Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Museum of Cliches

Recently I read through this article that targets what it considers are "cliches that should be banned from use,"
and it reminded me of a handout I made for the English classes I precepted, based on an Annie Dillard quote we read from an essay by Alexander Chee, "Annie Dillard and the Writing Life." He talked about his days as her non ficiton writing student, and listed off many of her concrete rules for strengthening language.

One of my favorites that I haunted my students with throughout the semester, was that one should avoid "the museum of clichés in [the] unconscious." I created a corresponding handout to this effect, affectionately called "The Museum of Cliches." With the Professor Elizabeth's blessing I handed them a triple-columned page, listing as many cliches as I could think of. Elizabeth has used this list in other classes since then, and plans to use it in classes to come. Because the above link only provided 12 phrases, and with an arguable level of overuse, here is the museum I paired together for my students.

The Museum of Clichés
“She is not angry, she threw her clothes out the window. Remember this.”
~Anne Dillard
Think you should word something more creatively?
If you can find your phrase here (and maybe if you can’t), the answer is yes!

A bone to pick
A glimmer of hope
A twinkle in her eye
Ace up her sleeve
Actions speak louder than words
Against the grain
All bets are off
All boils down to
All in a day’s work
All walks of life
An oldie but a goodie
Are a big part of my life
As (fast, loud, etc) as she could
As all get out
As luck would have it
As the day is long
At the end of the day
At the last minute
At the top of her voice
Back against the wall
Bark worse than her bite
Beat around the bush
Been there, done that
Beggars can’t be choosers
Behind her back
Behind the times
Being all ears
Bend over backwards
Bent out of shape
Better safe than sorry
Better than ever
Bite the bullet
Blew a gasket
Bored to tears
Bright and early
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed
Buck/Butt naked
Bump on a log
Bust your chops
Busy as a bee
Buy into
Call it a day
Call the shots
Chewed her out
Chomping at the bit
Clean your clock
Close call
Cool as a cucumber
Costs an arm and a leg
Couch potato
Cute as a button
Dealt a fatal blow
Dig yourself a hole
Dirt cheap
Down on your luck
Drawing a blank
Driving me crazy/up a wall
Easy as pie/taking candy from a baby
Even the odds
Everyday life
Fancy meeting you here
Forever and a day
Get worked up
Give a hoot/damn/crap
Give and Take
Glass half full/empty
Grasping at straws
Guns blazing
Had it up to here
Hang on every word
Hard to swallow
Have high hopes
Have made me who I am today
Have two left feet
Having a short fuse
Hell to pay/freezes over
Hit the hay/road/sack/deck
Hold/bite your tongue
Hook, Line, and Sinker
In the nick of time
In this day and age
In today’s society
Just in time
Just the tip of the iceberg
Keep on ticking
Kick the bucket
Last but not least
Let’s face it
Light as a feather
Like a knife through butter
Like Romeo and Juliet
Like there’s no tomorrow
Lose steam
Lost her marbles
Made her skin crawl
Made my blood boil
Memory like a goldfish
Memory like an elephant
Most people…
Necessary evil
Never a dull moment
No pain, no gain
No place like home
No time like the present
Not exactly rocket science
Now and again
Now and then
On tender hooks
On/In the same page/boat
One hundred and ten percent
One in a million
Push comes to shove
Push your buttons
Put your best foot forward
Raining cats and dogs
Read between the lines
Rhyme or reason
Rubbed me the wrong way
Seeing eye to eye
Since sliced bread
Slow as molasses
Stop on a dime
Stuck out like a sore thumb
Swallowed her pride
Tail between his legs
Take by storm
Take its toll
Tears of joy
The big cheese
The calm before the storm
The fact of the matter
Through thick and thin
Throw a curve ball
Tickles your fancy
To be fair/honest
Twenty four/seven
Twist of fate
Two-way street
Ugly as sin
Until the Bitter end
Until the cows come home
Wake-up call
What on earth
Whole nine yards
Wig out
Winds of change
With all of her heart
Work like a dog
World of trouble/hurt
Worry wart
You snooze, you lose
Young and foolish

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