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Zoë Triska

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The Phrase That Makes You Sound Like A Douchebag

Posted: 05/21/2012 8:46 am

Once upon a time, I dated this guy. He was a complete douchebag.

Oh, there were many signs in advance that he was scummy. He was very rarely available; seeing him was always on his terms; he never really wanted to commit, even after months of dating. But there's one thing that should have tipped me off immediately to his sliminess: When asked about commitment, he would consistently say, "It is what it is."

I moved to New York City from Houston, Texas right after graduating from college. I had just landed my job at The Huffington Post as an intern after working months of retail. I was extremely insecure and willing to put up with a lot more from men than I am now.

I met Architect* through a friend of my mom's, oddly enough. At first, he seemed perfect. He was indeed an architect, handsome, artistic and charming. He swept me off my feet. At the beginning, he called and texted constantly, and he always wanted to see me.

However, Architect was applying to graduate school in California, and so he could simply not commit to me, could not call me his "girlfriend," could not say that we were in a serious relationship, even after three or four months of dating. His response, without fail? A shrug and "It is what it is."

What does that even mean?

You're essentially saying that you're not strong enough to either be honest or offer up any kind of solution. It's an acceptance of defeat, resignation. It makes you look like a douchebag... and a moron.

Let's be real here: "It is what it is" is simply a way to evade making any true effort in a conversation or contribute anything remotely important. People only say it to feel like they've contributed something orally to a conversation, when in fact, they have contributed absolutely nothing at all.

As William Safire writes in a New York Times Magazine article on the phrase, "It is a deliberate tautology (the Greek tauto means "the same") designed to define itself by repetition of itself. Because it needs a name, let's call it a 'tautophrase.' Often accompanied by a shrug, it is used to deflect inquiry with panache."

But where did this phrase even come from? According to Safire, the first known usage was from a 1949 column by J.E. Lawrence in The Nebraska State Journal: "New land is harsh, and vigorous, and sturdy. It scorns evidence of weakness. There is nothing of sham or hypocrisy in it. It is what it is, without apology."

It was also the title of a 2001 Billy Frolick film, though he refuses to take responsibility for the popularity of the phrase. In a New York Times interview, he stated, "I couldn't be more positive that my movie had no appreciative effect on the phrase's popularity because the film hasn't been released."

Frolick only titled it thusly because he wanted a phrase that "reflected the zeitgeist, and in 1999, when [he] wrote the script [he] was hearing people say 'it is what it is' quite often."

I am not the only person who despises this phrase. It was coined the most "overused phrase of 2004" by USA Today, who examined its ridiculous overuse in sports. It also "won" in 2005, the only phrase to be a repeat offender.

In 2007, the Creative Group, a California company that represents marketers and advertisers, asked its clients to pick the most annoying, overused phrases in the industry. "It is what is is" was noted among them.

Even Frolick, when confronted about the use of "It is what it is" responded, "My reaction is often that the [phrase user] can't think of anything intelligent to say. Maybe they are A) out of breath B) not getting enough oxygen to their brain, or C) there isn't much brain to get oxygen to."

If the above isn't bad enough, it was used in 2004 by George W. Bush concerning his presidential race against John Kerry. When exit polls during the election showed Kerry winning, Bush could only respond, "Well, it is what it is" (if you need further proof that only douchebags use this phrase, I don't know what more I can tell you).

Luckily, in the end, I learned my lesson. I broke things off with Architect, and I will run for the hills if I ever hear another man utter this terrible phrase.

I can only urge you, dear readers, to do the same.

What phrase do YOU think makes someone a douchebag, or is a complete deal-breaker for you? Let me know in the comments!

*Name changed to protect the douchebag's identity, though he seriously doesn't deserve it.

 

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