there is no there there

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From a remark by Gertrude Stein in Everybody's Autobiography (1937), concerning the fact that her childhood home in Oakland, California no longer existed.


there is no there there

  1. (idiomatic) The indicated thing, person, or other matter has no distinctive identity, or no significant characteristics, or no functional center point; nothing significant exists in that place; nothing significant is occurring in that situation.
    • 1937, Gertrude Stein, Everybody's Autobiography, Vintage Books, published 1973, page 289:
      She took us to see her granddaughter who was teaching in the Dominican convent in San Raphael, we went across the bay on a ferry, that had not changed but Goat Island might just as well not have been there, anyway what was the use of my having come from Oakland it was not natural to have come from there yes write about it if I like or anything if I like but not there, there is no there there.
    • 1992 May 6, Anna Quindlen, “Public & Private: No There There”, in New York Times[1], retrieved 1 March 2017:
      There is a character issue for Mr. Bush in this campaign. The clothes have no emperor. There is no there there.
    • 1996 October 12, Sir Terence Conran, “Travel in Style”, in Independent (UK)[2], retrieved 1 March 2017:
      This desire to express national difference comes at a time when the world is shrinking rapidly and travellers arrive halfway across the globe to find that there is no "there" there.
    • 2001 June 24, Julian Dibbell, “The Race to Build Intelligent Machines”, in Time[3], retrieved 1 March 2017:
      Cog is an artificially intelligent computer that is trying to learn about the world. . . . Cog's "mind," similarly, is just a collection of loosely coordinated digital reflexes scattered among its eight processors, with no one place to point to as the seat of intelligence. "There's no there there," notes Brooks with a touch of pride.
    • 2003 September 26, M. L. Lyke, “Mill Creek works to stay 'nice'”, in Seattle Post-Intelligencer[4], retrieved 1 March 2017:
      Mill Creek . . . still lacks a geographic heart. . . . There's no "there" there, no center to the city—unless you count the private Mill Creek Country Club or the grocery-store shopping centers.
    • 2016 January 9, Scot Lehigh, “Don’t presume Trump in New Hampshire”, in Boston Globe[5], retrieved 1 March 2017:
      With Trump, there’s no there there. That is, no substance—not if substance is taken to mean a coherent set of policy proposals.

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