This is a popular phrase in my working environment (public institution) - used in formal reports or speeches.
I would be interested to hear from some native speakers about usage of the phrase. To me it is
a. ugly (admittedly a subjective opinion)
b. not formal enough in a formal report or even a speech
c. heated debates ensue among us ESLers on whether it can be substituted for state of the art. I personally do not perceive the phrases as interchangeable at all, the meaning is so completely different. (the person who insists it is the same writes "state of the play"). I am in need of a referee!
I would also be interested to hear if it is interchangeable with state of affairs. I am especially interested in opinions of BE speakers (no offence intended, but our interinstitutional guidelines require BE in all written communications).
For an example of usage see here:http://europa.eu.int/constitution/referendum_...
PS - recently also found the phrase several times and to my great disgust in one of my fav authors new books! (Ian Rankin, Fleshmarket Close)