Cliché College

We take it for granted, after all we grew up with it. We have experienced its nuances all of our lives. Indeed, these nuances might be labeled conundrums. The English language can be quite intimidating to someone trying to learn it as a second language. Hmmm...isn't "English language" an oxymoron?

Our language has so many variations, that even those differences have names. There are metaphors, similes, and the fun-to-say onomatopoeia, to name but a few. The very components of our speech, words, have their own diverse sobriquets. They include antonyms, homonyms, and synonyms, etc. It can be confounding, perplexing even, to be confronted with such onerous usages and inflections of a language unknown to oneself.

Why don't we have some fun with some foreign students who have enrolled in the English Language classes? Now that these students have already been confused, let's throw them a curve! No way will they be prepared for dialects when we subject them to a sampling of regional accents.

We will start with the Professor from Georgia. That southern gentleman will then hand it over to the one from Brooklyn. When the Bostonian receives it and gives them a Yankee dose of vernacular, she'll cede to the instructor from the inner city streets.
Hello, I am Professor Wellington Woodrow Wordsworthy III, Esq., lexicographer.

As the students are trying to digest those subtleties, I have been preparing my own curriculum: Clichés 101. As a teaching aid, I have opted to literally act out a select handful of clichés. By this method my students should find them more easily understood.

To set up the course, I had to first come up with a compendium of these trite expressions. Next, I had to eliminate those that were not acceptable for obvious reasons. These included: a) jumping down one's throat, b) coming out of the closet, c) tripping the light fantastic, and of course, d) shooting the s__t.

Practicing some of these at home actually caused me some considerable grief. My wife was quite irate when she saw the hole in the center of the living room rug. She didn't understand that I had innocently enough been acting out cutting a rug. I wasn't feeling very well after chewing the fat, because Crisco isn't very pleasing to the palate directly out of the can. Shooting the breeze didn't work too well. Although I had gotten off a few rounds, I don't think I even nicked it. Alas, only with a microscope was I actually able to split hairs.

My wife actually performed a masterpiece herself by hitting the roof when she found me rolling in the dough. Later she wondered why I was walking around naked, to which I succinctly replied, I was wearing a smile. Later on, she wasn't too happy, demanding I clean up the paper towel I had been shredding from one room to another. It had been relatively easy for her to track me down because I had left a paper trail.

When she saw me in the back yard patting some earth into a recently excavated hole, I simply said I was burying the hatchet. Even though she was throwing a fit, it sure looked like a brick to me! Next, observing me peeking under a raked pile of foliage, "Let me guess," she said, "You are turning over a new leaf ?" When she went inside I began looking for rocks for I wanted to experience leaving no stone unturned.

I guess it was the straw that broke the camel's back , when I slipped into the bathroom wearing only a smile while she was in the shower. I turned out the lights and reached in through the shower curtain. "Stop it! Go away!" I assume she did not appreciate my perfect execution of groping in the dark.

My research had proven fruitful nonetheless. I was successful at other endeavors such as dropping a dime,rocking the boat and tipping the scales. I had one cliché in particular that I wanted to try, but Faith Hill's agent never got back to me. I am fascinated by the possibilities of her and I acting out a leap of faith. Another act I wanted to perform would probably not be appreciated by the curator of the Natural Wild Life Museum. He would most certainly be angry to see to see hanging onto the antlers of that stuffed moose. He'd never realize that I was on the horns of a dilemma.

It is time to approach the dean about a grant and possible tenure. I had better look my best. After applying a flour paste to myself, I crumbled the crackers and began sprinkling them all over me. Yes indeed! I was putting on the Ritz.

(This article, which has been re-editted, first appeared at It Occurred To Me on January, 29, 2005.)

Interested in joining the faculty at Cliché College? Joining the VT team guarantees you tenure.



NYD said...

Hale! An Outstanding piece of verbiage!!

You are the verbinator, indeed.
Congatulations and good luck.

Be careful when you are trippin the light fantastic or you might be down for the count.
Stay cool.

Serena Joy said...

Mike, you've outdone yourself. Hail Hale The Verbinator!:)

Hale McKay said...

Thank you, nyd. That was a lot of fun composing the first time, and more fun re-editting the second time around.

Hale McKay said...

Serena, let us hope I did'nt outdue myself. The posts should get better and better!


Serena Joy said...

They will, Mike, but there are going to be days when it's darn hard to top the day before.:)