The focus of this column, as you have probably realised by now, is to cover slang, informal expressions that can be used conversationally, in every day interactions. Big words may sound fancy and impressive, and they should certainly be learned and made a part of your active vocabulary, but slang is where it’s at!
Where it is at
1. “Dude, who goes to that old club any more? The new party circuit is where it is at.”
2. “You still get your video games on CDs? Get on Steam online and download the games directly! Steam is where it’s at.”
3. “My kid brother makes fun of me for hanging out at the same coffee shop even today. Apparently there’s a new place that opened up near his college, and that’s where it’s at. He totally swears by it!”
Meanings and usage
Strictly speaking, this expression is slightly ungrammatical. Let me explain with an example. If you misplace something, you will say, “I lost my pen, and I don’t know where it is.” Saying ‘I don’ know where it is AT’ would be odd. Nevertheless, that’s the expression which has gained popularity, so, like many mispronunciations and wrong pluralizations, this expression too becomes standard, or at least fine to use in informal contexts.
If you know ‘where it’s at,’ you are claiming to know the place where the most exciting or interesting things happen. In a general context, you can use this to talk about happening pubs and restaurants, trendy coffee shops, and the like. But beyond that, you can talk about the most happening or exciting things within a certain domain. For example, you might say: “Your’e still working out at your old gym with just dumbbells? Try my cross-fit routine instead, cross-fit is where it’s at!”
You can also use the expression in another sense, to indicate that you have understood the essential truth or meaning of a situation. When using the expression in this sense, you are more likely to use the negative form of a sentence. For example: “You’ve been working with the same company for eight years, and you’ve not gone job hunting in forever. You’re out of touch now, you don’t know where it’s at!”
1. Are you the cool person that knows the latest and the most interesting things in every domain, from books to read to places to travel to for vacation? Great! Now go around for a week advising everyone on ‘where it’s at.’ Use every opportunity possible. Pretend to know things if necessary, at least for some time.
1. “I know you think you understand all about technology, but you need to grok this simple concept: software gets outdated all the time, and updating to the latest version is essential for security reasons.”
2. “When I explained the concept just verbally, the kids couldn’t really understand it, but when I showed them just a rough sketch, they were able to grok it right away.”
3. ‘Those corporate leaders simply could not understand my point when I talked about workplace safety and employee welfare, but then I started talking about how much money they could save, and they are able to grok that part right away.”
Meanings and usage
You can pronounce this word to rhyme with ‘rock.’ To grok is to understand something. The word was originally coined by science fiction write Robert Heinlein, who introduced it in one of his novels in the 1960s. In his work, the literal meaning of ‘grok’ is ‘to drink,’ but the meaning is extended to also imply ‘full, complete understanding with empathy and intuition.’
This word was very much in fashion for some time in slang and informal use. These days it is perhaps not as common, and you are more likely to say ‘I get it’ rather than ‘I grok it.’
Nevertheless, you can still use the word occasionally, and in case you run into someone who uses the word, now you know what it means and how to use it.Practice
1. Is there something you have grokked recently? Make a quick list, and use the word ‘grok’ to ell people about the things you have learnt or mastered.
2. How many words and phrases can you think of that have a meaning similar to ‘grok?’ You’ll find some of them right here in this article, but make as comprehensive a list as you can, in all the languages that you know. Which of these expressions comes closest to the exact meaning of ‘grok?’
Nilesh Jahagirdar: firstname.lastname@example.org