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Words That Should Get a Divorce (One in an occasional series on words whose relationships have grown tired)
 

highways and byways

This is a true Ike and Tina pairing. Poor byways has so much to offer. But it's completely subjugated in its relationship.

Of all the times I've heard someone say "highways and byways," I've never once believed the "byways" carried any meaning for the speaker. It's like the person wanted to speak only of highways, but he just couldn't resist the urge to make more sounds come out of his mouth.

A byway, according to American Heritage online, is a "secluded, private, or obscure road." Good word, huh? Handy and powerful for a mystery author writing about a drifter or a romance writer describing a backseat tryst.

WorldNet's definition, "a side road little traveled," suggests all kinds of wonderful metaphors.

But no, byways (in my experience) is used not to convey meaning to a listener but to provide empty gratification to the speaker or writer.

I can understand why these two words hooked up. Were it not for its brain-numbing overuse, the phrase "highways and byways" would be useful and visual -- a comprehensive snapshot of the roads that might be traveled. But too many people have used it as white noise for too long. It's time these two split up.

Comments
8 Comment count
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Thanks again.

Attention is nice to be "called to."

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Sure!

It's nice to share the weird stuff in my head and not hear freaked-out whispers of "Someone call Bellevue!"

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A Milestone

As a Christmas gift to yourself perhaps you can take a road less travelled.

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I should, huh?

I'm a total road-more-traveled type. I guess that's why I live it L.A.

I should venture off the beaten path more often, perhaps by making a resolution to employ fewer "beaten path"-type cliches.

: )

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That...

...would be a milestone, wouldn't it?

Huntington Sharp, Red Room

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Cliches

I forget both the source and the exact wording, but a famous writer once said something like, "Writing is a constant struggle against cliche."

I don't know if he was talking about language, story, or both. But the words make me feel better when I notice, time after time, that my first nature is to reach for a cliche.

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Even the most trite cliche

Even the most trite cliche was sparkling new at one time.   My goal in life is to  create a literary pairing so profound it becomes a trite cliche.   Preferably prehumously. :)

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Most were good, even

The reason most become cliches is that they're useful and on point.

 I think "preferably prehumously" may be exactly the profund future triteness you were looking for!