Meanings: “Cliché” and “Stereotype”

March 22, 2013

From the Washington Post’s Outlook section, we have the list below of phrases to be avoided. Avoided why? Mostly because they are clichés or stereotypes. But where do the terms “cliché” and “stereotype” come from? Both come from the world of printing:

cliche (n.) Look up cliche at Dictionary.com

1832, from French cliché, a technical word in printer’s jargon for “stereotype,” supposedly echoic of the sound of a mold striking molten metal, thus pp. of clicher “to click” (18c.). Figurative extension to “worn-out expression” is first attested 1888, following the course of stereotype. Related: Cliched (1928).

stereotype (n.) Look up stereotype at Dictionary.com

1798, “method of printing from a plate,” from French stéréotype (adj.) “printing by means of a solid plate of type,” from Greek stereos “solid” (see sterile) + French type “type.” Noun meaning “a stereotype plate” is from 1817. Meaning “image perpetuated without change” is first recorded 1850, from the verb in this sense, which is from 1819. Meaning “preconceived and oversimplified notion of characteristics typical of a person or group” is recorded from 1922. Stereotypical is attested from 1949.

By the way, “TK,” which shows up frequently in the list, is journalese for “to come” — indicating something to be filled in.

THINGS WE DO NOT SAY IN OUTLOOK

At first glance
As a society (or, “as a nation”)
Observers
TK is not alone
Pundits say (or “Critics say”)
The American people (unless in a quote)
The narrative (unless referring to a style of writing)
Probe (as substitute for “investigation”)
A rare window (unless we’re talking about a real window that is in fact rare)
Begs the question (unless used properly – and so rarely used properly that not worth it)
Be that as it may
It is important to note that
Needless to say
[Anything] 2.0 (or 3.0, or 4.0…)
At a crossroads
Outside the box/Out of the box
TK is a favorite Washington parlor game
Yes, Virginia, there is a TK
Underscored
Midwife (as a verb that does not involve childbirth)
Call it TK
Pity the poor TK
Imagine (as the first word in your lede)
Palpable sense of relief
Rorschach test (unless it is a real one)
The Other
Effort (as a verb)
Gestalt/Zeitgeist
Little-noticed (that just means the writer hadn’t noticed it)
Hastily-convened
Ignominious end
Tightly knit community
Rise of the 24-hour news cycle (it rose a long time ago)
Remains to be seen
Feeding frenzy/feeding the frenzy
Double down
Dons the mantle of
Hot-button issue
Face-saving compromise
The argument goes (or its cousin, “the thinking goes”)
Shutter (as a verb)
Paradigm shift (in journalism, all paradigms are shifting)
Unlikely revolutionary (in journalism, all revolutionaries are unlikely)
Unlikely reformer (in journalism, all reformers are unlikely)
Grizzled veteran (in journalism, all veterans are grizzled – unless they are “seasoned”)
Manicured lawns (in journalism, all nice lawns are manicured)
Rose from obscurity (in journalism, all rises are from obscurity)
Dizzying array (in journalism, all arrays make one dizzy)
Withering criticism (in journalism, all criticism is withering)
Predawn raid (in journalism, all raids are predawn)
Sparked debate (or “Raised questions”)
Ironic Capitalizations Implying Unimportance Of Things Others Consider Important
Provides fresh details
But reality/truth is more complicated (oversimplify, then criticize the oversimplification)
Scarred by war
Shines a spotlight on (unless there is a real spotlight that really shines)
TK is no panacea (nothing is)
No silver bullet
Shifting dynamics
Situation is fluid (code for “I have no idea what is going on”)
Partisans on both sides
Charm offensive
Pushback
Going forward
Stinging rebuke
Mr. TK goes to Washington (unless a reference to the actual movie)
The proverbial TK (“proverbial” doesn’t excuse the cliché, just admits you used it knowingly)
Fevered speculation
Oft-cited
Iconic
Growing body of evidence
Increasingly (unless we prove in the story that something is in fact increasing)
Tapped (as substitute for “selected” or “appointed)
Any “not-un” formulation (as in “not unsurprising”)
There, I said it (more self-important than “voicey”)
To be sure

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About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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