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The cliché is " ... the bad guy of the English language. Furthermore it is the worst kind of bad guy--the bad guy that used to be a good guy before it suffered a fall from grace or, in the case of the cliché, a fall from freshness." Was this always so? Is originality of usage a classic value or a more recent one? In an exhaustive, 10-page introduction to Clichés: Over 1,500 Phrases Explored and Explained, lexicographer Betty Kirkpatrick presents a fascinating history of the classification of this linguistic category as well as of various aspects of language, illustrating its elasticity and ongoing evolution.
For the literal thinker, it may be satisfying to know that the word cliché comes from the French clicer, meaning "to stereotype" (a printing term), but a succinct and consensual definition? No can do. Clichés are, Kirkpatrick contends, "impossible to pigeonhole."
Designating such categories as quotations and misquotations, euphemistic clichés, catchphrases, vogue expressions, or buzzwords, Kirkpatrick has assembled 207 pages of commentary on the subject. For all of the wrath and ridicule expended on it, the cliché, to coin a phrase, is as old as the hills.
Look up as old as the hills in Betty Kirkpatrick's Clichés and you'll find the phrase, its history, and examples of its usage. You'll want to keep this entertaining dictionary in your reference library for when your dinner guest asks, "What is the shape of things to come?" You'll be able to provide two thought-provoking answers, the first of which will come from your copy of Clichés; the second may come from your tarot. [via]