Feature, Random Safari Express

It Is What It Is

By Carlos Eton

A long, long, long, long time ago my grandmother and I were at a mall watching a group of boys and girls my age engaged in what at first glance looked like conversation.  As we observed their body language from a relatively safe distance, we noticed that all five of the teenage kids were talking at the same time, mostly talking over each other.

Granny turned to me and said, You know, silence is golden, which explains why so many people are poor.

She explained that people don’t always know how to deal with quiet.  In fact, they are so afraid of silence that they will say random things that make no absolute sense.

Granny turned to me and said, You know, silence is golden, which explains why so many people are poor.

Like it is what it is.”  Never in the history of humankind has a phrase demonstrated a lack of meaning as “it is what it is.”  Of course, it is what it isEverything is what it is.  It’s a phrase that someone will utter to us when there is nothing else to say.

At least cartoon character Popeye added some relevance when he quipped “I yam what I yam” prior to engaging in some rather questionable spinach-infused acts of mayhem and destruction of public property.



I think we should come up with a new term for phrases like “it is what it is.”  I proposeinconsequential idioms or II.  We experience these all the time—words and phrases that really don’t need to be said.  And, like a budding spring harvest, our language is bountiful with inconsequential idioms.

One of my favorites is “to be honest.”  Nothing chips away at personal confidence as a speaker who injects “to be honest” repeatedly in what is usually a justification for his or her behavior.  It always prompts us to ask “Well, were you lying to us before?  Or are you lying to us now?  We can’t tell the difference, to be honest.”

How about this one?  Here we are, dining in public, having what we hope is an interesting conversation with our love interests when the busybody lady at the next table scurries over to us and says, “I couldn’t help overhear your conversation.”    Yes, she could have helped it.  She just wanted to butt in.  But in what is now becoming a display of linguistic sadism, she continues by hurling another inconsequential idiom at us.  “I’m not asking for myself, but I have a friend.”  Sure, she does.  She’s just neglecting that her friend is actually herself.  And, in spite of our efforts to end the conversation, the linguistic carnage continues.  “Well, that’s really something, you know what I’m sayin’.”  Well, yes, we do know what she’s saying—after all, our comprehensive skillset is at least that of an eighth grader, or even higher (before we start drinking dinner wine).  Her meandering messages now prompt us to satisfy the need to quickly develop an exit strategy and end this unwanted and unfortunate dialogue once and for all.

And, as if on cue, she utters what will most likely be a prelude to even more inconsequential idioms.  Without displaying any type of shame or desire for time management, she pauses and says “to make a long story short.”

Too late.  I have a friend who’s already looking for a fire alarm lever to pull, to be honestIt is what it isyou know what I’m sayin’?


The Random Safari Express, a serial feature column by senior UVI Communication student and humorist Carlos Eton, celebrates comedy, philosophy, and the thousand (often ridiculous) random thoughts that pop into our heads during the quiet moments of our day.

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