I was eating Dove chocolates and trying to decide what to write for this week’s blog. As I unwrapped a few pieces, (I won’t say how many) the idea came to me. Each wrapper contains a quote. So here is my theme for today. Do you realize that all clichés started as original thoughts? I’ve created a list of quotes and I want you to guess the origins. Don’t peek at the answers until you’re done. Some of these are lines from movies, TV ads and books. This is a way to get you thinking about famous words and the point I will be making.
Can you guess the origin?
- What you see is what you get.
- .I’m Ok, You’re okay.
- Show me the money.
- Can you hear me know.
- Where’s the beef.
- You know what I’m sayin’.
- Life is just a bowl of cherries.
- Life goes on.
- Love is never having to say you’re sorry.
- To be or not to be…
- Not so funny when the shoe is on the other foot.
- Not my circus, not my monkey.
- Come out smelling like a rose.
- A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
- The Force is with you.
- Comedian Flip Wilson as his character Geraldine
- Title of a self-help book by Thomas A. Harris
- Line from movie Jerry Maguire
- Verizon commercial
- Wendy’s commercial circa 1984
- Line from Trailer Park Boys, and We’re the Millers
- Popular song published in 1931
- Robert Frost (the original quote is much longer)
- Erich Segal novel Love Story
- Shakespeare’s Hamlet
- Uncertain (my internet search turned up no origin)
- Polish expression
- Popular in 1968. Before that it was worded Coming up Roses
- Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
- Star Wars
Disclaimer: Some may have originated even earlier but I didn’t spend a lot of time double checking my sources because the origin isn’t the point of this post.
There is a point to this.
When you hear them, no further explanation is necessary. The inference is clear. So, how many did you know? How many have you used?
I want to know what images do they evoke in your mind. For example: “What you see is what you get ” as a reference to people speaks of nothing hidden here. It can be paired with “Take it or leave it.” If your character said this, what image does it project? An honest person? A person who doesn’t care to change?
How about “Not so funny when the shoe is on the other foot.” How often have kids heard this one from their parents. We understand this to mean when you’re the one suffering the hard trial your perspective changes.
Two of the above quiz quotes I hate, and I want to smack anyone who uses them. Can you guess which ones?
“Not my circus, not my monkey.” Strong, obnoxious I-do-not-care attitude about someone else’s problem.
And the dumbest one of all that speaks of immaturity and the free love era. “Love is never having to say you’re sorry.” Does it bug you like it does me?
Don’t get all emotional on me.
All these quotes evoke emotions and paint pictures. And it’s easy as a writer to grab a familiar one to say what you want to say. Consider this: we are writers—we write; we create new phrases. We would love to see our words become premiere quotes on the tongues of generations to come. We also don’t want editors to mark up our work with red because we rely on clichés.
When the temptation comes to throw in an overused line, consider repurposing it a bit first. Rather than the noise in the room sounding like a swarm of bees, why not like a Nascar race?
My favorite Dove wrapper quote was a fun repurposing of the familiar. “Walk to the beat of your own tuba.” What do you see when you read those words? Can you envision an individual who is content to be different? Maybe a nerdy type or someone who took up the tuba challenge when no one else would.
Now it’s your turn
Look at the clichés from my little quiz above or find your favorite and repurpose it to create a new word picture. Or you least favorite. J Here’s mine. “Love is never having to be someone you’re not.”
Share your repurposed quote in the comments or an original one.
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