Could “Awesome” be the most played word in the English language? My two cents…

June 13, 2011

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.”

“Really.”

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.

4 Responses to “Could “Awesome” be the most played word in the English language? My two cents…”

  1. Mike Coffin said

    Mavs in 6. Awesome.

  2. Awesome has become about as meaningful in ad copy as ‘Breaking News’ is to what passes for television journalism. My only concern is that if we, as copywriters and lovers of nuance and non-Wiki first-meaning definition use something more sophisticated or just plain different, do we run the risk of being misunderstood by an audience whose sound-bite education is becoming more shallow by the minute? In other words if, as copywriters and part of the advertising machinery, it is our job to ‘sell’ for the greatest return for our clients, can we run the risk of using words that might have more interesting, but also more narrow-channel appeal and understanding? Or should we just cast the biggest, most awesome net possible in order to insure that everyone gets it? And where’s my damn coffee? Oh, seems I’ve already drunk it…awesome…

  3. Phil Gayter said

    Here’s what Eddie Izzard had to say about “awesome.”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rYT0YvQ3hs

    Enjoy!

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