Cliche’ Chatter #1

Cliche # 1: Putting someone in their place.

This one really gets to me for several reasons. The basic thing is that it’s bad grammar. It should read “putting someone in his or her place.” But that would ruin the flow of it, wouldn’t it?

Getting back to the saying itself, you must assume certain things before you can put someone in their (shudder) place. Does that person really have a place? There are homeless people on the streets everywhere, and others who only rent their homes. So doesn’t that make them immune to anyone’s putting them in their place, since they don’t have a place? Furthermore, we have to assume also that the person who is doing the putting actually knows where that person’s place is. Oh, I realize that the “place” is probably not a physical place, but who says it isn’t? Mightn’t that be the origin of the saying?

It could be that way back when (mercy, another cliché) people knew where everyone lived and putting people in their place meant escorting them home safely after a jousting event or an evening sitting out on the veranda watching a meteor shower. It could be a kinder, gentler act than the phrase has come to mean.

We could also look at it from the point of view of the puttee, rather than the putter. I know I would be much more comfortable if someone put me in my own place. That way, I wouldn’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not. In relation to the physical idea of “place,” I would be even happier if someone put me there, in my place. And paid the rent too while they’re at it.

I would imagine that this discussion of the cliché has somewhat confused you. Don’t worry; it confuses me too, especially when I have no clue where my place is.

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