Column Chronicles
Is it?
Frank Cotolo
September 21, 2017
Some time during the last decade, the English language picked up a phrase that became enormously popular. However, people who speak English should hate it and encourage people to rid it from their conversational lexicon.
The phrase? "It is what it is."
Aside from the grammatical horror of this phrase, it is recognized as the substitute for explaining anything. The phrase is used as an excuse not to further a particular point in a conversation, a point that the English language can make with correct words, no less correct grammar.
Let's assume "it," for instance, is the state of politics. One person says, "Aren't you tired of politics?" The other says, "Politics? Well, it is what it is." That is an insult because anyone who would ask that question obviously knows about politics. To say politics "is what it is" is to say, "Politics is politics," or, "Politics will never change, it sucks and you should accept that, you idiot."
No one wants to be called an idiot, especially when trying to start a conversation. Yet, no matter the subject, to say "it is what it is" is to shut down communication with another person.
Another example of the phrase being rude is to understand that people do not say "it is what it is" to themselves. Whether a person is standing still, walking down the street or engaged in a challenging physical activity and that person suddenly experiences massive chest pains, he or she never shrugs the pain off by saying, "It is what it is." Nor does a person begin to eat the food they ordered at a restaurant and realizing that the first fork full of it is laden with human waste continue to eat, saying to his or herself, "It is what it is."
There is no exchange of words in any English conversation that enjoys the comment. Whatever it is, of course, is that which has the name of it, and to tell someone else that it is only what is defined as it is like asking a person who is eating an apple that the person is eating an apple.
Furthermore, if one wants to use the phrase, one must complete the phrase, since it is an incomplete phrase because it does not continue to express correctly the essence of the subject.
For instance, if a person is talking about the sky and is asked why the sky is greay, one could answer say, "It [the sky] is what it is [gray] because there is no sun, which is what helps make the sky blue." To say only that it [the sun] is what it is [grey] is saying, "Yes [nincompoop] the sun is now gray and we all see that."
As well, it is perfectly and philosophically correct to understand that not everything is as it is, is being the current state of a person, place or thing. Because nothing truly "is." Is it?
Frank Cotolo can be found hosting the talk and interview programme Cotolo Chronicles. You can send him an e-mail at this address:
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