By Norman Knight
October is a wonderful month. This time of year it is common to hear, “Autumn is my favorite season,” and during this particular month, I can be heard to say the same thing.
For natural beauty and enjoyable weather, it’s hard to beat October especially here in our fair state. It’s practically a cliche to say so.
One of my favorite things about October besides the fantastic colors and the gradually increasing crispiness of the air is the many cliches I associate with the month. When I was a teacher, I would write the word “October” on the board turning the initial O into a pumpkin or jack-o-lantern. And when students would write the word on their papers, they would do something similar. Everyone in class was participating in that October cliché.
I don’t mean to use the term “October cliché” in a negative way. If by “cliché” one means “an expression, idea or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect…” I believe the word is appropriate.
In pondering other October cliches, I can’t help but notice our modern culture’s fascination during this month with pumpkin-flavored everything. Even aficionados seem to be aware that this trend of adding pumpkin flavor to all foods is slightly absurd.
I’ve noticed even the people who are making money off pumpkin flavor seem to be in on the joke. The barista, for example, who when I asked for a pumpkin-spiced latte to take to my wife, said, “Oh, are you one of those?” I have read that comedians don’t bother with funny observations about the ubiquitous pumpkin-flavor because it’s been done to death — which is a cliched phrase, I realize.
Advertisers also rely on cliches during this month. I can obtain “Spooktacular savings” at various stores. Browsing through musician catalogs or listening to radio spots promoting concerts, I am reminded that for certain music lovers, the 10th month is “Rock-tober.”
Print ads, it goes without saying (another cliché), are done up in the colors orange and black. Obviously, clichés are a useful and maybe even necessary element of most advertising.
People have been observing Columbus Day in this country in one form or another since colonial times. I’m guessing advertisers have been using this October celebration since those times, as well.
At one time in my life a “Columbus Day Savings” ad would have been as pervasive as candy corn. In recent years, though, Christopher Columbus has lost some status as an American icon for some among our ever-divided citizenry. Without any data to back me up, my sense is that references to Columbus Day are quickly becoming a thing of the past.
Halloween is probably the defining event for the month of October. Again, advertisers realize this and seem to jockey to be the first out of the gate (cliché?) to get their wares in stores.
For Halloween merchandise, October actually starts sometime in late August. This is similar to the phenomenon of Christmas sales that begin in October, if not before. One could almost say that Christmas decorations have become an October tradition — or an October cliché.
The deeper cliché here is that everyone realizes how we are bombarded with holiday sales weeks and months before the day arrives, and everyone complains about it. Truth is, complaining about it is in itself a cliché.
Maybe referring to expressions and images of October as “clichés” could just as easily be said to be traditions. Either way, I, for one, am happy to participate in the clichés and/or traditions of October. They are harmless and don’t require much real effort. As a matter of fact, they are as easy as pumpkin pie. (cliché.)
Norman Knight, a retired Clark-Pleasant Middle School teacher, writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to email@example.com.