Clichés! Blimey, avoiding these things isn’t rocket science. I mean, we didn’t ought to go down that road. I had a go at them, anyway, in the little moan I usually insert into Bill Everatt’s Underground Edition, while he’s not looking. What brought on this particular rant was all this talk of a ‘Brown bounce’ – yet another political cliché. Here’s what I said.


Oh, dear, here we go again. If it’s not ‘Blair’s babes’ or ‘the Third Way’ or a ‘double whammy’ or a ‘stakeholder’ or whatever other nauseating clichés politicians like to come out with to make us think they’re doing their jobs, now we get the Brown Bounce. Throughout the last two weeks or so, every newspaper has had it: there are Brown bounces all over the place.

It makes you wonder whether, each time it bounces, it leaves a little stain on the floor. Brown bounce, indeed! You can’t help but get a picture of clingfilm stretched tightly over the lavvy pan. But let’s not go down that road.

Now there’s another cliché: let’s not go down that road. You can’t do without them, really. Well, you can, but they’re hard to avoid. They’re all around us.

But it does come up a lot in politics – not just among the politicos themselves, but among the journos who report on the politicos. And there’s another form of cliché: the clichéd single-word bit of shorthand: politico, journo.

But have you noticed how the politicos like to be ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’? They’re all on message, see, but there’s that bit of religious nonsense thrown in, too. Makes us feel good about them. Unless, like me, you’re not exactly sympathetic towards religion. Or politicians.

Then there’s the road map. You can’t just do something these days: there has to be a road map.

However, sources close to the said politicos say all their clichés are in a safe pair of hands and have been ring-fenced to avoid mission creep. We wouldn’t want a Ministry of Defence cliché finding its way into the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, now would we?

That would be a recipe for disaster, after all – and we all know there are no easy answers to that nightmare scenario. So we must be absolutely clear about this, no knee-jerk reactions because lessons must be learned. Provided we stay on message there’s no need to have to think the unthinkable.

OK, that’s enough of those. The sorts of cliché that really get up my nose, though, are those that are plain illogical. One comes to mind, and I’ll bet you’ll never use this one again without thinking about this: and it’s ‘back to back’.

How many times have you heard a DJ say he’s going to play three Kaiser Chiefs singles ‘back to back’, or the BBC is running three episodes of a drama series ‘back to back’? Think about it for a moment. It is possible to have two things back to back (provided one of them is playing backwards, of course), but not three, unless the one in the middle has two backs.

Go on: think about it. It’s impossible. So why do idiots say it?

It comes from the description of back-to-back houses, of course, when the back of one was facing the back of another. That meant the front of one was facing the front of another, too.

Now if you want a DJ to play the latest from the Klaxons or the Spice Boys ‘back to back’, you’ll have to listen to one of them going schlurrp-durrp and sounding like a Klingon speaking Swedish in Russian. Because that one will be playing backwards.

So stop it, do you hear? It’s a silly cliché and I’ll hear no more of it.

‘In fact’ is another one. In fact, I hate it. But why do I need to say ‘in fact’ if what I’m stating is being stated as a fact? And if it ain’t a fact we usually say so, with phrases such as, ‘Well I think . . .’ or ‘In my opinion . . .’

‘In fact’ is used as a bit of reinforcement for something you’ve already made plain. ‘As you can see, he is in fact sitting here with me now.’ Er, yes, I can see that that is, indeed, a fact. ‘You are in fact drinking tea.’ I was rather hoping it was that, and not sulphuric acid. This word is often combined with ‘actual’, to make ‘in actual fact’. If you’re not sure of your facts, it seems, you might be better making them actual facts.

Then there’s ‘of course’, of course. This is often used by news presenters on radio and TV. ‘Cornelius Pingblatt, who of course used to play left-handed croquet as a boy . . .’ Silly me! I should have known. And if you need to say ‘of course’ you obviously think it’s well known, so why say it in the first place? You often hear it said by sports broadcasters: ‘Beckham, whose father Ted was of course a kitchen fitter and Manchester United fan . . .’, for example, or ‘Beckham, whose other given names are Robert Joseph . . .’ Now these happen to be true, but did you know that – unless you’re an extraordinarily devoted fan and sad enough to cram your mind with all the minutiae?

Of course you didn’t. In fact, neither did I – of course.

Bloody clichés. Avoid ’em like the plague, I say.

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About Andrew John

Andrew John is a writer, editor and broadcaster with Celtica, providing, among other things, a weekly moan on a topic in the news. He spends much of his life moaning and criticising, and is crap company at parties. But just humour him. He's not a bad bloke, really.

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