You’ve surely heard the phrase in which someone asks or states that a popular trend of some kind ‘is a thing.’ I’m ready for it to go away.
Have you wondered why questioning whether something “is a thing” is…well…a thing? I have. It could be one of the most annoying idioms that I’ve heard in a while. I think that’s primarily because you hear it so often these days.
I’m not sure that it technically qualifies as an idiom, which is a phrase with a meaning that isn’t obvious at the phrase’s face value. Asking if something’s a thing means what it says.
Although at times, the thing is deliberately vague. The website Urban Dictionary offers this example of this type of thing:
“Are you dating Stacy?”
“No but we have a thing.”
In this case, the thing seems to mean something, but it’s not clear exactly what.
You most commonly hear the phrase in a question, when someone suggests some new thing or concept the listener hasn’t heard of before. The listener then responds with something along the lines of, “Is that a thing now?”
Or, when something changes and a new way of doing something appears, you could call that “a thing.”
I tend to think of it as a rephrasing (albeit an unnecessary rephrasing) of the old question, “Is there such a thing?”
All Ears English suggests using “a thing” in this manner could carry at least three meanings:
- It exists.
- It’s real.
- I’m serious.
It also notes the phrase is mostly used by people in their 20s and 30s. Unfortunately, those of us in our 50s are forced to listen to it a bit too often from said twentysomethings and thirtysomethings.
The origin of the phrase isn’t clear. But it seems a fairly recent addition to the English vernacular. Still, if you need a way to say that something is real, valid, trending or common, that phrase seems to work.
But please us it sparingly.