Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

The CASE for killing clichés

By Michael Frazer - posted Tuesday, 27 July 2004

In the words of Martin Luther King, I have a dream. There I am lying in intensive care, all smashed up and near death. I hear the doctor telling someone that I'll live – but I'll never be able to go to the football again, never be able to have sex, alcohol or pizza.

Just then the radio next to my bed comes on. It's the news. It's about me! The newsreader says, "A man is in hospital fighting for his life after..."

"Bullshit!" I scream from within. "Beam me up Hughie! Get me out of here.”


Dream over. Reality starts. Do the journalists who write "fighting for his life" (FFHL) about seriously ill, hospitalised males actually have a master's degree specialising in "thoughts of the about-to-cark"? Or is it just another case of CASE - Clichés and Silly Euphemisms?

I've been on the CASE case for years - tossing offending bits of newspapers/copy in an empty beer box in the corner. In a recent clean-out, I found cuttings/copy/headlines which have babies in hospital, Kerry Packer, a man who attempted suicide by setting himself on fire, and even a racehorse all involved in the big FFHL.

It's probably the influence of what I call "services' speak" – that we (yes, me too) report events in the way police/firies/ambos describe them to us. We report that police are buried with "full police honours”, "a firearm was discharged”, lost people are found "safe and well”, police are looking for a "Caucasian male".

Now I’ll ask a few questions.

Are there part police honours? Was the "firearm" a pistol, rifle, machine gun or blunderbuss? "Safe and well" can mean anything for formerly lost people, from being found fornicating-in-a-friend's-bed to cold, wet, frightened and hungry.

And Caucasian. My favourite. I still wonder why so many crimes in the world are committed by people who come from a remote 1000km long mountain range (highest peak, Mt Elbrus at 5633 metres) in south-western Asia. What the hell are they on up there?


While looking for CASEs, I typed "Caucasian" into the net and came up with another one -"taken by storm" (TBS). Seems the Russian troops had TBS the fortress of Akhulgo in those mountains during some long-forgotten war.

These days the military term TBS is just thrown into copy - an Australian model called Candice Lake has taken "New York by storm”, so says the Herald Sun. A Melbourne radio ad informed me the show Riverdance has done the same to the world.
What a CASE of over-hyped crap! Candice might be a star in the Big Apple's tiny fashion world, but most of New York's eight million people wouldn't know her from mud. And I have to admire any advertising copy writer who has the guts to actually write TBS and then put his or her hand out to get paid for it. A search of the net brought up an ad for a herbal hospital in Anqui, China, that tells me it has TBS renal disease. I kid you not.

Another dive into the beer CASE brings up a "staggering" collection. A press release from the Cat Adoption Centre reports "a staggering 3500 cats homed". The Bulletin: "Liberals have lost a staggering 54 federal and state seats in Victoria". Today Tonight diet story: "She lost a staggering 21 kilos."

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

Article edited by Ian Miller.
If you'd like to be a volunteer editor too, click here.

This article was first published in The Walkley magazine.

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Michael Frazer started his career as a journalist in 1966 on The (Melbourne) Herald. Since then he has been photographer, magazine editor, radio producer, author, radio news director and television chief-of-staff.

Article Tools
Comment Comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy