In Praise of ClichéDon’t cry over spilled milk. Every aphorism has a silver lining.

In Praise of ClichéDon’t cry over spilled milk. Every aphorism has a silver lining.

Issue 29

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Arts & Culture

Mechanically reproduced thought: how handy! Such must have been the musings of the French typesetters who coined cliché in the early 19th century, initially as a word to describe the cast plates that printers used to more quickly reproduce common images and phrases.

What’s done is done, and there’s no use crying over spilled milk, but perhaps they should have given the word a more grating, fingernail-on-chalkboard quality—which clichés often deliver. “An intellectual disgrace,” James Parker of The Boston Globe calls them, reserving his full contempt for the politicians who are “almost obliged to speak in cliché for fear they will stray into that zone most terrifying to the electorate—the heady unpredictable zone of original thought.” Other experts slew the blame tow...

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