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.