Monday, January 21, 2013

5 Tired Old Expressions I Can Do Without

There are a lot of old expressions that have become tired cliche's. These just happen to annoy me more than most. I recommend we retire them.

1) "You get what you pay for". Sometimes we get what we pay for, sometimes we pay for something and get something less, and sometimes we just overpay when the same product could be had for less. Don't let someone who simply overcharges bully you into buying from him using this hackneyed expression.

2) "It is what it is". This seemed clever the first time I heard it, but after thousands of times, it's just tiresome. All it really means is that something is beyond our control to change and so we should just live with it or work around it. Just say "we can't change it". It's not clever or new but at least it doesn't try to sound like it is.

3) "Think outside the box". There is real irony in this saying because to "think outside the box" is to think creatively. You would think that people who think creatively wouldn't repeat a tired cliche' as a way to denote creative thinking.


I've also found that few people know the origin of this expression. It refers to the solution to this puzzle: Without letting your pencil leave the paper, draw four straight lines through the following nine dots. 

There is a tendency for the reader to assume something that is not said: That the lines must not leave the perimeter. Aha! All solutions require that we draw lines "outside the box"! Here is one solution.

Good puzzle, but the expression is tired. 


4) "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result". Widely and probably wrongly attributed to Albert Einstein, this one is remarkable in that it so often compels people to grant fake laughs for this ancient and annoying expression. In my view, the definition of insanity is repeating this expression and expecting people to be impressed with ones cleverness.

5) "Never assume anything. It makes an ass of u and me." Sigh. Yes, it's true that some assumptions are ill-advised. But we make hundreds of assumptions every day. If we didn't, life would be so tedious we might lack the will to continue. Do you check with the highway patrol to see if the road is open before heading out the door to work in the morning? Or do you just assume it is as it is every other morning unless you hear differently? Go ahead and assume, just use good judgement.