This essay is iconic

     (<a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-122508757/stock-photo-stained-glass-window-depicting-sacred-heart-of-jesus.html'>Iconographic Christian image</a> image courtesy  of Shutterstock.com)

    (Iconographic Christian image image courtesy of Shutterstock.com)

    Thirtieth Street Station’s name is iconic, so no one should change it. The “Rocky” steps to the Art Museum are iconic, so no city planner should re-think them. Rittenhouse Square is iconic, at least for its wealthy residents.

    Everything is iconic these days. It’s ironic.

    It’s iconic.

    Thirtieth Street Station’s name is iconic, so no one should change it. The “Rocky” steps to the Art Museum are iconic, so no city planner should re-think them. Rittenhouse Square is iconic, at least for its wealthy residents.

    Everything is iconic these days. It’s ironic.

    The noun “icon” originally meant a traditional painting of Jesus or another holy figure, typically adored by Eastern churches, especially the Byzantine. Something or someone was an idol to revere, a paragon of proper behavior, a hero.

    And the adjective “iconic” described an icon. But the connotation shifted, as meanings do, toward something merely distinctive or unique — like a classical Greek sculpture depicting a victorious athlete. The term slid downward, you might say. Today a person, place or thing — or product — can bear the “iconic” label simply by being extraordinary — “out of the ordinary” — like a prototype. An entity to emulate, a place to visit.

    Ironically, “iconic” now categorizes something merely special. The word has spread like kudzu across the tongues of Americans. Stop using the invasive word “iconic” in a sentence, boys and girls. These three examples, lurking on promotional sites around the internet, misuse the word with frustrating frequency.

    “Hugging the dramatic cliff side on a Greek island, the iconic hotel’s cave-carved rooms begin at $994.83 per night.”You mean “awesome,” right?
    “Swiss watchmakers spawned a bevy of iconic timepieces with equally iconic names.”You mean “well known,” right?
    “The woman created a line of iconic quilts that reflect on her mother’s and grandmother’s lives.”They’re a brand new product, and they’re already iconic?

    Here’s what’s iconic: The Eiffel Tower. The Grand Canyon. The photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt of an American sailor kissing a woman in a white dress in Times Square during the celebration of V.J. Day on August 14, 1945.

    Mahatma Gandhi and the Taj Mahal, which share nothing but a home land, are iconic. Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt — plus Mount Rushmore — are iconic. George Claude’s invention of the neon light; Binney and Smith’s inventions of the crayon; William Kellogg’s invention of corn flakes: they are iconic.

    The word “icon” has weakened to mean anything you can recognize, or anything you like, even a new latté flavor or dog breed. But the more we call every creation iconic, the less impact the word has. If every new tech product is an icon, how do we describe something truly innovative and enduring, like the first hand-held cell phone? If every new tall structure is an iconic piece of architecture, what do we call the instantly identifiable silhouette of the Sphinx?

    Words flex as fluidly as do politics, petticoats and popular music. Word usage always changes, often with the result that reasonable terms acquire annoying connotations. Most shifts I tolerate, but this one aggravates. I denounce the use of the ubiquitous, clichéd word “iconic.”

    Unless you’re speaking about Bill Cosby’s bit on serving ice cream to kids after tonsillectomy.

    To me, that is iconic. It lacks religious significance, but it’s funny as heck, and it’s as one-of-a-kind as you can get.

    Bill Cosby’s work is iconic. Or was. Cosby may have coined a new term: “self-iconoclastic”: attacking his own cherished reputation.

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