Posted by ESC on June 04, 2003
In Reply to: Idioms v cliches v euphemisms posted by Robert on June 04, 2003
: : What, if any, is the difference between an idiom, a cliche and a euphemism?
: : What are good examples of each?
: I always understood an idiom to be a phrase composed of words that do not literally indicate its meaning, like "put up with" meaning "tolerate". A cliche is phrase so over-used that it almost has no meaning, like "think outside the box". A euphemism is a way of substituting words to soften or otherwise alter the reality or perception of a certain condition. Examples would be saying that someone "expired" or "passed away" instead of having "died" or saying you're "between jobs" instead of just "unemployed".
From the archives:
"Saying/proverb -- A SAYING is the simple, direct term for any pithy expression of wisdom or truth. For instance, one might comment on 'the sayings of Chairman Mao' or observe that a cynical friend 'knows the price of everything and, as the saying goes, the value of nothing.' Several other words are often used in place of saying, yet shades of meaning set them somewhat apart.
An ADAGE is a SAYING that has been popularly accepted over a long period of time. For example: 'Where there's smoke, there's fire.'
An APHORISM is a terse SAYING that embodies a general, more or less profound truth or principle. For example: 'If you came unbidden you depart unthanked.' (".short, pithy, instructive saying." Like "there's more than one way to skin a cat.")
An EPIGRAM is a terse, witty, pointed statement that often has a clever twist of thought. For example: 'The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.' This is not the same as an epigraph, which is either an inscription on a monument or building or a brief quotation placed at the beginning of a book or chapter to suggest its theme.
A MAXIM is a general principle drawn from practical experience and serving as a rule of conduct. For example: 'Practice what you preach.' (".self-righteous or moralistic APHORISM; for example: 'Man is the measure of all things.'")
A MOTTO is a MAXIM accepted as a guiding principle or as an ideal of behavior. For example: 'Honesty is the best policy.' (".an expression that embodies the philosophy of a person or group, such as, 'People are our most important business.")
A PROVERB is a piece of practical wisdom expressed in homely, concrete terms. For example: 'A closed mouth catches no flies.' (PROVERB ".synonymous with an
ADAGE - is a short, popular saying that expresses a truth or insight; for example, 'a word to the wise is sufficient.")
A SAW is an old homely SAYING that is well worn by repetition. For example: 'A stitch in time saves nine.'" (.an extremely quaint PROVERB, such as, 'You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him think.'")"
An IDIOM is an expression whose meaning can't be derived simply by hearing it, such as 'Kick the bucket.'"
Mr. Rovin's book lists two additional terms:
"An APOTHEGM is an edgy, more cynical APHORISM; such as, 'Men are generally more careful of the breed of their horses and dogs than of their children.'"
From Merriam-Webster online:
Main Entry: eu·phe·mism
Etymology: Greek euphEmismos, from euphEmos auspicious, sounding good, from eu- + phEmE speech, from phanai to speak -- more at BAN
Date: circa 1681
: the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant; also : the expression so substituted
See also: the meaning and origin of 'outside the box'.