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leave no stone unturned

Discussion in 'English Only' started by mimi2, Dec 29, 2007.

  1. mimi2 Senior Member

    vietnam vietnamese
    I say:
    The boy left no stone unturned to find the missing photo of his mother.
    Or simply:
    The boy made his great effort to find the missing photo of his mother.
    Are the two sentences correct and do they convey the same idea?
  2. dannyv Senior Member

    He looked everywhere (under every stone).
  3. Trina

    Trina Senior Member

    Australia (English)
  4. mimi2 Senior Member

    vietnam vietnamese
    Thank you, dannyv, Trina, for helping me understand the sentence more clearly.
  5. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England

    Just to warn you that the expression 'to leave no stone unturned' has been overused to the point where it's hard to say it without blushing.
  6. mimi2 Senior Member

    vietnam vietnamese
    Hi, Thomas Tompion.
    I still don't understand what you mean.
    Should I use it?
  7. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Forgive me for being unclear, Mimi. No, don't use it, it's a terrible cliché. It's like a piece of old clothing which is no use for anything any more, not even for gardening or cleaning the drains.
  8. mimi2 Senior Member

    vietnam vietnamese
    Thank you, Thomas Tompion.
    I won't use it. :)
  9. Trina

    Trina Senior Member

    Australia (English)
    Not that it is an expression I use (in fact I'm not sure I've even heard it spoken, and I may have read it perhaps only once or twice in novels), but I'm not sure it warrants such harsh criticism.

    Whether it is a terrible cliché, or not, is purely subjective and this statement should be taken as such. It's one person's opinion.

    Like all clichés, they can be overused and often it is best to avoid their use. That doesn't mean though that they have no place in language.

    Sometimes a "cliché" with the image it presents gets the idea across better and quicker, than using your own words. Whether you like the expression or not, to leave no stone unturned, gives a vivid image.
  10. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Hi Trina,

    I wouldn't agree that 'this question is purely subjective' or that it's only one person's opinion.

    Join cliché to leave no stone unturned in a search and you get 1,255 Google hits. Here's a typical example: http://www.greatwriting.co.uk/content/view/9953/77/ The last sentence is a good piece of advice.

    I feel that if we don't warn non-native speakers about these worn-out formulae, we do them a grave disservice.
  11. AngelEyes Senior Member

    English - United States
    Hi Mimi,

    The good thing about clichés is that they've earned that right because they're usually flawless in their ability to convey a complete thought with very few words. But the downside is that they're usually overused and thus lose their strength over time.

    That leaves us with the challenge of finding other words that keep the same amount of feeling and meaning. There's a lot of passion in this cliché, so that's what you need to attempt to do: say it differently, but with the same level of intensity.

    1. The boy left no stone unturned to find the missing photo of his mother.
    2. The boy made a great effort to find the missing photo of his mother.

    Th main difference between these two is that one makes you feel the urgency, while the second one falls flat and is blah. So you need to find a way to get rid of the tiresome phrase, but keep up the level of forcefulness. Something like this:

    The determined boy refused to give up and spent hours/days looking everywhere for the missing photo of his mother.

    Maybe something like this that keeps the meaning of your two original ones.

    And yes, I'd say yours both say the same thing, but one brings you more into the emotion of the action, while the other one just kind of states what's going on, but doesn't seem to care much if it gets you involved in it.

    Maybe you could re-write it in your own words and post it here.

  12. Trina

    Trina Senior Member

    Australia (English)
    Hi Thomas Tompion,
    All the best for the New Year!
    (Sorry, I tried to reply yesterday but I had problems with the internet in my local area. I could view WR forums but I couldn't post. Also my connection kept timing out so I couldn't view your amusing link.)
    Best Wishes to everyone for the New Year! :)
  13. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    But Trina you have just tried to colour our perceptions with your own - which surely means to say what you think, and I would energetically champion your right to do so, and the importance of your doing so, if we are to have a discussion.

    I've said that I've discarded the expression like an old dishcloth and wouldn't touch it with a bargepole, and you've said that you might still use it and find it "flawless in [its] ability to convey a complete thought with very few words" in the words of AngelEyes. The non-English speakers have learned that some natives don't like the expression and that others have no objection to it and use it. That seems to me to be a very proper use of the forum.

    In support of my attack on cliché, and to reinforce my point that I am not alone, I invoke the famous Myles Na Gopoleen, extracts from whose catechism of cliché are to be found in http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/5567/note3.html

    Question: What is a bad thing worse than?
    Answer: Useless.
  14. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
    Sounds like you've left no stone unthrown, Thomas.

    Many ideas are quickly and vividly conveyed by common expressions so I think a sprinkling of cliches is fine. Just don't use too many too often.
  15. AngelEyes Senior Member

    English - United States
    I'd like to add this.

    Mimi wrote one sentence using the cliché, and then another one without it. While I think the one with it conveyed her thought better, it's not the one we should go with or tell her it's good enough because it isn't, in my opinion. The other one is not strong, either, though.

    And they may convey the same thought, but they're miles away from being comparable in quality. Unfortunately, the one that says it best also has another problem: the one with the cliché screams boring, repetitive expression.

    The best advice we can give her is to tell her to learn from the strengths of a cliché - that is, it's a group of words that really deliver the message.

    However, if you want to be a creative and original writer, word stylist, or communicator, then what you need to do is to express what a cliché does in your own words. Usually, that's really hard to do! Clichés endure precisely because they work so well. It's difficult to improve on them sometimes.

    In everyday conversation, we can probably get away with using them more often because our listener's brain will easily process it and move on more quickly to what else we have to say.

    But in writing, I'd avoid clichés like the plague.

    Oh, oh...I just used another one! :D

    Editors hate clichés. It shouts weak and lazy writing to them.

  16. juandiego

    juandiego SE modera

    Granada. España
    Spanish from Spain
    The problem with sayings, clichés or not, is that who use them must be sure that listeners understand them, because the first I thought when I read that saying was that the photo was lost in a stony field or something.

    Of course, I am not whom to judge it because of my poor English but maybe this saying (or others) is not understood as such in every English speaking zone, therefore it could drive to a literal misinterpretation as I did. There are sayings that at first sight they look like what they are and immediately you look for its sense, but there are others, as the concerned, that don't suggest an alternative meaning because they fit in the context literally.

    Happy New year 2008 for everyone.
  17. Trina

    Trina Senior Member

    Australia (English)
    :thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:
    And it is for this reason I challenged your strong remarks regarding "to leave no stone unturned". If you'd simply written, many would advise that it's best to avoid the use of clichés wherever possible, I doubt I would have jumped to its defence. :p

    Happy New Year everybody!

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