Reforming

This is the most common cliché category that coins new double entendres. The results are often puns such as this tire ad: "We skid you not," or fast food restaurant-names like: Mustard's Last Stand, Blazing Salads, and Aesop's Tables.

That restaurant inspired the TV show: "That's Inedible!"

The humor here comes from altering one or two letters in a word of the cliché and arriving at a twist which cleverly changes the point of view. The reformulated word will most likely be a homonym or a rhyming variation.

There are three ways to reform clichés. The first is to alter or transpose the words and create a new related thought. After considering clichés appropriate to the theme of your subject, you try to reform one of them by juggling the words or by reversing the order and placing the last word first. Drama critic Walter Winchell did this in a review of a season opener: "Who am I to stone the first cast?" Then there's the classic drug joke: "I'm not as think as you stoned I am."

The second, and most frequent, use of reforming is replacing one or two letters in a key word of the cliché in order to achieve a surprise turn of phrase.

I will not cut off my nose to spite my race. —Golda Meir

The third way to reform a cliché is with a homonym, a similar sounding word with a double entendre interpretation.

The things my wife buys at antique auctions are keeping me Baroque. —Peter De Vries

Different types of reformed clichés work best in different mediums: homonyms usually come off better orally, whereas typos are more effective in print. We'll discuss each in turn.

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