The Commandment Bridge
The refugee deal - land of the free, but only for a few

Our absolutely unbelievable fracturing of language 😠


TUMBY BAY - I’ve had enough! The next person who says, ‘Oh my God!’, ‘Absolutely!’, ‘At the end of the day’, 'The bottom line is …’, ‘Unbelievable!’ or any one of the other overworked clichés that I’ve got stored in my verbal hate locker had better look out.

The same goes for the next person who sends me an email with the acclamation ‘LOL’ at the end. And that goes doubly if it is accompanied by one of those excruciating little circles with a happy face or some other silly symbol in it.

And if any of those people also happens to be wearing a baseball cap the wrong way round, have underpants sticking from the top of their pants or is sucking a lollypop with the stick hanging out of their mouth, who knows what will happen.

Not that I’ve got anything against mindless clichés or silly fads.

Sometimes they can be very useful.

They are a positive boon for intellectually challenged politicians for instance.

Remember union boss turned politician turned mining lobbyist Martin Ferguson? He was amazing. He could string cliché after cliché together in a flat monotone for hours on end. None of it made much sense, but what the hell.

If he was still in politics today he could give the bullet-headed ex-walloper from Queensland, Mutton Dutton, a run for his money with his special brand of clichéd vitriol.

Since Ferguson disappeared into business-land he has become indistinguishable from the rest of the clones. God knows where Dutton is at the moment. Probably trolling through the sewers looking for more shit to smear on innocent people.

And then there are the galahs who continually chant phrases like ‘Stop the boats!’ and ‘Jobs and growth’ when all you want them to do is give you a straight answer to your question. Not only do they constantly regurgitate the same clichés but in their spare time they’re probably inventing new ones.

Then again one of the best cliché makers was old Will Shakespeare. I don’t think he intended to, or maybe the cunning bugger did. He was a consummate political salesman, after all. Look what he did for the cause of Judea.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so harsh. Common language is laced with clichés once just as annoying.

And not just in English.

Even Creole languages like Tok Pisin aren’t immune.

The exclamation ‘laka’ still gets on my nerves in the right setting. And if I hear the term ‘Land of the Unexpected’ one more time I’m likely to throw up. And that one about an ‘island of gold floating in a sea of oil’ ….urgh!

They are really words and phrases overworked through popular use.

Then there are the aberrations.

How many times have you heard a person described as an ‘icon’?

An icon is a religious image, like a painting or statuette usually found in a church.

PlagueHow a sports person can become analogous to a painting or painted plaster statuette in a church boggles the mind.

And why is a person who kicks a winning goal called a ‘hero’?

A hero is someone who has performed a valiant or brave deed. What’s valiant or brave about kicking a pigskin through a couple of upright sticks?

It makes you realise the world has gone truly mad.

In fact, stop the world, I want to get off.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Bernard Corden

'Yes and no' is another that has me reaching for my revolver

Peter Kranz

I was like totally freaked out lol dudes! Amazeballs!

Peter Kranz

Let's run this up the flagpole and see who salutes.

Baby boomers
Gen X
Gen Y
Millennials (hell if they were born in the new milennium the oldest would be all of 17 by now)

Bernard Corden

It was pure bimbo babble and I even heard the phrase worst case scenario.

The next time you listen to an interview with some ignorant malapert from the arts just count how many times they use the phrase kind of or kinda.

If you removed these tterms from the vocabulary of Richard Wilkins or Karl Stefanovic, who actually get paid for hosting that Channel 9 Today show, it would be like a silent movie.

Philip Fitzpatrick

You must have heard a few 'likes' in there too Bernard. It's very infectious. Even grown-ups are using it.

You have to be careful with cliches though. At some stage in their life they morph into common usage.

Bernard Corden

I have just spent an excrutiating hour in a Telstra mobile phone store in Queen Street mall. I lost count of the number of times I heard the words cool, excellent, guys and reaching out.

Awesome! - KJ

Paul Oates


if you really want to 'stir the possum' and open 'Pandorah's box', check out a publication named 'Lost for Words' by author Hugh Lunn. It's the real 'Dinky Di' Oz from our yesteryear's culture before it was was corrupted by today's mobile phone SMS shorthand.

