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According to Wikipedia (Emphasis mine):

A literary trope is the use of figurative language, via word, phrase or an image, for artistic effect such as using a figure of speech. The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clichés in creative works.

These tropes are present in all forms of media, some examples for tropes are:

  • Fantasy story, the hero starts off as a farm boy.
  • It’s eventually revealed that one of the main characters is actually royalty.
  • In movies, to defuse a bomb, you have to “cut the red wire” and the bomb stops in the last second.
  • Archetypal and generic "bad guys" like Nazis or Russians in American action movies.

So, how would I translate the following sentences?

I didn't like the movie because they used too many predictable tropes.

The author’s new book is a perfect example of the Groundhog Day trope: The protagonist is stuck repeating the same day over and over.

When creating a narrative, using tropes can help subconsciously prime the reader for what to expect in the story.

The website TV Tropes tracks a vast amount of tropes and makes it very easy to look them up.

I am aware that trope sometimes is translated to Tropus (auch die Trope, Plural Tropen) but I've never heard anyone use this in actual German conversation and in the literary context, it yields almost no google results. Is there a more common word or phrase that’s used instead?

  • you take a wiki article and leave out Topos and Motiv – user41814 Jun 12 at 16:22
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We (Germans) would probably use the word Cliché/Klischee or the corresponding adjective klischeehaft, as in

Ich mochte den Film, aber dass die Bombe wieder in letzter Sekunde entschärft wurde, war sooo klischeehaft. I enjoyed the movie but that the bomb got defused in the last second was so typical

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    Or in the context of movies: Filmklischee. There is a Spiegel article about this phenomenon: spiegel.de/geschichte/… – RHa Jun 12 at 17:45
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    While Klischee was the first thing that came to my mind as well, it's only part of the overall ( literary ) trope concept (as the OP's definition shows). I also think Klischee has a negative connotation, while trope is a neutral term. – mtwde Jun 13 at 8:06
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    Hm, for me, trope has the same connotation as Klischee and of course depends on the context. – infinitezero Jun 13 at 13:07
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The first thing that came to my mind when reading your question was "Klischee" (as already mentioned by @infinitezero). But as you said cliché is just one aspect of the word trope

The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clichés in creative works.

For example, the "Heroes Journey"-trope ("Lord of the Rings", Heitz' "Die Zwerge", etc) is a story pattern, but not a cliché (from my point of view). Tropes like the Sibling Rivalry ("Cain & Abel", Schiller's "Die Räuber") are also more narrative motives than clichés.

I also think Klischee has a negative connotation, while trope is a neutral term.


Tropus on the other hand (as mentioned by @Wort-des-Tages) is the correct translation for your word. Unfortunately this word is widely unknown. Just take a look at the comments, but @Wort-des-Tages says it him/herself.


I think you have to look at how common the word is in the English-speaking world. do most people know it because of tvtropes.com and it's an rather uncommon word? If so, go with "Tropus". Is it a well-known word? Well, then you have to make a decision. "Klischee" as some kind of pars pro toto or maybe one of these contructions:

typisches Motiv

(literarische) Schablone

typisches Erzählelement

literarischer Topos (unusual as Tropus ^^)

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The English word trope is the almost identical to the German word Tropen. This is a technical term and almost no layman is going to understand what you are talking about. People studying literature or film studies (Literatur- or Filmwissenschaft) will.

With most of these sentences, Google Translate is going to work well.

I didn’t like the movie because they used too many predictable tropes.
Ich mochte den Film nicht, weil sie zu viele vorhersehbare Tropen verwendeten.

The author’s new book is a perfect example of the Groundhog Day trope.
Das neue Buch des Autors ist ein perfektes Beispiel für den Groundhog-Day-Trope.

The website TV Tropes tracks a vast amount of tropes.
Die Website TV Tropes verfolgt eine Vielzahl von Tropen.

There's a nice book about Tropes called Logik der Tropen: Tiefensprachliche Redemodi im Denkweg Martin Heideggers. If you are interested, that might be a good place to start.

Sources:

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    If you talk to people who didn't study literature or film, though, they will think you are talking about the tropics. – fNek Jun 13 at 10:04
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    Google Translate is going to work well. – Well, they got the gender of -rope wrong in the second example and verfolgt in the third one is overly literal. — I also strongly doubt that the book about Heidegger is a good place to start. – Wrzlprmft Jun 13 at 12:50
  • Der Singular im Deutschen ist Tropus, nicht *Trope – jonathan.scholbach Jun 13 at 15:35
  • Ich kenne sehr wohl den Singular Trope. Allerdings, zugegegebenermaßen, aus dem Altgriechischunterricht. Und ich würde es folglich auch endbetonen. (Laut Gemoll sind τρόπος und τροπή eh ziemlich dasselbe, aber bei letzterem steht explizit "gramm. t.t.: tropische, figürliche Ausdrucksweise, beim ersten nur "Redefigur". Kann man wohl vom Endverbraucher alles nicht verlangen :)) – phipsgabler Jun 17 at 7:19

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