Back in the days when movable type was used, a plate would be made for commonly used phrases. Cliché was a French word used as the name of this printing plate. Today, the word cliché refers to a phrase that has been used so often it becomes commonplace - much like the common phrases on the old printing plates from which clichés get their name.
Clichés that Describe Time
Some clichés that refer to time include:
- Time will tell: This means that something will revealed or become clear over time
- In the nick of time: This means something happened just in time
- Lost track of time: This means you stopped paying attention to the time or to how long something was taking
- Lasted an eternity: This refers to something that lasts for a very long time (or that feels like it does)
- A matter of time: This refers to something that will eventually happen or eventually become clear
- A waste of time: This refers to something that was silly or not valuable to do
- Rushed for time: This means you do not have sufficient time to do something
- In a jiffy: This means something will happen soon
- The time of my life: This refers to a really great time
Clichés that Describe People
Some clichés that describe people include:
- As old as the hills: This describes someone very old
- Fit as a fiddle: This describes someone in great shape
- Without a care in the world: This describes someone who is not plagued by problems or worries
Clichés About Life, Love and Emotions
- Opposites attract: This means that people who like different things and have different views are likely to fall in love or to become friends
- Scared out of my wits: This describes being very frightened
- Frightened to death: This also describes being very frightened
- All is fair in love and war: This cliché stands for the premise that you can do whatever you have to in order to capture the heart of your lover
- All’s well that ends well: This means that even if there were problems along the way, it doesn't matter as long as there is a happy ending
- Every cloud has a silver lining: This means that even when bad things happen, it may be possible to find some good in them
- Haste makes waste: This cliché stands for the premise that you will make mistakes when you do things too quickly
- The writing on the wall: This refers to something that should be clear or apparent and that is essentially a foregone conclusion
- Time heals all wounds: This means that all pain and suffering will get better over time
- What goes around comes around: This cliché teaches the lesson that the way you treat others will eventually be the way you are treated
- When you have lemons, make lemonade: This cliché encourages you to have a positive attitude even when things are going bad.
Clichés and Idioms
Clichés are often idioms. Idioms are figurative phrases with an implied meaning; the phrase is not to be taken literally. This causes difficulty when translating to another language because the meaning may not be understood by people within that culture.
Idioms are either opaque or transparent:
- Opaque - When you translate an opaque idiom, it will not make sense because the literal meaning is nothing like the real meaning. An example of an opaque idiom is “bag of bones,” which means someone is very underweight.
- Transparent - A transparent idiom has similarities between the literal and the expression. For example, “playing your cards right” is an expression that actually came from card games but that can apply to other situations.
Clichés can be true or not and some are stereotypes. Clichés can be figurative or literal and are overused.
- An example of a figurative cliché is “raining cats and dogs”, meaning it is raining heavily.
- A literal cliché would be “to tell the truth” because you are going to do just that.
A figurative idiom can become a cliché if it is used often enough in our language.