What’s Next after Awesome?

Our American slang morphs and evolves, just like the rest of all languages. I don’t keep up with all of it, but lately I have become more than acutely aware of the overuse of the word “awesome” to describe, refer to, or comment on just about everything. Actually, it’s been bugging me for quite a while and so I just have to say something.

I myself grew up in the days when the in phrase was “bitchin.” OK, so I’ve dated myself. Then followed: cool, hot, hip, far out, rad, bad, blown away, OMG, “the bomb” and “you totally rock” — not necessarily in that order. The problem I have with “awesome” is this: if everything is awesome, then what term do you use for something that truly evokes awe and wonder, like a near spiritual experience, such as seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, or seeing lions in the wild in the African bush, seeing certain Hubble spacecraft photos, or witnessing the birth of a child? Many of my acquaintances use awesome to comment on a good job of parallel parking, a great restaurant dessert, a grand slam in bridge, a good movie, a favorite song, a favorite actor or actress, maybe even a favorite teacher – “he’s awesome.” So, do we need to invent a new word or phrase for those moving, amazing, incredible occasions that almost take your breath away?

This comment appears on Squidoo, a site on the Internet:

According to Dictionary.com, “awesome” is a word that means “inspiring awe.” But what does “awe” mean? “An overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like.”

Whoever posted it was also “done to death” with the overuse of “awesome.” In my own mind, awesome is up there with spiritual. So when I hear someone say “Awesome, Dude” after his friend makes a cool skateboard move, the grammar Nazi in my soul wants to do something uncivilized and totally uncool to his cellular structure. But only in my imagination.

I’ve tried to think of what other word or phrase might be used now that awesome is overly done to death and I can’t come up with just the right one: phantasmagorical, soul-wrenching, sublime to the max, supercalifragilistic, “my heart leapt,” “now I can die happy,” “I’m glad God let me live to see this,” “now I believe there is a God,” “breathtaking to the 18th power,” “almost better than sex,” what? Awesome should be that word and we’ve sullied it, trivialized it and stomped on it so it just doesn’t shine like it should any more.

Microsoft Word has a grammar check built into it. Maybe we need a similar device that would give you a mild jolt every time you overused a cliché, such as “Dude!,” “think outside the box,” “you’re kidding,” “Is the Pope Catholic?” and so on. I’m not sure exactly how one might program it, or what kind of device one would use to apply it to one’s body for maximum effect, but I think it has merit. Maybe the jolt could be delivered via smart phone since nearly everyone has one in-hand a great deal of the time. There is an app for everything else under the sun now, so why not an app for “cliché-arrhea”? In this age of technology, icons, GPS, texting and instant everything else, there should be an app for that.

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About Connie

Connie Pursell is a baby boomer and a technical writer in the world of healthcare claims. Did Jesus Have a Cat? is her first book of essays. Connie misquotes Shakespeare: “Some are born quirky, some achieve quirkiness, and some have quirkiness thrust upon them.” She thinks she was born quirky but didn’t find her voice or full quirky potential until her later years. She grew up in Lancaster, California and earned a BA and an MA in English from Cal State University, Long Beach. In addition to essays, she also writes poetry – a couple of poems are included in the book. She is active in volunteer activities, makes beaded jewelry and lives in Laguna Niguel, CA with her three cats.