Three times in 36 seconds!
Quite a feat. According to my recent evidence, Vernon Kay currently holds the record for this particular accomplishment. Some might even call it an iconic achievement. But please don't, as I may be tempted to scream... I nearly screamed at the car radio when he did it too. It was a couple of weeks or so ago when it actually happened, during his morning slot on Radio 2 (not my choice of station): Vernon Kay used the word 'iconic' three times in 36 seconds. (I know, such a nerd, I timed it!)
In the short segment I heard he used it to describe Jeremy Vine as the "iconic broadcaster and journalist", a few seconds later he announced Cathy Dennis as "the iconic singer songwriter" and then, just as I was drawing breath ready to emit a shriek of despair at this lack of verbal originality (my "iconic" detector now on full alert), in the very next sentence we were treated to his description of Cathy's big hits as "iconic, anthemic tunes". And who knows how many other times it may have turned up when I wasn't listening?
Of course, once you tune into it you find yourself playing 'Iconic Bingo'. For example, in their current TV ad, Lynx invite you to "smell iconic". Maybelline cosmetics want to sell you "iconic foundation". Magazine articles tell you all about a city's "iconic eats". A quick look through some recent song lyrics and I find lines such as, "lately I've been feeling iconic", "I'm living so iconic" and "iconic brings us together"... Arghh!
Every artist, every book, every film, musician and landmark - they're all deemed "iconic" now. Some of them surely are; I've no issue with that - the adjective was once brought out only to describe something really special, something rare perhaps, undeniably symbolic or memorable, thus it made its point perfectly, we knew what it meant and it had gravitas. So I can't help but find it irritating and a little sad really when terms which were once used sparingly and pertinently like this lose their value - it all seems rather lazy, dull and predictable. We've such a rich and evocative vocabulary, full of choice and nuance; words are such brilliant tools and (last time I looked, anyway) they're free! Instead of "iconic", mightn't it be more interesting to hear a few other descriptions in the mix, such as totemic / eminent / acclaimed / unforgettable / renowned / seminal / emblematic / esteemed / famous (or infamous) / distinctive... etc.?
I know language evolves naturally, meanings change and always have done, but some grate more than others. When the same word is used to describe both the Eiffel Tower and your local bakery's doughnut recipe, you know it's had its day.
(Just as I type this post, a promotional email has popped into my inbox from M&S entitled 'Meet our icons'. Who/what are these icons? A checked suit, a roll-neck sweater, loafers and a top-handle bag.)