Can We Agree That Not Every Interesting Thing Or Person Is ‘Iconic?’

The word “iconic” shows up 1,840 times in a search of NPR.org for the past year.

It appears 194 times in a search of just what we’ve broadcast since last Aug. 22.

Movie scenes. Photos. Athletes. Animals. Apps. Godzilla*. We’ve heard and read that all those, and more, are iconic.

It’s been said that iconic is among the English language’s most overused words.

Overuse dilutes the word’s impact. Let’s save it for references to true icons. That is, those people or things that are “revered” or that embody “the essential characteristics of an era, group, etc.” (Webster’s New World College Dictionary)

There are many other words to choose from. Last year, Washingtonian senior editor Bill O’Sullivan suggested these 10: “legendary, pioneering, incomparable, signature, trademark, definitive, unmatched, unforgettable, unparalleled, one-of-a-kind.” (Of course, if you use superlatives such as one-of-a-kind you need to be sure that person or thing really is one-of-a-kind.)

*Save your outrage. I’m not saying Godzilla isn’t iconic.

(“Memmos;” Aug. 22, 2017)

August 22, 2017

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