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A French onomatopoeic word echoing the sound of a die or stamp of a printing block, a cliché is an overused expression that has become trite, hackneyed or stale. 


Clichés are used by unimaginative lazy communicators because they are well known and quickly establish conduits with responders.    They can become catch-phrases used to gain access to select groups.

Clichés are particularly popular with politicians because of the limited demands made on listeners and the simple messages (slogans) can easily resonate with wide audiences.

Their downside is that they can be dull, insipid and boring. They can become a mark of conformity.

Other definitions: 

A hackneyed, tired, over-used, worn-out expression

A time honoured phrase

oft-cited truism/axiom

A shop worn phrase

A well worn canard

old chestnut

oft used metaphor

over worked metaphor

A pre-packaged, cellophane wrapped phrase used by people too lazy to think.

A previously enjoyed sound bite.

A Grey haired grey mare

A stock reply

A pat phrase


 Letters to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald have had a lot of fun ridiculing the use of clichés.


Just the odd one

SIR: I was pleased to read on the front page of the Herald (September 23) that the new Premier of Queensland, Mr Russell Cooper when asked to comment on Mr Ahern’s commitment to implement the Fitzgerald reforms “lock, stock and barrel”, said: “I am not given to clichés.”

On page 6 of the same issue, however, Mike Steketeè reports that “Cooper is a conservative on social issues. ‘Homos-xual law reform, he has said, will take place ‘over my dead body’.”

Perhaps Russell Cooper is like that legendary character immortalised in the Graffiti:
                  “I used to use clichés all the time, but now I avoid them like the plague.”

Richard Newburg,

Newport Island Road,

Port Macquarie


Far be it for me to say

The recent attack on clichés by your readers has been nothing but a storm in a teacup. Clichés are different things to different people: They can be pie in the sky, a breath of fresh air, or just a pain in the butt. If they’re not your cup of tea, let them go through to the keeper, in one ear and out the other, like water off a duck’s back. Let me say this — it works for me.

• Ron EIphick,

Buff Point, September15.

A word to the wise

I agree with Ron Elphick (Let ters, September 17). A well- chosen cliché is important to any conversation. They really are the icing on the camel’s back. With out clichés, we would be at sixes and sevens at the bottom of the ninth. The problem is that some people just don’t make the effort. They sweep the whole issue under the “too hard” carpet.

Peter Hunt, Cherrybrook, September17.

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