Cliches

Topics which don't quite fit into any other category

Cliches

Postby Elliott » 13 Mar 2012, 15:26

TD has said of cliches that they usually have some basis in truth. I agree, and I always think it's a mistake when someone dismisses an explanation as "cliched", as if that means it's automatically wrong. Hearsay and misinformation can generate assumed truths (especially in our hyper-communicative age) but even so, some things become cliches because they are simply true.

Blogging and Twitter etc. enable very fast communication. Whenever a new topic breaks out, the "conversation" quickly becomes an interplay of cliches that were established in the first few hours. It takes a few months before things settle down and some kind of consensus emerges that acknowledges all of those cliches and answers them in some way. (People call them "memes", but I don't think there is much functional difference between a meme and a cliche. If anyone wants to respond to that statement, please do.)

But quite apart from that, there are perennial cliches which persist for decades. Even though they often seem glib and "easy", they have the ring of truth.

In this thread I'm inviting people to cite cliches they agree or disagree with, and explain why in each case. I'll start us off...

Homophobes are secretly gay themselves.


I'm sure this is true sometimes, but to assume it's true in any particular random case is surely absurd. People could have all kinds of reasons for being ideologically or emotionally against homosexuality. I think this cliche is really just a stock method for gay activists to humiliate their opponents. It also means they needn't take opposing views seriously. A gay friend of mine once said "everyone is gay, really" - I doubt he really believed that, but it was a useful way for him to ignore anyone opposed to homosexuality.

If someone doesn't believe in God, they'll believe in anything.


This is a tough one, because I think on the whole it is probably true. While I think it is patronising to non-believers to imply they spend their lives looking for something - "anything" - to believe in, I think a great many of them do. Most people are quite desperate to have beliefs. I think (and feel personally) that the lack of religion creates "a god-shaped hole" and it's no wonder that people look to communism, climate change and diversity as a means of filling that hole. I think it is no coincidence that in our secular age, conspiracy theories are absolutely everywhere: perhaps believers in them draw some comfort from the idea that somebody somewhere, however evil, is controlling an otherwise chaotic world.

Religion has been behind every war.


I think this one is simply rubbish. For example, how did religion cause WW1? Or WW2? Or the Vietnam War? Or the Gulf War? It would be more true to pin the blame on "economics", but even that would be fallacious. I think the truth is irritatingly nuanced and specific to each war, and may or may not be driven by an unconscious desire in mankind to have wars, for whatever reason will do.

Rock 'n' roll died when Noel Gallagher visited Downing Street.


This is a very modern cliche, and perhaps confined to Britain, but I had to include it. I think the truth is the Establishment died when that philistine visited Downing Street. If I had to pick a time when rock 'n' roll died (and it is most certainly dead), I'd say it was the morning after Woodstock.

Everything happens for a reason.


This is one of those ideas I think non-religious people, especially ones who aren't very intelligent, take to as a source of comfort. I don't see any evidence for it, still less a means by which it could possibly be true - unless one believes in God.

That which does not kill me makes me stronger.


I think this is true of small-scale problems, and even a lot of large-scale problems. But there are large-scale problems which, even if you overcome them, nevertheless exact a heavy price. In other words, it doesn't kill you, but it doesn't make you stronger: it makes you weaker in the long-term.

The truth is rarely pure and never simple.


I am no fan of Oscar Wilde, but I think this statement is very true. I think it is just an obvious and rather useless fact expressed in a flowery way. This exemplifies much of Wilde's work and demonstrates why I dislike the man.

Love means never having to say you're sorry.


Ha ha ha. More wishful thinking from the Baby Boomers.
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Re: Cliches

Postby Gavin » 13 Mar 2012, 23:35

Good topic, however I think I would define the terms slightly differently: I think of a clichés as being phrases like "Let's run it up the flagpole and see if it'll fly" or "Oh my gosh!" and so on. Trite phrases that are a subcategory of memes.

Memes I find to be a useful enough definition: they can be anything from physical mannerisms through to fashion trends through to use of clichés. They are "social viruses" in a sense. I think the idea is that they propagate simply so that people can "fit in" and not due to any merit beyond this.

What you cite seem to me to be more "sayings" - bordering on aphorisms, though they are not always very wise. (By the way, La Rochefoucauld is a great aphorist in my view.)

Sayings are often generalisations, and generalisations are very often true. That is why they come about: because they are observed to be generally true. How often people mistake generalisations for categorical statements, when that is precisely what they are not, since they allow for exceptions. This reminds me of Dalrymple correctly, of course, observing that a book - or person - actually usually can be accurately judged by the cover. Sherlock Holmes was a fictional character, but his very astute observations are possible in theory, even if few practice them.

I agree with your analysis of those sayings. Such sayings are sometimes true, but not always. I also agree with your appraisal of Wilde: an egotistical man, often stating the obvious dressed up as profundity. He certainly met his downfall though.
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Re: Cliches

Postby Caleb » 14 Mar 2012, 01:57

I don't agree with this one:

If someone doesn't believe in God, they'll believe in anything.

There are several reasons. Firstly, people need to have some sort of metaphysical point of view. I do think that people will try to sort out some sort of order in things.

However (and secondly), I don't think that means they will necessarily latch onto anything, and for no good reason. Undoubtably, some people will. However, someone who analyses religion and rejects it may very well analyse a whole lot of other things and reject those also. That person might then choose to accept something because he has examined it and thinks it has stood up to scrutiny.

The argument contained in the above cliche seems to be somewhat circular.
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Re: Cliches

Postby Michael » 14 Mar 2012, 02:40

Good topic, Elliott.

Everything happens for a reason.


