Exposed: the real meaning behind the clichés people use

Mon Jan 18, 2010 1:48am EST
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By Miral Fahmy

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - They're every editor's nightmare, those banal, trite, overused expressions for absolutely everything that often say absolutely nothing. But are clichés really as simple as they seem?

A new, humorous book by John Croucher, an Australian statistician and a professor at Macquarie Graduate School of Management, reveals clichés should never be taken at face value, as they often mean the opposite of what they're supposed to mean.

Ever been asked if you're making a fashion statement? Chances are you're actually being told you look ridiculous, Croucher writes in "The Secret Language."

Is your company "containing costs?" It's likely they're maximizing the management's salaries and minimizing the workers' wages, he adds.

Croucher, who dedicates the book to "all those suckers who believe everything people tell them," believes clichés are a form of modern punishment, and a manifestation of our increasingly competitive world.

"I watch a lot of TV and read a lot of newspapers, and being in management school, I also get a lot of management speak -- paradigm shifts and synergies: these are tool for punishing people," he told Reuters by telephone.

"But because this is a dog-eat-dog world, because we need to get that competitive edge, we lie more," he added.

"A lot of people look really good on paper, because people tell us what we want to hear. People lie all the time, and others believe them because they want to believe them."   Continued...