Another Outdated Cliché

As I posted a couple of weeks back, writers these days are urged to avoid overworked idioms. Trouble is, it can be a real challenge to think of an interesting way of restating an old and weary cliché.

For instance, a writer could replace, “It was raining cats and dogs” with “It was a heavy downpour,” and be accurate, but not so eloquent. “It was raining stars and planets” might sound like overkill. Readers’ minds might automatically jump to the idiom you’re trying to replace. I’ve had that happen. It was so obvious that my mind went back to the original and the substitute sounded phony.

At a writers’ group meeting a few years back we were given some well-used idioms and were to suggest a substitute. I posted one on Feb 22nd, now here’s another for you to consider and offer suggestions:

He/ she/ it was “as old as the hills.”

Some suggested replacements:
Sticking to fact:
— “He’d made his four score and ten.”
— “She was the senior member in her nursing home.”
— “He was an octogenarian.”

More figurative:
— “He goes back to spats and top hats.”
— “That idea was around when Shakespeare was a scholar.”
— “That thing’s been around since Longfellow was a lad.” (If you prefer an American notable.)

Do you have any suggestions for replacements or have you read any that struck you as worthy of note?

The Neighborly Man

by Edgar Guest

Men are of two kinds, and he
was of the kind I’d like to be.
Some preach their virtues, and a few
express their lives by what they do.
That sort was he. No flowery phrase
or glibly spoken words of praise
won friends for him. He wasn’t cheap
or shallow, but his course ran deep,
and it was pure. You know the kind;
Not many in a life you find
whose deeds outrun their words so far
that more that what they seem, they are.

There are two kinds of lies as well:
the kind you live, the ones you tell.
Back through his years from age to youth
he never acted one untruth.
Out in the open light he fought
and didn’t care what others thought
nor what they said about his fight
if he believed that he was right.
The only deeds he ever hid
were acts of kindness that he did.

What speech he had was plain and blunt;
his was an unattractive front.
Yet children loved him; babe and boy
played with the strength he could employ,
without one fear, and they are fleet
to sense injustice and deceit.

No back door gossip linked his name
with any shady tale of shame.
He did not have to compromise
with evil-doers, shrewd and wise,
and let them ply their vicious trade
because of some past escapade.

Men are of two kinds, and he
was of the kind I’d like to be.
No door at which he ever knocked
against his manly form was locked.
If ever man on earth was free
and independent, it was he.

No broken pledge lost him respect;
he met all men with head erect
and when He passed I think there went
a soul to yonder firmament
so white, so splendid and so fine
it came almost to God’s design.

from his book A Heap O’ Livin’
c 1916 by the Reilly & Britton Co.