Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Brief Rant: "Awesome!"



1.inspiring awe: an awesome sight.
2.showing or characterized by awe.
3. expressing awe: stood in awesome silence before the ancient ruins.

From the root noun awe:

an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like: in awe of God; in awe of great political figures.

A mixed emotion of reverence, respect, dread, and wonder inspired by authority, genius, great beauty, sublimity, or might: We felt awe when contemplating the works of Bach. The observers were in awe of the destructive power of the new weapon.

My favorite use of the word was by oceanographer/filmmaker Jacques Cousteau who used to describe the undersea world by saying, in his thick French accent, "Eet is awww-some."

I hate to sound like an old curmudgeon, but the slang use of "awesome" drives me crazy. This word is too powerful to waste on the mundane, as this culture is now wont to do. Can we think of another way to express our delight or approval of an everyday event?

Back in the day we used the word "cool" for mild approbations. It worked nicely, I thought. "Cool" connotes casual acceptability combined with a certain hipness. "Dope" came and went pretty fast but I thought that had enough comic iconoclastic panache for this purpose. "Awesome" has stuck around WAY too long, and to me, it never felt or sounded right.

"Awesome" should be reserved for those rare, unforgettable, mind-blowing experiences like standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon, setting foot on the moon and falling in love. Think sublime, reverent, earth-shaking.

So I hereby challenge the awesome-dependent among us to come up with a more suitable expression for things that are good, nice, pleasant. alright, generally OK. Let me know what you come up with. That'd be really awesome.