Christmas Cliches

There’s an amicable, little spat going on between language writers John McIntyre and Jan Freeman over the permissibility of holiday cliches like “tis the season” and “Christmas came early...” in journalism. (No one is suggesting that individuals can’t use these if they please, but the argument is over whether or not they are over worn and threadbare in newspaper articles.) McIntyre’s original salvo is here.

Freeman’s response.

McIntyre’s response to the response.

While I’m not sympathetic to “bans,” I probably side more with McIntyre on this one. Most of these are true chestnuts, devoid of any originality or interest. Professional writers and publications should strive to avoid them, and we certainly don’t need the stories about the cost of the gifts in the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” But Freeman does have a point in when she says that editors, because they see these more often than the average reader, can become hypersensitive to them. And her advice to confining certain cliches to certain situations is a good one, as when she suggests allowing weather broadcasters to use “white stuff.”

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