Awesome. . . Really?

Nan ReinhardtNan Reinhardt

My friend and fellow writer, Liz Flaherty did an article about words not long ago. Her consideration of the word “ordinary” made me go right into Editor Nan mode and start thinking about words, how we use them, and how we misuse them.

I confess I am a word nerd. It’s all my mom’s fault—she was word geek too. When my siblings and I were kids, she insisted we learn new words and use them correctly. I also confess to being kinda proud of my vocabulary, which although not extraordinary, does probably qualify as extensive by any ordinary standard. I love words. Finding and using new words gives me a little charge . . . oh, okay, a big charge. I also raised my kid to love and appreciate words. It’s not at unusual for one of us to drop “Good word” into the middle of a conversation. Yup, word nerds.

Liz’s post really got me thinking, and the word that kept popping into my head was awesome. This one makes the word nerd and the editor in me nuts because it is so inappropriately overused. Somehow, awesome took the place of “wow” and “cool” and (okay, I’m dating myself) “groovy.” Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be bugged by something grand canyonlike this, except that awesome feels like a word that should be reserved for things that are truly . . . well, awesome.

Webster defines awesome as “inspiring awe; extraordinary.” I realize that what inspires awe in me may not seem extraordinary to you, but let’s agree on a few examples.

The Grand Canyon is awesome.

That new denim jacket? Pretty, but not so much awesome.

Neil Armstrong walking on the moon? Awesome.

A themed birthday party? Nice, maybe even fun and terrific, but not awe-inspiring.

Jesus feeding the 5000 with five loaves and few fishes? Truly awesome.

The double bacon pepper-jack cheeseburger at the new burger joint down the road? Tasty, not awesome.

So, what do you think? Are we over-enthusing and making great descriptors trite by using them when a less . . . shall we say, enthusiastic adjective might be more fitting?


Nan Reinhardt is a USA Today-bestselling writer of romantic fiction for women in their prime. Yeah, women still fall in love and have sex, even after 45! Imagine! She is also a wife, a mom, a mother-in-law, and a grandmother. She’s been an antiques dealer, a bank teller, a stay-at-home mom, a secretary, and for the last 17 years, she’s earned her living as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader.

But writing is Nan’s first and most enduring passion. She can’t remember a time in her life when she wasn’t writing–she wrote her first romance novel at the age of ten, a love story between the most sophisticated person she knew at the time, her older sister (who was in high school and had a driver’s license!) and a member of Herman’s Hermits. If you remember who they are, you are Nan’s audience! She’s still writing romance, but now from the viewpoint of a wiser, slightly rumpled, menopausal woman who believes that love never ages, women only grow more interesting, and everybody needs a little sexy romance.

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