It Is What It Is
More than “you know what I mean?” and starting sentences with either “Honestly?” or “So…,” the locution on everyone’s lips of late is the quasi-philosophical, quasi-nonsensical phrase “It is what it is.”
What do people mean when they say this? Everything is what it is. In rare cases, something isn’t what it seems or appears to be — but, when you strip away the veneer that thing still is what it is (and only pretending to be something else). The opposite has also been demonstrated by modern physics: nothing “is” what it is — but let’s not quibble.
Declaring that something is what it is — the sky is the sky; the ocean is the ocean — is not exactly a powerful insight into the true nature of existence. Of course it is what it is. That’s why we collectively agree that the sky is the sky. Promiscuous users of IIWII, we suspect, understand this elemental fact. What they’re really trying to say is: “I accept reality.”
Try this exercise…
Sideline Reporter to Athlete: “You guys lost your quarterback in the first quarter. That’s a big blow.”
+ Athlete 1: “Well, it is what it is. You know, we just have to [insert litany of cliches here].”
+ Athlete 2: “Well, we accept and embrace the adversity. You know, we just have to [insert litany of cliches here.]”
Other possible meanings of IIWII:
- “What can I do? I resign.”
- “The static ‘it’ I am referring to will never change.”
- “I am able to see this situation with a yogic clarity.”
- “I would like to confirm that there is no subterfuge or chicanery involved; ‘it’ is indeed what ‘it’ purports to be.”
The next time someone declaims with a shrug, “It is what it is. You know what I mean?,” we will nod politely and say, “Yes, I do know what you mean.”
But, honestly? You guys? Not really.