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6 Overused Phrases It's Time to Retire

Cliches are interesting. They suck the life out of our writing and quickly identify us as fools when we spray them around a conversation. Nearly everyone who takes writing or speaking seriously knows to avoid them, and yet it takes a significant amount of conscious effort to do so. Left to their own devices (DAMNIT), our brains seem to love squeezing out cliches. But why?

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"Why, God, why?" (DAMNIT.)

The problem is, at one point a cliche was a very clever way of saying something, a word or phrase that perfectly captured whatever was trying to be communicated. Every cliche was once awesome, and it's only been massive overuse that's ruined them, decades and decades of repetition, often long past the point where they even make sense anymore.

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"... and into the fire."
"You cook over a fire?"
"No, I-"
"Are you poor?"

But it's not just old sayings that have become cliches. We haven't stopped coming up with awesome ways to say things, and we sure as poop haven't stopped copying smarter people's work. Many of the cleverest sayings of the last few years, phrases that very recently made us smile, have since graduated into full-on clichedom. Here are six of them, ones that it might finally be time to put out to pasture (DAMNIT!).

#6. "Batshit Crazy"

"Batshit crazy" is a colorful, attention-grabbing expression that quite rightfully became a cliche. "Batshit crazy" sounds way worse than regular crazy, doesn't it? Even if it's not quite clear how. Is bat shit hallucinogenic? Who found that out first? Is that ... is that what happened to Bruce Wayne when he fell down that well?

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"And why do we fall, Bruce?"
"SO WE CAN PIERCE THE NIGHT AND GORGE OURSELVES ON ITS ICHOR AIIIIAIEIIIAIAIIEIEIEIIEIEIE."

This probably didn't come completely out of nowhere; "bats" and "batty" and "bats in the belfry" have meant "crazy" for a long time. "Batshit" is a new variation on it, apparently originating sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

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Where I assume it must have blown squares' minds.

But in the intervening decades, it's gone from wildly original to just lazy. There are so many other ways to call someone crazy, like, perhaps, actually describing the specific manner in which they're crazy. Pants-shittingly crazy? That's good. Hat-shittingly crazy? Better.

#5. "XX Is the New Black"

This cliche was originally clever when it first showed up in the fashion world, where every year a new color was declared to be "the new black," using some criteria I'm not entirely sure of.

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Ability to hide sweat stains, I guess.

The format has since been applied to basically everything else by basically everyone else. People, cars, ethical systems, Doritos-flavored tacos, and many other things have all been declared the new black. This belongs to a family of cliches called snowclones, which all take the form of a simple template where a couple words can be swapped in to create a humor-like effect. They're sort of like a paint-by-numbers system for being clever, and in the same way that paint-by-numbers books have yielded few great pieces of art, you shouldn't expect too much out of this or any snowclone.

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"And here you can see where Renoir just stopped caring."

#4. "Douchebag"

I thought long and hard about including this when I realized how difficult it is to define the word. "Douchebag" describes a fairly specific type of person, one not immediately captured by any other labels. A douchebag is a bit different from an asshole, and a bit different from a loser, and a bit different from a moron. He's sort of arrogant, but that doesn't quite capture it right, either. I guess I'd describe a douchebag as "an inconsiderate man who is incorrectly proud of himself."

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He's also perpetually hitting on your girlfriend.

Useful though it may be, goddamn is "douchebag" an icky word. For that reason alone it's worth avoiding, although there are better reasons still. Mainly, by resorting to a cliche, we really limit the amount of abuse we can heap on these horrible, horrible people. "Douchebag" is such a bland, unimaginative label to apply to a group of people who are awful in so many interesting, specific ways.

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Briefly: the hair, the collar, the manner, the armpits, the collar, the face, the collar, the collar ...

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