Oh, here’s a neat post by Sherwood Smith about Jane Austen’s advice to those of her relatives (several, evidently) who were also writers. It was a highly literary family, I gather, and a smallish handful of letters back and forth from Jane survive.
Jane on language in a critique letter to her niece Anna, on her first novel-in-progress:
…Devereux Forester’s being ruined by his Vanity is extremely good; but I wish you would not let him plunge into a ‘Vortex of Dissipation.’ I do not object to the Thing, but I cannot bear the expression—it is such thorough novel slang—and so old, that I dare say Adam met with it in the first novel he opened.
And so on. A Votex of Dissipation, really? I’m pretty sure I have never encountered the term personally, but at the time apparently it was a terrible cliché.
Here is a list, from Writer’s Digest, of 12 clichés that may be among the most common today:
1. Avoid it like the plague
2. Dead as a doornail
3. Take the tiger by the tail
4. Low hanging fruit
5. If only walls could talk
6. The pot calling the kettle black
7. Think outside the box
8. Thick as thieves
9. But at the end of the day
10. Plenty of fish in the sea
11. Every dog has its day
12. Like a kid in a candy store
Let me see. Actually I think it’s not quite correct to call “The pot calling the kettle black” a cliché. It is an aphorism. I think there’s a very substantial difference between picking the right pithy aphorism and falling into a lazy cliché.
The rest of them strike me as lazy clichés, though, I agree.
Anyway, good post. Austen certainly seems just as sharp in her personal letters as in her novels.