Loose Ends: “It is what it is”

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MEEKER | “It is what it is” is the latest phrase to crop up in our daily conversations. It is an earworm without music. Most of us pride ourselves on “telling it like it is” and a few regions of our country are better at it than others. Westerners are often known for speaking plainly — no extra words, no conversational embellishments or fancy flourishes. Midwesterners have also laid claim to that style of speech. An increased number of words and quicker pace of delivery often covers up what is being said.

This phrase is easy to utter and comes in handy for all kinds of situations —pandemics, economic woes, or family dysfunctions. Once it is said aloud however, the implication is embedded in the tone and kind of delivery so it can serve as a conversation stopper. The meaning of it is clear. It says to anyone listening that the speaker does not want to talk about it. After all we have all been trained to politely respond while trying to end a conversation. No “shut up!” will be tolerated.

Some of us will protest that we didn’t imply anything, we are “just saying,” another overused conversational response. Does one person’s interpretation really differ from another, based on tone and inflection? Can a positive or negative outlook be detected or is it truly just convenient to use it.

Still faced with a surge from the Pandemic, as well as the threat of a mutation of the original COVID-19 virus, most of us seek out our neighbors and friends. We become conversational junkies. Many people are depending on the phrase to explain one’s inability to do anything about it until we are all vaccinated. This is the same response even more of us have to the political divisiveness that is running rampant in our country.

The culture clash I experienced was very real when trying to fit in to my new community. I refuse to resurrect the pat phrase that could be used so very appropriately. Well, I could coin a new version of it to describe my own reaction years ago — “It was what it was.” I talked too fast, used too many words in each sentence, and loved to use words one friend teased as “high falutin.” I also talked too much. My conversational style hasn’t changed much over the years, even though I have spent most of my life out west.

One’s perspective or view of the changing world around them is influenced by their age or experience. Maturation tends to remove the bad habit of blurting things out or offering an opinion without much experience or background, for most of us. My main problem with this overused phrase is that it can often be used as a “cop-out.” It simply removes one from the conversation, as it implies there is no action to be taken. “I’m done” is often added on to the response, just in case the listener didn’t get it.

Finito, finished, no more to say, could be substituted but will not be as effective in ending the communication. The listener may take it as a challenge to continue talking, to find out why you seem to be so impolite. So, I am going ahead for a few more days before listing that phrase on the top of my New Year’s Resolutions.

Plain and simple, 2020 “is what it is.” I am looking forward to changing my response to “it was what it was.” Happy New Year!


By DOLLY VISCARDI – Special to the Herald Times

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