All terms

What is a Cliché?

An overused phrase or idea that has lost its originality or impact.

Unlocking the Mysteries of the Cliché

At their best, clichés provide comfort and familiarity to readers, helping them to identify with a story or character more easily. However, when overused, clichés become predictable and render a piece of writing stale and unoriginal.

One of the challenges for writers is to find new and fresh ways to express common ideas without resorting to overused catchphrases or storylines. Sometimes, the right combination of words can transform a tired and clichéd expression into a unique and powerful tool for storytelling.

Understanding the origins of clichés can help writers avoid falling into the trap of using them. The word 'cliché' itself derives from the French word 'clicher,' meaning to stereotype or cast metal. This meaning evolved to describe a printing technique used in the 19th century, where a phrase or image was cast on a metal plate and used repeatedly in printmaking. Today, clichés are still used in much the same way, over and over again, until they lose the impact they once had.

To Cliché, or Not To Cliché?

Let's take a closer look at how two famous works of literature handle the issues surrounding clichés.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Although the novel is often criticized for its heavy use of slang and repetitive phrases, Salinger masterfully employs these elements to convey the rebellious and cynical nature of his teenage protagonist, Holden Caulfield.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien

While Tolkien's epic tale of good vs. evil is packed with plenty of recognizable fantasy tropes and archetypes, he used his extensive knowledge of language and myth to create a rich and detailed world that transcends the limitations of cliché.