The Art of Mangling Clichés

I’ve never met a cliché that I haven’t mangled in some way or other.

The other day I was thinking to myself, “Hey, wait a minute. There is a cliché that I know inside out. That I would never, not in a million years, mangle. A dollar for your thoughts. Hah!”

It took me a few hours to realize that perhaps the correct saying is actually, “A penny for your thoughts”, and maybe even “A nickel for your thoughts”. But it’s highly unlikely that inflation has had that kind of impact on this particular cliché just yet.

I’m not sure why I have this glaring lack of ability when it comes to clichés. All I know is that I usually don’t dare to employ a cliché when I’m writing anything.

Once, I sent an email to a group of wonderful, empowering women who have been by my side every day for the past five years or so, and I headed it “Petal to the medal”. I meant, I realized later, “pedal to the metal”, but to this day, “petal to the medal” looks right to me (and as proof, I actually had to Google “petal to the medal cliché” to find out exactly what the right phrase was).

Luckily, embarrassment isn’t something that happens when I’m within the circle of this particular group of friends. But still, it was a reminder that I must stay away from clichés.

I guess as a writer, this is a good thing. On the other hand, in my current WIP, words and idioms play a rather large role.

So I’m now well-armed: I decided to get a copy of The Facts on File Dictionary of Clichés, and on my wishlist is The Scholastic Dictionary of Idioms, which I had borrowed from the library last year but didn’t get a chance to do more than dip into.

I figure I’ll be well-prepared as a result.

What about you? Are there any clichés that you tend to mangle?

14 thoughts on “The Art of Mangling Clichés

  1. Barbara

    I don’t mangle cliches, but really this is a good thing that you do. The last thing you want to be good at in writing is cliches, except if you have a character who is made more funny by the fact that he/she mangles them. I remember an old movie character who misused big words all the time; it was what made him a memorable and very funny character. Everybody loved to hear him talk.
    .-= Barbara´s last blog ..Robert B. Parker, 1932-2010 =-.

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  2. Dorte H

    I probably do sometimes, and I agree with Barbara that a funny new phrase is much better than any old cliché!

    I am teaching Hamlet right now, and today I came across the phrase ´to the manner born´. Of course I have heard it before, but don´t people say ´to the manor born´ today? (probably as a kind of pun, but nevertheless)
    .-= Dorte H´s last blog ..O for Olsen =-.

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  3. Claire (The Captive Reader)

    I specialise in getting half-way through the saying and then completely forgetting the rest. I don’t do this often, but when I do it will literally take me hours to remember the rest of it. Very frustrating.

    On the other hand, I don’t think I’ve ever heard my mother successfully complete an English-language saying or idiom. She claims it’s because English is her second language. However, it’s also the only one she’s been speaking for the last forty years, so this doesn’t hold much weight with the rest of us. Regardless, it’s very amusing when she tries.
    .-= Claire (The Captive Reader)´s last blog ..Teaser Tuesday (Jan. 26) =-.

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  4. Cat Woods

    I think you have a great character in the making. I would love a book full of mangled cliches from an intriguing character.

    I try really hard not to write cliches in my novels. However, I know they creep into my blog posts with greater regularity than I would like.
    .-= Cat Woods´s last blog ..How Great Thou Art =-.

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