Idioms – they’re everywhere. Idioms are related to clichés because they are easy to use. Everyone does it. If you’re guilty as charged your editor will most likely slash the bad apple phrases right out of your content. Sometimes idioms get the point across, but they become annoying after a while. We all have a tendency to talk like others in our cultural groups and to copy what’s in style…like getting a tattoo, I imagine. Call me stuffy. Cool often eludes me.
Right now I despise writing prose. I’m completely stuck in the Facebook-y idioms of my own writing so I decided to make a post out of the problem.
“Best-selling” authors publish breezy, informal buzz phrase writing while my mind is deep in the catacombs and works of Carson McCullers and Florida Scott- Maxwell.
Journal prompt 1: Take a subject like apples and see how many idioms or proverbs you can think of.
- Well how do you like them apples?
- An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
- One rotten apple spoils the barrel
- You are the apple of my eye
- It’s like comparing apples to oranges.
- Don’t upset the apple cart.
- As American as apple pie
- The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
- Life in The Big Apple
Journal prompt 2: Take a phrase such as “He was the apple of my eye” and write a paragraph using your own words.
Example: I met Mortimer at the dance in high school. It seemed as if he was looking at the popular buxom cheerleader dancing with her quarterback boyfriend. Everyone glanced around at each other. Lisa and I tried to appear disinterested in the scene. I was horrified when Mortimer turned his attention to me, working his way over to where we were standing and asked me to dance. Since that night he stayed nestled in my psyche and I was unable to let him go. He was my main love. No one else would do.
Notice how common phrases are used in mainstream media.
True story: I took a required government class in community college back in the ‘80’s. The course content was rigorous and boring. I sat next to a lady who had the same sense of humor as me. We started reading sexual innuendos into everything the teacher said. Once we started laughing quietly we couldn’t stop. Nobody else seemed to be aware of why we were becoming less than scholarly. It was painful and embarrassing. I’d never experienced that kind of fear. Have you ever tried to control your fits of laughter in a formal setting? Now as I sit at the desk trying to write, nasty innuendos keep jolting me out of my writing voice. Maybe my memoir is supposed to be funny. Since I’m in a word slump here are some overused phrases that make me cringe, and it’s my own damn fault that I use them myself.
- Who knew?
- Having said that, blah, blah, blah
- That said, blah, blah, blah
- At the end of the day
- How cool is that?
- The silence was palpable
- The rest is history
- My heart dropped
- He caught my eye
- Smooth as silk
- Huddled together
- Frozen stiff
- He stole my heart
- Cold eyes
- Cold heart
- Baby blue eyes
- You could cut the tension with a knife
- They were like two peas in a pod
- His hopes were dashed
- Our eyes locked
- She was the cream of the crop
- Bite the bullet
- I digress
- We’re not out of the woods yet
- You get the picture
Hopefully this deluge of pet peeves won’t last long. The other pages of examples are hidden away for right now.
Art and collage by Susan E. Rowland