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An anti-cliché is a literary device or figure of speech that twists the meaning or phrasing of a known cliché. Although not named as such by literary critics, many writers, comedians, and poets have made use of the anti-cliché to provide a memorable and often ironic phrase, line, or passage.

Another concept of the anti-cliché relates to the relative merit of any particular news story. A report that will likely garner interest in the target readership must be considered newsworthy; reporting similar trivial events does not generate a sufficient level of interest. The most prominent example of this is the Man Bites Dog paradigm. A daily newspaper would become increasingly stale if there were constant reports of dogs biting men, as the phrase suggests. However, the reverse concept of a man biting the dog is unusual, perhaps novel and hence particularly newsworthy purely due to the inherent irony of such an event.


Man bites dog

The "Man bites dog" trope is an anti-cliché that consists of varying the meaning of a cliché by exchanging the position of the two main nouns, inverting their role. This trope has some similarities with anastrophe; however, anastrophes, being schemes, don't change the meaning of the sentence and just operate on the syntax.[1] Since the man bites dog trope overturns the meaning of the original sentence, it is often used in satire and comedy, as illustrated by Woody Allen:

Years ago, my mother gave me a bullet...a bullet, and I put it in my breast pocket. Two years after that, I was walking down the street, when a berserk evangelist heaved a Gideon bible out a hotel room window, hitting me in the chest. Bible would have gone through my heart if it wasn't for the bullet.[2]

Notable examples of anti-cliché


  1. ^ Barney R. Quinn and Arthur Quinn (1993). Figures of speech: 60 ways to turn a phrase. pp. 39–48.  
  2. ^ Woody Allen Bullet In My Breast Pocket from album Standup Comic

See also



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