Saturday, 2 July 2011

The Catechism of Cliché

Although I have quoted from its ‘Not Many Dead’ column, I hadn’t actually read the Oldie magazine in full until this week. It’s hard to dislike a publication which has a non-cryptic ‘Moron crossword’, adverts that begin ‘Does sitting make your back ache?’ and ‘After 5 years of suffering … I now have no pain or swelling in my legs’, and a competition to win a mobility scooter. I learn, by the way, that there are four different types of mobility scooter: UltraGlide, SuperGlide, EasyGlide and MicroGlide. Caveat Emptor …

The Oldie also has a ‘Cliché Corner’ which is clearly a homage to the Catechism of Cliché, a regular feature of the column by Myles na gCopaleen, alias Flann O’Brien, in the Irish Times. The Catechism of Cliché, based of course on the question and answer format of the Catholic Catechism, was ‘a unique compendium of all that is nauseating in contemporary writing. Compiled without regard to expense or the feelings of the public. A harrowing survey of sub-literature and all that is pseudo, mal-dicted and calloused in the underworld of print.’ Example: Is a man ever hurt in a motor smash? NO. HE SUSTAINS AN INJURY. Does such a man ever die from his injuries? NO. HE SUCCUMBS TO THEM. etc. etc. The Oldie’s take on this in July’s edition is topical:

What season is now in prospect?
A SUMMER OF DISCONTENT.
How are we to characterise Trade Union leaders?
THEY ARE ANTIDILUVIAN.
And what are the walkouts designed to do?
TO CAUSE MAXIMUM DISRUPTION.
To what will the London Underground system be brought by threatened strikes?
A GRINDING HALT.
What will follow a strike by schoolteachers?
A. CHAOS FOR PARENTS;
B. MAYHEM.
And what are ministers going to put in place?
RIGOROUS CONTINGENCY PLANS.
What will be inflicted on the public?
REAL MISERY.
How is the public to be characterised?
LONG-SUFFERING.
And how will the country be affected?
IT WILL BE HELD TO RANSOM.

Indeed, it is safe to say that if there is ever a Chilcot inquiry into what Martin Amis called the war against cliché, the journalists and columnists of the summer of discontent will be completely exonerated.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know The Oldie had adopted the Mylesian form of the Catechism of Cliché, so thanks for posting this - I'm a great fan of the originals. Flann O'Brien also has the habit, when writing as Myles, of enclosing clichés in brackets, to make the point, I suppose, that you can often dispense with the cliché word or phrase and make more sense. As in, 'He does it (literally) all the time'.

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