Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A cliché (from French, stereotype) is a phrase or expression, or the idea expressed by it, that has been overused to the point of losing its intended force or novelty, especially where the same expression was at one time distinctively forceful or novel. By extension, "cliché" applies also to almost any situations, subjects, characterizations, or objects that have similarly become overly familiar or commonplace. As a result, many feel that they should be avoided like the plague. Because the novelty or frequency of an expression's use vary between different times and places, whether a given expression is a cliché depends largely on who uses it and who makes the judgment. Originally cliché was a printing term for a semi-permanently assembled piece of type which could easily be inserted into the document being printed.
It was a dark and stormy night as an opening to a story, is one of the most recognizable clichés in English; likewise and they all lived happily ever after. Proverbs and well-word maxims often take on the air of clichés, as an apple a day keeps the doctor away.
In literary fiction, clichés often take the form of predictable characters or situations, for example the stereotypical pirate might have a pegleg, an eyepatch, a hook for a hand, and a parrot on his shoulder, and be searching for buried treasure using a map with an "X" marking the burial spot: all of these features are clichés. Vampire clichés include a long black cape, slick black hair, and an Eastern European accent. (The most famous, Bela Lugosi's was Hungarian.) Fangs, though, would not be a cliché: they are simply part of being a vampire (by definition), and can neither claim novelty nor be criticized for conventionality.
Movie clichés are similar to the ones found in literature, with a particular focus on predictable situations. For example, a common film cliché is for a fruit stand to be knocked over during a chase sequence. Another cliché is when heroes believe they just killed the monster, only for it to come back for one last scare.
In visual art, commonly found cliches include using roses and hearts to express the often complex and personal emotion of love. The generic nature of the symbols is part of what makes these icons ineffective in conveying a deeply personal experience.
The expression in other words, though often used, is not a cliché, because it never had nor pretended to have originality or forceful meaning. On the other hand James Joyce's characterization of the ocean, from Ulysses, while original and vivid, is unlikely ever to gain sufficient currency to become a cliché: The sea. The snotgreen sea. The scrotumtightening sea.
Extensive use of clichés is sometimes seen as an indicator of poor verbal skills and is common in colloquial language. Clichés are occasionally viewed as insincere, especially when spoken sarcastically.
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