Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University have discovered that stock phrases such as "moving forward" and "hitting a brick wall" can be used to signal identity, agreement, and group belonging. The study also examined the use of cliches in TV's The Apprentice, with hopefuls vowing to "make Lord Sugar an offer he cannot refuse" and others promising to "pick off the competition one by one", which made them appear confrontational in an environment where competitiveness was prized.
According to the research team, cliches are highly effective in conveying a speaker's view of reality and can be very useful in managing relationships while expressing identity. At times when uncertainty is high, these universal phrases can help people feel a sense of certainty or control over situations.
Dr. Cathrine Degnen led the research team who analyzed conversations among friends, colleagues, and family members. They found that cliche usage was especially common during moments of social bonding or shared experiences. Additionally, many participants reported that using certain phrases helped them feel more connected with their peers.
One participant stated: "When I hear someone say 'at the end of the day', it lets me know they're on my side."
The researchers suggest that linguistic analysis could be used as a tool for identifying social dynamics within groups or organizations. By paying attention to how frequently certain clichs are utilized within conversations between different individuals or groups, we may gain insights into power dynamics or shared values.
While cliches may seem like lazy language choices at first glance, this study shows just how powerful they can be when it comes to signaling identity and building relationships between individuals within larger societal structures.