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The Grand Canyon.

The Northern Lights.

The Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The miracle of birth.

Any miracle, really.

These are things which are “awesome.”  That is to say, they inspire awe.

“Awe,” according to my little American Heritage Dictionary that I’ve had since the sixth grade is, “an emotion of mingled reverence, dread, and wonder.  Respect tinged with fear.”  (My much-more-grown-up OED says pretty much the same thing, but longer.)

So, now, let us evaluate:
A cup of coffee is not awesome.  It may be fragrant, warm, desired, energizing or delicious, but it is not awesome.  Sleeping in on a Saturday is not awesome.  Luxurious, sensual, restful, pleasurable, wanton…maybe.  Awesome?  No.

I realize my Inner School Marm is showing, and I’m sorry I sound so pedantic, but honestly, I’m at my wit’s end.  There’s this glorious word in the English language that describes a very particular kind of feeling and it has been over-used and debased until now it means…nothing at all.

In his book “Skinny Legs And All,” Tom Robbins says:

“The inability to correctly perceive reality is often responsible for humans’ insane behavior. And every time they substitute an all-purpose, sloppy slang word for the words that would accurately describe an emotion or a situation, it lowers their reality orientations, pushes them further from shore, out onto the foggy waters of alienation and confusion.”

Exactly.  Using the same word to describe a myriad of different feelings, situations or objects is tantamount to insanity.  After all, if I described everything as “blue” you would think I was crazy.  “Only blue things are blue!” you would protest.  And rightly so.  And only things that inspire awe are awesome.

So challenge yourself to be PRECISE in your descriptions.  Next time you feel the word “awesome” about to slip out, pause a moment and think, “what’s the word that accurately describes how I’m feeling?” and use that word instead.  After a while, you’ll get good at this and enjoy your own trenchant observations.  You’re probably already good at this – you’re an artist, after all.

You’re an artist – and your creative power is, in point of fact, awesome.

So what words do you love?  What words are you over-using?