Headbloom Blog

National Cliché Day

Visitors to the U.S. usually learn about the splashy holidays: Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. But there is another set of dates reserved for obscure and often humorous reasons. National Cliché Day is one of those.

Etymology: Cliché (pronounced klee-SHAY) comes from a French word related to old-fashioned printing presses. Clichés were small, common phrases set into metal type that could be easily picked out and set into sentences for newspapers. In everyday modern English, clichés are simple, over-used expressions people say instead of thinking of an original way of speaking. Some function as analogy, others as abstraction, and still others as exaggeration. The fact that they are trite and automatic makes them so popular. So, to the critics, clichés are lazy ways of talking (or writing), but to enthusiasts, they represent a colorful or indirect way of communicating. “Beauty,” as they say, “is in the eye of the beholder.”

The Holiday: National Cliché Day came to national attention as a clever marketing tool by Thomas and Ruth Roy, a husband-wife creative team who discovered in the 1980s that anyone can propose a national “holiday” by applying to Chase’s Annual Events. Over the last two decades, the pair has created more than 50 such holidays, partly for profit (the days are copyrighted) but mostly for fun. With days like Eat What You Want Day (May 11) and Stay Home Because You’re Well Day (Nov. 30), the Roys are just trying to get people to lighten up a little.

To help my international friends celebrate, I include a link to an article by Oklahoma writer Eddie Glenn that talks about the holiday by using dozens of common expressions. Read the article and see how many you recognize. Check your knowledge by referring to the glossary of expressions below. Knock yourself out.

Expressions in the article:

  • A picture is worth 1,000 words. = Images communicate more than language.
  • Every dog has his day. = Everyone is lucky eventually.
  • to beat around the bush = to hesitate to communicate the truth, to speak indirectly
  • to come right out (and tell you) = to speak directly and honestly
  • hard to swallow = difficult to accept
  • to yank your chain = to tease or harass you
  • to pull your leg = to kid you, to make you believe something that is untrue
  • to leave no stone unturned = to check every single option
  • to buy something by the barrel = to buy in great quantities
  • a person after our own hearts = someone who has the same values or beliefs that we have
  • all in a day’s work = just part of the normal routine, nothing special
  • all talk and no action = a person who says a lot but doesn’t do anything
  • to beat the streets = to look everywhere
  • to speak their minds = to express their opinion honestly
  • to air their dirty laundry = to expose their personal secrets
  • more fun than a barrel of monkeys = a lot of fun
  • the cat’s meow = great, terrific
  • robbing Peter to pay Paul = shifting debts without making any progress in payoff
  • to stick in someone’s craw = to really bother someone
  • (Has the) cat got your tongue? = Are you unable to communicate? Can’t you talk?
  • It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. = High temperature causes less discomfort than humidity.
  • I couldn’t care less. = My interest is absolutely zero.
  • to hit rock bottom = to go down to zero, the lowest level
  • as clear as mud = very unclear
  • try to pull the wool over your eyes = try to fool you, deceive you
  • every cloud has a silver lining. = There is always something positive in the worst situations.
  • The early bird gets the worm. = People who are late get few rewards.
  • A winner never quits and a quitter never wins. = Only effort succeeds.
  • Rome wasn’t built in a day. = Important projects take time to complete.
  • the long and the short of it = in summary
  • A good time was had by all. = It was fun for everyone.

Alan Headbloom