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Picture of arnie
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An article in my paper starts:
quote:
Clint Dempsey* doesn't deal in cliches. Life, as he keeps saying, is too short to waste words.

Surely "life is too short to ..." is a prime example of a cliche?

I don't think the author had her tongue in her cheek; at least, other pieces I've read by her show no trace of irony.

* He's a footballer; a species that seems almost incapable of speaking other than in cliches in my experience.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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For me, it's always been a fine line between metaphor and cliche. When does metaphor fossilize and become non-metaphor? Is cliche just a tired metaphor?


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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Is cliche just a tired metaphor?

Pretty much, I'd say. It's pretty well impossible to give a definite point when a metaphor become a cliche. All I can say is that most people know them when they see them.


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I see a cliche as broader than a metaphor. One of my colleagues uses cliches, ad nauseum, such as "I have no dog in that fight." That's not a metaphor.
 
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"I have no dog in that fight."

If your friend is not talking about a real dog fight (probably illegal in Chicago), then it's a metaphor. It does not seem much of a cliche, but I may hang with a different crowd than you. Wink


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Yes, when I thought about it later, I realized I was wrong. I guess you are right that it is a tired metaphor.
 
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I've been trying to come up with a cliche that isn't a metaphor.

If people say things a lot...and really for no good communication reason...isn't it a cliche? Maybe not, but I am unsure. For example, what about the phrase, "At any rate." What good is that phrase? Isn't it just a tired cliche? It's not a metaphor.

I may be mixed up, though.
 
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In reading a little about cliches, it can be a trite or overused expression, which, at least in my crowd, "at any rate" is. Two examples given by the online Random House Dictionary were "strong as an ox" (a metaphor) and "sadder but wiser" (not a metaphor). A cliche, according to some sources, can also be a hackneyed idea or plot or musical expression.

This all made me wonder, in certain fields or areas of the country (or world), cliches must be quite different. Therefore, arnie's original question about when a cliche is not a cliche is an excellent one!
 
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in certain fields or areas of the country (or world), cliches must be quite different.

Yes, that's true. For instance, in football (soccer) players talk about it being "a game of two halves", and that they were "over the moon" when they scored. They trot out these cliches in almost every interview, without a trace of self-conciousness. True, footballers aren't paid for their brainpower, and there are a (very) few articulate footballers around, but en masse they seem much less capable than most of speaking in untrite (if that's a word?) sentences.

I imagine that those phrases are nothing like so hackneyed over there, but you have your equivalents from baseball, American fooball, and other games that are probably relatively new to us.

There are, of course, cliches that are the same on both sides of the Pond ("Pond" is a cliche, I'd say). "Stepping up to the plate" is a cliche over here, imported via managementspeak. Since we don't play much baseball here it has virtually no literal meaning but the metaphorical meaning has fast become tired and stale, as with most management jargon.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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"a game of two halves"

I think you have found Kalleh an example of a cliche that isn't a metaphor (not when used by footballers anyway). It's a cliche that, in context is quite literally true.

There are also quite a few apparently tautological cliches which aren't metaphorical.

It's not over till it's over.
Nothing succeeds like success.
It will be ready when it's ready.


(Incidentally David Crystal has a blogpost about tautology which explains why I said "apparently" above.
 
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How about cliches which are not cliches, such as "hello", "goodbye", and "have a nice day". "Emergency third rail power trip"? For those of you in the UK, there's "mind the gap".


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The first rule of Tautology Club is the first rule of Tautology Club.
 
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And the first rule of Ellipsis club is...
 
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quote:
How about cliches which are not cliches, such as "hello", "goodbye", and "have a nice day". "Emergency third rail power trip"? For those of you in the UK, there's "mind the gap".
You make a good point. I guess the operative word is "trite."
 
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I guess the operative word is "trite."

I don't know. What is more trite than a conventional phrase that serves some extra-linguistic, social function, like greetings and "how's the weather"?


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So, z, are you arguing that a cliche is only a metaphor?
 
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A cliche isn't only a metaphor. It's a phrase so over-used that it almost has no meaning any more. "Neither a borrower nor a lender be" shone brightly when newly-minted by Shakespeare around 1600. It's now a cliche, but it's not a metaphor. Many such sayings that are trotted out have become cliches. Proverbs are essentially cliches.

An idiom is a phrase composed of words that do not literally indicate its meaning, like "put up with" meaning "tolerate". It's not a metaphor, necessarily. Many idioms are cliches and lots of cliches are idioms. Idioms, of course, are a great stumbling block to those learning English; there is no logic to them and their meaning often can't be ascertained from the context. They have to be learnt individually.


