I’ve never been much of a fan of the word awesome.
I know it’s in vogue right now, but it reminds me of a line from Adulterers Anonymous, a book of poetry by Exene Cervenka and Lydia Lunch in which they exhorted readers to “never call the ordinary divine.” There seems to be way too much hyperinflating the wonderfulness the most mundane subjects for no good reason.
That’s why I was glad to see this article on Salon about George W. Bush’s use of the word and how the word’s meaning has changed:
On Memorial Day, President Bush paid tribute to the troops and their families at Arlington National Cemetery. Of the men and women buried there, President Bush declared, “They’re an awesome bunch of people, and the United States is blessed to have such citizens.”
What else is awesome? Just about everything. “Thank you, Your Holiness,” the president publicly said to Pope Benedict XVI in mid-April when he became only the second pope in history to visit the White House. “Awesome speech.”
The word was once reserved for use by a younger generation. Now it seems as if everyone is in on this awesome action. The words “trendsetter” and “George W. Bush” may never have been uttered in the same breath, but our president’s verbal influence begs to be noted. If 2001 was the time of Shock and Awe, as the president decreed, then 2008 is the Year of Shock and Awesome.
“When Bush uses the word ‘awesome,’ I don’t think he’s trying to transmit anything other than approval. It’s appropriate to say, ‘That football game was awesome.’ But it’s obviously not appropriate to call dead soldiers an ‘awesome bunch.’ Bush does not realize or appreciate how colloquial the word is.”
Bush’s use of that word has been incredibly inappropriate for a president, but even without Bush, a switch to using that word in its original sense, “inspiring awe,” would be awesome.