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Who played Gandalf in a fantasy adventure film trilogy? Title clue: Master of the circles

Sir Ian McKellen
Sir Ben Kingsley
Sir Michael Caine
Sir Patrick Stewart

At the end of the day


By Christine Lovatt

Have you noticed how often clichés creep into conversation? Consider 'at the end of the day' which means roughly the same as 'when all's said and done' or 'considering all the facts'. In other words, it doesn't really mean very much at all, like 'actually' or 'in fact'.

The bottom line to all this is that these clichés, hackneyed phrases and trite expressions are a part of our language and we’d be lost without them.
Incidentally, 'the bottom line' originally referred to the most meaningful part of a financial statement, and is apparently favoured by the American Republicans, while the Democrats are more partial to 'at the end of the day'.

Queen Elizabeth II used the expression 'at the end of the day' when opening a building in 1982, although this cliché has been bandied around since the seventies. Its most recent rise in usage could be attributed to the song from the very successful Les Misérables. “At The End Of The Day” is sung quite early on in what is a very long musical (and now a movie).

Cliché was originally a French word for a printing plate, made of wood, and later of metal. The plate was reused, hence it came to mean a phrase that is reused. The Collins dictionary defines a cliché as "a word or expression that has lost much of its force through overexposure".

Trite comes from the Latin for worn out and was used in the same way as threadbare or shopworn. Now it is most often associated with the hackneyed phrase.

Hackneyed comes from the London borough of Hackney where horses were bred and trained for hire. These horses were known for their lazy, comfortable gait, which led to their overuse. By 1500 'hackney' meant anyone who worked for hire and a hackneyed phrase is one that is overused like the horses.

The main reason we use clichés is laziness. We can’t be bothered to think up new descriptions, so we cover the same ground, repeat the same old hairy chestnuts, in one ear and out the other, time after time, ad nauseam, year in year out.

At the end of the day, the bottom line is, I could go on ... but I’ll spare you.

Happy Puzzling!

Christine Lovatt

50 Responses to

At the end of the day

March 02, 2013 at 2:30 PM

Stjohn, you're still going strong...

gracie10 said:
March 02, 2013 at 3:04 PM

I love the idioms and slang in Australian language use, they really are quite creative sometimes, "not fit to boil the fat off a mosquitoes back" and "it was so mucky a duck would get bogged" are a couple of real beauties. Actually got those from the Jerilderie letter. Cliches I can do without.

March 02, 2013 at 5:47 PM

On annoying people, "driving me nuts", "driving me round the bend" and "driving me up the wall" I've always found them highly amusing!

winn1 said:
March 02, 2013 at 11:34 PM

A family friend used to say 'Fit as a Malley Bull'. and how about 'Two shakes of a lambs tail'

March 03, 2013 at 9:16 AM

'Does a one-legged duck swim in circles?' -means a sure thing. I think I must have picked in up from American cartoons because I've always said it in an American drawl.

tiggercat said:
March 03, 2013 at 10:29 AM

Still anxious and nervous about clicking on the blog in case that spider returns! Hope it's as 'dead as a door nail'. As a child I always liked 'if only walls could talk'.

March 03, 2013 at 9:47 PM

a favourite of my daughters' is: "I see said the blind carpenter, so he picked up his hammer and saw" !!!

rexy said:
March 03, 2013 at 10:08 PM

another one like that, surfdriver, is "I see, said the blind man to his deaf son". I like, and use, "as obvious as db's". But I hate, hate, hate overused ones, particularly "at the end of the day". just shows how stupid and unimaginative people who use it are.

joey01 said:
March 03, 2013 at 10:32 PM

I'm a shocker with idioms. My husband keeps a list of my stuff ups and it keeps him continually in stitches.I tend to visualise what I am thinking so "walking on thin ice" became "walking on short legs"! "Put your money where your mouth is" became "Put your purse behind your mouth" Growing up in a country area where idioms are a dime a dozen, I tend to blend them unintentionally. "There wasn't enough room to swing a dead horse" and "He wouldn't eat a fly". My old boss who was a true bushie used to describe a female workmate who was a terrible driver in a very laconic drawl : "She couldn't drive a three inch nail up a cow's a**e with a frying pan". This was usually followed by,""she's as genuine as a three dollar note."

March 04, 2013 at 4:29 PM

Jafa, that's very true about American TV influencing Aussie cliches...I can think of a few without stressing the old grey matter..but my favourite, a bit like your one-legged duck, is "does a bear s**t in the woods?"

gracie10 said:
March 04, 2013 at 9:28 PM

joey01, love your old boss's saying. Another of my favourites, also to be said with a laconic drawl: 'as a wise man once said to me, there's a difference between scratching your a**e and tearing it to pieces'.

barneyb said:
March 04, 2013 at 9:37 PM

There is one saying that I just dont get......"He has his work cut out for him", so that one drives me crazy. Any ideas anyone? Our friend of ours, who is pushing 70, loves to say "she could eat an apple through a picket fence" about any poor soul whose front teeth may be prominent! And, I must say, I hate it when people tack on "unfortunately" at the end of a sentence gggrrrr

March 05, 2013 at 9:33 AM

Well, Barneyb, it means a job that's a challenge. I'm thinking it may mean where the pieces are already cut out first, be they fabric, metal, etc, (pretty easy) and then the real challenge is to put them all together to create the final product. So, his work is cut out for him... and now the challenge begins... (just thinkin')

barneyb said:
March 05, 2013 at 3:28 PM

Thanks Jafa, That makes sense!

pdiaco said:
March 06, 2013 at 5:19 AM

I cringe whenever I hear someone say 'to be honest...'. An honest person NEVER utters those words. Logic dictates that the utterer is normally untruthful.

vamrhein said:
March 06, 2013 at 12:07 PM

My favorite - "think outside the box". Does anyone else see the irony here. How less original can you get in your thinking than use this tired adage? By the way I have to credit Aussies with the most colorful (or should I say colourful) sayings even if they make no sense to an outsider.

March 06, 2013 at 4:13 PM

Or Pdiaco, to answer 'No problem.' - sounds sincere but to say it means there must have been a problem...

March 06, 2013 at 4:42 PM

Vamrhein - it's true we Aussies have colourful sayings - ( a lot of which we probably inherited from the UK - but because they change with time, many of our ancestor's sayings make not much sense to today's generation. E.g I would doubt my kids would have any idea what "Don't come the raw prawn with me!" means. And, since Sydney doesn't have trams any more, "shot through like a Bondi tram" is probably meaningless to anyone under 25. This has been a great topic from Christine..would love to see something about euphemisms!

tytan said:
March 07, 2013 at 12:42 PM

I agree with Kiakia, absolutely

Yakka said:
March 07, 2013 at 12:49 PM

Enjoyed and laughed a lot at the blog so far. One of my husbands favorites is "as flat as a s**t carters hat". He said it refers to times before the current sewerage systems, enough said I think.

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