Sunday 18 July 2010

At the end of WHAT day?

‘At the end of the day’ is an annoying modern cliché. I wouldn’t mind if people were talking about bedtime but they rarely are. I can accept its use by people chattering over a pint when language is far less important than a good gossip but I have heard news reporters using it. I’ve heard government officials too, specialist doctors, solicitors, people who should have a better command of the English language.

I’m not suggesting that we all create totally new and exciting phrases each time we speak but we could try to be a little more original. Shakespeare, it seemed, was always creating new phrases. It’s a shame that we’re so lacking in originality ourselves that we’re still copying his ideas.

‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,’ from Romeo and Juliet.

‘All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players,’ from As You Like it.

'There's method in his madness' which was originally ‘Though this be madness, yet there is method in 't,’ from Hamlet.

I could go on and on... and on. His command of language was truly inspiring. When his contemporaries heard some of those lines for the first time they must have leapt about with excitement.

‘Don’t use clichés’ has become a mantra of creative writing classes. They’re normally referring to the old, well-worn type, like ‘dull as ditchwater’. City dwellers rarely see ditchwater and I suspect it’s not really dull. There are probably insects hopping around in it, the odd lizard or mammal and maybe even fish. In other words the phrase does not create a useful picture in my mind. The mantra should extend to modern slang too, like ‘end of’. I’m sure I heard the PM use that the other day.

If it’s good practice for writers to avoid clichés then it’s not unreasonable for speakers to do the same. So, if you’re a reporter, a government representative or even the Prime Minister, please don’t use the phrase, ‘at the end of the day’. Why not use the word ‘ultimately’ or better still nothing at all. Just tell us what it is you’re trying to say and remember, at the end of the day, the phrase adds nothing.

Is there a cliché that really annoys you?

‘To cut a long story short’ was a Tweet suggestion from my Twitter friend @mariaAsmith and I agree with her. It’s really irritating.

Is there a cliché that you rather like?

‘Count your blessings’ was a Tweet suggestion from my Twitter friend @MiriamHalahmy. Her Mum would say this and then tap the heads of her six grandchildren. Now that’s lovely.

Thanks for your contributions.