My new column for the Visual Thesaurus, “There’s Something About ‘Thing’,” takes a look at the astonishing versatility and utility of thing, one of the oldest words in the English language. Thing dates back to at least the seventh century C.E., yet it’s as current as the oft-invoked Internet of Things – a 1999 coinage to describe devices (thermostats, refrigerators, even garbage cans) with their own means of gathering information and understanding the world.
Full access to the column is restricted to subscribers for three months. Here’s an excerpt:
One new thing slogan appropriates an idiom that seems newly coined but is in fact decades old. Earlier this year, the cable channel truTV — which broadcasts, among other programming, some of the games of the NCAA basketball tournament, also known as March Madness — revealed a new, scrawled tagline: "truTV is A Thing.” The slogan turns a pop-culture expression into a positive declaration while sounding a bit self-effacing. “We're not the biggest channel on earth,” a spokesperson told me via Twitter. Rather, he said, truTV is modestly asserting that “we exist.”
“It’s a thing” and “Is that even a thing?” are trendy right now. But as Patricia O’Connor pointed out last year in her Grammarphobia blog, versions of the phrase have been around since at least the mid-1980s. She found an example in a 1984 issue of Musician magazine:
In the article, Garry Tallent, the bassist for the E Street Band, comments on a People magazine piece that compared the “clean-living” band to the Hardy Boys.
“It’s true,” Tallent is quoted as saying, “but, especially since People magazine, it’s become a thing.”
Read the rest of “There’s Something About ‘Thing’”