“Cliché” and “Stereotype”

Much of printed literature is marked by clichés or stereotypes. I mean that literally. “Cliché” and “stereotype” are printing terms.

As mentioned in a previous post, it’s unknown whether the word “click” came from French cliquer or German klicken or was invented independently. We do know that English “borrowed” the word “cliché” from French (though I doubt we’ll give it back). As it happens, the Oxford English Dictionary informs us, “cliché” is the past participle of clicher, variant of cliquer to click, applied by die-sinkers to the striking of melted lead in order to obtain a proof or cast.

“Cliché” is the French word for a stereotype block, that is, ‘a relief printing plate cast in a mold made from composed type or an original plate.’ Since the letters in a stereotype block are fixed in place and the same phrases are printed again and again without variation, “stereotype” and “cliché” came to be used figuratively to mean ‘something continued or constantly repeated without change; a stereotyped phrase, formula, etc.; stereotyped diction or usage.’ “Stereotype” evolved a second meaning:

‘a preconceived and oversimplified idea of the characteristics which typify a person, situation, etc.; an attitude based on such a preconception. Also, a person who appears to conform closely to the idea of a type.’

Illustration by George Baxter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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7 Responses to “Cliché” and “Stereotype”

  1. Gene says:

    In my experiences in graphic arts and product decoration, stereotypes are used to cast lead type cliches were used to hold the ink image that was transferred by a pad stamp. Each time the pad pressed into the image matrix, traditionally a thin copper plate, it would click.

  2. Desolie Page says:

    Reblogged this on Desolie: thoughts about editing, writing and words and commented:
    Always something to learn about how the meaning of words has changed over time.

  3. Desolie Page says:

    Love this so much I have reblogged.
    Thank you.

  4. rkurwitz says:

    Reblogged this on emberrainewintersbookblog and commented:
    Loved this post especially sonce there are so many stereotypes and cliches often used in spec fiction.

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