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Thread: the earliest cliche to ever be written

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    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    the earliest cliche to ever be written

    I am in search of the earliest/oldest cliche to ever enter literature.
    would you say Canterbury Tales/Geoffrey Chaucer denotes very early cliches?
    it may never try
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    Registered User Calidore's Avatar
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    Kind of a tough call. What's a cliche now wasn't when it was first written. Also, how do you handle works in translation? A line may have been translated into an English cliche that wasn't one in its original language.
    "You know, the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common: They don't alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views." -- Doctor Who

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    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    Good point however I was wondering whether cliches finds their root in Latin since the word is French.
    Could we simply say it is firstly found in Latin/Italian work and then crept up and found a way into English?
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    Probably best to begin with Egyptian literature

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    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alexander III View Post
    Probably best to begin with Egyptian literature
    Egyptian literature? This is the first I have heard of.
    Any reasons why?
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    Quote Originally Posted by cacian View Post
    Egyptian literature? This is the first I have heard of.
    Any reasons why?
    Well, because it drasticaly pre-dates Greek and Roman literature, and Greek and Roman literature drew upon egyptian literature. So if you are looking at the original source.

    Ofcourse egyptian lit was in turn influenced by lit of other cultures from the fertile crescent, but most if not all of that is lost to us.

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    Registered User Calidore's Avatar
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    Do the Egyptians have anything older than the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh?
    "You know, the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common: They don't alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views." -- Doctor Who

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    Registered User Calidore's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cacian View Post
    Good point however I was wondering whether cliches finds their root in Latin since the word is French.
    Could we simply say it is firstly found in Latin/Italian work and then crept up and found a way into English?
    Well, there you're talking about the word "cliche", not the object. A cliche, according to Merriam-Webster, is:

    1: a trite phrase or expression; also : the idea expressed by it
    2: a hackneyed theme, characterization, or situation
    3: something (as a menu item) that has become overly familiar or commonplace

    M-W also gives the origin of the word thus:

    French, literally, printer's stereotype, from past participle of clicher to stereotype, of imitative origin
    First Known Use: 1892

    So the word's pretty new, but the cavemen probably had cliches in their speech after a time.
    "You know, the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common: They don't alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views." -- Doctor Who

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Calidore View Post
    Well, there you're talking about the word "cliche", not the object. A cliche, according to Merriam-Webster, is:

    1: a trite phrase or expression; also : the idea expressed by it
    2: a hackneyed theme, characterization, or situation
    3: something (as a menu item) that has become overly familiar or commonplace

    M-W also gives the origin of the word thus:

    French, literally, printer's stereotype, from past participle of clicher to stereotype, of imitative origin
    First Known Use: 1892

    So the word's pretty new, but the cavemen probably had cliches in their speech after a time.
    If those are the definitions of cliche, with which I agree, they refer to meaning, not form. The only words that were not a cliche, then, are the ones that were spoken and stuck for the first time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Calidore View Post
    Do the Egyptians have anything older than the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh?
    That is one single work, the very notion of identyfying cliche stems from that fact that you have multiple works to compare. With only one work, there can be no such thing as cliche.

    That is why I said egypt, because we have various literary works surviving from an entire civilization to compare wit each other and identify cliche.

    I thought that would have been rather obvious...

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    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alexander III View Post
    That is one single work, the very notion of identyfying cliche stems from that fact that you have multiple works to compare. With only one work, there can be no such thing as cliche.

    That is why I said egypt, because we have various literary works surviving from an entire civilization to compare wit each other and identify cliche.

    I thought that would have been rather obvious...
    To be honest I have never thought the Egyptians/Phaorahs had any written manuscript of literature.
    All the programms I have seen so far is about their wealths and their drawings and so I did not think they had any literary work.
    Do you have any example?
    Thank you.
    Last edited by cacian; 04-30-2012 at 04:23 AM.
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    BadWoolf JuniperWoolf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Calidore View Post
    Kind of a tough call. What's a cliche now wasn't when it was first written.
    I guess the question should be, what is the earliest instance of a phrase or theme in a work of literature which we would NOW consider cliche. I haven't read Gilgamesh, so I don't know. There's evidence (in art, like pottery) to suggest that many of the myths which we've found in ancient texts have existed for years before the Epic of Gilgamesh was written down, but there's no way to tell if the particulars of those myths have remained unchanged, so maybe we should count those out.

    The oldest might be "the strong dominate the weak," that's apparent even from the artwork alone.
    Last edited by JuniperWoolf; 04-29-2012 at 07:17 AM.
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    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JuniperWoolf View Post
    I guess the question should be, what is the earliest instance of a phrase or theme in a work of literature which we would NOW consider cliche. I haven't read Gilgamesh, so I don't know. There's evidence (in art, like pottery) to suggest that many of the myths which we've found in ancient texts have existed for years before the Epic of Gilgamesh was written down, but there's no way to tell if the particulars of those myths have remained unchanged, so maybe we should count those out.

    The oldest might be "the strong dominate the weak," that's apparent even from the artwork alone.
    I have not read Gilgamesh either but what do you mean it is apparent from the artwork alone? will google it.
    it may never try
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    BadWoolf JuniperWoolf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cacian View Post
    I have not read Gilgamesh either but what do you mean it is apparent from the artwork alone? will google it.
    Well, there are tonnes of examples of big guys sticking spears through people on ancient pots, ect. Then again, maybe that might more accurately be representative of "my people are better than yours."
    Last edited by JuniperWoolf; 04-29-2012 at 08:26 AM.
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    -Pi


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