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Sep 19 / King Kaufman

How to spot a cliche: Do you know what’s coming next?

More fun with clichés: The Cliché Finder. “Are you searching for a cliché … but haven’t been able to come up with one?” the site asks, then offers a database with “over 3,300 clichés indexed!”

You, of course, might want to use it as an extension of the Bleacher Report cliché blacklist, to see if that phrase you’re about to use is old and tired enough to be found in something called a Cliché Finder.

Or you could just use it for fun. Fun is good, though life is not all fun and games.

But seriously, folks … there’s an interesting essay on the site titled What is a cliché?” Most dictionaries have some variation of the Oxford Dictionaries’ “a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought,” which I think is better than the Cliché Finder’s “a metaphor characterized by its overuse.” Clichés need not be metaphors, after all.

But I like what comes next in the essay:

I have my own test to see if a phrase is a cliché or not. I read the first half of the sentence, then I ask myself, “do I just know (because everyone knows) how the sentence ends?” Someone recently submitted, “The gene pool could use a little chlorine.” I knew this wasn’t a cliché because when I say, “The gene pool could use what?” I don’t know how to end the sentence.

That’s a pretty good test. Pretend you didn’t write the sentence you just wrote, and read it again. Halfway through, would you, as a reader, know what’s coming next? If so, try something else.

  • Ryan Dilbert

    Great post, King. A practical way to approach this issue. I’ll be even more self-aware of avoiding cliches, for sure.

  • backell

    Good help here!