What Makes Clichés So Annoying?
A cliché is a hackneyed and commonplace expression, phrase, or idea that has become irritating through its frequent use. The most annoying spoken clichés are either meaningless or contradictory in relation to the sentence they are attached to. Further annoyance arises when the cliché is intended to be condescending, or confirmatory of an offensive remark.
As well as meaningless, contradictory, and condescending clichés, these apparently benign phrases may also be touted as "acquired wisdom," preventing more thoughtful discussions from taking place (e.g., "better safe than sorry").
Of course, the most annoying feature of a cliché is its habitual use. For example, the term "you know" appears to be prolifically used by athletes to cajole audiences into deciphering their illiterate ramblings about why winning is good and losing is bad.
The following list of clichés constitute the most intolerable fraction of the myriad phrases that plague our language and assault our ears.
Example: "To be honest, I'd rather drink a diarrhea milkshake than listen to your verbal diarrhea."
Originally, this meaningless expression was used to give extra punch to a humorous or patently clear statement. Unfortunately, it has been hijacked by officious malcontents who believe everything they say deserves the same emphasis. The best reply is: "If that was honest, were you being dishonest before?"
Example: "Basically, quantum theory is about small things we can't see."
This cliché may be used by scientists to dumb down their words for the benefit of others. Unfortunately, some people think that all of the information they verbally exude should be published in an academic journal. They introduce statements with a condescending "basically" to establish how much more intelligent they are than the recipient of their precious information about how much their cat licks itself ("basically, all the time").
Example: "I once rode a giraffe into a shopping mall, I'm not even joking."
When communicating something serious or true that may evoke genuine surprise or laughter, it is often necessary to confirm that you are not joking. However, some people believe that they would have been the next Chris Rock had it not been for their calling to become a mailman. To avoid confusion, these expert comedians must conclude every statement with a cautionary addendum regarding jocular misunderstanding.
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Example: "With all due respect, you should be shot out of a cannon into a volcanic ash cloud."
This has to be one of the most annoying clichés ever concocted. It is nearly always contradictory because it invariably precedes a disrespectful remark. Not only does the cliché give the user a feeling of immunity from retribution, but it establishes the hurtful remark as more considered and truthful than it usually is. This makes it a weaselly and offensive cliché that is often used by arrogant, petulant people.
Example: "It was hard work, but I gave yesterday's math quiz 110%."
Giving 110% is something that no human being can do. If it were possible, the world would fall apart because everything made to 100% precision would become a flimsy, haphazard deathtrap. The laws of physics would disintegrate into the ether and the fabric of reality would tumble into the shredder. People claiming to give 110% should be talked to "with all due respect."
Example: "The fact of the matter is I am right and you are wrong."
This condescending cliché may be used to needlessly repeat something that has been said earlier in an argument. The cliché is supposed to provide added emphasis and verity. Instead, the facile presumption of truth only serves to annoy the listener. After all, if you can’t justify your argument without using this cliché, your argument is baseless.
Example: "Yeah, no, I did well on the quiz but that brown milkshake tasted horrible!"
This is without a doubt the most meaningless cliché on the list. Rather than prefacing a contradictory statement, this cliché is itself a contradiction. It usually introduces a compromise between two competing forces in an accommodating or conciliatory tone. Sometimes it is used as a space filler to escape the torment of having to think for a couple of seconds in silence. A similar but less amusing filler is the word "like."
Example: "That film so was clichéd, you know what I mean?"
A more recent variant of this verbal virus is "you know what I'm saying?" When subjected to this ear wrenching cliché, the best way to respond is: "no, I don't know what you mean," because it forces the culprit to attempt a proper explanation.
The cliché is a bid to escape this kind of serious thought by coaxing the listener into agreement. As a result, replying in the negative can elicit frustration. Just remember that you are doing it for their own good.
Example: "At the end of the day, daylight saving time takes effect at the end of the day."
Despite the efforts of alcoholics, humans are not crepuscular animals (we are not primarily active at dusk). This cliché is typically used to summarize a collection of events with one key statement. It can also suggest a degree of impatience, which is ironic because it often generates that reaction in others.
Taken literally, it is a preposterous cliché because it should only refer to events that occur at dusk. Therefore, the real confusion arises when attempting to talk about something that actually does occur at this time (e.g., getting into bed, sleeping, or smashing your head against a wall to empty it of the day's verbal diarrhea).
