Read time: 3 mins
The tech and digital industry (and elsewhere) has adopted a word and raised it to be vaccuous tish and fipsy. A pinnacle of nothingness. That word is awesome.
If there is one word that needs to die, or be reclaimed, or reclaimed then immolated, it is ‘awesome’.
In the digital industry, the use of the word ‘awesome’ has become more or less phatic. Instead of meaning ‘This thing is beyond great’. it now means a mix of nothing, ‘buy this’ and ‘we speak the same language’.
The saturation of awesome is at such a point – in the digital industry, at least – that it eclipses the black handlebar moustache malaise, the ‘Keep Calm’ cacophony, the upwards inflection infection and the doge dirge.
If you want to see an array of awesomes so diluting, so embarrassingly unimaginative, search for ‘awesome’ on ThemeForest. ThemeForest sell WordPress themes and pret a porter look/feels for websites. The sad news is, heaps of those things for sale are really good. But hell yeah, we’ve got to put that phatic football sticker bullshit all over it before anyone will buy it. *scrawls ‘awesome’ on it*. There. Now it is ready. It doesn’t mean you should love it, or will, or probably might. It means they want you to. Prepare to be disappointed.
- Here’s a Twitter search for ‘Check out this awesome’. Are you impressed? Are you swathed in the fine livery of awe?
- Facebook’s search results for the #awesome hashtag. Do you feel the heavens open and the galaxy around us caress your inner thigh?
- Awesome Instagram photos. Are you compelled?
- Here’s Google showing you awesome products and awesome movies.
- YouTube’s library of awesome related stuff. I am truly in awe of the butts and GTA walkthroughs and cats falling into ditches.
This Eddie Izzard bit hits the nail on the head.
Everything isn’t awesome
Everything isn’t awesome. It really isn’t. Because awesome used to mean something, and now it just means nothing, or worse than nothing; buy me or buy into me. Calling everything awesome is like giving every one who runs a race a 1st prize. The only time you’ll ever hear me say the word awesome is if I see Cthulhu lift himself up out of the depths of the ocean, a relic of a shipwreck in each tentacle, say ‘This one goes out to Marty’ and does a 4000ft tall dance routine to this. And even then, it may not be ‘awesome’. I’d probably need him to wear underpants and a matching top hat, crafted from gold-coated live bees, to tip me to use the word ‘awesome’.
It means less and less and less
People most likely to say awesome seem to be the ones least likely to mean it when they do use it. I’ve seen people saying ‘awesome’ as feedback-of-listening. I’ve said ‘All the content is ready to go live’ (reply: ‘Awesome’) but if I’d said ‘I have necrotic gangrene in my left eye’, I’m sure the reply would have been the same. Welcome to our own trendy version of aizuchi. Tragic, in a way, in this specific use of ‘awesome’, how a word that could try and describe a feeling so overwhelming and moving has been reduced to being our generation’s ‘go on’ or ‘yep’.
Rise of the Planet of the Awesome
Why are people saying awesome so much? As a Brit, I feel ‘awesome’ is said by a lot of other British people for the same reason they might say ‘store’ instead of ‘shop’ and ‘juice box’ instead of ‘carton’, that of fetishisation of US English in UK English usage (growing with rise of Internet, etc). But that’s a linguistic journey I’m not taking alone, and it is just feels.
I have no idea why, in short, but here’s the data on the rise of awesome:
Awesome. Hyperbole with less letters. Balls with more. And to anyone wanting to argue a case against, do you realise that awesome means ‘full of awe’? Do you know what the definition of awe is? It is ‘a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder’. That talk on responsive design? It just wasn’t awesome. Neither was that pair of headphones.
The worst thing about the over-use of awesome is a lot of the people using it are creative, intelligent, clever people, who I imagine have hundreds of other words they could use to describe whatever they’re describing when they shit out a little ‘awesome’ onto their feeds. So why don’t they? Part of it is how awesome is just a phatic bit of nonsense now, but part of it is that people expect you to say it, either because of what you do or the language of your circle. Redefine your circle’s language by not using it, maybe. And to marketers using it; is it really even that effective anymore?
If you say ‘awesome’ 234,339 times a minute, I’m sorry. Sorry that nobody has offered you this link before. Enjoy your new freedom from the vocab mediocrity that has crept up around you. And hell yes, you can say what you like, and nobody should enthuse you not to use a certain word as much as you like, but if it is choice and freedom of expression you’d like, why the fulcrum are you using the word ‘awesome’?
This is my friends talking to me about this post. nsfw: demonic possession