October 26, 2006

New Cliches

Filed under: pedantry — Brian @ 7:42 pm

I get tired of overused cliches.

“To run roughshod over” — of the people who use this, how many know what “roughshod” means? And isn’t the utility diminished when nobody normally speaks of being “shod” at all? Rough or otherwise?

“To avoid like the plague.” Yes, indeed. Like that plague we had last week, which everyone assiduously avoided, to their enduring credit and the benefit of their heirs.

“Sick as a dog.” In my experience, dogs are healthier than people.

Surely some were once useful. Somewhere, far back in our history, these phrases elicited a clear and useful picture in our minds, substituting vivid and potent imagery for a workaday description of a matter. But no more. I’m not among the first to point out that these have become (or always were) crutches for the inarticulate, spoken or written as though they were one word in many cases. A hand wave over an idea. The written equivalent of ending a poorly constructed sentence with, “you know what I mean.”

So I was thrilled to find this new one the other day, after wandering (in a way) around Midland, Texas.

“As useful as a uranium-enriched chocolate teapot.”

Such a thing is at once both useless and anti-useful. A chocolate teapot would simply fail as a teapot, but could be something else. Something cute. A confectionary novelty. But a radioactive one – now we’re talking. This is a thing that not only fails at its intended purpose, but brings with it entirely new and vastly more significant problems. Not only can you not use it to prepare that relaxing hot drink you may want, but simply being near it long enough will kill you.


This, from the fourth paragraph of this. Four paragraphs being about as far as I can get reading anything that’s glowing white text on black background.



  1. Some excellent points! And as much as it hurts, you simply must keep reading The Crown Challenge…it keeps getting better.

    Comment by gwynne — October 26, 2006 @ 8:14 pm

  2. Four paragraphs being about as far as I can get reading anything that’s glowing white text on black background.

    That’s why God invented (a) copy and paste, and (b) TextEdit.

    Gwynne’s right; it’s worth the time to read the whole thing.

    Comment by Eric — October 26, 2006 @ 9:46 pm

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