Monday, November 28, 2016

95. Awesome is what awesome is not

Some words make you sick, not because these are virus-infected but for their sheer overuse or misuse to the point of being irritating. 'Awesome' is one among them, having grown like a wild creeper in our lives. Dictionary may define it as something extraordinary or stunning, like an amazing waterfall or a beautiful sunset, but its usage extends to anything from a pair of shoes to a tasty lunch, and goes on endlessly. The irritating aspect is that 'awesome' is used to describe things that are, in fact, not awesome at all. 

I am not being snooty but my concern must merit consideration. After all, how can a word mean both 'great' and 'terrible' at the same time? Youngsters may love it, as it eases them into striking multiple expressions with just one word. But the trouble is that I have friends of all ages who use it as regularly as youngsters half their age. Why should it appeal as much to the seniors? I would imagine that it's charm lies in its versatility, even if its use is half-ironic. That is awesome!

Already voted as one of the ten most overused words, 'awesome' has come under gaze of those who are aiming to push the word to its rightful slot in the spoken language. For last few years an anti-awesome move has been aiming to beseech people from employing its overuse, suggesting instead that we deserve something better. Easier said, having degraded 'awesome' as banal it will be quite a task to locate something that is truly, really, deeply awesome. Will someone be able to come up with the next 'awesome'?

It isn't if overuse makes some words and their meaning redundant, it denies us the chance to feel a wider range of emotions. The worst is that we have, by sheer oversight, etymologically demoted 'awesome' as a way of foreclosing conversation rather than having it. It's usage has been reduced to shut down any debate or discussion, as a definitive statement. Having wasted 'awesome' to describe a goddamn ebay discount, one would be bereft of appropriate word to describe, for instance, one's own wedding. Sadly, we have wasted the shit out of some words. 

By the way, that reminds me that my domestic help is upbeat these days about using 'shit' to express in equal measure her pleasure and displeasure over anything. Like awesome, the overuse of 'shit' means everything but the real stuff. With the stink having long escaped into the greenhouse, it makes her feel connected to the slang-generation. A coming of age feeling, perhaps! And, my hunch is that she is unlikely to give up on her new-found enlightenment anytime soon.

This reminds me of an incident about how overuse of words leads us to the point of losing all its meanings. Here it goes! Having been interrupted many times during a hearing by a judge, who kept saying 'shit' on each occasion, the lawyer could not hold himself back from saying: 'Nothing but 'shit' has passed from your lordship's mouth through the day.' You might wonder what may have happened thereafter. The court was adjourned! 

This jalebi was first published in Deccan Herald on Jan13, 2017. 


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Rashmi Sinha said...

Some words and expressions become fashionable and then loose their charm -like shoes, bags and dresses. Hollywood and English fiction start the trend and we ape these. Well written blog! Anuj Sinha

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