fleas. The work in progress is the cat, a living, beautiful creature, but the fleas hop automatically onto its body, and there must be a constant warfare against them. Nothing less than a catlike biting hunt can rid a piece of my writing of its clichés.

  • ... in spite of his practical ability, some of his experience had petrified into maxims and quotations.

  • Platitudes? Yes, there are platitudes. Platitudes are there because they are true.

  • Clichés, stock phrases, adherence to conventional, standardized codes of expresssion and conduct have the socially recognized function of protecting us against reality, that is, against the claim on our thinking attention that all events and facts make by virtue of their existence.

  • The way to recognize a dead word is that it exudes boredom.

  • A trite word is an overused word which has lost its identity like an old coat in a second-hand shop. The familiar grows dull and we no longer see, hear, or taste it.

    • Anaïs Nin,
    • 1950, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, vol. 5 ()
  • How gifted he is! He describes people in detail, and by the yard, without giving one the very slightest idea of their appearance. He has a real genius for platitudes.

  • The clichés of a culture sometimes tell the deepest truths.

  • ... your soul needs to be lonely so that its strangest elements can moil about, curl and growl and jump, fail and get triumphant, all inside you. Sociable people have the most trouble hearing their unconscious. They have trouble getting rid of clichés because clichés are sociable.

  • Platitudes are generally the oldest and profoundest of truths ...

  • It is strange how long we rebel against a platitude until suddenly in a different lingo it looms up again as the only verity.

    • Ruth Benedict,
    • 1912, in Margaret Mead, An Anthropologist at Work: Writings of Ruth Benedict ()
  • A cliché is / what we all say / when we're too lazy / to find another way.

  • ... the aphorisms of one generation become the clichés of the next.

  • I once knew a man who spoke almost entirely in clichés. What he said was like a patchwork quilt, phrases sewn together in jagged veers of thought. Where there’s smoke there’s fire . . . if you play with fire, you’re bound to get burned . . . it all comes out in the wash . . . this too shall pass . . . one day at a time. His voice tacked between these phrases as he spoke — less like a sermon, more like a song. He was offering these clichés as gifts. They had helped him survive his own life.

  • A few platitudes, every now and then, are restful. They draw one back from the brink of the flames.