Icon therefore I am


What have the Lollipop Person of the Year Competition and Lady Gaga’s sunglasses got in common? Oh come on, it’s not that hard. The answer is they are among the 26,000 things that have been described as iconic in the press in the last three months.

Iconicity (iconicism? iconification?), my made-up word meaning “the tendency to write that something is iconic because you can’t be bothered to think of an accurate way to describe it”, is up by a factor of about six since the millennium. Look at this graph of the use of the word in the European press. The source, as ever, is Factiva.

(If you think this is all down to overcaffeinated PR people, I think you’re wrong. Of the 46,000-odd mentions of “iconic” since the beginning of 2008, only 143 came from PR Newswire. This one’s simply lazy journalism, it seems.)

I think some of the explosive growth comes from the need to write about inexplicably famous people who don’t have an obvious talent. Calling their hair, their outfits or their body parts “iconic” is handy when there’s just nothing polite we can say.

Perhaps this is why, when I think of the word iconic, I think of money and effluent. So I had a look to see how often the word is popping up in the accountancy press and among waste management writers.

As you can see, after a slow start, much more of the accountancy trade has become iconic. The word is most often used in articles about cost reduction, the iconic financial strategy of 2009:

And the adjective is trending strongly in the waste management and sewage sectors too:

It pleases me that, in this category, the word iconic comes up most often in articles about the stuff that the industry calls solid waste.

Also iconic

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Cut out your waffle: buy my book

Type your email and click the button and you will automatically get every new post.

“This excellent collection” (Director Magazine). Click to order:

I tweet