Example: "So he turned around and said "you need to turn your life around", which I didn't like, so I turned around and walked away."
The most annoying cliché of all time belongs to a curious collection of persistently revolving lunatics. This meaningless expression appears to describe a person who is spiteful or angry, with the revolving motion supposedly giving their words extra momentum or impact. When overused it can be quite amusing, as you can imagine the person perpetually pirouetting and projecting their pointed prose at perplexed passers by.
This list of clichés must make some omissions. Here are three more, combined into one ear ripping sentence: "I hear what you're saying, but lets face it, it's not rocket science."
And here is a summary of this article that was written by a crepuscular dingbat: "So, you know, to be honest with you, this article is basically just a list of clichés, and I'm not even joking about that. So, with all due respect, I don't have to listen because, like, I gave this 110%. Yeah, no, I know we have freedom of speech, but the fact of the matter is this is my article, you know what I mean? At the end of the day, you can't turn around and say otherwise." Now that is a cliché overload!
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© 2013 Thomas Swan
Fin from Barstow on July 06, 2019:
wow...i actually practice some of these when I am speaking to people.
diogenes from UK and Mexico on June 11, 2019:
Hi, guy: I loved this article! Britain's spoken English is so cliched it is becoming incomprehensible. We often do it to be clever, PC or prove our ignorance! (etc). Our dumb politicians think cliches make them sound educated.
Here's a good test for the new PM: any repeated cliche bowls him/her out!. As Churchill remarked about his dismissal of those who used the first person singular within ten minutes of meeting him.
You could do another article I'm sure?
Ellen419 on September 19, 2017:
"If that's okay with you", we are going to keep doing XYZ. If it is isn't okay with me, are you going to stop? Probably not!
soni on September 18, 2017:
no offence but...
Blab on June 04, 2017:
"With all due respect" i couldn't disagree more.
Gilbert on October 23, 2016:
"At the end of the day" definitely wins silver medal for most annoying. But Gold and Bronze go to anybody beginning their statement with "So" or "Look."
IntentObserver on July 14, 2016:
Thanks for addressing an issue that I've long had "issues" with (and annoy acquaintances with regularly). One of the more ubiquitous overused words I've noticed recently is applying 'crazy' to an occurrence or statement. "That's just crazy!" Points to an underdeveloped vocabulary possibly. "At the end of the day" has been so overused in all aspects of communication. I've noticed that a lot of people who use it often pause after saying it, as if to let the listener know that "this is serious stuff." As already touched upon, "You know" and "You know what I'm saying" is Classic Filler 101, making it obvious that the speaker either is too lazy to convey their thought(s) or lack sufficient vocabulary skills and are hoping that you do INDEED know what they're talking about, saving them the exhausting effort of being more descriptive. Other annoying and overused examples: "It is what it is." "Vetted." "Iconic." "Epic." "Cowboy up." "With that being said."
There are dozens more, but at the end of the day ......... it is what it is.........You know what I'm saying?
RealNewsGuy on May 27, 2016:
Ever watch the Today Show? If these people could get through a show without saying "this is cool," "that's cool," "10 cool ways to do so and so,' and so forth, it would be a bloody miracle, The opening of each hour is annoying enough with the crowd outside of the studio yelling and screaming and whooooooooooing at the top of their collective lungs. The jitterbugging camera work at the opening makes me seasick. And this is controlled by NBC's news division. Walter Cronkite, Frank McGee, John Chancellor, Edward R. Murrow, et al must be spinning in their graves.
Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on September 10, 2014:
fpherj48, at the end of the day, I'm not going to turn around and say I disagree. So, nice one!
Suzie from Carson City on September 09, 2014:
Thank you, HR.....I take a bow for your kudos.....
Jane Wilson from Geogia on September 09, 2014:
Well done fpherj48!
Suzie from Carson City on September 09, 2014:
Thomas....TO BE HONEST, I have no idea why I'm on this page nor how I got here. Basically......It must be an out-of-body-experience. I'm not even joking.
With all due respect, I commented on this hub many months ago and I feel at that time, I gave it 110% of........of something.
The fact of the matter is, yeah, no, I just wanted to say, "Hello," you know what I mean?
Oh well, at the end of the day, I suppose we can all turn around and say, "Some cliches are most annoying," don't you agree?
Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on September 09, 2014:
Thanks Solares, much appreciated!
