Before computers, printing involved carving letters out of wooden  blocks, then dropping the blocks into metal to create a ‘stereotype’ from which to print.  The French word for this was ‘clicher’, a variant of ‘cliquer’ meaning ‘to click’.

Some phrases or groups of words commonly go together, so instead of laboriously grouping single letters or words a single ‘stereotype’ could be used. It is from this that we get the word ‘cliché’ meaning a commonly or overused phrase.

Clichés abound in sporting commentary, in politics and workshops:

  • a grinding game
  • free-flowing play
  • drill down
  • unpack
  • walk the talk
  • it’s not over until it’s over
  • bottom line is….
  • inherited from previous administrations
  • it is going to take time and a whole raft of measures
  • let me be absolutely open and honest

Help your child or students to listen and read actively for clichés and make a cliché wall or book.

Although idioms can also be overused, they are different in that they do not have a literal meaning. The figurative meaning of idioms is different from their literal meaning, which may often sound absurd or silly.

Compare clichés with idioms.

For videos on idioms

Ideas for teaching idioms

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