Clichés, Euphemisms, Jargon
Writing clearly demands that you avoid overworked, uninspiring phrases such as clichés and euphemisms, as well as jargon that most likely is unknown to the reader. Learn to recognize these and keep away from them in your writing and speech.
Clichés are phrases that have been used so long and so often that they are dull and unimaginative for the reader or listener. Clichés can also be comparisons, i.e., metaphors that have been overused. Clichés can also be other types of expressions. A cliché is not just a sentence or phrase or a word that many people use; it must convey an idea or message. What was once a clever or interesting way of saying something, has been used so much that it no longer has any force. It is a lazy way to speak and to write. Please, please take pity on those who read your text or listen to you speak, and do not use clichés! Note: It isn't always easy to distinguish between a cliché, a euphemism, and jargon, but all of them should be used with care. If you can think of another way to get your idea across, it is probably wise to do so. Here are just a few clichés:
blind as a bat
busy as a bee/beaver
don't count your chickens (before they're hatched)
gentle as a lamb
happy as a lark
like shooting fish in a barrel
looking a gift horse in the mouth
mad as a wet hen
sick as a dog
the straw that broke the camel's back
strong as an ox
stubborn as a mule
take the bull by the horns
wise as an owl
work like a dog
You can't teach an old dog new tricks.
What other ones have you heard?
piece of cake
cool as a cucumber
cry over spilt milk
easy as pie
flat as a pancake
life is just a bowl of cherries
like a knife through hot butter
in a nutshell
slow as molasses
that's how the cookie crumbles
Can you think of more?
Clichés for every mood, every occasion
|Live and learn
Live and let live
What goes around comes around
Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans
Don't worry, be happy !
Today is the first day of the rest of your life
Laughter is the best medicine
Tomorrow is another day
Every cloud has a silver lining
(I can see/I can't see) a light at the end of the tunnel
After the rain comes a rainbow
It's always darkest before the dawn
Every rose has its thorn
Cheer up! It's not the end of the world
This, too, shall pass
All good things come to those who wait
Time will tell
The waiting is the hardest part
Some day my ship will come in
No news is good news
Haste makes waste
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade
There are plenty more fish in the sea
All is fair in love and war
You can't tell a book by its cover
No pain, no gain
If it doesn't kill me, it makes me stronger
No guts, no glory
There is nothing to fear but fear itself
The devil made me do it
Life goes on
When it rains, it pours
When at first you don't succeed, try try again
When the going gets tough, the tough get going
Rome was not built in a day
There are literally thousands of clichés, and you will not always be able to recognize them. Be alert, be observant, and ask when you are unsure.
Euphemisms are words or phrases that substitute for other words or phrases the speaker or writer feels might be offensive, too blunt, or just too honest. In some cases, using an euphemism may spare a person's feelings (You're not fat, you're pleasingly plump.), but in other cases they are a way to mislead or confuse people. We suggest that you use euphemisms sparingly. **Governments all over the world use euphemisms all the time!
Note: For some unknown reason, American English has more euphemisms than British English has.
Passed away, for die; toilet tissue, for toilet paper; little boy's or little girl's room (and many others), for toilet; domestic worker, for cleaning lady or maid; sanitation engineer, for garbage collector; golden-ager or senior citizen, for old or elderly.
**Governments are very good at coining euphemisms: peace-keeping force, for army; ethnic cleansing, for genocide; surgical air strikes, for bombings; collateral damage, for civilian casualties. The simple, easily understood term shell shock used after World War I is now called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
Other euphemisms have developed because of the on-going furor of political correctness: hearing impaired, instead of deaf; visually impaired, instead of blind; mentally challenged, instead of retarded.
Many euphemisms have to do with bodily functions, or sex: in a family way, for pregnant; adult movie/adult book/adult entertainment, for pornography.
In English, some of the milder "swear" words are euphemisms: heck, for hell; gosh and golly, for God; gee, gee whiz, cheese and crackers, geeeze, for Jesus or Jesus Christ.
Can you re-phrase the sentence using plain terms instead of the euphemisms?
1. His job entails custodial duties.
2. She has a substance abuse problem.
3. Paul was laid off because he was unmotivated.
4. The bank president had misappropriated funds for years.
5. Sometimes Jean is economical with the truth .
6. Great-great Aunt Zelda passed away last year.
7. This house has a distinctive aroma.
8. Rocky was incarcerated for a minor indiscretion.
9. XYZ Utilities announced a service interruption.
10. In order to enhance fiscal assets, the company decided to down-size.
Jargon can mean two things:
The special vocabulary of a specific group of people who have the same interests or career field (musicians, baseball, computers, cooking, acting, medicine, farming, etc.).
A contrived type of talking or writing that uses obscure words, a lot of clichés and euphemisms, and complex, convoluted sentences which leave the reader or listener completely confused. You will often find jargon in government documents/speeches and corporate publications. Some academic people/textbook authors, and anyone who is trying to impress others with their "intelligence" and education, often state things in a way that purposely confuses people or hides the truth.
We will talk about the second type of jargon on another page. The first type---specialized vocabulary, or vernacular---can be illustrated here. Every special group has its own jargon. Here is just a small sample:
at some juncture
bearish onbullish on
cost management; downsize
a low bid to produce goods or provide services
some unspecified point in time in the future
a quick temporary fix
against; to assert a belief that investments will decrease
in favor of; to assert a belief that investments will increase
the firing of employees and/or the reduction of employees' salaries
a consultant with a particular "expertise" who may or may not have more knowledge than any other employee
use resources owned by the firm to provide goods or services
a firm, union, or other participant which is involved in business deals and has influence
aggressively present a plan as being factual
an independent company created from an existing part of the
original company through a divestiture, such as a sale or distribution of
A stable price---neither rising nor falling.
the players stand together in a group while on the court/field to discuss strategy.
A game that ends with a tied score.A player's use of his head to deflect the ball.
3 or more goals scored in a game by a single player.
When a player close to the basket jumps and strongly throws the ball down into it
A player who throws the ball toward the basket to make a goal.
A rugby team's defensive players.
A referee's inability to see a foul.
The final swimmer in a relay.
A single race when there are too many participants to have them compete at once.
a compound that reduces pain.
The final possible treatment for those who are not responding to other treatments.
high 5 (slapping one's hand over the head with another person---sign of agreement)
away from keyboard
be back later
be right back
boy friend/girl friend
laughing out loud
rolling on the floor laughing
got to go
ta ta (goodbye) for now
University Jargon (American style)
not attend a scheduled class
middle of the term examinations
freshman or first year student
a member of a fraternity
We were going to add some "teen" jargon, but then realized: a) any we used when we were teens would be completely out of date; b) by the time adults pick up on the latest jargon, the kids stop using it.