Cliché

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Cliché

 

in language, one of a number of synonymous expressions often used to convey a certain meaning. The user of a cliché perceives it as a generally accepted turn of speech stipulated by the linguistic norm. Often a cliché that originated as a figurative or stylistically colored expression loses its figurativeness or stylistic coloring: for example, in sleznye mol’by (“tearful entreaties”), sleznye (“tearful”) functions as a commonplace epithet of the word mol’by (“entreaties”), and the expression is much more stilted than either nastoichivye or unizhennye pros’by (“urgent” or “humble requests”). Clichés include stereotyped comparisons and metaphors—for example, gorod (“city”) as muraveinik (“anthill”) and serdtse (“heart”) as fakel (“torch”).

Clichés are particularly overused in journalistic language and official language in general. Their excessive and inappropriate use must be fought. Language overburdened with clichés has often been the butt of satirical works—for example, parodies of clichés in M. Zoshchenko, M. Bulgakov, and Il’f and Petrov.


Cliché

 

a means of expression whose repeated use in speech or literature (mainly in fiction) is perceived as a symptom of stereotyped thought or alleged (but not genuine) stylistic beauty.

Fashionable words, phrases, sentences, themes, plots, and stock images, as well as the very inertia of the devices of “ready-made artistry,” influence everyone who uses language. Clichés are most often found in formulaic artistic speech, for example, the stock metaphor “black gold” (in reference to slaves, coal, and oil), and in some title formats, such as the use of “when” to begin a title or the use of a series of three nouns in the nominative case. The danger of cliché lurks in many of the “author’s excursions” into childhood found in modern Soviet literature, in series of images of roses and nightingales in Turkic poetry, and in the use of rhymes of the type moiane taia. An uncritical acceptance of clichés hinders creative individuality, making the writer and any speaker the victim of an inertia of style.

In various spheres of communications—daily life, science, publicist writing, and literature—the relation among clichés, genuinely expressive language, and stylistically neutral elements of language (which may likewise be constantly repeated in speech) is not always the same. A sensitive artist always finds ways to transform clichés. In literature, for example, the fashionable word okoem (vista) is surrounded with subtle irony in a line by the poet A. Mezhirov: Vladyki i tsari gliadiat za okoem (Rulers and tsars gaze beyond the vista). The tendency of a cliché to gain currency and become a general “rule” is at odds with the writer’s desire to create his personal “poetic rules” and to achieve “novelty of material and device” (V. V. Mayakovsky, How Are Verses Made?). The boundaries between formulaic units of artistic language and common linguistic phraseology free from banality of usage are fluid. Thus, the expression nevooruzhennym glazom (with the naked eye) can still be taken as a cliché, but dictionaries have already recorded the transformation into a stylistically neutral phrase.

REFERENCES

Kostomarov, V. G. Russkii iazyk na gazetnoi polose. Moscow, 1971.
Shmelev, D. N. Slovo i obraz. Moscow, 1964.
[Grigor’ev, V. P.] “Khudozhestvennaia rech’.” In Kniga o russkom iazyke. Moscow, 1969.

V. P. GRIGOREV

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