The homepage of my e-mail had a story about an iconic picture of a couple kissing during the Vancouver Riots this summer. Their identities had been revealed! Stop the presses!
What in the world was so iconic about that picture? Possibly just the fact that it brought to mind the truly iconic picture of the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square on V-J Day. Or the picture of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr kissing on the beach.
But kissing during theVancouver riots? Hardly iconic.
I got to share this soapbox with my sister, Monica, a few days ago; although she’s not quite as much of a grammar grouch as I am. She keeps reminding me that we have a changing language and if our language didn’t change we’d still be speaking King James English.
But we agreed on this iconic pet peeve.
The word means “pertaining to, or having the characteristics of an icon.” It’s representative of something. I get that. But once again, a really great word has been cheapened by overuse.
Maybe I’m too much of a literalist. And as long as we’re talking about icons… When I was in second grade I took my new doll to school and a couple of big girls from the fourth grade admired her. “Oh she’s adorable!” they gushed. I was troubled about that for days, literally for days – my little Catholic schoolgirl mind could not grasp how a doll could be adorable.
But now, half a century later I think that’s kind of an adorable memory. Dare I say it’s an iconic memory?
One morning not too long ago another picture on the computer caught my eye. It shows a beautiful woman strolling along a street in Italy. She was being ogled by about 15 Italian men lounging nearby. It’s an amazing picture. The lights and shadows are perfect, and the photographer captured the decisive moment. I was completely caught up in it – the happy self-confidence of the young woman’s stride, and the varied expressions on each face. My mind filled with “stories” that picture could tell! But then I saw the word “iconic” and I just wanted to scream.
I put the word “iconic” into my search engine and found iconic motorcycles, iconic desks, iconic songs, books, dresses, hairstyles. Every single thing in the world can not be iconic!
I went into the bedroom where John was doing his morning stretches. I leaned against the doorway, “Say three words.”
“Just say any three words that come to your mind.” I urged him, “Nouns.”
My sweet husband just gave me one of those looks and shook his head and laughed, “Okay…uh, kickballs, clothespins and chainsaws.”
I returned to my computer.
There were no iconic chainsaws, although right away I found a “iconic scene” from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
I couldn’t find an iconic clothespin, however there is a so-called iconic sculpture of a clothespin near the city hall in Philadelphia.
But there was no sign of iconic kickballs. Hmmm, it’s probably just a matter of time.