Speakers overwork some cliches – used, reused, overused and abused phrases like ” without much ado, least but not the least…” and the like..
Here’s a delightful exchange on ‘cliches”, something we public speakers are supposed to avoid like the plague ! (oops.. this is also a cliche !)
This bit is excerpted from “Business Writing for busy people” by Philip Thiebert.
“What follows is a piece called The Cliché Expert Takes the Stand. It is a valuable exercise to read out loud. Doing so gives you a sense of the inane way clichés sound and the way they merely echo in someone’s brain without leaving a permanent impression. Also note that the piece was written in 1935, proving that writers come and go, but clichés hand around forever.”
“The Cliché Expert Takes the Stand”
by Frank Sullivan
Q. Mr. Arbuthnot, you are an expert in the use of the cliché, are
A. Yes, sir, I am a certified public cliché expert.
Q. In that case would you be good enough to answer a few
questions on the use and application of the cliché in ordinary
speech and writing?
A. I should only be glad to do so.
Q. Thank you. Now, just for the record – you live in New York?
A. I like to visit New York but I wouldn’t live here if you gave me the place.
Q. Then where do you live?
A. Any old place I hand my hat is home sweet home to me.
Q. What is your age?
A. I am fat, fair and forty.
Q. And your occupation?
A. Well, after burning the midnight oil at an institution of higher learning, I was for a time a tiller of the soil. Then I went down to the sea in ships for a while, and later, at various times, I have been a guardian of the law, a gentleman of the Fourth Estate, a poet at heart, a bon vivant and raconteur, a prominent clubman and man about town, an eminent-
Q. Just what is your occupation at the moment, Mr. Arbuthnot?
A. At the moment I am an unidentified man of about forty, shabbily clad.
Q. Now then, Mr. Arbuthnot, what kind of existence do you, as a cliché expert, lead?
A. A precarious existence.
Q. And what do you do to lead a precarious existence?
A. I eke it out.
Q. How do you cliché experts reveal yourselves, Mr.Arbuthnot?
A. In our true colors, of course.
Q. Now, Mr. Arbuthnot, when you are naked, you are…
A. Stark naked.
Q. In what kind of daylight?
A. Broad daylight.
Q. What kind of outsider are you?
A. I’m a rank outsider.
Q. You are as sober as a…
A. A judge.
Q. And when you are drunk…
A. I have lots of leeway there. I can be drunk as a coot, or a lord, or an owl, or a fool-
Q. Very good, Mr. Arbuthnot. Now how brown are you?
A. As brown as a berry?
Q. Ever seen a brown berry?
A. Oh, no. Were I to see a brown berry, I should be frightened.
Q. To what extent?
A. Out of my wits.
Q. How about the fate of Europe?
A. It’s hanging in the balance, of course.
Q. What goes with “pure”?
Q. Thank you, Mr. Arbuthnot. What kind of beauties do you like?
A. Raving beauties.
Q. How generous are you?
A. I’m generous to a fault.
Q. How is corruption these days?
A. Oh, rife, as usual.
Q. How do you point?
A. I point with pride, I view with alarm, and I yield to no man…
Q. And when you are taken, you are taken…
Q. I see. I think that everyone who has listened to you today will be a better cliché-user for having heard you. Thank you, very, very, much.
Thank you, Mr. Steurer. It’s been a pleasure, I assure you, and I was only too glad to oblige