Barbara Fitzgerald from Georgia on September 08, 2014:
Brilliant! - Thumbs Up and Shared on FB!
Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on September 08, 2014:
Thanks Health Reports. I think "yeah, no" is a space-filler, a way to relax the other person, and also a way to lessen the impact or contentiousness of what you're saying. It's often accompanied by a conciliatory or open-minded tone of voice to achieve those things.
Thanks for the feedback. I think your hub on coconut oil was very good. I'll certainly look out for more.
Jane Wilson from Geogia on September 08, 2014:
Between this and your Interview with Arvind Dixit, I have tears running down my face. I have to admit to saying the stupidest one on your list, "Yeah, no." I don't even know why it comes out of my mouth, like a toad or lizard.
Thumbs up, Funny and awesome - of to follow you and read some more!
Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on August 04, 2013:
Thank you fpherj48! I have followed you too after enjoying one of your hubs just now. It's certainly good to read different material from time to time.
Suzie from Carson City on August 02, 2013:
Thomas...This makes Hub # 3, written by you, that I found very interesting and most enjoyable! I like your topics and I surely like your writing style. You have earned my "follow." Thanks for being such a great writer!
One of my favorite things to do, in my spare time, is to cruise Hubville and soak up the free education available. We are all lucky to get to know fellow writers from all over the world......while sitting in our own abodes!.........As for this hub.....I am with you 100% Bravo!! UP+++
ParadigmEnacted on June 19, 2013:
Yes, if it's a debate and somebody is saying that every time it's their turn, it sounds like they constantly have to correct the other person and are portraying their opinion as fact. "Literally" is up there with that one, another one of these young people situations. Gotta say it to literally sound smart. Literally.
It isn't that impressive of a word, especially when people don't even use it in the right context. I'd literally light myself on fire before I used that word.
Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on June 19, 2013:
Paradigm, I don't know why you thought that would be argumentative. I agree!
I heard another annoying cliché this morning. It's in the 1 word category, and is the word "actually". I was watching a debate show called The Big Questions" and the young student representative kept saying it every 5 seconds or so. Not only was it annoying, but it suggested that all young people are that stupid. To make matters worse, other people in the debate starting using it too. It became like a plague, affecting all the people around her. People seem to use "actually" because they think their argument will surprise you in some way, therefore giving it extra value. When over-used you have to wonder why they think all their words are so damned valuable.
ParadigmEnacted on June 18, 2013:
Yes Mr. Swan, you are right that it's primarily used in business and sport to try to drive production. I'm not trying to be argumentative or beleaguer the point, but it's a highly duplicitous saying because if going above and beyond is stated as an expectation, then nobody is actually able to "go above and beyond." The phrase denotes something that isn't measured and yet some places institute a performance metric for it. Everything is rigidly measured and so the entire sentiment is rendered meaningless and there never actually is any over achievement.
Basically everybody is expected to kill themselves for little or no commendation but there are, like, laws and stuff that companies have to work around.
Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on June 18, 2013:
Thanks for the comments ketage and MDavisat.
Zeron, that's a good one I forgot. I try to interpret "I'm not racist but" as "this is sometimes perceived as racist". I never use the cliché, but I've been accused of racism and sexism once or twice in my life, and it's a horrible accusation to deal with. As a result, I give other people every chance, though you're right, often it is followed by something clearly racist.
Paradigm, that sounds like a motivational phrase for business or sport. I agree it's another cliché that could easily get annoying. I suppose it means to go "above and beyond" what is expected of you, or the achievements of your competitors or predecessors.
Dannie, glad you liked it. If he needs to qualify some statements as "the honest truth" you might wonder what isn't the honest truth.
ctbrown7, thanks for commenting. I think many things can be a cliché, or cliched. I haven't heard live, laugh, love much. I can see how it would get annoying though. It oversimplifies things and its popularity would suggest it's not something people have thought about properly.
ctbrown7 on June 17, 2013:
I'm not sure a single word can be a cliché. I think you have some good ones on here, however. One of the most annoying cliches I see is "Live. Laugh. Love". Not that the message is bad, but it's just overused.
Danielle Schumaker from Boulder, CO on June 16, 2013:
I loved this, Thomas. Thank you. Your example for "With all due respect" made me laugh out loud--literally, not however teenage texters mean it.
My boyfriend likes to say "The honest truth is..." What is that? What does that mean? It makes less sense than "To be honest" but is equally pointless.
