K.eep I.t S.imple S.tupid  2016 Jacquard woven cotton, wool, and metallic yarn 26.5" x 28.25" H

Never Meet Your Heroes

Danielle Andress

In 2016 I started collecting a running list of clichés, adages, mantras, and other short forms of viral language. Imperfect, and often out of touch, these pieces of vernacular speech continue to circulate, and the archive grows.

They are short-hand expressions used to describe the ineffable, or phrases used as placeholders for space we do not know how to fill. Spoken with the best of intentions, clichés (like tabloid horoscopes and tea bag tag fortunes) are generic and ominous at best. Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, clichés find themselves in the most unenviable of positions: they are archaic relics that fail to update. Most often, the problem is rooted in sexism, gender, and/or racial bias. This is observed/seen in something as rudimentary as defaulting to the singular “he/him” in lieu of including “she/her” or the more inclusive “they/them.” In the 1970s, a false narrative started circulating in the popular imagination, that The Rule of Thumb validated domestic abuse so long as the weapon used was thinner than the size of the perpetrator’s thumb. This falsehood has been declared defunct many times but the legend continues because, collectively, we have decided this sentiment exists parallel to reality. Even if The Rule of Thumb was not officially British law, it very well could have been.

Other highly used, but less considered, phrases include • (to) gaslight someone (originating from Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 play Gas Light in which a husband inflicts relentless and premeditated psychological abuse on his wife) and the obviously problematic (to) • crack the whip.

Clichés hollow out with use– the more we use them, the further they are pushed from their original meaning. I would never argue that words or language are meaningless, but the magic, malignant or benign, with clichés is that intention disappears with circulation.

After many months of tumult, I have started to find comfort–or at least good company–with some of these phrases.
I have found empowerment and a generative force with a couple of phrases: The grass is always greener on the other side, it’s a pot of fuckshit, and Hakuna Matata. Included is an extremely abbreviated list from my library. I hope you enjoy it.


Absence makes the heart grow fonder
Achilles heel
Airing dirty laundry
All for one, one for all
All thumbs
Always a bridesmaid, never the bride
An oldie but a goodie
Any port in a storm
Apple of my eye
As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly
At the eleventh (11th) hour


(A) backseat driver
Bad to the bone
Bait and switch 
Baptism by fire
Beating a dead horse
Beggars can’t be choosers
Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t
Birds of a feather flock together
Blending the soup
Blood is thicker than water
Boys will be boys
Building the plane as we fly
Burn the candle at both ends


Call the shots
(Open up a) can of whoop ass
(A) case of a dancer blaming the stage
Cast a very long shadow
Catch a falling knife
Caught with his pants down
Champagne taste and a beer budget
Clear as mud
Clutching my pearls
Cold feet
Come hell or high water
Compare apples and oranges
Couldn’t find his way out of a paper bag/sack
Crazier than a hog on slaughter day
Crocodile tears
Cut off your nose to spite your face


Dangle a carrot in front of him
Dark horse
(A) day late and a dollar short
Dead ringer
Desperation is the grandmother of innovation
Diamond in the rough
Does the Pope shit in the woods?
Dogs bark but the caravan moves on
Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth
Drain the lizard
(To) drive the porcelain bus
Drop a dime
Drown your sorrows


(The) early bird catches the worm
Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise
Easy on the eyes
Eat crow
(The) elephant in the room
Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while
Everything is coming up roses


(A) face like a bag of spanners
(A) face like a bulldog chewing on a wasp
(A) face like a burst couch
(A) face like a dropped meat pie
(A) face only a mother can love
(A) face that would scare a dog out of a butcher shop
Fight like cats and dogs
Filthy rich
Fine and dandy
Firing on all cylinders
(A) fool and his money are soon parted
Fools’ gold
Free as a bird
Fuck you and the horse you rode in on
Fur coat and no knickers


Garlic milkshake
Get out of Dodge
Get your ducks in a row
Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile
Go fly a kite
(The) good doctor
Good fences make good neighbors
Got him by the short hairs
Go West!
(The) grass is always greener on the other side
(To) grease a palm
Greener pastures
Guns blazing


(The) handwriting is on the wall
Happy camper
Haste makes waste
Have the last laugh
Heading for the poor house
(A) heart breaker
(A) heart of gold
(A) heart of stone
History repeats itself
Hook, line, and sinker
Hope against hope
Horny as a peach-orchard boar
Hotter than Georgia asphalt
(A) house divided against itself cannot stand