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RE: American athletes and their cliches.. I think they all attended the same "how-to-talk-to-the-press" seminars in the 1980's (widely promulgated, no doubt, in the wake of impulsive & profane interviewees of the ilk of Billy Martin & Pete Rose). Didn't take long for the set of phrases to enter the ranks of cliche as one hears them repeated ad nauseum.. I'd quote you some but my mind has been numbed by them.. Guess we need a John Stewart pastiche
 
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are you arguing that a cliche is only a metaphor?

Nope. I'd say that a cliche could very well be a metaphor, a simile, or any other rhetorical device. I'd have to disagree with arnie that tired metaphors (or cliches or both) no longer have any meaning. His example from Shakespeare still has meaning, and I wouldn't call it a metaphor either. (I am not suggesting that arnie did, but just clarifying.) It still has its full meaning, tempered by our knowledge that Polonius is a pompous blowhard. It's still works, no matter how tired. I did suggest that phatic language (the "hellos" and "goodbyes" of the language have lost any literal meaning (of hailing and dikvine accompaniment on journeys away from the speaker) they may have once had. But, they do have a social function.


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Nobody's mentioned the closely related pleonasm Often a tautology, and often cliche.


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True, Geoff. As I said earlier, a cliche is much broader than a metaphor, though I guess I had misunderstood z's point about that. I had thought he considered all cliches "tired metaphors."
 
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Nobody's mentioned the closely related pleonasm.

I am curious why pleonasms occur. When somebody says ATM machine, rather than ATM or AT machine. My WAG is that there is some reason that people tack on the extra, redundant word. It might be that ATM is in danger of being confused with something else. I've never heard anybody say the FBI of Investigation or the CIA Agency. It might be that the meaning of TLAs such as PIN and ATM is shifting and the pleonastic final word is being tacked on to restore some kind of semantic balance, but who knows.

Do you have some examples of pleonastic tired metaphors?

he considered all cliches "tired metaphors."

Nothing of the sort. I was asking why something like "get all our ducks in a row" is a cliche, but "goodbye" is not. (NB, I am not saying that goodbye is a tired metaphor or cliche.) I would say, under most peoples definitions of cliche that all tired metaphors are cliches, but that does not imply all cliches are tired metaphors. There could be some cliches that are not. I also disagreed that tired metaphors are semantically bleached.

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I suspect that many people do not realize the redundancy in "PIN number" or ATM machine." Often I tease people who ask me to enter my "PIN number" by saying, "You want my personal identification number number? You really need to work on that stutter!" Few understand until I explain.

"Goodbye" is cliche and nonsense to me since I'm not a theist, so it has no meaning.


It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. -J. Krishnamurti
 
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Well, not to pick a nit, but I had said: "I had thought he considered all cliches 'tired metaphors'." In other words, I admitted that I was wrong and you were right, z.
 
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"Goodbye" is cliche and nonsense to me since I'm not a theist, so it has no meaning.

I'd say that few people know the etymology of goodbye or about the etymological fallacy. Its meaning, by the way, is no longer God be with ye. In fact, I'd be hard-put to say what it means, but it does have a social function, as most phatic language does. Whether you say goodbye, bye, adios, or ciao (Venetian Italian "slave") doesn't really seem to matter. It's a little bit of language you say to indicate you are leaving.

not to pick a nit

Sorry, I misread your posting.


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Etymological fallacy or not, one sees "A Dios" and "Adieu" translated as "Goodbye," so the parting remark in some languages clearly suggests a theistic link.


It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. -J. Krishnamurti
 
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one sees "A Dios" and "Adieu" translated as "Goodbye,"

How something is translated from English to another language does not have anything to do with what something means in English. You might as well suggest that Japanese sayonara means God be with you because that's how you translate goodbye into Japanese. While it is easier for Hispanophones and Francophones to discern what adios and adieu once meant in their respective languages, those words no longer mean that, they mean goodbye.

[Added dropped word.]

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How something is translated from English to another language does have anything to do with what something means in English.
I assume you meant "does not." I see your point. However, isn't there often an etymological link between languages?
 
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isn't there often an etymological link between languages?

Sometimes. French and Spanish, for instance, are both Romance languages. Latin and Sanskrit are both Indo-European languages ...

There's no link between English and Japanese. At least, if there is it was so long ago that to traces can be found.


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isn't there often an etymological link between languages?

What arnie said. There are inks between related languages languages. There are two sources of the vocabulary of a language. Some (usually most) are inherited from an earlier version of the language. These may be cognate (what you may mean by linked in etymology) to other words in related languages. And others are borrowed from related or unrelated languages. So, while Japanese and English are not related (in any way that is still observable), Japanese does have a large amount of English loanwords.


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Maybe what Geoff is saying is that there might be some (Indo-)European tradition of saying "god be with you" when you leave someone's company. After all, the English, Spanish, French and Italian words for "goodbye" all derive from words for "god".
 
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