According to the Urban Dictionary, the current popular phrase, It’s All Good is used either to remind someone who is fretful (including oneself) to remember the big picture (in which this tiny thing making one fret matters not) – or – as an intervention phrase to avoid a debate or an argument, like this:
Man, did you hear what the president wants to do?
It’s all good, man, it’s all good.
Given those uses, I can see why the phrase has caught on. However, a third definition in the Urban Dictionary reads: “A popular ebonic phrase used so heavily by white people that they now think they have a green light on other ebonic phrases.”
That one troubled me because it seems to suggest that words or phrases are something to which a specific group can claim exclusive rights. This is perplexing. I can’t think of a word or phrase I use that would offend me if I heard someone else use it, with the possible exception of hearing someone whisper I love you to someone with whom I have an exclusive intimate relationship. Or hearing my child call another woman Mom…at the same time that child started calling me Marie.
But the phrase, It’s All Good, seems like a peace-making phrase. The very notion that anyone would want to claim exclusive rights to use it and thereby limit its usage seems misguided.
There are some men who work in the kitchen of a restaurant that backs up to my apartment. They appear to be of Latino descent. I often run into them when we are both taking out our trash and greet them with Good Morning! … and a smile. They reply with a smile and a nod. I consider this small exchange a success: we’ve communicated.
Recently when this happened, another store owner who was standing by having a cigarette said to me “they don’t know what you’re saying you know. They don’t speak English.” I don’t know if it was merely an observation or a criticism. I told him I thought my smile communicated whether they understood my words or not.
He told me I should say Buenos Dias.
I probably won’t do that because I don’t think it’s necessary. But his comment makes me wonder, again, are there words that only some people have the rights to use?
I knew a man once who had a strong premonition of going blind. We were dear friends. One day he asked if he could touch my face…all over. He told me about his premonition and said he wanted his hands to be able to remember me and identify me if he should lose his vision. I let him touch my face slowly. He began at my temples and worked his way down to my throat running his fingers and thumbs over my eyes, my lips, even my ears. It was one of the more intimate experiences of communication I’ve ever had. Shortly thereafter he was in a horrific accident and was left paralyzed and blind for months before he finally died. When I visited him, I could tell he recognized my voice by the subtle change of expression when I spoke. But it was when I took his hand and placed it on my face that he was able to communicate back to me. He took his thumb and gently stroked my face as if to say Thank you for coming and I’m so glad you’re here.
My point is that I think we need to continue to find ways to communicate with one another using slang, bits and pieces of other languages, even touch. I don’t want to fear using a phrase because I’m worried someone will think I’m a poser. I can’t imagine that if I use a phrase commonly used by another generation or ethnic group anyone will think I have somehow forgotten my age or my race. I believe that the key to peace is communicating. The more we understand one another, the more tolerance if not outright compassion we possess.
I like learning new phrases and weaving them into my conversations. I like tried and true phrases as well. I like knowing that simply the desire to communicate often makes it possible and that often, no words are necessary at all.
There are many pop phrases right now that speak hope into being. It’s All Good is a phrase we need to say and need to hear. In fact, I believe that it is originally attributed to God who, after looking at what and whom he had created, is said to have said, “It is Good.” I like to believe that, as people who are made in the image of God, we too are able to speak things into being. So I propose we continue to throw words of hope and peace around with abandon. And I sincerely hope I do not offend anyone as I participate in this language volley that seeks to build up rather than break down.
A friend and I were recently discussing our mother’s interest in Facebook. Her 70-something mother had asked her 40-something daughter, “What have you written about me on The Facebook?” We giggled at her unnecessary use of the word THE. But we were truly not laughing AT her, but in delight that at least she was trying to figure it out and talk about it. Isn’t that what we all do when we learn a new word or phrase? It made me think of my son who was eagerly playing with language as a toddler. When he heard me at the front door ask the babysitter, “Where is Chase?,” he replied with confident enthusiasm as he came flying around the corner “Here Him Come Now!”
It’s All Good.