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Love Proverbs and Cliches

  1. Love will find a way. (proverb)
  2. Friendship is a disinterested commerce between equals: love, an abject intercourse between tyrants and slaves. (Oliver Goldsmith 1728-74)
  3. Say what you will, 'tis better to be left
    than never to have been loved.
    (William Congreve 1670-1729)
1 Choose five of the following sentences and complete them in a way that is true for you.
  1. As a child I generally wasn't allowed ...
  2. I once tried ... but ...
  3. On Sunday mornings, I generally like to ...
  4. I'm not really accustomed to ...
  5. I generally avoid ...
  6. I must admit that I rather regret ...
  7. In the future I hope to ...
  8. For people who want to give up smoking, I would suggest ...
  9. The earliest childhood memory I have is from when I was about ... years old. I remember

Vocabulary: similes (like/as ... as)

2 Discuss what you think the underlined similes mean.
EXAMPLE: I miss you like the deserts miss the rain.
> to miss someone very much
  1. Bringing up the subject of the rainforests when he's around is like a red rag to a bull.
  2. Keep clear of Tom today. He's like a bear with a sore head.
  3. Was the bed in your room OK? - It was great. I slept like a log.
  4. I'm afraid it wasn't my kind of party. I was like a fish out of water.
  5. He's so insensitive. He just says the first thing he thinks of. He's like a bull in a china shop.
3 Match up the halves of these similies.
  1. as strong
    as an ox
    _________
  2. as light
    as a feather
    _________
  3. as quick
    as a flash
    _________
  4. as white
    as a sheet
    _________
  5. as cool
    as a cucumber (cool as in calm!)
    _________
  1. as a flash
  2. as a sheet
  3. as a feather
  4. as on ox
  5. as a cucumber
Make sentences using these phrases. You may use these words for some ideas. nerve-racking calm powerful scared sudden
4 Use similes from Exercises I and 2 to describe the following.
EXAMPLE: Someone who has a bad temper and is in a very bad mood.
like a bear with a sore head
  1. Someone who doesn't fit in.
  2. Someone who shows no sign of nerves.
  3. When something is done with great speed.
  4. How someone looks if they are suddenly very frightened.
  5. When you sleep very deeply and very soundly.
  6. Someone who is very insensitive to the situation.
  7. When something weighs very little.
  8. Something which makes someone very angry.
  9. Someone who is physically very powerful.
5 Listen to this song. Which simile do you hear?

Now read the lyrics and the missing phrases/sentences a)-f). Listen to the song again and decide where a)-f) should go.

Reading - Sweet Nothings

A cliché is an expression that is used too often and has lost most of its meaning. Do you have the cliché in the cartoon in your language? Look at the clichés in bold in the following article. What do you think they mean?

Stop and listen to a conversation in the bus or in the supermarket and time and time again you will hear conclusions along the lines of: 'Well, you know what they say...' And how many times have we all said that 'birds of a feather flock together', or, if it happen to be applicable, 'opposites attract'? Our conversations about life and love are full of clichés that we pull out time and again without really thinking. In fact, they communicate succinct and powerful messages, but that doesn't really explain why we're quite so keen on them.

Dr George Gaskell from the department of psychology at the London School of Economics likens clichés to conspiracy theories - 'hard to disprove and with a grain of truth to them - so once they're there, they're hard to get rid of. There's something self-reinforcing about them.' Dr Gaskell draws on research evidence which reveals that people are much more affected by something which confirms a hypothesis than something which negates it. So, even if a cliché is disproved ten times more often than it is proved, we'll still fall back on the idea that it must be true every single time.


Clichés, especially those we use when we're in love, are convenient short-cuts, avoiding the need for explanation so that someone gets the general idea immediately. Clichés, say the experts, are rarely challenged and it's their generality that makes them strong. If you're too specific, people have got something to disagree with. Above all, they're familiar.
The big question has got to be whether these pearls of wisdom are true. Should we trust the clichés trotted out about love, or are they just another set of myth?


Does (A) absence make the heart grow fonder, or is (B) out of sight, out of mind? The answer to this, according to Dr Jonathan potter from the department of sociology at Loughborough university, is that both are features of relationships: people have conflicting feelings and couples can miss each other when separated, yet be quite capable of getting on with their lives. 'You can use either cliché without fear of contradiction,' he says.
Well, not quite without contradiction. professor Nicholas Emler, from Dundee university, comes down squarely on the side of out of sight, out of mind in our personal relationships and forget about them surprisingly easily.'
Of course, the way you felt about the person in the first place might play its part.


