The awesomeness of awesome

Have you fallen into the trap of overusing superlatives?   It first came to my attention in Canada, where I went a few years ago with my sister to look at a dog (yes, really).

Our hostess, a lovely, doggy orientated woman who lived  in the middle of nowhere with about twenty dogs, introduced us to the delights of vanilla milk.   We don’t get that over here, well not where we live anyway. More sophisticated areas of the country might but we’ve only just got the likes of pesto sauce in our supermarkets. Most of the locals eye it with distrust and refer to it as “that foreign muck” but at least we have it so that’s a start. Onwards and upwards!

Anyway, back to the plot. Me and my sister were quite taken with this vanilla milk.  Obviously because it was new and different, with hindsight it was sickly and cloying, a bit like Carnation milk but with added sweetness and flavouring but you know, we were on our holidays, kind of,  so it seemed different, better somehow.

Making the comment that I thought the milk was nice in my morning coffee, our hostess drawled in her  delightful Canadian way, “Yeeeaaaaahh, it’s aaaaaaawesome, is’n it?”

Not wanting to be rude I agreed with her but secretly I was debating the issue. Awesome? Really? Nice, certainly but awesome?

The Urban Dictionary describes awesome as a word that the Americans use to describe everything. That made me laugh, our over exuberant cousins across the pond seem to have successfully exported this particular foible along with horrendously cheesy TV aimed at preteens. TV which, I might add, my grandchildren lap up with delight, describing it with words such as ‘awesome’ or apparently even better, ‘awesome sauce’, usually prefixed with the word, ‘totally’, another American import. Dear God.

The real dictionary definition of awesome says: “To inspire awe or wonder.”  In my head that means something that is jawdroppingly,  breath stoppingly amazing. Now seriously, has a cup of coffee or a burger ever made you stop and contemplate the meaning of life and the universe? I thought not.

The trouble is, if you attribute words such as ‘awesome’ to trivial or mundane items  there’s nowhere left to go when something really is awesome, like for instance, the Rocky Mountains or the Northern Lights. have they really been put on a par with sweet milk and awful TV?

We need to take a stand, people. Defend our language against trivialisation!


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