A late-night talk-show host commented about the viral spread of the photo of Bernie Sanders wearing his mittens. “I wonder if Bernie knows it’s a thing,” said James Corden. Bernie probably isn’t the most social-media-savvy politician, so this meme could have appeared tens of thousands of times on the Internet before he learned of it.
I love this use of the word “thing.” When I was growing up, things were different. I remember my mother saying “Put your things away.” She also was a frequent user of the expression, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another.” She reprimanded me after I broke an expensive vase while wrestling with my brother: “This is why we can’t have nice things.”
So, here’s the thing: We have a new use of the word thing. We have all observed so many things that have become things. Here are some examples:
1: Eating Tide Pods. (The thing is, you could die.)
2. The Ice Bucket Challenge. (The thing is, you freeze.)
3. Taking selfies while you’re committing a crime. (The thing is, you get arrested.)
4: Watching Tiger King, the Bachelorette, or Jerry Springer on TV. (The thing is, you are wasting your life.)
I have a friend who knows a thing or two about words. David teaches linguistics at NYU, so I thought he’d have some insight into this popular use of the word. But he told me it wasn’t one of those things worth discussing.
“How was your conversation with David?” asked my wife.
“I couldn’t get a thing out of him,” I told her.
Here are two more recent things that have become things. The first is Grape Nuts cereal. Apparently, there is huge shortage of this stuff. If you go on Amazon or eBay, you can get a box for about a hundred bucks. My book about my dog Barney is also selling for $95 on Amazon. The thing is that they are both a lot of money. And another thing: I have a case of Barney books in my garage available for five bucks each.
By the way, Grape Nuts cereal is a good breakfast food if you are trying to avoid unhealthy things. The company is ramping up manufacturing to make up for the shortage, including increasing production of another product, Grape Nuts Flakes, to meet demand. I think we already have enough flakes—like those people who are paying a hundred bucks for a box of cereal. Or my book.
Here’s my favorite new thing: spinach that can send you an email. Researchers from MIT embedded tiny sensors into spinach leaves. When the roots of the plant detect explosive compounds in groundwater, the leaves direct a signal to a camera, then send an email alert to scientists monitoring the soil. Isn’t this the craziest thing? Does spinach have a brain? Cauliflower, sure, but spinach? Artichokes and Brussels sprouts also look like they could have brains. Brainy vegetables may be the next big thing.
So far, I have used “thing” 27 times in this column in one way or another, which is something to write home about (now it’s 28). I need to take a break. Maybe I’ll watch that old sci-fi movie about the 7-foot extraterrestrial that lands his craft in the Arctic and then terrorizes the research scientists.
I love that movie. It’s just The Thing to watch after writing a column (OK, now it’s 29.)

Dick Wolfsie appears weekdays on television sharing his humor, stories and video essays. His column appears weekly in The Paper of Montgomery County. E-mail Dick at Wolfsie@ aol.com.