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Language in Literature > Clichés That Dog Our Footsteps

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message 1: by David (last edited Dec 01, 2008 07:05AM) (new)

David | 4568 comments While I was reading The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary, I noticed that at one point the author described someone being "in fine fettle.'

I had no idea what a fettle is, and thought that the copy editor must have had a heavy lunch just before reading the phrase. Hence this group, dedicated to those who toil in the vineyards of literature but produce only vinegar.

"Fine fettle," meaning "in a cheerful, healthy condition," refers to "fettle," a strip of metal or a girdle. Hence, "girded up for war." The term is presumably related to "fetters." "Fettle" is also used in ceramic and metal casting, but that appears to have nothing to do with the cliché.

Apparently we life in a world where fettles are always fine, and, for that matter, loins are always girded and maidens invariably fair.

Dr. Pangloss would be proud.




message 2: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (last edited Dec 01, 2008 10:38AM) (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6387 comments Mod
Fascinating! Dating from the days of yore when men sallied forth in 'fine fettle' wearing armour no doubt?


message 3: by David (new)

David | 4568 comments Yes, and before that, Hector was a pup.

Aha! Another cliché. My cup runneth over.


message 4: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18485 comments Mod
"Hector was a pup" is a cliché? First I've heard of it, and I've been around since Ajax!


message 5: by David (new)

David | 4568 comments Older than dirt?


message 6: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6387 comments Mod
Older than Methuselah


Boreal Elizabeth | 401 comments yes but is it as fine as frog's hair?


message 8: by Matthew (new)

Matthew Travers (notdarkyet) The Candide reference made me laugh, and want to read it again.

This group seems to have some amusing people in it.


message 9: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 16012 comments Mod
No not frogs. Cold as a witch's tit.


message 10: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa Another heathen boob phrase: Dry as a witch's tit.


message 11: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18485 comments Mod
Who the hell feels witches' teats as an avocation, I want to know...


message 12: by David (new)

David | 4568 comments Colder than a landlord's heart.

Then there are the brass monkeys . . .


message 13: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa I am a great fan of witch's boobies...I was employed as an underling of Matthew Hopkins many moons ago to check they conformed to international heathen/breast standards.


message 14: by David (new)

David | 4568 comments Cliché of the day:

"with rhythmic regularity."

Can there be regularity without a rhythm?


message 15: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6387 comments Mod
More tautology than a cliche?


message 16: by David (new)

David | 4568 comments More a pleonasm than a tautology. Both are forms of redundancy. And repetition. And duplication.


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

You can say that again ;)


message 18: by David (new)

David | 4568 comments Supposedly it was Voltaire who said the sound of history was hobnailed boots going up the stairs, and slippered feed coming down.

Other Voltaire clichés, real or fancied:

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"

"Do you think God will forgive you."
"C'est son métier." [That's his trade:].




message 19: by David (last edited Dec 25, 2008 03:24AM) (new)

David | 4568 comments "Issue" for "problem."

Even worse, "narrative" for "story."

"Cultural theory"--bah, humbug! A stake through the heart of the Frankfurt School, and Sod the Frogs!


message 20: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18485 comments Mod
The Frankfurt School? Next door to the Hamburg School, perhaps? It's all Deutsche to me.


message 21: by David (new)

David | 4568 comments Cultural Marxists. In this case, ignorance is bliss.


message 22: by Boreal Elizabeth (new)

Boreal Elizabeth | 401 comments no matter dave my boy
as long as it's ultimately a
"win win situation"


message 23: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Buckley (anthonydbuckley) | 112 comments David wrote: ""Issue" for "problem."

Even worse, "narrative" for "story."

"Cultural theory"--bah, humbug! A stake through the heart of the Frankfurt School, and Sod the Frogs!"



My granddaughter told me "My daddy has issues with his car" (it kept braking down). At least, he didn't find his car a "challenge"!


message 24: by David (new)

David | 4568 comments "Special needs baby" for "cretin," "idiot," "moron," and "imbecile."

Defensible, perhaps, but you can't call the driver of the pickup that cuts you off "Mr Special Needs." Such louts are cretins and idiots and always will be.

This is a euphemism rather than a cliche as such.

Here's a cliche that PC has made obsolete--"He doesn't have a Chinaman's chance."


message 25: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6387 comments Mod
.....and a childrens rhyme.."Eeny meeny miney mo, catch a nigger by the toe". I think the 'N' word has been replaced by something innocuous like rabbit.


message 26: by David (new)

David | 4568 comments I learned "tiger."

The Agatha Christie novel "Ten Little Niggers" was called "Ten Little Indians" in the US.

