Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Kind of Awesome

I use the word awesome an inordinate amount; having been born in the 1980s, it’s my go-to superlative.

“How’s that burrito, Amber?” Someone might ask me.
“Oh, it’s awesome,” I’ll say.

Here, awesome does mean awesome because burritos are awesome. But often, I find myself using the word to describe things that aren’t awesome at all. 

“I’m taking French this semester,” some slightly younger, college-aged person might say to me.
“That’s awesome,” I’ll say.

Here, awesome is merely a polite way of saying, “Wow, I couldn't care less about what just came out of your mouth. Also, I want a burrito.” Who do I think I’m fooling with this platitude? Surely, the French student knows that he hasn’t said anything especially awesome. It’s patronizing and no way to make friends.

awe•some/adj1 inspiring awe. 2 colloq. excellent; superb.
•First used in late 16th century England.
the plague
•Gains popularity with surfers and the inhabitants of California’s San Fernando Valley in the 1980s. Often preceded by totally; sometimes followed by dude.
 valley girl 1
•The Chili’s restaurant chain introduces the Awesome Blossom (not to be confused with Outback Steakhouse’s Bloomin’ Onion), ironically dubbed the “Worst Appetizer in America” in 2008.

•Awesome Amber turns 26 in 30 minutes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dude. Dude. While I totally agree with both the awesomeness of the word "awesome" and the need to restrict ones usage in order to preserve the quiet magic of the word, must disagree with your usage notes: When used in conjunction with one another, the discerning speaker uses the word "dude" preceding any requisite use of the word "awesome".

To wit: "I just discovered a badass blog and am digging through and commenting upon the archives."

"Dude. Awesome."