Torture by cliché just not cricket

“I need to occupy something,” I tell The Shrink, my crossword companion. “Occupations are happening everywhere from Wall Street to Worcester from Facebook to Ventersdorp. In fact, this very morning the toilet at work was occupied. I’d better occupy something before there’s nothing left to occupy.”
“How about you occupy the space in front of the pile of dishes in the sink,” The Shrink suggests.
Instead, I take my newspaper and occupy the armchair. I’m making my way to the crossword puzzle when I stumble upon a story about SA cricket’s Bonusgate.
“This is disgusting,” I seethe and turn a shade of apoplectic purple.
The Shrink nods. “Corruption in cricket is a disgrace,” she says.
“Cricket shmicket,” I reply sharply. “It’s the clichés that are freaking me out.”
Announcing steps to fix cricket administration, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula says: “We won’t leave any stone unturned.”
There is more: “Heads need to roll.” He isn’t quite done: “I can’t be part and parcel…”
These phrases are so well worn they belong in a Salvation Army thrift store.
“The Occupy Wall Street protestors have got it wrong. The world’s enemy is not capitalism,” I thunder, “it’s clichéism. Let’s go to war with clichés! Let’s occupy clichés!”
The Shrink sighs, but I’m not finished ranting: “If I see a cliché I will strike it down. I will lampoon it. I will set it on fire and slash it with a scalpel. I will poke tired truisms with a pointy stick and throw boiling oil over hackneyed homilies. I will, I will, I will…”
But The Shrink has a better idea. “Going to war is a cliché,” she says. “Why not convince Mbalula to speak plain English.”
The Shrink is a genius.
I phone the Sports Ministry and while on hold I puzzle over a clue: Stale statement gets Conservative mixed up in Chile (6)* 
Someone answers. I ask for the Department of Clichés and get put straight through to Mbalula. 
“Minister, clichés are stale, they kill our language and make us lazy. They destroy original and fresh ideas,” I tell Mbalula.
There’s a pause. “I don’t know you from Adam,” he says, “but I personally believe I think out of the box 24/7 when my back is against the wall and, to be honest, if I don’t go full speed ahead I won’t bring home the bacon.”
Mbalula has invented a new police interrogation technique: torture by cliché.
I would rather have a vacant-eyed mesomorph hook my testicles up to a car battery, throw a wet bag over my head and beat me with a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style – the 1 026-page 16th edition… hard cover.
“Stop it, Mr Minister,” I plead. But he doesn’t.  He’s, he’s, he’s… oh, sweet heavens, he’s on a… roll.
“With respect,” Mbalula babbles on, “I’m going to demand a commission of inquiry to see why we’re not singing from the same hymn sheet. I fight fire with fire and what goes around is not good for the gander who will pass the buck – and the bus stops here.
“Fortunately, when we go back to the drawing board at the eleventh hour…”
I can’t take it any more. “Please, Mr Minister, enough. I know the truth hurts, but there will be hell to pay if you don’t avoid clichés like the plague. Actions speak louder than words. Get with the programme!”
As I slam the phone down, I realise that the occupier has been occupied. I have become a cliché. Damn it, at the end of the day what goes around comes around.

* CLICHÉ: An anagram of C (“conservative”) + CHILE (“mixed up” is the anagram indicator).

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About Jonathan Ancer

I'm a journalist, cryptic crossword junkie, keen cyclist, Billy Bunter book collector and a Billy Bragg stalker. I love words and will post some of the columns I have written over the years on this blog. They include: View from the G-spot (my time as editor of a community newspaper in Grahamstown), Virgin Cyclist (the build up to my first Argus Cycle Tour), Pop psychology (my take on fatherhood) and Angry Utterances (10) (how crossword puzzles unlock the world's secrets and the meaning of life). Since leaving Independent Newspapers in September 2014 I have started freelancing and write a column for the Witness - The Diary of a Bumbling Hack. I've also become a podcast junkie and have produced a podcast biography series called Extraordinary Lives. Let me know what you think.
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