Viva cliche!

At the end of the day, writes Graham Hopkins,
well placed cliches can convey so much in a

It’s the same old story isn’t it? In a
nutshell, we’ve had all and sundry sitting in their ivory towers
telling us that we should avoid cliches like the

I say
hold your horses. I might rock the boat and ruffle some feathers,
but the conventional wisdom smells fishy to me. Indeed, you might
think I’ve got bigger fish to fry or that I’ve a got a chip on my
shoulder, but cliches are meat and drink to me.

There’s more to a cliche than
meets the eye. Sure, they can stick out like a sore thumb, but time
and time again a cliche can warm the cockles of your heart. I know
that I’m going against the grain but all things being equal, I want
the best of both worlds. And that’s not because I’m in two minds

All I
say is don’t count your chickens (spring, headless or otherwise)
before they’re hatched. At the end of the day, a cliche is par for
the course. I realise that I’ve got my work cut out but there’s no
two ways about it: to some, cliches might stink to high heaven, but
I’ll use them until hell freezes over.

poor, little cliche, which comes from the French verb “clicher”
meaning to stereotype (in French “cliche” is also used for a
photographic negative), has had a pretty ropey press. We’re told
they’re just tired old phrases that have lost their impact through

In his
preface to Christine Ammar’s excellent Methuen Dictionary of
, Frank Muir defended cliches as being “to academically
correct speech what baked beans are to Coq au Vin,” and adds, “but
baked beans are very much more popular than Coq au Vin and are not
only just as filling but probably better for us.”

Certainly, there is a need to
take care over their use, but cliches are easily understood turns
of phrase. Social care writing is not about being creative or
displaying a wide vocabulary – it’s about communicating. And these
phrases work.

did you know that if you “haven’t had a wink of sleep” but “your
heart’s desire” was to be “sound as a bell” proving there was
“method in your madness” you might be accused of unleashing the
savage dogs of cliche, but equally you would be quoting

So, if
you find cliches blood-boiling, hackle-raising or craw-sticking,
consider a change of heart. Indeed, you could also change your
spots, stripes and tune. And before you know it, Bob could be your
uncle and Fanny your aunt.

– From
now on we’ll be giving away either a copy of Plain English for
Social Services or The Write Stuff – A Guide to Effective Writing
in Social Care (both by Graham Hopkins and published by Russell
House –
to contributors of amusing quotes and examples of jargon,
gobbledygook or managementspeak. Please send to

Language massacre

– “I am very excited about this initiative and
feel that it will really add something to our pogrom.”

From a letter received by Juliet Koprowska,
University of York

Contributions welcome. Please send them to

Safety belt up

“The report highlighted the stocktake of the
work undertaken within the framework of the existing Community
Safety Strategy, the gaps and priorities for the next strategy and
identified six broad themes, each with overall aims, as a basis for
taking forward the strategy.”

From Barnsley’s Community Safety Strategy.

Please send in examples of jargon,
gobbledygook and management-speak to

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