A CLICHÉD ETYMOLOGY
Yesterday we covered the word stereotype, and how it used to be a form of printing. Well, in modern times, a stereotype is closely related to a cliche; Google even lists them as synonyms. While a stereotype has more to do with people and a cliche has more to do with phrases, they both deal with overused ideas. The similarities, however, do not stop at definition, for cliche also referred to stereotype printing- in this case, it was the sound the machine made when the mold struck the metal. It came to mean "overused expression" because of the repetitive output of ideas, just like with stereotype. The etymology beyond that is really quite simple: cliche is from the French verb clicher, which meant "to click" (because the sound was like a clicking). This is onomatopoeic of the machinated sound, just like click is imitative for English speakers, as well. Usage of the word cliche has been dropping since 2000 in favor of cliché with a diacritic, probably to make it sound more like the original French, but, for the record, both are equally okay to use.
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Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.