Talk about risk is problematic for interaction; it can involve the speaker or hearer saying things that threaten participants' 'face', the ways they want themselves to be seen by others. One way of dealing with these threats to face, and to keep the conversation going, is the use of commonplaces. Commonplaces, generally applicable and generally known arguments, play an important role in interaction, invoking shared, taken-for-granted perspectives embedded in familiar roles and everyday practices. They are similar to some of the frames discussed in risk communication, but they focus our attention on rhetoric and interaction rather than cognition. In this paper, I show how commonplaces are used in focus group discussions of public choices involving dangers to life or health. They tend to be used in response to dilemmas, when a speaker is put on the spot, and they tend to lead to other commonplaces. Analysis of commonplaces supports those who argue that studies of public perception of risks and programmes of communication about risks need to be sensitive to the personal interactions, rhetorical strategies, and cultural embeddedness of any risk talk.