15 March 2011

An Iconic Year for the Pusillanimous Logophile

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed that Americans are wearing out a particular word this year?  Maybe it didn't start this year.  Maybe I simply started noticing it this year when really it has been an underground movement that finally surfaced enough that I noticed.  Whatever the case, starting at the beginning of 2011, my best friend and I started noticing that everyone on television and lots more in print were throwing the word iconic around like it was absolutely indispensable to the English language. Suddenly it's being used in reference to hockey jerseys, movies, rock stars, and everything else that is in the spotlight.  It seems that nothing is worthy of our attention unless it is iconic.

I have noticed in the past that when I learned a new word that I suddenly started reading and hearing it everywhere I turn. Only in this case, it is not at all a new word in my vocabulary.  Perhaps it is someone else's new word that is suddenly everywhere, and my buddy and I are just caught in the crossfire.  Whatever it is, it has gone beyond coincidence; it has gone beyond quirky.  Now it is downright annoying.

Everyone in the English-speaking world, hear me!  Please stop wearing out this word.  By it's very definition, for something to be iconic, it has to be something or someone that represents whatever group or thing to which it is being compared or to which it belongs.  This word cannot possibly be appropriate to everyone and everything in the whole world, or its meaning becomes diluted.

I suspect that this sudden extreme usage of this word can be attributed to the speed at which information is being transmitted around the globe via television, the internet, and cell phones.  That's great.  I have no problem with that, but could we just switch out the catch word once a week at least?  I get dictionary words delivered to my email every day.  Let's use some of those.  They are perfectly good words and they are languishing in the word pool, while iconic is being bandied about like a beach ball on a hot day.  The word has become even more cliche than the word cliche, if that is at all possible.  I'd like to see writers and public speakers come up with some new words before that one gets completely stretched out of shape and has to be chucked  into the charity bin.  Today's word is pusillanimous.   I'm tossing that one onto the court.  Now let's play ball.  Unless you are too pusillanimous to try.

In the three days after I posted this blog, I heard the word iconic on television four more times.  It was applied to a recipe (an "iconic dish"), Mt. Fuji (the "iconic volcano"), the new Jeep ("iconic beauty"), and last but not least, a Coca-cola bottle (the "iconic bottle").  I'll give them the iconic bottle for coke, but not the rest of them.

My Facebook post on March 19th. <OMG! Now there is an "iconic Native American Indian head" on a gold coin. *bangs head against the wall*>  I can see this one too, but most of these descriptions are too lame for words.  Particularly overused words.

Beth Mitchum is the author of five novels, one collection of poetry, and one music CD. Her works are available at Amazon.com through the following link: http://tinyurl.com/bethmitchumbooks