Awe, shucks

Remember when “awe” was, well, awesome? Not anymore:

Matched up against all the torrent and cascade of moments though, this genuine awe was rare; it was one of the pearls beyond price, the shining instant of “Ah ha, so that’s what it’s all about.”

Not so today. Today awe is as common as clay. Today all things of man possesses the awe of someness. The movie is awesome. The SmartCar is awesome. The candy bar is awesome. The cheeseburger is awesome. Today it would seem that every slice of tripe spun out of the crap factories of pop culture is awesome even though one note of the 9th Symphony would crush the entire oeuvre of Aerosmith. My morning latte was described by the barista as “awesome” when, like all our cornucopia of crapulous things described as such, it was quite mediocre, thank you.

I wonder if this was a byproduct of lowered expectations: if everything is mediocre or worse, yet we need something to extol, it seems almost inevitable that we’d experience some sort of word inflation of this sort.


  1. jsallison »

    24 October 2016 · 8:00 pm

    I’ve long considered Awesome! to be the new ‘nominal’, at best.

  2. Francis W. Porretto »

    25 October 2016 · 5:59 am

    I’m minded to classify it as an evolution of TeenGirlSpeak and its steady penetration (blame the cellphone for this one) of the American idiom. Nothing is merely “good” to a TeenGirl. The lowest rung on their approval ladder is “great.” Anything that’s better than merely good is “the greatest thing ever.”

    The application to the contemporary overuse of “awesome” is left as an exercise for the reader.

  3. fillyjonk »

    25 October 2016 · 7:37 am

    I agree with Francis; I think it’s the influence of teens.

    I’ve used it, but usually ironically. I don’t think I’ve said it for a long time, though, but then again: 2016.

  4. McG »

    25 October 2016 · 10:05 am

    It’s one of those words whose frequency of use tells the observant listener/reader more about the speaker/texter than anything Google or the NSA could collect and sell.

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