Cliche Sunday

Perfect for ‘C’liches, today is ‘C’!  Somehow my ‘C’ clichés turned into literary clichés as well; but, as a writer, I find I can’t help myself. At least I showed a bit of:

common sense: good, practical thinking. Common Sense was written in 1776 by Thomas Paine. Although many think Paine was an American, he actually was raised in Britain, and still lived there when he penned Common Sense. The phamlet became famous as it listed rational reasons for America to become independent of Britain. The phrase predates Paine, used in the fourteenth century to mean an actual sense, such as sight or sound. It represented an internal sense, rather like what we now call heart. By the sixteenth century it had morphed into what we now think of it, the plain wisdom that everyone possesse.* Of course, by the eighteenth century, common sense was regarded as anything but common.


chip off the old block: to say a child has the same characteristics as a parent. The original saying, “a chip off the same block,” was a bit more respectful of the parent involved. This one is not hard to see where it came from, a chip off a marble block will indeed have the same characteristics as the larger original. The cliché itself is from the 1600s, and used by Bishop Robert Sanderson in his sermons.


Canterbury pace: to go the pace of mounted pilgrims. I don’t know that I would call this one an actual cliché, as I have never heard it before. It it has a strong literary background, so it needs to be included 🙂 A pilgrimage is, by necessity, a long arduous journey, and accomplished a  properly sedate pace. One of the most famous stories about pilgrims, of course, is Canterbury Tales, Chaucer. The first mention of a ‘Canterbury pace’   is by a Church of England clergyman:

Have I practic’d my Reines [runs], my Carree’res [careers – full gallops], my Pranckers [prancings], my Ambles, my false Trotts, my smooth Ambles, and Canterbury Paces.
      William Sampson’s Vow Breaker,  1636

Catch 22: a situation where an attempt to solve the situation makes the situation impossible to solve. I figured as long we were on a literary bent, we might as well include a cliché from Joseph Heller’s marvelous novel of the same name.  A catch 22 is a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ problem, although it is often used for issues that are more easily solved than the original:

Yossarian looked at him soberly and tried another approach. “Is Orr crazy?”
“He sure is,” Doc Daneeka said.
“Can you ground him?”
“I sure can. But first he has to ask me to. That’s part of the rule.”
“Then why doesn’t he ask you to?”
“Because he’s crazy,” Doc Daneeka said. “He has to be crazy to keep flying combat missions after all the close calls he’s had. Sure, I can ground Orr. But first he has to ask me to.”
“That’s all he has to do to be grounded?”
“That’s all. Let him ask me.”
“And then you can ground him?” Yossarian asked.
“No. Then I can’t ground him.”
“You mean there’s a catch?”
“Sure there’s a catch,” Doc Daneeka replied. “Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn’t really crazy.”


cold comfort: slight encouragement after a harsh reverse. Cold Comfort has roots in the fifteenth century. The phrase also has a literary history, being used in the sixteenth century by both Chaucer and Shakespeare:

Am I but three inches? why, thy horn is a foot; and
so long am I at the least. But wilt thou make a
fire, or shall I complain on thee to our mistress,
whose hand, she being now at hand, thou shalt soon
feel, to thy cold comfort, for being slow in thy hot office?
           The Taming of the Shrew, 1596



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