on behalf of a researcher

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Thu Feb 16 22:37:34 UTC 2006

this is posted on behalf of Aaron Britt, who is now doing the
research and reporting for William Safire.  i've given him a
moderately lame response.  maybe some of you can do better.  please
copy your response to him at: aarondbritt at gmail.com.

There is a phrase that has been in the news lately- Scott McClellan
and Britney Spears have both used it in the last couple weeks and I
wonder if you can tell me more about it.  The phrase is: It is what
it is.

What precisely does this mean?  How does this phrase function in
conversation?  It seems to suggest that there's no more to say, or is
this a ruse to try to shut down conversation?  When someone utters
this phrase what are they trying to convey?  Can you think of other
phrases that convey the same thing, or nearly the same thing?  Some
that come to mind are 'What's done is done' or 'It speaks for itself.'

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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