This week, a poll was released determining the most annoying language currently used. The winner was, you know, whatever.
But it was one of the other results that I think is a lot more interesting. It could be that I’m making much ado about nothing, but hear me out.
The second runner up was, “It is what it is” with 11% of the vote. Now, I totally understand why people might think it annoying; at a basic level, it tells us nothing. It sort of begs for a response of “Duh.”
I’d argue though that it actually has some deeper philosophical meanings. The reason people say it (or heck, the reason I say it) is because I want to point out that there is nothing that can be done about the circumstances. Whatever (ha) “it” is, it’s beyond our control and it doesn’t mean anything significant.
I think it’s pretty significant that people are using this turn of phrase. I just heard it on The Daily Show the other night. I’ve heard my friends and family use it. I’ve heard my colleagues and mentors use it. And I use it. I think the spread of this expression is more than just the evolution of “annoying” slang.
Think of the language that doesn’t get used because of “it is what it is.”
Instead of “I had a streak of some bad luck!” one might say, “It is what it is,” recognizing that while ze’s not happy about what has happened, ze understands it was beyond hir control.
Instead of “Maybe it’s a sign! Or an omen of what’s to come!” one might say, “It is what it is,” recognizing that however remarkable the events have been, their coincidence has no deeper significance.
Instead of “God works in mysterious ways!” one might say, “It is what it is,” recognizing that there is no “God” determining what happens in our lives.
See what I mean? I think that the use of this little expression speaks to the secularism spreading in our vernacular. We don’t hear people talking about prophesies or legends anymore. Fortune cookies seem to be more “words of wisdom” than actual fortunes of what’s to come. And if in our daily conversations, we are recognizing that what happens is really just what happens and nothing more, it means we are looking for meaning less and less.
I don’t think everybody who says it is automatically an atheist. That’d be silly. But, I think that those who are willing to accept this kind of thinking are on the road to secularism. It’s an abandonment of superstition, which is really all religion is (just on a grander scale). And the vernacular is one of the most perceivable descriptors of the Zeitgeist.
Maybe I’m reading into this too much. Maybe it just is what it is. Or maybe more people are starting to think about the world in a more evolved, intellectual way. What do you think?