Sunday, April 7, 2013

Clichés and Stereotypes: Hot Off The Press

You might be surprised to learn that the printing industry not only prints language for us to read, but is also to thank for originating terms in the English language. If it weren't for printers, we wouldn't refer to overused expressions as clichés and assumptions on the mannerisms of a group of people or way of doing things as stereotypes

Printing has come a long way since clichés and stereotypes.
A cliché is an expression or an idea that is so common and overused that we are all pretty much sick of it. The word, cliché, however, though obviously having its roots in the French language (the "é" tends to give it away), also has roots in the printing industry.

Cliché was an onomatopoeic word for the sound made by a stereotype, which was a metal plate made from movable type. Common combinations and expressions were often made into stereotypes in order to save time and money when printing rather than reorganising movable print. Cliché was the sound (at least in French) made by the molten metal when poured to make the stereotype.

In modern day usage, the word stereotype, referring to the presumed notions held in regards to certain things, originally was a synonym of cliché and was used interchangeably by those in the printing industry. Nowadays, obviously, they have distinct meanings and could hardly be considered synonyms.

It just goes to show that clichés and stereotypes are worth more than the paper they're printed on.