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Is this a new record?


I open today's GUARDIAN, page 2, headline: 'The truth about those iconic buildings ...'
Just then, an advert on the TV [for tomorrow's Mail on Sunday] calls Victoria Beckham "one of the world's top fashion ICONS."
I yawn, and consult the TV guide; and find that tonight The Culture Show [BBC2] is running a search for "Britain's greatest living icon"*...

*{"... defined for these purposes as 'the person who has had the biggest impact on the country's cultural life'.' Leaving aside the Q of what the hell the point is of yet another of these infuriating space- or time- filler survey/Top 20/Top 50/10 Greatest lists, the Guardian proffers this astute and interesting Answer: 'Tim Berners-Lee for inventing the World Wide Web'. Interesting, because - can you still be considered an 'icon' if 99 out of 100 people wouldnt recognise you from a bass player in Babyshambles?

Just please - PLEASE - let it not be BONO.

posted by Ian 10/14/2006 05:52:00 PM

apols if this was already mentioned but the "book to be reading" in market research at the moment is called "making your brand an icon" -- my amused spy in this terrain sed the book is pretty dreadful, but that -- even tho his firm recognise this -- it appeals to the MR industry bcz it is JUST what clients want to hear when they are thinking about renewing their contracts! (MR being a practice entirely consisting of telling the always-insecure client what they WANT to hear rather than what they NEED to hear)

i wanted to use the word "iconicity" in my jackie chan review (reffing charlie chaplin) BUT REFRAINED hurrah for me even though i really struggled to find another way to make the point :(
and in the pub discussion that followed my friend noted that in MR terms, "iconism" is ALWAYS a local passion -- ie who in the world of toothpaste gets the encomium signifies only to the other toothpaste people, but to them it is vitally (and understandably) important
Two good thigns I read this week: Raymond Williams (from 1960/61), a History of Advertising; and two - re: the modern transmutation of and craze for 'icons' - some stuff in the new Marina Warner book, PHANTASMAGORIA. It isnt on the cover, or the first few title pages, but the latter's subtitle is 'Spirit Visions, Metaphors and Media int the 21st Century', and she has some nice thought provoking stuff on haunting and afterlife and such.
i have to say that -- while the "icon" thing is obviously happening as we speak, and is interesting and annoying as a result -- the underlying effect doesn't seem to me to be especially modern: viz what happened to the word "glamour" (which is surely pretty similar, except it took place so long ago that only word-nuts remember)

isn't it what benjamin is talkin abt -- re the aura -- in "age o'mech repro"?

thinking abt yr earlier posts while i wz in shropshire w.my dad -- surrounded by all his "good writing style" books of the 1930s and before (yay sir arthur quiller-couch!) -- i began to think abt the entire dynamics of the cliche: does the phenomenon of the "played-out poetic phrase" predate caxton and movable type ("cliche" actually derives from french printing-technology jargon i think: it's a type of soft-metal letterpress or similar)?

i began trying to trace the (haha secret) history of the phrase "worn coin" -- meaning cliche -- tho without much success; i got back to the 1840s but i really suspect it's much MUCH older

anyway if i were writing a treatise on this i wd certainly bring in the question of images on coins, and whether gresham's law applies to language as a whole (i rather think it CAN'T bcz the factory of language is everyone)
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