I’m stealing the title of this post from Jim Neureckas. It’s a good summary of the thesis of this excellent piece from Jim Livingston. Jim (Livingston) takes apart the prose of a Thomas Friedman column—I know, easy sport—but as he gets ready to do it, he says something interesting about clichés.
Now I don’t mind the mental nullity of cliché as much as my colleagues, who seem eager, indeed desperate, to demonstrate the idiocy—no, the fallacy—of received wisdom as it takes shape in the vernacular forms of journalism, conversation, pop music, whatever. In fact, I find comfort in this category of cliché, because its very existence suggests the subversive possibilities of transformation by repetition. It’s the analogue of rhyme, the space where words sound different because their odd alignment makes new sense. It’s the occasion of country music, and the origin of rap.
But unlike a country music singer, or a hip-hop musician, Friedman lets the cliché stand as the final word, not the incentive to make something new.
As a cliché-hater of the sort that Jim skewers here—though I never go after pop culture; it’s the journalists and writers who get to me—I have to say that this an interesting way of thinking about them. So it seemed worth sharing.