Couldn’t Have Phrased It Better Myself

by Ashish

There aren’t too many things that I like to do – in fact, not doing anything would probably come in near the top of things that I like doing. But one of the things that I do like to do is eat. And towards that end, I and the missus had gone off to chomp at a nearby restaurant.  And the reason I bring this up is because towards the end of the meal, I was solicitously asked if I would like a cup of coffee.

Which instantly brought to my mind the phrase “wash it down with a cup of coffee”.

Don’t you find those group of words irresistibly evocative? I always do. It signifies, to me at any rate, quiet contentment and a fitting end to a wonderful meal. The proverbial cherry on top, if you will.

Now there’s a phrase I wouldn’t miss: “cherry on top”. I know, I know, I just used it myself – but that, I suppose, is my point. There are certain phrases that have become so banal, so everyday, that we tend to not even read or acknowledge them completely. Reading the first two words or so immediately makes us aware of what is coming up next, and we end up taking it as a given, and move on. This may be a bit meta, but bear with me for a rather telling example:

The word “great” is overused these days, but…

You see? You could probably hear your favourite commentator (or horror of horrors, Ravi Shastri) say those words as you read them up there. Calling people great doesn’t cut it these days. It must be prefaced by qualifying your current, at-hand great as beyond the normal, everyday great. Maybe its a generational thing. Maybe our children will grow up hearing that “the phrase “the word “great” is overused these days” is overused”. Positively mind-boggling, but there you go.

Boggles the mind – there’s another evocative phrase. I cannot help but think of Wodehouse when I hear the word boggles.

“I inspected my imagination.He was right. It boggled”

Beginning to talk about Wodehouse and his turn of phrase is fraught with danger, of course, because he is single-handedly responsible for a majority of phrases that we have ended up making a part of our everyday lexicon. And if we haven’t, the loss is ours, not Pelham’s.

“If not actually disgruntled, he was feeling far from gruntled”

Wodehouse was The Master, of course. Us mortals on planes lower than the rarefied air he occupied can only hope to write stuff that pleases the ear and mind as much as his work did on a regular basis. All we can hope to do, in other words, is write well enough to please, and unconventionally enough to sound different.

Still, I suppose the point I’m trying to make here is one should avoid using phrases that make people’s eyes glaze over. It leads to writing that is conventional, middle of the road and downright banal. One should strive for something out of the ordinary, although avoid going completely over the top. That being said, unconventional and yet pleasing to the ear is a task that is almost impossible by definition. And therefore, as you have doubtless noticed already, this is easier said then done.

If you see what I mean.