Dropping the A-word: An awesome cliche

Awesome. From Shakespeare’s time the word has meant exactly what it said: something that inspires awe.

A sky full of towering thunderheads stitched with jagged bolts of lightning – that would be awesome. A forest fire at its furious worst -definitely awesome. So too, a military barrage, a waterfall, a field of golden wheat winnowed by the wind.

And awesome needn’t be enormous.

The transformation of a caterpillar into a Monarch butterfly is decidedly awesome, as is the exoskeleton of a cricket or the machinations of a honey bee. The guts of a humble wristwatch are awesome to behold; and ‘awesome’ fits a Bach prelude like an ivory-hilted stiletto in a doeskin sheath.

A grand word, awesome, and it has served us well. But somewhere along the way word mutated, morphed and bloated into semantic meaninglessness.

This morning in a coffee shop I said “I’ll have a medium coffee, black, please.” “Awesome,” the barista said.

No. No, that’s not awesome. As cups of coffee go, it turned out to be not half bad, but ‘okay’ is several light years from ‘awesome’.

Over the past little while I’ve been informed by, or overheard people affirming that: they’ve purchased an awesome T-shirt, watched an awesome commercial, eaten an awesome hamburger and met an awesome real estate agent. I’d like to believe that all these experiences were as jawdroppingly life-altering as the adjective ‘awesome’ implies. But somehow I doubt it.

Exuberance is an admirable quality, but it’s a seasoning, not a staple food. Too much relish can ruin a perfectly adequate hot dog.

The hyper-inflating trajectory of the word awesome reminds me of the early twentieth century Deutschmark.

One day the German currency was hardy and stable, worth the equivalent of a modern Canadian loony, give or take. The next day a wheelbarrow full of thousand-Deutschmark banknotes wouldn’t buy you a bratwurst.

‘Awesome’ is undergoing the linguistic equivalent right now. There is a book in your local bookstore called The Book of Awesome. You’ll find it sitting cheek by jowl, by another book entitled The Book of Even More

Awesome. Call me prophetic, but I foresee future best sellers with names like The Even Awesomer Book of Awesome, and Son of Book of Awesome Take Two, the Sequel.

It’s not just books. There is an Awesome Foundation in San Francisco. In Massachusetts there is an Institute of Higher Awesome Studies. How long before some entrepreneur brings out the Awesome potato peeler, Awesome detergent, or Awesome chewing gum?

You know what I think? I think it would be refreshing to sequester the word ‘awesome’ for a spell. Give it a time out, a sabbatical, a little shore leave. We’ve got lots of bench strength to take up the slack – we could always buy a ‘splendid’ T shirt, watch a ‘hilarious’ commercial, eat a ‘delicious’ hamburger and meet a ‘mesmerizing’ real estate agent. The A-word could be resting in rehab, regaining its former lustre and glory.

That would be truly awesome.

Just Posted

Vancouver measles outbreak prompts vaccine vigilance on Island

No cases here yet, but Island health authorities push measles vaccinations - and not just for kids

The long winding road to Tofino-Ucluelet—then and now

If you are feeling frustrated about the Highway 4 closures, sit back read about what came before.

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

Farm and Garden Show coming to Tofino

Greenthumbs unite at the Tofino Botanical Gardens from Feb. 22-24.

Steelhead LNG stops work on Kwispaa LNG project near Bamfield

Huu-ay-aht First Nations ‘deeply disappointed; Steelhead says funding is the problem

VIDEO: Massive elk herd runs across Washington State highway

Elk have been making an appearance in the Pacific Northwest

Winter storm freezes U.S., halts air travel

Storm dumps snow or heavy rain, snarls travel in much of U.S.

Gwyneth Paltrow: Skier sued me to exploit my fame, wealth

The incident happened in Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah

B.C. Seniors Advocate questions labour shortage in care homes

Are there really no workers, or are care aide wages too low?

B.C. business groups worry about looming economic decline in wake of NDP budget

The party’s second government budget focused on plenty of spending, business advocates say

Man injured in police shooting near Nelson has died: B.C. police watchdog

The death follows an incident in Bonnington on Feb. 13

Experts urge caution after 10 human-triggered avalanches across B.C.

One man is still stuck after avalanche on south coast

‘It consumed my life’: Inside the world of gaming addiction

World Health Organization classifies gaming disorder as a mental health condition

Police seize bottles of grapefruit vodka from wanted man’s snow-pants

The men were pushing two shopping carts with a woman inside

Most Read