LC Van Savage
Fabrics and Cliches
Do you love clichés as I do? I honestly don’t think I can go for one hour of conversation without using one or more. They were created because they are true; however, in our writing culture we’re not really supposed to use them too much, or to rely on them. I don’t know why. They can be so perfect. Especially when one is glib-challenged as I am.
In fact, I once wrote 2 columns, all in clichés, every single sentence, and no one got it. Personally, I thought they were positively brilliant having written both complete stories using nothing but clichés. It was a fun exercise but obviously a bust. No one noticed and I was sure I was being so incredibly clever. Hey, you win a few, you win a few, right? The dictionary definition of ”cliché” is:
Cliche, also spelled cliché, is a 19th century borrowed word from the French which refers to a saying or expression that has been so overused that it has become boring and unoriginal.
To my mind, clichés are never dull and I just love ‘em. The one I’m thinking about today is this; “she had her work cut out for her.” Where did that come from? Do you know? I don’t either, but I’ll look it up and tell you. Here’s where:
The phrase likely comes from the tailor’s trade where an employee came into work and would find a huge pile of tailoring jobs, fabrics already cut out into patterns, waiting for him, leaving everything else for him to do with it all; measuring, fitting, sewing, lining, patching, button-holing, pressing, fitting, shortening, lengthening, etc. It might have started in the middle of the 19th century and the phrase can maybe be found in a Dickens novel. And it may have meant that once all the work was cut out, it was difficult to keep up. It seems that this is how it’s used today---if your work is cut out for you, you’re in for a long day!
And yet, one might think that if the work is already cut out for an employee, that would lessen his chores for the day. This is a tough one. Which do you think it is? I am not completely sure.
So since we’re in a fabric frame of mind and on the subject of things being cut out, how’s about the origin of the idiom, “He’s cut from the same cloth”? Seems we’re back in the tailor genre. This one means:
If perchance you’re making a suit for a customer, it’s a pretty good idea that the tailor cuts the jacket, vest and trousers from the same piece of cloth. That is if MiLord wants a perfect match in his ensemble, and most well-dressed men do. I mean who wants to pop into one of the local Armani shoppes for a snazzy ensemble to be worn at THE party of the year and to look down as he makes his entrance and notice to his horror that the jacket is one shade of taupe, the vest burnt umber, the pants dark ochre and the weave in each going from window screen to pot-holder lattice? It simply will not do.
It also means that someone thinks a person is almost exactly the same as another person and it’s generally not a positive comparison. For example: “Well, years ago her mother made a few bucks on the side if you get my drift, and now her daughter seems to be cut from the same cloth.”
I just love clichés.
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