(C) Does familiarity breed contempt? Professor Emler says research suggests that we prefer the familiar, that we are happiest when we know what to expect and from whom. Experiments in the States back up professor Emler's interpretation. In tests, the more people saw new objects, the more they liked them. but if we do prefer the familiar, why do we get bored?


(D) Is there a seven-year itch? This proverb did not fare well with the expert. "There is no evidence that after any set time couples are likely to break up or have difficulties." Dr potter says. 'While it's a good phrase accepting that after people have been together for some time there can be problems, there's nothing magical about the number seven, or any other number.'
But if people do get an itch, who are they likely to go for?


(E) Do birds of a feather flock together, or do (F) opposites attract? Professor Emler is quite definite on this: one saying is correct, the other a load of rubbish. people are much more attracted to 'their own kind'. Complementary backgrounds, religious, cultural or social, are vital to a happy relationship. 'A lot of research has been done on what draws people together, but the evidence clearly runs contrary to the theory that opposites attract. The fact is that real opposites run a mile from each other.' states professor Emler.
And what about the theory that the more unobtainable you seem, the more desirable you are to the opposite sex?

(G) Should you play hard to get? Some psychologists say it's really hit and miss - the theory may work - or it could hopelessly backfire. 'The experts agree that being nice, considerate, witty and charming is much more likely to win people's hearts.
We do, however, attach status to winning the affections of someone who is seen to be desired by a lot of people, and therefore is necessarily less likely to be obtainable. But ego seems to be the operative word here.
So, why is that we're sometimes left asking ourselves the question, 'What is it she or he's got that I haven't?'


(H) Beauty is in the eye of the beholder perhaps? Research shows that there is some consensus on attractiveness but there is never 100 per cent agreement. According to professor Emler. 'Cultural stereotypes, cinema and advertising all play their part in shaping our opinion on beauty. While in one group the majority can agree on what they find attractive, it is difficult to say why one person stands out.
'This phrase is a reassurance, it tells people that whatever they look like, there is someone out there who will desire them; that beauty, after all, really is only skin deep. It's also something you can't argue with because people cannot agree entirely on what beauty is.'
6 This is a multiple-matching task. You usually have to link each question to a particular section of the text. Answer the following questions by following the procedure below.

Which cliché or clichés do the following statements refer to?

  1. similarity is the key factor in attraction
    Birds of a feather flock together
  2. there is hope for those of us who aren't supermodels!
    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
  3. these two opposing clichés might both be true
    1. Out of sight, out of mind
    2. Absence makes the heart grow fonder
  4. while it makes a good general point, it's wrong to be so specific
    The seven-year itch
  5. the truth of this depends on the particular context
  6. one expert believes this to be complete nonsense
  7. two experts disagree about their validity
  8. scientific research contradicts this
    Absence makes the heart grow fonder
  9. it's true because people are not good at making the necessary effort
    Out of sight, out of mind
  10. any truth in this may be the result of a kind of competitiveness
    Playing hard to get.
  1. Absence makes the heart grow fonder
  2. Out of sight, out of mind
  3. Familiarity breeds contempt.
  4. The seven-year itch
  5. Birds of a feather flock together
  6. Opposites attract
  7. Playing hard to get.
  8. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
7 Explain the meaning of the following underlined words/phrases in the article "Sweet nothing".
  1. succinct
  2. trotted out
  3. squarely
  4. back up
  5. itch
  6. witty
  7. consensus
8 Do you agree or disagree with the research and what the experts say about the truth of the different clichés? If you disagree, give reasons.

Suggested procedure

  1. First, skim the whole text to get a general idea of the content. You may wish to highlight parts of of each section which you feel are of special significance or interest.
    Do this for the text on p.44 and then compare with another student which parts you have highlighted and why.
  2. Then, read all of the question above, highlighting key words. If you are confident of any answers immediately, check them against the relevant part of the text again.
    Do this and compare your answers with another student. How many answers did you both get?
  3. Go back to the questions you are not sure about. Take each one in turn. Decide which sections they might refer to. Scan those sections carefully. Look for 'parallel expressions' (words or phrases that contain the idea of the key words in the questions).
    EXAMPLE:
    Question 1: similarity is a key factor in attraction. Parallel expression: People are much more attracted to 'their own kind'.
    Now find 'parallel expressions' in the text for the following
    Question 7: complete nonsense
    Question 12: not good at making the necessary effort
  4. At the end, check all the different sections are included in the answers. Also check you have answered all the questions.
    Compare all your answers with another student. Where they are any differences go back to the text to justify your ideas.

A cliché is an expression that is used too often and has lost most of its meaning. Do you have the cliché in the cartoon in your language? Look at the clichés in bold in the following article. What do you think they mean?

Do you know any other cliches about love?

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