Jewish World Review April 19, 2011 / 15 Nissan, 5771
A Cliche a Second
By Paul Greenberg
It had been some time since I'd stopped by to see the eminent
I understood why I had put off seeing him as soon as he greeted me at the door of his cliche factory.
"Dude!" he cried out, which I take it is no longer a noun of address but the current substitute for Hello. It is not an improvement. I instinctively looked over my shoulder, but apparently M. Cliche was addressing me.
"How's the cliche business?" I inquired at my own risk. "I'm here for your annual report on ever newer and worse cliches."
"Splendid! Capital! Great! Excellent! Magnificent! Tremendous, Stupendous and--stop me if you've heard this one before--"
"Stop! For heaven's sake, stop!"
"Don't get your panties in a wad/knickers in a twist. All I'm sayin' is business has never been better, except maybe during the Roaring Twenties, when everything was copacetic, twenty-three skidoo and all that, whatever. You know, like the cat's pajamas. Would you like to see my PowerPoint presentation? It's just full of hot Performance Numbers for today's thought leaders. Or you might want to sign up for our webinar on new cliches for old. Sure you do. It's a no-brainer."
"We've had a bumper crop of instant platitudes this year," he continued, "thanks to
"What are some of your best-sellers? If I'm not asking you to reveal trade secrets."
"No problem. I'm on it like white on rice. Keepin' a list and checkin' it twice. Whenever a cliche goes viral, we've got it covered. Man, it's an epic job -- huge, iconic -- but we get 'er done. Our staff of thousands -- all computers, not a human being in the bunch -- is tireless, and more to the point, not being human, they're never bored no matter how times they hear the same piece of boilerplate. But I digress...."
"And I've forgotten what you asked. Oh, yes, you wanted to know what was the newest thing in old cliches, the latest in timeworn platitudes, the Nouvelle Vague that's instantaneously old. Well, it's not easy, you know, turning out a new cliche, which is almost a contradiction in terms. But it can be done. Some of our finest products will bore you to tears first time out. Like an instant work of genius -- a heartbreaking work of staggering genius, of course. There's no other kind any more. That's the bottom line in my trade...."
"Oh, good. That's the acid test of our kind of shopworm language or any unreasonable facsimile: Whether it will reduce those exposed to a regular diet of it to the screaming meemies, the willies, the heebie-jeebies, and generally give 'em the bots. I can tell we've passed the test in your case. What's more, I can assure you that the line here at the flagship of normalcy in the American language will impact you for the foreseeable future. When we come up with a phrase that makes people grimace, and add it to a whole vocabulary that reduces the recipient to a basket case, we know we're ahead of the game and in a win-win situation. It's all a matter of thinking outside the box, you know, like...."
"Enough. I feel faint."
"Hopefully, you'll get over it. Unless you've got issues with our newest line of cliches. I want to assure you they're the best money can buy. We go around getting input everywhere, and are happy to facilitate your search for the most exasperating. The best of the lot has to have a wow factor, and lead to an ah-ha! moment, you know what I mean? They're all oldies but goodies even when they're brand new. You'll like 'em all."
"I'm sure I would if I could stand any more of them...."
"Don't go away mad. We're always looking for a new paradigm for our cliches, an infrastructure that'll support the most excruciating of them, a situation that'll be creative, even transgressive, or at least transformational, you know, an ambiance that'll produce viable results that can be utilized in this area. If we can put a man on the moon, we can certainly produce a new cliche, wouldn't you say? What we need is a new
"I'm afraid I do. That's the frightening part. All I want to do just now is leave before this uneasiness in the pit of my stomach gets any worse . . . "
"I understand. A lot of people have that reaction here. The trick is to just incentivize me with a small payment for this consultation, and you'll depart with more cliches, platitudes and banalities than you'll ever want to hear again."
"I don't doubt it."
"It's been a pleasure doing business with you. Perhaps you'd like to check out our latest line of puns before you go. They're guaranteed to make you groan. No? Then go with my blessings, live life to the fullest, toodle-oo, fare thee well...."
Last I saw him, M. Cliche was standing in his doorway looking happily at the wad of bills I'd hurriedly stuck in his hand as I ran off, screaming.
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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.
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