The other day I heard that the word “awesome” has been declared the official replacement for the word “cool.” I believe by the Wall Street Journal. In other words, “awesome” is the new “cool.”
Duh, or should I say, “no shit,” which I think replaced “duh” a long time ago. Awesome might be the single most overused word in the English language, and has been for some time. As such, “Awesome” has lost much of its awesomeness. Where once it stood for once-in-a-lifetime, amazing occurrences it now meekly replaces “how about that?” or plain old “good.”
Ever since an old friend and work partner, Mike Coffin pointed out the overuse of “awesome” in a blog several years ago I’ve noticed the word used everywhere by everyone detailing everything from a good hamburger to a client meeting that didn’t suck.
How the mighty have fallen. Awesome used to mean and should still mean extra innings in game 7 of the World Series. Awesome is a Force 5 tornado or devastating hurricane. Awesome was when Man walked on the moon for the first time and only the first time. Now “awesome” has been stepped on more times than Tijuana heroin.
I try not to be guilty of overusing and misusing this word. But I do. It’s become like a nervous tick, in much the same way words like “basically” and “like” are. We can’t help it. Everything not awful is awesome. At least we’ve removed the exclamation point, which used to be appropriate. We had to. “My salad is awesome!” just doesn’t work.
Though similar, this regrettable phenomenon is not quite the same as words or phrases turning into cliché’s. There are infinitely more of those polluting our conversations. Can you say “close the loop,” “touch base” or my current peeve, the ubiquitous “really?” Actually, “really” might be entering into awesome territory. We’re using it to mean everything from “wow” and “no kidding” to a sarcastic alternative to “shut the f–k up.”
By way of example:
“This blog post was awesome.”
You know words have jumped the shark when they start appearing in commercials. Listen for them. Copywriters default to these words, arguing it’s how people talk. I suppose but I still think it’s lazy.