Thursday, September 4, 2014
DON’T LET CLICHÉS BE THE DEATH OF YOU BY RITA KARNOPP
Another category of idioms is a word having several meanings, sometimes simultaneously, sometimes discerned from the context of its usage. This is seen in the common use of the same word for an activity, for those engaged in it, for the product used, for the place or time of an activity, and sometimes for a verb.
· For instance: spill the beans meaning to let out a secret probably originates in a physical spilling of beans which are either being eaten or measured out. The point is that the spiller certainly does not want to lose any beans.
· Let the cat out of the bag: has a meaning similar to the former, but the secret revealed in this case will likely cause some problems. A cat was sometimes put in bags to keep it under control or to pretend that it was a more salable animal, such as a pig or a rabbit. So, to let the cat out of the bag suggests either that the ruse is revealed or that the situation is out of control.
· Break a leg: meaning good luck in a performance/presentation etc. This common idiom comes from superstition. It was thought that there were gremlins or sprites, little fairy-like creatures, backstage in theaters who would do exactly the opposite of whatever they were told. To say break a leg was to ensure the sprites would not in fact do the performers any damage.
Wow – did you know there was so much information about clichés? Me either! We’re drawn to clichés because they’re convenient. But clichés are no longer our friend. They shout amateur and readers are tired of them. Do yourself and your book a favor – leave the clichés in the books of the past – and write crisp, modern, and fresh. . . .
Don’t let clichés be the death of you (or your book)!