There’s this commentator/host/presenter guy on the soccer channel I watch and he’s awful. Well, he’s not awful, but he uses words to fill up the time instead of conveying information, which really shows, especially when compared to a colleague, who packs in so much useful stuff into the same allotted time you’re left believing for a second that soccer is a sport worth of closer study. The other guy, meanwhile says “two goals to the good” when one team is winning by 2–0 and other cliches that aren’t just irritating, they’re clearly a tic he’s adopted because it fills up more space than saying, as any normal soccer fan would say, “two up.”
He manages to fit three more words in there than necessary, which means a second or two less to fill up. Annoying, and once you’ve noticed it you can never relax listening to him again. (His latest one is “in the driving seat” which he was saying all the way through the game; when the team he had been saying was “in the driving seat” was actually getting pummelled, he changed it to “no longer in the driving seat” which not only meant he didn’t have to think up another cliche, he could add another three syllables to the phrase. Ugh.)
Anyway, it’s as agood an example of any I can think of to illustrate how naff cliches are. They are a window on the thinking of the person writing/presenting/speaking, showing a) how little effort the person is putting into their presentation/speech/writing and b) how little they know — otherwise why would they be trying to fill up the space? I don’t mean that writing or speeches or presentations should be just jam-full of facts and nothing else; there should be pacing, and even repetition if that repetition helps to hammer home a point and is done by paraphrasing or illustrative anecdote. But filler is not that. It’s just filler, and it wastes everyone’s time.
So, here’s my promise. I realise I use some cliches that aren’t particularly useful: “Holy Grail” is one. Another is “not ready for primetime”. Any more you notice me using, let me know.