I need that like I need a hole in my head
I want my place in the sun
Idle hands are the devil’s workshop
If wishes were horses, beggars would ride
If you chase two rabbits, both escape
If you’re going to be dumb, you better be tough
I’ll give you something to cry about
In for a penny, in for a pound
In the clear
In the closet
In the hot seat
In the nick of time
In the pink
In the red
In your dreams
In your face
It takes two to tango
It’s a game of inches
In every marriage, it helps to be a little deaf
It is better to live rich than to die rich


(A) Jack of all trades and a master of none
Jockeying for position
Joined at the hip
Jump on the bandwagon
Just the tip of the iceberg
Justice is blind


Keep it simple stupid (KISS)
Keeping up with the Joneses
Kick ass
Kill joy
King of the mountain
Kiss and tell
Knock on wood
Know it like the back of my hand


Land of milk and honey
Last hurrah
Last, but not least
Lay my cards on the table
Leave no stone unturned
Left at the altar
(A) leopard doesn’t change its spots
Lesser of two evils
Let the cat out of the bag
Licking one’s wounds
Lie down in the fire
Life’s a bitch
Light in the loafers
Lightning never strikes the same place twice
Like a bull in a china shop
Like chalk and cheese
Like father, like son
Like flies on shit
Like it’s going out of style
Like oil and water
Like shit off a shovel
Like shooting ducks on a pond
Like stink on shit
Like there is no tomorrow
Like white on rice
Long arm of the law
Looking at the world through rose-colored glasses
Love is blind


Mad as a hatter
(To) make a mountain out of a mole hill
Makin’ bacon
Many hands make light work
(The) merchants of bad
Mile high club
Monday morning quarterback
My brain is fried
My hands are tied


Naked as the day you were born
Navel gazing
(As) neat as pins
Negative Nancy
Never let a good crisis go to waste
Nice guys finish last
No holds barred
Nothing to write home about


Object of desire
Off and running
Okay, Boomer
Old as dirt
On a soap box
One hand washes the other and they both wash the face
On the tip of my tongue
One foot on a banana peel, the other in the grave
One in a million
Out of the woods


Panty raid
Par for the course
(The) path of progress is bumpy
Pearls before swine
Penny wise and pound foolish
People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones
Pick the low hanging fruit
Plain and simple
(The) pot calling the kettle black
Pretty penny
Punch in the guts


Quicker than a New York minute
(As) quiet as a church mouse


Raining cats and dogs
Read between the lines
(The) Real McCoy
Right as rain
Rome wasn’t built in a day
Rotten to the core
Rough around the edges
Rule of thumb
Run it up the flagpole and see who salutes it

Short Pleasures Are Often Long Regretted 2017 Jacquard woven cotton, looped mohair, acrylic, and metallic yarn on stretched canvas and cotton poplin 28.5" W x 27" H


Salty dog
Same shit, different day
Same shit, different pile
Same shit, different toilet paper
Second wind
Separate the wheat from the chaff
(The) seven-year itch
Shit or get off the pot
She has a great personality
Shoot yourself in the foot
Short pleasures are often long regretted
Sick as a dog
Signed, sealed, and delivered
Silence is golden
Sister from another mister
Skeletons in the closet
Slow and low
Small potatoes
Sometimes you are the windshield and sometimes you are the bug
(The) straight and narrow
Strong as an ox
Sweep it under the rug
Sweeten the pot


Tail between his legs
Take a long walk off a short plank
Take the bull by the horns
Talk shop
Teacher’s pet
(The) technicolored yawn
(A) tempest in a teapot
Texas is more checkers than chess
That’s how the cow eats the cabbage
There is no ‘I’ in team
There is no such thing as a free lunch
(To) throw gas on the fire
Today is the first day of the rest of your life
Top banana
Tore up from the floor up
Trial by fire
Two ships passing in the night


Ugly as a hat full of holes
Unless you are the lead dog, the view never changes
Until the cows come home
Up shits creek


(Like a) virgin on prom night
Vote early and often


(A) walled garden
(To) wave a white flag
Wet behind the ears
What goes around comes around
When elephants fight, all the grass gets trampled
Whistling in the dark
Why buy the cow when the milk is free?
Worth its weight in gold



You can never go home again
You can’t kill bad grass
You never get what you don’t ask for
Your father wasn’t a glass maker


Zigged when you should have zagged

PLAID COVER IMAGE: NEVER MEET YOUR HEROES  2019. Jacquard woven cotton, wool, and metallic yarn 28.25" W x 30.25" H