Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with a passion. Learn More

Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with a passion. Learn More



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December 20, 2009

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Latest Comments

That's far too edgy a comment for me, Jan. But I agree. Some people would consider Barbara Bush or Mamie Eisenhower edgy. I take your point.

“It is what it is”

  • December 23, 2009, 3:41pm

Not necessarily first time the expression was used.

What are you saying about white people? I don't catch the humor there, Miss Cordova. Please share it with all of us.

“It is what it is”

  • December 22, 2009, 9:32pm

Only intuition.

No dig.

Some slang gradually (or suddenly) becomes part of the lexicon. At the least, slang affects other words and language as a whole. Here's an example I can't prove, but neither can you disprove it.

"No way!" may likely have made it into the common language around the time of 1966 or so, when Aretha Franklin recorded a song called "Ain''t No Way". The phrase itself already existed but she made it popular. All this time later it's almost Standard English, and newspaper columnists write:

Ain't no way Tiger Woods will get over this one."

No way will Obama ave an easy time passing the legislation.

Language is constantly changing, but I believe we should try to help it change for the letter, in a positive, enriching way, not in a sloppy or imprecise or VAGUE way.

“It is what it is”

  • December 22, 2009, 7:30am

That's expressing vagueness. What is that?

You say "It is what it is" does not descend from "What it is", and that you'd need evidence to believe otherwise. The way you chose to say that, you disagree with yourself. What you actually mean is you don't agree, but it would be better if you had a reason. As it is, you sound superior, as if you can judge what means this and that without reasons.

Furthermore, if you communicate vagueness, how will anyone else understand that except very vaguely? That's what lovers do, and close friends, but the rest of us need meaning in our communication. Otherwise we get in trouble one way or another, because vagueness from Person A means Person B has to guess at Person A's meaning.

Imagine if your Boss is vague with you and you have to interpret what he or she means. Imagine your credit card company is vague with you, but you have to pay them or grow deeper into debt. If a criminal on the street stops you and says something vague to you, you'd better know what he means and give it to him, or else you may be beaten or shot.

Again, there may be a perception of "coolness" and laid back quality in being vague, but the value of it is illusive. No worthy artist is ever vague, except in her inferior work. (By the way, classically "cool" means "oppressed but calm and apparently indifferent", deriving probably from African-American jazz musicians in the first half of the 20th Century.)

Do you think the expression, "It is what it is" descends (comes from) no source at all, and was uttered or spoken by someone with complete novelty? That is has no basis whatsoever in the past? I'd challenge that assumption because most of our terms and cliches do come from a previous proposition or idea. Send me some and I'll try to puzzle them out.

I don't answer Why questions. Careless, stupid misuse of language tends to degrade it.

“I’m just saying”

  • December 20, 2009, 9:54pm

Thank you, yes. It was both a typo and an absent-minded error. Thanks for correcting me.

“Zen” as an Adjective

  • December 20, 2009, 9:52pm

Why do you say that Porsche? Why is Feng Shui "Zen"? I didn't mean that. I don't know if you're right or wrong or what. That's why we need to define these terms, or not use them at all. Please explain.

"Feng shui" means "in accordance with The Way, The Tao", doesn't it? Pleasing to and in accordance with the Spirit and Nature of All Things. I think. The original Zen would not be that, although similar in tone.

“It is what it is”

  • December 20, 2009, 11:59am

I don't understand what you're saying.

“I’m just saying”

  • December 20, 2009, 5:01am

That phrase -- which I like, too, in moderation -- sounds as if it comes from Jewish comedians of the 1930s and 1940s, possibly from Yiddish theater and drama of the era, or possibly the stereotype of the Jewish mama, the zenta, who is usually a nagger: nags her husband, her children, her sister in Brooklyn. For example:

"I'm not saying marry a rich boy, Rachel, but it's just as easy to fall in love with someone rich as it is with someone poor. I'm just saying .. "

The rich, earthy, usually wise resonances of colloquial Jewish American speech seem to come across in this phrase. It's subtler and often more persuasive than saying, "Now listen, I'm not ordering you, but .. " or "I'm not telling you what to do, but .. "

Maybe the famous "Molly Goldberg" said it on her radio program or "Mrs.Nussbaum", or Hermoine Gingold, or someone like that. That's my guess.

“Zen” as an Adjective

  • December 20, 2009, 4:37am

"Zen" used casually nowadays seems to me to mean "mellow", "mature without being stodgy or Establishment, "savvy", "cool" and most importantly, with an insight of how all things are One, peace is a primary goal of being alive, and reverence for Nature and inner beauty is another. These notions do come from Zen Buddhism, but for most people who used the word "Zen" this way, not directly. That is, they hear others use te world and consider these people mellow, mature, savvy, cool, and insightful. Then these people at the third remove begin using the word Zen, too. A few people always regarded as Zen are Sting the singer; Joni Mitchell the singer; Jack Nicholson the actor: and probably Steven Jobs, CEO of Apple. I forgot to mention "Zen" also has connotations of "quiet", "understated" and "indirect". Muhammad Ali is regarded as cool but too loud and direct to be Zen. Johnny Depp is Zen. To avoid making this definition circular, we'd also have to define words such as "cool" and "mellow". I don't like the term "Zen" used this way because its vague and I think faddish. Traditionally and originally, the word "Zen" has a specific meaning, not the same as the faddish "Zen". I'd suggest we all try a little harder to find the exact word or words we have in mind when we mean something.