Monday, December 16, 2013

Flaw-some and shame-azing!

I, like most people, overuse certain words. It's a natural habit. You find certain words with which you are comfortable expressing yourself so you turn to them again and again. There's nothing wrong with that. But it's something I wish I did less, especially with certain words. For one thing, it hints at a limited vocabulary and for a writer, that isn't good. For another, overuse diminishes and dilutes the meaning of a word. "Dude" is one of the words I overuse. I use it all the time to refer to people, often regardless of gender. Also, the words "awesome" and "amazing". I'm not alone with those. You probably hear several people use these words more than once a day, yet few things described as "awesome" or "amazing" actually inspire awe or amazement. Most of the time, when somebody says something is "amazing" or "awesome", what they mean is it's pretty good. I don't believe I've ever really had an awesome or amazing meal, yet I constantly find myself using those term in conversations with virtually anyone I encounter.
SERVER: How is everything?
ME: Awesome!

FRIEND: Hey, how is the food at that place? I've never been there?
ME: You should go. It's amazing!

OTHER FRIEND: What do you recommend?
ME: Get a cheeseburger. They're awesome! And a side of onion rings. Amazing!

That's like four biblical miracles worth of awesome amazingness, all for a burger-and-beer joint in Ybor City called The Green Iguana. There's nothing wrong with The Green Iguana. It's a fine place. I like to go there and I do enjoy their cheeseburgers, but there's not one single thing about it that causes me great surprise or astonishment and inspires an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime. I'll go so far as to say it's really good, but from now on, it's not awesome or amazing, at least as far as I'm concerned. This is a decision I made last Tuesday.

You might think that my effort to improve my vocabulary while simultaneously not contributing to excessive hyperbole would at least be met with support if not enthusiasm. But no. Instead, this happened when I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in some time (not one of those referred to above).
ME: Hi, good to see you! How's it going?
FRIEND: Oh hey, Clark! Did you hear the news? You won't believe this; my sister beat cancer!
ME: What??
FRIEND: Yeah, she just got her most recent tests and it's in complete remission! We're so excited!
ME: Hey! That is... well, that's just... great.
FRIEND: "Great"?
ME: It is. It really, really is. Congratulations! I know your mom must be thrilled!
FRIEND: Wow. Try not to get so worked up about it. Geez.
ME: No, no, I really am happy. It's great news.
FRIEND: Most people who hear about itl think it's awesome news. Like the most awesome thing they've heard in weeks, months. Maybe all year.
ME: Yeah. Hmm. I can see where people would say that.
FRIEND: Not you though. Things must be pretty damn exciting in your life for you to ho-hum someone beating cancer.
ME: It's not that. I think it's fantastic. It's wonderful. Incredible. It's really really... great!
FRIEND: You said that already. Wow. Great!
ME: But I'm doing this thing, where I'm weaning myself off the word 'awesome', You know, because it's overused.
FRIEND: Overused?
ME: Yeah, like people will say a restaurant or the cheeseburgers they serve are awesome. Ha ha. Stuff like that.
FRIEND: This isn't like that.
ME: Right, I know.
FRIEND: This is somebody beating cancer. Cancer. A disease that destroys people. Like, the most devastating thing in the whole world. And she not only lived through it, she defeated it. You can't compare that to cheeseburgers.
ME: That's sorta my point...
FRIEND: You're amazing, you know that?
ME: That's funny because that's actually another word I'm not...
ME: It was awesome seeing you today.

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