Ritum na kisim savi gut ya!

Arthur Williams

‘I know where you’re coming from' Phil and you are a 'stakeholder' in the journalism and writing but what about my ‘ betters’ who live in ivory towers are they to be complimented on their style?

Regina (Sivakumar) v Secty for State for Home Department.

“……..…weight should be given to the severity of the torture.

"The House of Lords so held in dismissing an appeal by the Secretary for the Home Dept against a decision of the Court of Appeal allowing an appeal by the applicant from a decision in the Queen’s Bench Division dated 22nd January 2001, dismissing his application for judicial review of the refusal by the Immigration Appeal Tribunal promulgated on June 23 1999 to grant him leave to appeal from the determination of a special adjudicator dated May 12 1999.”

Considering there are moves afoot to make the legal system more open to the public I am sure many of us, even after reading the above, are still unsure of the outcome of this important case.

In PNG someone would have described it as mauswara.

Mino ken pulim tumas. (Is that a health warning?)

Peter Kranz

Shakespeare wasn't above poking fun at the use of cliches, in fact Polonius in Hamlet Act 1 scene 3 produces an unending stream of them, which I'm sure old Bill meant to be read as ironic.

"Yet here, Laertes! aboard, aboard, for shame!
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
And you are stay'd for. There; my blessing with thee!
And these few precepts in thy memory
See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!"

Slim Kaikai

U ting u kam gud ah?

Smash wan!

Evocative Tok Pisin cliches, Slim - KJ

Garry Roche


Bernard Corden

My pet hate is the unnecessary use of exclamation marks. It is like eating in the street or laughing at your own jokes and redolent of an ignorant malapert.

Lifestyle, space, elephant in the room, moving forward and many other middle damagement phrases such as deliverables, key performance indicators are on my hate list.

They are used relentlessly by careerist zombies and are merely turgid sesquipedalian sludge masquerading as leadership.

If you ask how many of these charlatans have read Orwell, Huxley, Hemingway, Dos Passos or Dickens the dark fog clouds often come rolling in and the subject matter soon changes.

Dot Wordsworth is always worth reading in The Spectator.

`Daniel Kumbon

Phil, How about this sentence..

A merry band of grand chiefs floating past in a colourful hot air balloon powered by LNG gas delighting themselves at the sight of the island of gold floating on a sea of oil 30,000 ft below being swallowed up by a Black Hole in the Land of the Unexpected.

Michael Dom

Eh, brata, how bai yu save? Yu iet kam na lukim.

Tok Pisin blong ol grasruts em samting tru ia, laka.

Igatim ol plenti kain toktok we em normal ia.

Olsem, tok blo tok.

Philip Fitzpatrick

How about some Tok Pisin cliches Michael?

Jordan Dean

I am starting to hate the phrase 'PNG is a Christian country' because our actions speak otherwise.

Lindsay F Bond

So, yeah, no, and have some pun at it, but.

Michael Dom

Phil, if I had the time of day I wouldn't even bother.

However, you have sparked my curiosity and this [issue] could be the stuff of nightmares if it isn't nipped in the bud.

I will give it my best shot by engaging in constructive debate using nothing but cliches.

As Keith has said we're on the same wavelength and have a good chance of success in achieving our objective: to lampoon the hell out of cliches.

In any event, even if most folks don't get with it, maybe it will tickle the fancy of the brighter sparks.

In my opinion that would be an achievement in itself.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Back in the 1980s a couple of my friends were idly chatting in the tea room at work and got round to discussing cliches.

They then started a discussion using nothing but cliches. There were only a couple of pauses and they sustained it for about ten minutes.

It's an interesting exercise - try it.

Peter Sandery

'Unique' and 'flashlight' are on the top of my list,

Michael Dom

Absolutely. I for one completely agree.

At the end of the day the use of cliche by writers demonstrates poor innovative English.

Shakespeare is iconic for cliche phrases only because folks kept using his phrasing instead of making up their own, laka.

Thanks for this piece, Phil. You're a hero. Lol :-P

Going forward all things considered we're on the same wavelength and it'll be right in the long run - KJ

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)