Rance Crain

How Perfect Would It Be If People Would Just Stop Saying ‘Awesome’?

Nov 7, 2017

There are only a few things in life that qualify as being awesome: the Seven Wonders of the World, a solar eclipse, a newborn baby, my granddaughter’s wedding.

Does the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen qualify as awesome? Joe Buck, the World Series play-by-play guy for Fox Sports, said in his opening remarks before the first game that the Dodger bullpen has been awesome, but it quickly gave up that exalted status. So the question is, can you regain your awesomeness once you lose it or do we characterize the fallen object as “once-awesome”?

Why is it that the word is frequently used to describe the mundane? A guy in a Chevrolet truck commercial thinks it’s awesome that he’s about to see the truck’s flatbed, and house hunters on HGTV say it’s awesome that they’re about to be shown the master bedroom.

The problem with awesome, I submit, is that it sounds so benign, so noncommittal. But the word’s actual meaning is powerful: “Extremely impressive or daunting, inspiring great admiration or fear.”

Not many experiences can live up to those standards, and users of the word are succeeding in dumbing down its meaning and impact.

It is my contention that another equally bombastic word, fantastic, isn’t reduced to describing ordinary experiences because it sounds like its meaning: extraordinarily good or attractive.

People couldn’t get away with using it to describe everyday experiences because it sounds way too exciting for that and you’d be branded as an over-hyper — about the worst thing you can be in this hot-headed environment.

There’s another word out there that is being used in much the same way as awesome and that’s the word perfect. Have you noticed — and maybe you do it yourself — that when somebody suggests that you meet after lunch at 3 p.m. the invitee often says “perfect”?

Now in reality nothing is perfect about the time because there is no such thing as a perfect anything. A better response would be, “That will work for me,” because you’re probably going to have to readjust your schedule to accommodate the meeting.

So why do people say “perfect” when they don’t mean it? For the same reason they say “awesome” when they don’t mean it.

You know the old saying “Can’t we all just get along”? Well, the misuse of words like awesome and perfect show we’re all trying to make things better than they really are. But maybe we’re trying a little too hard.


  1. This is a terrible idea. “Awesome” is a perfect casual and positive response that works in a variety of situations. I agree with the definition of awesome but I diagree with this authors interpretation. There are somethings that are so amazing that they change your entire life and their are stronger, more formal words to use to describe those experiences. What the author neglected to point out is how long the emotional state is intended to last. For the word “awesome” it only lasts for a few seconds. So when someone comes up to you and offers you a cookie and you respond “that’s awesome” you are correct because at that moment it is extremely important. I think the example from HGTV was a valid use of the word ‘awesome’ because it defined the excitement and awe of the moment. However, I agree with the author that the use of ‘awesome’ by Fox Sports to describe the past few games of the Dodgers bullpen was incorrect. If Brett Hudley through a 60 yard pass into a Packer into the end zone and the announcer said “awesome play” then it shows that intimidate excitement… Whereas, words like “amazing” would have been too much.

    I was a kid in the 90’s when awesome became a thing and it is always used to describe that intimidate excitement but not the lingering effects. What I’ve always noticed is that there are people who never experienced the word firsthand through TV and friends when it was introduced and those people, like this author, tend to misuse it. I feel like the word was in the shadows for most of the early 2000’s but is making a comeback. I am excited that more people are using it because it’s an ‘awesome’ word.

  2. That last comment was awesome. It was in fact perfect. Fantastic, no less. Now I have to find a new way to describe the writings of Shakespeare. That’s the problem with superlatives. What do you do for an encore? Rance got it right. With overuse comes dilution of impact. That is why we need to choose our superlatives carefully. Precision matters. More often than not, less is more.

  3. I’m nearly 50. In my generation “awesome” was a surfer term made popular by “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, and was the highest praise possible, especially from a young person. But language evolves and each new generation stamps its place in history with its own superlatives. (Props to the 60s kids for “cool”.) Millenials now use “EPIC” and I must admit I love adopting this for dramatic effect whenever i get a chance (which is rare). Of course it will get overused and tired and then whatever we call the teenagers of the 2020s will come up with the next big word, and we’ll all feel “cool” using it! It will be epic!

    • Nice job, Cindi, giving a well-deserved shout-out to “cool.”
      “Cool” was around in the 1930s — you can hear it sometimes in old movies. The beats embraced it and helped move it to the forefront in the 1950s — and again, movies contain plenty of evidence. (You know, “Cool, Daddio” and similar uses in the old juvenile delinquent movies of the late ’50s and later in the surf movies as kind of a throwback.) Cool is one of the most durable slang terms of the past century and probably the single greatest slang term of all time.

  4. Awesome column! Just awesome!!

  5. Awesome has most certainly lost any true meaning. Put simply, I would be more upset if anyone said, about a work of art that I’d just finished, as awesome… I’d have a higher regard for the the words ‘utterly amazing’ or, ‘simply astonishing ‘. At a BBQ recently, the guy flipping the sausages remarked, “Wow, this hot sauce is awesome “…..

  6. Only idiots say awesome

  7. Receptionists at the doctors office are the worst offenders for misusing the word “perfect”. I feel like saying, “nobody’s perfect but my skills in handing you an insurance card are quite adequate”.

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