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Awesome–Is It Really?

Rachel Canter, Editor in Chief

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In recent years, words that used to have very distinct meanings have turned into common slang, decreasing their significance and changing their connotations, perhaps for the worst. Conceivably, this transformation has occurred because of the rapid increase in technology and social media within the past decade; an amalgamation of different races, cultures, and religions all suddenly had contact with each other in ways they never had before, which surely led to the constant use of certain words to create some sort of universal language. (What happened to math being the universal language? But it seems as if that was not good enough anymore.) It is very possible that if you went to a foreign, non-English speaking country and utilized one of these many words, the people would understand what you meant, or at least the general gist, because everyone uses that word all the time just about everywhere. Sounds like a good thing, but it is not.  Or maybe, it has nothing to do with creating a universal language. It is simply that the brain cells we are using to watch television and surf the web and tweet and such are too lazy to come up with actual relevant and original words to say. Maybe it’s a little bit of both. But regardless of the cause, the effect of this issue sweeping the world  is the same, and it is bad.

“That was awesome!”

How many times have you heard someone say that? Numerous, I’m sure. And they are usually talking about something pretty minor, such as a tasty piece of cake or a touchdown in a football game. In recent years, a word that used to be used in only very special situations has evolved to become  one of the most (if not the actual most) worn out word in our every-day vernacular.

The classical meaning of awesome is “something that inspires awe.” Awe is defined as “a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.” That definition of awesome has become antiquated, and now contemporarily, the word is overused to describe just about anything. If you do well on a test, that’s awesome. If you hear some pleasant news, whatever you heard was awesome. If a boy snorts milk out of his nose, guess what that was? Awesome!

The problem with this strange evolution is that we are becoming desensitized to many words, like “awesome.” But what will happen if we ever find ourselves in a situation that is truly, classically awesome, and we have no words to describe it? No words to share our experience? If someone goes to the Grand Canyon, a miraculous natural monument, and calls it awesome, that really doesn’t mean anything. Just the day before, that same person had seen someone tie a shoe in a fancy knot and called it awesome, too. If a man gets to witness the birth of his child, that could, in the past, justly be called awesome. However, the day before, Tiger Woods played pretty good game of golf, and this man dubbed that situation “awesome” as well. Does that mean the Grand Canyon and shoelaces, and childbirth and golf, are on the same level of inspiration and beauty? In intent, perhaps not, but when others hear the use of the same word for drastically different occasions, then your true meaning is not being recognized, and your point is not getting across.

That, in itself, is a whole other issue. It is the “boy who cried wolf” complex; if everything is “awesome,” then when something truly awe-inspiring happens and you shout it from rooftops, no one will care and no one will come because, hey, it’s probably not that great.

It’s awesome? So was the shirt I was wearing yesterday, I think I recall you saying. People might miss out on actual remarkable, breathtaking events because they are unfeeling towards the words you are using to describe such events. Communication itself has floundered because of this. Yes, everyone is in contact with everyone else thanks to social media, but the proper words are not being used, so no one is truly sharing an experience because the subtext of most words has been radically altered.

Unfortunately, no one nipped this whole situation in the bud. Society is used to what they are used to, and it is highly unlikely that this will change. The best we can do is just try, attempt, put the tiniest ounce of effort into being more careful with our words. We ought to think a few seconds before speaking, and be more cautious in what words we assign to every situation. If we continue doing what we are now, just using any word we want regardless of what it literally means (Speaking of, if “awesome” is the crown prince of overused words that eventually lose their meaning, “literally” is the king.), then there will be no words left when it really matters.

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We’ll just be ineloquent ignoramuses, unable to put our thoughts, feelings, and ideas into words without everyone disregarding them. If we could just use our potential-filled brains to filter the words we use, then we can reclaim the old meanings of those words and expand our vocabulary and the significance of what we say. If we could do that, then that would be aweso…I mean, good. That would be very good.

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Awesome–Is It Really?