When did everything and everyone become ‘iconic’?

About 20 years ago I was very fond of the word ‘iconic’. It really emphasised the visual impact and/or cultural importance of an object or person.

I reserved the word for those special occasions when something or someone WAS truly iconic. Things like the Eiffel Tower, Sydney Opera House and the Union Jack were all iconic, I felt. Similarly, people like Marilyn Monroe, Abraham Lincoln and Muhammad Ali were also icons in my mind.

However, nowadays the term is assigned lightly and frequently to almost anything and anyone by lazy writers and speakers who wish to ‘sex up’ what they are communicating.

Even works of music, which form no solid shape, are often described as iconic.

I felt compelled to write this blog post after reading in a TV magazine recently that the characters Abi and Lauren in Eastenders were an ‘iconic duo’.

Unbelievable, eh?

If you’re still reading this then you probably agree with me that the word has lost its potency through overuse.

So how do we take it back? Well, the sad news is that we may never restore this word to its former status.

I can only hope it falls out of fashion and will eventually be used appropriately once again… Right now, I shrink from using it for fear of sounding like a cliché-reliant hack.