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The Unholy Trinity: Let's Get Over "Awesome," "Amazing," and "Ridiculous" The Unholy Trinity: Let's Get Over "Awesome," "Amazing," and "Ridiculous"

The Unholy Trinity: Let's Get Over "Awesome," "Amazing," and "Ridiculous"

by Nona Willis Aronowitz
June 19, 2011

The other day, I decided to go 24 hours without using the words “awesome” and “amazing.” A few hours later, I upped the ante and added “ridiculous” after initially giving it a pass. 'I'm an educated, verbal woman,' I told myself. 'I write for a living. I've read thousands of books. There is no reason at all why I should be using the same three words over and over.' Pleased with myself and emboldened by the encouragement of others (mostly old people), I faced the day with confidence.

Unfortunately, I failed miserably.

I was saying all three almost unconsciously. I was stopping myself mid-sentence, writing the words down and then erasing them on gchats. I'm not alone in having this problem. You know the types: young people, usually but not exclusively white, coastal, fun-loving, liberal, tan, and/or excitable. Don't feel bad; it's a problem a lot of us have. GOOD is certainly guilty of the unholy trinity. But we all need to do something about it.

The most frequent offender is "amazing." I say it in reaction to happy news, a clever joke, a preposterous idea, a fabulous outfit, an unbelievable coincidence, instead of "congratulations," basically any time I manage to get what I want. I even say it to myself, while reading Tumblrs on the internet, while watching Roseanne (in all fairness, how could you not?), while checking Weather.com.

Less embarrassing but more insidious is the word "awesome." It doesn't necessitate a good mood, and therefore slips out under the radar. The word particularly shows up as an appropriate response in a whole spectrum of workplaces. "I sent over those latest numbers to you." "Awesome." "Your bike should be ready in just a few minutes." "Awesome.""We're out of printer paper." Sarcastically: "Awesome." It even temporarily causes me to lose my New York accent; I shudder when I hear myself saying "ahhsome" like some San Diego surfer (no offense, guys).

And "ridiculous." This is, in a way, the laziest of all. When we don't quite know how to describe something, it's all of a sudden "ridiculous." Someone quirky, effusive, abrasive and/or manic is a "ridiculous person." If it's a combo of bad and large, it's a "ridiculous traffic jam" or a "ridiculous hailstorm." If a concert is both enjoyable and crowded, it's a "ridiculous concert."

We employ all three ironically when something is corny, cheesy, or otherwise painfully terrible. "That Rebecca Black song is awesome." A subset of the ironic use is to convey nostalgia, particularly anything from the 1980s or early 1990s; "I watched an old 90210 last night. The Brenda Years were amazing." Sorry, they really weren't. (Ridiculous, maybe.)

Also, don't get me started on the trio's abbrev'd renditions.

This takeover is a very real phenomenon. But just because I failed on my own mission doesn't mean you have to. Let's all try, for one day, to take a cue from Sukanya Roy and use all those words we learned in fourth grade spelling bees. Let's all think of what we really mean, then say it. Or channel another decade, or make up your own words. Then, after 24 agonizing hours, throw yourself an awesomeamazingridiculous fiesta like the one you see above. You'll deserve it.

photo (cc) by Flickr user dharma communications

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