Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: *where it’s at.

*where it’s at. This phrase and its variants have long set up parents’ and teachers’ classic grammatical correction: “Where’s my lunchbox at?” “Between the a and the t.” Besides the “sin” (to many early-educators) of ending a sentence with a preposition, the “at” is redundant, adding nothing to “where it is” or “where is it?” The usage is notoriously illiterate. But the rebellious ’60s saw the phrase *”where it’s at” reborn in several new senses: “the truth” {the guru really knows where it’s at}, “the current fad” {the Nehru jacket’s dead; tie-dye is where it’s at now}, or “the most important or current thing” {in race-car design, aerodynamics is where it’s at}. These senses have stuck and remain common as casualisms. The idiom has become such a catchphrase that today it’s once again used in the literal sense that parents and teachers have scolded children about, especially as a heading. An Internet search for the phrase returned thousands of hits, largely for sites giving directions to a place or listing an area’s restaurants, clubs, and the like. But it’s no more grammatical today than it ever was, and when not used with a wink and a nudge, it’s still a badge of illiteracy. *Invariably inferior form. For more information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “Works of art are not so much finished as abandoned. Perhaps poems can be perfect. A short-short story might even be perfectible, as effective and enjoyable for one reader as the next. But novels and other book-length narratives are great rambling things that always contain some flaws. For works of any length, there comes a point when your continued tinkering won’t improve the whole, but will just trade one set of problems for another.” Bruce Holland Rogers, Word Work 246 (2002).
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