You are cliché

March 22, 2011 — 30 Comments

According to Merriam-Webster, a cliché is defined as:

1: a trite phrase or expression;

2: something that has become overly familiar or commonplace


The phrase – “You are a cliché” is so cliché. People don’t use that phrase anymore unless they are writing. No, if someone is in your face, you might just get a “whatever”. I know I am setting myself up for this but there is no word in the English language that I despise more than “whatever“. It is one of the most demeaning and callous things that you can say to another human being. When someone says “whatever”, what I hear is:

You don’t matter;

That thing you just said, I couldn’t be bothered to listen;

You have nothing to add and if you try, it will be wrong and dismissed summarily (sigh)

Have architects become cliché? Am I a whatever? I go out of my way to avoid the labels that so commonly define architects:

I don’t own any turtlenecks

I wear glasses that have silver frames

I have the tan of a pagan sun-god and not the milky white skin from someone who sits in front of a computer all day

I like color in my projects (but with some restraint, not like an explosive bowel movement from a clown)

I am not ironic, sullen or angst-y (is that even a word?)

I am a very serious person but I endeavor to come off as funny

I almost know more about music than architecture

I don’t understand or comprehend the work of Zaha Hadid and I don’t care if I ever do

uhm .. I hate trees and the environment


Okay that last one isn’t true … I love trees AND the environment (damn it!) However I do fit the architect stereotype in these ways:

I like rectilinear spaces more than curvilinear spaces

I have several moleskin notebooks that I use almost daily

I use unnecessarily large words when simple ones could suffice (see! I just did it)

I like white and beige spaces

I like stainless steel

I like Modernism

I do own a lot of black clothing (in my defense, it is slimming and I have white hair that really pops when I wear black)

I have a Jack Spade messenger bag

I hate ballpoint pens and go out of my way to have a Sharpie brand pen within reach at all times


Holy Crap – I am cliché! But I am not a “whatever”. If I’m talking it’s because I have something that’s super important to ahh, well … hmm.    to say..? That’s not really true because I talk a lot and most of the time it’s for my own benefit. If you want to know what time it is, I’ll tell you how to build a clock or that the Babylonians were probably the first to invent the sundial but it was the Egyptians who came up with the obelisk, which took telling time to a whole new … dang it! See what I mean?

Since maybe I need to embrace my inner cliché, I have collected some of my favorite trite and commonplace sayings:

Measure twice, cut once

Sarcasm is just one more service we offer

It is what it is

I started out with nothing & still have most of it left

At the end of the day …

You can’t eat your cake and have it too

cash cow

low hanging fruit

the bottom of the barrel

work smarter not harder

skeletons in the closet


Wow – those are terrible … you should avoid cliché’s like the plague! unless they are coming from your friendly neighborhood architect




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  • klunkerboy

    Claiming you understand Zaha Hadid is like claiming you understand Frank Gehry, or Picasso, or Dadaism or Klingon Opera. You don’t, you never will, so you simply look on and enjoy the spectacle. I am an Artichoke, I dont own a turtleneck, I dont even own a tie, I wear guayabera shirts with Levis…all the time, drive a 06 Scion xB toaster because it is the only car any serious Modernist would drive because it is the car the Bauhaus would have designed, and my pen of choice is an uber-nerd 4 color Bic ballpoint, just because its so useful. You are what you make yourself and you decide what image you want to project, and if you want to add another trite cliche to your quotes: “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t drown it” 😛

  • gimli gloinson

    now you’re just being a hipster..

  • Kristin Hefty

    I use this one a lot, “Well, in a perfect world…”.

    • that’s similar to the phrase “… if everything were candy and nuts…” although I’m not really sure who says that anymore.


  • Kris2ya

    The only excpetion is liking Beige, that is so Un-like an arch that it must have been a typo. If you have a Spade bag, that must be from the AIA AWard money or you don’t have youngsters ( maybe not if you are the Young Architect of the year).  Just wait until you are also married to an architect and have kids. Now the cliche’s really begin to gather moss!
    Keep sketching this is a great Blog.

    • as a matter of fact I am married and have 1 daughter … I was barely eligible to receive the “Young Architect of the Year” award (defined as licensed 10 years or less)

      Since beige is such a neutral color, it really does work well for all the surrounding bits and makes whatever splash of color I do use that much more effective. Try it sometime – you might be converted!

