When Awesome Isn't

Cliché. Perhaps you’ve heard the word?

If you haven’t heard a cliché lately, I’d be surprised. When you’ve heard the same expression or word repeatedly, welcome to the world of clichés.

For example, consider the word “awesome.” When everything is awesome, then nothing is awesome. Since awesome is supposedly something that is exemplary, remarkable or outstanding, how can everything be that amazing? Using the word to label everything cheapens the word.

Try other words. With a language that is ever expanding, but at last count, depending on what source you use, the English language includes over one million words. Surely, with all of those choices, there are new, unusual or more appropriate words to use.

Consider the confusion created years ago when Michael Jackson used “bad” to mean good. Saying, “I’m bad” with inflection created a new context for the word. When bad means its opposite, things are really difficult to figure out.

Take an international incident that I almost caused using the German word for “bad” – “schlecht” and you add even more layers of meaning. While living in Germany years ago, a neighbor pointed to my garbage pail and said, “schlecht.” The tone of voice she used conveyed a sense of sympathy, with a hint of sadness. Not having a German-English dictionary handy, I did not get the condemnation meant in the word.

I had committed the heinous crime of putting my garbage pail out on the wrong day! No one had told me which day to put out the garbage, but when I saw the neighbors’ pails out, apparently the pails had already been emptied and were due to be put away.

So, I was “bad,” but it sounded like a kind comment. I later took my mistaken understanding of the word and called something “schlecht,” but meant it as positive. No wonder I received some ugly looks from those who overheard my comment.

Which leads me back to my subject of clichés… Try to find a more appropriate way to write or speak that conveys meaning – accurately.

Everything cannot be “awesome.” Maybe the person or thing in question is wonderful, exciting, thrilling, gorgeous, inspiring, etc. Try some new words. Last but not least, my suggestion is to stretch your vocabulary. And, yes, “last but not least” is a cliché.


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