Like Betsy, and Tracy, I was a little surprised to find a request for 
cliches yielding student howlers . . . but cliches do generate that 
kind of thing disproportionately: they're where metaphors go to die, 

Scott Adams (Dilbert) has a newsletter which regularly reports the 
kind of amazing (or amusing) misuse of cliches and formulas people are 
talking about here -- the results of not considering what the dead 
metaphor actually meant before it gave up the ghost. In last May's 
issue, for instance 
he claimed his readers had actually heard all of these (among others):

"…the cream of the corn".
"…too many cooks in the broth."
"Looks like I've spent the day chasing a wild herring! "
"We are the glue that keeps things moving. "
"Fits like a charm! Wait..fits like a shoe? "
"That guy is running around like a chicken with his legs cut off."
"It just like stealing teeth from a baby."
"It’s like the rooster guarding the hen house."
"That guy doesn't have a spine to stand on."
"You're barking up a dead tree."
"That's my sixth cents, for what it's worth."
"That's not his cup of cake."

He doesn't, though, usually include the simpler ones like "tow the 
line" (for "toe the line") and "baited breath" (for "bated breath" -- 
were you baiting us with that one, Roger, or did you use the wrong 
word unintentionally?)

My nomination for the current most-overused cliche is the one that I 
think ten percent of CBC news items currently ends with: something 
won't happen "any time soon." Listen for it.

-- Russ

Russell Hunt
Department of English
St. Thomas University

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