Not So Tough to “Make Ends Meet”

I rewrite cliches as a hobby. I have a blog about cliches that I’ve written on and off over the past few years, mostly off more recently just because of my workload. However, I’m trying to get back into it again – I have six followers that I feel committed to serve – and I’ve started trying to rewrite or recast cliches again.

Today I looked at “make ends meet” and “make no bones about it” as two possibilities to recast. Neither one was particularly easy, but I felt “make ends meet” was just too bare-bones to rewrite. But the problem with “make no bones about it” is that it has such obscure origins and actual meanings that it’s hard to rethink the original. And it turns out, it’s not that hard to rethink “make ends meet.”

Make ends meet originates from bookkeeping or accounting days, although it may also have origins in tailoring. So I can twist it more than I usually would a cliche to something like:

  • make dollar bills cover the paper bills
  • hope coins cover charges
  • ensure pluses equal minuses
  • beep the bottom line above the bottom line
  • make the sums cover the differences

The structure isn’t parallel, but I think it works in this case. These different versions certainly mean the same thing. And that’s what recasting is all about – rewriting something so it says the same thing in a fresh way.

Cliches are trite, overused words or phrases that we too easily fall into using in our writing or speaking. When we do, they make us sound unoriginal or — often — lazy. It’s best when we take the time, effort, and creativity to find alternatives. As in the case of “make ends meet,” recasting or rewriting a cliche isn’t as hard as it sounds, and the payoff in others’ improved opinions of our work can be very handsome.

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