Before computers, printing involved carving letters out of wooden blocks, then dropping the blocks into metal to create a ‘stereotype’ from which to print. The French word for this was ‘clicher’, a variant of ‘cliquer’ meaning ‘to click’.
Some phrases or groups of words commonly go together, so instead of laboriously grouping single letters or words a single ‘stereotype’ could be used. It is from this that we get the word ‘cliché’ meaning a commonly or overused phrase.
Clichés abound in sporting commentary, in politics and workshops:
- a grinding game
- free-flowing play
- drill down
- walk the talk
- it’s not over until it’s over
- bottom line is….
- inherited from previous administrations
- it is going to take time and a whole raft of measures
- let me be absolutely open and honest
Help your child or students to listen and read actively for clichés. The internet is also a good resource for finding clichés.
- Working in pairs, ask students to write the clichés on strips of light-weight card. Write the meaning of each cliché on the back.
- Spread the clichés over a desk so they can all be easily seen.
- Students then attempt to have a conversation using only cliché . Once a cliché has been used, it is removed from the desk.
- Alternatively, students can attempt to write a story using as many cliché as possible.
- Have students each select a cliché.
- Challenge them to create a unique and interesting replacement phrase.
Although idioms can also be overused, they are different in that they do not have a literal meaning. The figurative meaning of idioms is different from their literal meaning, which may often sound absurd or silly.
Compare clichés with idioms.