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.”
Croucher’s laugh-out-loud interpretations of everyday expressions are grouped into chapters that deal with real estate, motor vehicles, relationships, law, the corporate world, retail and medicine and the wealth of double speak they entail.
Been told “you deserve better than me” by a lover? You’re being dumped because you’re not good enough, Croucher writes.
Company seeking a self-starter? Nobody’s going to help you whatsoever. Being offered a challenging role? Everyone’s likely to end up hating you, he adds.
In addition to corporations, Croucher thinks real estate agents are among the worst cliché offenders ever, with “50 different expressions for 50 different houses.”
“You’ve got to stop and think. If something is being marketed as ‘deceptively large,’ they probably mean it can’t possibly be as small as it looks. Being touted a ‘golden opportunity’? It sure is golden, but for the agent to get a commission,” he said.
Editing by Belinda Goldsmith