Princess Diana or a latte? Only one is iconic
I will accept that Princess Diana is iconic
ONLY fools and the halfhearted would start their New Year’s Resolutions on January 1. It’s still Christmas on January 1, sort of. It’s certainly still the festive period and if you’ve used up all your leftovers and eaten all your sweet treats you are a better (or perhaps worse) woman than I am.
The whole idea of a mid-winter festival is to keep the populace going when the nights draw in early and the weather is grim.
Don’t start your deprivation on January 1. That way madness and failure lies. But good intentions and the proactive steps to becoming a better person must start sometime.
Make that time Epiphany, which, for those of you not paying attention, was yesterday and also, neatly, fell on a Monday.
I have several resolutions this year but I’m not here to bore you with those. No, I am here to implore you to make a resolution on my behalf.
You don’t owe me anything and it is of no benefit to you but... hear me out, at least. Can we all please, dear, sweet reader, stop using the word “iconic” to describe things that are so far from iconic to be bog-absolute-standard? Please. In 2018, my mum and I went back to Sydney to visit relatives and friends.
We’d travelled 12,000 miles to the other side of the world, and wanted to do a bit of touristy sight-seeing.
Off to the Powerhouse Museum we went where, to my horror, among the permanent exhibits (which, interestingly, including a swatch of wallpaper from Timorous Beasties on Great Western Road) was a temporary exhibition called... Iconic.
Was there to be no escape? But I couldn’t object to this one. The items and ideas and on show actually made a good argument for being iconic.
A famous jumper worn by Princess Diana.
A Mini Cooper car.
I will accept that Princess Diana and Kylie Minogue are iconic. Just before Christmas I walked past a poster advertisement on a bus stop that was trying to convince me that the Starbuck Toffee Nut Latte is iconic.
The Taj Mahal is iconic. Some hot milk with three pumps (or four or five, depending on the size of the mug and my memory from when I worked there) of syrup, some whipped cream and sprinkles is not iconic.
It is not iconic.
I’ve been looking for a picture to illustrate this column so I typed, as you might expect, the word “iconic” into our picture archive. There were more than 1000 image results for the word iconic. Allow me to tell you how many of the items appearing in those images were iconic. That’s right, none.
The Sydney fireworks were one. I am from Sydney, I like fireworks. They are not iconic. Especially not now that the country is on fire and the prime minister, Scott Morrison, is doing an abysmal job of leading Australis through a national crisis.
An oak tree in
Watford is described as iconic. That doesn’t even deserve pausing to consider it.
The Forth Bridge. Ok, I see where you’re coming from but no.
The Exhibition of Icons, a gold leaf painting of Jesus Christ. Yes. This is exactly right.
The Optimo DJs. Right, I like a dance as much as the next person but I’m sorry lads, no. Travis’s album The Man Who. Guys, guys, what is wrong with everyone?
Back in the day, for I am very ancient, the Evening Times, as it was, had a rule that we did not use the word iconic in the paper.
It was part of what newspapers call a “style guide” – the rules writers have to follow to ensure the paper is uniform, that all the stories look and sound in character with the newspaper.
This can be things like the date. Our house style is Tuesday, January 6, for example. Day of the week comma month day of the month.
Or how we use words. So, we wouldn’t say a person has been evacuated. Only that a building can be evacuated.
“The City Chambers has been evacuated” is a very different proposition from “The Lord Provost must evacuate”.
Of course, that second usage of evacuate is so old fashioned as to be obsolete now and an up-to-date style guide likely wouldn’t bother about it.
But it’s important to be aware of these things, when your stock in trade is words and communication.
So too with “iconic”. And icon previously referred to a religious artifact and that’s how our paper would use it.
Traditionally, a chance to the style guide would come down from on high (an editor) but, with the dawn of the internet, the word iconic is suddenly liberally sprinkled everywhere and, to ape the style of the same internet, I can’t cope.
The problem is that everything is so hyped up and so many brands and so many internet news stories are vying for attention. It’s not just a latte, it’s an iconic latte. It’s not just a road closure, it’s the closure of an iconic road.
Of course, soon absolutely everything will be iconic, at which point nothing will be.
Do everyone a favour, give it a rest.