Cliche Couture

By ACSGnosis777 03/01/18

Their utterances can be heard in virtually every AA meeting on the planet. At least two must be worked into any respectable share. They are bite sized nuggets of program wisdom that do not require anything beyond the most modest of memories to retain. They are... the cliches. The aphorisms. The slogans. Like any lasting subculture of scoiety at large, Alcoholics Anonymous has developed its own little vernacular and set of stock sayings by which its members can speak in common terms. Some are found in the program's various texts, and some have simply arisen throughout the years and been transmitted via oral tradition. Whatever their origin, they remain a vital conceptual framework that has maintained the program's core message through generations of alcoholics.

That does not mean, however, that these witticisms are not subject to the various vicissitudes and whims of fashion and popularity. At any given time, some are in ascendance while others wane in usage. And, as each individual group is autonomous, what is en vogue in one meeting might be very well be embarrassingly passe in another.

For example, as of this writing in February of 2018, at a particularly well attended meeting in Texas, "once a pickle, never again a cucumber," is trending. And, "bless it or block it," has, by all measurable standards, gone viral. "Let go and let God," on the other hand, has, mercifully, all but disappeared from usage in the room. Those clueless, or rebellious, enough to invoke it are, if not overtly, then at least subtly, shunned for the faux pas. And one already unpopular member who had the temerity to employ both "attitude of gratitude," and "itty bitty shitty committee," in the same share found his tires slashed after the meeting he attended.

This incident also serves to illustrate how certain aphorisms go together naturally and harmoniously, like tomatoes and basil. Chocolate and peanut butter. Alcohol and nicotine. "One day at a time," and "Easy does it," while mind numbingly trite, comprise an obvious pairing. On the other hand, "sick and tired of being sick and tired," and "my worst day sober is better than my best day drinking," should never, under any circumstances, come hell or high water, be employed together, or, to be safe, within 3 days of each other.

Other potentially synergistic combinations are not so immediately obvious. These must be strung together with confidence and skill in an appopriate context. "On the beam," can be worked in alongside, "utter and incomprehensible demoralization," but it must be done with calculated insouciance by someone sufficient gravitas and a fair amount of shares within the group.

Regardless of the complex rhetorical dynamics that form the subtext of any AA meeting, the cliches are here to stay. If nearly a full century and several dictionary and language style guide updates have not killed them off, they are going nowhere. And it would behoove each member to familiarize themselves with their proper and timely usage in order to navigate the equally complicated social dynamics of the group. Especially if one aspires to be, say, group secretary; the election might hinge on such knowledge. And of course, cultivating and pulling off a successful thirteenth step, the magnus opus of any life in recovery, can never hurt from having a thorough and fluent knowledge of programese!


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