The other night, I was chatting with my friend, and for reasons that must have made sense at the time, I said “it is what it is.”
I learned very quickly the ire this phrase brings forth in my friend when he adamantly scolded “Never use that phrase again!”
I don’t know about you, but one of the many reasons I could never be in an organized hierarchy, like the military, is because my first response to orders is to ask why while plotting how to repeat my offense. Or at the very least irk whoever is attempting to command me.
But since this was my friend, I decided to simply ask why before I began plotting.
His argument is that the phrase’s redundancy renders it meaningless. “Of course it is what it is,’ my friend said. ‘You don’t say the car is a car because what else would it be?”
And I can see his point. The phrase is tossed around to appear intelligent or deep (another of his points). But that isn’t how I use that phrase most often.
One of the ways I use the phrase is in affirmation of the trueness of something. I’ve found that often people and things do not always act in the way they are designed or intended to. People can be unspeakably horrible to one another and we call them inhuman. This would be un-true in my head.
More frequently I use the phrase as a sign of my resignation to events beyond my control. It’s a kind of reminder to myself that there are moments in life that I cannot control, so I need to not worry or stress out over them.
And maybe my use of the phrase is laziness or lack of creativity with spoken English (I am a writer and reader and not a speaker). But I find it meaningful, and really, that’s all that I care about. What else is language for but communication, and who else do I have to communicate with more often than myself?
So I’ll continue to use the phrase for myself, and I’ll smirk at the way it would annoy my friend. But I will probably be more hesitant when I utter it, because my friend’s point holds true – it is redundantly meaningless. Whether I use it intentionally around him will depend greatly on how mischievous I’m feeling in that moment.