Len Deighton once put into the mouth of one of his characters the thought that the cliché was a much-maligned means of instant communication. (‘Billion Dollar Brain’, I think it was.) But the character was, if I remember correctly, the baddie.
The trouble with clichés is that they almost always get drained of any meaning or relevance once you look behind them. Let’s take the current favourite, here in British politics:
“We are going to fix the roof while the sun shines!”
This boils down to “We’re going to save some money, because another crippling economic crisis is going to happen and we need to be ready.” There are a few things wrong here.
First, and most obviously, fixing roofs in sunshine calls for a guaranteed spell of fine weather. (As it happens, the roof of the house opposite me is being fixed, but it’s been raining for a couple of days, so they’ve stopped. Luckily, they got the felt installed, otherwise water would presumably be dripping into the bedrooms by now.)
Secondly, you need to make sure the walls can bear the weight of the new roof.
And thirdly, using this cliché equates to admitting that ‘There Will Be Rain.’ In other words, we can’t control the economic weather, we can’t stop it raining when it chooses to. This is such an abject confession of political failure that you have to wonder where they keep their brains. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot! It’ll come back to haunt them. And bite them in the bum. I don’t believe it!!
Okay, one more, which I haven’t heard recently (Ed: you will, Tim, you will):
“You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.”
I can’t be bothered to deconstruct this one right now, just to say it boils down to “The end justifies the means.” Hmm, heard that somewhere before.