Monday, October 3, 2011

It's not rocket science and other irritating modern cliches

By Clive Whichelow and Hugh Murray

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

I found this book delightful, not just because of the cliches the authors have found and explained, but because it was written by two British authors.  For me, this added a unique dimension for in every case, I was interested to see how many of our common phrases had survived the trip overseas.  That is, I wanted to see how they were defined by non-Americans.

The authors cover a range of cliches: general, media, entertainment, commercial, business, political, and social.  I think young people today are those who might benefit most from reading such a book as this.  What I found in my more than twenty years of teaching public communication was simply that when I pointed out a phrase to a student and labeled it a cliche, he or she was totally unaware that it was.  They simply did not have the background or experience to know it.  (That generalization was not true of all students, of course.)

Another group of people who might benefit from reading this is those who write greeting cards.  Can you imagine it?  There are already so many cards so full of cliches that we don’t need any more, that is true; however, when a slacker writer is looking for content for the blank screen in front of him or her, this book can certainly supply the missing “content.”  There is so much here to fill so many more cards with oh so many more “wonderful” cliches.  (They appeal to the masses!)

What I found to be a challenging and rather interesting exercise when I read this book was improving on the authors’ explanations.  It wasn’t the fact that “I know better than they do,” but, coming from an American perspective (rather than a British one), many of the cliches could have benefited from a better (more U.S. friendly) definition (not all of them, of course).

I have always spelled “DOH!” (the “self-flagellating expression of dismay”) as “DUH!”  although, I admit, I seldom use the expression in my writing.

“Gobsmacked,” meaning surprised, is a cliche  with which I was totally unfamiliar, but it originated in Liverpool, UK, and that may be a good reason. 

I loved the expression “Happy-clappy” to describe modern church services.  I had never heard that one either.  “Utilise” (meaning use) is another word I have never heard before.

Of the other cliches in the book, I have to say I have some familiarity with all of them.  I thought some of the explanations/definitions were a bit weak, but making up for their weakness was the authors’ use of humor, which was delightful.

This book can be found at It’s not rocket science and other irritating modern cliches

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