Princess Diana or a latte? Only one is iconic

Evening Times - - NEWS -

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.

Kylie Minogue.

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.

Ca­tri­ona Ste­wart

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