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Grammar

Why We Ask If Something ‘Is a Thing’

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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.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.