Vs. “It is what it is”

Posted: March 11, 2011 in Language
Tags: , , ,
My favorite! And my friends all swear that it'...

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    Here’s the deal.  The phrase, “It is what it is” is meaningless.  We must stop saying this.  I hear it everywhere – athletes, politicians, celebrities…people who have writers, people who should be able to come up with something original.  And they’re all tossing it around as if it’s some deep, zen-like statement, as opposed to what it actually is – something to say when you have absolutely nothing to say.

    It’s also annoyingly repetitive.  If you want to say it is what it is you might as well shorten it and say, “It is.”  Same thing, less time.  Or you could just give a blank stare, save your breath entirely.

   Can you imagine what kind of world we would live in if we spoke like this all the time?

   “How was your day?”

    “Well, it was how it was.  We did what we did and we saw what we saw – how was your day?”

    “Great.  We went out and ate what we ate, then came home and partook in the activities which we partook in.”

    “Oh, I almost forgot, later there’s going to be a party at the place where there’s going to be a party.  Can you come?”

    “I don’t think I can – I have to go where I have to go.”

    “Well, it is what it is.”


    Of course it is what it is – what else could it possibly be?  You know what else is true?  It isn’t what it isn’t.  But nobody’s saying that.

     But what bothers me most is that when someone says, “It is what it is,” they almost never mean it.  What they usually mean is: I wish it wasn’t what it is, I can’t believe what it is, or what the hell is it? 

    Plus, it eliminates personal responsibility.  Now, after something bad happens, one can just mutter, “It is what it is,” and hobble away as if nothing could ever be different.  Why not try and figure out why it turned out to be this way?  Why not work on making it turn out a different way next time?  If you always say that it what it is, then I’ve got some news for you – it not only is what it is, it is what it was and it will continue to be.  The problem is, people say this when they mean the exact opposite.  What they really want to say is, “It shouldn’t be what it is and here’s why…”  But they don’t have the cojones.  It’s the most passive aggressive of all the bad clichés.

    So, how am I going to do it?  How will I rid the world of this catch-all catch phrase?  By convincing you that we can change.  But we have to act quickly.  Everyone must take personal responsibility here.  If you catch yourself starting to say that which must no longer be spoken – just end it differently. Any original sentiment, no matter how bizarre, is better than hearing this trite “thought” again.  I wish I could give you some alternates, some other ways to express yourself, but I just don’t know of any.

Oh well, I guess that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

  1. heathersnyder1 says:

    I am waging a war on such overused words as “surreal”, “disconnect” and “take-away”. I shall win this battle! Oh, well…it is what it is.
    Curses! Foiled again! From this moment on, I will not say it is what it is, again…except for saying it there…when I used the phrase, “it is what it is”…so that doesn’t count. The last one didn’t count either. So, I will now, from this moment on, never, ever say “it is what it is”.

    • Makya McBee says:

      Kudos to you on eliminating that which may never be spoken from your vocabulary. The jury is still out on your trio of other overused words – I shall give each consideration and determine whether or not they are worthy of me sparring against in the blog ring.

  2. heathersnyder1 says:

    Yeah I’m so glad I don’t say or write “It is what it is” anymore. I…crap…I wrote it again didn’t I? I need help.

  3. Steve says:

    Your rant reminds me of the riddle in Flowers for Agernon:

    Puntuate this paragraph:

    that that is is that that is not is not is that it it is

  4. Steve says:

    I happen to be a fan of “It is what it is”. And all euphemism, worn out or otherwise. I woudl be a nervous wreck, worn out from the emotional drain of expressing what I really think when responding ot the social small talk that our information/communication world requires. Take the standard conversation starter: “So how’s work?”. If I couldn’t say “It is what it is” I would have to either lie: “Fine” or begin a reply that outlines the soudl killing nature of a work addled civilization that I may not be able to stem once the tap is opened. Thanks God to “It is what it is”!

    • Makya McBee says:

      I guess I can’t sway everyone. I don’t agree with your views, good sir, but I will fight to the death for your right to express them. Well, maybe not to the death…I’ll fight until, you know, I’m scratched or something. If I see blood, I’m not fighting anymore. At that point, you’ll have to find a new expression.

  5. jimsnyder1 says:

    Your blog has opened my eyes. I used to say, “It is what it is” with reckless abandon. I won’t anymore. From this moment on, I will not say it…not even if I was being tortured. I hope not, because I might slip and say it then, if I was being tortured. So, I hope I’m never in that situation.

    • Makya McBee says:

      This phrase is usually reserved for pretty bad things…but not terrible things. It’s pretty hard to imagine someone being tortured and calling out, “Hey, it is what it is.”
      In fact, you may have discovered the only situationin which I’d approve – it might just make the torturers laugh so hard they’d let you go. Feel free to give it a try.

  6. wittyburg says:

    A good friend of mine was broken up with by that damned phrase. Who honestly believes that “It is what it is” is appropriate to end a relationship? The same people who use “epic” to describe their pancakes and “dabble” to associate that one time they played guitar.

    Excellent post!

    • Makya McBee says:

      Nicely said. As much as I enjoy a delicious stack of flapjacks, I have to agree – there has never been an epic pancake. And, yes, one should have the decency to put some consideration into their break-up lines.

      • wittyburg says:

        The only “epic pancake” I can think of would have to come from the Bonanno Family, with Butterworth’s controlling hand at the helm. And as for the break-up, his one saving grace was doing it face-to-face, rather than via text message … slightly less douchey.

      • Makya McBee says:

        Be cafeful. If you reference too many of my posts within the comments section of another post it could create a black hole and the universe could implode, ending all life as we know it. But thanks for the comment.

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