“I bought some awesome apples today.”
“I just saw an awesome movie.”
It is not that an apple or a movie could never be awesome. It is that I do not think the speaker really means what they are saying. Sometimes I ask “what was awesome about the apples or the movie?” Usually, I get a blank stare or a fumbling response because the speaker does not know what he or she means. The word “awesome” was a space filler, an automatic word choice, jargon. An apple from a store may be tasty, pretty, but not awesome. Many movies are fun, scary, sad, but only a few movies qualify as awesome.
When we use word as fillers to describe our experiences or respond to others, we drain the vitality form our experiences. We nullify our feelings, our tastes, our reactions. We deny others any insight into who we are.
“But the word awesome has meaning,” you may reply. That is true. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “awesome” as “inspiring awe,” an “intense feeling of wonder, respect, or fear.”
Here are some awesome apples:
Apples that inspire wonder at the miracle of nature.
An example of a movie that inspires awe in me is “Apollo 13,” with Tom Hanks. I’ve watched it ten times. It inspires wonder in me about the technology. I experience fear for how dangerous the situation was and a deep sense of empathy for the families of the three men whose lives are at risk. I am left with admiration for the astronauts and people at NASA who got them home safely. I am truly in awe of these people. What movie inspires awe in you?
A mountain is awesome, as is a sunset, or a masterful song or poem. They inspire us. When we use words such as “awesome” for ordinary things, we rob the word of its power.
When we use words that do not accurately describe our experience, we mute our feelings and our thoughts. We become indistinct and vague. We cheat ourselves and our listener out of the depth of our inner world. Perhaps even more damaging to us is that we may not fully experience our experiences because we never reflect on how to describe them.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary includes more than 70,000 words. They are the colors of our mental and emotional palette. The average person uses about 2500 of them. That’s like painting a sunset using only two colors.
A Different Perspective
Think about the words you use every day, the ones you use without thinking. Resolve to use more meaningful words to give you and your experiences more flavor.
The richer you are in your command of words, the richer your experiences will become and the richer others will be for listening to you. You will have new respect for yourself and bewilder your comrades with your erudition.