      Thanks for the comment, I appreciate it

  • Haha, even when I haven’t been out of architecture school for that long (just a few months), I was fitting these clichés (not to my knowledge!) way before I was even studying it. Unfortunately, I tend to fail dismally at the fancy jargon most of our colleagues tend to handle impressively. “My work speaks for itself” just to add to another cliché phrase to make up for my undeveloped vocabulary.

    • give it some time, your “architect” speak will develop in no time – like a baby bird learning to fly. It’s not a question of if, it’s a matter of when.


      • klunkerboy

        HAHA Architect speak…or “Archispeak” as we use to say. Every year I sit in on a final jury at a university near me. I listen to students says fluid words of exquisite complexity and expression, about the inherent beauty and glory of the architectural wonderfulness of their project drawings, all of which amount to saying nothing objective. So when I interject with “yeah so where are your exits?” or “explain how the structural system works” I usually get a look of dumbfounded shock by the student that I wasn’t blown over by their eloquent “Archispeak” (I hold their feet to the fire over actual functionality of a proposed project) I usually also tell at least one student, “Son, I am an architect which means I am also a professional bullshit artist, never bullshit a bullshit artist” That was expressed to me as a student, by one by one of my instructors, Bernard Zimmerman, I have never forgotten the Big Zs words.

  • Kind of difficult to fall out of these in any case.

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  • Patti-tile

    Spot on, succinct, (insert simpler word) and tickled my funny bone. I can just see you pondering the topic. But are you sure about the turtleneck? C’mon!!!

    • Nope – not only do I not own a turtleneck, I don’t even have a mock-turtleneck.

      That my friend is what you call “rebel”


      • Tom Emerson

        I have many turtleneck and mock turtleneck sweaters. Then again, I live in Maine.

        • I’m not sure that using turtlenecks in a cold weather environment counts (but it doesn’t hurt either)


  • What ever are you talking about? Actually, wha-eva, is one of those words that gets you in trouble at our house. I totally agree on the demeaning nature in the way it is used today.

    Did you just invent a new cliche with “like an explosive bowel movement from a clown?

    Thanks for a bit of humor on a dreary day.

  • What ever are you talking about? Actually, wha-eva, is one of those words that gets you in trouble at our house. I totally agree on the demeaning nature in the way it is used today.

    Did you just invent a new cliche with “like an explosive bowel movement from a clown?

    Thanks for a bit of humor on a dreary day.

    • I think I invent a new cliché everyday – it’s sort of a daily affirmation process for me.

  • “Sarcasm is just one more service we offer” is a fave of mine too, thanks Bob! Nice to have a morning chuckle =D

    And fyi… admitting to wearing black because it makes your hair ‘pop’ is deviation enough from the pack of black-clad Archi-hipsters. You are neither a cliche nor a whatever my friend.

    That being said, even though laughter is the best medicine… you may have opened up a can of worms here dude and now you can’t unshear the sheep. Taking one for the team is laudable but people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones…

    • impressive ending but you could have slipped in “at the end of the day, people who live in glass …”

      I think you would have set a record for sure.

      Thanks Ryan

  • As long as it makes your hair pop, it’s okay. 🙂 Love it! Funny stuff.

    • I think ‘pop’ was the right word to use – sparkle sends a different sort of message and vibe – the wrong kind.

      Thanks Emily!

  • Emily

    When people tell you “Have a nice day,” or “Enjoy your coffee,” I like to respond with a curt “Don’t tell me what to do.” It confuses the crap out of them.

  • Curvilinear?

    • That’s right – curvilinear (adj.) – consisting of or bounded by curved lines

      round rooms – I don’t like round rooms.

  • Jeremiah

    my office now thinks I’m nuts for laughing out loud while starring at my computer screen. Thanks for that.


    • I can just see a new wave of people I interact now know my kryptonite and will give me a “whatever” all the time now. I suppose I knew that was a possibility but you have to roll with the punches and let the cards fall where they may.


  • Alistair

    Well, in a nutshell and speaking off the cuff and you can take it or leave it, I’m in agreement with you, and without further ado, I’ll be off!

    • Wow – impressive. You worked in 4 clichés in one sentence! The crown goes to you my friend.