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A French onomatopoeic word echoing the sound of a die or stamp of a printing block, a cliché is an overused expression that has become trite, hackneyed or stale.  

Clichés are used by unimaginative lazy communicators because they are well known and quickly establish conduits with responders.    They can become catch-phrases used to gain access to select groups.

Clichés are particularly popular with politicians because of the limited demands made on listeners and the simple messages (slogans) can easily resonate with wide audiences.

Their downside is that they can be dull, insipid and boring. They can become a mark of conformity.

Other definitions: 

A hackneyed, tired, over-used, worn-out expression

A time honoured phrase

oft-cited truism/axiom

A shop worn phrase

A well worn canard

old chestnut

oft used metaphor

over worked metaphor

A pre-packaged, cellophane wrapped phrase used by people too lazy to think.

A previously enjoyed sound bite.

A Grey haired grey mare

A stock reply

A pat phrase

  Letters to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald have had a lot of fun ridiculing the use of clichés.

 Just the odd one

SIR: I was pleased to read on the front page of the Herald (September 23) that the new Premier of Queensland, Mr Russell Cooper when asked to comment on Mr Ahern’s commitment to implement the Fitzgerald reforms “lock, stock and barrel”, said: “I am not given to clichés.”

On page 6 of the same issue, however, Mike Steketeè reports that “Cooper is a conservative on social issues. ‘Homos-xual law reform, he has said, will take place ‘over my dead body’.”

Perhaps Russell Cooper is like that legendary character immortalised in the Graffiti:
                  “I used to use clichés all the time, but now I avoid them like the plague.”

Richard Newburg,

Newport Island Road,

Port Macquarie


Far be it for me to say

The recent attack on clichés by your readers has been nothing but a storm in a teacup. Clichés are different things to different people: They can be pie in the sky, a breath of fresh air, or just a pain in the butt. If they’re not your cup of tea, let them go through to the keeper, in one ear and out the other, like water off a duck’s back. Let me say this — it works for me.

• Ron EIphick,

Buff Point, September15.

A word to the wise

I agree with Ron Elphick (Let ters, September 17). A well- chosen cliché is important to any conversation. They really are the icing on the camel’s back. With out clichés, we would be at sixes and sevens at the bottom of the ninth. The problem is that some people just don’t make the effort. They sweep the whole issue under the “too hard” carpet.

Peter Hunt, Cherrybrook, September17.


It is a truth universally acknowledged … that you should never start sentence with that phrase

Pointless, pretentious throat-clearing. It is a truth universally acknowledged that the next columnist or critic who begins their piece with “It is a truth universally acknowledged …” is likely to be murdered. By me. The weapon will be a blunt instrument (The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary) and my defence at the trial will rest on extreme provocation.

Appropriating the first line of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is the most irritating and over-used of the “Big Three” literary thefts so beloved of lazy hacks who can’t be bothered thinking up an original opening. The second is “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” (Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities), and the third “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there” (L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between).

The notion that stealing someone else’s great first line is somehow OK in a post-modern sort of way sticks in the craw of anyone who writes for a living (as distinct from salaried journalists or columnists on contract). If the next hit single by Beyonce began with the opening eight bars of Love Me Do she’d be sued into bankruptcy, and rightly so. Yet when the same level of larceny is in words, nobody seems to care.

Resort to this shop-worn lick has now descended to the lower backwaters of our journalistic swamp. The latest clever-clogs wordsmith to help himself to Jane Austen is Michael Idato, who writes preview pars about TV programs for Fairfax. “It is a truth universally acknowledged,” parrots Idato in Saturday’s Spectrum, “that any television viewer in want of entertainment will almost certainly be soothed by a cat.”

We are supposed to think this is witty. In fact it is little more than robbery in the service of such a hackneyed device that any reader who has graduated beyond the Dr Seuss books must surely groan.

Worse, it is meaningless padding. If we were to take Idato’s first sentence and delete all the words up to and including “that”, the sense would be unchanged.

Not even the legendary Phil Space, resident waffler at Private Eye, would peddle such vapid longueurs.

So, note to subeditors: cut the pretend-literary crap and let Austen, Dickens and Hartley rest in peace.

David Salter,  Crikey.com   Aug 24, 2015

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