Showing posts from May, 2012

When Good Cliches Go Bad

“You, sir, are a masher and a cad!” “Who shall hold me responsible for being beguiled by such a nymph?” “Yeah, well, your approach really threw me for a loop.” “You’re in the major leagues now, fair maiden.” Er, what? Imagine you’re reading a romance novel set in a place and time that requires  a specific parlance: Regency English, for example, or early-20 th -century American English, or even that funky-formal-high-fantasy speak. Now imagine falling into the unfamiliar but intriguing rhythms of the language, feeling it lull you into a cozy state of sleepy receptivity. And then, out of nowhere, BAM!, an idiom squeaks its way into the symphony, jarring you back into the real world. Alas, the dreaded novelist trap has been sprung: you as a reader have become aware of the mechanics of the story. As authors, we should of course be wary of slipping into the verbal shortcuts of clichés, colloquialisms, idioms, and slang. It’s an English 101 lesson, sure, but clichés diminish the im