• cliche •
klee-shay or klee-shay • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A commonplace expression, a banality, platitude, bromide. 2. Any ordinary, commonplace object, idea, or person.
Notes: You may also spell this word with its French cap: cliché. However, since it now may be pronounced the English way, with accent on the first syllable instead of the last, we may assume this word's adoption has been finalized. This noun may be used as a verb meaning "to fill with clichés", the past participle of which would be cliched "hackneyed". We are warned by AHD not to use cliche itself as an adjective, but OED lists it as a noun and adjective.
In Play: This word originally referred only to worn-out phrases: "That old cliche 'a woman's place is in the home' died during World War II". Then its sense expanded to cover everything ordinary: "Fauntleroy is a walking cliche of a man in mid-life crisis."
Word History: In the pre-21st century printing world, we had to make a page with a linotype machine that chose metal slugs with letters on them and organized them in sentences. A matrix was made from this, then a metal, usually lead, stereotype was made from the matrix that was an exact copy of the original linotype. The French verb clicher meant "make a stereotype". It was a borrowing of some Germanic word for "click": Dutch klikken, German klicken, Norwegian klikke, Swedish klicka, or Danish klikke, apparently for the sound made by the matrix when it contacts molten metal. These verbs originated as an imitation of the sound it represents (onomatopoeia). Today's Good word is the past participle of clicher: cliché "stereotyped". By the way, stereotype comes from Greek stereos "solid" + French type "type". (Today's Good Word was originally suggested by Katy Bresger in 2005. Jeremy Busch recently reminded us of Katy's recommendation.)
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