Wednesday, March 08, 2006

It is whatever you say it is

William Safire has now tackled the phrase it is what it is. (See a previous Capital Idea entry on the topic here.)

He calls it the tautology that it is (actually, he coins a new word -- tautophrase) and gives references to its use by Scott McClellan, Britney Spears, President Bush. A USA Today reporter named it sports cliche of the year in 2004.

And he makes the point that this is no phrase to get all huffy about: It's just an updated, less stuffy no comment for many. Some people employ it to express philosophical resignation over a disappointment, or so says the executive editor of the American Heritage Dictionary.

It is also used to get Eminem quotes stuck in Nicole's head: "I am whatever you say I am. If I wasn't, then why would I say I am?"

Que serĂ¡, serĂ¡.


At 9:10 AM, March 09, 2006, Anonymous jjmoney62 said...

There's something reassuring in knowing that I'm at least a year behind Reggie Miller in the hip phrase department.

I've found "it is what it is" to be helpful, especially when counseling friends, but then, maybe it's been helping me more than them. Ah, but they'll get it someday. They'll get it .....

At 7:54 PM, March 11, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too get annoyed with the phrase, "It is what it is." But I have to confess that people who utter the phrase express more than a mere tautology. I think their meaning is something akin to, "Since we can't do anything about the status quo, we ought to accept it." Most of the time this phrase is used in a more or less asinine fashion.


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