What is up with what is up?

Somewhere along the way, people decided to start saying “It is what it is.” No one knows why, but God knows everyone wishes they would stop.

I started hearing it last year some time, and I knew “it is what it is” had really made it when it appeared on the American version of the office (B. J. Novak, as Ryan, throws it in a rant filled with other business platitudes).

Soon after, I heard my actual boss say it on a conference call. Then, a client at work. Now, as of last week, my therapist, from whom I expected more (Me: “Why are the flying monkeys talking to me?” Her: “It is what is is.”)

Could any phrase, in the history of language, signify less? A is equal to what A is equal to. “It is what it is” could be summarized thusly: “it.”

My friend Ian pointed out another recent offender: “Going forward.” This is used, very, very often in my experience, at work to propose an action, for example: “Going forward, let’s make money instead of losing it.”

You don’t need the “Going forward” part. We’re certainly not going to do things previously. Proposing or mandating action is rarely effective when applied to the past. “Looking backward, let’s sell more ads yesterday.” Actually, I wouldn’t put that past the rank and file of managers I’ve met, but, you know, “time travel is impossible as time travel is impossible.”

“It is what it is” reminds me of our neighbor Patrick in Mississippi who would say “for obvious reasons.” But he never left well enough alone, and was compelled to then spell out his reasons, no matter how obvious. The one Pulao and I remember the most was when he got his pet rabbit, Floppy, whom he had named “for obvious reasons,” which were (obviously) that the rabbit grew up in a flophouse.

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