[all the definitions were found on Merriam-Webster.com]
epic: extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope.
When I was growing up and learning English as a second language, I remember often being corrected by my cousin for using the word great too often. According to her, the cup of ice-cream can be good, delicious, sweet, but not great.
great: remarkable in magnitude, degree, or effectiveness.
I found her constant vocabulary-policing annoying and did not take it seriously. However, that memory came back to me last week while I was reading some articles online. The author who shall go nameless who writes for a legacy publication, described the taco she had in Baha, Mexico as ‘the most awesome taco ever’. I read over that sentence without much thought at first and that’s when I thought of my cousin and her annoying habit. I looked up the definition of the word awesome and asked myself if that taco had really inspired an emotion variously combining dread, veneration and wonder in her on first bite?
awesome: something that inspires awe.
awe: an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime.
Then I moved on to other articles and started noticing this pattern everwhere. So when I began talking to friends and reading my social-networks’ newsfeeds, I realized just how hyperbole-studded our vocabulary has become. Everything was the next best thing, or amazing, or the worst thing that ever happened to humanity, or a revolutionary device. iPad claims to be magical. Droid Razr Maxx is supposed to be impossibly thin – well if you made it that thin, then it isn’t impossible, is it?
Why have we dropped the normal adjectives in exchange for over the top words? When one of my Facebook friend updates his status about getting an A on the exam, why do I look like a dick when I comment with a “That’s good!“? Why only comments like “Dude, that’s awesome!“, “You’re like the smartest guy I know.” or even worse “You’re such a genius.” are considered a true token of congratulatory sentiment?
We have come a long way from “this ice-cream is delicious.” to “this ice-cream just blew my mind!” and I am curious to know why. We have replaced the normal words by the ones that signify immense positive or negative emotions. My concern is that now how do we describe the events that are true outliers? How do we differentiate between the a new tablet device with revolutionary screen resolution and a technology that may truly inspire a revolution in the future? If you are struggling to see my point then quickly check out the little article by PCMag. Some of the revolutionary technologies listed include a Wii helmet and a LCD screen atop the urnials – I sure hope they revolutionize the way I pee.
We are attention craving creatures. Instead of having a few dozen friends over a lifetime, we now have over a thousand friends on Facebook, a few hundred more followers on Twitter, which is in addition to the people you interact with in person. It is hard to compete for everyone’s attention. The media has the same problem. In a race to get more attention in the ever crowded scene we now have to restort to using these top-shelf words.
Where is this trend leading us? Would we need to invent new English words to add to our vocabulary in case Apple comes out with the iPad 5 with even better screen resolution? We can’t call it revolutionary anymore, you know, because it’s already been taken.