Then there's the woodpile thing. Can't say that no mo. Can you "call a spade a spade"? Can you call a commercial arson fire a "Jewish barbecue"?


message 27: by David (last edited Dec 26, 2008 08:34PM) (new)

David | 4568 comments Watching Hepburn & Tracy in "Adam's Rib."

Does anyone say "Beat it!" any more? Or "swell"?


message 28: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6387 comments Mod
I don't hear those, but calling a spade a spade is rife downunder. The word spade has never had rascist connotations here. My mother digs the garden with a spade and people are proud to say that they are the kind who call a spade a spade, meaning that they speak forthrightly.


message 29: by David (new)

David | 4568 comments Isn't the digging tool pronounced "spide"?

No man wides in t' syme river twoice.


message 30: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18485 comments Mod
You can't "hook up" (as in, "get together") with people anymore. At least not around folks 30 and under.


message 31: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 16012 comments Mod
Newengland wrote: "You can't "hook up" (as in, "get together") with people anymore. At least not around folks 30 and under."

Oh yes you can. But you have to be sure you want to.




message 32: by Boreal Elizabeth (new)

Boreal Elizabeth | 401 comments yah-hook up is an incredibly obnoxious saying now
and ruth from what i gather
wanting to is not so much a question
it's more about proximity and availability
when first names aren't even exchanged wants not so much a thing


message 33: by David (new)

David | 4568 comments Somehow this brings to mind "buying a pig in a poke."

Sick me.


message 34: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6387 comments Mod
No Doivid! We soy spide as it rhymes with 'aid'. And how do you know about 'Noo Zild as she is spoke'? Have you been here?


message 35: by David (new)

David | 4568 comments Never mide it there. Wish I could.


message 36: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6387 comments Mod
One day.....


message 37: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Buckley (anthonydbuckley) | 112 comments In Northern Ireland, we call our province "Norn Irn". Just for your information


message 38: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18485 comments Mod
Thanks, Anthony. How'd you get such an Irish name as "Anthony"? =)

-- McNew England


message 39: by David (new)

David | 4568 comments Pronounced "ANT-knee" where I grew up.


message 40: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Buckley (anthonydbuckley) | 112 comments I'm an expatriate Englishman living in N Ireland, firmly still an outsider. I always thought "Anthony" was Roman, not Irish! But we English are a mongrel race.



message 41: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18485 comments Mod
It IS Roman (Italian). Calling it Irish is my poor sense of humor, Anthony.

As for mongrels, here in New England it's known as "Swamp Yankee."


message 42: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Buckley (anthonydbuckley) | 112 comments A Happy New Year to you all! I know this is a cliche, but not all cliches are bad.


message 43: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18485 comments Mod
No. In a pinch, they're the cat's meow.

Happy New Year back, the dogs of war or of clichés notwithstanding.


message 44: by David (new)

David | 4568 comments Even though it's buying a pig in a poke, Happy New Year indeed.

Tote that barge, lift that bale.


message 45: by [deleted user] (new)

And a Happy New Year to you too, Anthony!


message 46: by David (new)

David | 4568 comments I'm not jest whistlin' "Dixie."


message 47: by Natalie (new)

Natalie | 28 comments Ah, Dixie, a good place to join this discussion . . . Mine is a mixed marriage: I from civilized Philadelphia where, to pick up an earlier thread and quote Wilde, we "have never SEEN a spade"; he from way south of the Mason-Dixon Atlanta where, judging by his cliches, they have a lot of pigs in pokes and habitually "chaw on a keg o' nails awhile". (OK, he's just quoting the latter.)
Anyhow, I mainly joined this group as the perfect repository for my most loathed current cliche: OUTSIDE THE BOX! I can always sense it (wince!) coming, usually in a satisfied tone of having come up w/ a catchy bon mot - some days it's EVERYWHERE. Does anyone agree or am I just guilty of its clerical cousin: PUSHING THE ENVELOPE?
To keep it all in perspective, let me share one of my favorite New Yorker cartoons: a man's looking down at his cat and litter saying, "Don't EVER think outside the box!"


message 48: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6387 comments Mod
Where I come from it is 'outside the square'......


message 49: by Natalie (new)

Natalie | 28 comments Where you come from, w/ all due respect Debbie, everything is upsidedown & backwards . . . as it should be . . . truth is, I love speaking w/ Anglo friends & relatives, reveling in new expressions foreign to us Yankees . . . my personal favorite: "And Bob's your uncle!"


message 50: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18485 comments Mod
Bob is most people's uncle. Most prolific guy since George (Washington -- Father of his Country, and wasn't that a bit of work).


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