The word "bromide" was once used to describe a tired joke, an expression that has been overused. (Danny Kaye once did a famous patter song called "The Babbit and the Bromide" in which every line was a cliche of sorts.)|
How does the name of the element bromine come into this use? Is there a relationship?
The element, bromine, bonded with a free radical, such as potassium, forms a "bromide" (e.g., potassium bromide, KBr). Bromides are used in medacine as sedatives. If one has indegestion, one would take a "bromo" (bromo-seltzer) to settle his stomach, for example.|
When one is having psychological stress, its common to offer a hackneyed platitude, such as "this, too, shall pass" in lieu of substantive advise.
I theorize that it is the palliative (or placebo or even non-existent) effect that these phænomena have in common which have led to such clichés to be referred to as bromides. From bromos-for-the-soul and folk-remedies, I take it that it had then been generalized to any tired phrase.
"Bromo-" is from the Greek for "stench," BTW, if that helps to form alternate hypotheses.
This meaning of bromide was coined by Gelett Burgess in a magazine article written in 1906 titled "Are you a Bromide?". He actually meant it to have a slightly different meaning.|
His bromide was a person who frequently produced trite sayings and for the trite sayings he coined the word bromidiom.
The article was so popular that it was expanded to a small book with the same title. When the book was introduced at the 1907 American Booksellers Association banquet (where he gave a speech), free copies were distributed to the attendees. It had a humorous dust jacket with a drawing of a young lady, who Burgess called Miss Belinda Blurb, along with a number of parodies of the publicity notices publishers put on dust jackets. Thus was coined the word blurb.