cliche

An expression which has been used often and has become worn, lacking the freshness that makes language interesting.

Sometimes a good wordwright can give new life to a cliche.

In the Bible to say something is as numerous as the "dust of the earth" (Gen 13:16; 28:14; etc.) or "as sand" (Gen 22:17; 41:49; Jos 11:4 etc.) was an overused cliche.

The banality of the image sometimes permits the cliche to become ridiculous: Ps 78:27 "he rained flesh upon them like dust, winged birds like the sand of the seas". However in the mouth of a gifted poet even such a cliche can receive new life, Job 6:2-3:
  O that my vexation were weighed,
    and all my calamity laid on the scales!
  For then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea;
    therefore my words have been rash.
"

These lines succeed for two reasons:

  1. the comparison is not, quite, the habitual "as numerous as..." but rather with the weight of all the sand of the seas,
  2. the second line goes further than the first while still waiting for the third as climax.

The mixture of expectation and surprise renews the banal and makes the text work.


This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos,

© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.