ParadigmEnacted on June 15, 2013:
I'm glad I found this one. Well done. People should be called out on these. I'm having a very hard time with "you are expected to go above and beyond" lately. How on Earth is that possible?
Zeron87 on June 15, 2013:
Or how about the one, "I'm not a racist but..." It's always followed by a racist comment!
Marilyn L Davis from Georgia on June 01, 2013:
Well done; nailed 8 of my top ones in a funny, interesting manner. Thanks
ketage from Croatia on May 11, 2013:
I hear most of these everyday, I pretty much tune them out. I also inevitably distrust someone who starts a sentence with to be honest.
Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on April 03, 2013:
Thanks for commenting Spongyollama. I know a bit of German myself, but I'm terrible at learning languages. I think that if you know another language you can be exempt from abusing English!
Jake Ed from Canada on April 02, 2013:
This was rather entertaining. I'll have to watch what I say as I'm often guilty of several of these. I'm studying in Germany right now though, so I dodge this bullet altogether as German is quite a bit cleaner than English :P
Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on March 22, 2013:
Cheers, that's another good one. I suppose it means the same as "you know what I mean". I think the best response would be the same: "no, I don't get you, please explain". That might annoy them but it's for their own good! hehe. I think Matt Lucas took the mickey out of that cliché on Little Britain.
emmarthomson123 on March 20, 2013:
Exellent hub, I just wanted to say about a cliché that irritates me and that I hear a lot is " do you get me ", I think its just as bad as the ones that i use (from your list) that i have spoken to you about when you first published this hub, lol.
Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on March 14, 2013:
Haha, I used to say that when I was younger. I think it's a way of apologising for the changing the subject, like "not to want to change the subject" but with a couple of words missed out.
billd01603 from Worcester on March 14, 2013:
I know a person who says "not to change the subject, but..." and he always changes the subject
Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on March 14, 2013:
Lol, it's remarkable yes. I know someone who has taken to interrupting people who start sentences using that cliché - because it so often prefaces something completely disrespectful! There are some similar ones such as "I like you, but..." where you just know something horrible is about to be said.
Elias Zanetti from Athens, Greece on March 14, 2013:
"With all due respect" lol!
Isn't funny how many have abused this phrase!?
Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on March 05, 2013:
billd01603 from Worcester on March 05, 2013:
very good Hub, Thomas.
Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on March 04, 2013:
It would, but that one can be funny!... some of the time.
Mike from Providence, Ri on March 04, 2013:
so, would that's what she said be one?
Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on March 03, 2013:
Thanks for commenting Emma. Your friends are just trying to help you! It's alright though, I catch myself using them sometimes. It's often involuntary. My brother would wear an elastic armband that he stretched and allowed to smack into his wrist when he thought about smoking. It could be useful for weaning us of cliches too!
emmarthomson123 on March 03, 2013:
I'm one of the worst users if the cliches' and it made me laugh, my friends always make fun of me for saying them, my favourite cliches that i use are numbers 1, 3 &9
Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on March 03, 2013:
Thanks for commenting SilentReed. Yes, I get what you're saying about using them for effect. Some people use cliches really well. When other people hear these good examples, they feel an urge to use the cliché all the time. I think that's where the problem arises. Cliches are like swear words in a way. When overused they reveal an inability to utilise the language, but when used in the right way they can compliment an emotional outburst. I agree that there is an involuntary side to it. Some people use them as space fillers because thinking for a couple of seconds in silence seems more stupid that filling the space with a cliché. The worst example would be when non-native speakers fill the gap between their words with an "ermmmmm". When you ask why they're doing it, they don't realise they are. Politicians can certainly use cliches to deceive or garner support by communicating in the language of the masses. The media do it too, especially the news agencies with political agendas. Thanks again SilentReed, you've made a lot of interesting points!
SilentReed from Philippines on March 02, 2013:
There are other cliches, but I believe you have listed the most common and annoying ones. Some use cliches as a deliberate affectation for effect. To others it has become an unconscious mannerism, like an involuntary facial tic when one is nervous or confuse, suddenly thrust into an unfamiliar situation;making an impromptu speech before a large gathering. Then there are the politicians who have mastered the art of the doublespeak. They use a lot of cliches when there is a need for obfuscatory and dilatory tactics, pretending to communicate but actually not saying anything. Btw, I have bookmark this for future reference. One never knows when the need for cliches might come up. :)