This is a throwback to a post I made on my old iteration of this blog back in 2012 called “Popular Cliches and Why They Suck” on blogspot. I am re-doing it here with a nice and shiny 2016 upgrade.

I think oftentimes, we use idiomatic, colloquial, informal language in conversation because it adds depth and character. We also do this because we are lazy, and we are followers. It’s easier to repeat popular phrases and expressions, instead of questioning them, or putting any amount of thought into them whatsoever. Look, I’m not saying you’re wrong or stupid to use these phrases, but if you clicked on this, you clearly want the truth. So let’s talk about what we’re really saying when we say these things.

“Quitting Cold Turkey” – Hey! I happen to like cold turkey.

“Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time.” – Well, people don’t commit crimes because they don’t think they can do the time. They commit them because they think they can get away with it. Or they’re freaking stupid.

“It’s always darkest before the dawn.” – Sure, this means that it’s going to get worse before it gets better, or brighter days are just around the corner, blah blah. But factually, it’s just as dark right before dawn as it is at any other time. Midnight, 2 AM, 4 AM–all the same amount of darkness until sunrise.

“I could care less.” – Actually, you couldn’t. If you’re truly that apathetic, you are already at your lowest level of caring.

“Have a good day!” – You don’t actually mean this. If you do, no one’s going to take it to heart anyway. I mean, I say it, but I’m not happy about it. I say we replace it with something just as genuine, but fresh, so everyone will start to receive the intent as we mean it. How about “Go have tacos” or “I hope you find $20 on the ground”.

“It’s plain to see.” – A favorite of bad poems and songs alike. If it were that plain to see, you wouldn’t be writing such a terrible song. But if you think it’s sonnet-worthy or poem-on-your-deviantart-account-worthy, then at least attempt more colorful and articulate language. You know. For art.

“It takes one to know one.” – No, it doesn’t, Jake. You stupid doo-doo head. Did you know that I am rubber and you are glue? Yeah huh. Yeah huh. But really, Jake. It only takes an astute, intelligent observer. You effing fart-sniffer. I’m telling mom.

“It goes without saying.” – No one in the history of mankind has ever, EVER said this without launching into what they were referring to. This should go without saying, but if you say “it goes without saying”, you really shouldn’t have to say.

“I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I’m not.” – I don’t think I’ve ever heard this phrase sincerely used. I mostly see it on people’s Tumblrs and Instagrams. And those people are usually, a) teenagers who are trying to look like nonconformists, b) people who think quoting Kurt Cobain is deep and edgy, or c) people who absolutely, 100% care what people think about them.

“Good things come to those who wait.” – Good things come to those who lie, cheat, and steal. But in the interest of being more positive: good things come to those who try hard, work toward their goals, and actually put forth a daily effort into what they want to accomplish. Mediocre things come to those who wait, or worse, nothing at all comes to those who wait.

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” – So, if my boss is being irrational or ignorant (let’s just say), I’m supposed to…go make lemonade? My solution would be to subtly undermine my boss or systematically crush him or her (read: shut it all away inside and deal with it or find a new job). I guess that would be like taking the lemons and throwing them at your boss. I get that this one is about “taking the bad with the good” and “making the most of it”. But it’s really damn vague. To paraphrase one of those stupid images I’ve seen on Facebook that was 1000% likely to have been ripped off someone else, uncredited: If life gives me lemons, I’m going to need some margarita mix and tequila.

“Three’s a crowd” – I always thought that was a good thing. You know, “the more the merrier”. But whatever. I don’t exactly like a crowd, but if someone says to me, upon my joining their twosome, “Three’s a crowd”, I’d be like, “Alright, we’re set then!”

“Keep your nose to the grindstone.” – Ew. That sounds gruesome.

“A watched pot never boils.” – Well sure it does. Your triteness does not affect science. And yes, it’s about patience, and all of that. But we really need a new cliche about it.

“Dead as a doornail.” – I don’t really care what the archaic origins of this phrase are; they absolutely do not matter in 2016. Doornails are neither alive nor dead because they are inanimate objects. How about something more relevant like, “dead as Myspace”?

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” – You’d actually just float in the continuum of space before dying a horrible death, but metaphorically, this is also poor. I’ll give you an example: if you desire to become a doctor and you don’t make good enough grades, you’ll likely just end up in a nursing home wiping butts. Does that sound like the stars to you?

“Rules are made to be broken.” – If you’re an anarchist, you may be able to rationalize this one. Or if you’re an idiotic teenager who thinks nihilism is cool. Because, I mean, let’s just talk this out: are rules actually made to be broken? We will answer that with an example. For all you parents and teachers and authority figures out there: do you make rules so that people will break them? Absolutely not.

“The bottom fell out.” – This is a poor euphemism for raining because, to us, the sky is the top. I don’t even want to look up the history of this one because I don’t care. It’s stupid.

“You only live once.” – Yeah, and you will only die once if your risky move doesn’t pan out. Said in the context of life-changing decisions, like pursuing a long-lost hobby to increase happiness or deciding to make more time for your kids or change your career to something you love makes sense. But it’s usually idiots who say this right before backflipping off a roof or trying to chug a whole keg of beer.

“The greatest thing since sliced bread.” – Oh, so nothing that has been invented since sliced bread is worthy enough to replace this expression? It’s been 100 years. I’m pretty sure we can move on.

“Winning isn’t everything.”/”It’s not who wins or loses, it’s how you play the game.”
– False. Winning is the entire point of playing. If you want to sharpen your skills, go to the YMCA. Hippie.

Yes, sir, I know this is a youth league, and you’re teaching them the fundamentals, but we’re not letting that smug little asshole Jake beat us.

“[Color] in color.” – Describing any object with a color by adding “in color” after the color is redundant. It’s also really dumb. I actually don’t get why some people do this. I’ll give you an example: “It’s a 1999 Pontiac Sunfire. Red in color.” I can’t think of any instance where you might need to say “red in color”. What else could you mean? Red in diameter? Think about it if we reworked this one: “It’s a red 1999 Pontiac Sunfire”. Still with me? Yeah exactly. We’re going to be fine without adding “in color”.

And one new addition….

“I love you to the moon and back” – So, you only love me for 477800 miles? Also, how do you quantify love in miles? Can I get a conversion chart?

I’m sure there are more. What should I include in part 2 of this series?

4 thoughts on “You Don’t Mean That: Cliches, Phrases, and Expressions That Are Ineffective

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