Blog clichés

Julian Sanchez links to a rather sobering Gawker post on blog clichés, which, like George Orwell’s  essay “Politics and the English Language,” makes us comb through our own writing to see what sins we’ve committed. And, also like PatEL, it makes us comb through the essay itself for evidence of the author’s own wrongdoing. (“Tired clichés” in the second sentence, for instance. Ha!) But this doesn’t wash away the shame. Walter Ong was fond of pointing out that clichés are the basic structuring principle of oral cultures, and that when literate cultures, like ours, attack oral cultures like orthodox Schenkerians reviewing a neo-Riemannian analysis*, they of course attack clichés. So professors, the guardians (or enforcers, if you prefer) of literate cultures, must be on their guard.
1. Best. [ultimate thing or experience.] Ever/Evar. OK, I did this. Like many blog clichés, this one comes from The Simpsons — a rendering of Comic Book Guy’s “Worst. Episode. Ever.” It was funny when he said it. Maybe it’ll be even funnier if I use it to talk about Wagner? No?

2. [undesirable counter-example], not so much. That welcome, reassuring feeling of smug superiority comes flooding back, because I’ve execrated this one myself.

3. FTW, O RLY, lol, FTL, OMG, FWIW, btw, PWND, ROTFL, etc. I don’t totally agree. LOL and ROTFL are lame and geeky, the natural complement of the hated emoticons. 🙂 But WTF is still useful and is funnier than if you just write “what the fuck.” (The same goes for STFU.) It is deployed to good effect here. And how is BTW a cliché? You guys are taking it too far.

4. [purposefully non-ghetto statement], yo. I’m not sure if I’ve done this on Dial M, but I know I’ve done it in emails to colleagues, hoping to foster a “wacky academic” writerly persona. I guess I could still try it. Now that the appending of “yo” to a conspicuously nerdy sentence has been outed as cliché, it is possible that the use of “yo” in a self-consciously clichéd way will now acquire a patina of hipster irony, thus enhancing its cachet, yo. But more likely it will just make you sound like Robin Williams.

5. I’m looking at you, [example of complaint]. At one point I informed Law and Order that I was looking at it. I’m sorry.


* Fresh, un-clichéd image! How about that? Eh? Eh?**

** The Eh? Eh? thing is another Simpsons-derived cliché, which the Gawker author uses without acknowleging as such. Score one for me.***

*** But it’s a hollow victory, isn’t it? I’ve become like that raving, psychotic first-person narrative voice in Notes from Underground, trapped in the hall of mirrors of my own self-reflexive, involutional consciousness. Wait, “hall of mirrors” is a cliché image to use when speaking of the modern writer’s self-conscious relationship to style! When will my suffering end?

About Phil Ford

Chairman of the Committee for the Memorial to the Victims of Modernism
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