It’s official. On Tuesday, September 21, 2010, the word ‘awesome’ officially retired from colloquial English. Although we are (not really) sad to see her go, everyone here at tomcottar(dot)org would like to thank her for her 20 years of faithful service to our culture. It seems that everything has a shelf life, and the cold, hard fact is that milk expires sooner than frozen peas. Sometimes you just have to throw out the milk that's gone bad.
The problem came when we started using ‘awesome’ in ways that were far less than the speechless, jaw-dropping moniker deserved. Certain things are definitely awe-inspiring, awe-worthy, and awe-giving. Like the birth of a child. A U2 or Rolling Stones concert. Like killing a yak from 1000 yards in high winds…using only mind-bullets.
But when the Chick-Fil-A guy says he won’t charge you for your large fries, it’s not life-changing. It’s not jaw-dropping. And it’s not ‘awesome’. It’s…well…it’s just….nice.
And when someone asks you ‘how are you doing?’, you need to be actively doing something that is awe-inspiring to others before you answer, “I’m doing awesome”, like painting the Sistine Chapel. Creating your own sunset as you rotate the Earth on it’s axial tilt of 23.5 degrees. Or immaculately conceiving your first-born child. Otherwise, you’re doing fine, great, or even wonderful…but you’re not really awesome. Sorry.
So, let’s come up with an alternative.
Personally, I’m lobbying for legit or righteous. But feel free to use the equally-expressive gnarly, excellent, frigtastic, or bodacious.
If you absolutely have to use ‘awesome’, please follow the following guideline: ‘awesome’ now implies ‘some awe’ (in the same way ‘burdensome’ is something that implies ‘some burden’ and ‘worrisome’ implies ‘some worry’). So, in a literal way, ‘awesome’ can be used to describe something mediocre and something with only ‘some’ awe. If something is truly amazing, and truly ‘full of awe’, you can say it is ‘awe-ful’ (just as someone who is ‘careful’ is ‘full of care’ and something ‘fearful’ is ‘full of fear’). So, perhaps now your life is ‘awful’.
But, please, no more ‘awesome’ unless you are carving out the Grand Canyon or walking on water. After all, it may have been Jesus who said, ‘Without Me, it’s just aweso’.