December 27, 2007

#01-054: Clichés - Part III: As Fresh as a Daisy

white flower with many petals and a yellow center, all against a blue background
As fresh as a daisy

Note: In Lesson #01-053, we saw five of the clichés first introduced in Lesson #01-052. These are all similes that follow the pattern "as X as Y." Let's meet the remaining five.

Get Ready: Again, skim down and look at the clichés below. Do any of these describe you right now? Are you "as fresh as a daisy" or "as old as the hills"? How about "as mad as a hatter"?

We have been looking at the best way to use some clichés that are similes of the "as X as Y" type. Let's look at five more, remembering that it's best to avoid clichés if possible, but to use them correctly when we do use them. (Don't forget: you can drop the first "as" in all of these expressions: "fresh as a daisy," "mad as a hatter," etc.).

  1. as fresh as a daisy: To be beautiful, a daisy must be fresh. Daisies wilt quickly, so the only ones we might decorate with are the fresh ones.

    • "With this new detergent, my clothes smell as fresh as a daisy." Actually, any common flower will do here ("as fresh as a rose," "as fresh as a lily.") We can also say, "as fresh as new-fallen snow" or "as fresh as springtime."

  2. as good as gold: Everybody loves gold! But the expression means "well-behaved" and "kind-hearted," so it may be more about the purity of gold than its value.

    • If we want to tell someone they are kind-hearted, we can say, "Friend, you're as good as gold." We can even go further and say, "You have a heart of gold." Because of its universal qualities, gold figures in lots of clichés, usually symbolizing either purity (as here) or value.

  3. as mad as a hatter: According to some sources, mercury was used in the process of making hats. Mercury works as a kind of poison on the nerves, so hat makers often shook and appeared crazy. That's one possible explanation of where we got this cliché.

    • "My teacher says my English isn't very good." "Oh, don't listen to him; he's as mad as a hatter!" We also say "as mad as a March hare," and "as crazy as a loon." The hare (an animal similar to a rabbit) is said to be "mad" in March because that's his breeding season (but this is doubtful); the loon has a call like a maniacal laugh. These are all models of craziness. But "mad" also means angry, and here we find the easily understood "as mad as a hornet," "as mad as hell," and "as mad as (or madder than) a wet hen."
    • Incidentally, the "Mad Hatter" and his friend the "March Hare" show up at a tea party in Lewis Carroll's delightful book, Alice in Wonderland.

  4. as old as the hills: This phrase is often used to describe old people. You know how old the hills are! So imagine...

    • "The chairman of the board is old as the hills." We can also say "older than the hills." Another version is to say "as old as Methuselah," a proverbially old man in the Bible, said to have lived over 900 years. And my dad used to say "as old as Standard Oil"--meaning the product, not the company!

  5. as white as snow: New-fallen snow is often used as a simile for whiteness and purity. It was used by Shakespeare, Chaucer, and the translators of the King James Bible: Quite a pedigree, but a sure cause of its overuse.

    • "Not only does the laundry smell fresh, but my sheets are as white as snow!" This is OK for talking about things; but if we talk about someone being pale (due to fright or illness) we might say, "as white as a ghost" or "as white as a sheet."

And that, as they say, is that. (Another cliché!) I hope you'll be careful not to use these too much, and--as I suggested in the Practice for Lesson #01-030--try to come up with fresh ways of using them!

Read more:

Practice: Look at each of the scenes below. What cliché above goes with each scene? Use the letter for your answer.

  1. Your mother wasn't feeling well, but today she looks better. You ask her how she feels.
  2. You ask how your father how long his grandfather lived.
  3. You have a meeting with your child's teacher. You ask about his behavior.
  4. Your friend is talking about his boss, who often gets up on his desk and shouts at his employees. You ask what's wrong with him.
  5. The walls of your room have been freshly painted. Your friend asks how it looks.

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for December 27, 2007

The three lessons on clichés received a combined 828 visits on my old site between January, 2012, and July, 2021.

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice:
    1. a "Much better, thanks! I feel (as) fresh as a daisy."
    2. d "I'm not sure exactly, but he was (as) old as the hills."
    3. b "No problem there; he's (as) good as gold."
    4. c "Simple: he's (as) mad as a hatter!"
    5. e "Crisp, clean, and (as) white as snow."
    (Notice that I have added a few words to make it more interesting; you can, too!)