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Cliches, Proverbs and Other Worlds

One of the first things that every writer learns: limit the clichés - unless needed. Clichés such as: A picture is worth a thousand words; Straight from the horse's mouth; On Cloud Nine; There's an exception to every rule or It's Greek to me.
Proverbs are pithy sayings that express a general truth. A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush - Ben Franklin. One of my personal favorites is:
Certain elements remain the same no matter the culture or time period. These universal truths, to some extent, make classic literature classic - that ability for someone to read a book, watch a play or listen to a song and relate no matter the time period the piece was created.

Now, creators of worlds, there is a problem. How do you translate a universal truth into another world's concept. If your world has no concept of photography how do you translate a picture is worth a thousand words - must it be a photograph or just an image?
I came across this problem while writing Azure Lights. At the end of the book, Azure dives into a cave to retrieve something for her brothers. Her brother, Yo'ash attempts to encourage her by the concept the Lord's word is "a lamp unto my feet." Mermaids and mermen swim in most places - they have no feet when in their mer forms. When they swim, their tails are behind them, not leading. I changed the saying to 'a light before my hands'.

Some proverbs and clichés are easy to shift: It's Greek to me can be another language. Other ones such as Ben Franklin's proverb can simply change the animal: instead of a bird, maybe it's something else like a jabberwocky.

Do you have any favorite clichés or proverbs? Have you had to create or reimagine ones for other worlds?


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