Guest Columnist

Cliches are the greatest thing since sliced bread

On July, 7, 1928, the Constitution-Tribune, the local newspaper of Chillicothe, Mo., announced the Chillicothe Baking Company was selling sliced bread to area markets. Through the work of Kathy Stortz Ripley, editor of the Constitution-Tribune, the northwest Missouri town can claim to be the first place where sliced bread was publicly sold.
On July, 7, 1928, the Constitution-Tribune, the local newspaper of Chillicothe, Mo., announced the Chillicothe Baking Company was selling sliced bread to area markets. Through the work of Kathy Stortz Ripley, editor of the Constitution-Tribune, the northwest Missouri town can claim to be the first place where sliced bread was publicly sold.

Clichés, those pearls of wisdom that tell it like it is, don’t beat around the bush. They go right to the nitty-gritty. In a nutshell, when it comes to laying it on the line, clichés are right on the money, aces in the hole. You know, the whole enchilada.

It’s time to call off the dogs and cut clichés some slack. After all, they’ve stood the test of time, do a lot of heavy lifting, and make sense when we can’t see the forest for the trees.

We know it doesn’t really rain cats and dogs, but we get the picture. And there isn’t anything holy about a cow or Toledo, unless you live in India or are a particularly devout Ohioan. And, for Pete’s sake, where is the shrine of Moley, as in Holy Moley?

Writing is as hard as pulling teeth, so let’s cool our jets and not get bent out of shape over expressions that are as handy as a pocket on a shirt.

So what if a cliché is a little shopworn. “Happy Birthday” is as old as the hills and we still sing that ditty like there’s no tomorrow.

Writing is about getting to the name of the game and clichés are where the rubber meets the road. Here, let me make my point by telling you a little story called “A Mountain Out of a Mole Hill.” Imagine how boring this story would be, you know like watching paint dry, if we didn’t have clichés pulling the load.

Louise was fit to be tied. Her day had gone down the drain. Madder than a wet hen, she sat in the living room and stared daggers at her husband, José. The old man was loose as a goose, cool as a cucumber, and watching “American Dad” like a bump on a log. He didn’t give his wife the time of day.

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Louise rolled her eyes across the room, shoved her glasses up her nose, and tossed her head at José.

“You gotta bee in your bonnet?” he scowled.

“Yeah. I work my fingers to the bone, and what do I get?”

“Bony fingers?” the bald as a billiard ball husband joked.

“You think you’re the cat’s pajamas, don’t you,” Louise snorted. “Well, I’m at the end of my rope. You’re barking up the wrong tree if you think I’m gonna stick it out in this dump.”

“Geez, Louise. Get a grip. You’re getting to be a real basket case. Face it, you’ve got it made in the shade.”

“You can say that ’til the cows come home, ya know, but that doesn’t cut any ice with me. You’re not pulling the wool over my eyes.”

“For crying out loud, Louise. Are you losing your marbles? Put a lid on it. You can always take a hike if you like.”

“You mean like your way or the highway?

“You got it.”

Hotter than a three-dollar pistol and about to blow a gasket, Louise stomped out the patio door into the backyard. There, among whispering pines and a babbling brook, Louise stewed in her own juice before separating the wheat from the chaff.

“I don’t want to cut off my nose to spite my face,” she thought to herself. “I better look before I leap and not be penny-wise and pound- foolish.”

Louise peered into the house where her husband was sprawled in his recliner, happy as a clam. She continued her thoughts. “Perhaps I should let sleeping dogs lie. But am I gonna bite the bullet and let him have the last word? No way, Jose!”

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• Carroll McKibbin is a native Iowan who lives in San Luis Obispo, Calif., as a retired Cal Poly dean. He has written two books: “Apron Strings,” a humorous memoir of an Iowa upbringing, and “Lillian’s Legacy,” the true story of a supposedly unsolved murder in a small Iowa town. Comments: cmckibbi@calpoly.edu

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