“It’s all good”

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It is what it is.

I’ve been hearing that way too often lately, and it’s driving me crazy.

Just because It Is doesn’t mean it has to be.

Just because It Is doesn’t mean that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Just because It Is doesn’t mean it’s right or best or good.

Just because It Is doesn’t mean it will always be.

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As usual, the internet has shown me that I am not alone.  I stumbled across an article by J. Daniel Janzen over at Flak Magazine that reiterates my dislike for the phrase, “It is what it is.”  In the article, Janzen writes, “Language is at best a poor fit for expressing the human condition…”  He brings up the phrase “It’s all good,” saying that “this magical incantation can shine a lot on even the darkest moment.”  It’s “an expression of stoic resilience by the downtrodden.”

“It is what it is” means what it means. Depending on context, it can be a statement of resignation or of defiance, but in neither case does it connote the optimistic good humor of “It’s all good.” If anything, it expresses the absence of emotion, the abdication of feeling. Although it seems to imply value-neutrality, that misses the point; it’s not so much that something is neither good nor bad, but rather that its quality simply isn’t relevant, that it’s not worth the energy to make a value judgment.

To put it another way — it doesn’t matter what you think about it because you can’t do anything about it anyway….

He says it can be “a tautological device to preclude further inquiry.”  It “can also be an agent of insinuation, a coy refusal to spell out something that the speaker clearly thinks goes without saying.”  Janzen goes on to say:

For years, “It’s all good” served as a rallying cry for the down-but-not-out, a smile as the ultimate umbrella. But there’s no smile on the face of “It its what it is.” This is no Yogi Berra chestnut, but a blunt recognition of power, either by those who hold it or those under its shadow, with no illusions about the ability of mere words to shape or alter frank reality….

 I’m making it my personal goal to eradicate the phrase “It is what it is” from my language lexicon.  I’m going to say “It’s all good,” regardless of the fact that I will seem incredibly out of date with today’s terminology.  I hope my friends do the same.  As Janzen says, “What does it say about the tenor of our times, the popular outlook, our existential commonwealth,” that we’ve switched to “It is what it is?”

I don’t want to think about it.  You know why?

‘Cause it’s all good.


7 responses to ““It’s all good”

  1. Have I said this to you? I hope not. But, I bet I have.

    • delightfuleccentric

      I don’t know – seems like it’s everywhere. Used to hear it at work all the time, and I know Mr. GeauxGirl says it often. Probably nobody thinks twice about it, because everybody says it! 🙂

  2. I don’t say that phrase you don’t want me to say.

    Rather, I prefer: “That’s what she said!”

  3. Isn’t there a paradox in there somewhere? If it truly is “all good” then shouldn’t “it is what it is” be “good” also? I always thought it was just a very abbreviated paraphrase of one part of the serenity prayer. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. I suppose the real meaning would fall to the feeling of the user when it was said. Are they giving up or are they saying I recognize I am unable to fix it?

    I don’t think I use it though,…I think I tend to get annoyed when people use it too, at least when phrased exactly like that. I know I have used it before though, once or twice. I’m sure I’ve conveyed the meaning in some form or another on more than one occasion.

    • delightfuleccentric

      Part of the Serenity Prayer is the ability to change the things you can. To me, “It is what it is” connotes the belief that it can’t be changed. Even stuff that can and SHOULD be changed.

      For example, compare the two phrases below:
      “I’m unemployed, but it is what it is.”
      “I’m unemployed, but it’s all good.”

      To me, “It’s all good” seems to have more following it, silently, like, “I’m unemployed, but it’s all good, I have the time to write a book now!”

      There’s no silent follower to “It is what it is.” That’s my opinion, at least! 😉

  4. I see your point of view. I guess, for me, it would be a circumstantial issue. My grandfather has used the term synonomously with “you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip” and my grandfather is always the positive person. I guess the easiest way to say how it makes me feel is, it’s all good has a positive ring to it,….except where it could possibly be an emotion of denial. But it is what it is strikes me more as being neutral and the circumstances around how it was used would dictate its nature.

    • delightfuleccentric

      Yes, could definitely be denial, but you know what they say – fake it until it’s true! 🙂

      You’re right, it does sound more neutral – which is probably part of what I don’t like about it. “The glass is what it is,” rather than half full or half empty. But it also doesn’t tell me what level the water’s at!