Imagine if everyone decided to pick one cliché a week and do his or her utmost to banish it from personal usage.
Some of us will have much more work to do than others. We won’t eliminate all clichés, and other, not-yet-known clichés will take the ranks of the departed.* But, like donating a t-shirt emblazoned with some catchphrase or symbol you don’t truly believe, every time you banish a cliché, you purge unnecessary crap from your own life.
This effort needs no title or slogan—it’s just a regular personal practice, intellectual good hygiene.
To start, I’ll pick the one cliché I currently despise the most: “No worries.”
A single Australian is the source of this expression as used in American speech: the fictional Crocodile Dundee, played by actor Paul Hogan.
Before 1986, nobody in America said, “No worries.” We said, “That’s o.k.,” “No problem,” or “Sure thing” when we should have said, “You’re welcome.”
Then came the first eponymous Crocodile Dundee movie, and everybody soon had a case of the no-worries.
“No worries” gave us another way to avoid the decency and simplicity of “You’re welcome,” while at the same time allowing us to impart an even greater breeziness.
In America in late 2015, if you’ve paid off the mortgage and have, say, $5M in the bank, and your family members are all healthy, you probably have no major worries. The rest of us have some worries, large or small.
“No worries” on its face is a lie, and, frankly, sounds stupid.
I might have spoken this cliché maybe a dozen times in my life, but I’m guilty of using it in e-mails. No more.
*That’s the other half of the fight: resisting the new cliché. There was a time when expressions such as “Take it to the next level,” “Do more with less,” and “Move the needle” didn’t exist.
# # #