Only recently, a few years ago, I realized that I had always taken this cliche in a different sense than everyone else did. I had taken it to mean

Everything that happens has a cause (at least one).


This, I think, is universally true, except possibly the First Cause, whatever that happens to be. I was genuinely surprised when I learned that most people saying it meant by 'reason' that everything that happens aims at a some consciously intended good purpose, whether by God, History, or whatever. I attribute my ignorance to growing up in an nonreligious household.
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Re: Cliches

Postby Damo » 14 Mar 2012, 12:37

Turning the other cheek.


I will never understand this. As someone who is rediscovering their Roman Catholic roots, I find this cliche bizzare to say the least.

It smacks of moral cowardice.
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Re: Cliches

Postby Liviu » 16 Mar 2012, 13:28

Turning the other cheek.


I believe “turning the other cheek” might be interpreted in several ways. Here are two that came to my mind:

One interpretation would be: do not involve yourself in a retaliatory cycle that will divert you from your spiritual quest. Your pride is an obstacle to overcome, not a value to defend. In this case, “the other cheek” rule would be directed towards your inner self.

The second interpretation would be: do not respond to violence in order to shame your aggressor. This presupposes that the aggressor is “in essence” a good person, but is finding himself temporary in a state of moral confusion. By not engaging in retaliation, the Christian would undermine the position of the aggressor (for the average human it is hard to hit in good faith a person refusing to defend herself) and would make him reflect upon his gestures. The desired outcome would be not only to achieve an early end of the violence cycle, but also to gain a morally superior position over the aggressor by inducing him feelings of self doubt, shame and guilt (for hitting a defenseless human). I guess this could work only on people that already have a moral framework (even if momentarily ocultated for some reason). So, in this second case, “the other cheek” rule would be directed towards bringing other people (the “aggressors”) onto the “right” path.
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Re: Weasel words and hyperbole

Postby Gavin » 12 Nov 2013, 13:59

"Basically" - the implication of this particular cliché being "Because you probably couldn't understand the complex version", the truth probably being "Because I don't know the more complex version".
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Re: Cliches

Postby Gavin » 15 Nov 2013, 08:31

I often hear this said by interviewees and BBC reporters on the radio, inserted into their flow: "..., if you like, ...". What if I don't like?! It just seems superfluous to me, and is becoming a little too common.
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Re: Cliches

Postby Yessica » 15 Nov 2013, 12:47

Great topic, great idea. Here are my cliches

A man's word must be his bond


Well, what if the man realised what he said was nonsense / that he engaged in something stupid etc?

Conservative cliche:
A child needs a father in the home. All children brought up by a single mother end up in prison / druggies etc.


I think it is preferable to have a father in the home but a lot of people did not and till turned out okay. While this is a cliche conservatives hold dear it is also one that leftists might love. Being brought up by a single mother turns you into a criminal. You "have no choice".

Americans are uneducated and ignorant of other cultures


Some may be but other aren't. Why is it okay to paint all people with one brush as long as they are Americans?

All men are rapists


Dead wrong

Nearly all rapists are men


I think this one is true. When I walk a lonely alley and suddenly someone walks behind me I am relieved if this someone turns out to be female.

Lisa Simpson once said
Who would have thought that the dangerous looking invaders from outer space where really dangerous?
She believed that they wanted to bring peace to mankind.

Sometimes being prejudiced makes so much sense.
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Re: Cliches

Postby Yessica » 15 Nov 2013, 13:30

A man's word must be his bond

This is by the way an interesting one because "Word is bond" became very popular among wanna-be and real gangsters in Germany, who also have it tattoed.
I have no idea in howfar their word was really their bond. It cannot be their commitment to their girls-friends or children which the habitually abandon.

May be it was about not abandoning their gang?!?! No idea

On the other hand: Of course it is a noble idea that a man (or woman) should be bound to his / her word and not run from responsibility in a cowardish way. So I understand why some people like this.
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Re: Cliches

Postby Grant » 16 Nov 2013, 08:48

The one that grates with me is "Thank you so much". What's wrong with a strong and simple "thank you"? Why does everyone have to sound like simpering idiots, Uriah Heap or pre-pubescent American school girls?
The word that should be banished from all media is "actually". It means little but is thrown about by so-called experts trying to sound deep and meaningful.
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Re: Cliches

Postby Gavin » 16 Nov 2013, 11:12

I agree "Thank you so much" is slightly patronising. I don't mind "actually" as long as it is not used pretentiously. Not so keen on "in actual fact" though, as it is a tautology.

It depends on the delivery, context and frequency of use of these cliches, doesn't it? Sometimes even "basically" is acceptable.
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Re: Cliches

Postby Yessica » 21 Nov 2013, 15:01

Happy birthday, Elliott.

White children are ugly
seems to be a cliche which many people who work in advertising hold dear. I just visited the local H&M website, circa 50% of the children pictured there are black, indian, mixed race. A few whites and whats interesting, no turkish (biggest enthnic minority).

Local Pampers page: somewhat more whites but lots of blacks, east asians, indians. Again nobody looks turkish.

I would estimate that less than 1% of people living in Germany are black, very few are Indian.
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Re: Cliches

Postby Caleb » 21 Nov 2013, 22:43

The funny thing is that outside of the West, white people (including children) are disproportionately represented. Recently, I even read about this happening in Jamaica, of all places. Bring a white kid to Asia and you'll literally be mobbed by people wanting to have their photo taken with it.
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Re: Cliches

Postby Elliott » 22 Nov 2013, 01:20

Yessica wrote:Happy birthday, Elliott.

Thank you, Yessica. :)
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