52°F & Rain 7 day forecast Sunday, November 23, 2014

Grand Valley State University's Beacon Since 1963, Allendale, MI
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Keeping it fresh in a clichéd world

There are too many clichés in the world today.

I distinctly remember a speech that I had heard back in fifth grade. She started off by stating a word and then recounting its definition, as though the audience had no other background in the subject. Admittedly, we were a bunch of fifth graders, so she probably had it right.

Now skip forward two years to seventh grade English class. We were told that we needed what is commonly called a ‘lead’ to start off papers, speeches, and essays; and although I thought I was the most intelligent middle schooler that ever lived using the dictionary example trick, indeed I was actually a copy of a copy of a copy.

So why is it that we turn to other people’s work instead of bothering to come up with something new? Maybe it is the brain, jumping to phrases and ideas that are just sitting lazily up in our minds, having been heard countless times before. After all, clichés are clichés because multiple someones said, “Hey, I like that, I want to use that.”

Column: a decorative pillar? No, I didn’t want to hold anyone or anything up. Well what about newspaper column? According to thefreedictionary.com, these mere 500 words that I would be writing once a week would be “an article giving opinions or perspective.” Crap. A weekly opinion can be hard enough, but originality can become even more scarce over time. How would I face this battle of novelty versus familiarity on a weekly basis? I was once told that the secret to originality was hiding your sources, but it’s not like I could say “Luke, I am your father,” in a deep voice, while hoarding every single “Star Wars” movie and piece of memorabilia imaginable, and keeping James Earl Jones as well as the entire cast of the movie locked away. But more importantly, I could never say it without expecting people to understand the reference.

Our own secret language, people have always continued the trend when it comes to writing. It is the people who are clichés that often annoy the most. Movies about high school and eating lunch in a bathroom stall, or going out to spend a weekend at a cabin while having some difficulty with the ghost, man yielding a chainsaw, or zombies. We are trained to expect what will ultimately happen, and no matter how loudly or how much we yell at the jock not to check the circuit breakers in the basement, or for the pretty (but dumb) girl to grab the gun, not the flashlight, we are oftentimes disappointed that they do not hear our cautionary yells.

On behalf of most people, this is my cautionary warning. Not that clichés are bad, but they are considered overused for a reason. I’m expecting nothing less than for people to go for the flashlight: I mean, I have. May the odds be ever in your favor.

sschoch@lanthorn.com



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