Cliche Corner  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  Cliché Corner
From AJR,   October 2001

Cliche Corner   

By Lori Robertson
Lori Robertson (robertson.lori@gmail.com), a former AJR managing editor, is a senior contributing writer for the magazine.      


In the future, Oldsmobiles will be rusting away in junkyards across America. (General Motors is phasing out the brand.) But their spirits will live on, as references to the late '80s "Not your father's Oldsmobile" advertisements will surely never die. It may have become increasingly difficult for GM to sell more Oldsmobiles, but getting journalists to turn an ad slogan into a clich¨ was a cinch. In the first eight months of this year, there were 377 uses of the no-longer-hip phrase, according to Lexis-Nexis, including:

"Longtime 'Apes' fan [sic] should probably be warned that this is not your father's 'Planet of the Apes' ľ though that really won't surprise anyone familiar with the work of oddball filmmaker Burton." Salt Lake City's Deseret News

"This is not your father's Mickey Mouse; all four of those live-action movies depend on elaborate digital animation...." Dallas Morning News

"It's not your father's middle school any longer now that it has Gigaspeed cables in the walls and bandwidth with 32-inch monitors." Corpus Christi Caller-Times

If it's not your father's, then whose is it?

"This is not your father's NBA Draft. It's your little brother's, and he's going to be a lottery pick." Baton Rouge, Louisiana's Advocate

Sometimes, it's really not not your father's, it's not your mother's (134 references):

"It's not your mother's Avon." Chattanooga Times/Chattanooga Free Press

"They're not your mother's package deal." Hackensack, New Jersey's Record

"It's not your mother's rice pudding." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Just in case you thought not your mother's or your father's meant that it was grandma's or your sister's, we'll clear up the confusion:

"This is not your mother's or your grandma's senior center." Pennsylvania's Tri-State Sports & News Service

"This is not your father's Beach Boys, nor is it your older brother's or sister's." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

For a comparison to something hopelessly outdated, it's time to use grandmother (37 references) or grandma (21), or the more manly grandfather (41) or grandpa (6):

"A ginger tapioca pudding in a paper-thin crackly crust is not your grandmother's comfort food." Boston Globe

"Brave Combo is not your Grandma's polka band." Allentown's Morning Call

"No, this is not your grandfather's bocce." San Francisco Chronicle

"This is not your grandpa's frozen Salisbury steak dinner." Omaha World-Herald

If it's not your grandfather's or your father's, then why not just use "not your father's," huh?

"It's not your grandfather's or even your father's Army boot camp." Nashville's Tennessean

"This is not your grandfather's sports car or your father's." Hackensack, New Jersey's Record

You know a clich¨ has seen better days when it's stretched beyond its actual meaning:

"This is not your father's father's Rose Bowl ľ it's the great-great Granddaddy." Los Angeles Times

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