Archive for the ‘Clichés’ Category

On the quote watch

April 14, 2017

An exchange on Facebook a few days ago, provoked by a 4/9/17 piece linking to 4/15/11 story “World’s languages traced back to single African mother tongue: scientists” on PRI (Public Radio International). Various annoyed responses, including, from Ben Zimmer:

No idea why this PRI piece has been making the rounds lately, but it’s about the old 2011 Science paper

My response:

On Facebook, everything old is new again.

— intending to use the boldfaced catchphrase (or cliché) to convey something like ‘fashions and trends are repeated or revived’. Then I wondered about the history of the expression, and found nothing useful in dictionaries of quotations, idioms, and clichés, at least for this wording used in this way. What I found were links to biblical quotations with different wording conveying rather different content; and then, from the 1970s on, a ton of examples of what was clearly recognized as a catchphrase / cliché, used much as I used it above.

As I note here every so often, I am not a lexicographer or a quotes investigator, and I don’t have the resources to pursue the history of expressions in their sociocultural context (though I do hang out with people who do these things, splendidly). So here I’m just setting the problem.

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No cultural clichés!

November 16, 2014

In a possibly apochryphal story, someone complains that they can’t appreciate Shakespeare’s plays because they’re so filled with clichéd expressions. Of course, those expressions were either innovations of Shakespeare’s or other figurative language spread through Shakespeare’s. If you come to works of art in a vacuum, with no sense of their cultural context, then even works of genius can seem banal.

Another example: a friend of mine who found Mozart’s music boring, because for him it was all generic “classical” music, only too familiar.

And now, another friend who (despite his attraction to action movies of many sorts) can’t appreciate classic Westerns, like Red River, because he feels they’re too predictable.

I’m sure there are other examples from other arts, though I can’t provide them from my own experience. Probably there are people who can’t appreciate Monet’s water lily paintings, or Charles Dickens’s novels, or John McPhee’s non-fiction books.

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Formulaic: Zippy, OBH

May 4, 2014

Two Sunday cartoons touching on formulaic language: a Zippy with clichés, a One Big Happy with a familiar quotation in a German accent:

(#1)

The line between clichés and idioms is not always clear (and I’m not at all sure that making the distinction clearer would be particularly useful): I’d class have a frog in one’s throat and zip your lip, for instance, as idioms.

(#2)

The German heavy from a bad movie, with a standard line.

My Hobby Comics

March 24, 2014

Some bounty from the Stanford Linguistics in the Comics freshman seminar, a collection of xkcd cartoons with subheaded metatext “My Hobby”, searched out by Kyle Qian. Kyle found about 1,300 xkcd cartoons online, 36 of them subheaded this way, and he posted 7 of them with discussion. (I’ll put off posting about his comments until he gives me permission. The cartoons are in some sense public, but Kyle’s analysis is certainly not.)

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Ask AZ: there there

June 21, 2012

From a science reporter yesterday, a query about where the expression there there came from. My answer came in two parts, one having to do with the comforting or reassuring there, there, the other with Gertrude Stein and Oakland (because my correspondent specifically mentioned them).

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face compounds

February 25, 2012

Today’s Zippy:

Mainly about Facebook and face time, but there’s other stuff in there too.

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Dinosaur Grammar

January 23, 2012

In a comment by The Ridger on my “sneak peak” posting, a link to this excellent Dinosaur Comic:

Three things: case-marking with than; the dangers of correcting people’s grammar (this is why The Ridger linked to the cartoon — for Utahraptor’s criticism and T-Rex’s response); and the mixed clichés (“out of the box” and “push the envelope”).

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Wienerfest

January 17, 2012

From Karen Erickson on Facebook, Ride the Wild Wiener:

There’s no text in the speech balloon, so you can feel free to invent some (as people on Facebook are doing).

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When hell freezes over

August 8, 2011

A Bizarro with unlikely language changes:

We all have our peeves and pleasures. Apparently, the Devil appreciates awesome and That being said.

Clichéfest

July 13, 2011

Today’s Zippy, with a wave of mangled clichés:

I got “Fat chance”, “There’s strength in numbers”, “One good turn deserves another”, and “I’m on pins and needles”, plus “the wisdom of crowds” in the title, but I was momentarily stumped on lick Pawtucket (“kick the bucket”). The line between clichés and idioms is none too clear here.

(And note: “Scuffle, muffle, duffel, trick!”)

Conger on!