Are we overusing “Iconic” and “Quaint”?

Jim Taylor shares his thoughts on what it means to be iconic.

Jun 27, 2023 | Jim Taylor
Are we overusing “Iconic” and “Quaint”?

It's a rare ranch that is "iconic" or "quaint".

It’s the words that specifically describe something that lose their value when they are applied inappropriately. As the chief editor of much that is published by Hall and Hall and as an avid reader of much that is published by others in our industry, I am struck by the overuse of certain words that I believe were meant to be used sparingly to describe something very special and unusual.



Someone or something regarded as embodying the essential characteristics of an era, group, etc. Someone or something important as a symbol of a particular thing.


Strange and unusual in an old-fashioned and charming way.


Something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.

For something or someone to be iconic, it or they must be quite special and unique to embody the essential characteristics of whatever it is. It seems the standards have been lowered and at least half of the towns, mountains, rivers, and ranches in the west have become iconic. Ask, “What essential characteristics do they embody? More often than not the answer is quite simply “none”.

Quaint towns can be found on occasion in New England but certainly not in the American West. We have yet to be around long enough to qualify to be old-fashioned much less charming. We do have some old structures, some of which are charming but do not yet fit the definition of quaint.

Legacy – another blog in which I objected to the use of the word rather than the overuse of it but there is no question that it is overused as well.

Perhaps I am hypersensitive as a wordsmith, but I do mourn the loss of great and meaningful words that have been destroyed by overuse. Words that actually specifically describe something that loses their value when they are applied inappropriately.