It happened again last night. In a chat with a friend, he concluded a gripe about a coworker's baffling personality quirks with the words "It is what it is." It is what it is—after every utterance of this tautology, I roll those five syllables around in my head, and all I'm left with is a crushing sense of linguistic uselessness, a few seconds of wasted breath. It is what it is? You don't say—you shouldn't say.
This phrase seemingly has increased in popularity in the 21st century, at least in the circles in which I move. I probably hear it about five times a week. It's replaced c'est la vie and whattaya gonna do? as the default expression for mild exasperation or nonchalant futility. But at least those two phrases coagulate into a semblance of meaning. It is what it is, like all tautologies, stupefies the brain, creates a cerebral isometric exercise that builds a muscle of resentment. Why am I expending precious time trying to extract sense from these vacuous words?
In my experience, generally speaking, the people who use it is what it is are not stupid. On the contrary, many are very smart—although, let's be clear, some certainly are of below-average intelligence. Nevertheless, no matter out of whose mouth these words escape, they always conspire to lower the quality of conversations and to trigger internal sighs in me. Y'all are better than this. I know it. Especially you, Derrick May.